From Taipei to Bangkok (Feb 21-23): Two Flights and an Odd Coincidence

Well since the last time I wrote, I’ve already went to two counties! I got to the Taipei airport three hours before my flight to Kuala Lumpur (at 1:20pm). Surprisingly when I checked in, they didn’t ask for proof of onward travel. They DID, however, ask me to put my bag on the scale. Uh oh… it was the first time that I’ve been asked to weigh my bag and I knew that I’d definitely be over 7kg – I just didn’t know by how much. I hesitantly placed my big bag on the scale (hiding my handbag behind the counter, which had all of my heavy electronics). 8.5kg…. I was expecting the worst, like having to pay $100 per kilogram and waited to hear how much I’d have to pay. “Okay,” she said, and placed my passport and boarding pass on the counter. What? Really? Okay, I’ll take it! I didn’t have to talk to anyone at custom control (so no new stamp on my passport) – all I had to do was scan my fingerprints before being let through the little gate. Security was also pretty smooth so I got through a lot fast than expected. The first thing I did was convert all of my Taiwanese dollars (except 300 for lunch) into US dollars because I’ve been told that you can’t convert them outside of Taiwan. I then went to find some food, but found out that there were only two restaurants on the other side. How were there no restaurants in an airport? One of the restaurants was high-class (with dishes costing way over 300THB), and the other one was middle-priced (with dishes starting from 180THB). I found a cafe and just got a salad and caramel macchiato for 280THB ($12.45), which was a lot more than I was used to spending on a meal.

I thought that setting aside 300THB would be more than enough, but I guess not! I FaceTimed my sister while eating my meal and waited to check in. The flight was just over 4 hours so I arrived after 5:30pm. I had to take the bus back into Kuala Lumpur, so I followed the signs to the bus. However when I arrived, there were a whole bunch of bus companies selling tickets around Malaysia. I definitely didn’t recognise this area! I walked around for a bit and finally saw a stand that said KL Sentral, so I bought a ticket for 12 ringgit ($3.92AUD) and waited for the bus. The bus ride was an hour long, and then I had to take the metro to where my hostel was. This time, I was staying at Marquee Guest Houzz (which has now changed its name to ZigZag Travellers Home), and I had to pay 23 ringgit ($7.90) for the night in a 6-bed female dorm. I was pretty hungry since it was after 8pm and I was actually really looking forward to having an Indian meal. Conveniently, my hostel was located in the Central Market so there was an Indian restaurant called Yusoof Dan Zakhir right next door. I ordered butter chicken with garlic naan and a tea tarik (milk tea) for 13.50 ringgit ($4.41), and it was delicious!

I love my Asian food, no matter what the cuisine!

On Friday morning, I got up and had breakfast at the hostel before walking around for a bit. My hostel was right beside Chinatown so I walked around the Central Market and Chinatown until about noon. Then, I made my way back to the hostel to pick up my stuff, took the metro back to KL Sentral, and got a bus back to the airport to catch my flight at 4pm. I was taking my time since I had ended up going through so quickly the day before. I wasn’t in a huge rush to get there three hours early since I had already checked in online – I only needed to get my boarding pass printed out. The first thing that I should tell you is that Kuala Lumpur airport (KLIA) has two terminals that are about 1.5km away from each other. I was trying to find out what terminal I had to get to, but I couldn’t find an actual answer (even my email and ticket didn’t say). I decided to go to KLIA2 since it would be the 4th time that I’d arrive or depart from there. I arrived at the airport at around 1:30 and checked the departure list to make sure I was in the right terminal. 4pm flight to Bangkok? Check. So I walked the 5-minute walk through all of the shops and up all of the escalators to the check-in desks. I searched for where the 4pm flight was located and walked to that section, but I could only find signs for Air Asia and I was flying with Malindo Air. Confused, I circled back to the departure board and checked it again. 4pm… Bangkok.. and then I looked at the flight number and compared it to my phone. Wrong one… Learn from my mistakes, people! Just because it’s the same time with same destination doesn’t mean it’s the same flight! I went to the information booth to double-check and he said that I’d have to take the shuttle bus to KLIA1. I ran back down the escalators, bought a ticket for 2 ringgit (65 cents) and saw that the next shuttle wasn’t for another 25 minutes, at 2:27. They come every half hour, so I must have JUST missed one. I tried to remain calm, and convinced myself that I’d still have 45 minutes to get my boarding pass, go through custom control, go through security, and hopefully get something to eat before the 3:15 boarding time. The other thing that I should mention about flying to Thailand is that in most cases, they will always ask for proof of onward travel because the airline doesn’t want to be stuck having to pay for your return ticket to leave the country. I’ve researched so much about this – I’ve read blogs, and it sounded like I’d have no choice but to find a ticket to prove that I’m leaving the country in less than 30 days (I was planning to leave by boat into Laos, so I couldn’t really provide a ticket). I’ve heard that there are rent-a-ticket sites, where you can pay 20 euro and they’ll print out a fake ticket for you. I’ve also heard of people buying cheap tickets to Singapore for 30 dollars that they won’t use. I even read that if you book on expedia, you can cancel your ticket within 24 hours and get all of your money back (which is what I was planning to do if I was forced to buy a ticket). I decided not to plan ahead this time so I could cross that bridge when I got to it. And thank goodness I did because when I finally got to the check-in counter, no questions were asked. And I probably would have been pretty mad if I went through all of the trouble of getting a ticket and didn’t even have to show it. Anyway, I went over to custom control and the line was so long. At least 15-20 minutes… I waited my turn, went to my officer who said something to the officer beside him. Then the officer beside him said, “Miss, he says you’re very beautiful.” “What? I didn’t say that, he’s lying!” “Yes, he said that. He’s just shy.” It was definitely nice that it wasn’t so serious for a change. He then flipped through my passport and laughed at the notes that I had written saying not to stamp any of the empty pages, then handed me my passport and let me through. I saw a sign that said flights to any gates that start with C have to take the Aerotrain. I looked down and guess which gate number I had to go through? One with a C, of course. By that point, it was 2:55pm so I still had 20 minutes until boarding time, and luckily the wait for the next train and the time to get to the gates was less than 5 minutes. We then had to go through security, but it wasn’t “official” security – there were signs saying that we could still carry our water bottles through. Finally, I was through! I was starving and had less than 15 minutes left, so I went to Boost to get a mango-lychee smoothie (which are way cheaper than the Boost smoothies in Australia!), and then I ran over to Burger King to get a burger. However, the person working there was so slow and she’d do everything with the least effort possible, while eating fries in between. It almost got to the point where I was going to walk away because I had been waiting in line for ten minutes and there were only two people in front of me when I got there. FINALLY, I got to the front of the line, ordered a double cheeseburger, and ran to my gate. However, I completely forgot that I still hadn’t went through ACTUAL security, which was right at my gate. I ate my burger as fast as I could, and then drank my smoothie even faster (while taking breaks in between brain freezes), and when I was the last person on the other side of security, I went through. I got to the other side and sat down while we all watched the suitcases being loaded onto the plane. They put on the last bag, closed it, but for some reason we still weren’t boarding. And then 4pm hit and we still weren’t boarding. Finally at about ten minutes after 4, an announcement came on saying that they had some technical difficulties and they’d let us know of our new boarding time. So those last two hours of stress were all for nothing… great! The worst part about being on that side of security was even though we weren’t allowed to bring any liquids through, they didn’t have any vending machines or water refill stations. By about 5pm, I really started getting thirsty so I did something frowned upon in the world of flying.. I left my bag sitting there and left. I had to set my boarding pass on the counter, go out, and walk about 5-10 minutes until I finally found a water refill station, which seemed to be the only one in the entire area. I went back, had to re-go through security, and grabbed my boarding pass from the counter (although I easily could have grabbed anyone else’s, or they mine, as no one was manning the counter), and sat back down. Finally after just over an hour and a half, we were asked to board the plane (apparently they were having lavatory issues, so we had to wait for them to fix it). It was then that they handed out water but they ran out of straws, so the water was inaccessible because the plastic would just rip anytime you tried to open it. I sat down and ended up getting the entire row to myself, which was great! I decided to finish watching the movie that I had started on my last Malindo flight nearly 7 weeks ago (Aloha). They soon handed out toasted sandwiches with a muffin.

I arrived in Bangkok two hours later but had lost an hour, so it was only 7pm. However, there was another plane still in our loading bay (of course) so we had to wait about 15 minutes until we could get off of the plane. The airline also didn’t hand out arrival cards, so everyone was frantically looking for them when we got to border control (so thumbs down for Malindo this time.. if it weren’t for the food and entertainment making up for everything). I finally got through, bought a 7-day SIM card for 180 baht ($7.85), and then needed to find out how to get to my hostel, which was by the railway station. I asked one information booth where to go and they directed me to the other side of the airport and told me to go to the second floor and then when I got there, they directed me to the side that I was just on and told me to go to the second floor. I was wasting more time than anything, so I just decided to catch the A1 bus to Mo Chit terminal for 30THB ($1.31) and then take the metro to Hua Lamphong station. I finally got to my hostel just after 9pm. I was staying at Loftel Station Hostel for 250 baht ($11.16) for the night in a 10-bed mixed dorm. At about 9:30pm, I decided to go for dinner back at Supa, where I had my Christmas Eve dinner the last time I was in Bangkok. Most of the restaurants (including this one) closed at 10pm so I wanted to go somewhere close. I decided to get a green curry dish with rice for 130baht ($5.67).

I headed back to the hostel at around 10:30pm and the weirdest thing happened. There was only one person sitting in the lobby, who happened to be a Canadian guy who I had met at my hostel in Skopje, Macedonia nearly two years ago(!). What are the odds that we would choose the same hostel on the same night in two different continents?! I think he was just as shocked as I was! After talking for a bit, we found out that we had both booked the same night train to Chiang Mai the following day (a ticket that I had booked months ago, before I even started my trip). So crazy!! Anyway, we said goodnight and went to bed, as I had a doctor appointment the next morning at 9:30.

On Saturday morning, I got up at 8:30, got ready for the day, and went to go for my doctor’s appointment at the Thai Travel Clinic. Back when I was there on Christmas Eve, I got bloodwork done to find out if I was immune to the chicken pox (because I only had a few pox as a child). I didn’t realise that I’d have to come BACK to the travel clinic to get the results… so here I was nearly two months later, ready to find out if I was immune to chicken pox or not. I decided to take a Grab Bike because 1) it would only take 12 minutes to drive and likely over an hour to take public transport, 2) a Grab bike was over half the price of a regular Grab, and 3) it was actually the same price, if not cheaper than public transport (at 56 baht/$2.44 for the trip). I requested my Grab bike, he showed up with a helmet, I got on and we were on our way. He started the trip by going down the wrong lane on a main road, which didn’t help put me at ease but I realised that I made a great decision when we started weaving in and out of traffic. He dropped me off, I went upstairs and I actually finished my appointment before my appointment was supposed to start. They got me to take my blood pressure and weigh myself (I’ve definitely gained weight since the last appointment, with the amount of food I’ve eaten) and then I was called into the room. The doctor was really nice and showed me the piece of paper that came up as positive, so I didn’t have to worry about getting chicken pox. Unfortunately, just getting this information ended up costing 450baht ($19.53). I requested another Grab bike to take me to the 12Go office, where I had my reserved train ticket for that evening. The driver dropped me off right after 10am, which was right when they opened! I got my ticket to go from Ayutthaya at 19:45 and arrive in Chiang Mai the next day at 7:15am. I then walked back to the hostel and ordered coffee and breakfast (which was toast slices with a soft-boiled egg).

I headed to the train station at about 11:30 and asked for a ticket to Ayutthaya, but the next train wasn’t until 12:55 so I had about an hour to kill. I found a coffee shop, ordered an iced tea, and waited. But I’ll save my trip to Ayutthaya for another post! Love always

From Malaysia to Taiwan (Jan 29-30)

I left for the Melaka bus station at about 1pm and walked to the clock tower to wait for the #17 bus to take me to the bus terminal. I had read that if I caught the bus there, it would take an hour to get to the bus terminal because the bus goes all the way around the city. There was an alternative option to walk all the way down Jonker Street and catch a bus at the end of the street, which would only take 20 minutes to the station. However, since I wasn’t in a huge hurry plus I couldn’t be bothered carrying around my backpack in the heat, I just decided to enjoy the longer bus ride. I paid 2 ringgit (65 cents AUD), arrived at the bus station around 2:10, and they said that the next bus to Kuala Lumpur would be at 2:30pm for 12.10 ringgit ($3.95AUD). I asked if there were any later ones since I still hadn’t eaten lunch and they said no (there were likely other ones with different companies but I didn’t want to check), so I quickly ran to McDonald’s and ate a burger and fries as fast as I could before getting on the bus. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 4:30pm in the TBS station and then had to take the metro to KL Sentral, which is where my hostel was located since it has direct access to the airport. I paid 6.50 ringgit for the metro ($2.12) and as soon as I got to KL Sentral, it started POURING rain. My hostel was only a few blocks away but I knew I’d be soaked by the time I got there, so I put on my rain jacket and ran over. I was staying at PODS Backpackers Home & Cafe for $9.83, in a 4-person female dorm. I only had a few hours to kill so I dropped off my stuff and made my way to Hard Rock Cafe because I collect drumsticks from every country I go to (that has a Hard Rock). The trip was a bit out of the way but luckily, they had some drumsticks that I could take home! Afterwards, I had to find an A&W nearby so I could finally have my long-awaited A&W. The closest one was about a 20-minute walk and because it stopped raining, I decided to just walk over. Much to my disappointment, they didn’t have the burger family like back at home, with the baby burger, teen burger, mama burger, etc. However, they DID have curly fries, which was new! I got a cheeseburger with curly fries, and a huge root beer float, and it was just what I needed!

After dinner, I walked to the nearest metro stop and took the metro back to the hostel, where I sat and visited for awhile before going to bed.

I had to wake up at 6 on Wednesday morning so that I could get ready, pack up my stuff, and have a quick breakfast (toast and coffee) before walking to KL Sentral to catch a bus to the airport. I got to the station at about 7:15, bought a bus ticket for 12 ringgit ($3.92), waited less than ten minutes for the bus to fill up completely, and arrived at the airport an hour later. I had already checked in online so I only had to get my documents checked but when I went to the counter, she said that I didn’t have to do anything and I could just go straight through customs, which was the first time that has ever happened. There were guys with scales standing at the front of customs and they were getting everyone to weigh their bags before they could go through. I panicked because I knew that my bag was now over the limit, but it seemed like luck was on my side because just as it was my turn, one of the guy’s coworkers came to talk to him so I was able to sneak by without having to weigh my bag. I then went through customs and had some noodles to eat before my 11am flight.

I was flying with Air Asia again, which meant no entertainment and no (free) food, so I needed to make sure that I ate enough before being on the plane for the next 4.5 hours. The plane ride seemed really long for me – it’s weird because I can handle really long bus and train rides but when I’m on a plane, I feel more antsy. I arrived in Taiwan just after 3:30pm and even though I flew 4.5 hours east, the time in Taiwan is the same as the time in Malaysia. However, instead of the sunset being just before 7:30pm like it is in Malaysia, it’s just after 5:30pm here.

Malaysia is a very multicultural country, mostly comprising of Malay, Chinese, and Indian people. Therefore, you’ll notice the influences of each culture in every city. Most cities have a Little India as well as a Chinatown. And you’ll often find churches, mosques and Buddhist temples within close proximity to each other. It’s difficult to get sick of the food there, since you can switch between many cuisines (and I definitely took advantage of the Indian and Chinese cuisines most of the time I was there!). I definitely enjoyed my time there (some places more than others), and would like to return to explore the eastern region at some point! Love always

Melaka (Jan 26-29): A Colourful City with a European Vibe

The trip to Melaka had the smoothest transitions that I think I’ve ever been a part of! We had the option of taking the quicker way from Taman Negara, which would cost 70 ringgit and would get us to Kuala Lumpur by 1 or 2pm, or we could do the cheaper way and apparently not get to Kuala Lumpur until after 5pm. Since none of us were in a hurry, we decided to go with the cheaper option (of course) so when we got to the bus just before 10am, we paid the driver 7 ringgit each ($2.21AUD) to go to Jerantut. We arrived at that terminal at 11:39, went to the ticket counter and found out that there was a direct bus to Kuala Lumpur at 11:45! We bought tickets for 18.40 ringgit ($6.01), put our bags on the bus, asked the driver if we could run to the bathroom, paid .30 ringgit (10 cents) to use the toilet, and ran onto the bus. We actually arrived in Kuala Lumpur at around 2pm, so we got there nearly just as quick as the “fast transportation” and paid 45 ringgit less! We had to get to the TBS station, so we bought metro tickets for 3.80 ringgit ($1.24). We then had to say goodbye to Alana, who was meeting back up with her boyfriend in Kuala Lumpur. Ros and I continued to the station and went to buy tickets to Melaka. Even though there was supposed to be a bus in the next 15 minutes, we decided to leave at 3:45 in order to give ourselves time to use the toilet and finally get some lunch. We paid 10.40 ringgit ($3.40) each for our bus tickets and then went to Subway, where I got a sub and drink for 11.20 ($3.66). My first sub in Asia – it was everything that I thought it would be! The bus ride to Melaka took exactly two hours so when we arrived, it was nearly 6pm. Then, we had to take a bus to the city centre. We were told to wait for bus #17 so we waited for quite awhile (at least 20-30 minutes) and it finally came. We paid 2 ringgit each ($0.65) and got on the packed bus for the 20-minute trip into town. Instantly, I loved all of the colours of the buildings – it had such a European vibe to it and I didn’t feel like I was in Asia anymore. Melaka was first found by a Sumatran prince back in the late 1300s, when it was named Malaka. The Portuguese took over the city in the 1500s and called it Malaca. Then the Dutch took over in the 1600s and called it Malakka or Malacka. Then the British took over in the 1700s and called it Malacca. This is why there are still a few spellings of the city. It’s really interesting seeing how each country has influenced the city, and how there are still Dutch and Portuguese areas. The walk to our hostel (Welcome Guesthouse) was only about ten minutes away and when we got there, we were greeted by a friendly lady from Turkey who was volunteering at the guesthouse. The place obviously didn’t have hostel vibes since it was a guesthouse, but it was kind of nice to be somewhere quiet. Plus it was only 18 ringgit per night ($5.88), so it was a steal! Plus it included breakfast (which was just toast and coffee, but still amazing)! However, the beds were extremely creaky (as in I couldn’t even lift my arm without it making a noise), and our window was facing a restaurant that was for some reason open from 5pm-5am, so we constantly heard running water and the clanging of pots and pans. We chatted for at least an hour and then decided to head to Jonker Street, where Melaka has its weekend night market. It was so crowded when we got there! We had to get into the stream of people and then were basically pushed the whole way through, not having much space to stop and look at anything. We stopped to try Popiah, which is a fresh spring roll that is cut up to look like sushi. I think it’s normally made with pork but this one was vegetarian.

It cost us 2 ringgit each (65 cents) so we didn’t lose much of our money, as both of us were expecting to have salmon or something of flavour inside. We walked through the market but I was having a really hard time deciding what I wanted to eat. I finally decided to just get three skewers of satay (2 chicken and 1 pork) for 11 ringgit ($3.59) and then we each got a mango shake for 5 ringgit ($1.63).

We found a place to sit down and people-watch while enjoying our mango shakes, and then headed back to the guesthouse. That night, Ros woke me up at about 3am and said that I was snoring really loud, which surprised me! I’m hoping that she’s not just the first person who’s actually told me.. however, when she woke me up, my nose was completely plugged so I hope I’m not coming down with something. She said that once she woke me up, I didn’t snore anymore so that’s good!

On Sunday morning, we got up and ready for the day. Ros was changing hostels because she’d be staying in Melaka for the entire week and was trying to find somewhere she liked (or trying to get away from my snoring!). I had to get my laundry done so I packed up my stuff and walked ten minutes to the nearest laundromat. It cost me 3 ringgit for a wash, 1.50 ringgit for laundry detergent, and 4 ringgit for a dry, so I paid $2.78 total. Plus it was a lot faster than what I was expecting – a half hour for the wash and 45 minutes for the dry, so I didn’t have to spend my entire day sitting in the laundromat – I just FaceTimed with my parents and the time went by faster. I dropped my stuff off at the hostel and then I met back up with Ros at about 2pm. We stopped at Chop Chung Wah for lunch because they’re known for their chicken and rice balls, which were actually quite good!

The rice balls are boiled in broth so it adds a lot of extra flavour. Ros and I shared a dish so it only cost us 5 ringgit each ($1.63). We then explored the city – went across the river to check out the bright pink buildings of city hall, Christ Church, and the Clock Tower.

It was another city of bright colours and charm! We walked to St. Paul’s Church, went to Porta de Santiago (a ruined fortress), and then walked through the MegaMall, which literally had every store – stores common in Australia, stores common in North America, and stores common in Europe – it seemed so weird!

I even noticed that there was an A&W so I vowed that I’d try some A&W before I left Malaysia. After walking around for a few hours, we decided to part ways for a bit so that we could relax at our hostels before meeting up for dinner. On my way back to my hostel, I happened to walk by a big building that said “MAMEE” and had a familiar blue monster standing in front of it, taking pictures with kids. I instantly recognised it as the dry noodle snack that I would always have at my friend’s house when I was little. I’d beg my mom to buy me some but she said that they were too expensive, and I remember her buying them once and I was so happy! I had absolutely no idea that they originated from Malaysia, and specifically from this small city! I decided to return tomorrow, and continued back to the hostel. I relaxed for a couple of hours and then met back up with Ros and her friend at about 8pm. We decided to have dinner at her hostel (La Vie en Rose) since the hostel owner is Lebanese and he cooks seriously amazing food – the flavour was some of the best that I’ve had in Malaysia, even if it wasn’t Malaysian food. We shared baba ganoush with pita, and then I ordered a Philadelphia Beef wrap, which was so good!

I paid 13.50 ringgit ($4.41). The three of us then walked through the night market for a bit, which was much quieter since it was Sunday and then we finished the night by getting coconut shakes for 4 ringgit ($1.31) and sitting by the fountain across the river.

On Monday morning, I got up and FaceTimed my family before going downstairs for breakfast. I was originally just planning on spending two nights in Melaka, but I decided to stay for one more night so I still had another full day. A lot of the main restaurants close by 5pm and some stop serving main dishes by 1pm, so I found it really difficult figuring out where to go for dinner while I was there. I wanted to try out so many foods but a lot of the restaurants were closed on Monday, or would close before dinner. I went to East & West Rendez-vous, which is known for their Nyonya Chang, which is a part-blue dumpling filled with minced pork and sticky rice. I also had wanted to try one of the main desserts there called Cendol, which is an iced dessert with green rice flour jelly, coconut milk, palm sugar, and other various toppings. However, when they got there, I got a, “What do you want?” as an entire family was deep in conversation sitting at one of the tables. I asked if they had a menu and she said that all she had left were the dumplings, so I said that I’d get one. She grabbed a parcel wrapped in a banana leaf off of the table, unwrapped it, and set it on a plate for me.

Therefore, it wasn’t too warm when I ate it but it wasn’t too bad – it was somewhat sweet but then salty at the same time. It was kind of weird because as I was eating it, the family brought out all of this food from the kitchen and then started eating their lunch beside me. A guy came in just as I was finishing and got the same, “What do you want?” and got a dumpling as well. I paid my 7 ringgit ($2.29) and continued on my way, determined to find some Cendol. I walked along the river and found a little place across from the clock tower called Cendol Jam Besar. I got their ABC Cendol, which comes with shaved ice, and finally got to give it a try. Along with the ice cream and candy sprinkles added to it, it also had red beans and sweet corn.

It was definitely different! I don’t know if I liked it or not – I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to find some again but I might not turn it down either. There was just so much going on in the bowl and I didn’t know what half of it was! I paid 5 ringgit ($1.63) and then walked to the Mamee Museum. I went into the cafe first, since it was just after 2pm. I decided to try the curry laksa made with their Mamee noodles and get a grape pop to go with it – I felt like a kid again!

The curry laksa was so good – much better than the laksa that I tried in Penang (but I made sure to check if it was fishy or not first). It was quite spicy though! My meal cost me 13 ringgit ($4.24) so I paid and then checked out the museum, which was free (and I was the only person in it because they had it gated off so that no one could enter). It was a nice museum and had potential but I was confused as to why they weren’t regularly letting people in. I thought that I couldn’t go in and when I was staring at it, one of the staff members asked if I wanted to go inside and opened the gate for me.

It was interesting reading about the history and seeing how the products had changed over the years. I then explored the shops down Jonker Street and along the river before heading back to relax at the guesthouse for a couple of hours.

At about 7pm, I decided to go for dinner at a restaurant on the riverside called Wild Coriander. I got the Nasi Lemak, which is a combination of food including curry chicken, veggies, fried anchovies, and an egg, served on a banana leaf. The view beside the river was so nice and I was able to watch the colours of the sky change for the duration of my dinner.

It was a very nice way to spend my last night in Melaka. Plus the food was delicious! It looked like so much food but I somehow got through it all, and didn’t even feel completely full afterwards. My meal with a drink cost me 22 ringgit ($7.18) and for the amount of food I had, it was worth it! However, something didn’t agree with my stomach (which sometimes happens when I have curries, but it would be nice to know what the specific ingredient is so I could avoid it!). Anyway, after dinner, I headed back to the guesthouse to relax for the rest of the night, after taking a quick walk by the rover.

On Tuesday morning, I packed up all of my stuff and had a few pieces of toast before meeting up with Ros for coffee before I headed back to Kuala Lumpur. We went to a place called The Stolen Cup, which was a cute American-like cafe with lots of character. The coffee was a bit more expensive at 10 ringgit ($3.26), but it was nice to have some barista-made coffee rather than the instant coffee that I’ve usually been drinking. I stayed for just over an hour and then headed back across the river to wait for the bus in front of the clock tower. Melaka is a sweet city that has its own uniqueness compared to any of the other cities that I’ve been to in Malaysia! Love always

Taman Negara (Jan 24-26): Rainforest, Leeches, and a Python

My trip to Taman Negara was longer than what I expected, but it was an experience in itself! I had to pay 65 ringgit ($21.22AUD) for what I thought would just be a shuttle from my hostel in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands to the main town of Taman Negara called Kuala Tahan. However, I was in for a surprise… The 13-passenger van picked me up at my hostel at around 8:15 and there were five other people there. We dropped three people off in a small town, stopped for a 15-minute snack/bathroom break (squat toilet, of course!), and arrived in the town of Jerantut at around 11:45am. There, three of us had to fill in our forms to get a permit to enter the park. The park entrance was only 1 ringgit (30 cents), and if we wanted to take pictures, we had to pay 5 ringgit ($1.60). The man said that they’ve kept the park admission fee the same since they opened the park to the public, but it obviously isn’t enough to wholly contribute to the upkeep of the park, so they asked that we keep everything clean. We were then brought to a desk, where a guy spent about ten minutes trying to sell different tours to us at a “discount price,” and if we didn’t make the decision at that very second and get 10% off, we’d have to pay full price when we get there. It was to the point where it was just uncomfortable, where I said no multiple times, and he continued with, “Well, if you’re not taking any tours, then why are you going?” I’ve already spent so much money on tours and I’ve read that hikes could be done in the Taman Negara without a guide, so I figured I would save my money this time. Anyway, he said we had until 12:30pm before the next bus would come pick us up. I decided to get lunch, which was just fried noodles for 5 ringgit ($1.63), and I tried to eat it as fast as I could before the bus came. We then boarded another 13-passenger van (which was full this time) and made our way back the way that we came but this time, stopped about 30-45 minutes later at a ferry pier. We were sat down and talked to about the park, and told how it was the oldest rainforest in the world (more than 130 million years old) because it was untouched by the ice age, and told what to do if we got lost. We had to wait for them to get our permits ready, which we would have to carry with us in the park at all times. At about 1:30pm, we were led to a dock, which was only accessible by literally walking across a wooden board that wasn’t more than a foot in width, and hoping that we (along with any of our stuff) didn’t fall off into the water. Some people brought huge suitcases so it was interesting watching them try to get their stuff across. We had to board an extremely long canoe-like boat and were seated two by two. They stacked all of our luggage in a massive pile in the front and I have to say that I was quite impressed that nothing rolled off during the trip.

The boatride was cool because we were level with the water and it was so relaxing, I kept nearly falling asleep. We saw some water buffalo on the way but other than that, it was just a bunch of green for two and a half hours.

We arrived at Kuala Tahan right before 4pm to a dock on the side of a floating restaurant, and then they wanted us to stand in line and tell them where we were going so that we could get suggestions and/or transport to our accommodation.

I couldn’t be bothered waiting in line so I made my way to my hostel, which was up a huge hill but was literally less than 300 metres from the dock. Kuala Tahan is a pretty small area, which probably has less than ten restaurants and about two convenience stores so you can pretty much cover the entire thing in less than ten minutes. I was staying at Wild Lodge in a 6-person mixed dorm (with a riverside view) for 26 ringgit per night ($8.60) and while I was unpacking my stuff, I was greeted by Thom, a Dutch guy, who basically introduced me to everyone else.

In my room, there was another Canadian girl (finally!) named Alana. She’s from Vancouver but she’s been living in the UK for the past ten years. Another main person who I met was Ros, who’s from the UK, has been travelling for nearly six months, and was planning to move to Melbourne next. I visited with people for a few hours and then we finally decided to go for dinner, which I was extremely happy about since I was starving! Let me just say that the food in Kuala Tahan is known for not being great, so I knew not to have high expectations. We went to a place that I believe was called Julie’s Hostel and I decided to get chicken curry with a coke. Afterwards, we all treated ourselves to ice cream and I tested out a Kit-Kat Drumstick, which was so good! We all went to bed, and I completely passed out since I hadn’t had much sleep during the past two nights.

On Friday morning, I woke up and most of the group had left to Cameron Highlands. The only people remaining were Thom, Ros, Alana, and I. We took advantage of the free coffee and tea from the hostel, and then the four of us went for breakfast at the same place that we had had dinner at the night before. This time, I had a tomato omelette with an iced coffee for 8.50 ringgit ($2.78). We then decided to go on a hike together. We went online and decided to do a 2.1-km hike to a cave called Telinga Cave. We had to pay 1 ringgit each (30 cents) to get a boat across the river to the start of the trail, and then we went on our way at about 12pm.

I’ve been hiking plenty of times before, but this was a proper proper hike. There usually wasn’t a distinct trail and sometimes, we didn’t even know which way to go (thank goodness for the app ‘maps.me’ so that we could make sure we were on the right track!). We had to push aside many (prickly!) branches, step over and under logs, and climb up and down steep hills.

Our first sign to turn back probably should have been the humongous snake that us three girls saw (it went away so fast that Thom missed it). I happened to hear something in the leaves, looked over, and about one metre away from Alana, I saw the body of a snake about 4-5 inches in diameter. I warned everyone else, and Ros and Alana were luckily able to see it before it “ran” off. I’m surprised how calm I was, but the girls seemed more shaken by it (I guess I’ve already had an experience of nearly stepping on a snake before). Our second sign to turn back should have been the leeches that attempted to dine on us three girls. All of a sudden, I heard Alana say that two leeches were on her ankles so Ros checked her ankles and had one, and then I checked my ankles and had one as well! Luckily, the one on me hadn’t latched on (likely due to my super toxic 80% deet that I had on!) and when I touched it, it wiggled onto my sock and I brushed it off. It actually surprises me how many people don’t know NOT to pull leeches off because they release an anti-coagulant that won’t allow your skin to form a scab (and therefore you keep bleeding, and usually bruise and/or scar). Maybe it’s cause I grew up playing in a lake that had leeches so my mom always told me not to pick them off. Unfortunately, Alana didn’t know this information so when she picked off the two leeches, her feet wouldn’t stop bleeding. We all stopped walking and decided whether we wanted to keep going, and for some reason, no one said to stop so on we went. We got to a huge group of (what we thought were) ants and some had huge pinchers!

If we stood quietly, all we could hear was them munching away. This would have been our third sign to turn back. We had to walk all the way around them since nobody wanted to walk through them. Then a few minutes later, Alana got a third leech. When she pulled back her shoe to look at her first bites, the top of her shoe was covered in blood – it wouldn’t stop! Luckily, nearby was the first written sign that we saw so we went to look at it and we found out that we had only done 800 metres during the past hour. We all agreed to turn around. I think we would have been alright if we did the 2.1km and there was a boat to take us back, but we weren’t sure if there would be a boat there and we didn’t want to risk it. Plus the leeches were stressing everyone out. I don’t think anyone was particularly enjoying themselves! Ros pointed out the leeches to me on the way back – they stick their heads out of the dirt and wiggle upwards back and forth, waiting to hop onto someone – it’s so gross! I think all of us were happy to finally get back out.

We paid 1 ringgit each to get back to the other side of the river and then went back to the hostel. I was nervous to take off my socks because I was scared that I’d find a leech underneath but luckily, I left the forest unharmed (and was the only one!). It was crazy watching Alana wipe off the blood and then less than 30 seconds later, her foot would start dripping again. Ros, Thom, and I decided to go for lunch to one of the floating restaurants called Mawar Floating Restaurant. We were the only table there by the time we ordered (just after 2pm) and decided to start by sharing some spring rolls. We each took a bite but they were hot on the outside and cold on the inside so Ros told the server. However, they just reheated the ones that we gave them and so we got them back with bites – they definitely do things differently in Asia! We then sat and talked for quite awhile and all of a sudden, the lady comes with the Tom yum soups that we all ordered and apologised – she had forgotten about us! The whole family had been sitting there watching TV and eating their own meals and then she remembered our main dishes. I didn’t actually think that we had been waiting too long, maybe because we were just so deep in conversation. The soup wasn’t too bad but didn’t really taste like a typical Tom yum. I also got an iced tea to go with my meal, which was probably the best part.

The paying process was a whole other story, which seemed to be way more complicated than it needed to be. My full meal ended up being 12 ringgit ($3.92). That afternoon, I visited with Alana and we did some research about what we saw. We found out that there’s only one type of python in the forest called a reticulated python, which is the longest snake in the world and the third heaviest! Apparently they’re really rare to see so I guess we were…. lucky? We also found out that the ants we saw were actually termites, so that explains why they were so noisy. We went for ice cream, and chatted with some new arrivals, such as Katie who came from London (literally everyone I meet is Dutch or British). That evening, Thom wanted to go on the night hike tour but I think after our day hike experience, none of us girls were too keen to go. The four of us girls went for a late dinner to a restaurant right by the hostel, where Ros and I split a burger (which they covered in sweet chili sauce) and some more springrolls. The meal cost me another 12 ringgit ($3.92). I was having a difficult time trying to decide if I should stay for another day because I wasn’t sure what I would do the following day other than relax (which wouldn’t be so bad). Alana and Ros were planning to head back towards Kuala Lumpur, and Ros was planning to continue to Melaka, which would be my next stop. I finally decided to join them since I didn’t want to figure out the buses on my own and because our bus left at 10am the next morning, we agreed to meet at 9am for breakfast.

On Saturday morning, I got up at 8:30, packed up my stuff, and Ros, Alana, and I had coffee at the hostel and then went for breakfast to the same place that we had went to for dinner the night before. This time, I decided to have a banana pancake, which cost me 5 ringgit ($1.63). We then took all of our stuff and walked to the end of the street to a retro, bright blue bus, which would take us to our next stop. Taman Negara was another beautiful place, which perhaps I preferred to enjoy at a distance, from the deck at our hostel 🙂 Next time, I’ll just have to come fully prepared with leech socks! Love always

Cameron Highlands (Jan 22-24): A Mossy Forest, Tea Plantations, and a Cool Climate

The trip to Cameron Highlands was a tough one for me, mostly due to the fact that I don’t know how to control my liquids before long bus/train trips (you’d think I would learn by now…). Even though the main Cameron Highlands town (Tanah Rata) is just under 90km from Ipoh, it still takes about two hours to get there, and that completely depends on the traffic. Add in the twisty, bumpy roads and you’re in for a problem if you have a full bladder. We left Ipoh at 3pm after I paid 20 ringgit for my ticket ($6.53AUD), didn’t arrive until after 5pm, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to use the bathroom so bad in my life! I ran to the toilet in the bus terminal, only to find that it was chained and locked up! I ran across the street into the nearest shop (a phone store) and asked where the nearest bathroom was. They redirected me across the street and I replied that it was closed. The mom said something to her boy and he took me into the back of the shop and let me use their toilet (thank goodness!). I then walked to my hostel, which was called Father’s Guest House. The reason I chose this hostel was because I really wanted to do a full-day tour of Cameron Highlands (as opposed to a half-day tour), but the majority of the tour companies that I contacted weren’t offering full-day tours at that time. The hostel said that I was the only person to express interest in a full-day tour and told me to ask again once I got there. However, the stress of that was too much for me to handle since I only had one full day in Cameron Highlands, so I kept researching and found a tour with Eco Cameron for a full day (8 hours) and it cost me 90 ringgit ($29.38). Tanah Rata is a cute, little town that reminds me of a mountain resort like Banff or Jasper. I found my hostel, which was more of a huge house (very lovely), and I stayed in a 10-bed mixed dorm for 19.98 ringgit per night ($6.78). The only other person in my room was a guy from New Jersey named Ben (who had been travelling for the past five years). Ben and I went for dinner at an Indian Restaurant called Kumar Restaurant, where I got a massive dish of tandoori chicken.

Afterwards, we went back to the hostel so that he could work on his photography and I could work on my blog.

The next morning (Wednesday), I was meant to be picked up by my tour at 8:15am so I got up at 7 and tried to find a nearby restaurant called Yong Teng Cafe because they’re known for their pancakes. The restaurant is run by an old couple (probably in their 70s) and the lady is mute, so a lot of pointing and hand signals were needed in order to get information across. I got a banana pancake with coffee, and they were both so good! Plus they only cost me 8 ringgit ($2.61)!

I went back to my hostel and waited for the Range Rover to come pick me up. The only other people on my tour were a Dutch couple (likely in their 60s) and a girl from the United States who was teaching in South Korea (and she was only doing the half-day tour). We started by driving to the Mossy Forest, which was all the way up to an altitude of about 2000 metres. I’ve seen moss before, but nothing like this! Plus it was such a foggy morning so it added a mysteriousness to the forest.

The guide pointed out different plants, such as the carnivorous pitcher plants, which fill up with water and then trap insects to consume.

He also showed us berries to eat, citronella leaves, and other medicinal plants for treating wounds or helping with digestion. He took the smallest piece of moss, rolled it up into a ball and then squeezed it, and the amount of water that came out was amazing! He said that the amount of time it takes for plants to grow there is extremely long because of the high altitude. If we looked at a tree in the Mossy Forest and then looked at the same sized tree in the rainforest, it would only take 20 years for it to get to that size in the rainforest whereas in the Mossy Forest, it would take between 200-300 years. The path through the Mossy Forest was only about 20 minutes long but we kept running into other tour groups so it got quite crowded. After that, we walked up another 32 metres to the top of Mount Brinchang, which normally gives a 360 degree view of the entire area but since it was so foggy, we literally couldn’t see anything.

We walked back to the Range Rover and drove to the tea plantations, which Cameron Highlands is known for. One of the most well-known teas is BOH Plantations, which was started by a British man in 1929, and is continued to be run by his Granddaughter. We were given an hour to explore the BOH Plantations – 15 minutes for a tour through the factory and 45 minutes to do as we pleased. I walked around for a bit and then I went to the cafe and I’m not kidding, I had the best iced tea I’ve ever had in my life! I basically grew up on iced tea and even the Lipton iced tea doesn’t do it for me here, but this was amazing! I was so tempted to buy some, but I didn’t want to have to carry it around for the next three months.

After the tea plantation, we dropped off the girl who was only doing the half day tour and then we went to the Butterfly Farm, where we were able to see many different species of butterflies. I saw a massive butterfly and even got to hold it, it was beautiful!

The guide said that they only have a lifespan of two weeks, which is a shame. The Butterfly Farm also had many other insects and lizards, as well as some frogs, hedgehogs, and many flowers.

After we finished wandering around, the guide took us to a local restaurant (Restoran Yao Yat) for lunch, where I had chicken with mushroom sauce and rice, as well as a strawberry white coffee (I was so intrigued, and it actually wasn’t too bad!), which cost me 11.50 ringgit ($3.75). We then went to Raaju’s Hill Strawberry Farm, where I treated myself to a strawberry milkshake for 8 ringgit ($2.61).

It wasn’t the best strawberry milkshake I’ve had in my life, but it was probably the freshest! After the strawberry farm, we got about a half hour to walk through the local market and then we made a quick stop at Cactus Point, which was (as its name suggests) a shop that sells cacti as well as other plants.

We went to the local museum, which went through the history of Cameron Highlands and had a bunch of antique items throughout the museum.

Our last stop was the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple, which was very quiet and still wasn’t as nice as some of the other temples I’ve seen.

By the time I got to my hostel, I was completely exhausted! There was another guy who had moved into the room named Sam and he was on vacation from the Netherlands. We actually talked for quite awhile – it was another one of those moments where we just clicked so the conversation came naturally. I had the coldest shower in awhile – mind you, all of my showers in Malaysia have been pretty cold but I normally welcome them since I’m coming from 30+ degree weather. However, the Highlands are naturally a lot colder (around 19 degrees) because of the high altitude so it was a lot more difficult to get into a cold shower! When I got back into the room and complained about my shower, Sam asked if I had flipped the switch in the hallway before my shower (which controls the water heater). What?! NO! Why hadn’t anyone told me this before?! Maybe that’s why my showers have always been so cold… Sam and I went to get dinner and stopped at a place to have a couple skewers of satay before having an actual meal. There, we ran into Ben so he joined us for dinner. We went to another Indian Restaurant called Curry House, where I got Chana Masala and naan bread for 19 ringgit ($6.20).

We then went to a bar called Jungle Bar and each had a beer, then played some games before going back to the hostel.

On Thursday morning, I had to catch a bus to Taman Negara at 8am so I got up at 7 again, and Sam, Ben, and I went for breakfast at 7:30 before we all had to part ways. We went to another Indian place, where I just had roti and cheese with a curry sauce for 4.50 ringgit ($1.47). I then went back to the hostel and waited for my bus to come pick me up. Cameron Highlands is another area that is completely different from anything else, and I really enjoyed my time there even if it was short. I met some more great people and saw some more amazing things! Love always

Ipoh (Jan 20-22): Thaipusam Celebrations in a Charming City with Friendly Locals

My transport to Ipoh (pronounced EE-poe) didn’t go as smoothly as I was hoping. In Koh Lipe, I checked into my 11am ferry at 9:45am, had to give them my passport again, and was given a card with a number. Almost immediately after that, they started transferring us into the longtail boats to take us the transport area. There were way more of us this time (about 150 people) and there were only two longtail boats, so they had to keep doing trips back and forth from the beach. Luckily, I got on the second boat so I had to wait at the transport area for the next 45 minutes until the ferry arrived. Once the ferry came, we had to wait for everyone to get off of the ferry and then they called out numbers one by one for people to board the boat – it was so efficient! My number was in the 120’s so I still had to wait a bit to get on. Just after 11, we started the 90-minute journey back to Malaysia. I lost an hour this time, so by the time we all got off the boat in Langkawi, it was about 2pm. I went to the ticket office across the street to find out how I could get to Ipoh, but the next ferry leaving from Langkawi wasn’t until 4pm and they said I would miss the last bus to Ipoh (I think what happens with these ticket counters is they only tell you how to get there from THEIR company, so even if there are buses available with other companies, they don’t tell you about them). I decided to still catch the 4pm ferry anyway, so I bought a ticket to Kuala Kedah for 23 ringgit ($7.51AUD). I went to KFC for lunch since it was next door, and then went back to the ferry terminal at 3:30pm. I couldn’t understand any of the announcements on the intercom so every time people started rushing to a ferry, I’d go up to a security guard and ask if it was my turn. Finally, it was my turn to board so I found my seat for the 1 hour-45 minute ride to Kuala Kedah. I arrived just before 6pm and I knew that there’d be a train leaving for Ipoh at 6:45 so I requested a Grab to take me to the train station in Alor Setar, which cost 14 ringgit ($4.57) and took nearly a half hour. The Grab driver seemed very curious and kept asking me so many questions, to the point where it felt weird. When we got to the train station, the traffic was pretty backed up so I said I’d just get out and walk the rest of the way because I only had about 20 minutes left. I got to the ticket counter, asked for a ticket to Ipoh, and he said that the train was full and I’d have to take a bus. I looked on my map and saw that the bus station was less than a ten-minute walk away so I decided to walk, but as I left the station, I heard someone yell out, “Miss!” and my Grab driver was still there. I told him that I needed to get to the bus station so he told me to get into the car but then drove past the station on my map. “Are you going to the bus station?” “Yes, it’s about five minutes away.” Turns out there was another bus station so I was lucky that I didn’t end up walking all the way to the other one. When we got there, I asked how much I owed him and he said it was fine and then asked if I wanted him to assist me inside, and I said I was okay. Someone was at the entrance of the bus station and asked where I was going, and then he directed me to a counter that he was running. He said that the next bus wasn’t until 8pm and it would take four hours, meaning I wouldn’t arrive in Ipoh until after midnight. There were only four seats left! I asked him to wait and I contacted my hostel to see if it would be okay and they said that they’d give me a code to enter the hostel and then I could pay/check-in the next morning, which was amazing of them! So I went ahead with buying the bus ticket for 28 ringgit ($9.14). Since I had over an hour to kill, I decided to get dinner but there wasn’t much in the station. The bus station actually just had a sketchy/creepy vibe to it, especially as it approached night time. There were a couple of restaurants across the street so I walked over and heard, “Miss!” again. I looked over and the Grab driver was sitting at a table with two other guys. They were all drivers (that day), waiting for their next ride request. I sat with them, but the other two guys didn’t seem to speak English and the whole dinner felt somewhat uncomfortable. They didn’t have a menu so I ended up ordering an iced tea and some fried rice with the help of the Grab driver. He said that him and his friends all work different jobs normally but since it was a public holiday, they decided to be Grab drivers to get extra money. However, he had only gotten five drive requests during the entire day and it was already 7pm (he said he’d wait until 10pm). I think he had said he made less than 60 ringgit that day ($20), which was pretty crazy to me. Anyway, I left at 7:30, paid 6 ringgit for my meal ($1.96), and sat in the bus station to wait for my bus. I waited until 8pm, then 8:30, and then 9pm before the bus finally came. I got to my seat at the very back of the bus and relaxed for the next four hours, as I was exhausted. However at about midnight, the bus started making funny noises so the bus driver pulled over for about 10-15 minutes to fix it. Finally just before 1am, we arrived at the Ipoh bus station. I then had to take a Grab to my hostel, which took about 20 minutes and cost 16 ringgit ($5.22). I was staying in Vloft Backpackers and as soon as you entered, you were already in my bedroom – a 12-bed dorm. However, it only cost 24 ringgit ($8) per night so it was pretty cheap! I used the code to get into the hostel, got ready for bed, found my bed in the dark, and passed out.

On Monday, it was Thaipusam – a Hindu-celebrated holiday to honour Lord Murgan (the god of war) for prayers that had been answered during the past year. The celebration starts early in the morning (sometimes at 5am), when devotees prepare for their long walk to an important temple. There are many people who go through face piercings or hooks pierced into their skin, and some people drag kavadis (burdens) attached to the hooks behind them for the duration of the walk. Apparently, it’s quite a spectacle and it’s not too easy on the stomach for people who aren’t used to seeing it. I decided to forego this part of the day, as I’m not too great with that kind of stuff and I didn’t want to get up at 5 after going to bed past 1:30. I got up at about 9:30, got ready for the day, and started my food tour. I read that Ipoh (along with Penang) has some of the best food in Malaysia and since I wasn’t too wowed by the food in Penang, I did some research to find good food in Ipoh. I was planning to go to a coffee shop for breakfast and then catch the last of the Thaipusam walk before it finished at noon so I started walking towards Nam Heong White Coffee to try their coffee. On my walk, it was too easy to be distracted by all of the buildings around me. Some were extremely colourful, some were so run down, but each one had its own charm and beauty that was easy to appreciate. I walked down a street with gorgeous street art and then I came across a beautiful mosque that had the exact same white and blue colours that you’d see on the buildings in Santorini.

I walked to the gate to get some photos and then the caretaker asked if I’d like to come in. He led me into the office, where there was a man who voluntarily gave tours of the mosque. First, he gave me some clothes to wear because I had to be fully covered (head included) and then he walked me around the mosque. After the quick tour, we went back into the office and he explained more about Islam and the Muslim faith. He even got me to read some scriptures and take some brochures, so I got the sense that I was in some type of conversion situation. He told me why women have to have their heads covered and showed me the scripture (in the bible as well) that says that if a woman shows her hair, it should be shaved off and if it won’t be shaved then it should be covered. It was interesting and I didn’t realise how many similarities there were between the Muslim and Christian faith. Anyway, after about an hour, I said I should get going and he offered me some roti that his daughter had made.

I continued my walk to the coffee shop and it was completely packed! I had to join a table and then go to order what I wanted. I got a sesame ball, an egg tart, some prawn dumplings, and then asked the salesman what his favourite thing was, which was a deep-fried prawn wonton so I got one of those as well. All that with a delicious iced coffee cost me 10.80 ringgit ($3.53)!

I stayed for awhile and was joined by an older couple from Malaysia who were in Ipoh for the weekend. They were shocked that I was travelling alone (as was everyone I talked to there). I walked around for the rest of the afternoon and checked out some of the buildings and walked down Little India. There were tons of stalls set up for Thaipusam, giving food to everyone who had finished their long walk. I was offered juice a few times, which I accepted, and felt somewhat honoured that they included me in their festivities, even if it was in a small way.

Ipoh is filled with such friendly people! I’ve honestly never talked to so many locals in one place than I have in Ipoh. Everyone was so curious about where I was from, why I was there, and whether I liked it. With that being said, there were also some sketchier areas, where it felt uncomfortable walking down a street because I could feel like I was constantly being stared at. However, it was still very easy for me to fall in love with Ipoh’s charm and friendly locals, and I wanted to stay longer. I 100% preferred it over Penang! That afternoon, I needed to exchange money since I still mostly had Thai Baht and needed money to pay for my hostel. It was quite difficult finding anything because since it was a public holiday, pretty much everything was closed. I eventually found a currency exchange place to buy some ringgit and then went back to the hostel so I could officially check in. During mid-afternoon, I decided to get a snack so I went to Funny Mountain Soya Bean, where I tried Tau Foo Fah, which is soft tofu covered in a sugary sauce. The tofu is so smooth, it just glides down your throat. I also got their soy drink – I’m not sure what was in it but it seemed to be similar to tapioca, and it was also quite good.

For those two items, it cost me 5.50 ringgit ($1.80). I then found an electronics store and went to buy a phone cable since mine would only work if I bent it a certain way, so that set me back 8 ringgit ($2.61). I stopped at Sin Eng Heong, which is a bakery, and I tried a Kaya Kok (Kaya puff), which is a pastry with a coconut flavour inside.

It only cost me 1 ringgit (33 cents)! I then decided to walk towards Kallumalai Temple, which was about 40 minutes away but had stalls along most of the street for Thaipusam.

Once I got to the temple, I went into the main area but I didn’t go into the actual temple, as there was a huge lineup of people waiting to pray and I didn’t want to do anything disrespectful. However, I did get lots of smiles from people and nods, which for me translated into a “Thank you for taking part.” A few people came up to me and asked where I was from and if this was my first Indian festival. One man gave me his phone number just in case I needed anything, and then asked if I would take a picture with his daughters, who had some pretty dresses on. Everyone looked so colourful and some of the dresses were absolutely gorgeous!

Many people were carrying plates of coconuts and oranges with incense to offer in the temple. There was also an area that had peacocks and another area that offered head-shaving. One of the guys noticed me watching and asked if I’d like to get my head shaved and I declined while we both laughed.

I made my way back to the hostel because it seemed like it was going to rain, but a proper rainfall never came. That evening, I went to Restoran Tuck Kee, which was on my list of places to go but I was confused when I saw Sun Tuck Kee two doors down from the original. I found a table and ordered what they’re most known for: Wat Tan Hor Fun, which is fried flat noodles served in a thick egg gravy with vegetables, prawns and meat.

It looks very different, but it’s probably one of the best meals that I’ve had in Malaysia! The combination of all the flavours work so well together, and the egg gravy is so smooth and tasty. The meal with a coke cost me 9 ringgit ($2.94). I walked down to the nearby night market, which wasn’t that great, spent some time at a Chinese New Year celebration, and then went back to the hostel.

On Tuesday morning, I got up and packed up my stuff (which I left at the hostel), and I had until 3pm to enjoy my last few hours in Ipoh. I walked to the Old Town and stopped at Thean Chun restaurant to order Kai See Hor Fun, which is kind of like a chicken noodle soup with prawns and vegetables added to it. The lady also said to get bean sprouts, and then I asked for a cold coffee. “Cold coffee not good.” Okay then, hot coffee it was! I also ordered a Caramel Egg Custard, all for 11.10 ringgit ($3.62).

Everything was really tasty, although I don’t think the lady liked my way of eating each thing separately because she came up to my table and told me to eat the beansprouts while I was eating the Kai See Hor Fun. After my breakfast, I walked about ten minutes to the bus station because I wanted to check out one of the temples outside of the city called Sam Poh Tong Temple. I sat and waited for bus #66 and then paid 1.50 ringgit ($0.49) for the bus ride. I got off and walked down a street with two other temples leading to the Sam Poh Tong Temple. The temple was extremely quiet and there were “Do Not Enter” signs on both entrances, along with some beggars sitting in the entrance. I walked through anyway, and the zen garden in front of the temple was absolutely gorgeous!

I had trouble figuring out how the temple worked though, as hardly anyone was there. The temple was poorly maintained and I didn’t really see why it was one of the top attractions in Ipoh. There was a tortoise pond behind the temple with a fountain that was no longer running.

I had read that you could climb up to see a nice view of Ipoh, but I couldn’t figure out where it would be because there weren’t any signs around and the only place that might have led to the viewpoint was surrounded by monkeys who had already stolen some peoples’ food. Obviously, there was no way that I’d be going that way, even though I didn’t have any food with me. My new-found fear of monkeys might now deter me from doing many things in Asia, unfortunately. After my short time there, I decided to not go to the other temple, which was further away (Kek Look Tong Temple) and instead requested a Grab to go back into the city, which only cost 8 ringgit ($2.61). I walked around for a bit, decided to buy some more phone cords since they were so cheap and my new one was bound to stop working at some point in the next three months. They had a special “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” deal, so I got three more cords for 16 ringgit ($5.22). I then went to buy some Claritin since I had been using it to lessen the itchiness from my nail polish reaction (see last blog post) and was so impressed to find out that they were 1 ringgit 30 per pill. I bought ten pills for 13 ringgit ($4.24), which is cheaper than anywhere I would find in Canada or Australia. I went to the hostel to get my stuff, took a Grab to the bus station for 13 ringgit ($4.24), and arrived at about 2:20. Then I bought a ticket to Cameron Highlands for 20 ringgit ($6.53), picked up some roti with curry and an iced tea for 7 ringgit ($2.29), and got on my bus for 3pm.

I really loved Ipoh and I don’t understand why it’s usually skipped over by travellers. I only saw about three tourists while I was walking around, but maybe that’s why I felt so welcomed by the friendly locals. The buildings and street art are beautiful, and the food is some of the best that I’ve had in Malaysia! Love always

Langkawi (Jan 11-14): Beaches, a Waterfall, and a Night Market

My trip to Langkawi was quite long, mostly due to the fact that I once again chose the cheaper option rather than the direct route. Every time I do this, I can always hear my dad’s voice in my head saying, “Why do you make things more difficult than they need to be?” Apparently, I’ve been doing this my whole life so something tells me that it won’t change now. However, this motivation and discipline has led me to build my budgeting skills and frugalness. I had breakfast at the hostel before catching a Grab to the ferry pier for 5 ringgit ($1.63). My credit card isn’t letting me buy tickets online due to the “Verified by Visa” check, because it sends a code to my phone number, which I don’t have anymore. Therefore, I just had to show up and hope that there would be space available. The quicker option that I could have done is a direct 3-hour ferry from Georgetown to Langkawi, which I heard costs 70 ringgit ($23.64). The route that I decided to take instead included three steps. The first step was to take a 20-minute ferry from Penang Island to the mainland in order to get to the bus station. I read that a ferry leaves every 20-30 minutes so I got there at 9:45 to make sure I could get to the station by 10:45. I also read that the ferry would cost 1.20 ringgit but I was never asked for money or for a ticket.

I got to the other side at around 10:20, found the Penang Sentral Station right beside the pier, and went to the ticket counter to buy a ticket. The ticket costs 19 ringgit ($6.20) for a 3-hour journey to Kuala Perlis. The lady told me to head down to the bus at 10:45, which gave me some time to buy snacks for the ride. The bus journey was fine, and we arrived in Kuala Perlis at 2pm. I had looked on my phone and saw that there was a ferry at 2pm (which I would have just missed) and another one at 4pm. I slowly walked towards the ferry terminal, where people were yelling from all directions, trying to get me to get a taxi or get ferry tickets. I was surprised to find out that a ferry would be leaving at 2:30pm so I bought my ticket for 18 ringgit ($5.88), quickly ran over to KFC to buy a burger, and got back just as they were boarding the ferry. We had assigned seating so I found my spot and relaxed for the 1 hour and 15-minute journey. They had a movie playing but I couldn’t understand it, so I mostly just tried to tune out the noise of crying children around me. We arrived in Langkawi at about 4pm and as soon as I got there, I was awed by its beauty.

I felt like I could stay there forever. However, I soon realised that it was a resort island and was therefore quite pricey compared to the rest of Malaysia. Also, it was quite a large island so I was quite isolated without being able to ride a motorbike. With Malaysia, you’re constantly being asked for things: massage, watersports, going into a restaurant, if you want a taxi.. it never ends. And that’s something that takes away from my ability to relax, as I just end up feeling uncomfortable. Langkawi was definitely like this wherever I went. Anyway, I got a Grab to my hostel, which took about 20-30 minutes and cost me 26 ringgit ($8.49). I was getting concerned when arriving because the taxi driver took me down a small street that seemed to lead to nowhere. However, it turns out that my hostel was actually in the middle of nowhere, which was kind of nice!

I stayed at Crowded House in a 4-bed dorm with an en-suite and it cost me $9.50 per night. The thing that I instantly noticed about this hostel was that pretty much everyone seemed to be above the age of 25 (some were in their 40s), whereas everywhere else I go to, I tend to be one of the oldest people there. While it was a cool place, there wasn’t any phone service in the rooms – only in the common room, so it caused people to be more antisocial because they were sitting on their phones most of the time. Also, the hostel seemed to have a lot of volunteers – people who would work at the hostel for free accommodation, so many people seemed to be staying long-term. Nearly everyone was vegetarian or vegan, nearly everyone smoked, and the amount of times that people spoke about getting and doing drugs was more than what I’m used to. I knew I wasn’t going to click with anyone there, so I spent most of my first couple of days on my own. I spent that evening at the beach to watch the sunset and then I went to a restaurant called Cactus Restaurant and got Singapore noodles for 10 ringgit ($3.26).

The hostel owner had asked if anyone would be interested in doing a half-day boat tour the next day for 40 ringgit ($13.06) and said that if he got 5 or 6 people to go, we could get a private tour. I figured it would be a good idea so I signed myself up.

We would be picked up at 9:30am on Saturday morning so I decided to get some breakfast first. The hostel doesn’t offer free breakfast and their kitchen was closed on Saturdays, so I walked down the street to see what I could find. However, pretty much all of the restaurants didn’t open until 9am. Luckily, one restaurant (Yam Yam) allowed me to come in 10 minutes early. I found the cheapest thing on the menu (2 eggs with toast) for 10 ringgit and then when they asked me what I wanted to drink, I said a latte, not realising that it would cost more than the eggs (11 ringgit). So with tax, I paid 23.10 ringgit ($7.54), ate my food as fast as I could, and got back to the hostel RIGHT at 9:30. The taxi driver came late and took five of us to the pier. We were given coloured stickers to put on our shirts and then had to wait for our boat to arrive. We soon realised that we wouldn’t be getting a private tour, as they squished us into a group with about 8 other people.

Once we got on the boat, we were given life jackets, which most of us were just going to hold, but once we got going, we quickly put them on. The boat ride was so intense! We were airborne multiple times and sometimes we’d land on a tilt, which made everyone nervous! It was funny at first but it got to the point where some of the guys on the boat were getting mad at the driver and telling him he needed to slow down. I was mostly concerned for all of the stuff that I had brought with me (my camera and phone), as I knew they’d be finished if we ended up flipping the boat. We finally made it to Tasik Dayang Bunting, the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. There are many legends about this lake and apparently it will help women with infertility issues if they drink from the lake. We were given an hour here and we had to pay to get into the park, which cost 3 ringgit for Malaysians and 6 ringgit ($2) for foreigners. They also wouldn’t let plastic bags go into the park (due to monkeys), so I had to transfer everything into my bag. We had to walk through a huge group of monkeys in order to get to the lake, so I sped through as fast as I could, trying not to make eye contact, and making sure I stayed close to one of the three guys at all times. It definitely wasn’t the relaxing morning that I thought I’d be getting! We got to the lake but it was so crowded, as many other tour groups were there as well.

In order to swim, you needed to rent a life jacket for 2 ringgit, or you could rent a paddle boat to go around the lake. A couple of us decided to just go sit at a cafe outside of the park for the next hour because at least we could get some shade there. After that, we got back into the scary boat (which funnily enough, I preferred over being around the monkeys) and we stopped at a little cove where there must have been about 50 eagles flying around; it was pretty spectacular! That is.. until the boat driver started throwing meat into the water right beside me and some of the eagles swooped down a little too close for comfort.

I’ve never seen anything like it, it was pretty cool! The boat driver then took us to Pulau Beras Basah, an island with a long beach, where we got another hour to enjoy.

The beach was pretty shallow and the water wasn’t clean – I walked quite far out and the water never made it up to my waist. The guys spent their entire hour picking up garbage off the beach and filled up a large box. We then headed back to Langkawi and I decided to sit in the front of the boat. I could definitely feel the bumps a lot more up there, so my back was feeling it that evening and the next day. So in conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this tour – we went from stress to stress to stress, and no one in the group seemed to enjoy it. We got back to the hostel at about 1:30 and by that point, I was starving so I walked to a restaurant called Tomato Nasi Kandar which is an Indian restaurant. I had to go up to the front to order so I got curry chicken with rice, an iced coffee (which was sooo sweet), and a coke for 9.80 ringgit ($3.20).

The other people from the hostel showed up at around 3pm, so I visited with them and then we all walked back to the hostel. I spent the next hour or so trying to figure out what else I should do and where I should go in Malaysia. My original plan was to go to the Perhentian Islands (which are apparently absolutely gorgeous), as well as some other islands on the east side of mainland Malaysia, but what I didn’t realise was that it’s monsoon season on that side of Malaysia so pretty much everything closes down. The monsoon season on that side lasts for 6 months and then apparently the monsoon season goes to the other side of Malaysia for the next six months, which makes travelling a bit more difficult. I was even trying to decide if I should just move to another hostel on Langkawi. I visited with some people in the hostel for a couple hours and then went to a restaurant called Boat Restaurant and had a vermicelli noodle dish, some vegetables in oyster sauce, and an iced tea for 19 ringgit ($6.20).

The food at this restaurant was so good, and the hospitality was very friendly!

On Sunday morning, I ordered breakfast at the hostel and got French Toast for 12 ringgit ($3.92).

I’m pretty picky about my French toast so I was quite hesitant upon ordering it, but it was made perfectly. During breakfast, I got talking to a girl who had just arrived the night before (Jade) from London. She asked what I was planning to do and I said I wanted to check out Oriental Village, and hike up to the Seven Wells Waterfall. She asked if it would be okay if she joined and I happily obliged since it would cut my Grab transportation in half. Instantly, I knew that Jade was the type of person that I’d click with – it was like we’d been friends for years, and we chatted away about anything and everything. Honestly, I was kind of relieved since I hadn’t met anyone like that for a few days. She felt the same way that I did about our hostel and she was planning to move hostels the next day, so I started getting the idea that maybe I should as well. Anyway, we took a Grab to Oriental Village for 12 ringgit each ($3.92), arrived at about 11:30, and walked around for a bit.

The main attraction in Langkawi is the cable car, but it’s also overpriced so I wasn’t too keen on trying it. However now, I’ve only heard amazing things about it so I’m wondering if I made a mistake by skipping out on it. We found a bunny farm in Oriental Village and went to check it out but a lot of the bunnies looked a bit rough, so I didn’t go around petting them.

They were pretty cute though! We had a lot of difficulty figuring out where the beginning of the hike started and had to ask around. We realised it wasn’t actually IN Oriental Village – we had to leave the village, walk through the parking lot, and walk about 600 metres down the highway to get to another small village-like area, which had two restaurants and an information centre. We were both getting hungry by that point and weren’t sure when we’d get to have food again since we were expecting to hike for the next couple of hours, so we stopped at one of the two restaurants called Kahuna Kitchen. The owners were so friendly, and we both ordered a curry noodle soup dish, which was really tasty. With a coke, it cost us 11 ringgit each ($3.59).

I was sitting there enjoying my soup and all of a sudden, I looked up and saw a monkey heading towards us. I wasn’t too sure what to do, as I knew it was going for our food. Luckily, the owner saw it too and ran out of the restaurant with a brick and pretended to throw it at the monkey so it would run off. It did, and we were able to enjoy the rest of our lunch monkey-free. We were finally ready to start our hike (I’m pretty sure we were both trying to hold it off for as long as we possibly could). We climbed an extremely steep street for about five minutes, used the bathroom at the top, and then saw that we could either go left to the waterfall, or straight to the seven wells. We decided to start by going left, literally walked 100 metres, and the waterfall was right there! It turns out that we didn’t have as big of a walk as we were expecting! The waterfall was one of the nicer ones I’ve seen – not humongous, but still better than some of the little trickles I’ve seen in the past. When we got there, there were only four other people there so we basically got the entire thing to ourselves.

I think what happens is most people take the cable car, and you can see the waterfall from there so most people don’t bother going to see it up close. And anyone who goes to do the “hike” probably walks to the seven wells since they’re more well-known. We took advantage of having a waterfall to ourselves, climbed up near the top, and found a flat surface right beside the falls. It was pretty slippery getting there and Jade dropped her phone, which slid all the way down until a guy ran after it and caught it right before it slipped off the edge into the water. Anyway, we went back and forth between lying in the sun and going down to the bottom of the falls to have a swim. It was quiet for the first one or two hours, but at around 3pm, more and more people started to come. We realised that we should have taken our pictures when we had the place to ourselves because we struggled getting pictures without other people coming into the shot. We stayed there for about four hours and all of a sudden just after 5pm, someone whistled at us. I sat up and he waved us over and said that we couldn’t sit where we were sitting – we had to come to the other side of the falls. Confused, we packed up our stuff and climbed back over the falls to the other side. The guy said that he was safety staff and that someone had died that day from slipping. He said he had to take two people to the hospital. It kind of made sense as to why he wasn’t there the entire day though. We were planning to leave anyway, since the sun was nearly behind the hills and he asked if we had went up to Seven Wells yet. We said no and he said that he could take us there. I asked if we could wear flip flops or if we should change back into our running shoes, and he said the flip flops would be fine. Turns out Seven Wells was only a 250 metre walk away, but it was up 350 steps. The guy ran up, and Jade and I quickly fell behind. We finally made it to the top but he took us past the viewpoint and said he had something better to show us. He walked us to his friend who was in one of the seven pools and he got out, introduced himself, and said he’d be showing us one of the nicest places to swim with the clearest water. They suddenly led us into a forest and said that it was just a five-minute walk down the path. We were trekking through and it was obvious that the path was hardly walked on, as there were leaves covering the entire way. It definitely wasn’t the type of walk to do in flip flops because we had to climb over rocks and bend under trees. At one point, my flip flop got caught so I tripped, and my flip flop got tangled in my foot. The guys were saying how lucky we were because hardly anyone gets to see this pool of water, no one knows about it, not even the government. It was then that warning signs started going into overdrive in my head and I kept turning to try to make eye contact with Jade, but she was on her phone (she was actually trying to find our location to send out in case something happened, so we were obviously both feeling the same way). After about ten minutes of walking, we got to the bottom of a big hill and they said that we just had to go up and then back down and we would be there, “12 minutes!” 12 minutes?! I looked at Jade and said I felt iffy about this and she agreed. So I just said that we were okay and we wanted to go back. “But we’re almost there, we’re already halfway!” “No, it’s okay, we’re fine.” “But it’s the nicest waters, you won’t be able to swim in clean waters back at Seven Wells.” “We don’t want to swim, we just wanted to look at the view.” We started walking back and as we got to the end, the one guy said that when we had come, he was just about to start cleaning out one of the wells and get all of the rocks and leaves out, and now he won’t have time. We apologised for wasting his time and as soon as we got to the end of the trail, both of the guys wandered off. Jade and I went to the viewpoint and then made our way back down so that we could change out of our swimsuits.

We changed and then went to find a place to sit so we could talk about what had just happened. All of a sudden, Jade looks shocked and says, “Your foot is bleeding!” I looked down and half of my foot and my flip flop were covered in blood. “Oh… it is…” “You don’t feel anything?!” It wasn’t until I poured water on it that I started to feel a bit of pain (thank goodness for my high pain threshold!). Jade kept wondering how long it would have taken me to notice if she hadn’t of said anything. I kept pouring water on it but the blood just kept coming out between my big toe and the next toe. I must have cut it when I tripped. I decided to just wrap my toe in a tissue, put my sock over it, and put my runners back on. For the rest of the night, I was fine as long as I was walking and putting pressure on it, but anytime I sat down, it would start to hurt. We headed back down to Oriental Village but nearly everything was closed by that time (it was only just after 6). Langkawi has a night market that moves around every night so conveniently, it was actually on the way back to our hostel. We got a Grab to the night market, which cost us 9 ringgit each ($2.94). The night market was so incredibly cool! Just seeing how the food was packaged in bags or in newspaper, and being able to try different foods was a really neat experience.

We started by getting some little cake-like things called dorayaki, which were 3 for 1 ringgit (30 cents)! I decided to try a coconut one, a corn one, and a red bean one, and all of them were so delicious!

The next thing I wanted to do was get a drink in a bag. We found a place and I decided to get a coconut one for 3 ringgit ($1). The guy grabbed a cup and I quickly said, “No, no, can I please get it in a bag?” So I finally got my juice in a bag, which they fill RIGHT up to the top.

You had to stop and chug a bunch, just so it wouldn’t go everywhere. After that, I decided to try a couple of chicken satay skewers, which were .60 ringgit each, so I got two for 1.20 ringgit (41 cents).

Since there wasn’t really anywhere that we could sit, we decided to just buy our dinners to take back to the hostel so that we could eat there. I decided to get a chicken po-boy-type of sandwich, which cost me 5 ringgit ($1.69) and we also decided to get 3 more of the dorayaki cakes each because they were so good!

So in total, I only spent 10.20 ringgit ($3.33) and I got so much food out of it – we were both stuffed! We went back to the hostel in a Grab for 8 ringgit each ($2.61), ate our meals, and then looked up different hostels that we could move into the following day. I figured I might as well stay a couple more days so that I could see the cable car and check out the nicest beach on the island. After staying up and visiting with everyone, we all went to bed.

The next morning, I packed up all of my stuff so that I could check out of the hostel. I ran into one of the guys in my room when I was walking out and said I was struggling to decide what I wanted to do. “Why don’t you go to Koh Lipe in Thailand?” It was something that I didn’t consider, but it was only a 90-minute boatride away and suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I talked to my sister on FaceTime for awhile, ordered breakfast from the hostel kitchen, which was a tempeh burger and was absolutely amazing, especially for someone who doesn’t like tofu and soy (I didn’t know what tempeh was when I ordered it).

Anyway, after talking to my sister, I went and sat down with Jade and told her my thoughts. I figured that if I went to Koh Lipe, I’d be coming back to Langkawi anyway so it would make sense to do all of the touristy things when I came back. I asked if she’d be interested in joining and she said that since she was only in Langkawi for 6 days and was only on a short holiday before going back to London, she figured she should stay. I asked the hostel owner what the chances were that he could get me on the last ferry to Koh Lipe at 2:30 (it was already 12). “Tomorrow?” “No… today.” His eyes widened and he didn’t seem too convinced, but he said he’d make a call. It would cost me 135 ringgit ($44.07) to take the ferry and get a ride to the ferry pier, and he said the taxi driver could pick me up in a half hour. So it was decided – I’d be going back to Thailand! Normally, I’m a planner so this was completely out of the ordinary for me, but it gave a sense of thrill that I now understand other people must get when making decisions on the go (or maybe I only got that thrill because it never happens). Anyway, Koh Lipe will be for another post. Love always

Penang/Georgetown (Jan 8-11): A Topsy-Turvy Museum, a Thief, and Tons of Turtles

Ben and I had bought bus tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Penang late on Monday night. The tickets only cost 38 ringgit each ($12.41AUD) so it was a pretty good deal for a 5-hour ride! We got up at 8 so that we could check out of the hostel by 8:45 and make our way to the bus station. By the time we bought metro tickets and figured out HOW to get to the bus station, we realised we were cutting it close so we decided to just book a Grab in order to make it to the bus station by 9:30. The bus arrived late (which seems to be normal in Asia) and with all of the extremely long stops on the way, we arrived about an hour later than expected. However, the time went by fast so it wasn’t a huge deal. Georgetown is the main part of Penang – it’s a UNESCO historic site and I had heard nothing but great things about it. Maybe my expectations were too high but to be honest, I didn’t see what the big deal was about this city, and most travellers who I’ve met afterwards completely agreed. Ben only had one night in Georgetown before he had to go back to Kuala Lumpur the next afternoon to catch his flight back to Sydney, so we tried to fit as much in as we could. We checked into Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel, which cost $10 per night, and then we walked around to look at all of the “attractions.” We walked to Chinatown and Little India, and then it started to rain. We decided to keep walking, despite neither of us having a rain jacket or umbrella, and walked past town hall, along the pier, and looked at the clock tower (sorry, but I didn’t take any pictures because of the rain). Maybe it was the time that we came, but the town seemed almost eerily quiet. After walking around for a couple of hours, we went to a food court near our hostel called Red Garden Food Paradise & Night Market. It was kind of like an outdoor, covered area with multiple food stalls around the outside, a stage in the middle, and tons of tables everywhere else. We decided to order from Kimpo Famous Roasted Crispy Duck, Chicken & Pork, where I got roast duck with rice for 7 ringgit ($2.37) and a watermelon juice for 3.30 ringgit ($1.12).

We didn’t realise that you had to find a table first and then go up to the stall to order food, so Ben had to run to find a table so that he could give them a table number. Then, we sat at the table and paid them as soon as the food arrived. It’s quite difficult getting used to how ordering and paying works in each place! After eating dinner, we decided to treat ourselves to dessert. Ben decided on a waffle with peanut butter and bananas, and I decided on an Oreo ice cream sandwich.

Both of them were so good! By that time, the entertainment had started so we had a couple of beers and watched the singers perform before heading back to the hostel.

The next morning (Wednesday), we got up and had breakfast at the hostel (which was one of the better hostel breakfasts), which had not only toast but naan and curry, boiled eggs, mashed potatoes with gravy (interesting breakfast choice?), and hotdogs. Ben had to catch his bus at 2 so we started the day off by going to the upside-down museum. It cost 25 ringgit each with a hostel discount ($8.16). The museum is basically a house but everything is glued to the ceiling, which was pretty cool! However, we got through the entire museum in ten minutes because the staff completely rushed everyone through. We walked into the kitchen and one staff member would say, “Sir, you pose like this” and the other would say, “Miss, you pose like this.” We’d pose, they’d snap a picture, and then they’d push us into the next room. At the end, we asked if we could walk through again backwards just so we could actually look at everything, so they let us.

After that, we decided to go to the funicular, as it’s supposed to be the longest cable car in Asia. I requested a Grab to take us to the cable car for 12 ringgit ($3.92), which would take about a half hour. On the way there, I went on the website and saw that they were closing the funicular from January 7-12 to do their bi-annual safety check. I broke the news to Ben but since we were already halfway there, we decided to keep going to see if there’d be anything else in the area. Then by some happy coincidence, the Grab driver actually ended up taking us to a completely different cable car because I chose the wrong destination (oops.. I didn’t know there’d be more than one cable car in Penang). He dropped us off at the top of a beautiful temple called Kek Lok Si Temple. I didn’t bring my sarong that day but luckily, this temple wasn’t strict about covering up. On the top level, there was a giant statue, the Quan Yin Statue, which was undergoing renovations, as well as a beautiful view of the city.

We took a cable car down to the next level (there were four levels total), where we got to walk through the actual temple. It was much different from all of the other temples we went to, as it seemed like something you’d normally find in China.

We decided to walk the rest of the way down, where we found a Tortoise Pond on the next level.

We watched them for quite awhile and then walked down to the next level, where there was the Air Itam food market. I looked up the best places to eat and the top pick was Penang Air Itam Laksa, which was a street food vendor whose tables were completely full. Two ladies waved us over to their table so we joined them and found out they were from Singapore. The restaurant only serves one dish (laksa) so we decided to give it a try since it’s one of the main dishes in Malaysia. However, the broth was very fishy tasting and there was a lot of mint added to it, which just seemed like too much. After trying it for awhile, Ben and I both agreed to find another place. Luckily, we didn’t lose much money as it was only 9 ringgit for the two of us ($3.05)! The two ladies at our table suggested that we go to Sister’s Curry Mee, which is another street food vendor with only one dish (a kind of curry noodle soup), which would be closing at 1 so we only had 20 minutes to get there and eat.

The food was alright, however with every bite, it got spicier and spicier. It got to the point where I tried adding soy sauce just to make it a little less spicy. When neither of us could eat anymore, we took a Grab back to our hostel so that Ben could get his stuff, and then we took another Grab to the bus station. We got there with ten minutes to spare, the shuttle van arrived late (of course), and then we had to wait for the bus driver to fix the lightbulb in the waiting room before everyone could board the bus, which was quite comical considering they were already late to begin with. Finally, everyone was able to get on the bus so Ben and I said our goodbyes, and once again, I was a lone traveller. I’ve found that I travel in patterns.. I’ll meet people who I really get along with in one place, we’ll say goodbye, and then I’ll be completely antisocial in the next place because I’ll be too sad to try to make friends. Then I’ll try to make friends again in the place after that. It’s a vicious cycle! Anyway, since the bus station was at the bottom of a shopping mall, I decided to check out some of the stores and then walk towards my hostel. There’s a Mexican restaurant next to the hostel called Holy Guacamole (one of my main phrases) so I just HAD to try it out. It was happy hour so I got a margarita and some tortilla chips with salsa for 19 ringgit ($6.20). My plan was to go to the beach to watch the sunset and check out the night market, so I went to the hostel to change. However, as soon as I got back, it started pouring rain for the next few hours. When the rain finally slowed down, I went back to the Red Garden Night Market to get some dinner. This time, I got a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle bowl with spring rolls and a watermelon shake for 15.50 ringgit ($5.06). It was really good!

I got back to the hostel and went to grab my bag off of my bed so that I could get ready for bed. However, I noticed that all of my makeup was on top, which I was confused about since I haven’t used my makeup during my entire trip. Then I noticed that my medication was in the bag, but I usually keep it in one of my packing cubes which is normally kept on the shelf beside my bed. When I looked at my shelf, everything had been cleared off of it. It was then that everything started going in slow motion, when I came to realise that someone had gone through my stuff. I had that exact feeling when I realised that I had my money stolen in London three years ago. Someone had taken the shaving kit packing cube, emptied everything inside of it into the bag on my bed, and literally just took the packing cube. I sat there for the longest time, totally confused, and tried to figure out if there was anything of value that the person may have taken, but I couldn’t think of anything. My universal adaptor was still there, my memory cards were still there, my glasses, medications (thank goodness), everything was still there. I only realised later that the person didn’t empty the inside pocket, which had tweezers, nail clippers, band-aids, and possibly other things that I can’t remember. There had only been one other person in our room, so I’m thinking that he must have went through everything before he left (luckily I had my main bag with everything else securely locked in a locker). Why does he need a packing cube so badly? We’ll never know..

On Thursday morning, I went down for breakfast and there were four people from the Kuala Lumpur hostel there, and one of them was Mike! I sat with them and we exchanged info so that we could meet up for dinner later that day. I decided to go to the National Park so I walked to the bus stop, paid 4 ringgit ($1.31), and took the hour-long bus ride to the park. By the time I got there, it was noon so I decided to get lunch since I didn’t know how long I’d be hiking for. I stopped at a restaurant right outside the park entrance and got a noodle dish with my first Penang iced white coffee (which was so good!) and a coke for 13.50 ringgit ($4.51).

By the way, I realise that I’m drinking a lot of coke on this trip.. I don’t normally drink it but in weather like this, nothing is more satisfying than having a cold coke. It literally loses its cold within 1 or 2 minutes after being taken out of the fridge, which is why I can’t get the same satisfaction from the always-warm water that I carry around with me. Anyway, after lunch I made my way to the national park. There are two trails that you can do – one is more hilly and goes to Turtle Beach, and one goes along the coast and goes to Monkey Beach. I had already decided that I was going to do the Monkey Beach trail, but soon found out that you could only do half of it (to a lighthouse) and the rest was closed because of a mudslide. However, there was a stall outside of the park that was offering boat rides to monkey beach from the lighthouse or from turtle beach. I asked how much it would cost to take a boat and the prices varied from 100-300 ringgit ($30-90)! I politely declined and decided I’d just do the turtle beach hike. It’s free to get into the national park but you still have to sign up at the front, say where you’re going, and give contact information in case you get lost (which I’m not sure how this would help as there wasn’t any service for the majority of the hike). Then, they gave you a permit to enter the park. Within the first ten minutes, I already encountered my first set of monkeys and I quickly realised that I’ve developed a fear of them because of my last monkey attack. I calmly talked to them to say that I didn’t have any food (I know better now) as they watched me put my mosquito repellent on.

They soon lost interest and left me alone. The information wasn’t wrong when it said that the turtle beach path was hilly – I was constantly sweating during the duration of the hike.

I’m hoping that I’m losing weight just by sweating out my body weight in water everyday. The hike was still so nice – it’s amazing being completely alone in the middle of the forest and being able to hear all of the sounds around you. You realise that you’re actually not so alone. I got to turtle beach in just over an hour, but I think I enjoyed the scenery of the actual hike over the endpoint. It was a beach that you weren’t allowed to swim in, and then there was also a turtle sanctuary that just had some turtles in big plastic containers of water.

Apparently they give free tours, but no one was around so I didn’t spend much time there. I made my way back and got back in about 45 minutes.

I waited for the bus and decided to stop at Ferringhi Beach on the way back to Georgetown. I treated myself to McDonald’s and got some fries, a sundae, and tried a taro pie (which was delicious!) for 10.85 ringgit ($3.54). I walked down to the beach but I kept getting approached by people asking if I wanted to JetSki or do watersports. The beach wasn’t that nice so I just walked back to the bus stop and waited for the next bus. I got off at the mall, bought myself everything that had been stolen since it would be the last time I’d be in a city for awhile (a new bag, tweezers and nail clippers), and went back to the hostel where I ran into everyone else. The five of us went to Red Garden Night Market again and this time, I got some pork and chive dumplings for 9 ringgit ($2.94). After listening to the performers for awhile, I headed back to the hostel to get my bag packed and go to bed to leave for Langkawi the next morning. And that’s Penang! Love always

Kuala Lumpur (Jan 5-8): Temples, Amazing Views, and Tons of Food

At 5:30am on Saturday morning, I got a taxi from my hostel to the Krabi airport. My first flight was to Bangkok and I had already checked in online so I was able to skip onto security and get through quite quickly. I had a coffee and waited for my 7:30 flight. The flight was a short 1 hour and 10 minutes so I landed in Bangkok at around 8:45, and then had to make my way to the other terminal since I would be flying internationally to Kuala Lumpur. This time, I flew with Malindo Air. Usually when I check in online, there’s a separate desk for document checks, but this airline didn’t have one. Therefore, I still had to wait in the long line to get my boarding pass printed out. The agent asked me for proof that I’d be leaving Malaysia so I showed her my return ticket to Taipei. However, when she saw that I’d be coming back to Kuala Lumpur after Taipei in February, she asked for proof that I’d be leaving Malaysia after that. I had to go through my phone and find the information to show that I’d be flying back to Bangkok, otherwise I’m not sure they would have given me my boarding pass. Finally, I got my boarding pass, went through security, and got something to eat before my flight at 11:50am. I also needed to take out some cash before I left since my travel card only allows USD and Thai Baht withdrawals – any other currency, I’ll be charged a percentage of whatever I take out. However, when I asked the information booth where the ATM was, they said they didn’t have any ATM’s – what?! So I’d be forced to take out Malaysian Ringgit when I arrive in Kuala Lumpur… The flight was only 2 hours and 15 minutes but it was the first flight since I’ve started my trip where I got in-flight entertainment. Not only that, but it’s the first flight since I’ve started my trip where they’ve given free food and drinks! I got some pizza with a red velvet-type brownie, along with grape juice and water. So I have to say that I was quite impressed with this airline.

We arrived just after 3 so I was only able to get through half of my movie and then I had to figure out how to get to my hostel. As usual, I decided to skip the faster, more expensive option of the rapid bus and instead take the slower, cheaper bus to KL Sentral, the main station, for 12 ringgit ($3.92AUD). The bus left at 4pm and took exactly an hour so I got to KL Sentral by 5. Then, I had to figure out how to take the metro to where my hostel was. I bought my ticket for 3 ringgit ($1) but then I couldn’t figure out where I had to catch the metro. I went through one turnstile, went up to the platform, realised I was in the wrong place, and lost my token when I exited. So I had to buy another token for 3 ringgit and this time I went to the information booth to find out how to get to Bukit Bintang station. He told me to follow the signs that said MRT so I did, and it was at least a 5-10 minute walk to another station, so I’m glad I asked. Finally, I got there, scanned my token, and got on the metro. My hostel, Sunshine Bedz KL was right next to the station, and it cost 28 ringgit per night ($9.49). Kuala Lumpur is a lot more humid than it was in Thailand so even though it was 33 degrees everyday that I was there, it was “feels like” 38 or 39. Meaning I was sweating and desperately hoping for A/C everywhere I went. By the time I arrived, it was just after 6pm so I was pretty hungry. I got myself organised, sat in the hostel for awhile, and then decided to check out the street market right next to the hostel, called Jalan Alor.

There were tons of street stalls and restaurants there, with people constantly approaching you, trying to get you to come into their restaurant. I was quite taken aback that first night, as I wasn’t used to being approached because it hardly ever happened when I was in Thailand. I decided to go to a restaurant called Wong Ah Wah, where I decided to try their famous chicken wings, and also had a noodle dish. The chicken wings were actually really good, although they were a bit different than what I’m used to. My meal with a coke cost me 21.50 ringgit ($7.02) so it was a pretty good deal!

I walked around for quite awhile afterwards and checked out some of the shops in the area, as well as listened to some of the buskers on the street. You’re immediately able to tell that it’s a poorer country, not only because everything is so cheap, but also because there are people sitting down the length of the sidewalks, asking for money – it’s quite sad to see. I went back to the hostel at about 10, chatted with some other travellers, and then got ready for bed.

On Sunday morning, I got up and went to get breakfast in the hostel, which is where I met the people who I spent the next few days with. It all started the night before when I spotted someone on the sidewalk wearing a t-shirt that belongs to my university sport team. I went up and asked if he was from Saskatchewan but he was British and said he had gotten the t-shirt at a vintage shop in London. The next morning, that same guy was having breakfast at my hostel so I went and sat with him, found out his name is Ben, and I also met an Irish guy named Mike and another Canadian girl (from Toronto) named Daina. When we all realised that we had the same plan of going to Batu Temple, we decided we might as well go together. We took a Grab (which is basically Uber in Southeast Asia), which ended up costing us about 4 ringgit each ($1.30) and drove for quite awhile to get to the area. Batu Temple is a Hindu temple and it’s one of the most colourful places I’ve ever seen – it was so cool!

We had to climb up 272 colourful steps to get to the top but on the way up, we saw an educational tour of the Dark Caves. It cost 35 ringgit each ($11.43), but it was so worth it! We had to wait about 20 minutes until the next tour, were given helmets and flashlights, and then started the tour, which was about 45 minutes long. Our tour guide knew a lot of information and was also pretty funny, so it was a really good tour to take.

After our tour finished, we continued up to the top of the stairs to take a look at the temple (and the monkeys, which weren’t AS aggressive as the ones at Tiger Cave, just as long as you didn’t have food).

By the time we got back to the bottom, we were all starving so we took a Grab back to our hostel and found a food court on the bottom level of a mall nearby, which literally had every type of food that you can imagine. I decided to go for a crunchy chicken and rice dish, which was delicious and only 12.60 ringgit ($4.11). We then all got some cheese tarts, which were actually better than I was expecting. Once you bit into the tart, the cheese (or whatever filling you got) would ooze out.

After our very late lunch (we finished at 3:30pm), we went back to the hostel to change so that we could go to one of the rooftop bars to watch the sunset. We walked to Skybar, which is one of the coolest bars I’ve seen. It’s on the 33rd floor and right in the middle of the bar, it has a swimming pool with no roof. Around the pool, there are plenty of seating areas, with tables and chairs on one side, and lounge-type areas on the other side with a beautiful view of the Petronas Towers.

The cheapest (alcoholic) drink on the menu was a beer for 22 ringgit ($7.18), but it was worth it for the view (and being able to avoid having to pay the expensive fee to get to the top of the Petronas Towers for the same type of view). We stayed for a few hours and got to experience the heavy rainfall that occurred into the pool beside us, which was pretty neat.

After we finished our drinks, we walked down to the Petronas Towers, where there are a bunch of musical fountains. As soon as we got there, the music stopped so we sat and waited for about a half hour and nothing happened. Then as soon as we got up and walked away, the music started again! Bad timing on our parts I guess…

We decided to have dinner back at Jalan Alor and this time, we went to a restaurant called Meng Kee Grill Fish, where I had another noodle dish and a Pepsi for 13 ringgit ($4.24).

Afterwards, I even tried durian for the first time! It actually wasn’t too bad – it was deep-fried and it tasted sweet with a hint of onion 🙂

On Monday morning, I woke up a bit later, had breakfast, and no one was around. I hadn’t exchanged any contact information with Ben, Mike, and Daina so I figured that maybe they had already left. Luckily, just as I was putting on my shoes to leave, I ran into Ben so I said I’d go get a SIM card while they were eating breakfast. I picked up a SIM card at 7-Eleven and it was 30 ringgit for 30 days of unlimited data plus 25 ringgit for the actual SIM card, which totalled to $14.69. I went back to the hostel to meet up with everyone, and then we walked towards Chinatown. We found a cool market called Petaling Street Market, walked through it, and then stopped at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, another Hindu temple. We had to pay .20 ringgit to store our shoes and then we spent awhile walking around the temple.

After that, we went to Central Market to check out some of the artwork and souvenirs. By that time, we were feeling pretty hungry since it was nearly 1pm so we took a metro to Little India, which is a cute and colourful little neighbourhood.

We found a restaurant called Seetharam Family Curry House, where I had a chicken curry set meal with 3-layer tea. It was so much food and all of it only cost 24 ringgit ($7.84)!

We took a Grab to Taman Eko Rimba, an ecopark that’s completely free. I’ve actually been shocked as to how many attractions are offered for free! We started with a canopy walk, which gave some nice views of the park. Then, we lathered on mosquito repellent and started walking through the forest.

It closed at 5pm so we got out just in time and walked back to the hostel. We all showered, changed, and decided to just have a KFC dinner, where I got a 3-piece chicken tender set with fries, mashed potatoes, and a root beer float, all for 14 ringgit ($4.57)! We headed back to the hostel because we signed up to take part in pub trivia so we had to be at the hostel for 8:30. At about 9, we all (a group of about 30-40 people) walked to an Irish pub, where the trivia was taking place. Due to technical difficulties, a lot of our time was just spent sitting around and chatting because they couldn’t get the tv’s connected (the rain kept making the power go out). However, our team won the first round (which I didn’t contribute any knowledge for whatsoever) and got a pitcher of beer to share. Overall (after 3 rounds), our table got second place so we won a bottle of vodka. Pretty much everyone else continued partying afterwards but Ben and I were catching a bus to Penang the next morning so since I had to get up by 8, I decided to go back to the hostel and go to bed. Kuala Lumpur is such a beautiful city and I feel like I spent just the right amount of time there to see everything, plus I met some pretty cool people. Will definitely be back again! Love always