20.07.2017 - 24.07.2017
20 July 2017
I was up early and off to the bus stop this morning: off to Malaysia, my 75th country!
The bus was much nicer than I had anticipated, with large, comfortable seats that reclined; the AC was kept on throughout the ride, keeping me nice and cool. I spent most the time on the bus sleeping. Getting through passport control was a breeze and took a matter of minutes.
My first stop in Malaysia was the town of Melaka, which I was surprised to find was a rather large town with several malls. The bus dropped me off a short walk from my hotel. The staff at the hotel were very friendly and helpful. I had paid for a single room for my two nights in Melaka, which I was looking forward to; unfortunately, the room was on the top floor with only a ceiling fan – no AC!
I set off to wander around the city for a little bit in the afternoon and decided to take a boat tour along the river. The river and boardwalk along it were the centerpieces of Melaka. The boat tour lasted about 45 minutes and was enjoyable. I liked getting to see the city from the river: there were numerous buildings with elaborate paintings and murals on them that I particularly liked.
When the boat tour was over, I walked through Dutch Square, where there were dozens of tuk-tuk drivers waiting for tourists to hire them; each of their vehicles was elaborately decorated, many of them with either Hello Kitty or Pikachu, but I saw one with Captain America and another with SpongeBob.
For dinner that night, I ventured into Chinatown, but was disappointed that many of the food stalls were already closed. I managed to find a good and inexpensive restaurant, where I had some delicious pork and rice. I called it a night after dinner as I was still rather tired from lack of sleep the night before and the long day of travel.
21 July 2017
I had an entire day for sightseeing in Melaka today and I started out by taking a long morning stroll along the river so I could better admire the various murals on the buildings there. It was very quiet during the hour or so I spent walking along the river.
I then walked deeper into the city proper to reach a Buddhist temple that was located next to a small park. The temple itself was quite nice, but it was the monument next to it that caught my attention for some reason: it was a large stone pillar with an elaborate dragon sculpture at the base of it.
I walked back through town, taking in the various sights and smells of the food stalls and vendors; my next destination was yet another Buddhist temple. This temple was far more impressive and was full of people praying and lighting incense.
Across the street was a new and very modern Buddhist temple; I sat down outside of it (in the shade) to cool off as the temperature and humidity had resulted in me drenched with sweat after my long morning walk. I walked back to Dutch Square and stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café located there. I know, why have a Western meal when there was a plethora of cheaper, local food around me? For the simple fact that I wanted to sit in the AC and they offered a great lunch deal for practically nothing: three course meal plus beverage.
After eating, I decided to visit the Stadthuys, which was effectively the town hall of the city during the Dutch colonial period. The complex was situated on the lone hill in town, which I climbed to reach the ruins of the church located at the top. The views over the city was rather nice from there as well.
Walking down the hill, I passed by the old Dutch cemetery, where there was a massive tree that I found fascinating for some reason. I continued back around to Dutch Square and decided to visit the Melaka museum located in the Stadthuys building.
The museum chronicled the long history of Melaka, from the Dutch colonizing of the area to being governed by the Portuguese and then the British, followed by occupation by the Japanese during the Second World War. The museum also detailed the traditional, local life and customs. It was a very well done museum and I enjoyed it very much.
That evening I went to see “Spiderman: Homecoming” at one of the nearby shopping malls; I wanted a night of mindless entertainment and I got it. The movie was alright: better than most of the Marvel movies, but not nearly as good as the DC films (but I’m biased…). In any event, I enjoyed going to the movies.
22 July 2017
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I had another early start this morning: I caught an Uber around 06:15 to take me to the bus station outside of the city center so I could catch my early ride to Kuala Lumpur. I arrived at the station earlier than anticipated, so I grabbed a quick breakfast before boarding the bus. As with my bus to Melaka, I spent the ride sleeping.
We arrived into Kuala Lumpur around 11:30; I was impressed by the massive and modern bus terminal that the city had. The city’s various mass transit options all had stops there; I caught the subway into the city proper, where I got off and walked to my hostel.
I was less than impressed by the hostel: it was somewhat run down and the guy running the place was constantly lamenting the various problems he had, despite the fact that they were of his own making. When I arrived, he was complaining that he was overbooked by 14 people for that night and that I may need to move down to the sister hostel.
As I sat waiting to see what would happen, another guy at the hostel and I struck up a conversation. His name was Kayne and he was from England; he’d been traveling throughout SE Asia since January and was leaving for Australia in a few days (he’d received a working holiday visa for one year there). We talked a lot about our various travels and decided to grab a bite to eat for lunch once I had gotten my room sorted out.
Thankfully I was able to get the room that I had booked: a single room with AC. The room itself was basic, with a very thin blanket for bed coverings. I was just glad to have the room! I locked my things up, grabbed my camera and headed out with Kayne to get lunch.
We walked into Chinatown, which was right next to the hostel. Kayne had spent a couple of weeks in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and had found some hidden gems. He took me to a small food court area that had about a dozen food stalls serving all kinds of food. I went with chicken fried rice, which was a large portion for less than $2! I had finally started to delve into the cheap area of SE Asia!
After eating, Kayne went back to the hostel, but we made plans to meet up that evening. I walked back to the subway and rode over to the KLCC, the massive shopping center where the Petronas Towers were located. I had wanted to see the towers for years (probably ever since seeing the movie “Entrapment” back in 1999).
I got my first proper view of the towers from the small park in front of them. The towers were incredible: they are the tallest twin towers in the world and the sky bridge between them just below the half-way point was equally impressive. The towers were designed with five different sections to represent the five pillars of Islam. The towers were built with 88 floors each as 8 is considered to be a lucky number by the Chinese. Thus the towers had quite a bit of symbolism in them.
I wanted to buy a ticket to go to the observation deck, but the tickets were all sold out for the day (there are only a limited number available each day). Instead, I explored the mall and did some reading while enjoying some coffee.
I met back up with Kayne around 18:30 that evening back at the hostel, where we were joined by a women staying there as well: a German named Anna. The three of us went to a small Indian place that Kayne knew to grab some dinner; I had yellow curry with cheese naan. The food was good, but the chicken in the curry was only so-so (mostly bone and fat).
Once dinner was finished, we took the subway over to KLCC so we could see the Petronas Towers by night. A local friend of Kayne’s had taken him up to the rooftop bar of a nearby hotel earlier in the week where one could get some an unobstructed view of the towers. We walked over to the hotel, but discovered that the bar charged a hefty entrance fee on the weekends, so we skipped that plan.
Walking back around the park behind the towers, we arrived back in time to watch the musical fountain show that was put on every night. The show was impressive, though not as intricate as the laser light show in Singapore. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable to sit and watch. Near the end of the show there was a commotion behind us: someone had been pick-pocketed and was chasing after the thief.
On our way back to the hostel, Kayne took us by Merdeka Square, which was quite popular among the locals. It was a large open space where people were just hanging out and enjoying the evening. We spent a few minutes there before walking back over to Chinatown to grab a small bite to eat. It was a very enjoyable night and I was really glad to have met both Kayne and Anna.
23 July 2017
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I woke early this morning and went back over to the Petronas Towers in an effort to get a ticket up to the observation deck. Thankfully, the line for tickets was small and I was able to get a ticket for the 09:30 time slot. While wandering around the KLCC mall until then, I stumbled upon a kid's ride with a statue of Mighty Mouse!!
The entire visit through the Petronas Towers was held to a rigid timetable: each group was given colored badges and we were moved through the different stops at set times. The first stop was the sky bridge on level 42. It was very cool to walk between the two towers, looking out over the city. Looking down was both scary and exciting, seeing the four pillars that were keeping the bridge suspended between the buildings.
After about 15 minutes, we were ushered back to the elevators and taken to the observation deck at level 86. Unfortunately, the entire observation deck was inside, but the views were absolutely amazing. I could see for miles around and I was glad that the day was mostly clear (the smog made the sky somewhat hazy, but it didn’t destroy the view).
We had another 15 minutes before we were taken back down to the base of the tower. Overall, I was very pleased and happy that I got to go up the Petronas Towers; it was my primary motivation for stopping over in KL and I’d have been disappointed if I’d not been able to make it up. Today was my last chance too as the towers are closed on Mondays (tomorrow, my final day in KL).
I went back to my hostel where I met up with Kayne for lunch; we’d planned to meet up with Anna as well, but she didn’t show up (we later found out that her phone was still on New Zealand time – 2 hours ahead of KL – which resulted in us missing one another). Kayne and I again ate in Chinatown; he was leaving for Australia later in the evening and was stressing about getting a job there. His funds were running low and he needed to get a job ASAP or he’d have to return home – a prospect he wasn’t happy about and which I fully sympathized with.
The afternoon was taken up with a guided tour to the Batu Caves. The tour made several stops at local factories, which I generally detest as they are done to encourage tourists to spend money. The first stop, as a pewter factory, was more interesting than most as we were given a thorough and in-depth tour of the factory; it was really interesting to see how the various pieces are crafted.
We finally reached the Batu Caves in the late afternoon. The cave complex housed some Buddhist temples, which were reached by climbing a long staircase. Outside of the complex was a massive golden Buddhist statue (probably the most impressive part of the entire Batu Caves).
I climbed up the stairs and encountered dozens of the resident monkeys along the way. They would sit in the trees or along the steps, hoping to snag some food from the unwitting tourists in the area. I made it to the top without behind bothered since I didn’t have any food for them to grab. The caves themselves were…underwhelming, to say the least. The main room was a massive cavern and I climbed a second staircase up to the Buddhist temple inside.
On my way back down from the caves, I stopped in the “Dark Caves” area, which offered guided tours through the caves using just a torch. It was a more adventurous way to see the caves, but I had no interest in doing it as the caves were home to many spiders.
I had heard so much about the Batu Caves and it was listed as one of the top sights to see in KL, but I was disappointed with the entire visit. The exterior, with the cliffs and the giant statue, was the most impressive part, but the caves themselves could easily have been skipped. My feelings were shared by Anna (who visited them that afternoon as well), as well as by Kayne.
Returning to the hostel, I made plans to meet up with my Polish friend Grzegorz (Greg) who was coincidentally in KL as well (he and I had met in our Odessa, Ukraine hostel in early May); small world that we’d both be in KL at the same time!! Before going to meet with him and his friend Aleksandra, I met up with Kayne one last time before he left for the airport. I wished him well and hoped that he found a job soon so that he could save up some money to continue traveling with.
I met up with Greg and Aleksandra nearby and I took them over to the food court that Kayne had taken me to on my first day in KL. I ordered sesame chicken and the three of us split three large beers. It was great getting to hang out and chat with Greg again; when we’d met in Odessa, we’d only had a few short conversations in the hostel, but now we got to actually hang out properly.
We found a small restaurant down the road from the food court where we sat and drank a few more beers: the place served a bucket filled with five beers, which we ordered and shared. We spent the next few hours chatting about our various travels and lives. It was quite possibly one of the best evenings of my trip: getting to meet up with a friend I’d made earlier on and having a fun evening out together.
At the end of the night, we snapped a couple of quick selfies before going out separate ways. I had one final day left in KL, while they were both leaving the following day. I hope to get to meet up with Greg again sometime soon – possibly when I’m back in Europe later in the fall!
24 July 2017
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I met up with Anna this morning to grab a quick breakfast; we went back to the small place in Chinatown that we’d gone to with Kayne the other night. I had an onion and egg roti, which was delicious and bursting with onions (could there be anything better?!).
We decided to do some exploring of the city together as it was our last day in town. We were both anxious to leave KL behind: it is a nice city, but there is not much to see or do there. After discussing a few options for what to do, we settled on walking over to a Buddhist temple to the south of the city center; it was around 4.5km away (roughly an hour’s walk).
The streets in KL have limited sidewalks and those that do have them are shabby and often in ruins. We had to weave around, zig-zag, jaywalk in numerous places, all to reach the temple. We’d have liked to follow along the river, but the path abruptly ended and forced us to find another way. Half way through the walk, we made a brief stop inside a shopping mall to cool off.
The last stretch of the path was the worst: all up a steep hill, with the heat and humidity. Thankfully, it was all worth it. The temple was quite large and very impressive; I thought it was the second most impressive sight in KL, after the Petronas Towers.
We climbed up to the top level of the temple, where we got to look out over the city and we could even spy the Petronas Towers in the far distance. By this point storm clouds had rolled in and it began to rain, thunder and lightning. The storm didn’t last too long though – not nearly long enough to cool things off.
We opted to take the subway back into the city from the same shopping mall where we’d stopped earlier. Before boarding the train, we stopped at a doughnut shop which sold a variety of specialty doughnuts; I got an Oreo cream and a tiramisu. Absolutely delicious!
I spent the remainder of the afternoon reading and cooling off after the long, hot walk. It was a pleasant way to spend the last afternoon in town. For dinner, Anna and I went out to Chinatown with another woman from our hostel, a New Zealander named Ti. After eating, we did some shopping in Chinatown and I bought some baggy, traditional-looking pants. I adore them and they are incredibly comfortable!
The three of us then went over to KLCC and walked over to the same hotel rooftop bar that we’d tried to get into over the weekend. As it was Monday, they were no longer charging an entrance fee, which allowed us to walk right in and admire the view. The windows looked out over the KLCC complex and right at the Petronas Towers, brilliantly illuminated in the night sky. We snapped several photos through the window before realizing that there was an open window space right above us!
Before leaving to go back to the hostel, I noticed that the KLCC mall had a Garrett’s Popcorn… so, of course, I bought another bag - though a smaller one this time! We called it an evening once we got back: Ti had an early bus to the Cameron Highlands in the morning, while Anna and I would be following along later in the morning.