Early in the morning we made our way to one of the bus stations in Singapore, we had booked a bus to Melaka in Malaysia! It was going to be our first overland border crossing… first of many I hope. Overland border crossings are more fun methinks: you get stamped out of Singapore, get back on the bus, drive across the bridge, get stamped into Malaysia, scan your bag, get back on the bus. I know it’s not glamorous or anything, but it feels more adventurous. We walked into Malaysia carrying everything we have on our backs.
Our plan for Malaysia was to travel north through peninsular Malaysia stopping along the way for about two weeks. First stop was Melaka, which is an historic city for being a main trading route and the Dutch and Portuguese forts that are there. We stayed in a great hostel called Ringo’s Foyer Guesthouse with a rooftop hangout and a great owner, Howard. The place was really close to Chinatown and each evening, Howard took the guests to the night market in Chinatown where there was food, trinkets, and the biggest karaoke stage I have ever seen in my life.
The next day there wasn’t much on our schedule, so we took our own personal walking tour of the historical sites of the city. We went up to St. Paul’s church to have a look around and it was a great view of the city and ocean (the Straits of Melaka, which is the strait between Malaysia and Indonesia). At the church there were tons of kittens running around… we watched them wrestle for a good while and annoy the vendors. On our way back to the guesthouse in the afternoon, we also got to see this huge monitor lizard roaming around (about 5 feet long!)
Two nights in Melaka was good enough for us so we jumped on a bus to Kuala Lumpur (KL). KL is the largest city in Malaysia and by far the most well known. Through traveling for my job back in the states, I had tons of Marriott points saved up, and we decided to use them to stay in a nice hotel. Through some perks with Marriott, we had access to the club lounge for the 5 nights that we stayed there. So every night we headed up there for free dinner and drinks! RESULT! We called it the “Free Pub”, and we actually met tons of people up there in the lounge, mostly because they were confused at how such young people were up there. Everyone was so friendly and talkative in the lounge, and there was even another backpacker we met who was doing the same thing as us – a Kiwi girl named Geraldine who worked for Ernst&Young in London.
With our 5 days in KL, we did a little sightseeing (there’s not much to do) and took care of some business. First the business: we headed to the Thai embassy to apply for a 60 day tourist visa. When you enter Thailand by land, you only get a 15 day visa for free, not the 30 days that you would get when you arrive by air. We are planning to meet up with our roommate from STL in Thailand, so we are definitely going to be there for over 15 days. Another thing we wanted to get done in KL was shipping some of our stuff home that we never use. Cold weather clothes from NZ, extra pairs of underwear/socks, and Maria’s make-up and lotion – 7 lbs total. It will take 3 months for the box to get home by boat and cost about 127RM (about 40 USD).
Now for the sights: the biggest (literally) attraction is the Petronas towers, which are the tallest twin towers in the world and were the tallest buildings in the world when they were built. They are the ones that beat out the Sears Tower in Chicago in 1998. It was a good view, but not great.
The other main thing in KL is the Batu Caves, so we took a good half day there with Geraldine exploring. It’s a huge cave complex with a few temples inside. There were tons of steep steps to get up to there, and the whole place was real touristy. Of course that means there were lots of monkeys trying to steal food. There are multiple caves, and the three of us took an educational tour of the Dark Cave, where we learned about different cave formations and bat poop. Who knew that all dark cave life depends on bat poop to survive? When there is no light in a cave, the only source of energy in the cave comes from bats eating plants outside and then pooping inside.
One random interesting thing about the metro in KL is that they had train coaches that were for ladies only. We were a little surprised by this but realized that it must have something to do with Malaysia being a Muslim country.
The rest of our time in KL was spent living it up in the first world comforts of our hotel. After going without electricity in Fiji, camping in our van in NZ, going without AC a lot of the time, and carrying our packs through subways and bus stations, we were ready to take a break from all of that. We had five nights in an awesome bed, with a workout facility and pool to enjoy… not to mention free breakfast, dinner, and drinks up in the lounge. It was a great recharge for us, as life on the road gets tiring.
Next up: we hopped on a bus to Ipoh, where we would met up with a fellow ultimate player!
Steve is on leave near...