Hi Everyone, and thanks for tuning in again this month.
I have two versions of this email, here is the short one:
It was just MalAzing!
Wow, I’m hilarious!
For those of you who can’t get enough, here is the long version:
For those of you who paid attention to the older emails, you would remember that I was total paranoid about having proof of onward travel, as you are required to have it when you enter Malaysia. Totally was not an issue AT ALL. I just walked up to the immigration counter, they looked at the passport, looked at me, asked me to place my two index fingers on the fingerprint scanner and that was it! I then walked out, picked up my prepaid sim card (that I had already paid for in my ticket with Air Asia), put 20MR on there (about $6.25) and asked how much data that would give me. The guy at the counter handled everything, even cut up the large sim card to fit into my smartphone and activated it, and told me I had just under 500MB of data! Wow! That is one thing I like about Malaysians – they think of internet access as a basic human right. If you want to do the same thing, make sure you get your unlock code before you leave Australia – it was free for me to unlock my phone.
I then went through the baggage check, where they just let me though (it’s weird how when I go IN TO an airport, I get explosives tested EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’m not even kidding. Even the flight from Tasmania to Melbourne – honestly people! But whenever I LEAVE an airport, I NEVER get searched or checked. What’s up with that?). Anyway, I get to the main area, which leads to the street and the taxis and the buses back to KL, and since I just put all of my Malaysian cash onto my sim card (I still had some from a previous trip to Thailand, and I stopped off in Malaysia just to transfer flights, but ended up having drinks with a guy from Canberra during our 6 hour stopover), I needed to find an ATM. I found three, but the first one I tried was out of order, the 2nd one I tried was called the Islam Bank, which worked, but when it asked me what language I wanted, and I pressed English, it said ‘Your transaction has been cancelled, thank you for banking with us’. I tried this twice, and then gave up and went to the third ATM which finally gave me some money. I wasn’t too worried as I had already paid for my bus ticket to KL (also included with my ticket with Air Asia), but it’s pretty scary being without cash in a foreign country.
The bus took over an hour to get to KL (the Low Cost Carrier Airport is about 80kms out of the city), and then I had to catch the metro to the neighbourhood I had chosen (Bukit Bintang) then try and find a hostel. Considering that I had been up since 4:15am the day before to get from Launceston (TAS) to Melbourne, got 5 hours sleep, and it was now about 7pm, I was feeling a little tired! Also, my phone battery was almost dead, so while I was trying to use Google maps, I couldn’t leave it on too long as otherwise I’d be screwed. I realise that I could have just opened my bag and plugged my phone into my external battery, but I was so tired I wasn’t capable of much rational thought at the moment. I finally found a hostel, well, I found this old man –who I think was a tout, but he was a very nice, non-pushy one – who showed me to the Funky Town Guesthouse. I took two nights for a total of 100MR ($31.25). I had my own room with Aircon and free Wifi, but the comfortable bed was what I was most interested in.
As I explained, I was pretty my beyond rational thought, but I had previously arranged to meet up with a friend of a friend, an outgoing girl named Triffany, who kindly offered to show me around KL, and since she worked during the day she could only do it in the evening. Resolved not to bail on my first night in KL, I showered, dressed up and went out to wander the streets. There was one street lined with ‘foreign’ bars, offering Australian beef and German beer, so I was a bit dismayed – where was all the amazing Malaysian food I had come here for? A few streets over though, there was a street lined with food vendors, with all sorts of food on offer, with meat sizzling on hotplates and smelling absolutely delicious.
A lot of vendors were Malaysian satay stalls, which turned about to be pretty awesome. Basically you have loads of wooden skewers with one type of food on it, for example I had a skewer of baby bok choy, a skewer of shitake mushrooms and a skewer of satay (peanut) chicken. You boil the bok choy in a pot of stock which sits on your table, and the vendor deepfries the mushrooms and grills the chicken. You then get a Styrofoam plate and you can add sauce from a range of jars on the table. It was just ridiculously delicious! I was sitting next to another Aussie who was a PE teacher in Brisbane just back from a holiday in Sri Lanka, and we ended up having a decent conversation, given that I was a little delirious at this time. That was when Triffany texted and said she would be very late, would I mind if we met up the next day (thank you God), so I agreed and went back to the hostel, had another shower (you literally sweat all the time here – I drank about 4 litres of water and had to go to the bathroom once, not good) and slept until 12:30pm the next day.
The following morning (or should I say afternoon) I procrastinated for a little, and consulted my Lonely Planet for a good place to have lunch. I generally don’t got to Lonely Planet recommended places, because they’re usually full, but often they’ll have information like ‘there are many stalls which in this area at these times’, which can give you some ideas. Turns out I didn’t need it because literally right next to my hostel was a large enclave which had about 4 or 5 vendors serving the locals their lunch. That day I had the fish ball soup, and sat down at a table with a local KL lady who worked nearby. I asked her what she was eating, and she said fish ball soup, without the fish balls (so soup– why make it complicated?).
We got talking, although she scared me a bit, giving me tips on how not to get robbed and how there were ‘bad people’ in KL. She gave me the names of a few other dishes I should try, but I can’t remember the names. She did say I should try the pork soup being served by one of the other vendors, and so the next day I came back and ordered it. While I was a little hesitant about eating pork from an open air stall, she looked like she did a good trade, and I’m still here, so it must be ok! The soup was absolutely amazing, but like the fish ball soup the day before, way to massive for me to eat it all. Now people, I have a large appetite, and I didn’t get my current figure by eating in moderation, but as delicious as these soups were, I literally could not even eat half of the soups. Maybe it’s the heat though; I’m always less hungry when it’s hot. Also, the other weird thing was the coffee they served me, which was a milk coffee, but it was dark brown in colour, like they’d only added one teaspoon of milk, which I guess they do, but they use sweetened condensed milk instead of normal milk. Drinkable non-the-less, and that’s all I really care about.
Back to my first real day in KL though. After eating lunch, I wandered around a bit, bought a bottle of water and then retreated back to my room to cool off. While I was there I went a little crazy with the travel diaries, which is why you got two in one day! Triffany then invited me to a co-workers housewarming party, which I said yes to because how often do you get invited to a housewarming in Malaysia, but since Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, I thought that it would be more a dinner party without alcohol. Turns out Triffany works with a lot of international people, and I think Triffany was the only Malaysian there. One of the first things she said as I got out of the taxi was ‘I hope you’re ready to get wasted’. There was literally booze everywhere, and people dancing in the living room to ‘International Love’, and other dance songs. At one point Gangnam Style came on and they convinced the one Korean at the party to do the dance. He was doing the house riding move, but then attempted to slide sideways and crashed onto the floor –did I mention that pretty much everyone was wasted at this party. I only had 2 drinks, but they were pretty strong and I hadn’t eaten anything since my fish ball soup, so I was feeling it. About 12:30pm we left the party, Triffany to go and sit on some scaffolding to watch people paint a building (it’s a different culture, I don’t try to understand it), and I went to bed.
As I mentioned before, after I got up and packed my bags I had my pork soup, and then I trekked all the way to the bus station to catch a bus to Melaka, a historical city on Malaysia’s South West coast. That’s where I am now (drinking the worst coffee I’ve ever experienced – ahh, what one will do for free Wifi), and I’ll tell you all about Melaka in the next email, otherwise we’ll be here all day. I can’t believe I’ve written over 1,600 words about 2 days of travelling, half of my travels are going to be in front of this laptop!!!!