Category Archives: kuala Lumpur

11 lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling

We’re coming towards the end of our trip (NOOOOOO) with only seven weeks left until we fly from Bangkok to Gatwick. I’ve recently become reflective and I was thinking about the things I’ve learnt and decided to write a post about it before I’m sat at home on the sofa and I’ve forgotten everything. So here it is… Eleven lessons I’ve learnt whilst travelling.

1) Trust people

99% of people are kind and helpful. As I’m writing this, nothing bad has happened to us, so TOUCH WOOD… But we’ve had so many situations where people have been like “You’re going to Hiroshima? You’re on the wrong train! Get off quick!”
There was that time where we hitch-hiked in New Zealand and we’ve stayed in people’s houses we’ve never met before. When somebody says “I need to take your passport down to road to get your boat ticket,” just give them the passport!

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2) At the same time, be sensible and look after yourself

It’s important to look after your valuables, keep your wits about you and if you end up wandering around somewhere dodgy-looking at 3am, just get a taxi!

3) If someone invites you to do something, say yes

When someone I’ve just met asks me “do you want to play a drinking game?” Or “would you like to have dinner with me and my family?” My inner introvert panics at the thought of an impeding awkward situation and my instinct is always to make some kind of excuse. But I’ve learnt that you should always say yes, and good experiences always come out of it.

You’ll meet some amazing people who are equally as poor as you, and you’ll end up having a Box/chicken party It’s cheap!

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4) You’ll have crazy highs and a couple of crazy lows
Sometimes travelling feels like you’re in a happy musical. (No really, I literally twirled around and cried with happiness in New York and screamed when we saw the Hollywood sign.) And to balance life out, you’ll spend a few hours crying on the toilet because you’re so ill, and you’ll scream “what am I doing with my life??!!” in torrential downpour wondering why you’ve found yourself at the top of a slippy ladder in a pear tree.

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5) A smile goes a long way
There are places in the world where you’ll get hassled a lot. When it’s hot and you’ve got your backpack on it’s easy to get your feathers ruffled and want to yell “bugger off, I’ve been walking for half an hour and I can’t find my hostel!!!!!!” But I’ve learnt that to smile and say “no thank you” is the best way around it, and you won’t feel as stressed.

5) Living out of a bag gives you perspective about things
I’ve never been particularly materialistic and I’ve always preferred a good book over shoes, but living out of a 65litre rucksack for ten months gives you a good perspective on the stuff you don’t need. It took me a month or so to relearn what my face looks like without make up, but think I’m actually happier with less stuff. I feel calmer and less cluttered. Okay, so I totally didn’t have a meltdown when my favourite dress got a stain on it…. But yeah. Less is more when it comes to backpacking. Oh, and Kindles are one of the BEST things in the entire world. (That’s a sentence I never thought I’d say)

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6) You’ll also get perspective on stress an it’s effect on the body
Of all the places I’ve been, the ones with the fastest pace of life and visibly stressed people are America, Japan, and the good old United Kingdom. I honestly think we all work far too hard to save money for holidays and stuff we don’t need so we can forget about the rubbish climate. (Massive generalisation…I know. Maybe I’m just a summer person.)
When we’d been travelling for around a month, I felt the muscles in my jaw loosening. My eczema that I’ve had nearly all my life has completely disappeared and those paralysing migraines I get about once every six weeks? Well guess how many I’ve had in eight months?… One.
I’m not writing this to make anyone jealous, but as a reminder to my future self that stress is terrible for me, and I need to work on staying chilled. When I’ve figured out how to do that one I’ll let you know!

7) Travelling will change you in ways you don’t expect

Those of you who know me will know that I’m fairly easy-going but I am also a big worrier. I’m a little bit more relaxed now, mainly about travel situations. For example, I no longer check my passport a million times before boarding a plane. And if someone doesn’t give me my change straight away, I can just wait, knowing they’ll get it to me. I’m a more patient now, and less easily flustered.

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8) But mostly, you’ll stay the same.
I have chronic insomnia. I thought travelling would cure me, and dorm rooms would be a kind of therapy and I’d come home with the ability to sleep anywhere. Well, the truth is I still can’t sleep anywhere! I thoroughly believe there is a special place in hell reserved for people who snore and have sex in dorm rooms. Dorm rooms are my own kind of personal hell actually. One of the main things I miss about home is that I can get up and roam the house and play with my cats and make a cup of tea at anytime any hour of the night. Plus there’s always a comfy spot for me to go with my book. Whilst we’ve been away I’ve done a lot of reading on the toilet in the early hours so that I don’t wake Tom up!

9) Always go with your gut
If a person, or a situation gives you a bad feeling in your tummy, or if you find your trying to talk yourself into doing something… DON’T DO IT.

10) You will adapt to anything
When we arrived in Asia there weren’t any knives and forks. I’d used chopsticks before but found them fiddly and they made me eat incredibly slowly. Fast forward a week and I finished a plate of food and say “Oh! I didn’t even think about the chopsticks!” When we first went to Japan, the whole nude bathing thing terrified me. A week later I was strolling around naked happy as Larry.

11) push yourself, but also know your limits.
I can jump out of a plane at 15000ft

I can bungee jump off a bridge .
I will never drive a scooter/motorbike in Asia.
I will never go scuba diving.

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Never say never though. The scary things are the best challenges.

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Lumpy Koalas

Well hello from Kuala Lumpur.

In all honesty, KL is not somewhere I’d ever really thought about going before this trip. In fact, I just liked the name of the place. I didn’t even know it’s in Malaysia, or that the Petronas Towers call Kuala Lumpur their home. There we go, ignorance admitted! We knew we wanted to go to Bali, and then to Hong Kong, but the flight between the two was pretty long (about 8 hours) so we looked for somewhere to stop en route, and in stepped Kuala Lumpur!

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Our flight from Bali was delayed by an hour, so we arrived KL at 10pm instead of 9pm. We got some cash out of the machine in the airport (organised as ever) and wandered around until we could find the correct bus. The coach was playing loud orchestral/Asian music which is really hard to describe other than it was like something you’d expect to hear at Disneyland.

This wore thin after half an hour of trying to stay awake so we got off at the right place. We stumbled off the bus in the city centre and headed for the monorail. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. Up an escalator. Down an escalator. We finally found the ticket machines which were all out of order (helpful) and just decided to hop on the monorail. (We didn’t have to pay in the end) Sometimes I fantasise about just getting a taxi but alas, we’re on a budget. Besides, the monorail was pretty cool.

We got off in what felt like New York’s time square, but a very grotty version. We knew our hostel was next to the Macdonalds. We could see the Macdonalds but there were roadworks everywhere and the roads were so busy it took us forever to get across. When we arrived, I was in a foul mood. Hot, knees and back knackered from all the stairs with my backpack on, and I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime. It was gone midnight, and those of you who know what I’m like when I’m hungry will know we were in very dangerous territory. I could barely speak I was so over it all, but the hostel staff were so kind and funny that they actually cheered me up. We had a Macdonalds and then went to bed. (Not exactly Malaysian but I was in no state to find somewhere more local!)

After a big sleep, I was more human the next day and ready for some exploring. We walked around a few huge shopping malls which were really high end and full of shops like Gucci etc. We then went to the cheap mall by our hostel because we knew there was a post office there. I collected a box and then we went back to fill it up.

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I decided to send home my camera (God knows why I thought packing two cameras was a good idea, it’s literally just been taking up room in my backpack for six months) I also sent home the clothes I’d bought, and bits of paper and my Hawaiian solar powered hula girl. I won’t be needing her until I get home. It cost about thirty quid to post but I really don’t care haha!

Walking around I had the weird sensation that everyone was staring at me. At first I thought it was just paranoia, but they really were staring…. It took me a little while to realise that my shorts (not teeny tiny, but because I’m tall, all shorts provide a lot of leg action for me.) were actually a bit of a cultural faux pas. Like Morocco, Malaysia is quite an Islamic country and its wise to dress modestly. I put some trousers on and felt a lot hotter, but less like I was offending anyone. Phew.

We then went to a food court for lunch and after a bit of deliberation and mind boggling (raw fish porridge anyone, or perhaps a salty egg porridge, or a fried trotter?) we went for some safe ish Thai noodles. They came to about £1.20 a bowl. I’m still really enjoying cheap food. It’s insane. The hostels don’t really seem to have kitchens in Asia and eating out is actually cheaper than our New Zealand favourite of crisps for lunch.

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That evening we headed on the walkway to the park under the Petronas Towers. It was really cool to see them light up at night. I’d always thought that the towers were the biggest in the world (I remember learning about it at school) but in fact they’re just the tallest twin towers. That big spire thing in Dubai is almost twice the height. I hope to see it one day. It must be bloody massive. I hurt my neck looking at the Petronas towers!

 

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We headed back and out to the famous “food street” for dinner. Basically it’s a load of restaurants whose tables and chairs are out in the street. The waiters really scrabble to get you to come into their restaurant so it can get a bit hectic. After one trip down the road and briefly considering a frog porridge (I’m not joking) we settled for a safe Chinese restaurant and had very safe sweet and sour chicken with spring rolls. I didn’t take the chopsticks offered… I was also offered a Guiness which was considerate, but hilarious.

There was one moment when my inappropriate laughter got the better of me once again…A busker was walking around the restaurant singing to people down a microphone. The speaker was held by his friend who he pushed around in his wheelchair. So bad to laugh but I nearly choked because it was getting a bit Little Britain… I’m going to hell.

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The following day we went on the hunt for the “Times Square” shopping mall because we’d heard it was so huge that there’s a roller coaster inside. We saw the roller coaster. We didn’t buy anything…. Tom was delighted to discover that Krispy Kreme donuts work out at less than 50p. I had a smoothie because I felt in dire need of some nutrients. Then we had lunch…

Here in Kuala Lumpur, lots of the restaurants have plastic models of the dishes (which fascinate me!) so you can see what you’re ordering. This makes it a lot easier for foreigners. We found a nice looking model of some noodles, pointed to it and paid then sat down. Then our food was plonked in front of us and it was nothing like the example. It was basically a thick black soup with an inch of oil on top of it and a few noodles floating about. Oh, and a raw egg. Luckily it came to about a quid each so we saw the funny side and politely poked a bit of it down then left. I needed the toilet but there were no western toilets… Just the hole in the ground job popular with French service stations. No toilet roll either. Arghh. Too much info dear reader? Well I didn’t want you getting the impression that travel is all glitz and glammer!

We scurried back and used I the toilet at the hostel then headed out for our pre-booked trip up the Petronas towers. We were packed like sardines into a lift with about forty other people. Small spaces with people I don’t know really make me panic, so I did some deep breathing until we arrived on the viewing floor. It was really cool! Not much to say other than it was an ace view and a really beautiful building.

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Good to see the towers up close.
We then headed to a bar at the top of one of the hotels called the “Sky Bar” where the folk from our hostel were heading for a night out. It was probably one of the poshest bars I’ve ever been in and I felt like a total frump in my elephant trousers and saggy vest. I basically looked like I was in my pajamas.

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The bar had a pool in it? And free cocktails…. Despite it seeming like a recipe for disaster, we both managed to enjoy the night without any accidental swimming.

Our final day in KL was spent avoiding the rain and trying to sort out Japan next week. Our usual approach of winging it may get us incredibly lost and confused in Japan, so we are trying to plan more thoroughly. I’m so excited to see Japan, it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. I’m especially excited to have my mind blown by Tokyo, sleep in a capsule hotel in Osaka and to stay in a temple in Koyosan.

Anyway, we’re off to Hong Kong tomorrow. Time to start researching what to do. So far on the list: see the giant Buddha and go to Disneyland!
Observations:

– it’s mainly shopping malls, food, and the Petronas towers.
– in the west we’re obsessed with having a tan. I’m guilty of this – I’m feeling so pleased with myself for being a bit brown. Here in Asia however, most of the beauty products contain ingredients that whiten the skin. In fact, the other day I needed a new deodorant stick and had to hunt for a while to find one that wasn’t “whitening.” (I didn’t really fancy glowing pits…) you also see a lot of people with arms and legs completely covered up, wearing hats, sunglasses and carrying sun umbrellas. Probably wise because the sun is so strong here, but it’s definitely also an image thing.

– we’ve struggled to find Malaysian food! We’ve eaten Macdonalds (hehee) Thai, Chinese, Portuguese (!) and middle eastern.

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Until next time…

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