. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath


Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition


Kensington Tours can help you plan your own expedition anywhere in the world.




#32 - Singapore & Malaysia
Jeff Willner - 20 March 2002

(Penang, MALAYSIA) . Dizzy from back to back red eye flights I stumbled into the Singapore airport lobby. There are green telephone booths inside the terminal with free calls into the city. How convenient. I called a friend and received directions to a reserved hotel. Ahhh, sanity and comfort. Southeast Asia would be different travelling than previous stages since I would be staying with friends, definitely a change from the nightly search for a not-quite-horrible hostel routine. And no need for charades when ordering in restaurants. My thanks to Lin Dah in Singapore, the Chan family in Kuala Lumpur, and Melissa for her pity on this wandering traveler and introducing me to many of her friends.

I didn't expect so much sophistication in Southeast Asia. Even though I had heard about the 'Economic Miracle' I still figured the countries would be one step above third world status. I was completely mistaken. Singapore is nicer than most cities in America or Europe, and most definitely cleaner! And Malaysia has a thriving middle-class that worries about the same things we do at home - whether or not to upgrade the cable subscription, does a second car make sense, and deciding it's worth fighting traffic to go to the sale at the mall. Certainly I was spoiled. I stayed with locals and got a definitely better-than-tourist perspective on the countries. But the economics don't lie. These are world class places to live.



Singapore has a phoenix-like history. Abandoned as a British military base in the late fifties it joined the Federation of Malaysia. But the association didn't work and it announced its independence in 1965. Incredibly, this tiny island was able to grow into a leading economic power in the region. Much of the success is credited to the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990, Lee Kuan Yew - though he was also responsible for many socially repressive policies.

Singapore is now Southeast Asia's most important seaport, financial center, and manufacturing hub, and its citizens enjoy one of the world.s highest standards of living.


After a day in Singapore I boarded the night train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. KL, as it is commonly referred to, is a typical SE Asian blend of old and new. The glamorous Petronas towers dominate the skyline towering over fruit stalls in Chinatown only a few blocks away. I enjoyed the best food of my life in KL where the best of Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Thai food can be found in cheap food stalls along the street.

Riding the rails is a cheap way to get around, it takes some time but on a night train you don't have to pay for a hotel. The drawback is with earplugs in I can barely hear my watch alarm. After a few near misses I decided to stay awake for the last hour just to be safe. From the train to the ferry, the ferry to the trishaw (a pedaled rickshaw), the trishaw to a hostel selected for its cheapness - I arrived in a dazed mass. Grumbling at the doorbell, the night porter motioned to a chair from the other side of the locked security mesh. "Sit. We open in 45min." I sat for about an hour, then was shown to a room where I collapsed. Not the best first impression of Penang.

But the city does have its delights. Rested, I ventured around the town. Chinese society halls blazed in a glorious riot of color, quaint alleys, mosques, churches, the old fort on the sea, and most impressive of all, Kek Lok Si temple perched high on Penang Hill. Stretching up the hill for hundreds of meters is an assortment of temples, prayer rooms, ponds, and towers. And at the top the coolest part of all - a three-storey tall Buddha! I couldn't find a taxi and decided to start walking back to town when a local bus pulled up beside me. Two English women had yelled at the driver to stop. Good thing too, it was over 5km away. Kindnesses on the road are like a glass of cold water on a hot day!

I have no idea who these people are, but they were in the coolest trishaw in Penang. Decked out with flowers, cards, flags and banners, with a colourful umbrella and... wait for it... Elvis blasting from the boombox as they were cycled between the sights. 

I had slept through the immigration stop when coming into the country on the train and had a few anxious moments wondering how I would explain the lack of an entry stamp or visa on my way out. Crowded in a mini-van with ten other travelers I left Penang for Phuket, Thailand, a ten hour marathon drive. At the border as I crossed with the others the woman officer looked carefully through my passport, glanced at me, then looked again. She started to ask a question, and then assessed my day-old stubble, backpack, and unwashed hair. Tourists. She stamped me out and I was through.




Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com