Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Landing in Langkawi

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9
After a three-hour boat ride where we all sat in the bottom of a boat that had the windows tinted so you couldn’t see outside, I emerged unscathed into the town of Kuah on the “duty free” island of Langkawi (having avoided seasickness, unlike a quarter of my fellow passengers). The first night was spent getting oriented and finding food (also taking a picture of the back side of a giant eagle statue). After the first night, I moved to the hotel where I’m typing these words, which is a little off the beaten path (Motel Seri Mutiara). It suits me just fine though - I’m actually writing things. In a most un-Simonlike twist, I’ve lost my usual unquenchable thirst since being sick in Georgetown. This is good for my health, but annoying for the miser in me - unlike the rest of Malaysia, the beer here is super cheap (I just checked a receipt - I bought a tall can of Tiger that would cost 16rm in KL for 4rm here and I didn’t even enjoy it). Aside from sleeping and vowing to write more (and listening to podcasts instead), so far I’ve wandered around looking for food, wandered around a disappointing nature park, visited the library (wrote a poem!), visited an unspecified government building, and, like a good Malaysian, went to the mall. So far the highlight has been gambling on “Nasi Goreng USA” - I wondered what the USA part would herald (ketchup? mayo? french fries?). Turns out it was delicious: veggies and fried rice (nasi goreng) with a mix of proteins (squid, prawn, chicken) and a fried egg on top (that’s what made it “USA”). I might go get something else from that same shop in a few minutes. Until I do, today’s consisted of writing up all the “Catching Up” series, a million cups of coffee, and a lot of stress as I try to figure out what I’m doing in the next three months. I have one firm date - Osaka on April 1 - and I need to stick Brunei and Hong Kong in between, perhaps with stays in the Philippines, Taiwan, and who knows where else. I still have no idea when I’m getting to Australia or New Zealand and that’s not taking into account a hopeful return to Thailand (Chiang Mai) and even a short visit to Indonesia. Oh, and what about South Korea? And Cambodia? And Vietnam? It’s almost as if there’s just too much to do over here! Until I do it, my immediate plan is to book a spot on Cenang Beach, soak up some sun, and read some books. (I’ve been updating my book list, for the record. Since getting Kindle Unlimited, I’ve read the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games series, the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Silent Spring, the Little Prince, the Hobbit, and the Handmaid’s Tale. A turn toward YA Fiction, but that’s what’s available for pay - I’ll go back to classics when I cancel my subscription in February.)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Catching Up: Georgetown 3 (almost caught up!)

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9
The nice thing about coming back to a spot you know is you know what you *don’t* have to see again. It’s good that this was the case, as I came down with a crummy illness almost immediately after arriving in town. Myself and a small group of friends from the Highlands did a few things together - the “natural pools” being one such thing - but I was quickly out of order. I ended up resting and trying to recover from some respiratory illness that everyone in the Rope Walk Hostel came down with. I ended up staying several days in a private room at the Moon Tree Hotel which was fantastic (if pricier than I’d prefer, but, hey, health). My friends (both from Koh Lanta and the Cameron Highlands) all went their separate ways and I saw two new things before quitting the island: the jetty at the end of Armenian Street and the Blue Mansion (which I’d walked by dozens of times but never went in for whatever reason). On the 25th of January I got on a ferry (speed boat) to the island of Langkawi.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Catching Up: Cameron Highlands

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9

Oh man, we’re almost caught up to where I am writing this now!

With very little breakfast, I boarded a bus on the 13th(?) of January, destined for the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands. As I wasn’t sure how I’d hold up on the windy roads, I hoped for the best (and arrived quite hungry!).

On my friend’s recommendation, I booked a spot at the Travel Bunker / Map Hostel, which was a nice, friendly spot. By the time I left a few days later, I suspect most of the staff knew me by name! Over the next few days, we hiked down to one tea plantation and split a taxi to another. There was also much merry-making and, of course, delicious food.

There’s not a ton to do in Cameron Highlands and my friend was eager to get back on the road (as opposed to stay and relax in the nice, cool weather), so we hopped on a bus to Georgetown (my third visit!) on the… 16th?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Catching Up: Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur (again?)

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9
Getting back to Kuala Lumpur, I decided to try my luck with the “Space Hostel” and rendezvous with a friend from Koh Lanta (oh so many years… no, just months? ago). It was a downgrade from fancy hotels, but I had high hopes for capsule living. Unfortunately the capsules were all linked and not insulated, so a noise at one end of the room reverberated the whole way down (and everything made noise). I ended up spending more nights in the Explorer’s Hostel. Housing aside, I was able to meet up with my friend and we did a few fun things in the city, including having a drink on a building’s helipad. She left to go south, so I mostly relaxed, having seen what Chinatown had to offer, but I did make excursions down to a mall to try to get my watch fixed (unfortunately no luck there). After making several new friends, I got on a bus to Cameron Highlands to start exploring once again.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Catching Up: Georgetown (take two!)

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9

I was glad to be back in Georgetown and, to hear RC tell it, it’s his favorite city we hit as well. I hesitate to repeat what I said last time (without looking it up), but there’s a ton to do, everything is walkable, and the local “expensive” things to do are still dirt cheap. We stayed at Le Dream Boutique Hotel and ended up watching the New Year’s fireworks from the rooftop, looking up at KOMTAR Tower.

As one does, we wandered around the streets of Georgetown (I found a delicious Thai place that I’ve since been back to!) and generally were tourists. We went to the actual top of KOMTAR (I had previously only gone to the cheaper *almost* top level) and we took the cable car up Penang Hill (oh, I should upload those videos).

Traveler’s Hiccup: I forgot to set aside independent days, so by this point RC and I were a little on edge, having spent nearly two weeks within fifty feet of one another. I was also feeling generally stressed, for whatever reason. One of our days we split up and just didn’t see one another for almost a full day - something we should have done after the first week.

RC changed his flight and left from Georgetown (he had accidentally scheduled a 2am flight from KL, so it made sense to change it and skip the bus ride back to KL) and I got on a bus back to Kuala Lumpur.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Catching Up: Malacca

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9


The bus ride this time around was a cinch - not even a second glance at the border. We arrived in town and got settled in pretty quickly. When in Malacca as a tourist, there’s basically one priority: go to Jonker walk.


We walked the Jonker walk, we talked the Jonker talk. Had some chicken rice and plenty of beer while waving to boats going up and down the river. Hit a small library where I wrote a couple poems and saw a few museums. In no order, we visited the three-for-one seafaring museums (mediocre), the cultural museum (the one with a kite exhibit and an exhibit about beauty around the world - very neat), and the architectural museum (RC’s favorite from the whole trip). We also climbed the hill to St. Paul’s church and did all the wandering around the ruins of the fortifications.


There exists a photo of me with the obligatory “muscle flex” in front of a statue of a famous body builder. I’m not sure we got any photos of the… rickshaws? that were the most annoying thing I’ve ever encountered - when hired, they had pulsing lights and blaring music that corresponded to whichever children’s cartoon theme they had chosen for their decor. I’m sure there’s more to do in Malacca, but we didn’t do it (though we took advantage of the hotel’s infinity pool) - on the 29th (I think) we took the only outbound flight from Malacca’s airport and headed to Penang.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Catching Up: Singapore

Photo Link (Again): https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9

The bus ride from Kuala Lumpur was mostly uneventful - saw some gigantic catfish at a rest stop, but that’s about it. Crossing the border was a little weird for me though - leaving Malaysia I got grilled about “staying so long” (seven weeks?) which threw me for a bit, but amounted to nothing. The customs agent coming into Singapore was odd in the opposite direction - a bit too happy and excited to give me recommendations, which I thought was a test or something. In any case, we arrived safe & sound!

Travel hiccup: [preface: talking with another traveler, we discussed how disingenuous it was of travel bloggers and insta-travelers to only highlight all the good stuff that happens. Hiccups exist and their inclusion in stories might help future travelers.] When we got to Singapore, RC thought he’d lost his wallet, which caused some consternation. Then, when we found it (he had put it in his bag when we went through a metal detector), his ATM card didn’t work. Luckily we had my ATM card and USD on hand, so we were okay for the few days in Singapore (which is surprisingly cash-oriented).

Our hotel was pretty great and we spent several days just lounging at the pool, so that’s a big vacation win for me. On our first excursion, we explored the Arab section briefly (if I had time & money I’d go explore again), then wandered down to the library (I wrote a poem and we saw an exhibit on early advertising), and just walked the streets for a bit, half lost and half exploring.

The second excursion took us down to Chinatown and on a free tour around Marina Bay. The latter was beautiful, but expensive - typical of Singapore (and, indeed, Malaysia), the culture is centered around shopping and being inside malls! As a bonus, the crowds were pretty heavy due to the Christmas rush, so the whole thing felt overdone. We did have some delicious food at Satay on the Bay though!

Another excursion took us down to Orchard Road to see the decorations there, which existed. I’m sure I’m forgetting half of what else we did, but there was significant hotel pool time involved.

Eventually, we made our way back to the Golden Mile Complex and got on a bus to Malacca on the 26th.
x

Monday, January 28, 2019

Catching Up: Kuala Lumpur (good stuff this time)

It’s only been a few months since I first arrived in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s a bit tough to remember what all I’ve done. The big stories (the workaways) are detailed in my last post, but I certainly did more than just that. Perhaps we should start from when I finished the workaways.

Before we do that - pictures. There are too many to go through until I have a real computer, so you’re just getting this album that covers the next half-dozen posts: https://photos.app.goo.gl/k3KCYztdsfq4idnx9

December 17 (the 115th anniversary of heavier-than-air flight? Why do I remember these things?) I bid adieu to my workaway host and made my way to Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, where I spent a couple days relaxing in the Explorer’s Guest House while I waited for RC to arrive (on the 19th). There’s not much to report from this period except a very strange run in with a guy from Algeria who was convinced the Earth was flat. The dude was nice enough - even showing me a couple cool spots to eat - but after a proselytizing conversation, I ended up avoiding him. Not that it mattered too much - RC soon arrived.

There was quite the jump from dingy shared dorm room to a room at the Majestic in store for me when I met with RC on the 19th! It was wonderful to see someone from Philadelphia - and especially someone as close as RC. The first night he was in we went to dinner with my first workaway host (Joanne) and two others, which was quite pleasant. On the 20th, we had a personal tour guided by the daughter of my second workaway host, which was also delightful - it was a religion themed tour, so we saw Batu Caves, the National Mosque, and a Buddhist temple I’m forgetting the name of at the top of a hill (plus lots of delicious food, as one is apt to do in Malaysia).

My scheduling was a bit off, as I had it in my head RC was *arriving* on the 17th, not *departing Philadelphia* on the 17th, so that’s all the time he had in KL. On the 21st we navigated the holiday traffic and got a bus to Singapore.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Taking Lumps in Kuala Lumpur

I can finally say that I've worked for Donald Trump! No, I didn't get a job working for the Trump organization or for the US Government - I've just had a boss who is equally as narcissistic and attention deficit. I should back up, I suppose.

This is not going to be a happy post.

In order to change up my little travel routine, I decided to sign up for Workaway while in Bangkok. I found a person in Kuala Lumpur who was willing to host me in exchange for twenty hours of my labor a week. Since it was physical stuff (painting, scraping, assembly), I figured I could work two tens or three sevens and have the rest of a week to go and explore - what's it matter when I work, as long as I get the jobs done? I also hoped that it would give me a different perspective, closer to staying with a friend and doing their dishes than staying in a hostel or hotel.

I'll note here that Workaway has all sorts of different arrangements - the standard trade seems to be twenty hours for a bed and one meal. I suspect when people get more reviews / have talents that are deemed more "valuable" they can ask for different deals. Similarly, hosts can change what they're offering depending on how well they're reviewed and how sought-after the position seems. One of the ones I was hoping for was filling sandbags on a beach - as long as X number were filled, I could stay in their beach bungalow and get a meal with the family.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

By George! It's Georgetown

Atop the KOMTAR Tower

Well, this certainly isn't being posted a month after the fact...

If you recall from the last installment, I endured an absolutely confusing bus ride getting to Georgetown (including an open-air installment pictured below). That being said, I arrived safely and in one piece at the hostel I picked out the day before (despite a trek down a dim alley that dropped straight into a sewer ditch).


After check-in, I hit the ATM and got myself some ringgits, then proceeded to grab a little dinner at an open-air cafeteria that had a live musical show on for some reason. I forget what I ate, but it was really tasty, which is the basic theme of Malaysia so far.