The Big Blog Exchange

In early 2013 I got involved with The Big Blog Exchange, a contest put on by Hosteling International. I signed up my blog and encouraged people to vote. When voting ended, I was 4th in the world, 2nd in my region (the Americas), and 1st in Canada. The judges took a look at my blog and selected me as one of the 16 winners.

I was partnered with Chee Ching, the winner from Malaysia; I would go there and she came to Canada. While we traveled, we would post our adventures to each other’s blogs.

The following are the posts I published on Chee Ching’s blog,

Hello Malaysia! From Canada!
Originally Published: June 6, 2013

Hi All,

My name is Jeremy and I’m heading off to your beautiful country! I wanted to do up a quick post to introduce myself.

I am from Canada and have never really been outside of there (except to go to the United States) so I am really excited to go around the world to visit you.

First, I want to tell you that I don’t do illustrations but I have been known to take some photographs. I hope to get a couple good shots over the trip.

Usually talking about myself is not really my thing so I guess I’ll give you some facts about myself. I grew up in a small town called Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada and still like to call that place home. I graduated from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 2012 with a BA in English. I really like to write. I work as a lifeguard in the summer. My best friend has a famous name. And I have a dog. Her name is Nellie and I have never been away from her for so long since I got her. Nellie is really my pride and joy and I could talk about her for hours!

Anyway, right now it is 4:30 in the morning and I am sitting at the airport in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada waiting for my flight to Toronto. So ignore any speling misstakes and grammar errors – it is so early!
I am really looking forward to seeing you and to continue blogging!

Be sure to keep reading my posts here on Chee Ching’s blog and you can see how she is doing on my blog (!

See ya real soon!

 The Plane, The Rain & A Bed That’s Not Mine
Originally Published: June 10, 2013

I landed in Malaysia after 25+ hours of travel. I was nervous, scared and excited all at the same time. I had no idea where I was going or who I was supposed to meet and where I was in the airport and I felt a little overwhelmed.

Let me be honest for a second. I have hardly travelled before and when I have, it has usually been with my parents. One time I drove across Canada with my best friend, but that was different because my best friend was there with me. This is also my first time outside of North America. I’m a far way from home and I am all by myself... It has been a little bit stressful.

I was sitting in the Toronto airport waiting for my plane to Hong Kong when I got a text from my Dad asking me to call him before I got on the plane. I did right away and then I heard my boarding call. I realized that once I hung up the phone that could be the last time I talk to any of my friends and family for almost two weeks. My eyes started to water, I felt a lump in my throat, and my stomach started to turn. 

The plane ride to Hong Kong was 15 hours long. That is a long time to be in one seat. I watched a couple movies, took some naps, and read a book. I also had some food. Important note of any and all vegetarians out there who are about to get on a 15 hour flight: Be sure to book a vegetarian meal! If not, be prepared to eat enough chicken flavored noodles so you can take your malaria pills. 

I’m going to skip over the rest of the flight details because they aren’t interesting at all. What was pretty interesting was the fact that when I got to Hong Kong, I only had a little over an hour to check in and get to the gate. If you know the Hong Kong Airport, then you know that involves about seven escalators, two train rides and a check through security. I got on that plane as it was taking off.

Once I landed in Kuala Lumpur (KL), I realized I had no idea where I was supposed to meet Noh (my guide for the trip). I did the logical thing and went through immigration, got my bags and pulled out my laptop. As it turns out, there was no wifi in the part of the airport I was in. I remember Noh saying something about a bank. I waited beside the baggage claim for probably an hour before I realized I had to physically exit the arrival area to meet him. 

We drove in a lightning storm to the city where we had coffee and a snack before heading to the hostel. We said good bye for the night and I found my room. I set up my room and tried to log onto the internet. I had a lot of trouble and when I finally got online, my battery was about to die and I hadn’t gotten a power adapter yet. So I got into bed and turned on the television 13 hours away from home. I realized it was the first time I was getting into bed by myself in months.

You see, I have a dog. Her name is Nellie and she is a greyhound. When I got her in October of last year, she was fairly scared and timid, but soon she was comfortable enough to sleep in the bed with me. Ever since, we have shared a bed and it is hard to be away.

There is a good side to this though. I expected to be a little homesick during this whole event. I am really comfortable and safe at home. I wanted this experience to try something new and step out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been keeping busy so far! And I can’t wait to write about it!

I want to thank Hostel International as well as it's national association, HI-Malaysia. Check out there website here.

Also, to my friends the the Wira Hotel for the great place to stay.

Elephants, Monkeys & Fireflies
Originally Published June 11, 2013

I started my Malaysian adventure with Noh early on Saturday morning. He picked me up and we went to get Mimi, my second guide for the trip.

We started by going to a traditional Malaysian Market. Noh and Mimi took me around and got me to try some local fruits, Magosteen and Rambuton. They told me this market is only open on Saturdays. For all my friends reading in Fredericton, NB, I’m sure you are familiar with Saturday markets. In Canada we call them Farmers’ Markets.

We had lunch at the Banana Leaf, an Indian restaurant. I was feeling the jet lag and wasn’t really up to eating; however, it was so good I forced myself to eat.

Noh told me we were taking a two hour car ride so I hopped in the back of the car and napped most of the way there. Napping in the car has been a real theme for my trip so far. I would like to point out when it is noon in Malaysia; it is 1:00 a.m. back home. I am still trying to adjust to the time change.

When I awoke we were almost to an Elephant Sanctuary. For some people this might not be that exciting of an event; for me, it was incredible! I had never seen an elephant before. We got to feed the baby elephants and watch the older ones take a bath and then they did a show for us and we got to feed them after then we fed the babies again! So Cool!

On the way back to KL, Noh and Mini took me to Orang Asli (Malaysian Indigenous Museum), we did a driving tour of the Islamic University where Noh did his first degree then headed off to the Batu Caves. If you live in Malaysia and have not been up the Batu Caves, then you are missing out! You need to go! If you live outside of Malaysia, you have to make the trip as well!

We stopped to get my computer the power adapter it needed before going back to the hotel. Mimi also tried to teach me some Malay words. Hello: Hari Yang Baik and Thank you: Terima Kasih Noh also told me a little about the local language and how most people spoke a mixture of Malay and English: Manglish.

That night we went to ICity, a theme park full of LED lights to take pictures. I had a nap in the car on the way there, of course. We stopped at a restaurant called Papa Rich for a late supper around 2:00 a.m. I know this may sound late to most people but it is only early afternoon back home. I was feeling a little better so I was able to enjoy it a little more.

I was able to connect with some friends and family back home when I got back to my room which helped with the homesickness. I did (and do) still miss Nellie though.

The following day (Sunday) I was picked up later than usual so I could sleep in a little. Noh, Mimi and I took a tour of the form Royal Palace and then saw the outside of the new Royal Palace. Then we had lunch with the birds at the Hornbill which just happens to be at the bird sanctuary.

We went out to an old fort to watch the sunset; however, we got too busy watching the monkeys. I just have to say that I have seen monkeys before, but never that many in one place. It was incredible to see that many together. Since we didn’t watch the sun go down, we went to the Firefly place early. The Firefly place is this place where there is one of the largest congregations of Fireflies in the world! We took a boat out and I tried to get some photos but they all came out black. They looked like little green flashing Christmas lights.

We finished off the night with a drink and some snacks at the Sky Bar. I must say, I have been in a lot of bars, maybe more than I’d like to admit, but by far the Sky Bar is the most breathtaking bar I have ever been in. The bar has a pool and has a remarkable view of the KLCC (the twin towers).

Been a busy time here in Malaysia! I’ll get back to you really soon!

I want to thank Hostel International as well as it's national association, HI-Malaysia. Check out there website here.

And of course, my guide/driver/good friend and one of the nicest/caring guys in the world, Noh; the man who is fit to be King!

A Walk in a Place I have Not Been
Originally Published June 13, 2013

Sorry I haven't been posting lately! I have been having troubles with the Wi-Fi!

I have been getting comments that I don't share enough photos.

Took a Walk with my pal, Mimi, around KL.

Off the train, past the Mosque

to Independence Square

We checked out the City Gallery

then to the Central Market

where I did some painting.

The guy there said it was good for my first time!
Hung out at a temple

with this guy.
And I really wanted to see the KL Towers in the daylight.

Just saying, you'd love it too if you were here.
I want to thank Hostel International as well as it's national association, HI-Malaysia. Check out there website here.

And of course, to my guide for the day, Mimi!

A Beautiful Day for a Drive
Originally Published: June 13, 2013

Hi All,

I'm running a couple days behind because of an issue with the internet (or lack there of). So I will try to tell the story the best I can with little sleep and the long days effecting my work.

I got up early to meet Mimi at the train station and we traveled out to Putrajaya, an hour train ride from Kuala Lumpur (KL). We met up with Noh and found the best view in Putrajaya.

Once we got up there, Noh realized he forgot his camera at home... So into the car and off to his home we went. I know that sounds like a bad thing, but it was actually really cool.

I can't describe to you the location of Noh's house because I don't really know, but I do know it is made of concrete as are the other homes around his. I figured that was because concrete would make a more cool house, which isn't incorrect; however, Noh informed me most homes are concrete for it is cheaper and more durable than wood. You see, Malaysia is covered with palm trees and rubber trees, both of which would only last 10-15 years before they needed repair or replacement. Also, when your home is made of concrete, it is more fire resistant.

Anyhow, we talked about tree for a while and ended up at Noh's Aunt's house.

This house is a tradition Malaysian home, which just happens to be built with wood. In side, the house is very open concept with about 4 bedroom. There is an attic where, at one time, the women of the home would live, leaving the men downstairs on the main floor.

You may also notice the satellite dish at the bottom of the stairs. This is because there are monkeys around who like to play and get into things, including the house.

After we said goodbye to Noh's lovely Aunt, we headed off to the Royal Museum Seri Menanti, Kuala Pilan.

This was once the palace of the King of the state. I have to say, if you are in Malaysia, you really should check this place out. It is surrounded by the homes of the royal family, including the new palace. The very top floor was used as the bank room. You must climb a steep two flights of stairs to get to the top which might be a problem if you have an issue with heights, like Noh (I would love to share a photo, but I'm sure he wouldn't be pleased). Once you are up there though, the view is spectacular. When we were up there, a heavy rain passed through; we could see it coming then as it went.

We headed back to Putrajaya to see the sights and some of the administrative buildings.

Putrajaya is the Administrative Capital of Malaysia. The administrative buildings were once all located in KL but the government has started moving them to Putrajaya to spread out the working population of the city; this will reduce traffic and leave room for industry. Putrajaya was once a Palm oil tree plantation. It is named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, not unlike Washington, D.C. is named after the first president of the United States.

And of course, there is a mosque too!

A really big mosque.

We then took a walk across the canopy bridge at the Putrajaya Botanical Garden before lunch.

I was really upset because there was no canopy over the bridge. I mean, I was really mad about it. Then Noh looked at me and said it was a natural canopy of tree and plants.

...It is a very beautiful garden.

After lunch Mimi and I said our goodbyes to Noh and headed back to KL. I packed my bags and prepped for the trip to Singapore.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about my new friends...


I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog Exchange, Hostel International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

And of course, to Noh's Aunt for the kind hospitality and refreshments. Sorry I didn't eat all of mine, my stomach was feeling upset that morning.

When Sleep isn’t an Option
Originally Published: June 13, 2013

I have learned a lot from this experience. I don't want to get right down into every detail right now, but I do want to say what I've learned most of all.

Most of all, I have learned that I really love my family. No group of people drive me more crazy, but I still really love them.

I figured this out when I lost touch with them when I have have troubles connecting to the internet over the past couple days. I couldn't tell them that I was ok, or about my day, or that I love them and there was nothing I could do about it. I got back to my hotel last night around 8:00 p.m. local time (which is about 7:00 a.m. back home) and I rushed to get my computer set up. I tried the connection but I couldn't get it to work. I told the guy at the reception and he gave me the password for the lobby internet. So I gathered my things and headed downstairs to learn the lobby internet didn't work for me either.

I want to point out that I am no computer genus but I have several different ways to fix a connection, none of which worked.

I panicked about the situation till I went to bed just before midnight. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. to use the washroom and when I got back in bed, I lay awake thinking about the internet connection. "Maybe it will work now?" "Maybe someone reset the router." "I bet if I just take a look, it will work."

I got out of bed.

The connection could not be identified.

Back in bed.

I watched the clock until 4:00, knowing I had to be awake by 5. I decided that I would read if I couldn't sleep. Just happened to bring my copy of Into The Wild for my adventure.

Chris McCandless left society for a life on the road. He lost his car, a car he had a love for, in a flash flood while camping in the backcountry of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. "Instead of feeling distraught over this turn of events, moreover, McCandless was exhilarated: He saw the flash flood as an opportunity to shed unnecessary baggage." (Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild).

I got up and got ready for the day.


I'm not going to burn all my stuff in South East Malaysia; however, I am not going to worry about the internet again. If I can't connect, I will have another opportunity. I am on an adventure. If something doesn't work out, then I will have another opportunity later.

I don't want to turn into a motivational speaker here. I guess I just want to clear the air while I have some time: I was pretty homesick for a couple days. I missed my folks and my girlfriend and my friends and work and, most of all, my dog. But, they know that I love them and I know that I'll be home really soon. No internet is just a flash flood.

By the way, the car still worked, it just needed to dry out and get a boost of the battery. Good thing I didn't abandon my computer back at the hotel!


I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog ExchangeHostel International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

And of course, to Jon Krakauer, who can find beauty in the saddest of stories.

Hotel vs Hostel
Originally Published: June 14, 2013

I have had the privilege of staying in a couple of different “Hostels” during my trip to Malaysia/Singapore. I might be writing this a little prematurely as I still have another hostel to stay at before the trip ends, but I have some points that I’d like to offer.

First off, I want to talk about the Asian culture around personal space. The hostelling community is still fairly new to this part of the world, whereas there is a great history of hostelling throughout North America and Europe. This is because the majority of Asian travellers prefer to have their own room and space. I personally believe it has to do with population density, but that is simply speculation. It is for this reason that most hostels in Asia are more of a Hotel style.

The hostelling culture is primarily supported by backpacking travelers looking for the local experience on a small budget. Hostels are designed to support these backpackers by providing what they need, rather than catering to luxury.

A backpacker needs only the minimum during their travels; a place to sleep, a dry place to relax, and most modern backpackers require access to some form of communication, be it a telephone or an internet connection. All of these needs must be met at a reasonable price. A hotel is very capable of fulfilling these needs; however, it is more common to see a hotel provide comforts of privacy, entertainment and luxury.

Just to be clear, I am not stating that one is better than the other. I simply want to bring to light the matter and compare the pros and cons.

The first hostel I stayed at was the Hotel Wira in Kuala Lumpur. This hostel provided me with a private room with two single beds, a private washroom, a television, work area, closet, mini bar fridge, snacks for purchase, two glasses of water daily, breakfast in the morning and “wi-fi”. You may wonder why wi-fi is in quotation marks; I want to remind all of my struggles with the internet connection.

The second hostel I visited was the Costa Sands Resort on the Downtown East side of Singapore. The hostel provided me a shared room with three single beds (neither of the other two were occupied), shared washroom (among those within the room), a work area, closet, hot beverages throughout the day, a water fountain, full fridge in the room, a personal locked storage area, a guest lounge, free wi-fi as well as computers with webcam and voice calling features.

Let’s take a look at the photos.

Kuala Lumpur


I am going to leave it up to your personal preference without including my own personal views. Like I said, they both have pros and cons. Also, one thing you may want to consider is the price. In my experience a hotel is much more expensive than a hostel, but with internet deals and credit card points, perhaps a hotel does have competitive rates, or the extra price is worth the perks that come with a hotel.

I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog ExchangeHostel International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

And of course, to Josephine Woo, my guide and new friend here is Singapore who helped me better understand the culture of Hostels.

You Have Now Reached the Top of the World
Originally Published: June 16, 2013

With this title, I feel like I am about to write another book in Douglas Adams’ series, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. Well I am not. I am going to tell you about Singapore!

I’m also not going to tell you so much about Singapore; I’m going to show you! I’m feeling kind of adventurous so here is my hand at photo blogging.

I do have some quick stories to tell you about. First off, you are probably wondering why I was in Singapore as I won the Malaysia trip. As it turns out, Malaysia and Singapore a separated by a bridge (for my North American readers, it is not unlike the bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan). The HI National Associations of Singapore and Malaysia were kind enough to work together to plan a trip for Sophie (the winner from the UK visiting Singapore) and I were we got to meet in Singapore then head off the Malacca in Malaysia for a couple days.

So on Wednesday morning, I packed up my things, got into a taxi and headed for a bus station in Kuala Lumpur. HI-Singapore hooked me up with a room at their Costa Sands Resort in Downtown East. It was my first time saying in a hostel style hostel although there was no one else in my room. It was a really great place to stay though! The lounges were awesome and had computers you could use. Check it out for sure next time you’re in Singapore!

Josephine, from HI-Singapore, picked me up from the bus station and showed me the sites of the city! She also taught me a lot about backpacking and traveling abroad. You see, I have a nervous mother and although I usually try to be rock when she gets nervous about something in my life, I was actually pretty nervous for this trip. You may have noticed the huge backpack in some of my photos; this bag is filled with a lot of stuff I don’t really need for two days in Singapore. Josephine also gave me the rundown of how hostels work in Asia and why it has been slow for them to gain popularity which you can read about in my post, Hotel VS Hostel.

I chatted with my friend, Steve, about going to Singapore. Steve used to work on cruise ships and made in over to South East Asia a couple of time. He told me about a bar he found while in Singapore that lays claim to the creation of a Singapore Sling. This beverage was created in the Long Bar and the Raffles Hotel by a bar tender named Ngiam Tong Boon in the year 1915. Not much has changed there since, including the peanut shells on the floor, except for the fact that I needed to find that place. It was actually really easy because Josephine show me. You can see Sophie and I having a taste in one of the photos.

After we left the long bar, Sophie and I hung out for a bit, had a beer and a really good chat. I was exhausted by the time I head off to bed. So much so that I slept through my alarm and got a call from the Hostel’s management tell me that Josephine just called wondering where I was. I was supposed to meet up with here and Sophie at the bus stop ten minutes before. Anyway, I gained a couple experiences and lessons from the event; it is really great to make friends while traveling by yourself, everyone mistakes while traveling which may result in running for a bus, strangers can be some of the most helpful people in the world, and buy a damn travel clock! It was a really good thing I had Josephine watching my back or I don’t know what I would have done.

Anyhow, another late night, another early morning tomorrow!

PS- I realize I’m not the best photographer. I’ll need to work on that for next time!


I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog ExchangeHostel International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, the host of my couple days in Singapore HI-Singapore and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

And of course, HI-Singapore and the great staff at Downtown East. Great time! (Josephine, I'm sorry for putting us late.)

Malacca or Melaka
Originally Published: June 24, 2013

It has been a while since I have blogged and I am sad because I think this will be my last post on Chee Ching’s blog. But alas, I can’t put this off any longer. I still have my last two days in Malaysia to tell you about!

After Josephine called to have me woken up (which I still feel super bad about!), we got to the bus station and Sophie and I took off for Malacca. It took me awhile to figure out that Malacca is the English spelling of Melaka. It wasn’t until I actually asked Noh on our way out of Malacca (or Melaka) that he explained that they were the same place. Anyway, we got to Malacca with little issue, although we were almost two hours late.

Sophie and I met Noh and Mimi at the station. We had some lunch and made our way to the Hotel. I was super excited to have a shower because I didn’t have the opportunity to take one in the morning.

We toured around the historical site of Malacca in the evening and took in a lion dance. I’m not sure if it is called a lion dance or a dragon dance because I always thought it was called a dragon, but I am pretty sure everyone called it a lion dance... Anyway, whatever it was, we saw it. And it was amazing. Each dance was about five minutes of jumping and drumming and costume. It was incredible. We went to Noh’s favorite Indian food place. I was captivated by the guy making the naan bread; imagine your goal in life is to make naan bread, or maybe it is a secret family recipe and he is the only one who knows it. I told Noh about my theory, but as it turns out, they rotate the position. We took off to the night market and had a beer before heading back to the hotel.

Saturday was the most relaxing day of the trip. We woke up a little late, had breakfast and headed off to the beach. We spent most of the day there. We had some snacks and Sophie and I took a swim in the ocean. Before heading back into Malacca, we stopped for supper. It was a lovely meal until it was time for dessert; I had a durian ice cream.

Ice cream is cool, sweet, and delicious. Durian is none of those things. I know durian is a local favorite, but it taste like a cross between awful and death. I sat beside someone on a bus who smelt the way durian tastes. I really can’t explain this better. I am willing to take this topic on with anyone who is willing.

Anyway, back to Malacca. We walked along the water until we found a place to have some drinks. I know it doesn’t sound like much but it was a perfect way to cap off the day. We stopped for some food before calling it a night. I can’t remember where we went; however, I do remember that it was probably the spiciest food I have ever tasted.

The next day we had to drop Sophie off at the bus station. Before we dropped her off we did a little bit of souvenir shopping and had breakfast at White Bean Coffee. For those of you who have not been to this eastern part of the world, White Bean Coffee is a lot like Second Cup if Second Cup served food. It was pretty delicious. They served “egg toast”, which in Canada, we call French toast.

We went back to the bus stop and waited for Sophie’s ride. The bus was running late, but we waited until the bus was on its way.

After Sophie was gone we went for a massage. I have never had a massage before so it was a new experience for me. It isn’t that we don’t have massage parlours in Canada, but I have just never thought to get one. It was pretty... new. At one point during the massage, the girl got me to sit up and climbed on the table then grabbed my head. She pushed the back of my head and pulled my jaw which cracked my neck. My first thought was that I was going to die on the table, which would have been bad in itself, but what would have been worse was the girl would have walked out of there yelling, “The American is Dead!” Now I am unsure if you, the reader, are a Canadian or have ever met a Canadian, but it is really insulting to call a Canadian an American. It is like calling Pepsi Coke, or saying Star Wars and Star Trek are the same thing.

We left the massage parlour feeling relaxed and ready to drive back to Kuala Lumpur. Which we did. I napped. When we got to KL we got some food, dropped off Mimi and Noh and I checked into the hotel.

The next morning Noh and I headed to the airport and checked me in. We said our goodbyes and I went through security.

I’m back in Canada now. It took about 36 hours, but I got home with little incident and little sleep. I’m still getting back into a routine and recovering from the jetlag.

Wow, it is almost over now. I only have a couple things left to write about.

Thanks for taking part in my adventure with me. It has been really fun and I am looking forward to seeing you again soon!

I want to thank the sponsors of the Big Blog ExchangeHostel International, along with my host National Association, HI-Malaysia, and my own country's HI National Association, HI-Canada.

To Noh, Mini, Josephine and friends for showing me around.

To Sophie for being a great travel buddy and inspiring me to keep traveling.

And to you, the reader of these blogs! Your support and energy kept me going!


There are some more people I need to thank!

Some folks from the Big Blog Exchange: BBE Project Manager, Brianda Lopez, and BBE Assistant, Scarlett Dixon (who happens to have an amazing blog:

I got a lot of support from local media: Information Morning on CBC Radio One in Saint John, NB; Melissa Oakley from CBC Television, New Brunswick News; Jon MacNeill from Here Magazine; Freelance Journalist Erin Dwyer and the Telegraph Journal; and Jeffrey Carleton who got my story on the St. Thomas University website.

I was overwhelmed by all the support from all in my Facebook group (which I still intend to keep going).

My long suffering editor and girlfriend, Sarah Chiasson, who has edited everything I have written in the past two years.

And of course my parents and extended family who give me all the love and support in whatever crazy adventures I get myself into.

1 comment:

  1. What an adventure and what an exposure.
    That bridge with the natural canopy, with time it will be fully covered :-)
    Good that you could make it with the Bloggers Exchange program. I stand at # 33 as of date :-(