Malaysia: Pearl of the Orient

Malaysia oh Malaysia…The most slept on country in SE Asia! I believe that Malaysia rocks! Malaysia has something for everybody; whether you want big city country, or beach lifestyle, Malaysia has it! I’m so glad that I went and not only stayed in Kuala Lumpur but also flew up to Penang. Like I mentioned in my Top 5 Reasons to Visit Perth, I went against what people told me about Malaysia and decided to go and find out for myself! I love going to cities and/or countries that people tell me not to or that I won’t like it, just to prove them wrong. So I’ll provide a short recap on this fascinating country.

First of all coming from Bali I wasn’t expecting much from Kuala Lumpur, but when I saw the city center my mind was blown! It almost reminded me of a smaller version of a big city back home. Skyscrapers, flashing lights, cute cafes, and night clubs, with an Asian flair to it! Here are a few highlights of my time in Malaysia…

CLOTHING or lack thereof 😒

So I learned the hard way that you should cover up in Malaysia. I completely forgot that Malaysia is predominantly Muslim and even after passing all these beautiful ladies with their bodies completely covered, it didn’t click until I went to a local grocery store and had a couple men follow me. Now I wasn’t scared or anything but it made me realize oh shoot Ashley…you have SHORTS and a SPAGHETTI STRAP shirt on! I was dressed out of comfort, and instead I should’ve dressed more to culture. Whoops! I think the men were very intrigued by so much skin because that’s not the norm. Nonetheless, I started wearing longer pants and shirts while I was staying in the Putrajaya area. Being in the city of KL was totally different, like night and day! I got to bring the shorts back out lol. This experience is what I needed to remember to humble thyself and be respectful.

FOOD 

Chicken satay and fried eggplant! Yummy!

At times I struggled with the food in Malaysia because it has such a strong Indian influence, and for people that know me…I do NOT like Indian food. I don’t know if it’s the curry or the turmeric powder, but I just can’t hang. While in Malaysia, I continued to eat fried rice and fried noodle that I had grown to love in Indonesia. Malaysia’s fried chicken was amazing as well! I just don’t know how to describe it, it doesn’t sit on your tummy like fried chicken does back home (no nasties). If I did find myself at an Indian restaurant in Malaysia I would find some reprieve in the naan bread, I’d have naan every which way…buttered, with garlic, and if I was feeling extra fancy I would have it with cheese! Once again, you gotta do what you gotta do! And this girl loves to eat!

PENANG

I’m telling you right now, if you go to Malaysia and skip Penang you are doing yourself a major disservice! It’s an absolute MUST! I’m talking about eating, beaching, drinking, and art every turn! I didn’t know anything about Penang until I got to Malaysia, as I just usually show up to a country and figure things out. I’m so glad I listened to many people’s suggestions and came to Georgetown with its cool and artsy atmosphere. I had no idea that Georgetown was known for street art and as I began to walk around and notice that not only can you take pictures of it, you can be a part of it! That part was especially cool!

Street art fun in Georgetown

I had the pleasure of meeting a girl who took me around Georgetown and showed me how the locals live. The restaurants and bars she took me to were amazing! Street food so cheap and drinks so delicious…my mouth is just watering thinking about it! She showed me what to order so that I could actually enjoy my food and not have to rely on eating naan all the time lol. It was nice to connect with someone who has a similar background and knows where to go and what to do! One day I’ll come back to Penang and I’ll make sure I’m ready for some great diving!

THE SIGHTS

Lord Murugan at the Batu Caves

Surprisingly, Malaysia has a lot of touristy things to do and see. There’s the Kek Lok Si temple, Penang Hill, Petronas Towers, KL tower, and Batu Caves complete with monkeys 🙄. The Batu Caves was a highlight for me as I was proud of myself for climbing all 272 stairs to the top. I mean I was sweating like a pig while going up and huffing and puffing but I made it! I actually got to see a Hindu prayer ceremony going on, it was so neat to be able to witness how they worship their deity. The huge statue that can be seen from the highway is called Lord Murugan and it is the second tallest Hindu deity in the world.

Kek Lok Si temple

Another impressive sight was the KL tower and Petronas Towers. I was able to first see them during he day when I went up to the top of the KL tower and took pics of of the Petronas Towers. The best time to see these towers is at night. The KL tower lights up and there’s a show to go with it. As well as the Petronas towers light up and if you are near to take pictures, it is breathtaking!


If I had to do it all again I would have spent more time in Penang, but I’m thankful for the time I did have there! Please don’t skip Malaysia if you do a SE Asia tour, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how eclectic the culture is and how nice the people are! I’m sure glad I went!

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Bali Birthday Behavior

I’ve been thirsty for Bali quite some time, and I knew that was going to be the destination that I spent my “dirty thirty” in! When it came closer to the time to book flights, most of my friends just couldn’t make it for my birthday and I’m not going to lie it made me a bit sad at first. With solo travel you have to deal with being on your own for an uncertain amount of time. Family and friends may come visit or they may not, that’s the risk you take with solo travel. Since I was turning the big 3-0, I knew this portion was going to be a splurge part of my trip. Saying that you’ll splurge in Bali is quite funny seeing how the Rupiah and dollar exchange is quite in our favor! Every US dollar was about 13,200 Rupiah, basically I was living on Queen status! I mean Bali does mean “Isle of the Gods”! Bali, Indonesia was my first Asian country that I’ve ever been to, so I was not sure what to expect. Sure I did some research beforehand, but it doesn’t really mean anything until you actually go! So here are my top 4 reasons to go to Bali!

1. FOOD

 

Fried chicken and rice, oh & a boiled egg 😖

Yup you guessed it! Food!!!!! I wasn’t sure what to expect other than rice and noodles, but I was surprised at how many fried chicken places there were in Bali! And I don’t mean that nasty KFC stuff, true “homemade” fried chicken! My mouth was always watering at the thought of tasting this deliciousness! And I could get this chicken mixed with veggies, and rice or fried noodles? Come on! I’m in Heaven! So in Bali, like most of Asia you go for the street food or local warungs, which means a small family restaurant. I found the food cheaper at these warungs and also healthier because the food was made right in front of you! There was no guessing where they got their ingredients or how long something was sitting there, but the main key is to go to the warung that has the longest queue! That means the locals are enjoying it, so it must be good! I try to do as the locals do!

 

Suckling pig!

I like to eat what the locals eat, so when I heard that a Balinese delicacy was suckling pig, I was all in! And it sure did not disappoint at all! It actually tasted like a roasted pig like back home when we had big pig roast parties! It was served with rice and some spicy veggies, it had my mouth on fire but it burned so good!

Not only was the food tasty, it was dirt cheap!!! Where in the United States can you get a huge plate full of freshly made meals for $3-4? It totally blew my mind how cheap it was, and I had been told it was cheap to eat in SE Asia but I didn’t expect THAT cheap! There was also a plethora of different cuisines to try in Bali, but of course I stuck to the traditional meals and usually that meant it was cheaper! There were definitely times when you could fine the comforts of home, like pizza and burgers but that also meant they were relatively expensive. Plus it’s more fun to have an authentic experience.

2. CULTURE 

As mentioned before, this being my first Asian country I’ve ever been to I was nervous on what to expect. As soon as I landed at the airport I realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore! All the comforts of New Zealand, Australia, and even Fiji went out the door! Nobody spoke my language nor did I speak theirs but you make it through! I took it as a challenge to get myself out of my comfort zone, because that’s the only way you grow!

Bali is about 90% Hindu and about 5% Muslim, so it was fascinating to see the men and women offer alms in the morning and evening. I also heard Hindu prayers over a loud speaker about four times a day! At first I thought to myself dang they pray a lot and it was annoying because I wanted to sleep! I had to check myself and my attitude because every faith has their own belief, and I should respect that.

The Balinese believe that animals and nature has significant power and are even seen as God. During my visit, I had the “pleasure” of going to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. These monkeys are quite mischievous and all of us were a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The monkeys are EVERYWHERE! Mommas and their babies, old grandpa looking monkeys but they are all very frisky. I wouldn’t advise anybody to buy the bananas to feed the monkeys as I saw a guy get scratched by a monkey because he ran out of bananas! I tried staying away from them but they loved my camera and they even climbed on top of my friend, who then freaked out because she got peed on! The architecture that was around the Monkey Forest was telling of how much they respect these animals and nature in general.

All I could think of is Planet of the Apes

During my friend, Farrin’s Bali Escape, we got to take part in celebrating their new year called Nyepi. It was cool to be there in Bali when it was going to be quiet, because Bali can be quite hectic and loud. Nyepi Day is their day of silence, where no one can be in the streets, household electricity should be shut off and even the airport is closed. The Balinese are very religious and we could see the pride they took in constructing their Ogoh-Ogoh’s, which are evil monsters or demons. We attended a parade the night before Nyepi Day where young children paraded large papier-mache demons around town with loud drums and chants. These large demons were very scary looking too, it blew my mind how creative these young boys were. Experiencing Nyepi Day was amazing because I got to see and appreciate Bali in a new light, because I had been used to the chaotic and loudness of Kuta and Seminyak! It was nice to sit back and reflect on this portion of my trip and have meaningful conversations with the other girls!

 

One scary Ogoh-Ogoh


3. KRAZY KUTA VS. MELLOW UBUD

 I loved Kuta/Seminyak areas with all their crazy madness, but being in the jungle, laid back scene of Ubud really captured you! It was nice to experience the bustling cities of Kuta & Seminyak but just a couple days to one week is sufficient. If you can arrange to spend 1-2 weeks in Ubud, I would do so. They have an awesome market that you can buy anything from Buddha statues, sarongs, tea, and other trinkets. I had to refrain from buying too much because I would have nowhere to put new items! Of course I did end up sending somethings back home with a friend (thanks Emma!).


My utmost favorite thing about these areas were the CHEAP massages! OMG! Can you say $5 massage? I had an amazing 7-hour spa day on my birthday and it only cost my wonderful boyfriend $70, back home that would’ve been well over $350+! I had an hour massage, a flower bath, an hour facial, mani/pedi, and hair cream treatment. I was literally the Queen for the day and no one could not tell me any different!

4. MY BIRTHDAY!

 

Birthday night drinks at the Red Carpet Champagne Bar

If you want to celebrate your birthday in an epic way, then go to Bali! I absolutely made the right choice in going to Bali for my 30th birthday and even though I wasn’t near family or friends on my “special” day, I was still treated like a Queen! After all my trip mishaps, my wonderful family and boyfriend wanted to treat me to something nice. They rented a villa for my birthday weekend, right in the heart of Seminyak. The villa I stayed at was called the Villa 888 Watermark where they made me feel like a true Queen, the wait staff listened to my every need and even gave me a birthday surprise! And let me tell you, if you do not have an Airbnb account, you need to get one! Here’s my Airbnb link for $35 off and if you use it, then I’ll receive $35 off as well!

 

Villa 888 Watermark “Paradise”

I was real emotional during my birthday not because I turned 30, but the fact that my Dad couldn’t see how far I’ve come! I just wanted to hear him say that he was proud of me and my life decisions. I was also all in my feelings because it was the first time in my trip that I didn’t have to rely on my crutches 100%! I was able to be free of them and slowly move about! I appreciated all the love I received on my birthday, and I definitely felt it all the way over in Indonesia!

This country will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first time being in Asia! Do you have someplace that will always have a special part of your heart?