AN ACCUSTOMED LIFESTYLE
After struggling with a volunteer placement in Kathmandu, my deteriorating health and, poor head space I decided to cut my trip to Nepal short by one week. Once I knew I was leaving early, my mood instantly lifted and I felt a rush of relief. Instead of a short three-day stopover in Malaysia, I would be spending ten days. I didn’t know much about Malaysia, I hadn’t heard anything overly positive nor had I heard anything negative so I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing Malaysia was and all it had to offer!
My plane trip to Kuala Lumpur from Kathmandu felt like a mini-holiday. I usually hate flights but this was the first time in seven weeks I’d had air-conditioning and TV entertainment + a whole row of seats to myself. I snuggled up with a blanket, ate food, watched TV, and slept in comfort and with ease. You know you’ve been roughing it when a plane ride feels like a luxurious day spa.
I had been travelling solo for the past two months so when I landed in Kuala Lumpar after my relaxing, luxurious flight, I felt overly confident about my travelling skills. With all my luggage, I hopped on the KLIA express train from the airport to KL Sentral before changing lines and getting on the LRT line to KLCC. I was just about to give myself a pat on the back when I hopped off the train, confident I could walk the 800m to my apartment without a phone or internet. However, after forty minutes of struggling with my luggage and one litre of sweat later I finally admitted I was lost. With some reluctance, I approached a nearby council worker. It was 11 in the evening and he could see I was flustered and very sweaty. After realising I had walked in the wrong direction I scanned the streets for taxi’s, feeling my despair, the worker then offered a lift which I quickly accepted (sorry Mum… don’t try this one kids).
When I entered my high ceiling, wooden floor, self-contained apartment with an abundance of natural lighting and pleasant décor I felt a lump forming in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. I wish I could say I’m a tough cookie and I had no issues living in Nepal but being exposed to harsh realities of an LDC had an overwhelming negative effect on my mental health and consequently my physical health too. That evening, I sat up against a mountain of pillows in a soft king size bed with the air-con running, a view of the city peeking through the long, white curtains, a bowl of noodles sat in my lap as I sipped a glass of sparkling apple juice and watched nonsense television shows. My body filled from head to toe with a warm sense of relief and happiness - a warm fuzzy feeling I wasn’t familiar with and a feeling I rarely felt when alone. In that moment I realised I could find happiness if I just stopped every now and then to appreciate the simple things in life. This was the lifestyle I had become accustomed to and I was overwhelmed with gratefulness that I had been born into a developed country, something I would try to never take for granted again.
DON'T GO CHASING WATERFALLS
My Auntie has lived in KL for 22 years (and my cousin and family, 4 years) so not only did I get to visit all the tourist places, I also got to experience where the locals hang out. They were very keen to show me around Malaysia in their spare time, so much so that we would visit up to five attractions in one day!
On my first day in KL, my cousin asked if I wanted to go to a waterfall with a group of his friends. I didn’t think much of it, throwing on some shorts, shirt, and sneakers, taking only my camera and clutch bag (yes, I bought a clutch bag trekking). After getting lost and driving back and forth, we finally arrived at a waterfall (not the original one, but nonetheless, a waterfall). My stomach was grumbling with hunger but it was only a twenty-minute walk to the waterfall (apparently). After forty-five minutes I asked one of the girls who encouragingly said it was only another fifteen minutes, after another thirty minutes passed and I asked again…that was the last time I asked. There was no waterfall, at least not on the trail we had followed.
Eventually, we got tired and stopped to take a break. I quietly rejoiced that I’d finally have something to eat. Trail mix, sandwiches, protein bars perhaps? No such luck. Instead we ate potato crisps and drank shots of Chivas followed by shots of coca cola which made the journey back much more tolerable except for the leeches! They suddenly appeared on our legs, feet or between our toes as we squealed and quickly tried to pick them off each other before they attached. At one point, I felt a sharp sting where my shorts met my inner thigh but the pain disappeared after I jumped in the river so I didn’t think anything of it. We finally returned to the car, exactly four hours after leaving.
When I went to the bathroom for the first time after returning to my apartment, I realised there was blood everywhere, all over my underwear and shorts. Aunt flow wasn’t due for a visit so I was really confused and quite worried. I hopped in the shower and soon realised the bite in my shorts must have in fact been a leech that presumably dropped off once it was full or while I was frolicking in the water. As soon as I stopped washing or applying pressure to the area it would gush out blood again. There was no pain but the continuous flow of blood wasterrifying to watch, like something out of a horror movie. Despite my efforts, the bleeding wouldn’t stop, in fact it continued for at least 7 or 8 hours. After soaking all my band-aid supplies and complaining to my family I was going to die from blood loss, I decided I needed sleep. I tied a scarf tightly around my upper thigh, watching as it started to soak in blood and finally went to sleep. I woke up with relief noting the bleeding had stopped and that I wouldn’t have to rush myself off to a medical center.
Not usually a superstitious person, I do have to question the association with looking for waterfalls and running into trouble. The last time I spent hours looking for a waterfall on an island in the Philippines I was involved in a motorcycle crash…Ripley’s believe it or not. Ok, probably just a coincidence but I still won't be chasing waterfalls anytime soon. TLC were right, don't go chasing waterfalls!
sore feet & cheap eatS
After some much-needed R&R following the leech incident the site-seeing began. In one day we visited the Batu Caves greeting a lot of cheeky monkeys along the way, a mosque (Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan) where we were dressed in burqas and were toured around by very friendly and welcoming Muslim volunteers, a Chinese temple with a magnificent view of the city followed by a night time stop to Icity admiring the lit-up trees and dancing waterfalls. Our final stop was KLCC Tower, we arrived with one minute to midnight and I managed to snap one picture before the lights were shut off!
On the night following, a group of us painted our faces with the Filipino flag to attend a soccer game in which Indonesian supporters ridiculously outnumbered the Filipino fans. It was late in the evening when the game finished and we were all starving, so we hopped in our cars and travelled to a food court where locals go, enjoying a midnight feast where I scoffed down a large bowl of mushroom noodles and 1L of watermelon juice for the equivalent of only a few dollars. Catch up Brisbane, Marketsquare in Sunnybank shouldn't be the only food court open past 9pm!!!!
The next night, we attended an exciting MMA fight followed by a full night of eating pizza and drinking chivas and after arriving home at 7am the next morning, a full day of recovery (i.e. bed, air-con, junk food and TV) was required. Following my recovery, I went to collect my mum from the airport and we were all out again, visiting Bukit Bintang for dinner (tourist area). I almost fell off my chair when I saw the westernised prices! Please note, if you’re travelling to Kuala Lumpur and only stick to the tourist areas expect to pay up to 50MYR instead of 6MYR for a meal.
On our last full day of site seeing we travelled up to Genting Highlands Resort and Casino, visiting the Japanese gardens, a French themed village called Colmar Tropicale in Berjaya Hills and the Chin Swee Caves Temple along the way! My fear of heights meant no one got to travel up to the Casino via the cable cars... but highly recommend doing so if you're not a scaredy cat like me. The Casino sits within the clouds, with an eerie, cold atmosphere as fog clings to the buildings, so don't forget a jacket!
Our final night was spent at BBQ Nights an amazing restaurant on Jalan P Ramlee that also catered for Vegetarians (Yaaay!) and was BYO(just pop into the local 7/11) followed by our final stop to get last minute photos at the Petronas Towers. Taking a selfie with these towers without a double chin requires true talent - if you're ever in KL I challenge you to the task!
Unfortunately, running short on time we weren’t able to make any overnight or even day trips to some of the amazing beaches in Malaysia but it’s on the agenda for next visit! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Malaysia so much so I would even consider a working holiday there if given the opportunity. I’m so grateful I could experience a local’s tour thanks to my amazing Auntie and Cousins and I hope to see you again soon Malaysia!