All Good in the KK

I’m still in Kota Kinabalu… I’m finding it hard to leave! What a fabulous place. This has to be near the top of the list in Asia from many different perspectives… if you are wanting to have an interesting Asian trip, I’d highly recommend KK. I am very curious to get to Kuala Lumpur and see if it has many of the things KK has in a bigger package.

I went out both Friday and Saturday night and had a great time. Here is a listing of some of the better places here:

Shenanigans – An Irish Pub at the Hyatt Hotel. This seems to be busy most nights, has a really good live band, and a decent crowd. The only thing I didn’t like about the crowd is it seems to have more than its fair share of Chinese Malays and many of them seem to be older men or clique and just stick to themselves

Coccoon – This is a new disco on the waterfront, also with a very good band and a great vibe. This is where I have met most of the girls I have met here. I also have made out with the cute female singer of the band as well as one of the waitresses! How is that for hospitality?

Bed – Probably the largest disco, also with a good live band, a lot of foreigners here as well as Chinese Malays

Blue Note – A decent size disco at the Shangri La Hotel

Razzmatazz – I went there for the first time last night, it is also an after hours. I was there at 3am on Saturday night and it was packed with hundreds of people, all having a good time in a really nice looking environment

I am amazed at how many Malaysian girls will come up and talk to you here… And like I said, they are a lot different than your typical Thai girl.. the girls here are funny, smart, educated, confident and have a nice attitude… the majority of times they come up, introduce themselves and then invite me to “join them” at their table… I am really digging Malaysia. Heck, I may not even leave Kota Kinabalu for a while if this keeps up.

Tavai Nickel Project

I spent the entire day yesterday (I mean entire… from 7am to midnight) driving all over the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo (Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world). Here is a map of the island. We drove from Kota Kinabalu, past Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest mountain in SE Asia, at 4,100 meters, and through to the Tavai Nickel Project, which is about 120 kilometers from Sandakan. Mount Kinabalu has a really interesting look, btw, it is massive but not like many mountains with a triangular peak, it is more like a squared of jagged looking peak. Here is a pic from the internet

Almost the entire drive is stunningly beautiful with neverending hills, mountains and valleys. The entire island is lush with tropical greenery and an almost endless supply of palm trees. Here is a pic of some of the scenery I took with my new cam. The highways are in excellent condition except for the occasional wash out which seems to happen regularly.

I have to say that this is one cool, interesting island with a neat vibe. The island of Borneo is host to three different countries, Malaysia, Indonesia and the tiny little home of that loser, the Sultan of Brunei.

While I didn’t see too many exotic animals on our day trip, I did see a fairly large lizard of some sort. But this island is home to a multitude of interesting animals and plant life, including wild elephants, rhinocerous and orangutans.

Essentially, we went to see the property and then followed through to go visit the Ministry of Forestry in Sandakan, as Pat needed to file his mining proposal with them as one of about 5 ministries that need to approve of the mining project before we move forward.

Sandakan was a really neat, nice city. It is very green with trees and has a nice vibe to it. It is a city of about 250,000 and I don’t think they get many white people there. I guessed this because, as I sat at a Pizza Hut with Pat, facing the outdoor sidewalk, every girl who walked by would either gawk, wave or smile at me. About half of them wore the traditional muslim head scarf thing, and the other half dressed more un-stupidly. So, if you are a white guy and want some beautiful Malaysian girls, check out Sandakan, you’ll be a superstar. As a sidenote, I now have a bit of a fetish for girls in that Islamic scarf thing… I have decided that I must see what is beneath the scarf! Oohh it’ll be such a turn on if I can see her hair!

So, that’s the update on the day trip. The only other update I have is about the nightlife here. Considering Kota Kinabalu (KK) is less than 500,000 people, I presumed the nightlife would be pretty bad. However, I went out on Wednesday night and had a pretty fun night at a few really cool clubs. The first was a new place called Cocoon right on the waterfront. Very nicely designed, trendy, and it just happened to be Ladies Night on Wednesday, so more than half the people there were female. They had a very cool band, fronted by a cute Malaysian girl with a really good voice.

There seems to be NO shortage of really beautiful girls and they seem to be either very desperate for new men OR are just very friendly and not scared to come up and talk to you. I say this because within the first 30 minutes of me being at Cocoon, I was approached by 2 very appealing girls… I left soon after that, so who knows how many girls would have came up and talked to me if I stayed the evening.

Both of the girls I met seemed really interesting and nice. And, for those of you who have been to Thailand, and places like that, these were not the Thailand style of girl, who you can never tell if they are a full prostitute, partial prostitute (have real job but need to get some cash any way they can just to eat and/or send home to their poverty stricken family) or are actually a real girl. Here, there was and is no question, all these girls are actually real girls. Firstly, Malaysia is MUCH more economically developed and well off than I had presumed. There is no doubt that the majority of Malaysian people are doing well. Secondly, these girls seem to be quite classy, intelligent and educated. The majority of Malay’s speak Malay, Chinese AND English… and every girl I have met so far speaks perfect English… that was another thing I didn’t know. For more proof that they are not prostitutes in any way, there was a front page story while I was here that they had found a prostitute here and put her in jail!?

The one girl I am going to meet tonight for dinner, Geena (sp?), is in school and is training to be a surveyor. She is 20 and seems really interesting, and looks very attractive, so I am looking forward to spending some time with her.

While I initially planned to leave here today (Friday) and go to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend, I have now decided to stay here at least a few more days… and who knows, if this keeps up I would have no problem staying much longer. This is a really neat, cool town. My hotel is great too… It has a really advanced gym and a very nice pool overlooking the entire bay.. it is really world class. Everything here has been a really nice surprise… as I said when I first got here, I knew nothing about this place… and, as so often happens, sometimes the places you have no expectations before turn out to be the real jewels, while the overhyped places turn out to be less than expected.

Now that I know how amazing this ‘side’ of Malaysia is (Malaysia is essentially two different sides, with the ‘mainland’ the smaller part on the left, near Thailand and Singapore with the remainder on the right on the island of Borneo, separated by hundreds of miles) I am really interested to see Kuala Lumpur. While KK and Sandakan are really nice and cool, it is still a bit too small for me to consider spending a lot of time in, but if KL has some of the good things that KK has in a large city, I may have a new pseudo home base! Only time will tell.

Pics and stuff

When I was in Bangkok I had to get a professional picture done for a new blog I am doing on StockHouse, called Stockhouse Road Trip which will go live in the next week. So I have a picture from that which I thought I’d put on here in case u want to look at me. This is the pic.

I also have purchased a new digital cam, the Sony DSC-T30 7.1 megapixel. It takes some pretty good pics so I will likely have more pics from now on.

I am off on a 4 hour (each way) drive, past Mount Kinabalu (over 4,000 metres high) to see the mining property tomorrow, so will have some pics and info then.

Kota Kinabalu

Soooo, since I last blogged to you, I returned from Vietnam to Bangkok where I stayed for about a week, and then today I took off for Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Just as a side note, I have broken up with the girl in Bangkok… while her craziness was sometimes fun and cute… it was, nonetheless, complete craziness. And I think I had about enough crazy for a while. So, I left her and my apartment there in Bangkok… will miss the apartment more than I’ll miss her. :( Will spend the next few weeks around Malaysia and maybe Indonesia, then likely back to Thaland, but this time just to see Elsie who is coming to visit… I’ll get us a nice hotel somewhere, far from the crazy girl for the few days we are in Bangkok, and then we will likely go to Koh Samui and maybe Krabi.

In any event, I arrived today in Kota Kinabalu. The main reason I am here is an old friend of mine, that I hadn’t seen since 1997, is here doing a mining project (nickel). It actually looks like it could be a huge project, and since it was only a 2.5 hour flight (for only $70 with Air Asia!) I thought why not.

When he first said I should come to Kota Kinabalu… I was like Kota Kinawhat?? I had never heard of it. Boy was I surprised when we arrived and it was super nice… all the streets looked newly paved, greenery everywhere, a nice beachfront, everyone seems very laid back and nice. The city of KK has about 300,000 population… it has a lot of luxury hotels here, but they aren’t that expensive. I am staying at Le Meridien and it very, very nicely done. My room is glorious, with free high speed internet and a flat screen tv.

I only arrived at about 8:30pm so haven’t even seen KK in daylight yet, but so far I am really surprised at how nice everything is. I highly doubt there is much nightlife here, so on that count, I may not stay here too long… I may go to Kuala Lumpur this weekend. But in the meantime I am excited to see more of this place. We passed a fully lit (nighttime) golf course on the way here which looked really beautiful, so maybe I can get in a round while I am here.

I will also be going to check out the mine site either tomorrow or the day after… this actually could be a HUGE win if it is as good as it looks.. stay tuned, maybe I’ll give my first Blog stock pick… the company’s symbol is TGR for those who want an advance preview, but there is absolutely no stock available… that is one of the things I’ll be here to talk to him about, getting us some stock.

Will update soon…

Droppin Lincoln’s

I just had to mention how cheap everything here is, and how funny their money is (well, all money nowadays is funny money, as in worthless, but the Viet Dong is extra worthless).

First of all, the exchange rate is 16,000 to 1. So $1 USD is worth 16,000 Dong. 100,000 Dong is $6.

Up until recently, the highest denomination note was the 100,000 Dong note, which is $6. You would think this is pretty crazy as you would need a pocket full of them to do anything in North America, but here 100,000 Dong can last you a very long time. Today I had an unbelievably delicious fresh pineapple/strawberry juice for 5,000 Dong (30 cents). In the travel agency I was at, you can take a bus from Nha Trang to Saigon (about 400 kilometers, or 7 hours via bus) for 100,000 Dong (6 dollars).

Last night I had a delicious large fried rice with chicken dish and 3 glasses of nice white wine for less than 100,000 Dong (6 dollars).

I booked a flight from Nha Trang to Saigon and then Saigon to Bangkok for tomorrow for a total of $235 USD, taxes included.

The Dong is the third least valued currency unit in the world. The word dong actually means ‘bronze’ referring to back when Vietnamese currency was actually real money (copper). On a sidenote, the US government stopped making pennies out of copper in 1982 as they inflated the money supply so much that the copper became too expensive to use in pennies. If they still did it would take about 3 cents of copper to make a penny.

Another interesting thing about Nha Trang, there are nice ATM cubicles almost on every single block. When I first came here I thought that they may not even have ATM’s and regretted not having taken some cash out in Saigon but once I got here I realized that there are probably more ATM’s per square kilometer here than in most places in the world.

Nha Trang

I arrived in Nha Trang on Sunday. The airport is about a 30 minute drive from Nha Trang proper and is literally right on the beach. The drive to Nha Trang is very remote feeling, almost looking like desert, however, once you arrive in Nha Trang all of a sudden everything is very nice and landscaped, with a lot of nice new buildings and an interesting vibe.

I was very pleasantly surprised at my hotel, which cost $35/night (taxes and everything included). It is called Asia Paradise Hotel and for the money it is quite amazing. The hotel is brand new, very nicely designed (almost as nice as hotels that cost 10 times as much, such as Delano in Miami etc), has great service, broadband internet for free in every room, and a nice rooftop pool overlooking the beach.

The prices here are unbelievably cheap. For example, the snacks and minibar in the room have prices like “Chocolate Bar: $0.39, Coca Cola: $0.45”, and I ordered room service and had a whole pizza and a coke for $4. They also offer massage and such for incredibly cheap. A face massage is $2.

I went out last night to the two most popular places here, Crazy Kim’s and the Sailing club. Crazy Kim’s is a lot like a pub and is okay, but the Sailing Club is very, very nice. It is set right on the beach with great decor, nice sound system and good vibe. The crowd here is about half white tourists, and half people from Saigon (this is a popular getaway for people from Saigon).

During the day I went for a walk on the beach, as I was walking I heard a group of girls behind me yell “Jeff”… I figured they couldn’t be shouting to me as there is no way I know anyone here, so I just kept walking.

Then when I went out that night I walked into the sailing club and walked past a table with 3 girls, again, “Jeff!”… I looked at them and realized it was a girl I had met in Saigon, lol. She had come here this weekend for a full moon party. She said the party was amazing… it is a 2 day party on the beach and apparently a lot of people come from Saigon each month for it.

She is very cute, but her friends were even cuter. They were unquestionably the hottest girls in Nha Trang, so once again I somehow just completely lucked out. I spent most of the night with them, again ending up zooming around on scooters around 3am and ended up on the beach later with the girl I knew, Noong.

Definitely if you are looking for a cheap vacation that is a lot of fun, SE Asia is the place.

From a political standpoint, I asked Noong what she thought about Vietnam. She said it is slowly changing for the better but the country is taking each step very carefully. She said it used to be hard to get visas to come here but slowly they are opening up. I said to her, “why go slow?”, after all, if you think you are heading in the right direction, why not go there quickly. If you were leaving a burning building, would you take it very cautiously and slowly, or would you just get the hell out of there?

Her response was interesting, she said, “well, we are worried if we open up to fast bad things will happen, like people with cocaine”. I was stupefied. How did this whole ‘war on drugs’ thing perpetuate itself so well, worldwide?! So, you are worried about opening up faster because if you do, people with drugs might come here?! You might as well just say, “We are worried people with alcohol will come here”, it is the same thing.

Today, in the news, is major riots in Brazil caused by “drug gangs”. When will everyone ever realize that all this ‘war on drugs’ does is create a giant black market which is rife with sleazebags and thugs who dominate in this environment. If all drugs tomorrow were completely legalized, almost every ‘gang’ would immediately disappear and the world would be a happier, healthier and much more economically viable place (just think about all the people in places like Colombia, Afghanistan etc who are very poor but who could make a very good living growing opium crops etc if it were legalized, rather than having those same crops run by gangsters and scumbags).

Sure, some drugs are really very bad for you. Specifically, meth amphetamines and heroine. However, with all the money saved from freeing the millions in jail because of this ‘war’ and the waste of police and court space, you could easily spend a fair amount on education and rehabilitation facilities for those few unfortunate people who, just like with alcohol, find themselves in too deep.

That’s my rant for the day. As for the stock markets, the Dow and the Nasdaq had some very massive technical breakdowns in the last few days. I am calling for a fairly significant plunge in the next 60 days, possibly in the next few days/weeks. 10-20% is likely.

As for me, I think I am getting a bit tired and want to head back to my place in Bangkok soon, maybe tomorrow. I’ve had a fun and interesting trip through Cambodia and Vietnam but think i will go rest up for a bit before possibly heading to Malaysia later this month.

Miss Saigon? Ya, a lil’

It was Saturday night, my last night in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was feeling much better after finally getting over the cold I caught just as I got to Phnom Penh. I worked much of the afternoon, then ordered Lamb Chops and a glass of red wine for room service, then headed out.

I actually felt like going out around 7 or 8 but that was obviously way too early so I tried to keep busy until about 9:30 when I finally decided that even though it was so early I would go and have an early start.

There is a nightclub in the hotel complex called America Disco. I think the disco came after the hotel was already there because I doubt they would have planned it like this. I was on the 12th floor and could almost feel the bass from the disco in my room… in the lobby of the hotel it was almost like you were in a nightclub already! They start the music around 7pm which I found a bit strange.

I walked in the door at 9:30, almost feeling embarrased for being there so early. I half expected them to turn me away and say, “We are not open yet�, but they didn’t. The music was loud and as I walked past the front doors it took me a few seconds for my eyes, and brain to adjust to what I saw. There, at 9:30 in the evening, was a huge disco (two very large rooms, both of them larger than 99% of the clubs in a city like Vancouver), PACKED with people. The dance floor was packed, every table was full and it looked as though everyone who was there had been there a while?!?!

Like I said, the music starts around 7, so judging by the crowd, I wouldn’t doubt it if it wasn’t in full swing around 8pm! This is the earliest I have ever seen a nightclub open at! Talk about the exact opposite from Buenos Aires, where most restaurants don’t even open until after 10pm and disco’s don’t even unlock their doors until 1 or 2am!!

The crowd at America Disco was very local. In fact, I was the only whitey in there from what I could tell. It was a bit of a weird crowd too, pretty much all ages… this actually fits in with what I have seen in North America. At many raves, you will always see this weird group of Asians, it looks like entire families (father, mother, children, aunts, uncles, grand parents) sitting/dancing by themselves… we always refer to them as ‘nammers (Vietnammers). I don’t know what it is about Vietnam, but they have a weird style when it comes to going out in the evening! They also do what a lot of people in China do here too, they all have fruit plates at their table. That’s actually something I think is not too bad, at least you can get a bit of nutrition and vitamic C.

It was such a weird vibe in there too, they were kinda playing electronic music, and a lot of the guys were really into the music on the dancefloor, pumping their fists and stuff. It was way too much too early for me. I had one beer and got the heck out of there.

I ended up back at Apocolapyse Now again, and saw a cute girl I saw on Thursday night too. She is 19 and really beautiful (there are a lot of beautiful Vietnamese girls). I ended up talking with her and her friend, and by 2am I was zooming around Saigon on one of their scooters, racing with the other girl. That was pretty fun. I spent most of the night with them. I totally dig scooters. I hate cars so much now… they are just such a pain in the butt, but scooters are always a blast. I love not wearing a helmet too… sure they are safe but there is nothing like flying around town with the wind blowing through your hair.

It is now Sunday afternoon and I am at the airport on my way to Nha Trang. I really don’t know too much about it at all except it is a popular beach resort city, about an hour flight from HCM. I am thinking to stay there for a few days then maybe keep going North to Danang, which is Vietnam’s fourth largest city, then likely back to Bangkok for a bit.

Until then, remember, if you ever wanna have a great time, grab the whole family and around 8pm head to the disco to drink beer, eat fruit and dance like crazy to techno music! 😛

Great service

I think many people would be surprised at how well many things run in Asia. A lot of people think of Canada and the US as being fairly advanced and efficient, but in many ways, Asia can be more so, and for often much less in price.

For example, today I decided I wanted to go to Nha Trang tomorrow. I went to www.tnktravel.com.vn and let them know I wish to get that flight tomorrow. They emailed back within the hour and said they would come and drop off the ticket to my hotel (for no additional charge). A half hour later they were at my door with the ticket. The ticket cost $45 USD, btw!!! That equated to 743,000 Vietnamese Dong. When I was counting the cash to give to him, he just said “740,000 is okay”… in America the driver would be looking for a big tip, here the driver is willing to take less than the actual amount if it makes it more convenient. I gave him 750,000 and told him to keep the change… 7,000 Dong is about 40 cents and I think it made his day.

Another great service, which I believe is based out of Thailand, is www.directrooms.com. They seem to have an almost complete collection of hotels for most countries in Asia, at usually well discounted prices. They are also very quick to confirm your order, even at short notice.

So, I’ll head out for one last night in Saigon tonight, then off to Nha Trang and the beach tomorrow. I don’t really know what to expect, so should be interesting.

Oh, and btw, GO OILERS!!! The last two games have been unbelievable!!!!

Good Morning Vietnam

I ventured out from the comfortable confines of my hotel last night (Thursday) and ventured into the chaos of Saigon. The main area for nightlife here is District 1 (most parts of the city have a designated District #, my hotel is in District 5 but it is only about a 5-10 minute drive from District 1).

The first place that I saw that looked happening was Q Bar, a loungey, funky space with outdoor patio across the street from the Caravelle Hotel, near the Park Hyatt and Sheraton Hotel.

It was pretty relaxed and casual, so I had a glass of red wine and had my dinner for the night, a light dim sum of Cantonese dumplings.

I then crossed the street to a place I heard was nice, the Saigon Saigon bar at the top of the Caravelle Hotel. It had a nice view but was fairly quiet so I just had one drink and then left.

I then walked downstairs and asked the concierge where a good disco was. His first reaction was to look at his watch as thought to say, “at this hour? so late!”… it was only 11pm at that point so I was confused at his reaction. I later got the same reaction when I asked someone else the same question.

I soon found out why. Most discos and clubs in Saigon are mandated to close at midnight or 1pm! For a person of my interests this just doesn’t work.

I went to a place which was listed on almost every website about Saigon nightlife, called Apocalpyse Now. It was a fairly small space and had a decent crowd. There were a fair amount of foreigners there who appeared to be having a good time. I was pawed at by numerous girls there and one of them was pretty cute so I talked with her for a bit.

But before I knew it, the club closed. The girl I met told me that Q Bar is an “after hours” bar (thus proving yet again that regulations never do anything to stop activity, only to push it underground). I went there with her and had a decent time. I then took off on my own on a motorcycle taxi and asked him where a good place was to go.

He took me to a quiet sidestreet and we ended up at what kinda looked like a private house. I went in and there were a few girls in there and they had a pool table. I started playing pool with one, and within a few minutes she had taken all her clothes off. I am not sure what the deal was there, but I decided to leave soon after, when I was on another motorcyle taxi and met a girl who was cute and driving around on her scooter.

That was pretty much the just of my night. It was interesting, but definitely a lot smaller and quieter than a place like Bangkok, from what I saw last night. But I will likely go out again on Saturday night to see if I missed anything of interest.

I also need to decide what I am going to do… I think I will leave Saigon on Sunday, but where to yet I am not sure. I heard there is a full moon party in Nha Trang this weekend, but I may miss that. There is also a city called Da Nang which is a resort city on the ocean up North that I may go check out.

I also may just head back to Bangkok too, as an option… I have enjoyed checking out a bit of Cambodia and Vietnam but my mind keeps thinking back to the comfort and enjoyment I always have in Bangkok.

If I do go back though, I will still likely take off for Malaysia in the next few weeks to check out that nickel deposit, and if I go there I may as well go check out Indonesia since it is so close and I have been wanting to go there for a while.

Until then…

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

I left Phnom Penh today… The Phnom Penh airport looks like a much smaller version of Walmart, by the way, and when I walked in today the place was virtually empty. It’s a nice new airport, but it was like a ghost town today. I looked at the departures and arrival screen and the only flight was my flight! And it turned out 90% of the people on my flight were in transit to somewhere else… most of them looked Japanese so they probably fly from Tokyo to Ho Chi Minh, and then on to Phnom Penh.

Anyway, I arrived in Saigon today. Instantly I felt like I was back in a big city (which I like). Saigon has a population of 5 million+ out of a total of 80 million in all of Vietnam.

I’d say about 95% of the traffic on the roads is motorbikes, so my cab was the fish out of water as we careened down the road, swerving in and out amongst the bikes. Most of the taxi’s are motorcycles too but I took a regular car taxi from the airport.

I am staying at the Windsor Plaza Hotel (www.windsorplazahotel.com) for my first 3 nights here… after that I don’t know what I am going to do, but in reading the magazine on the Vietnam Airlines flight about Vietnam, it looks like there are a lot of really cool, neat places in Vietnam.. lots of beachside resorts (practically the whole country is just one big coastline) so I may check one or two of those out.

My hotel is a 5 star hotel and pretty nice… I got a deal on it for $55US/night off the internet, so not too bad.

This may sound like a bit of a moronic statement, but hey, maybe I’m a moron. But, it was kinda funny, in my first few minutes here I came to the realization, for the first time, that Vietnam is actually a real country, where all the Vietnamese people come from. LOL, its funny, but as far as ‘vietnamese culture’ goes, I pretty much only ever thought of it as Vietnamese restaurants… every town has a few, or even a whole area, where all the signs say “Dong Traung Pho” and “Ngoc Vien Trang” and all those obviously Vietnamese looking names… but when I first got here I actually thought to myself, “Whoa, this whole country is like a little Vietnam”. Yup I’m probably a moron.

I’ll probably have a lot to report on Vietnam as the more I see and learn about it, the more interesting it looks to me. Add to it that I’ve had a few Vietnamese girls in my life who I totally liked a lot (everything from their look, to their personality) so I am curious to see if there are lots more here!

I’ll probably have some comments on their political and economic systems too (you can’t shut me up! you don’t own me!). It struck me as funny that on the visa it lists Vietnam’s full official name, “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. I think, much like China, this isn’t really communist at all anymore… but its funny that is the name of the country… they might as well just say, “The Place Where We Take Your Money And Then Waste Most of It And Give The Rest To Everyone Else Republic of Vietnam”. Super.