7 – 8 May, 2010
Prior to leaving the United States, we spent countless hours on the internet mapping out potential routes for our trip. Although this was a tedious process, we quickly learned we could sometimes save a lot of money by flying a little bit out of our way. While taking a detour to save a few bucks isn’t always the best decision, it sometimes ends up working out well because it allows you to see someplace that you might never have considered visiting. This is how we ended up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By foregoing the direct flight from Manila to Saigon, we were able to save close to $400, an amount we were happy to put towards something more exciting than a plane ticket.
Traveling from the airport to our hostel in Kuala Lumpur, a couple of things jumped out at us. First, it felt much more developed than many other places we had visited in Southeast Asia. Second, there was an astounding variety of cultural groups. Not only did we see a lot of ethnic Malays, but we also passed through Indian and Chinese neighborhoods.
We expected Kuala Lumpur to be a bit pricey but were pleasantly surprised when we checked into our hostel. Not only was it in a great location, the room was reasonably priced, clean and had a fully functional air conditioner. This was a necessity if we were going to get a good night’s sleep in the intense heat and humidity. After a quick shower, we headed out in search of Indian food. Having consumed relatively bland food in the Philippines for the past month, we had intense cravings for something spicy. We walked less than half a block and found a restaurant filled with Indians, which is always a good indication the food is authentic. The rest of the evening passed quickly as we explored Chinatown and admired the gleaming Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur’s iconic twin skyscrapers.
Heading back to the hostel, we briefly considered rising early the next morning to purchase tickets to the skybridge that stretches between the Petronas Towers. In the end, sleeping in won out over standing in a long line with hundreds of strangers. Besides, the longer we travel, the more we realize we don’t need to visit every single tourist site mentioned in the guidebook. Traveling that way is exhausting and it’s impossible to truly appreciate everything when you’re constantly running from place to place.
Prior to making the trek back to the airport, we people watched from the busy street corner in front of our hotel and enjoyed some authentic Chinese food from a street vendor. The meal was delicious until we spotted a rat feasting off the bits of food being dumped on the floor by the person washing dishes. Apparently this was typical because the dishwasher didn’t even bat an eyelash. Trying to forget about it, we discussed how it was probably impossible to avoid rats on this street filled with food vendors and surely every restaurant must have them. The fact that I still finished my meal even after seeing the dirty rodent tells me I probably truly am adjusting to life as a backpacker.
Our time in Malaysia was much too short but our itinerary for this trip is ambitious enough. We feel we made the right choice by limiting our time to a short stopover in Kuala Lumpur. Besides, there’s no doubt we hope to make it back at some point as we’ve heard good things about the country’s scuba diving.