Me apparently not ready for the picture. This seems to be the only one I have..?
Malaysia is the first SE Asian country to actually be different. Mostly, it is much more diverse and no where near as touristy as the other countries, minus China, of course. The Malaysian people are made up of native Malays, Indians, and Chinese. When I first arrived in Georgetown on the island of Penang I booked a dorm bed in a hostel that reeked of moth balls (but hey, to their credit I didn't see one moth), but was cheap and seemed to have other people staying there so it could be a good opportunity to be social, especially after my recent lone streak. After checking in I headed for this huge mall nearby, because, well, just because I wanted to.
F&N Fun Fest! Wohoooo
But I was rather disappointed to find that it was mostly an indoor market and wasn't much in the way of window shopping. I think spent my lunch feeling sorry for myself. Not really sure why, just in a weird mood I guess. I went back to the hostel and felt better after meeting Sam and Stephen, both English, and Gary, from China. We got some street food, which was much easier having Gary around, then had a couple beers at the local reggae bar, as every town in Asia naturally has a reggae bar. The beer in Malaysia though.. woah, expensive. I heard it would be a little more, but we're talking $3 for a small bottle! Now maybe compared to home this is normal, but usually I pay $1-2 for a huge bottle. This was unacceptable.
They like their colors here.
I have entered a Muslim country and this was the price. Needless to say my cheapness got the better of me and I only had one beer that night and didn't drink for most of Malaysia.
Anywho, the next day I finally got my ear checked out, only to be confirmed that yes, it was ruptured, no, I should not go in the water for at least a month, and yes, here are some ear drops to prevent infection. $25 please. Oh well, I suppose it's for the best that I get medical advice once in awhile and not solely rely on what google results tell me. I then wandered over to some museum, which turned out to be quite nice and informative, and thankfully, air conditioned. I may have lingered a bit longer just for that. Next I sought out the Chocolate Boutique, which I think requires no explanation as to why, where I was hastily directed into a makeshift tour group consisting of myself and an older European couple led by a very energic, and I expected highly caffeinated, employee.
The girls getting henna tattoos.
We tasted 10 or so different flavors of chocolate in about 2 minutes and then I was left alone to stare at bags with 400 pieces which I was expected to buy and throw away clothes in my bag to carry. Sigh, not exactly what I thought it would be, but then again few things ever are. And I at least got some chocolate for the first time in awhile. I then decided to be brave and go into an Indian restaurant and be competent enough to feed myelf on foreign food. I looked at the menu, immediately felt overwhelmed, and scurried off to Chinatown to safer and more familiar territory. There would be other chances for Indian food. Yet I was unpleasently served perhaps the worst meal of my entire trip. Noodles with vegetables and "various meat" turned into a gelatinous muck of, I suppose techincally they would be called noodles, with liver/organ-looking meat, covered in a sort of gravy/jello mass.
Me getting a tattoo.
I choked down an appropriate half before running back to the hostel and preparing myself for the consequences.
That night the hostel gang, plus the Aussie Tansy, went out for Indian food where I was babied and told what things were so I wouldn't starve to death in Malaysia. There we met Amy, from Wales, and Henri, from Denmark, also staying in our room. We stayed in that night, but the following day our whole little group headed out on the public bus where a man yelled it was our stop and of course we trusted him completely and got off. Luckily, he was correct and we arrived at Kek Lok Si Temple. It was large and impressive, high up on a hill, and contained an absolutely huge standing statue of um some religious person.
SATC group treating ourselves to some fancy cocktails.
Don't think it was Buddah, but could be. Perhaps the most fun part was the gift shop. There was a fish tank full of fake plastic motorized fish moving about admist one real live fish. The poor thing, the plastic fish kept bumping into him and he was probably horrbly confused as to what was going on. Henri, who lived in China for a year and spoke the language, tried asking the shop lady if we could move the fish to the real pond outside, but she said no. We tried to plead for mercy for the little guy, but alas, he was doomed to a life surrounded by manicans. How scary would that be. Following the temple Amy wanted to find some snake temple, so a few of us went along with her for the hour plus bus ride. Upon arrival, we couldn't seem to find the snakes.
Petronas Towers at night.
The lady pointed up at these fake little twig trees and sure enough a couple small snakes sat unmoving, doped up on incense or something. There were also two larger snakes in a small glass case. I'm not sure what we were expecting, something out of Indiana Jones I gather, but we were quite disappointed.
The following day Amy, who I got along with famously, as they say, and I headed down to Kuala Lumpur on the greatest bus of all time. A MASSAGE bus. With foot rests. And inclining seats. And working A/C. Heaven. We met Harriet and Becky, two 18-19 year old English girls (I didn't hold that against them) and after arriving in KL and spending two hours stuck in traffic, we decided to all share a room.
Rest of the city, including the KL Tower.
We stayed in Chinatown - I still think it's funny even Asian countries have a Chinatown - and nearby was this fantastic market selling designer bags, not so geniune DVDs, clothes, ties, shoes, etc etc. It was enormous and crowded and smelled faintly of roasting chestnuts, which I've decided I don't like. We went to bed early that first night in order to wake up at 6am to wait in line at the famous Petronas Towers for their skywalk tickets. After getting the tickets we wandered around the giant mall attached, full of Western brand name stores, and strolled the park as well. Once we got to the skywalk I spent 5 of the apparently 10 minutes we get up there looking for a bathroom, so my enjoyment of it was a bit shortened. Still amazing views though.
Amazingly brightly colored massage bus.
A funny sidenote, which is somewhat un-PC, is Amy was asked to take a picture of a couple and when she was about to snap she almost yelled out "smile!" before realizing the woman was clad in a full out burkah and you couldn't tell if she was smiling or not. That was a close one. I think Malaysia is the first place I've been where it's not uncommon to see women in burkahs. I think was surprises me most is that the men they're with can wear absolutely anything.. jean shorts, tank tops, flip flops, whatever. No traditional dress required of them whatsoever. As Mom would say, life is unfair.
The rest of that day was AWESOME. Definitely one of the best days of my trip. Leaving the Petronas Towers we walked around and stumbled upon the "F&N Fun Fest" - apparently a festival to promote some soda beverage.
Thank God I can find my ghetto saying clothes in Malaysia. Was worried for a minute.
Amy and I each bought two bottles and in return we got to design our own smiley face t-shirts, got a free balloon on which to write a wish and release into the universe. Did I mention we also were hand selected out of the crowd of hundreds of locals to pose for a professional photographer, holding up our F&N beverages and smiling? Aren't we lucky. I'm not sure if it was the caffeine or the spontaneous festival, but it was just good old fashioned fun. We then made our way over to "Times Square" where we found an indoor amusement park, complete with a rollercoaster. Score. We also rode on some ride called "Dizzy" something or other and after literally 10 minutes (seriously, Amy and I were planning our escape) we did feel dizzy.
Huge ugly butterfly on a sign.
End of amusement park. Still fun though! We treated ourselves to some sushi before hitting up a corn cup/waffle stand, an unusual combination, and headed home. Another stop at a reggae bar, reference above, and that was our night. All in all a great day.
The next day we walked around Little India, having a great buffet lunch (I'm starting to get the hang of Indian food), had a failed attempt of trying in sari's, and got henna tattoos. I messed mine up a bit when walking to the KL Tower, but overall it looked really cool. The KL Tower was too expensive to go up and so we took a short hike in the surrounding jungle - the only capital in the world to have a jungle in its confines - before getting all dolled up for the night.
The Petronas Towers! (said in a booming, loud, impressive voice)
We decided, since it was our last night all together, to go up to a fancy (well, for us) rooftop bar, called the Skybar, and get hoity toity cocktails and look at the views of the Petronas Towers at night. A regular SATC outting. We then supplemented the cost of our drinks by eating at the food court of the mall haha. It's all about balance. The next day Amy and I headed out of town to the Batu Caves. While the caves were huge, and should have been impressive, the locals decided to paint the walls, pour concrete flooring down, and allow shops selling tacky souveniers to come in. Not so nature-y. The best part was the swarms of monkeys running about the 200 steps up to the caves. One older lady started screaming bloody murder when a monkey went near her and it looked just as confused as the rest of us.
Pretty funny though. The rest of the afternoon we got lost looking for a temple, gave up, and went shopping back at the Chinese market. Amy is an expert bargainer and I only wish I was in the market for, well, anything at all. But alas, too much stuff in the backpack already.
That night we hung out on the hostel's rooftop bar, meeting an eccentric, but friendly, Aussie bartender, a Swiss guy, Pascal, and three Irish guys who have been traveling for a year. It was pretty amusing swapping stories of our drunk travels and even just listening to their experiences around the world. It was a fairly early night and the next morning Amy headed for the airport as I headed for Melaka. We had traveled for almost a week together and I was really sad to have left her.
Asia is such a foreign place.
She was good company and I hope our paths cross again.