Episode 37 – The Great Outdoors

Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend – while intended to commemorate the birthday of Queen Victoria – is (for most people) the unofficial start of summer.  For campers, it’s often the first opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

To the surprise of family and friends, last year I decided to dive head-first into camping (despite being raised in a household where our definition of ‘roughing it’ was staying at a budget motel).

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Malaysian flag on Pulau Langkawi

8 Things I Learned Travelling in Malaysia

In January of this year, I set foot in Malaysia for the first time with a sense of adventure and a desire to go exploring.  What I found was a country which felt familiar, yet challenged my western sensibilities. I fell in love with Malaysia’s people, its natural beauty, and its unique place in history.

Not everything about Malaysia is perfect.  There are infrastructure deficits – most notably open sewers in some communities which leave you gasping for air.  There is petty crime which – like anywhere – stems from some people just not having enough to get by.  And while a variety of religions can find acceptance in Malaysia, the country’s government is decidedly regressive on social policy like LGBT rights.

Looking back on Kuala Lumpur's skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.
Looking back on Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.

Malaysia made a big impact on me during my month criss-crossing the nation.  Here are eight of my biggest takeaways from visiting the country.

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It’s a Small World, After All

Watch the faces of people walking through the gates of a Disney park, and you’ll realize there is a universal trait. Everyone is smiling.  I tend to believe it’s because you know what kind of day you’re in for.

For the young, they’ll see their favourite characters come to life and (if they’re patient) even give them a hug or an autograph. For the young at heart, it’s a chance to relive the simplicity of childhood – where, if for a daythey can worry about nothing.

On Friday, March 4, as I walked through the entrance of Hong Kong Disneyland, a smile spread across my face. But that smile was not for the same reason as so many of the other visitors that day.  I was finally able to cross an item off my bucket list.

Anaheim, Florida, Paris, Tokyo and now, Hong Kong.  I was able to say I had been to every Disney theme park in the world.

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Episode 28.5 – Censored

 

You often hear about censorship and propaganda when discussing Communist countries like Vietnam, but you never really see it in action.  But last Sunday night in Hanoi, I watched it take place before my eyes.

Not all censorship is as forward as the incident I describe in this add-on to episode 28 of the podcast.  There are other ways that conversation is curtailed and a world view is shaped on a regular basis – like the tape delay of cable news channels like CNN and BBC World, or laws which prohibit saying certain things about certain historical figures.

My biggest takeaway is that we fail to understand the gravity of the words “censorship” and “propaganda” when we throw them around trivially.  To truly appreciate these words, you have to look to places where they form public policy.

It’s important to not let this one part of my Vietnam visit take away from the incredible experiences I had with so many people in the country.  But, I’d be failing in providing context to my trip if I didn’t talk about this.

I Hate Haggling

When it comes to the popularity of Southeast Asian backpacker trail, there are really two major reasons why the region rates so highly with westerners – and they’re as diametrically opposed as the left and right brain.

On one hand, Southeast Asia has some of the most glorious vistas in the world. The cultures are unique, the people are warm and welcoming, and the scenery is phenomenal.  It really is a special place that is worth taking time to come and appreciate.

On the other hand, Southeast Asia is easy on the wallet. You can snag a bed in a hostel for roughly the same price as a Starbucks latte, eat an entire day’s worth food for the same as you’d spend on the value menu after a night out drinking, and beer can sometimes be cheaper than bottled water or Coca-Cola.  There is a lot to love about how far your dollar stretches in this region.

Money, however, is also at the root of one of Southeast Asia’s least attractive features – having to haggle.

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