asia · malaysia

You’re A Pretty Cool Country, Malaysia

Penang is one of the few places on our trip that I didn’t really know a lot about. I didn’t know what to expect from Malaysian food, I hadn’t researched much on what to do in the city, and I had no idea what the prices would be like.

I didn’t even know what the time was because I thought my phone had automatically updated – it hadn’t. One guy told us completely the wrong time, and suddenly we’d lost TWO hours instead of one.

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So we arrived on the ferry feeling a little disorientated, having made two friends on our overnight train. One had nowhere to stay and our hostel was booked out so she wandered off to find somewhere else. The other was only passing through to get to Kuala Lumpur but he had visited before, so he took us to a great place for lunch where we spent 56MYR on 3 meals and 6 drinks. That’s just over £10 between three of us.

Then we went to a “pub” he knew which sold 3 cans of beer for 10MYR.

I had expected Malaysia to be expensive – particularly on alcohol, being a Muslim country. We were sure we wouldn’t be drinking much for the rest of our time in Asia. So I was shocked at how cheap it really is!

This was also the only country we had arrived in with almost no currency, and as it turns out ATMs and currency exchanges are few and far between. However, it meant that we got to inadvertently explore the interesting colonial buildings and back streets that we soon learned to love.

That evening was a lazy one, though probably our last chance to BE lazy for a while.

Amy, the girl we met on our journey, turned up early the next morning, desperate to join our room as the hostel she had found was a disaster. Thankfully, our hostel had space AND she managed to get the last bed in our room!

We all planned our day with another girl in our room, too. We would search for all the street art and then hopefully have time to head out to the viewpoint over Penang or at least Kek Lok Si temple.

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We set off – and the street art is AWESOME. There are some on the map that we couldn’t find anywhere; others were tucked away down little alley ways, but it was all in the space of a few streets. Some were paintings, some were metal structures with snippets of heritage info – some were even entire wall murals. And the best were mash ups of paintings and real objects. But all of it was really, really cool.
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We stopped off by a temple where two other travellers wanted their picture taken – ten minutes later, we were by the swing art, and bumped into them again. It turned out they were also planning to go up to the temple, so we all decided it would be cool to go together.

It was actually a really good day. We stopped off in one of the cute cafés along Love Lane before catching our bus, and by the time we were heading out to Kek Lok Si on the edge of the city, it was going to be too late to do the tram as well.

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There are little Buddhas in each window and then tiny ones all around.

We didn’t realise how incredible Kek Lok Si was actually going to be. Even as our bus pulled up and we looked up to the huge statue and striking pagoda, we weren’t sure what to expect.

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Hobbit hole!!

And then from below, around the temples and pagodas, you can’t even see what’s ahead of you. On the funicular tram, you weigh up whether it’s worth paying the £6 return to go up.

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It’s the biggest statue I think I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s the biggest Buddhist temple in South East Asia.

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It’s also incredibly ornate and the details are astonishing. Pictures cannot show how huge this thing is.

And the views from it? Who CARES that we missed out on the tram ride to the view point?!

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That evening, we went out for dinner with the girls – and found a place that had ladies night. Free drinks for ladies until 10pm!

Whoever said drinking was expensive in Malaysia?!?

The following day, we had booked ourselves on a bus to Kuala Lumpur, where we’d only have a couple of days to explore the city – but it would be enough for what we wanted to do.

And the first thing we did when we arrived?

Had a cheeky Nando’s, of course!!

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We also checked into a box room, and it was the worst place we stayed on our whole trip. And that’s not saying much considering the actual place (Reggae Guest House Hostel) was fine and we had a private room for once, but our room was like a cupboard. There was space for the bed, our bags, and our feet – and no windows.

Which is why the next morning, we didn’t wake up until gone 10am, groggy and confused – and the weather was awful. But we’d discovered via Facebook that friends of ours from Koh Lanta were in Kuala Lumpur, so we were off to meet them for lunch!

We headed to a restaurant inside Central Market that one of them had been recommended and it looked very posh so I immediately worried about the price! This is how I travel. But it actually wasn’t too bad, and who says you can’t treat yourself once in a while? The good company alone was worth it.

Afterwards, they wanted to check out some temples and go through Little India on the way to the Petronas Towers. We quickly ducked into a temple when the rain started – and I ended up filming one of the most insane tropical thunderstorms we’ve ever seen!

When we dared to venture out again, we could hear crazy claps of thunder in the distance, and soon we had to run into a shop for cover again. Where the hell is Starbucks when you need it?!? Or any coffee shop?! ANY!?!? What is wrong with you, KL!?

Finally we made a run for it and found a café outside a shopping centre to wait for the torrents of rain to subside. And then, what felt like hours later (and probably was), we were finally on our way to the towers.

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Our friends had been recommended a place to view them at night, at the Sky Bar, and said we may have to buy a drink but they don’t always ask you to, so we agreed it was worth heading up.

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His friend was right – we sat by the window for almost an hour watching the lights get brighter and never got asked to buy anything. We left just as it got dark and parties of people started turning up, got spectacular views and pictures, and had a really nice walk back through the park to the metro station.

We missed most of the rainbow fountain display below – from above, all we could see were lights. But it didn’t matter; we hadn’t even known about that.

Our two friends had an early flight out the following morning so we couldn’t do drinks – and then naturally I had a disaster when I realised I hadn’t booked our overnight train to Singapore and it was all sold out.

We had two options – go a day later and miss a day in Singapore, or leave on a day time train and miss out the Batu Cave, making our trip through Malaysia even shorter.

The weather was supposed to be rubbish again, so I opted for the latter. If we missed a day in Singapore AND we missed out the cave, that would definitely be a raw deal.

Of course, the weather ended up being glorious. I’d forgotten to take Gulliver to the towers so I went on a little trip with him and he got a better tourist photo than us, the jammy git.

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And so my one real regret of missing out on something had finally happened, in the one place we weren’t planning to like or want to return to. And to be honest, Kuala Lumpur IS probably one of my least favourite cities that we visited. But do you know what?

I REALLY want to go back to Malaysia. We didn’t do the Cameron Highlands. We didn’t hit the Perhentian islands. We didn’t even make it to Langkawi. I’m sorry for doubting you, Malaysia. You are actually a really cool country.

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