The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Cheap Way to Fly in Asia

The Cheap Way to Fly in Asia
January, 2012—Cha Jones

When living in the United States I use to love traveling the friendly skies on Southwest Airlines. Of course, some people would rather fly on an airline where their seats are pre-assigned. However, I have found that Southwest has some great things to offer and the first come first serve seating arrangement doesn’t bother me. 
On Southwest you are able to get a better seat if you fly more frequently or if you do early check-in. I also like the fact that Southwest is one of the only airlines that still doesn’t make its passengers pay for checked baggage. I can appreciate that because it has become really ridiculous considering the fact that unless you are staying on a trip for a very short time, then you need to check baggage. 

International flights decrease checked baggage

I recently looked-up some information on a flight to America and was amazed that United Airlines has recently adjusted the number of bags that you can check for their international flights. I could not believe that you are only allowed one checked bag and one carry-on. WHAT! Are they crazy? When traveling overseas, unless on business, many people are on extended stays, moving, or traveling for work on a short-term contract. So, why are you taxing me on baggage and I am already paying a great deal on the flight? OMG! I remember when I first moved to Korea I was able to check two bags at 50lbs a piece and have two carry-on bags. Well, it’s a new day. I hope see the sadness in my heart?

Asia’s discounted way to travel or not

This summer I was told about Air Asia Airlines and I must say they have some great rates on international flights within Asia. However, there are a few things that you should know prior to booking. If you look up the flights you will find that the rates are good, but booking online is a little difficult. Also, when you begin to book you will notice that you will be prompted to pay for travel insurance, seating assignments, baggage, meals, and prepaid transportation once you’ve landed at your destination. Now, I will say this, if you don’t choose to purchase your seating assignments you will get a free assigned seat. If you can travel with just one carry-on, then you will not have to pay for your baggage. However, I clicked on everything to opt out of the travel insurance and could not get out of paying it, because I was unable to proceed without purchasing. And if you don’t want to pre-pay for your meal, then you can pay a little higher rate while in-flight.

Well in Asia, Air Asia is the discount airline that can get you to several locations at a pretty good rate. Now, in my opinion Air Asia is no Southwest, but it is a pretty descent airlines. There are some major differences which led me to my opinion and they are listed below:
  •  Obviously Southwest is not an international airline and Air Asia is
  •  On Air Asia you have to pay for insurance, meals, pre-assigned seating, and baggage
  • Their flight attendants will also encourage in-flight shopping (like many other airlines)
  •  Drinks and snacks will cost you

Tips when flying Air Asia Airlines

I would encourage you to be prepared to really spend a little time on the internet while booking your flight. I never did find and easy way to communicate with a live person if I had any questions, so keep that in mind as well. Also, when you fly, I would suggest that you bring a blanket because they turn the air-conditioning on even in the winter. If you don’t buy a pre-assigned seat, don’t worry you are able to move if there are any free seats available before takeoff. For the most part, I found that flying on Air Asia was pretty good, but I will say that they do nickel and dime you to the point that I am not sure you have a huge discount when you finish paying.

Where can you go on Air Asia?
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Korea
Sri Lanka
United Kingdom

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beware of the Monkeys

Beware of the Monkeys
January, 2012 —Cha Jones

Cute, adorable, and curious are all adjectives that I think of when I envision a monkey.  However, on my recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia a friend and I found the use of another adjective — Gangster. Yes, I said gangster. The monkeys that are running freely near the Batu Caves are indeed what you can call gangster.

First, let me describe gangster so that we are all on the same page; tough, rugged, bullies, and criminal are all words that would define gangster in this blog—proceed with caution.

The Batu Caves

When visiting Malaysia, the Batu Caves are one of KL’s (Kuala Lumpur) must see attractions. Just outside of the entrance you will find a huge statue of Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of War. This gold plated statue is beautiful and is actually the largest statue of its kind in the world. Just to left of the statue there are 227 steps which lead you to the entrance of the cave. 

As you walk up the flight of stairs you will see many people, both tourist and Hindu’s who are going to worship. You will also most likely be joined by few monkeys who freely wander up and down the stairs. However, as friendly as they may seem I would strongly suggest that you keep in mind that they are still considered wild animals and you should —beware.

To keep the Gatorade or not, that it’s the question?

After entering the Batu Caves and enjoying the smell of the beautiful aroma of many different incents and walking through one of the most serene and majestic atmospheres in the world we took a few steps out of the cave and met a nice looking male monkey, or at least what we thought to be a nice male monkey.

My friend had just purchased a cold bottle of Gatorade from the souvenir shop at the entrance to the cave, and we were both exiting the cave when the monkey walks between the two of us and demands her Gatorade. “Excuse me,” he infers reaching for the Gatorade from her hands. However, after tracking up 272 flights of stairs and then walking through the cave she was tired, hot and not about to share, at least I’m thinking that is what she thought. The monkey was not about the monkey business today. In fact, he was very serious, he reached to take the drink and just as she pulled back. Next, all I saw were teeth, which was my clue to mind my own business and proceed down the stairs, “We both shouldn’t get bit, right?”

This monkey was definitely not named “George” although he was very curious about why my friend had decided to pour her drink on the stairs in an attempt to share her libations with him, he was in no way the cute and cuddly type.  After, he kindly gave her a look that explained to her  he was indeed a monkey and not a cat, the Hindu God’s came to her assistance and kindly produced an empty Gatorade bottle on the stairs near the two of them. She picked it up and poured the monkey a portion. He then reached up and without any words of gratitude, jumped up on the rail and over to the other steps taking the drink straight to the head— so GANGSTER!

So, for those of you who plan to take an adventure to Malaysia and want to go to the Batu Caves, I would suggest that you—beware of the monkeys. 

The Batu Cave monkeys look cute and for the most part they mind their own business, that is unless you have something that they may want and/or think they need. I would also caution you from taking pictures were the monkeys can see their own reflection, they reportedly don’t like that. It is also been suggested that you don’t attempt to freely feed the monkeys as you may be attacked, and remember, even though you only see one monkey, they do travel in packs. The Batu Cave monkeys are cute and even seem to be cuddly, but beware they are gangster and you have warned! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

In to India

In to India
By Nicole Brewer (as seen in Busan Haps magazine)
JODHPUR, India -- While I sat atop my beautifully adorned camel, the sun beamed down on my skin, a light breeze tickled at my hair and I began to feel a sense of ease on this animal I was once so afraid of. Suddenly, a swarm of kids approached me and my fellow group of travelers and started singing in a beautiful melody. All right there in what was their backyard, the Thar Desert outside of Jodhpur.

Two fellow English teachers from the States and myself spent two incredible weeks touring the Northern Indian state of Rajasthan. While there, we hit the cities of Jodhpur, Udaipur, New Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Jaipur. It was a fabulously enriching journey.

Upon arriving in Jodhpur, we settled in at the Kothi Heritage Hotel. It is essentially an old mansion that has been restored with highly elaborate d├ęcor including chandeliers, swords and an old-wordly charm.

Jodhpur is known for the Mehrangarh Fort, which offers beautiful views of the city which has been dubbed the “blue city” for all the varied hues of blue painted on the buildings that seemingly melt away into the sky above.

Jodhpur offered magnificent shopping for richly colored Sarais and mouth watering chicken curry with a range of Na’an bread, from cheese garlic to buttered flavors, followed down by a nice, frothy mango lassi drink. We became friends with a local shop keeper who extended us immeasurable hospitality by treating us to a delicious meal with his family in their home.

After our welcoming time in Jodhpur, we ventured to Udaipur. Udaipur is described as the “white city”, because of its splendid architecture composed almost entirely of marble.  While in Udaipur, we visited the Jain Temple. It was simply breathtaking – the stone elephants, pillars and detailed carvings throughout the temple left me speechless. It also played host to traditional Indian dance performances, puppet shows and fire dancers in the open air theater at Bagore-ki-Haveli.

The next stop on our Indian adventure was Varanasi, known as the “holy city” and home to the Hindu religion. There you can witness countless temples, as well as the spiritual cleansing and bathing at the Assi Ghats. A word of warning though: you must mentally prepare yourself for the sights and smells that you will come upon in Varanasi.

An overnight visit should suffice to see the attractions in the holy city, especially if you are able to make it there during Diwali, the “festival of lights,” which is celebrated between mid-October and mid-November.
Following Varanasi we headed on to Jaipur, also popularly known as the “pink city,” where The Hawa Mahal or “Palace of the Winds" sits shaped like a crown in tribute to the Hindu God Krishna; ornamented in the city’s signature pink colors. The Amber Fort, which sits atop of a hill overlooking the city, is also a stunning sight to behold – especially when seen during the day.

One of the most Jaipur’s most gorgeous displays here in the evenings is the light and sound show. Beautiful colors and harmonious sounds are magnified around the Amber Fort, all while telling the story of the Fort and the Jaipur dynasty.

While in Jaipur, we stayed at the Jaipur Umaid Bhawan Hotel, also a heritage house. It had the same dynamic flair as the Kothi Heritage. At every corner I was greeted with beautiful art work representing the history of Jaipur and antique furnishings that were designed in traditional Rajasthani style.
Along with the traditional dancing performances on the roof and the great food and comfort, the $50 a night charge seemed nothing.

Another must see spot, while en route to Agra from Jaipur, is the Chand Baori, Abaneri. It is the world’s oldest “step-well,” which was used in the past to harvest rain water.

While most make a mad dash to see the Taj Mahal, I suggest you make a request to your driver to detour over to the Chand Baori. (You can book a driver through most of the hotels in Rajasthan). Taking in the exquisite sites of Chand Baori is worth the extra hour off your path before going to the Taj Mahal.
Ahhh India. It was a fabulous two week visit, and to think, that was only the north.
Nicole down in the Chand Baori step well.

Traveling the World and Making the Dream Count

Making His Dream Count
January 16, 2012—Cha Jones

It’s funny when I was in the second grade I actually could draw. I think about that now and it’s really interesting because I can’t draw to save my little life… (laughing). I remember being in a drawing contest for the best picture of Dr. Martin Luther King, and I won. The picture was wonderful and it really looked just like him, but please dare not ask me to do that at this time.

When I think back to being in grade school and celebrating Dr. King’s dream of a better America I never had any clue that his dream would not only make my living in America better, but it would eventually take me across the world and impact the life I’m living here in Korea.

The dream lives with me

Dr. King’s dream was and still is an important part of being an African American. His dream impacts all American’s and I’d even venture to say at this time, all people, but being an African American who lives with the horrible past of slavery, his dream is a inheritance for a better tomorrow.

As an African American woman I will always remember the struggle of my ancestors. Their journey to America wasn’t pleasant and their fight was often painful, but it was because of their endurance and tenacity that I am able to live abroad. When I boarded my first plane to move to a foreign country I did it by choice and with my dream toted and ready to be lived. It has been a blessing to be able to know that those who came before me paved a way for a better life and the ability to see the world in a different way.

“As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I Have a Dream, Dr. Martin Luther King We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I Have a Dream Speech, Dr. Martin Luther King 
His dream lives with me, and because of his dream I have never known the depths of racism that many of my people have endured. I have to admit I do know discrimination, but even as I travel today, with stares and taxi drivers who pass me by because I have a different skin color, I know that my struggle is different. My struggle is not necessarily to be equal and most often it’s not about the color of my skin, but rather the ignorance of those who have been tainted with stereotypes. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I don’t know what it feels like to be judged or discriminated against at all, even in 2012. However, I will say that Dr. King’s dream is entrenched in me and I live with his dream daily.

I am able to live in a foreign country and I have one of the best opportunities ever because I am teacher. As teacher I have to ability to change and mode the views of the future. Some people think I should do it at home in America, but for me, it is a blessing to teach in a foreign country and have students learn firsthand that black people are no different. I am proud to be able to be an ambassador for my people as well as my country, and I believe that my interaction helps to bridge the gap between the stereotypes and truth for the next generations to come.

Making the dream count

I believe that I have the ability to make Dr. King’s dream count. I came to Korea because I wanted to travel the world. As I travel I am able to meet many different people from all over the world, and in many cases, the people I meet will never leave their countries of origin or have the opportunities that I have to influence others. I am so grateful for this opportunity and appreciate being able to travel the world and learn about other people and how they live. It is wonderful to be able to communicate with people who don’t always speak your same language and yet we can still have common respect for each other with no words at all.