Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mainland Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang

Dated: March 18th - 25th

After Bali, I spent about 2 weeks traveling around Malaysia. Overall, not my favorite country; nothing really stood out (food, natural beauty, culture, activities, etc.) it was all okay, and interesting to see, but for me, I wouldn't go back. 

Kuala Lumpur: 

I'm not a big city person, so I didn't spend much time in KL, just long enough to see a few things, try the food and catch my bus to Melaka. 

I don't even know why I bother going to big cities, the first thing I always do is find a green space and chill out there. 

I went to the botanical gardens, and got a nice view of the tower

Next day I went to Melaka, a cute town on the west coast, with a nice Chinatown and (supposedly) good food. 

I rented a bike and meandered around the old town. It seems that all Malaysian towns follow the same pattern: Chinatown, Little India, and a shopping district with strip malls and western stores. 

Chinatown was cute and I tried the local specialty, Laksa, a coconut milk curry with noodles, fish and seafood. Good, but not spectacular. 

Found some nice deity statues and good flowers for my altar 

and Melaka does have the most pimped out rikshaws

The coolest park of Melaka was the guesthouse I stayed in: Emily Traveler's Home

sitting area

jungle shower


It had a very homey, community feel (I was introduced to everyone staying there within 5 minutes of arriving) and my first night we had a barbeque all together using the (amazing) table/barbeque that the owners (two cool brothers) had made. 

It's a stone and wood table that turns into a grill! so cool!


Penang is famous for it's fusion cuisine and culture, mixing Chinese, Indian, and local Malay flavors.

I found this not to be the case. I found that the cultures (and food) were very segregated; each had it's own area of town, very separate from the others. 

I think the segregation leads to a feeling of disharmony in the country. Overall, I felt a bit ill at ease in Malaysia; it distinctly lacked the feeling of community and harmony that I felt in Bali and Thailand. 

There's a lot to be said for multiculturalism, and I grew up thinking that was the best way for a country to be (this is sort of assumed in Canada) but I'm beginning to appreciate the peaceful sense of calm that seems to come from having a single cohesive culture/religion in a country.

As elsewhere in Malaysia, there was a "modern" part of town, where I felt like I could have been in suburban Miami: big boulevards, half-hearted landscaping with palm trees, lots of concrete, subdivisions, and strip malls with western stores (Starbucks, Borders, Toys'R'Us, etc.) - lame.

I stayed in Chinatown at this dingy (but so cheap!) guesthouse where the (very large) Indian owner decided he loved me (buying me food, flowers, tea...) and that he needed to bless me (by touching my face and hugging me and massaging my shoulders) several times a day... awkward? yes

I thought Penang was pretty ugly, concrete-y, and uninteresting , and the food not so great. I ate Indian most of the time, and it was okay.

Oh well. There was a cool temple (whoa, haven't seen one of those before...) 

and a big hill you could take a funicular up and was supposed to be "nature" but was totally paved and boring though it had a nice view

and a cool Hindu temple

There were two cool "touristy" things about the Penang area:

Butterfly Garden (outside of Penang):

feeding on a vanilla plant

mirror image

for my mom

and Batu Ferringhi, a beach (also not in Penang..haha)

Maybe I was just spoiled by Bali... ;)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Updated Plan

Posts about travels in Malaysia and Southern Thailand will be forthcoming, not to mention lots of juicy thoughts and analyzations of things, but for now I just wanted to let y'all know where I'm at (now was that good grammar or what?).

So it turns out, that in order to travel, you need time, and you need money, and I don't have much left of either.

So I've decided to go home! On May 3rd (wow that's soon!) :)/:(

My mom hooked me when she said there was jasmine & gardenias blooming outside my bedroom window and that I could cook whatever I wanted when I got home. 

It didn't hurt that my visa runs out on the 1st, and every day I overstay costs me about $15... or that it's getting really freaking hot here... or that I have very little money to sustain myself, and living with family is free (even if America is stupidly expensive compared to Asia).

On the subject of not having money, you'll notice that the updated plan differs from the original in that I am not longer going to Laos or Cambodia. Yes, that would cost money... haha but also it is already April 20th, and I realized through my Malaysian travels, that I tend to go too fast, try to fit too many things in (in life and in travel), and I keep getting messages from the universe to slow down. I'll get to those countries another sunny day.

So I have decided to just really spend some good time in Florida adjusting back to life in the West, spend time with people in Gainesville (I'll be there around the 14thish, get ready for some serious dinner parties!) and then make my leisurely way up to Guelph and then Muskoka (with a pitstop in Toronto - Padg, and maybe even Monteal - Sandy!).

So there you have it. I am sad to be leaving Thailand, and as I just made the decision and bought the ticket today (ahh!) it feels very soon, but at the same time it feels right

I have taken advantage of so much here, and done an admirable job at not taking my life here for granted, so I leave with no regrets, just lots of lessons and memories and love for the people and places here. 

Can't wait to reconnect with those of you I'll be seeing soon! Get ready for stories, pictures and food sharing. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bali Beautiful

March 4 - 18th

At the end of my 2nd semester in Chiang Mai, I traveled with a group of Wild Rose friends to Bali for a little vacation and the beginning of some traveling for me.


I traveled mostly with Chris, my friend/adopted big brother (we got so sick of everyone asking if we were on our honeymoon and saying "no, we're just friends" that we started to tell people we were brother and sister) and we started our trip in yoga/health food/massage paradise Ubud.

We stayed in a beautiful bungalow called
Kunang Kunang (firefly) and the staff were wonderful, everyday our room was blessed with a flower incense offering (these are everywhere)

we had a big balcony and that we did yoga on in the morning, gazing out onto this view

Ubud is beautiful, with temples on every other corner, and flowers everywhere

We hung out a lot at Kafe, Yoga Barn, Bali Buddha and Little K, drinking
fresh juices great local coffee, delicious local organic vegetables, and eating amazing raw desserts. Through a friend I met Leah Rinaldi (raw food chef and trainer) and chatted with her about the raw food diet and have become really interested in it, I plan to do some experimenting this summer.

We also sampled some local food, amazing sate (charcoal grilled meat sticks with peanut sauce), as well as this

which is rice flour cake puffs with a sweet soy sauce and coconut on top, yum! and this bubur ayam, a savory chicken and rice soup... love Balinese food.

Overall Ubud had a great vibe and I would love to go back.

Road Trip:

After about a week in Ubud, Chris and I rented a motorbike and headed North through the mountains.

We had heard Lovina was nice so we drove there.

The drive was gorgoeous, up through the hills past
rice terraces, stopping for durian on the way, riding past monkeys on the side of the road.

When we reached the top, we just turned off the engine and coasted down to the ocean for about an hour stopping for rambutan on the way.

Very peaceful.

Whoever said Lovina was nice was wrong! The first guesthouse we looked at, we wandered down to the beach and saw a
dog carcass floating along in the water. Needless to say, we didn't stay there. We stayed in Lovina for one night, and left as soon as possible.

There were some nice hot springs nearby though, so we went to visit those,
then we drove east along a beautiful coastal road, stopping at a temple on the way

The road was incredibly bumpy and the suspension on "Seabreeze" our motorbike was
shot, so every hole we went over sent pain shooting up my spine into my skull.

laughed at me when I asked him to slow down (like a good big brother) until finally I yelled at him to pull over right NOW, or when he finally did I would beat the crap out of him.

He did and I stormed off to relax and stetch for a few minutes and by the time I came back he had talked to a local girl and found out about Gaia Oasis, and so we drove down the little pathway to the beach.


We stumbled upon paradise...

unresort (technically a resort, but with none of the stuffy, snobby feel of one - built by a group of people who felt a good energy in the place and wanted to create a resort where people could do yoga retreats and the like). When we arrived they said they were full, and we walked around, feeling the good energy of the place.

As we were about to leave, the manager came up to us and said they did have one place available, he had just been told the broken water pump was finally fixed.

We got to stay in this beautiful 3-story
house, the walls on three sides were full windows that opened completely, and we were seconds from the beach.

We had a kitchen where we cooked fresh fish and squid that we bought from fisherman who pulled up on our beach every morning and evening.

We planned to stay only one night, as a whole house is a bit expensive... but we just couldn't leave and stayed for 4 days.

When we finally tore ourselves away, we followed a beautiful road along the east coast

every child we passed ran out to give us a high five (seabreeze didn't take the hills too fast)

and we made our way back to Ubud for a few more days.

You shouldn't be surprised to see me living in Bali for a while sometime soon... :)

Bali Travel Tips:

a few people have asked for this, so I'll post some suggestions here, but this will probably only be of reading interest for those actually going to Bali.

First of all, don't go to
Kuta (sleezy, dirty, party beach), and don't go to Lovina (dirty, run-down, overflowing with touts) I would basically do what I did.

Go to
Ubud for a while, do some yoga at the yoga barn (they also have movie nights and philosophers chats), eat at Kafe (make sure to try the Raw Key Lime Pie and Raw Carrot Cake) and Bali Buddha (their oatmeal cookies are great and lots of good shakes) I actually prefer the vibe of Little K (underneath, behind the yoga barn) better, and you should try the raw lasagna, plus they have amazing yoghurt and honey.

For local food, there are lots of warungs (little restaurants), but just go up to the main road and drive towards the statue, there'll be plenty of
sate places, and definitely try sate lilit (fish and coconut and spices).

For the
bali cakes and bubur ayam above, go to the main road, and take the road north that's by the big temple (this will make sense once you get your bearings in ubud). We drove for about 10 minutes and found this lady on the right side of the road. She's got good coffee too.

massage, there's a good place just down from Kafe, with water in the windows, they do a great foot massage, but there are tons of places, ask for recommendations from local expats.
BoldFor batik, I found that most of the souvernir shops on Jl. Hanoman (where Kafe and most stuff is), import everything from Java and I didn't like the dark colors and designs. There was a place just up from Bali Buddha on the main road that had really bright, happy colors and designs, and the guy that owned the place made his own batiks actually in Ubud.

Two more palces to eat,
Sari Organic - amazing organic food, and beautiful rice paddy sunset views (it's about a 20 minute walk through the rice paddies from the main road, you can motorbike it, but the walk is beautiful!)

Warung Igelanca (on the main road just up from Bali Buddha) has really good Balinese food and great teas.

As for the rest of Bali, buy a map and rent a motorbike and just explore. I loved Tejakula, and the whole area around there is beautiful. Wasn't a big fan of Ahmed (snorkeling/diving), Candidasa (beaches) or anywhere else in the Lonely Planet.