Video: Biking In A Malaysian Forest

When watching stereotypical, travel-related videos, you don’t usually get to see places the way locals see places. Flashy editing and touristy destinations often yield generic travel videos that are about as helpful as a rest stop brochure. I prefer to see what locals see. This often results in me scouring Vimeo or YouTube for videos that show me what I want to see: destinations from a local’s perspective. When I came across this video, I wanted to share it with Gadling readers. This video simply features a cyclist, Muhammad Raydi Koto Cham (who also directed and edited the film), making his way through a thick and lush forest in Malaysia. The woods in Bukit Kiara are green and shaded. In under two minutes, Cham and camera operator Riki Adi Setiawan, give me a visceral sense of what it would look and sound like to ride through these trees.

Malaysian Economy Needs 'Focus'

Vagabond Tales: Are Plastic Bottles Becoming A Natural Resource?

The island of Mabul, Malaysia, is not big. In fact, it’s tiny. You can walk around it in 45 minutes.

A popular destination for scuba divers, visitors to this remote island off the coast of Borneo frequently pass the time by diving the offshore reefs or lounging beneath a coconut palm – pretty taxing stuff really.

While digging into a good book from the confines of a hammock is all well and good, few visitors, I noticed, actually take the time to get out and explore the island. In the hour or so it took me to meander the circumference of the tropical sand spit, I encountered a grand total of zero other tourists.

Zero.

This is not to say the beaches were empty – far from it. All along the shoreline local fishermen mended their nets and rolled canoes on logs in an effort to extract them from the turquoise waters. As the fishermen went about their daily tasks, others sat shirtless and cross-legged on the sand, methodically hacking into coconuts with machetes that had seen their fair share of husks.

All of this activity is to be expected on an island with only two natural resources, those of course being fish and coconuts.Interspersed among the workers, however, was something that set in motion a line of thinking, which has haunted me for the past three years. There, on the trash-strewn shores of Mabul, hordes of young school-aged children ran dutifully around the island sifting through the plastic-lined shoreline and stuffing the bottles they found into tattered burlap bags.

No, this wasn’t Malaysia’s version of a nationwide beach cleanup.

Rather, these children had been sent out to collect the plastic bottles so they could be used around the home.

Ever wondered how you grow a vegetable garden on an island made of nothing but sand? Cut a plastic bottle lengthwise, fill it with imported soil or dirt, plant some seeds in it, and hang it on your balcony. Voila. Vegetable garden.

How about creating a fishing net? Instead of using expensive styrofoam floats which need to be imported, why not just use the buoyant plastic bottles, which are imported by the drifting ocean currents?

Watching these groups of 5-year-old children gather bags of plastic bottles from the shore, I realized that in some twisted stretch of irony, for these children who don’t know otherwise, these plastic bottles are essentially a natural resource much the same as coconuts.

Need to mend a net? Need to plant a garden? Need to carry fresh water? Go down to the shore and gather some bottles.

As someone who is staunchly anti-plastics and an advocate for their removal from global commerce, this was an eye-opening variable I had never considered.

What if plastics and marine debris are (for a select number of impoverished cPlastic bottle fishing netoastal communities around the globe) actually providing a resource and considered to be good?

Environmentally conflicted I tabled the thought and buried it down deep. This past November, however, I spotted an outdoor lamp on the island of Boracay in the Philippines with a lampshade made from an empty two-liter coke bottle (pictured above) and the counter-intuitive thought resurfaced.

Not more than two weeks later, while exploring the backside of Koh Tonsay (Rabbit Island) off the coast of Cambodia, I happened upon this fishing net which had been strung together on the shore. Here, again, were the plastic bottles in abundance used as floats for holding up the net. In a flashback to Mabul, here, in a village numbering no more than 25 people, were two young boys wandering the shoreline and collecting plastic bottles.

So after all of these sightings am I still an advocate for the elimination of plastics? Yes. Are plastics one of the largest elements of marine debris threatening our oceans and marine species? Yes. Are plastics petroleum based and do they contribute to the world’s addiction to fossil fuels? Yes.

Nevertheless, as we here in the West fret about marine debris and oceanic garbage patches the size of Texas, I think about a mother in Mabul growing tomatoes out of a coke bottle; I conjure up a fisherman in Cambodia feeding his family with gear made from a flotilla of empty Evians.

I wonder if, by some chance, we as a civilization are able to clean up our oceans and ditch the addiction to plastics. Will a generation of islanders in forgotten corners of the Pacific tell their children stories of a day when plastics were abundant and easy to come by?

I sure hope not, but the point has been raised nevertheless.

Want more travel stories? Read more of the “Vagabond Taleshere

10 Best Cities Around The World To Experience Graffiti Art

graffiti “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” – Banksy, “Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall”

While often thought of as vandalism, there are many cities around the globe with beautiful works of graffiti that add an aesthetic property to a destination. In fact, many of the cities on this list feature legal graffiti walls, and works commissioned by the city to help enhance and beautify the region. Moreover, a lot of street art helps to tell the story of a culture, express political views and enlighten viewers on important topics.

Want to know where to experience the best graffiti art around the world? Check out the gallery below.

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10 places to celebrate Chinese New Year

Chinese New YearChinese New Year occurs in the early months of our calendar year, typically January or February and this year falls on January 23rd. This is the first of 15 days of celebration and the start of the Year of the Dragon.

Chinese New Year (also called the Lunar New Year) is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar and a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity and to eliminate any negative chi from the past.

The origin of Chinese New Year taps several myths and traditions and is officially celebrated in countries and territories such as Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and also in Chinatowns elsewhere. Chinese New Year is considered a major holiday for the Chinese and has had influence on the lunar new year celebrations of its geographic neighbors.

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Chinese New Year is also celebrated just about anywhere there are significant Chinese populations too.

In the UK, many shops, bars and restaurants in London will be participating in the celebrations, with big events held in Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and most importantly, Chinatown.

In the United States, the San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration is now the largest Asian event in North America as well as the largest general market event in Northern California. The celebration includes two major fairs, the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and Chinatown Community Street Fair. All the festivities culminate with Chinese New Year Parade.

Flickr photo by xiquinhosilva



Chinese New Year in Bangkok

Kuala Lumpur mandates WiFi in all restaurants and bars

kuala lumpur wifiThanks to a new law, visitors to Malaysia‘s capital city of Kuala Lumpur will be able to enjoy WiFi in all local restaurants and bars starting in April.

The New Straits Times reports that the law, passed yesterday, will make it mandatory for restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, and clubs larger than 120 square meters in area to offer wireless Internet services free of charge, or for a reasonable fee. Kuala Lumpur’s city council intends to extend the requirement to public food courts, or hawker centers, later in the year.

While the law will certainly cement Kuala Lumpur’s reputation as one of the most connected cities in Southeast Asia, one has to wonder how the proliferation of WiFi will affect the dining experience, especially for travelers. It’d be a shame to be distracted from Malaysia’s mind-blowing cuisine by email and Facebook.

[Via The Next Web Asia; Flickr image via the trial]