From Here to There

Malaysia Travel Blog

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Getting from Here to There:

Traveling to Asia - and then through Asia - was a bit of a challenge. Not only do you have a whopper of a flight to deal with (from California, ours was over 20 hours long), but expect to take more trains, busses and cabs than you have in a while. Here are some tips for how to make the most of your time before starting your program with GVI.

1. Plane Ride: Treat the 20 hours you'll spend in the plane like a big deal. Get to the airport extra early (3 hours?) to get an exit row seat - you'll thank yourself when everyone else is crammed together and you have room to stretch. Be prepared with warm clothes, snacks and sleeping pills (if you need them). Even though the airline usually provides blankets, you may need more. Put your warmest sweater in your carry-on. Also, you'd think there'd be enough food to go around on the plane but that's not necessarily the case. If you have a special dietary restriction (a hate of red meat for instance), they might be all out of chicken dishes before serving you. As for the sleeping pills - try a few brands out at home before popping them on the plane. Make sure your sleeping pill actually works and doesn't make you crazy. No one wants a seat mate who drools, snores or has to constantly switch sleeping positions.

2. Post-plane Lodging: The obvious tip here is to make sure your hotel/hostel is close to the airport AND in the touristy section of town. Unless you're cool with very uncomfortable circumstances, you want to be close to other foreigners, at least until you get used to the culture. Also make sure there are no hidden fees when booking. Sometimes places will charge you extra for a middle-of-the-night arrival without telling you. Be suspicious if the internet doesn't show a picture of the outside of the hotel/hostel... the place could be a real dump, no matter what the inside looks like. Listen to your mom - you want to stay in the safest possible place as your guard will probably be down after a long flight.

3. Trains, trains and more trains: Unless you pay a little extra and fly in to the city where you'll be volunteering, chances are you're probably underestimating the length of your train ride to get there. 14 hours on a rickety train isn't something to scoff at. Always go for the sleeper trains and if you have extra cash, pick first class. At least in Southeast Asia, the difference between first and second class was a door. First class has a private room which allows you to store your stuff securely. In second class, you'll have to share your bed with your suitcases. Book early if you want first, as it tends to fill up fast. Also, unlike the plane ride, you DON'T want an exit row. People will constantly be coming and going right where you are trying to sleep. They may also be smoking just outside which can hamper sleep like none other. If you are crossing borders while on the train, be aware that you may have to get off the train fast, with all your stuff. In our case, the Thai police suddenly hopped on board the train and then went up and down the aisles kicking everyone off. The passengers were real confused and almost stampeded. It was a scary experience and I was the last one off the train. The Thai police meant no harm though and just wanted us to go through customs right there, right now.

4. Cabbies: Ask around to see how the locals handle their cab rides. In Malaysia, you had to haggle to get a fair price like you were in a market in Mexico. Don't be afraid to walk away if the price is too high... there are so many cab drivers, someone is bound to come running after you.
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14,372 km (8,930 miles) traveled
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