An Ode to my MacPac…

As I was recently rooting around in my loft for something, I found my big macpac, and realised I’ve had it for 10 years this year. It’s the best rucksack I’ve ever bought, it has a lifetime guarantee, and it’s EXTREMELY well-made, so I thought it was worthy of a little shout-out.

I bought my matching big and little macpacs in 2007, before going to Nepal for a year.

My big macpac has gone with me to Nepal, India, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Liverpool, South Sudan, India again, Nepal again, Kashmir, Oxford, the USA, The Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Iraq, Jordan, Canada, USA again, Australia again, Senegal, Kenya, Iraq again, and Senegal again.

Other than an unfortunate incident once where my Big Mac got ripped in an airport and needed to be patched (I sent it off to macpac and they fixed it up and shipped it back to me), it has held up remarkably well! In Nepal I used to keep it empty under my bed, but padlocked as my passport was in there, and when I lost the key, I had to beg the locksmith to cut through the padlock carefully not to damage the zip!

It’s incredibly comfortable, exactly the right size, and I love that it unzips like a proper suitcase instead of rooting around in a normal rucksack. I also love that you can fold in and zip up the straps when checking it in at airports so they don’t get damaged en-route.

My little macpac has gone with me EVERYWHERE in the last 10 years. It’s literally my everyday bag, it carries my laptop into work everyday, it goes with me on mini-breaks and weekends, and in addition to all of the countries my big mac has been toΒ it has ALSO been with me to Qatar, Madrid, Italy and Switzerland!

Obviously daily use for 10 years has left my little mac a bit grubby, but considering what it’s been through, it’s holding up INCREDIBLY well! It’s even still mostly waterproof, as I learned after a can of tonic water exploded inside it once in the Philippines…

This little bag goes with me pretty much everywhere, is still sturdy and comfy after 10 years, and it zips onto the front of Big Mac (although I hardly ever do that).

So, all in all, as a fairly frequent traveller, I give these bags 10 out of 10 and highly recommend them for your travelling adventures.


Malaysia, the rest

Saturday 7th June 2008

Well, I’m leaving this peaceful island tomorrow to head back down to Singapore and make my way back to India for the next installment.
Pulao Tioman has been very nice. It’s quiet, and the sea is an AMAZING shade of turquoise, and incredibly warm.
I know this, because I even went swimming in it!

Yes, that’s right, I, Maya, braved the risk of seaweed and other scary sea-dwelling things, I avoided thinking about sharks and refused to look at any fish, and swam away happily in the South China Sea.
It was sooo warm and lovely, and extremely peaceful.

There were, however, jellyfish, which were small and see-through except for the bright orange spots, and suddenly surrounded me when I was least expecting it.

Sadly, it turns out screaming hysterically and thrashing around does not, in fact, scare away jellyfish, and they instead floated around in an extremely innocent way pretending to be inconspicuous, except when they were viciously stinging me.
I discovered later that the sting didn’t really hurt much, and stopped by itself after about 30 seconds, but still.

The beach was lovely, and I’m turning a nice crispy shade of brown. I also met a lovely older couple (around late forties I’d guess – notice my use of oldER in that sentence!) one day in the bar who were so interesting to talk to (possibly because I’ve barely spoken to anyone for days) that instead of going to get my dinner as planned, I stayed in the bar and carried on drinking.

This, I found out later, was a mistake. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been that pissed on an empty stomach, and now I remember why I have a strict eating-before-drinking-cocktails policy.
There was a lot of spinning and I ended up draped over a toilet in an extremely un-cool way.

I also woke up at 4am feeling perfectly fine and RAVENOUS, which serves me right for skipping dinner!

Anyhoo, I’m still beaching and sunbathing and risking sharks for the sake of a swim, and feeling very relaxed. Today I even got to make my own batiks, which was fun (and an incredibly cheap way to get souvenirs, so you all know what you’re getting!).

Just kidding, I can’t afford to buy you lot presents, as I’m far too busy buying myself pretty things and also spending all my money on rum.
However if any of you really seriously want me to bring you back something, I still have a few days on the beach in Goa to look forward to, and I’d be happy to spend a few hours glueing broken seashells onto bits of driftwood if there are any takers.
(I LOVE homemade presents, because unlike the usual crappy holiday souvenirs, these ones are generally even more crappy, but because someone spent time actually MAKING it, it cannot be derided or thrown away. Plus they’re really cheap.)

Also, a weird thing happened to me a couple of days ago. (Isn’t that always how my bizarre anecdotes tend to begin?). I woke up after my night of unadvisable “island strength” cocktails, and after discovering to my delight that I had no hangover, I then discovered that my left hand was all numb and tingly.
Not all of it, just one side and two of my fingers.
I thought I’d slept on it funny at first, but it stayed that way all day, and all night, and all the next day.
I started to get seriously worried (while simultaneously sunbathing, as I’m really good at multi-tasking). I ran a mental checklist of numb tingly hand symptoms.

My first conclusion was fairly obvious. Clearly I was having a heart attack.
I did wonder slightly if there shouldn’t be some kind of chest-pains to go with it, but rationalised that I was merely experiencing the ‘early warning’ signs.

Then I moved on from the heart attack theory and wondered if I had actually managed to drink so much rum that I had developed a weird kind of semi-paralysis in one arm.
I quickly moved on from that theory, as I’ve never heard of localised alcohol-poisoning, and it might stop me from drinking in future, so CLEARLY that diagnosis couldn’t be correct.

Then it hit me – the evil jellyfish! I must be suffering a weird reaction to the evil stinging orange-spotty blobs that looked so damn innocent!
However, I realised that I’d been stung just about everywhere, and wasn’t going numb all over my body. Would have been nice to blame those smug little bastards though.

So, what’s next? Was I suffering from a completely new disease? Would my two fingers eventually go black and fall off?
I tried to ignore it for a while, but then yesterday when I was swimming I bent my elbow and something went “twang”.
It was exactly the spot where your funny bone is, and you know when you hit it, and it’s horrible and tingly all the way down to your hand? Well, eureka.
I’m about 98% sure that I somehow trapped a nerve in my elbow, leaving my hand all weird for several days (it’s still all pins and needles, but better than it was).

Next question: How the hell did I do it? I certainly don’t remember bashing it, but then, my recollection of that particular evening is rather hazy!

Bet you’re all thanking God I’m not a doctor now aren’t you?
Ha ha ha! πŸ™‚

That aside I fly back to India tomorrow, but have discovered it’s also the last day of school holidays here tomorrow, so all the buses are packed and the only one I could get a seat on leaves at 8am. Unfortunately I don’t have an alarm clock and if I miss it, there’s no way I’ll make it to Singapore to get my flight.
I may have to actually go out and buy an alarm clock just for this one bus – how utterly silly!

So, that’s it for Malaysia – unless something REALLY interesting happens to me on the way back (you never know) then my next update will probably come from somewhere in Kerala, where I’ll be industriously busy making crap souvenirs.

Until then,

love Malaise-sia Maya
(Queen of bad puns! Oh I’m so sharp I may cut myself! Mwah ha ha!)

No? Not coming with me on that one?
Oh alright, it was a fairly poor effort, how about:

love jellyfish-slaying Maya!


love Rum-drinking Maya!


love “Can’t-wait-to-see-your-face-when-I-hand-you-a-pile-of-broken-seashells-glued-to-a-piece-of-MDF-for-Christmas” Maya!


Malaysia so far…

Sunday 1st June 2008

Ok, so, after my mammoth journey south, I collapsed into bed in Malacca and slept for about 13 hours straight!
After which I took to the streets and wandered about happily. Malacca is a very nice, peaceful sort of town, with a bizarre Dutch/Chinese heritage, giving the buildings quite a unique style.
There’s not much to do, and I cancelled my planned excursion out to Pulao Besar Island after being informed by several locals that the Malacca straits is one of the busiest straits in the world, and you DO NOT want to swim in it! They all agreed that for beaches and swimming you need to head east, and as I’m doing that anyway in a couple of days I decided to skip that.

Aside from meeting a couple of extremely weird older men, I didn’t see many other travellers – most of the tourists were Chinese couples I think. As for my weird old men, one was called Joe, an ex-crane operator from Jersey, who kindly bought me a gin and tonic while explaining that he had to leave the US and was forced to retire because the federal government are out to get him. He also incidentally has a Malay-Chinese wife who’s apparently about to divorce him.

The other weirdo was an Englishman called Howard (I’d guess late forties), who lives in Thailand (he didn’t say what he did there) and was EXTREMELY seedy and creepy. I excused myself as fast as possible and went shopping!
I then took a bus up to Kuala Lumpur, where I’ve spent a pleasant couple of days sightseeing and shopping before heading east to Pulao Tioman (where they filmed the movie “South Pacific”) for some hard-core beach action.

So far I really like Malaysia – it’s extremely clean and efficient, people are very friendly and helpful, and it seems so calm and quiet after India – I was amazed when I discovered there were so many cars, and yet no one was honking their horns! Bit of a culture shock after Nepal and India, but very relaxing too.

One problem I’m having here though is remaining vegetarian. In India and Nepal it’s easy, as most restaurants are veggie anyway. Over here, EVERYTHING has chicken, fish or seafood in it, and it’s quite a challenge to find yummy food that I can eat! It’s doubly infuriating, because everything smells so good, but I can’t have it!

I ended up yesterday eating a rather dubious seaweed curry, which was alright, and later on had an elongated argument with a waiter about whether or not hot dog counted as meat (he’d chopped some up and put it in my rice after my strict instructions to the contrary!), but today at the bus station I was really stuck.
There are rows of restaurants, all with buffet-style food laid out to help yourself. Loads of yummy looking noodles and rice and curries, but when I asked if they had anything vegetarian, they just shook their heads at me. I couldn’t believe that NOTHING on the buffet was veggie, but 6 restaurants later I was ready to admit defeat. One kind lady took pity on my desperation for some food, and patted me on the back, saying “This is brek-fas, you come bac’ lunch-time, I make you nice veggie ok?”.
Looking at my watch I realised I only had 10 minutes left before my bus, and I was ravenous, so I had to eat something before we left. I glanced around and realised I was completely out of options. I was going to have to suck it up and stop being picky.
I did something I have managed to avoid for over ten months, but had no other available choices.

I slouched defeatedly over to the red and yellow counter and in a small, sad little voice, asked for an egg McMuffin.

And it was horrible. I don’t even like eggs that much.

Anyhoo, food problems aside, I’ve been up the famous Petronas twin towers (and also watched a complimentary 3D instructional video about the Malaysian Oil and Gas industry courtesy of Petronas), visited an art gallery, been to a few markets, done some seriously HARDCORE shopping, and I’m now contemplating how I managed to blow 5 days’ budget in an afternoon.

I’ve never really done the whole ‘budget backpacking’ thing, and as it turns out, I’m not doing it now either. I’ve gotten so used to going on nice holidays, and having things like wine, and this whole concept of living on 10 pounds a day just doesn’t work for me!


However, I’m hoping that once I’m on a tropical island I’ll have little to spend my money on (famous last words!) – plus I’ve been going through books at a silly rate, seeing as I’m travelling alone, and that’s costing me a fair bit too! (although today I conceded that instead of buying another book, I could go for a far cheaper option of the cheesy gossip magazine, which I’m looking forward to on the bus ride eastwards tomorrow!).

So, onwards tomorrow to beaches and palm trees….

tons of love

P.s. – I’ve been missing all my lovely kiddies a lot this week – it’s strange to suddenly be by myself after having 35 brothers and sisters to play with!
Also Karla emailed me today to tell me that Grace, one of the babies (she’s 3) missed me so much that she got a bit sick, and keeps walking around asking where I am, and talking to me, even though I’m not there!
It literally makes my heart hurt, as cheesy as that sounds, and I want to run back into the house one more time so I can cuddle her and kiss her and love her some more. It’s extremely lucky I’m not legally able to adopt in the Nepali legal system, or else I’d be coming home with about 20 babies in my suitcase!
Sigh. (Guess who’s broody?)

p.p.s. – Those of you who mock my anti-magnetic techno-fears will be amused to know that just now I crossed my legs under the table.

And the computer died (apparently I knocked a button on the hard drive with my foot).
Then it came back on, and told me that I had irretrievably altered the systems configuration that it needs to open Windows.

Would I like to save the new configurations, or not?
I’m now going to send this email, log out of my account very slowly (without moving at all) and then carefully stand up and walk away before anyone in this internet cafe realises that I’ve killed yet another innocent computer by accident.


India, full of surprises…

Thursday 29th May 2008

Wow, ok, it’s been a crazy few days/nights, and I’m struggling to keep track of the dates already!

In brief (who am I kidding?) – I travelled by night bus from Pokhara to Sunauli on Sunday, arriving at the Indian border on Monday morning. Crossing over was a bit bizarre, it was just a dusty road, rammed with traffic, and as I walked I kept passing signs that said “Welcome to India”. I tentatively asked several guards along the way if I shouldn’t get my passport stamped somewhere, but they just kept on waving me through!
I eventually found the immigration office off to one side of the road, but no one was paying them any attention, and hundreds of people were just walking past, so they clearly aren’t too fussed (and after all that drama getting a bloody visa too!).

However I decided I really should try to enter the country legally, to avoid any further hassles encroaching on my beach-time. I asked them to stamp me in, but the guard informed me I had to first go back and get stamped out of Nepal!
It turns out the Nepali immigration office is even harder to find, tucked in a tiny building off the main road, it was quite a search to find it!
But eventually, I did find it, and a rather put-out looking guard grudgingly stamped my passport, and back I went again, All highly amusing! Continue reading