How rad is my life that I can go for a quick jaunt to Malaysia?! I mean, really, that’s awesome.
Since we weren’t super concerned about where we were going to end up, I used my favourite search engine – FlyMeAnywhere – to find out what flights were cheap out of Korea. This engine will rank flights from your chosen airport to everywhere else based solely on price (and known availability). It’s a wonder!
A quick price comparison and we decided to go for it – Malaysia it was! A few days later and we were off.
We grabbed a domestic fight from Kuala Lumpur and headedB straightB to the Perhentian Islands by way of a small boat. According to our harried and totally incomplete research, that was the place to go for rest and relaxation if you are poor. And all told, it worked out quite well for all of those reasons and it was plenty to easy to get a taxi to take us to the ferry terminal.
We *did* find ourselves in a slight accommodation pickle initially because, though high season was officially over, it was in fact not over. And most of the places on the islands don’t take advance bookings because they don’t have internet or reliable electricity. So that makes sense. And as such we assumed it would be no big deal. And it wasn’t. Really. Unless you count spending twice our approximate budget on a hovel. I mean shack. Ok, hovel.
Don’t let the sunshine trick you. It was pretty dire. We were not put off, though! Who needs nice wooden floorboards when broken floorboards will do!? Who needs doors without holes when you can certainly just utilize the cage doors over top!? Who needs a shower without spider webs!?! Not us! Not us!
Friday morning we grabbed the early boat back to the mainland, grabbed a taxi to the airport, grabbed a plane to Kuala Lumpur, and grabbed a shuttle bus to the actual city, and a measly 8 hours later (owing to some nasty traffic into KL) we were there :).
As is becoming our travel trademark, however, we were unprepared and did not realize that it was Malaysia’s Independence Day. No we did not.
And as such, being downtown in the midst of the fray, we had not bargained for masses of people and fireworks and parades. And all of this would have been fine, too, if not for the NOISE MAKERS. Like the kind of horns at hockey games, type noise makers. Noise makers from hell. Outside of our hotel. For HOURS, literal hours, nonstop, ear-deafening noise for hours.
It’s funny now. A little. Because we are always so unprepared and unaware these days. But at the time, it was horrifying. There was no reprieve! Honk-honk-ho-ho-ho-hooooonk. Over and over. Without end. Did I mention that part yet? They did eventually, blissfully stop at about 1am and we were able to finally catch some shuteye.
Of interesting note (to me), Malaysia is myB first mostly Islamic country. As Wikipedia so helpfully supplies…”The constitution declares Islam the state religion while protecting freedom of religion.” We didn’t make it into a mosque (we weren’t dressed appropriately and our plans to return failed us), but we did see some and they were beautiful. And it was interesting to hear the calls for prayer.
Also, about 80% of Malaysian women (that’s my own estimation) wear hijab and a much smaller percent (maybe 2%) wear full burka. So that was really strange for us to see. As Jon remarked once, “it’s weird to see some young dude all decked out in name brands with a sideways hat and then, it must be his wife or maybe his sister, wearing a burka next to him”. Weird indeed. There’s also a huge Indian population in Malaysia and it was extremely common to see women dressed in wonderful, colourful saris. Actually, all of the women, regardless of ethnicity or religion (with the exception of the black burkas) were dressed really colourfully. I loved it.
The people in general struck us both as apathetic. No one smiled much or went out of their way to be friendly, but everyone was quite kind. Things were generally quite organized, reliable, and very consistent. We could bargain but we never felt we were being swindled. Cabs charged set fees that were spelled out ahead of time and consistent time and again. I mention it because it can make a huge difference when travelling to not feel swindled somewhere. Go to Malaysia, if you need a break from all that.
The next day we kicked around and had a nice time. We checked out Little India and enjoyed some street Indian food (heavenly!). We puttered through Chinatown and tried durian and jackfruit (awful!).
Durian, in case you didn’t know, is a Malaysian fruit that is renowned as the stinkiest food out there. It’s hard to even describe the smell. It took me a bit to even recognize what I was smelling repeatedly. It’s kind of like smelly feet, with a whiff of restaurant garbage. But not as pungent, more like a wafting yucky. And it’s banned from tons of Asian airports and hotels for that very reason. The Malaysians swear it tastes good (they eat it on its own and as fruit juice) but we don’t see how. It was plain disgusting, with a warm, soft, sickly texture. The jackfruit was barely any better.
We also hung out in the Central Market and shopped and got massages. We bought pashminas and checked out some Batik art and found some neat wooden postcards, of all things.
That was it! We finished our last night in Malaysia with a ginormous Indian feast – vegetarian and for less than 20 bucks. It was a fabulous break and while I would have liked more time there, it’s the kind of place (small, basically) that leaves me feeling I still got a pretty good sense of it in a week. Recommended, if not the first place I might suggest.
To get to the Perhentian Islands seems tricky from trolling the webosphere, but it’s actually really simple. If you fly into Kota Bharu, find the taxi stands inside the airport. Tell them you are going to the islands and they will help you sort everything out. You pay Malaysian Ringgit(RM)78 for the taxi each way. And you pay RM35 for the boat trip each way. Pay for the return boat trip ahead of time, but not the taxi. They will just assume this. The taxi ride is one hour to the boat jetty, then a 30 minute speedboat ride from there. And voila! Enjoy. Your hotel can help schedule a boat to pick you up when you’re ready to leave the islands.
Beer for RM7-10
Hotel for RM80+ (can be lower in low season)
30 minute taxi ride for RM55
One hour taxi ride for RM80
Street food for RM1-2
Restaurant meal for RM10+
B Malaysia is a winner, for sure, and I definitely want to go back. What did I miss in this awesome country?