October 27, 2008
My good friend from high school, Erica (who is part of the “pookie” clan), is doing a semester at sea program where they travel the world via ship, docking at different ports. This past weekend, she docked in Penang, Malaysia and I flew down there to meet up with her. I flew down Thursday afternoon, after spending 4 hours in the airport (thank you AirAsia for delaying your flight!)….the good part is there was a lady in the airport giving chocolate samples… I may or may not have circled her stand every 20 minutes…
Once I arrived in Penang, Erica and I hopped a bus to Little India, which is pretty much my haven as I LOVE Indian food and am consistently thrilled and amused by Indian accents. We wandered around Little India for a couple hours, trying all the Indian sweets ever created (yum), and then got a cab to meet her friends from the ship.
We went to their hotel and proceeded to eat a delicious chocolate cake to celebrate one of her friend’s 21st birthdays. Afterwards, we headed to Slippery Senioritas, one of the many fun clubs in a posh little club district close to where their ship was docked. When we got to Slipper Senioritas, there wasn’t a single person on the dance floor, but we soon changed that! We tore that place up, I don’t think they know what hit them!
They even asked us girls to get on the top balcony to dance in front of their entire club. The music was the best part– a combination of 80’s style (think Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”) pop and current Top 40. After a couple hours there, we head to another club, except it doesn’t seem to be a club. Rather, there was some kind of beauty contest going on. I spent 15 minutes trying to figure out if the beauty contestants were male or female. I came to the conclusion they were male, perhaps Thai ladyboys?? Then, we head to another club, where we once again tear up the dance floor. Perhaps a little too much. One of the boys we came with literally got picked up by the bouncer and thrown out for provacative dancing. We forgot we were in a muslim country. Oops!
We wander around for a little longer, meet a fellow El Pasoean, reminisce about good ‘ol times (we knew the same people from middle school!), and head home to sleep for a few hours.
Wake up the next morning at about 9 am, spend far too long being indecisive about what Erica and I should do for the weekend, and finally decide to go to Lankawi Geopark for some jungle-trekking action. By the time we’ve figured all this out, its about noon, and Erica and I are hot, hungry and ready to get to a beach! Too bad we missed the 8:30 am ferry to Lankawi. Alternative? Take a ferry to the mainland, get on a bus to Alto Setar, grab a taxi to the ferry, and then take another ferry to Lankawi. Needless to say, the day was spent in transportation and we arrived in Lankawi barely in time for dinner. Oh wait, we first walked around for 3 hours trying to find accommdation we could afford. Naturally, Erica and I picked a national holiday (Deepavali festival) to go to an island, where all the Malaysians were vacationing for the weekend. On the bright side, we eventually found the most amazing place ever, the Rainbow Lodge. It was located pretty far off the beaten path (as evident by our 3 hour journey to find it), but it was SO worth it. Clean, bright, and big (the room even had a vanity!!). Erica and I slept like rocks, even as it was monsooning outside.
We wake up to a bright, sunny day (of course, how else would the weather be after 7 hours of monsooning?), hit up some mini-marts (my randomly fav. activity), and head out to find an activity/tour to do. Oh wait, we can’t because you have to book tours a day in advance and Erica has to leave tonight to make it back to her ship in time for a meeting. We decide to eat our losses and relax/have a photoshoot on the beach.
Before arriving in Lankawi, I asked Erica what her roommate was doing this weekend, and she told me she was also going to Lankawi, but had no way to contact her, as neither of them had cell phones. So every white person we passed, I’d ask “Is that your roommate?” Oddly enough, one of the answers was eventually “Yes”, as we bumped into her roommate on the beach!
Her roommate tells us about how she went to the 7 wells, which is a hike up to 7 beautiful waterfalls, jungle trekking, nature, etc. As soon as I heard that, I decide we must go! But first, we need to get our ferry tickets back to Penang, as Erica’s roommate told us they may be almost sold out. Erica and I find a travel agency, try to get a ticket, and are told the tickets are 70 ringet! Yikes! We go to another travel agency to compare prices, and this one is even more expensive! We go back to the first travel agency and are told we have to wait 30 minutes (which we cant because we have to go to 7 wells, which is 45 minutes away and come back within 3 hours). We go back to the other travel agency to see if we can do it quicker, but are told to come back the next morning. Huh?!? Then, we finally get it all sorted out by calling the ferry, realizing there are plenty of tickets left, and we don’t need to buy any in advance. Lost in translation, much?
We eventually leave for the 7 wells, without purchasing any tickets. Efficiency at its best. One thing I’ve learned from traveling through SE Asia is to just have patience and not let frustration get in the way of how you communicate with people. This is a big lesson for me. Hooray for learning things 🙂
We finally arrive at 7 wells, and begin the trek of 380 stairs to the top. Oy! First, we take a side trip to a waterfall and quickly (remember, we only have 90 minutes!) take some photos and jump in the cold, refreshing water. Well, more like fell in for me.
Afterwards, we keep hiking up nature’s version of a stairmaster until we finally reach the top, where a gorgeous view and very fun waterfall await us.
A word about the waterfall: its formed in a way that a natural waterslide has been formed. The rocks have smoothed themselves over in such a way that if you sit at the top, the water will gush over you and carry you down the waterfall until it spits you up into the air, and drops you down into a 5 or 6 foot deep area of water. SO much fun, with minimal butt pain. Just have to be careful to stop yourself before you go over the edge, 380 steps worth straight down. Eeek.
Since we still have 47.8 minutes left, Erica and I find a trail and begin to trek through the jungle, my favorite thing ever! Sadly, we reach a crossroads after about 20 minutes, and don’t have time to go much further. We head back down (after pulling the leeches off us), get in a taxi back to the ferry and then sit at the ferry for 1.5 hours, because it is delayed. Of course!! Murphy’s Law has been in full effect this weekend. On the bright side: at least we got tickets!
The ferry ride back is absolutely gorgeous, 3 hours of speeding through the water, watching the sunset and just enjoying the moment.
Once we arrive back in Penang, Erica and I see a few of her friends, and we all visit the night market. Once at the market, Erica and I make a beeline for a restaurant and guess what we find? An amazing Indian restaurant, that truly finds us. We’re looking for a bathroom, and this restaurant pops out of nowhere. As we’re eating Indian food (yuuuumm), 2 Australian guys walk past us, and we begin talking to them. We end up hanging out with them until midnight, when the night market closes. Then, we part ways with them to make it back to the ferry by 1 am, when the last boat out to Erica’s ship leaves. We make it by 1 am, but the ship people won’t let me on the ship since I’m not a family member. Therefore, Erica and I are left without a place to sleep for the night and the first bus out to Kuala Lumpur leaves at 6am. That gives us 5 hours. What’s our obvious solution? Stay up all night partying, of course. We actually end up overhearing that some of Erica’s friends are staying in a hotel close to Slippery Senioritas, so we make our way over there, find out what room they are in, and are about to knock on the door when we hear 2 voices. 2 voices of a couple. Uh-oh, we decide to let them be alone.
We head back towards Slippery Senioritas, then devise a plan to go back to the hotel, and ask her friend’s if we can leave our backpacks there so we can party and not look like a ragged backpackers. We head back to their room, knock on the door, and Erica’s friend answers, after obviously being in bed. We end up talking to them for a little while about our weekends and then instead of changing and going back out, we just crash on the floor for a few hours. In the morning, Erica and I take off; her for her ship, and me to catch a bus to Kuala Lumpur to meet up with my friend from Austin, Monica’s, family (even though Monica is currently studying abroad in Vienna, Austria).
I get on the bus and 6 hours later, at about 2pm I’m finally in KL! 24 hours later, I’m back in Bangkok. This is what I did in those 24 hours:
Made my way to an internet cafe, where I called Monica’s dad and arranged to meet him 20 minutes later at the Petronas Twin Towers
-Got in a cab to the Twin Towers, and wondered around lost, with no idea which brown man was Monica’s dad. Go to pay phone, call Monica’s dad and arrange a new meeting spot. Meet M. Jam’s dad!! He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met; I am in love with the Jamaluddin family.
-Monica’s dad takes me to his family’s apartment and I am immediately greeted by ~ 20 people dressed in traditional Muslim attire, having brunch. Woa, culture shock! I head to my room for the night, and take the most amazing shower of my life. First off, Monica’s place is BEAUTIFUL. If it was a hotel, it would be 5 star. And I haven’t had a warm shower since I left the States. Needless to say, I take a nice, long, hot shower and then get changed. Monica’s step sister knocks on my door, asking if I am hungry. Of course! She fixes me a plate of rice, with a pumpkin dish and a stew which I mix together and devour, along with about 6 crumpets. Then I have some coffee, chat with the family, and leave the apartment to take a stroll around the neighborhood before we leave for dinner in 1-2 hours. I end up at this beautiful park behind the Petronas Twin Towers, and am having a great time exploring the park and people-watching.
I catch the eye of one man and he immediately comes over and introduces himself. Frank. Frank from South Africa. Oh goodness, Frank. He’s very nice, and we walk around the park, playing on the playground, and taking photos (“Let’s take a snap”, as he says). After 5 minutes, he declares that he loves me and wants to marry me and “make me very happy”. I go with it for a few minutes, until he starts making plans for me to come to South Africa in December and then he tries to take off his ring and give it to me. The ring which “means the most to him” as he says. Oh no! I quickly persuade him to keep his ring, and he instead gives me his bracelet. A very sweet gesture, but I think Frank went slightly overboard. He probably should’ve waited 30 minutes before declaring his love. That would have been more appropriate 🙂
After leaving Frank (barely), I arrive back at M.Jam’s house and her step sister and step mom immediately begin dressing me in traditional Bangladeshi attire. So awesome, I even had the bindi (the red dot on your forehead), dangling earrings and 20 bracelets on my arm (which I broke about 3 trying to put them on myself, and even made myself bleed…thankfully, M.Jam’s stepmom came to my rescue).
After being properly dressed, we left for a restaurant dinner about an hour’s drive away; where Papa Jam knows the chef, who is from Bangladesh and can therefore make authentic Bangladeshi cuisine. We met up with about 30 other of their friends and had a giant feast! It was SO much fun, plates upon plates of food, good conversation with Monica’s stepsister’s friends and an all around good time. So good we didn’t even get home till nearly 1am.
After arriving home, I slept SO well, and woke up at 7 am to take advantage of the amazing full-size olympic pool outside and the park nearby. Or so that was the plan. I ended up getting sidetracked by the gym (oh my gosh, weights, I haven’t seen those things in 3 months!), and just working out in there for the next hour. I never even made it for a swim. Guess I’ll have to go back to KL!
After the workout, I jump in the shower, have breakfast with Monica’s dad (crumpets soaked in sweetened milk and syrup, SO delish!), and then he drops me off at the train station, which will take me to the airport. But not before Monica’s stepmom gives me a beautiful traditional Bangladeshi top, which I love and wore all day…thanks Bangladesh Mom!
Monica’s dad is so amazing; he is one of the nicest people I have ever met. The Jamaluddin family was so gracious and welcoming–best family ever. I wish Monica could have been there, it would have been even more fun!
Overall, an incredible trip to Malaysia, and I am SO sad its over. I wanted to stay there all week….darn school getting in the way of everything.