The trip to Kuala Lumpur from California took a little less than 24 hours. I arrived at Kuala Lumpur around 1AM in the morning, Azrina picked me up from the airport, it was so good to see her again! It’s been two years since we’ve seen each other in grad school, we chatted the entire drive back to her house in the outskirts of KL. Arriving at 1AM in the morning is less than ideal, I had a tough time adjusting to the local time the first night. Adrenaline kicked in after I got off the plane, it took me awhile to fall asleep that night. Since Malaysia is predominately a Muslim country,  I was woken up at the crack of dawn by the nearby mosque’s call for morning prayer.

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves and food

We headed out after a quick breakfast to pick up Michelle from the airport. The weather was hot and humid, I keep forgetting how brutal the Asia humidity is, I was sweating profusely within minutes of stepping out of the door. The mild California weather has spoiled me. Public transportation in Malaysia is not ideal, the main source of transportation is via personal vehicle. Everywhere we went, we had to hop in Azrina’s car. The highway system around KL seem very well established and the day time traffic is comparable to LA.
After picking up Michelle, we drove to Batu Caves in the outskirts of the city. The cave is a Hindu worship temple. The drive did not take very long but the day was hot and the steps up the caves turned out to be a great workout for all of us. Going up the steps, we were greeted by lots of monkeys waiting to be fed by the tourists.
By the time I made it up the steps into the caves, I was filled head to toes with sweat. I was a little miserable inside the caves. It was hot, humid and the cave was FILLED with mosquitoes. Twenty minutes inside the cave, I got six mosquito bites, I almost forgot how much they loved me.

The indian snack shop outside the Batu caves.

Tioman Island and Malaka

We left KL at 4AM the next day to make the 360 kilometer drive to Mersing, a town in the southeast peninsular of Malaysia. The drive took exactly 5 hours and we arrived at the Mersing jetty for the 10AM ferry to Tioman Islands. The ferry tickets were 70 Riggits, roughly 23 USD round trip.
The ferry ride to Tioman island took roughly 90 minutes, there are several stops on the island, our stop was Paya beach.

After getting off the ferry, we had to wait for our resort to send a smaller boat to fetch for us. There is a walking path through the jungle to the resort, we decided to leave the exploring for later once we drop off our bags. Our resort was call Melina Resort, an awesome place tucked away at the corner of the island. Kudos to Azrina for booking the resort. If you want to get away from the Asian tourists, this is the place to be. For two nights, the three of us shared one room for $75 each at the beach front property. Breakfast was included in the resort fee but I would not recommend eating other meals at the resort, it can get a little pricey.
We dropped off our bags and headed towards the nearest village, Genting to get some lunch. The walk to Genting was nice and short, it took about 15 minutes to get to the edge of the town. The jungle was really lush, I even spotted a monkey and a four feet long lizard. We sat down and had a mixed riced plate at the edge of town and an ice lime tea drink for about $2.

Azrina relaxing in front of our resort room.

Sunset in front of the resort. Michelle and I rented snorkel gears and swam up and down the coast, there were lots of corals and fish to see. Sadly, for every coral we saw, there were twice to three times as many that were dead.

The next day we decided to explore Ranggit Island. The small island is located little past the town of Paya Beach, during low tide, it’s possible to walk across to the island. We were disappointed about not bringing our snorkel gear. Since the water was so calm, we decided to take a swim to cool off from the hot day.

After our morning swim, we headed to Paya beach for lunch.  I’m in love with the lime ice tea drink, it’s the perfect way to cool off from a hot day. The red drink below is called sirap rose drink, also very refreshing.

So far, the food in Malaysia has been amazing, the fusion of traditional Indian, Chinese and Malay food is delicious! It’s definitely training me to be a tougher spicy food eater!

Pattaya fried rice: fried rice placed inside an omelet.

Vermicelli noodles

Walking past town we noticed many families had moved their TV outside. I can’t imagine the card board keeping the TV dry during the monsoon rains… at least they have their priorities straight.

We stayed at Tioman for two nights and left on Sunday morning via the 7AM ferry. The sun was barely rising and the entire town is still quiet, not yet awake for the day, the entire scene was breathtaking.You can see our resort boat driving away after dropping us off at the dock.

Goodbye Tioman, our ferry taking us away back to Mersing.

Three hours west of Mersing is Malaka, one of the most touristy cities in Malaysia. Malaka used to be a popular trade route for countries like China, India and Thailand, now days, it seems like more of a tourist spot. Finding parking was a pain in the butt, we got greedy and wanted to park near Jonker Walk, the center of shops, this turned out to be a huge mistake, traffic was bumper to bumper. Maybe we were rushed, maybe the day was too hot, but I felt Malaka was another tourist trap filled with Asian tourists and useless knicknack shops. I was not impressed. I did however, find my Mandarin extremely useful in town as many of the shop keepers were Chinese. We ate a quick lunch and walked around Jonker Walk and eagerly left the tourist crazed city.

A little afternoon dessert before leaving Malaka, Ais kacang, shaved ice dessert popular in Malaysia topped with red beans, grass jelly and caramelized sugar. A little too sweet for my taste.

We got back to KL just in time for the night market down town. The smell of the market was intoxicating, the grilled satay is one of my favorite snacks here. The Malays really like putting curry and peanut sauce on the already marinated meat, but I prefer to eat it as is.

I love the food here, it’s such a melting pot of all of the best foods in Asia. Murtabak is a pancake stuffed with minced meat, onions and veggies served with curry sauce. It tastes amazing.

Tomorrow, the three of us are headed to Siem Reap, Cambodia to explore Ankor Wat.

Asia Travel Preparations

I’m starting this blog off with my upcoming trip to southeast Asia and mainland China. I have been traveling and backpacking quite a bit over the past two years but have been terrible at putting together photos and stories to share with friends and family. I hope to use this blog as a documentation of my trips and plan to use it a motivation to get through the 40 hour work week when I’m not out traveling. On to my May trip.

I am taking a month off in May to travel for the first part of May with my friends Michelle and Azrina in southeast Asia and end the trip with by visiting my grandparents and extended family in mainland China. I have purchased all the plane tickets for the places I will be visiting. Below is a google map I have created for the places I will visit. Below is a rough itinerary of the trip:
  • May 3-May 8: The first stretch of my trip will be Malaysia. Since Azrina currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, we will be traveling around the country with her car and staying with her family. Malaysia will also be a home base for us as we travel around southeast Asia.
  • May 8-May11: Siem Reap, Cambodia to see Ankor Wat and surrounding area
  • May 13-May 16: Azrina and I will be getting to Bali while Michelle heads home to northern California
Trip Preparation:
Traveling to Asia does not require too much preparation, visa is not required or can easily be obtained at the airport for most of the places I will be visiting. However, mainland China’s visa has to be applied in the US and the nearest Chinese ambassy is in downtown LA. I decided to pay a local travel agency to help me get the visa, in addition to the $140 visa fee, they charge $40 dollars to bring my passport and application to the Chinese embassy. The visa application process usually takes 7 days. Tip for others, make sure you give yourself enough time to obtain this visa, I was cutting it really close on with mine.
No visa is required for Malaysia but there is one required for Cambodia and Indonesia. Both of these visas can be obtained upon arrival at the airport, make sure to bring exact cash as the custom people do not always have the right change. Cambodia offers a online visa for a 30 day tourist entry for $20 with a $5 processing fee, I applied for the e-visa to avoid the airport traffic. The Camobida e-visa takes 1 to 3 days to process. Bali’s visa is also $20 for a 30 day entry, I plan to apply for it at the airport as they do not offer online visas.