In the summer of 2007, I travelled with Sesame Street Live to southeast Asia. We had performances in Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok, and Manila.
Seoul was by far the largest culture shock. The first hotel we stayed in was not in a touristy part of town and attempting to get by without speaking a word of Korean was difficult - the second hotel was closer to the touristy part of town and so there were many more English speaking people around (even though I still couldn't read a word).
Quick tip: the closest thing we found to "American" Chinese food was at Jackie Chan's restaurant (he owns a chain of them in South Korea) - super yummy!
Super weird space-saving toilet, shower, sink combo room (that's my roommate Chris in the reflection in the mirror - super tiny room! And the beds sounding like champagne corks popping whenever you jumped on the bed)
The elusive Octo-phant.... the something-gator (maybe a Girafa-gator?) was apparently much more popular. We spent almost the whole 2 weeks there trying to get a good photo of the Octo-phant!
Oh and one more thing... I wasn't there long, but long enough to realize I would be happy to not see another grain of rice for quite some time! And metal chopsticks take a while to get used to! And I am quite grateful that we don't have menus in restaurants that just show pictures of raw meat! And real Korean barbecue is some of the most fun you'll ever have eating at a restaurant! And I really don't care for kimchee! And soju is good, but it totally sneaks up on you! (ok, ok, so that was 6 things)
We were in Singapore for 3 weeks and this is what I remember most about it:
- the Singapore Zoo is amazingly awesome and has a night safari too
- Singapore Airlines is hands down the absolute best airline I have ever flown
- it was HOT and HUMID all the time!!!!
- it rained almost daily
- grilling out is a lot of fun, even when you're using a "ghetto grill" and real charcoal as opposed to briquettes
- powdered seaweed on McDonald's french fries is weird
- I want to stay at the Raffles Hotel
And for future reference: a "ghetto" grill is 2 disposable roasting pans stacked on top of each other (the bottom one flipped upside down, the top one right side up), with charcoal in the top pan, and a piece of wire mesh resting on the edges of the top pan to grill on. And a fan is helpful for getting the charcoal lit. And little fire starters help too.
One week while in Singapore, after a weekend of shows, Chris and I took a mini-vacation up to Malaysia
Penang is an island off the north western coast of Malaysia and was part of British colonial rule until World War II when it was invaded by the Japanese (it is now part of Malaysia).
Initially, Chris and I were staying in a hostel in the Chinese section of Georgetown, but after 1 miserable night there we decided to splurge and stay at a hotel closer to the waterfront. It rained daily, we didn't get to see the rest of the island, and there were warning signs all around to beware of standing water because of the mosquitoes that carry dengue fever.
Opera probably wins the prize for my favorite restaurant in the whole world! Everything about it was perfect... We ate there for dinner twice, the second time we sat outside. I loved it!!!
I wish I remember more about Thailand, we were only there a week and it seems like we were busy the whole time! I had the worst publicity experience ever there, involving a 7 hour notice (told at 10 pm to be ready at 5 am the next day), lack of proper transportation, and the need to unload 1/2 each of 2 sea containers just to get to the things I needed for the pub - it was awful. Let's see... what else happened? Oh yes, my legs got covered in flea bites the first time we visited the venue we were performing in and there was a homeless person living in the venue... I did get to ride in a tuk-tuk though, and I got to visit the floating markets, and I got a beautiful silk coat custom made for me, and apparently I didn't think much of taking pictures while there - oh well... these I found putzing around on-line...
Here's my gripe about the final leg of our Asian itinerary: we had been in Asia for about 6 weeks or so and we only had 1 more week of shows, but before we could do the shows we had 2 weeks off. Granted, yes yay! 2 weeks off, but that last week of shows was torture. I don't know about everyone else, but I was done and checked out in my mind by the time we left Thailand. In those 2 weeks off though, I did get to do some fun things: I went to the Mall of Asia several times (the largest mall in the world), including for the 4th of July when they had a big fireworks display and accompanying marching band played, I visited the Chinese Cemetary after traversing through a very, shall we say, interesting part of town to get there, I visited the Coconut Palace (commissioned by Imelda Marcos - you know - the shoe lady), and I went on a little tour of North Luzon (to Baguio, Vigan, and Laoag) with some good friends. Oh yes, and I purchased and consumed tons of dried mangos - yum!!! I also witnessed some of the worst poverty, something so many people take for granted...
This is Leanna and Jason, 2 of the people I went to Baguio etc... with, she was a dancer and my first roommate, and he was an electrician and Chris's first roommate - they're now married and have a little girl - isn't that cute?!?
Well, that's all for now - if I can find my jump drive, I'll post more pictures later!!!