Semengogg Orangutans & Jongs crocodile farm, two attractions worlds apart

 

We hired a tour guide to take us to Semengogg Orangutan Sanctuary and Jongs Crocodile farm for the day. He was a lovely guy, really knowledgeable about the area and told us all kinds of things that we hadn’t known before, like how everyone thinks Kuching is named after cats- even down to there being loads of cat statues throughout the city- but in fact it’s names after a Chinese words that sounds like Kuching, and the pronunciation and spelling has changed over the years.

He took us to Semengogg first, but warned us although we were going to arrive for feeding time, the animals are essentially free to roam around the huge sanctuary, so seeing them is not a certainty. He mentioned that he had taken the American Ambassadors wife there four days in a row and only in the last 15 minutes on the last day did she see 1 orangutan.

We walked down from the entrance, not really knowing what to expect and a little troubled by the rules- no pointing umbrellas or tripods as the Orangutans will think they are guns, no smoking, as one of the Orangutans was a smoker when he was in captivity, to keep a fair distance, as there are some that they have no control over and if they get upset… well..

So these Orangutans are rescued/bought from lives of captivity, mainly from Indonesia. They are used as tourist attractions or as pets until they get too big to be controlled. We saw a mother and baby as soon as we entered the first feeding area which was amazing, they were just hanging out (literally), eating some coconuts, and the baby was swinging around. It’s amazing the dexterity the baby had.

We walked a little further and saw another 4 Orangutans swinging through the trees to the platform where they were being fed. It was wonderful, but, in the middle of the jungle, even at 9am, it was extremely humid! We were both sweating buckets! After about 20 minutes we went back to the original feeding platform to see the dominant male very very close to the road.

We turned our back to walk towards another one about 20 minutes away when we got a pretty sharp warning to move, as “no-one can control that one”, we looked behind to see the dominant male about 3 metres behind us!  It was really amazing and definitely worth it to go see them.

It was only as we were leaving that our guide chose to show us the photos of all the injuries of the people who work there!! A little scary! He said that almost 100% of the injuries were due to tourists doing something silly or against the rules.

Next we were off to Jongs Crocodile farm, which was a wholly different experience.

We enter, and our guide comes in and shows us a room full of pictures on the wall of small children being cut out of Crocodiles after they had been taken. Apparently it is a pretty big problem, but only in a few very select areas in Malaysia. Either way it was very very graphic and surprising.

We went on to see a bunch of crocodiles and small animals, monkeys etc, and I admit that I am a softy but it was so run down, the animals seemed to be in tiny dirty cages and it just made me so sad. Sad enough that I kept on apologizing to each animal, and then to Ryan for doing that.

croc monkey

We went and saw the main event, which was the crocodiles being fed, which was actually really great, these crocs seems to have loads of space and were looked after pretty well and it was amazing to see the power they had to jump out of the water.

We also saw the biggest freshwater fish in the world ( GIANTS!)

We continued on down a long path which seemed deserted, there were crocodiles on every side of the very jenky walkway only about 2 metres down, we saw a small enclosure with a sad bleating goat in it ( food?!),  there was some bird shrieking above us in the jungle, we heard a gunshot.. which was when we debated continuing… was this the part in the movie when the silly tourists got eaten!?

We continued nevertheless, but the more we saw the more we wanted to leave. I looked it up, and they have been in trouble with PETA before, although it doesn’t seem (to us) that they have done much that they promised to do. There were also some crocodiles there that has terrorized villages on the island, so it was probably better they were locked up… Hopefully some things will change, and in the meantime, the crocodile in the feeding swamp were amazing to see. Such amazing creatures.

Karaoke!

Karaoke!

So, turns out we both LOVE karaoke, although I’m usually too shy to sing in front of anyone, it’s not a problem singing in front of Ryan! We were in Kuching town one day, having a look around at the waterfront

When we stumbled across a karaoke place in a shopping centre. 30 RM ( US$10) for three hours in a private karaoke room with a beer each. Umm..ok!

So we went in, bought some more beers and stayed there for 5 hours. FIVE HOURS! And we only stopped because they charged more once it got to 8pm. It was fantastic! Although the toilet situation was a little strange!-

So, we discovered that we really really like karaoke. Which is good, because we also discovered that a little karaoke bar in the market opposite our hotel. No private booths obviously, we were lead to believe that this was a very local place.

We went in one night and were welcomed SO warmly by the chick who worked there, with short purple hair and who always seemed to be sporting a superman  t-shirt. The place was pretty tiny, with about 6 tables and another 2 out the front, and there was about 8 people there the first time we went. I don’t think either of us had actually realized it was a karaoke bar- yet.

We sat back with our bucket of beers and were talking amongst ourselves when I realized that the song I was hearing wasn’t coming through the speakers but from the man standing about two metres in front of me. He had the most amazing voice, and we were stunned into silence, just watching him. It was a Chinese song so we didn’t recognize it but it was just so, so beautiful!  When he finished, we clapped; he smiled at everyone in the bar, then took his seat. A lady stood up, and again, one of the best voices I’ve heard in real life.

It happened again and again. And then they started to come over and talk to us, although the language barrier was enhanced somewhat by the alcohol involved, we managed to communicate pretty effectively and we always ended up sharing a table.

They kept on buying us drinks, even when we tried to, at first openly, then more sneakily, buy them drinks or even pay for our own, they would catch us and shake their heads, grinning. It was amazing, the friendliness, the singing ability, it all came together to make quite a surreal experience.

We went again, of course, and it all happened again, more amazing singing, more drinks bought for us ( in fact we never got below half a glass before someone realized and opened a new beer to fill it up- we had to do all kinds of sneaky things to be able to finish a drink to be able to leave!) and more open friendliness.

They even ( with Ryan’s help ) got me to sing! They put Titanic on and gave me the microphone and I had to sing. And you know what? I loved it.  So. Karaoke, fun. And a fantastic way to make friends with the local people in Kuching!

Next up: Orangutans at Semengogg

Massages, no pain no gain?!

 

So, massages are super sweet right? South East Asia is pretty well known for cheap relaxing massages and we were both looking forward to this! I have had a few, mainly in Thailand or as gifts in Australia and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Or at least I thought I did. For a while there recently I was questioning everything I knew about massages, my pain threshold and maybe my bones and muscles were different to everyone else’s?

First up, there was about three massage parlours in our little market place across from our hotel, they were open until midnight and cost $15 each for an hour. Pretty good. We had images of ourselves lying in pleasure whilst someone drove all the kinks out of our backs.

Well, they tried to drive something out of our backs. The girls were perfectly nice- they didn’t speak any English but smiled a lot. Maybe because they’re sadists, because from the second my little tiny Malaysian girl started my massage I was almost crying in pain and came out with what would become huge bruises across my shoulder blades and spotty bruises across my lower back.

I stayed the whole hour because, well, I’m polite and didn’t want to upset anyone and also thought that maybe I was just a giant pussy. Ryan was in a room over and I could hear him getting pummeled, and he didn’t enjoy his either. It was not, to say the least, relaxing. So I looked up the best place to get a massage in Kuching. It was a posh-ish place in town, they gave us tea when we came in, gave us a room together, and there was soft music and it was lovely.

Until they started. I told my masseuse to please use less intense pressure, which she misunderstood as more pressure until my body was literally curling up in weird positions from pain and she used less pressure. Still not relaxing. Still painful. Were we too weak for Malaysian massages? We tried once more, sure that it was our own fault, that same day, and we left halfway through.

Too weak for Malaysian Massage!

We have since had foot massages in Thailand, and ( apart from being cheaper at about $6/hour) Ryan still can’t stand them, but I think either my feet are stronger than my body or they’re slightly more gentle over here? Because I love it.

I tried to look up to see if there was any difference between Thai and Malaysian massage techniques and couldn’t find anything, only that whenever I read about them using pressure points my body shivered in fear….

But we will not give up! I am adamant that I will find a massage that Ryan and myself both will enjoy and love and so that Ryan can understand why they can be so nice!!!!  Not such a hard quest!

Kuching!

 

kuchingStarted off the day in Chinatown, having some satay before catching a cab to the airport. For our flight to Kuching.

Kuching is a city located in the Malaysian province of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. A lot of people go there as a base for trekking the jungles near there, or to volunteer at the Orangutan Sanctuaries near there, but that was not our plan for this time.

So why Kuching this time? Well, turns out that there is a very cheap Four Points Sheraton at the airport there, and in order to become a platinum member with SPG, we just had to stay there for like… 14 nights. A really big fairly new hotel pretty close to the airport, and a 15 minute cab/shuttle ride to the city.

kuchingsheraton

We had to get a new stamp on arrival, because Malaysian Borneo has it’s own immigration processes (does that means it counts as a new country?!), there was the same taxi coupon deal at the airport, everything was super easy, and we got upgraded once we got to the hotel to a junior suite which was a really really nice room.

Our plan for this time was to catch up on a lot of work that had perhaps fallen by the wayside in the last week or so, to quietly soak up some culture, and to see a few local attractions. And I think we did pretty well!

There was a marketplace right across the road from us with massage parlours, little convenience stores, and a bustling open air food market called Siang Siang food court which served delicious cheap meals ( around $2) that were very traditional, and a selection of other restaurants and small poky bars.

We loved it. It was the type of place where we would get stared at when we walked around, but everyone was more than friendly ( wait for the karaoke stories!) and most people we talked to spoke English pretty well.

We were surprised when we went into Kuching for the first time at the amount of western tourists we saw, as we hadn’t seen any for the four or five days we had just been staying at the hotel and visiting our market.

The area began to get a very homey feel to it.  We knew the people who ran each convenience store, we had our favourite stalls in the food court, we had friends at our local karaoke bar, and we had the hotel staff that knew us. It was a really nice feeling.

We had breakfast included in the deal, which was a buffet that included eggs and chicken sausage ( but not bacon or pork sausage because they only served Halal food) hash browns and toast, and a large selection of more traditional Malaysian and Sarawak foods including Sarawak laksa ( I found it delicious, if a bit spicy, Ryan not so much),  Kolo Mee which is yellow noodles with broth and prawns, vermicelli noodles with chicken broth and prawns,  Roti Canai, Fish/chicken porridge ( which is made with rice and is very comforting) and Beef Rendang.

To be honest, after the first two mornings, we learnt to get over our ‘it’s free!’ ‘It’s traditional food that we have to try!’ excitement and tried to only eat a proportionally normal sized breakfast!

There was an infinity pool just outside the restaurant that we would go to do laps and we would try to read the local newspaper every morning, although we did notice that the type of newspaper given to us was selected on the basis of which one had less concerning news regarding the violence in Sabah province particularly.

We had an absolutely amazing time in Kuching, and over the next couple of days I’ll try to outline some of the hilarious, painful, memorable and beautiful highlights of our time there.

Next up- Massages! No pain no gain??

The Marina Bay Sands & Casino

 

This building is amazing. Like something you think you saw in a dream once. A dream about the future. Or the Sims.  Within, you will find the worlds biggest atrium casino, a mall filled with all kinds of super pricey fare,  a museum, two theatres, seven celebrity chef run restaurants,  nightclubs, and an ice skating rink. And a hotel. A very expensive hotel.

On top of the building is the Skypark, and in that skypark is the worlds longest elevated swimming pool ( they’re big on world records here apparently). This is a vanishing swimming pool 191 metres above the ground. It’s amazing. I think. We didn’t actually see it, because you have to pay $20 each just to go up to the Skypark, or $50 to eat at one of the restaurants up there, but you have to be a hotel guest to swim in the pool. Next time, right?

This was our last day in Singapore and we didn’t have a lot of cash left, so, sitting in Chinatown having a beer, we decided that we wouldn’t spend any more money, or get any more out… but we would try our luck at the casino.  Which is what we did. We made our way to the Marina Bay Sands, marveled at the outside for a while, got lost in the huge glitzy shopping centre for a while, then found the casino.

Visitors to the casino get in for free but residents have to pay $100 for a day’s entry (rough! And a little intimidating to realize the people you will be gambling next to probably have a lot more of a disposable cash than you!)

We started with $15 Singapore dollars ($12.07 USD) and put $5 on black at a roulette table. Red. Dammit. It looked like our Time in the casino was destined to be short and nor particularly fruitful.

But! Then we moved to the craps table. I never really bothered to try and understand craps, but when you start winning… well I bothered a little bit then. Cos we did, win. At the highpoint, we were each up about $140 from that initial $10, and we left with $200 after about an hour of play. STOKED!

We went to the food court to celebrate and ate some amaaazing food, and then wandered over to the Gardens By The Bay, which is a super impressive park with huge artificial trees and beautiful gardens. Just another visual treat that Singapore has given us.

Next stop- flying to Kuching, Borneo!

Sentosa Island

For breakfast we went to a local little café near our hostel that was recommended for the type of food Roti Canai which Ryan really wanted to try- a thin flatbread type of thing that can be made with cheese… We had it with some kind of meat dish that was waaaaaay too spicy for me!

We then took a cab to Sentosa Island, the flashy island resort that is home to luxury hotels, some beaches, universal studios among other things on reclaimed land about 15 minutes from the city centre.

We had decided to go to the S.E.A Aquarium which is the worlds largest and were pretty excited about it. When we got in, we got to hand feed and pat all kinds of stingrays and fish which was really fun,

and there was a pretty cool moving walkway surrounded by lots of different fish- but as we got to the end, a dolphin pool filled with very cheeky attention seeking dolphins;

We realized that we were totally at the wrong place. Haha. We had been taken to a different aquarium- The Underwater World by the taxi driver and had just walked in without thinking ( what dummies!). While we had enjoyed it, we still wanted to go to the new big one, so we got the bus over to the SEA aquarium.

Brand new, a little confusing at first, but the quality of the aquariums and the size of the tanks was astounding!! There was one tank that took up one side of a giant room and you could just sit there for hours watching all the different fish. It was magical.

That night we went to a food market called Lau Pa Sat that was fantastic. It’s open 24 hours a day but the stalls out the back are mostly only open at night from what we were lead to believe.

We went to those stalls to get some cheap and delicious satay and then sat and drank some beers outside for hours enjoying the smoky, hot, loud, and busy atmosphere.  Perfect.

Next: Chinatown, Marina Sands and Craps, and Gardens By The Bay

Welcome to Singapore!

To be honest, Singapore was the part of our trip that I was looking forward to the least, and I’m not even totally sure if I could explain to you why, except that I had heard that everything there was prohibitively expensive. We had three days there and were staying in a hostel in the middle of the city ( Starwood properties here are prohibitively expensive points wise!).

As soon as we arrived at Singapore’s famous Changi airport however, I started to feel differently about our upcoming stay here. The airport certainly is very nice, the most impressive part for me being the various sculptures and moving art placed around the place, the type of stuff you could stare at for ages.

The taxi ride started off next to a beautiful landscaped park next to the port ( one of the 5 biggest in the world!!) , passed through the streets used for the Singapore F1 track ( and recognizable from the PlayStation game) and continued on to the most instantly impressive modern city I think I’ve ever been in.

I know that’s a really big call, and is perhaps swayed by the fact that I wasn’t fully expecting it, but the architecture here is amazing. Almost every building has something unique, different and nothing like you’ve seen before.

After we settled in to our hostel, we set off to walk around along the river and the bay. The star of the show is the Marina Sands building ( s?), but the whole city is beautiful, and they excel at what I love to see in cities- the integration of natural water sources, architecture and culture.

The waterfronts are lined with all kinds of different restaurants, café’s and bars, with the focus on the views of the water, the lighting and the atmosphere. There are old buildings mixed in with the new that look remarkably well looked after and parks are dotted here and there.

We walked all, got drenched by absolutely pouring rain  whilst taking pictures of the Merlion, 

a famous statue which means that everyone is welcome here, and eventually listened to the grumbling in our stomachs.

We ate dinner at a row of restaurants called Boat Quay- taken in by the live seafood and drink specials that I think a lot of tourists fall for. We had a wonderful ( and very romantic) dinner here for a pretty good mid range price but if you eat here you have to be really careful as the prices can be pretty misleading-  for example they will have a meal priced at say $10, but in small writing underneath, it will explain that that is $10 per 100g, and the minimum order if 500g.

We walked to Clarke Quay after this, a bar/club type area, before heading to Chinatown. We saw some people drinking some beers on the street, which apparently is legal, so we followed suit, after asking about 5 different people if it was ok to do! Breaking the law seems quite easy to do in Singapore- buying gum, spitting etc- and the consequences are not what you’d be wanting as part of your holiday!

But most of the people we asked about the beer just laughed at us and said of course it is ok, you are tourists, you drink beer! ( not sure if that’s the stereotype I want to reinforce but hey…)

Next: Sentosa: Asia’s favourite playground and the day we met lots of fish!

Jetstar flight to Singapore

So, a couple of months ago we saw a deal on ozbargains.com for Jetstar- free flights from KL to Singapore. Totally free! (except we ended up paying $15 for checked baggage).

We duly got four flights for both of us, because our plans were in no way set in cement.  Others no doubt did the same because when we ended up taking the flight it was practically empty! It is a budget airline but there was nothing at all bad about the flight, it was on time, comfortable and the service was great.

No idea why Jetstar decided to offer this apparently one off  slate of free flights but it just goes to show that it pays to keep up with deals websites like ozbargains.com etc!

Next few days in KL

 

The next few days in KL were taken up by walking the streets, taking the super easy train system to shopping centres, eating incredibly tasty and cheap food, and relaxing into the fact that yes, we were travelling, but we were also on holiday!  ( cue swimming with cocktails, long baths,  watching movies in bed etc )

Next stop: Singapore!

Petronas towers

 

We caught the train from KL Sentral into the Golden Triangle, and like other places in South East Asia, they use small round plastic tokens instead of train tickets which is a novelty at first…

A novelty until your boyfriend is playing with his token on the escalator after we gets off the train and it flies into the purse belonging to the lady in front of you and an awkward conversation in broken English ensues…

The Petronas towers are really impressive. The tallest buildings in the world from 1998-2004, totally sparkly and grand and intimidating. There was a huge storm when we arrived which no doubt enhanced the atmosphere. We joined a few other tourists taking photos before some fancy person was arriving at the towers so we got asked to move on by the guards.

We wandered into the shopping centre right next door (which was really fancy as well) and had some food in the food court. Food court rules are that the goal is to get the most unknown and unrecognizable food you can (and hope to god it’s not super spicy!)

Even though we were in a fancy shopping centre food court, it was still cheap, two meals for about $6 with drinks. I got some kind of super tasty hot plate prawn dish and Ryan got a delicious rice dish. ( He’s so happy about the abundance of rice dishes over here it’s ridiculous).

We walked around for a while before catching the train back to the hotel, cooling off from the heat in the pool and ordering some cocktails from the bar. Not a bad day!!

Le Meridien + Chinatown

Is this a hotel blog?  First official day in KL and we wake up after such a good night’s sleep. In. Sleep in. We check out, and go to our other hotel, our base for the next 4 nights the Le Meridien.

Short taxi ride over, with a small stop in the entrance to the driveway to have our taxi checked for bombs ( that’s new ), we check in and are taken to our room. Ryan is a little unsure over whether we should ask to be on a higher level and goes to look at another room, but when he comes back I point out that our current room has the best pool-people watching opportunities. Done deal!

Le Meridien is a little bit out of the centre of KL but actually in a fantastic location, just opposite the transit station ‘KL Sentral’, which not only means that you are essentially a short and easy ride to most places in KL but also that you have a shopping centre at your disposal… if one might need such things…

The hotel itself is not as opulent as the Sheraton Imperial, fashioned a little more for the businessy type I think, but still really lovely. We were on the 9th level and our room had a huge window facing the (amazing) pool, and another huge window beside the bathtub which was awesome.  Rainforest showerhead as well as normal showerhead, lots of those excellent little shampoos and conditioners, little desk, etc.

First things first? China Town! We catch the train into China Town and wonder around some shops, I buy some awesome earrings for $4 ( nice) , which gets my one-piece-of-jewellery-from-each-country task done with early.

We find the big markets, wander around, amused by the dvd stalls( who still uses DVD’s?) and the lady that drags her cart around  yelling ‘YELLOWYELLOWYELLOWYELLOWYELLOW’. Still miffed I didn’t go buy something for her, just so I could at least find out what was so yellow.

We sat down on a pathside café and ordered some jugs of beer, watched the handbag sellers ( I restrained myself admirably ) and the teams of people walking past us. We ended up attracting quite a backpacker crew to our little (empty before we sat down) café, lots of quiet nods and quick smiles between us, before we moved on just down the road to a stall of everything you could ever think of and lots of things you’ve never heard of on a stick.

We picked some sticks, was given back one stick which was very confusing, then lead to a table where some gentlemen were trying to string up a extension lead to an umbrella in a funny yet might be quite dangerous way. We sat down, and, as there was a pot of steaming water in the middle of the table, we dunked our one leftover stick in that.

Everything was delicious!

On the way back to the train station, we got caught up in a mini parade of those guys in big dragon costumes, presumably celebrating the end of Chinese New Year. We thought it was pretty awesome as they danced, until they started lighting the firecrackers they had laid very very close to us. Silly westerners.

Next- More adventures in KL!

The Sheraton Imperial

sheraton

First stop in Kuala Lumpur was our hotel for the first night- The Sheraton Imperial, which was located in the Golden Triangle ( Middle of KL).

It was about 9pm and the hotel was buzzing, lots of guests and lots of staff who assumed we knew what we were doing when it came to being fancy. We didn’t, really.We kept on trying to take our own bags and open our own car doors and I stood aside for the bellman to go through the door before me, and then he was standing aside and no-one went anywhere for an awkward 30 seconds.

Once inside, it was really nice. Water fountains and soft music and lots of marble and gold and chandeliers. There was a line at reception, but another staff member noticed us waiting and was full of apologies and checked us in. As silly as we might have felt, the service was just so incredibly efficient and friendly it was a great welcome to Kuala Lumpur.

Our room was amazing. First thing you see when you walk in is the floor to ceiling windows opposite the entry, with a beautiful view of the Petronas towers lit up against the night.  We had a king bed, huge bath, rainforest shower ( oh my god how can I ever shower in a normal shower again?) , and as a really nice extra touch, a  plate of ginger infused dark chocolate and grapes.

As soon as the bellboy left, we started jumping on the bed. Naturally. And I have to say, pretty good bounce!

We got into our robes and slippers ( of course), poured ourselves some duty free scotch and stood staring out the window eating our grapes, giggling at ourselves.

Amazing. Moments.

After a while I have to say that I got a little antsy- I think the people behind glass windows idea was getting to me.

I wanted to make sure that even though we has this amazing hotel and got to experience this luxury after a 9 hour flight and 2 hour taxi ride with only a packet of twisties between us, I didn’t want to miss out on experiencing the ‘real’ Malaysia. What a weiner. And so the learning curve begins!

So we walked down the street to a line of little restaurants and had some of the most amazing satay with rice balls I’ve ever had and sat sipping on some beers whilst people watching. Pretty happy.

We wanna go to South Korea!!

korea

So… a few days ago we bought our flights to South Korea. We did this about 6 hours before North Korea decided it didn’t want to be in a cease fire with South Korea anymore, and South Korea started talking about wiping North Korea off the face of the earth and everything got a little silly.

I say that in the most hopeful way that that is all it is. Silly.  Cos I think it’s happened before and people on both sides have gotten all stompy and then it kind of went away again for a while.

I also have discovered a very addictive website- for someone like me – breakingnews.com. It’s so addictive. I love knowing news first. I don’t know why.  But you only get headlines and sometimes those headlines are scary and sometimes I feel it’s like chicken little.  Was he the sky falling guy?

Anyway. We’re gonna keep an eye out, but if anyone has any opinion on the current North Korea/ South Korea/US sanctions/war games situation, feel free to share! J

Luxury Vs Backpackery

 

Photo

My trusty backpack is named Tommy Wonton. No idea where that name from, but it’s certainly stuck, as he and his name have been in my life for coming up to six years.

He’s been with me in difficult times ( getting lost late at night after arriving in a hilly city where I don’t speak the language as one example) and in good ( I was wearing him when I first met my boyfriend in Bulgaria, as well as so many other amazing travel moments.)

So, I wear a big, blue backpack named Tommy Wonton. But. I am not always  what most people would describe as a backpacker. I don’t want to get all pretentious and gross here, I LOVE backpacking, but travelling is a big part of my life, and I think that that means that I should try and travel all kinds of different ways, as many as I am capable of.

My brother told me great words of wisdom when I was considering going on a dreaded Contiki tour years ago. I didn’t want to do it, but I could afford it ( turns out I actually couldn’t cos all my money was stolen in Barcelona 3 days before, but that’s another story…).

I was living in Ireland at the time and my best friend was coming over from Australia and wanted to do a tour. I told my brother my concerns about group travel in general, and Contiki tours in particular and he said- “You wanna be a traveller? Then you have to experience all kinds of travel.”

Lightbulb moment.

So I went, and… it was a useful experience. I’m certainly glad I went, and now I have knowledge of that kind of travel, and I know it’s pros and it’s cons… and that I, personally, won’t do it again.

So, fast forward, and most of the travelling I have done has been backpacking, although stick in a good three month long motel 6 style road trip up the west coast of the States, a god-awful work trip and some short breaks in-between, some of them in rather nice hotels.

This trip? Well, we have a couple of hostels but mostly we’re staying in Starwood Hotels. That’s Sheraton, Le Meridien, Four Points and Westin. A little bit fancy.

Wait- really fancy. In my book anyway!

Basically, my boyfriend has a lot of super awesome points with this chain of hotels through credit cards ( We don’t really get this kind of thing in Oz yet ). And so mostly, we’re staying for free. Kind of. Not really, but that sounds better doesn’t it?

Also, we’re staying in one for a long-ass time so that we can get Platinum Status in these hotels. This means- free internet, free breakfast, at night time we get free food and drinks (Including those alcoholic ones) and sometimes we’ll get upgraded to super sweet rooms, you know, the ones you see in movies.

Yes, sometimes I do feel like I might have fallen into a weird fantasy alternative reality.

So I’m trying out the more luxurious side of travel, and I’m eager to see the differences that might come about. Is the backpacker’s stereotype of hotel people being locked behind glass windows instead of interacting with the people and understanding the culture true? Or can you have some privacy, cleanliness, a little bit of luxury and still experience the country to the best of your ability?

Can you go back and forth between luxury and backpackery with ease? Should I be brushing up on my etiquette skills? Is that what they’re called?

Ha. I’ll let you know!

Getting into KL

 

Photo: Nice view :-)

Getting out of KL airport will get simpler around May when there will be a cheap and fast train into KL, but until then you have the choice of a shuttle bus or a taxi.  Shuttle bus will cost you about 8RM each but we chose to take a taxi which cost us 22RM ( about $7).

The taxi’s at the airport use a coupon system, so you must go to the Taxi desk just before you leave the doors of the airport and buy a coupon from them, which you in turn give to the taxi driver.  This is the first time I’ve used something like this and found it incredibly in part incredibly assuring and in part a little confusing. I kept on expecting the taxi driver to ask for more money at the end of the journey, but perhaps that is most reflective on past experiences I’ve had with airport taxi drivers!

The taxi option was very scenic, Ryan got very excited about the F1 track when we drove past it, and because the LCCT is quite a ways outside of KL there was quite a lot of very very green countryside littered almost exclusively with palm trees.

Quite a ways out was a slight underestimation on our behalf, as we didn’t really take into account the traffic once we hit KL. We were super excited and kept pointing out buildings and lights etc, but then we realized that we were moving about one car length per ten minutes and both of us really needed to pee.

The taxi ride ended up taking us just over 2 hours for what we thought would be around an hour, but, even though our bladders were tested, I don’t think we would have had it any other way!

On the road again!

 

Photo: Malaysia Party Time!!!

God, I love being on the road again!

So, the only hiccough we had leaving the great land of OZ was trusting the Air Asia attendants at our gate who said that of course we could use a credit card for food on the flight. Which we couldn’t of course, so thank god for the one small packet of twisties we had to share for the 8.5 hour flight to KL.  And for the flight attendant who felt sorry for us and let us pay in coins for two cokes, which we then mixed with our secret duty free rum. Fun flight, that one.

We got into KL airport- not the main one, (KLIA), but as we were flying Ais Asia, we flew into the LCCC ( Low Cost Carrier Terminal). It was absolutely pouring outside, as well as being hot and steamy. We were given little umbrellas to get the 200 metres from the plane to the terminal but still got pretty soaked and so looked a little lost and bedraggled when we arrived into the building, without, we realized, any disembarkation form.

There were signs for visas and other people lining up in all kinds of places, but we just went and lined up in the line that looked the most like other immigration lines in other airports, d’uh.

A few other similarly lost souls asked us if we knew what we were doing… and did we have a form? We smiled and said, no, we have no idea what we’re doing either! It’s surprising how long it took me travelling to realize that a lot of the time, the travelers (or, in a wider context- people!) around you have just as little idea about what they’re doing or what’s going on around them as you do. And what a relaxing thought that is!

While we were waiting in what we thought was the immigration line, we were discussing how crazy/interesting/frustrating it would be as part of your everyday working life to speak to a lot of people who don’t speak your language, or any other language other than their own very well. Turns out, here it didn’t matter. We walked up, showed the nice lady our passport, she scanned it and stamped it. Out the door and welcome to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia*!

 

  • Country number 48 OR 49 if we’re counting. And we are! 50 countries before I’m 30, yo!

On Holiday

So, it’s been a while, huh? Well, sorry ‘bout that, it’s just because I’ve been doing a lot of napping and swimming and having baths and getting beaten up by teeny little Malaysian women! I am on holiday after all J  And what a holiday so far!! It’s been brilliant, and I’m just about to upload some photos and some new up to date blog entries so you can all see why!

 

Happy Reading J

New Blog!

Hi! This is my first post! Just a quicky- currently putting the final touches on a query letter for a certain Australian agent, and planning our ( myself and my boyfriend Ryan) next trip- we leave on the 21st, first stop Kuala Lumpur!! I’ll let you know more about our plans shortly ( suspenseful Cons…) xxxx