Malaysia, p1

Written by on April 11, 2013 in Asia, General with 1 Comment

After a sad farewell to Mark and Darlene,  Marc and I took a speedboat from Koh Lipe, Thailand to Papua Langkawi, an island in the very northwestern corner of Malaysia.  The speedboat cost about $3 more than the ferry and was going to drop us off on the side of the island closest to the beach we wanted to stay in about half the time as the slow boat, so our decision was a no brainer.  We quickly found a functional motel room right on Pentai Cenang beach, dropped our stuff and headed out to catch some rays around 330p.  This was our beach and home for the next few days….not too shabby 🙂

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I could not believe how HOT is was…only 30 kms south of where we’d come from.  It was BLAZING hot!  Marc couldn’t take it and went back inside.  I didn’t last 10 minutes before needing to take a dip in the water every 10 minutes or so.  At one point, I just went and sat down in knee high water as it was too frickin hot to lay out.  The water temp was perfect…and seemed a few degrees warmer than Thailand.  But, I guess most of you who’ve just braved a cold winter behind a desk probably hate me right now!  Probably sounds like complaining, but I wouldn’t be spending so much time in this region if I didn’t like the heat 🙂 I couldn’t take it anymore and headed in to take a quick ice cold and super refreshing shower before we headed off down the beach in search of a good spot to watch the sunset.  We heard a band warming up and popped our heads into a cute beach bar called Babylon, which had random tables/bars made from old driftwood, and the typical surf board decor you’d find at lots of bars in Hawaii.  We found out it was happy hour, and with $2 cocktails, we ended up staying there for awhile.  The band was decent and it was happy hour til 7, so we parked ourselves there and watched another beautiful sunset.

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I know it probably sounds to some of you like my entire trip has been me stumbling from one beach bar and sunset to the next, but to the contrary I tend to cram in about as much as humanly possible when I visit places.  Langkawi was different…and I enjoyed a few lazy days of doing not much at all.

The next day Marc wasn’t feeling so hot, and ended up sleeping til 4p, which was fine as I had a lot of planning / cancelling to do as I’d just found out that I actually did not have to return to the US after all.  Luckily I’d booked my flight with frequent flyer miles, so for a small fee, they returned my precious, hard-earned miles back into my United account, and I could relax.  And work on the blog.  And edit some photos.  Anything to keep out of the searing heat for that part of the afternoon.  At 4p, I was back out there, this time submerging myself up to my neck in the water for almost the entire time I was outside.  If only there were a place that sold beer nearby!

Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country, so buying alcohol is actually fairly difficult, and quite pricey in most places.  Langkawi was an exception to the pricey part of the equation, as the entire island enjoyed some sort of duty free status, which made it cheaper.  And it was more laid back than the rest of Malaysia, and a nice place to get familiar with how super-friendly everyone we met was.  Anyway, we watched another spectacular sunset over happy hour drinks at Babylon,

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and then headed outto dinner at a seafood spot he’d seen down the road, which was one of those places that you see everything the local fisherman caught that day, you point at what you want, they throw it on a scale, you think “OMG – that is so cheap”, and then agree, wait about 30 minutes and dive into your feast for the night.  Wasn’t quite as awesome as the places that had tables in the sand, on the beach in Koh Lipe, but was still pretty awesome! We ended up at Babylon again, which seems to be where everyone in the area ends up every night until they close around 1a, at which point those still up for it, head to the Sunba, a little club about 2 kms away.  We should’ve just called it a night at 1am, but it had been so long since I’d had a big night out, we joined our new friend Marshall and went to check it out.  It was pretty lame, but at the same time nice to be out and about…and not to have to worry about getting up early the next day now that I don’t have to fly home!

It also helped that we opted to take the 2pm island hopping boat tour, rather than the 9am!  We had low expectations for the tour as it was only 25MR (or about $9), but hey…we’d get to explore a few more nearby islands, and we’d been getting a little complacent staying in the same 3 block radius the last couple days.  The first stop was at Island of the Pregnant Maiden Lake, which was quite pretty.  We docked on one side and walked on a trail over a small hill, amongst some not shy and greedy little monkeys to come to a pleasant freshwater lake.

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Our next slightly random stop was in the Kilim mangrove forest where the boats would drop food into the water, creating a feeding frenzy amongst about 20-30 eagles that would swoop down with their sharp talons fully extended as they pick the pieces of chicken meat nimbly off the surface. They skim over the water’s surface effortlessly before flying off into the trees to feast on their ‘catch’.

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It was quite cool to watch, but I’m not sure how eco-friendly it is!?!  Our last stop was at a little beach and the perfect place to open our first beers of the day.

We made it back from our “tour” in time for sunset, and this time found a great little place with tables on the beach where we could witness it actually setting straight into the water, instead of behind an island like previous days. We walked about 20 meters further down the beach and stopped for dinner at a beautiful restaurant called The Brasserie, where we splashed out on a duck, steak, and more than one bottle of wine before Marc kicked my arse in several games of pool.

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We slept in too late to stick to our original plan of renting motorbikes to finally explore the island, so instead hired a taxi to take us around to see what we hadn’t, namely the Panorama cable car from the oriental village, before heading to the ferry terminal to catch the ferry to Penang.  The aerial views from the cable car did nto disappoint.  Water and lush, tropical greenery as far as the eye could see.

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This was the sky bridge, which was closed, but looked pretty awesome.  I think if we had come at sunrise or sunset, the views would have been otherworldly.

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The views in every direction were fantastic – it’s too bad it was so hazy as the photos do not do it justice.

We then stopped off at one of the saddest waterfalls I’ve seen the entire trip.  They have obviously not had much rain, as there was only a small trickle of water coming down.  There was more water (sweat) dripping down my body than there was coming over this “waterfall”.  I almost didn’t even take a picture!

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Our taxi driver dropped us off at the terminal just in time for us to catch our ferry to Penang.  The ride was longer than we thought, and after what felt like forever, but what was actually only 3 hours, we arrived in Penang.  Again, it was HOT!  We found a taxi, checked into our guesthouse, enjoyed the AC for a few minutes before hitting the streets in search of some of Penang’s famous “hawker food”.  We found a place which had what seemed to be two dozen food trucks, but all joined together in a square, with a hundred or so tables in between, as well as a neon stage and cheesy performers.

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Definitely not what I’d expected, but quite hilarious.

Marc still wasn’t feeling so hot, so I took advantage of him sleeping in to catch up some emails/blogging/travel planning.   We finally ventured out around 1pm with a good plan of walking around  Georgeton and hitting all the suggested sights/attractions, however the heat was just too much after about an hour.  And, to be honest, the “sights” weren’t worth battling the heat. Georgetown did have some interesting and unique colonial architecture, as it used to be an outpost for the British East India company over 200 years ago.

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I really loved the “trishaws”, or 3 wheeled bicycles that were mostly colorfully decorated and cheerful, providing a nice, albeit slow way to explore the city, especially at night when it was a little bit cooler.

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Anyway, we must have spent an hour looking for any place that even served beer, which led to me becoming extremely cranky and on the verge of heat stroke.  At last we found a bar with what felt like the coolest AC and icy beers, and spent the entire afternoon beating each other in pool and spending a small fortune.  Alcohol isn’t cheap in Malaysia, and this place had Hoegaarden – my favorite beer!  Bonus!  I played much better today after having just a few beers than I had after drinking 3 bottles of wine a couple nights ago, and I don’t think Marc enjoyed losing…especially when the barman and 2 male customers took notice.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed the sweet victory 🙂

That night we managed to get cleaned up and head to dinner and drinks at the Reggae Bar, made some new friends, and took a spin in a trishaw to check out Georgetown by night, which was pretty much dead and made it an easy call to turn in early.

The next day we had good intentions to check out more of the island, but had heard that the beaches were nothing like those on Langkawi, and had checked out postcards to see if there was anything we were missing, but didn’t see any places that looked interesting enough to warrant leaving our chilled room until we had to go to the airport to catch our flight to Kuala Lumpur.  I had caught a fare sale on Air Asia and the 45 minute flight to KL was actually the same price as the 5 hour ferry/bus trip, so why not fly?!?  We caught a bus to our hotel in an area of town called Chowkit, which is apparently NOT the safest place to be staying, but I had found a 4.5* hotel with an amazing pool that cost less than a twin room in the hostel I was going to stay at, so didn’t really care what neighborhood we were in.

I had timed my visit to Kuala Lumpur to coincide with the Future Music Festival Asia, which was a 2 day music festival starting the following afternoon.

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Marc had no interest in joining me for the first night, which was the first leg of the popular DJ, Armin van Buren’s tour highlighting his radio show, “A State of Trance”.  I didn’t mind that he wasn’t going, but I did want to try to meet others that were going, so we hopped in a taxi over to the Reggae Mansion, the hostel I had planned to stay at before Marc decided to keep travelling with me and am glad I did.  They were actually running a party bus out to the Sepang racetrack, so I signed up for the shuttle the following day.

The festival doors opened at 430p, and unfortunately the one shuttle from the hostel left at 3, so we literally got there before it even opened.  We all took the requisite pictures as we came through the gates, although it was really strange being one of the first thousand people to arrive at an event with 50,000+.  Even the beer stands hadn’t opened yet.  Seriously?!?

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Even stranger was when they announced a prayer break at 7pm, asking the audience to be respectful of the local religious practices, when all the music stopped.

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Definitely a first!  Anyway, the guys from the hostel’s party bus had brought an Australian flag with them, so within a few hours, every Australian at the festival was dancing within a 20 meter radius of us, which was fun.  I’m not a huge trance music fan, but it was REALLY nice to be at a big music festival.  It was also cool to be at a festival when 90% of the people there are shorter than me, so I could see over everyone in each direction!  Cosmic Gate and W&W were awesome, and seeing Armin with all of his positive energy was fun, too.

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He really knows how to play to a crowd, and his fans love him.

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I was lucky to meet a couple guys who had VIP tickets, so they snuck me into the VIP area where I camped out in front of the air-conditioning for as long as I could.

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They almost had to drag me away as it was soooo hot and humid out there, especially when the sold-out crowd finally all arrived just before Armin went on.  Such a fun night!  I needed this.  It’s been way too long.

It’s too bad the next night didn’t go so smoothly.  Long story, but Marc and I headed out to the festival early and before we even went through the gates, he was totally drunk and out of control.  My friend Jen from SF had introduced me via Facebook to her friend Tyler’s friend Jessica, who lived in KL and was going to meet me at the festival with all her friends.  It was supposed to be such a fun night and I was happy to be meeting up with other party people.  But, Marc was totally out of control.  He kept wandering off, so I feel like I spent half the night waiting at one of two meeting spots we’d designated at the beginning.  He was nowhere to be found.  Ugh.  I frigging HATE trying to deal with this type of thing – especially at a festival in a foreign country where we didn’t have cell phone service or any way of contacting each other.  I finally gave up around 9 and had a great time with Jess and her friends, who were all awesome!, but the first 4 hours were pretty much ruined and totally sucked.

That said, the music was great!  The Temper Trap did not disappoint, and hearing “Sweet Disposition” live was super cool.  The line-up was so random – one stage had some old school hip hop, and De La Soul and Naughty by Nature were both blasts from the past and super fun.  Psy, the guy with the one-hit wonder “Gangham Style” was the biggest hit of the night, at least if you measure by crowd size.

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I couldn’t even get close, but from what I could see/hear, he actually put on a great show, too.  I took a ride on the ferris wheel with Jess’ friends and got a fantastic vantage point for when FUN sang their recent hits, including “We are Young”, and then Prodigy really brought it to close out the night.

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It would have been an awesome night had I not been so pissed off and worried about Marc and if he was ok.  When I got back to the hotel, he’d moved his stuff out and I felt this huge weight lifted off of me.  Free again!  There is definitely a longer story here that I’m not going to bore you with.  But, that’s one of the problems with travelling with people, especially those you don’t know so well.  I tend to tippie-toe around issues instead of talking through them in fear of pissing off the other person off and being left to travel alone again.  What I always forget is that I LIKE travelling alone, and it’s not worth it to put up with someone else’s bullshit if it’s going to drag me down.  So…in my eyes…I was ecstatic that he was gone and I’d be on my own again.  Hurray!

The next afternoon, I had lunch planned with my friend Nick, a nice Malaysia guy I’d met on one of my tours in Vietnam.  We met in the lobby restaurant of my hotel, and he brought me coffee and some almod cookies as gifts from his home region of Sabah, Borneo.  So sweet!  It was nice to get to know him a little bit better and learn about his family and where he’s from in Borneo, as I was heading there in a couple days.  After he left, I headed to an area of KL called Bukit Bintang to check out the Low Yat electronics mall in search of a red filter for my gopro underwater camera, but was unsuccessful.  Too bad I didn’t need any other electronics, though, as this place was a gadget hound’s paradise!

I walked a little further to check out a mall called the Pavilions, which was a series of bars/restaurants and shops, and alas, a movie theater playing Django, which I’d been dying to see for months. And they had SALTY popcorn.  Hell yeah!!  What is it with countries that only serve sweet/sugary popcorn?  So wrong!  Anyway, it happened to be St. Patricks’ Day, so I couldn’t pass up stopping for a quick Harp at the Irish bar before heading back to the hotel to crash.

Although I was really ready to say goodbye to Marc, he had booked the same flight and dive trip to Borneo as I had, so we actually had to figure out how to be civil to each other for the next few days.  We definitely did not get off to a good start as I underestimated how long it would take to get to the airport, which by the way is sooooo far from central KL, and we missed the cut-off to check in our bags by 10 minutes.  Doh!   My first missed flight, EVER, believe it or not.  So, we had to buy brand new flight tickets to Tawau (luckily only a $100 mistake rather than more).  And, luckily the next flight was leaving only an hour later, so we were easily able to call to change our transfer shuttle to a later time.  Glad we made it, because there was no way I was going to miss out on another second in Borneo!

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  1. Herb Glatter says:

    salty popcorn and beer way to go Deb

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