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Malaysia

Malaysia

Langkawi, Malaysia

 

Langkawi, Malaysia was once a quiet fishing and farming island that has blossomed into quite the vacation paradise! The government declared Langkawi duty free of tax and they set up a development committee to help draw attention in hopes to transform the island for tourism. Every bit must have helped cause now Langkawi is named The Princess Jewel of South East Asia!

Langkawi can be done on any type of budget. In general I find it a hair more expensive then neighboring Thailand but still very affordable. But due to it being a duty free island the booze is much cheaper then the other places I visited in Malaysia.

The best way to explore Langkawi is by scooter. You can get a first hand look at all of the amazing wildlife, beaches and nature via scooter. You can pick on up in town from 30-55 ringgit per day. ($7-$12) Make sure you download the offline map Maps.me! It is brilliant for traveling without a sim and it has all of the beaches, lookouts and waterfalls on the map!

Langkawi has something to offer on every budget but for me and my long time travel plan, I chose the budget options. This time I booked a few nights at the Tubotel. As far as hostels in Langkawi go it doesn’t get any better then this place!

The price was about $11 per night (50 ringgit) and that includes one of the best hostel breakfasts I have had. You get a choice between 4 different options that change daily. The views from the hostel and the sun sets are also amazing!

Pantai Cenang Beach is as amazing as I remembered it but the town is now just a dust cloud of construction and traffic. The last time I was here the Main Street was full of local shops and tiki bars with cheap cocktails. But those small tiki bars have been long torn down and replaces with hotels and resorts. I didn’t even recognize the place! But if you stay out of the town and plan to explore the island on your own you are in for a treat!

Pretty much everything else is exactly where I left it three years ago. The Island has many waterfalls worth visiting depending on the time of year and amount of rain. The Durian Perangin falls is always a good place to start!

My first day on the island I got myself a scooter and took a lap around the island. It takes about an hour and a half to make the loop around. One thing that stuck out in my memory from last time was this amazing little Hindu temple in the middle of the jungle so that was my first plan. To find this temple.

An hour of wandering around later and just as bright and beautiful as ever I found it! I pulled up and parked the scooter. There were a hand full of people here setting up for a wedding. Cars and scooters of people pulling up with trays of sweets and gifts. I just sat outside of the fence and watched.

An Indian man in traditional attire walked past me and invited me inside. I thanked him and continued to watch from the side lines. Beautiful women dressed in bright colors, gold jewelry barefoot walking into the temple. Before the ceremony began a woman from the wedding walked outside of the temple and grabbed me by the hand. She walked me inside of the temple to the very front row! In front of the friends and family. A girl came to me with a pot full of red dye. She marked my forehead and told me she was glad that I could make it. As if I was meant to be there.

I stayed for the remainder of the ceremony. They were all so happy that I could join them and be a part of it. It was an amazing experience! Afterwards I was invited to dinner and the reception the following day. Great people!

 

 

Now let’s talk about a little lesson in living the dream. Say you’re in a place like Langkawi and you want to completely live the dream. But you don’t want to pay for it. Understandable. This is what I do.

1. Get yourself a smokin hot french girl.

(Photo-The Andaman Resort)

2. Go to the fanciest resort that you can find on the map.

(Photo-The Andaman)

3. Go to said resort and ask to see the manager.

(Photo-Tanjung Rhu Resort)

4. Tell the manager how you and your hot French girlfriend plan to get married and you would like to bring all of your friends and family to stay at their resort. And ask for a tour.

(Photo-The Four Seasons)

5. If the manager is doing half their job he or she will do as they have done for me. A complete tour of the property along with some free appetizers at the restaurant and access to the beach and pool for the afternoon while we waited for our lunch. So that we could “get a feel for things.”

(Photo-The Four Seasons)

That little fib will get you 8 hours of entertainment like a King! We spent this day at the Four Seasons wandering this empty perfect beach. Swimming pools and lounge chairs for the using and had a 5 star meal all for about $25! If that’s not livin the dream I don’t know what is!

Between the Four Seasons, The Tanjung Rhu and the Andaman, I would have to say the service and experience crashing the Four Seasons was definitely the best. (As it should be for a room starting at $800 per night!) But the food and cocktail prices at the Andaman were number one by far! We were having mixed drinks here for the same price as they are in town at the local bars!

Tanjung Rhu is also the name of the area where some of these resorts are. There is a really good public beach here as well. And do your self a favor a skip Black Sand beach. It is not even worth the 30 minutes of circles you will be driving to try to find it. I have been there twice now and both times I wondered why I even went.

 

Getting to and from-

You can fly into Langkawi or if traveling by land as I was you can arrange a boat from Penang. That boat was full so I took the free ferry to the mainland and took a bus north to Kuala Kedah. From there I took the 1 hour 45 min ferry boat to Langkawi. This is by far the cheapest way. I think I saved about $20 going this route and it was only an extra hour.

From Langkawi I took the ferry boat to Koh Lipe which is not that long of a trip for the nearly $30 I paid but it was the only way. The also take your passport in Malaysia and do not give it back to you until it is stamped in Thailand. So prepare for an hour of shitting your pants thinking your passport is not going to come back. It will. And also be sure if you are traveling to Koh Lipe to get a bottle of your favorite booze at the Duty Free port in Langkawi. Koh Lipe is expensive!

Where to stay-

If youre on a budget you can find cheaper places in the town but for me Tubotel was as good as it gets for $11 per night including a great breakfast and AC. They also have a cheap laundry service if you’re in need of clean clothes.

Malaysia

Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown, Malaysia is the capital city of the state of Penang. It is also the second largest city in Malaysia. Georgetown was established by Captain Francis Light of the British East India Company in 1786 and was one of the first British settlements in South East Asia. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was occupied by the Japanese during WWll before being reclaimed by the British at the end of the war. The Malaya attained independence from Britain in 1957.

Georgetown Malaysia has to be one of my favorite towns that I have been in Asia! Just for every day living. There is no amazing waterfalls or world class beaches but this place is not to be missed!

Many come for the street art that fills back alley ways and sides of coffee shops. I was no different, that was what had brought me to Georgetown for two days. The brilliant hostels, good wifi and amazing food is what kept me there for almost two weeks!

(this piece is one block behind Antarabangsa)

I flew the hour flight into Georgetown from Singapore via Air Asia. From the airport you can exit the terminal and out front there is a bus stop. From here you can take the 141 bus that will take you to Georgetown. It is about an hour bus ride from the terminal, I don’t remember the exact price, I just know it was not much and they do not give change! So if all you have is a big bill and want to get on that bus, it just turned into a $20 bus ride.

The bus will drop you off at Komtar terminal which is next to the Komtar mall on the outside of downtown Georgetown.

I booked two nights at the Container Hotel in a dorm for 31 ringgit ($7) per night. This place is brilliant if you value comfort over the party. Pod dorms with your own light, plug and a table that folds down with a mirror behind it. Big locker space under the bed and amazing wifi. There is no breakfast included but there is three brilliant coffee shop/bakeries within a block of the hostel. (I don’t know why but the rate is much better per night on booking.com instead of hostelworld.com)

The China house is the oldest Cafe in Georgetown. It is made up of three separate restaurants in one long skinny building. The cafe in the front has about 20 different cakes on display at all times and really good coffee and tea.

The Black Kettle is one of my favorite places in Georgetown if you want a big breakfast. (Hangover breakfast) They have french toast out of this world! Big sliced French toast with chocolate spread between, strawberries, almond slices and lychee on top and corn flakes on top. Dry chocolate crumbs and a scoop of ice cream, a plate of bacon and a latte. If you are still singing the blues after that then you need to re evaluate y0ur drinking.

Lavish is another cafe that is worth checking out. More of a French bakery with a good coffee and tea selection and a case full of fresh breads and pastries. And when you have a sweet tooth they make amazing shakes! About 8 different choices and every one looks like a home run!

As for dinner there is only one place that you need to know about and that is Kaptain’s. It is on the outside of Little India on Chulia Street and they have the best Indian food that I have ever had in my life! One of the best meals I have had in a long time anywhere for that matter. The Tandoori chicken and nan set is unbelievable. It comes with three different sauces, a lime and I get a side of rice to go with it. There is always a short wait after about 7pm so I always try to get there before then. Trust me kids you will not regret it!

As for the Street Art most of it is on or near Armani street. Many of the pieces were commissioned by the Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. And many of these pieces are deteriorating due to the weather and time.  I would reccomend downloading the app Maps.Me. Most of these pieces are on the map with a star next to them.

(this piece is in the ally on Chulia Street near the docks across the street from the Container Hotel)

(this piece is on Armenian Street near the end)

I just happened to be in Penang for the start of the Chinese New Years. Streets lined with Chinese lanterns and decorations. Georgetown is made up of almost half Chinese people so this is as good a place as any to celebrate!

If you happened to be in Penang during the Chinese New Year you must make it to Kek Lok Si for the lighting ceremony of the temple. It is unbelievable! For 30 days this entire temple is light up at night to celebrate. They gave Clark Griswold a run for his money for sure! There is almost not one part of the temple that isn’t decorated or wrapped with strands in this sea of lights.

There is a few beaches on this island but unless you are on a short trip I would suggest you just hold off until Langkawi. You can rent a scooter for 35 ringgit per day ($8) and you can take the 40 minute ride to the other side of the island where the Hard Rock and a few other resorts are. There is a beach and a National Park where you can take the hour hike to Monkey Beach. It looks to have been once just a fishing village but tourism is taking the shores over.

Where to stay-

Container Hotel- 31 ringgit per night. ($7)

Food-

Kaptain, The Black Kettle, Lavish, The China House

Booze-

Alcohol in quite expensive in Georgetown. The cheapest beer by far is found at Antarabangsa. Its a small store with coolers full of beer and plastic chairs out front. You will not find a cheaper beer on this island.

Gym-

There is a gym across from Komtar Mall called 24-M. It is 18 ringgit ($4) per day and that includes a protein shake. Weekly rates are a bit cheaper.

Malaysia

Borneo, Malaysia

Once one of the most diverse and wild places on earth! I have always thought the orangutan was a phenomenal creature and this was my chance to see one in the wild! There are only two places on earth that this can be done. Borneo or next door on the island of Sumatra. The population of Bornean Orangutans has now dropped to 45,000 and there are only about 6,300 left in the wild in Sumatra. I hate to even have to say that if I don’t see them now I may never have another chance..

I flew a short two hour from Manila in the Philippines to Kota Kinabalo, Malaysia. After spending a month speaking only English around mainly catholic Filipino people I was ready for things to get weird. Many people I met were a bit bored with this city but I loved it! Muslims, Buddhist, Catholics. Malay, Chinese, Indian. A bit of everything all wrapped up into one. I also forgot that they drive on the other side of the road in Malaysia. The steering wheel is on the opposite side of what I am used to as well.

I stayed at a great little hostel called the Masada Backpacker. The first hostel I have ever stayed at where they had a washing machine to wash your clothes for free! If you’re a backpacker like me, your mind was just blown!

I also found a fancy sushi joint in the mall with one of those sushi conveyer belts I hear about in Japan that deliver the food to your table. Always wanted to see one of these places and I got 24 pieces of sushi and a green tea for less then $5! Mind blown again right?

There is many night markets full of everything from shoes to jewelry to fresh sea food. Kota Kinabalu is a good walking city. Most everything you need can be gotten to on foot. I always felt safe walking around at night.

If you really feel like taking a hike you can walk to the City Mosque. It is a beautifully designed mosque on the outside of the city along the oceans coast. When I arrived I was not meeting the dress code in my shorts and t shirt so I went down the road and got my hands on some proper Muslim attire and walked back to pay a visit to the Mosque in style..

There is a look out point you can visit on your way back to town to have lunch overlooking the city and after that you have pretty much seen it all. Not to many attractions in KK. You can book a day tour from here to go see the Proboscis monkey (in the heading photo.) This island is the only place on earth that you can find this monkey! Part of that tour also includes taking a boat down a river to see the fireflies. After seeing the mosque and the monkeys I booked a bus to Sandakan for the next day.

On the six hour bus ride through the “jungle” it was full of mainly local people with a couple of British girls sitting near me. I heard them talking about how amazing it was to be surrounded by nothing but jungle for miles on every side. I had to inform them a bit about what was really going on. For the last 70  years the jungle has been being burned to the ground piece at a time to make way for palm oil! The homes of wild elephants, tigers, orangutans, probiscus monkeys and sun bears has been being destroyed at alarming rates!

They tell me that there is so much corruption that 80% of the logging is done illegally.

This was copied and pasted from a note I had in my phone from months back before I ever knew I was going to Borneo.

“One of the biggest crimes against humanity ever… Every day 300 football fields of rain forest are destroyed an hour to make way for Palm Oil. Indonesia is one of the largest producers of Palm Oil in the world. The largest wild fire on earth is happening right now! Over 100,000 fires have taken place in Indonesia and Malaysia in the last couple months. Orangutans are on track to be extinct in 5-10 years. Sumatran tigers will be extinct in 3! A third of all of the mammals in Indonesia and Malaysia are endangered.. The air quality is so poor they are canceling flights and even school! The smoke is literally such a crisis that people are dying because they cannot breathe! They are burning fields of the most beautiful hardwoods in the world along with burning tigers and Orangutans alive! Corrupt corporations like Nestle and Pepsi are 100% to blame for this catastrophe. Frito-lays and Pepsi isn’t food anyways fuck head! Palm oil is in half of everything so maybe you can’t just not use it but Pepsi products particularly use conflict palm oil. (Pepsi owns pretty much all of the junk food you eat.) Less then 300 Sumatra tigers remain in the wild because their homes are burned to make fucking Pepsi! Disgusting.” I wrote that in March. And yesterday I took a 7 hour bus ride through what once was one of the most amazing stretches of jungle in the world! And has since been burned to the ground and replaced with palm plantations. The whole ride I was sick to my stomach.

What a world we are living in. Nothing is safe if there is a few dollars on the other side.

So a few hours later I arrived to the town of Sandakan. In the first half of the 1900’s the British occupied Borneo until 1944 when the Japanese occupied the area. They bombed the city until it was completely destroyed because the Japanese wanted to bay in front of the town as a port for ships because it was so secluded. The town was left in ruins for years until it was rebuild later to be a main port of export for oil, tobacco, coffee, timber and fish.

Sandakan is the jump off spot for expititions to see elephant, orangutan, sun bears and proboscis monkeys in the wild. There are three day river tour that can be arranged here. There is also some rehabilitation centers like … where you can come visit the orangutan in its natural habitat. There is no walls here, the orangutans are free to come and go as they please. But some do tend to come back every day for a feeding of coconuts in the morning. This gal walked passed me as I was leaving and I was so excited that I focused on the background on accident.

Near here is a center as well that you can see sun bears in the jungle.

After my second day in Sandakan I was talking to the owners boyfriend of the Sandakan Backpackpackers where I was staying. I was asking him what else there was to do near there and he told me about Turtle Island. An island an hour by boat from Sandakan east towards The Philippines where turtles hatch eggs and you can help the baby turtles get to the sea before eaten by predators. I asked him “isn’t that where the pirates are at?” He basically told me that is exactly where the pirates are at but the waters near there are protected by the Malaysian Navy and that they have Navy ships on the route to make sure there isn’t any problems. This was taken from the roof of the Hostel. Pirate waters or not it sure looked pretty from my seat!

Then I started reading about the waters near Sandikan on the internet and read about how Filipino pirates have actually come onto land and kidnapped local people from a restaurant and took them to sea for ransom. Then I went on to read about how they kidnap Malaysian fishermen in these same waters and hold them for ransom or kill them. And it was at this point that I decided that I didn’t need to see anything else in this town. That night I booked a flight the next day back to Kota Kinabalu. This was the only stretch of untouched jungle I could see the whole flight.

From KK you have a few options for traveling. You can take the ferry boat to Brunei or you can go by bus. If you take the bus you better have some room in your passport because you will acquire 9 yes NINE new passport stamps to go this route. Brunei is made up of two parts so you have to exit and enter borders 4 times which is 8 stamps. Then you get a stamp when you go from the state of Sabah into Sarawak. Once in Brunei I read that it is not designed for tourism. There isn’t much to do other then to see the Sultans Palace. I read that a few years ago he was one of the most wealthy people in the world. But from Brunei to the other end of Sabah looked on the map like a solid 12 hour or more bus ride to Kuching. And the flights were not cheap from Brunei to anywhere. So I decided to chalk the rest of Borneo up on the fact that I would spend a whole lot of money only for basically bragging rights. I figured I could save that money and go to Myanmar or India so the cheapest flight out of Kota Kinabalu I could get my hand on was to Singapore and I had not been there yet. Sooo next stop Singapore!

 

Getting to and from-

From Kota Kinabalu you can book cheap flight to Kuching, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Manilla. Cost- 43 ringgit ($9.50)

From Kota Kinabalu you can arrange a bus to Sandakan from the terminal that leaves every other hour. You can also book a bus at the terminal or a ferry boat to Brunei from the port. Cost is about 50 ringgit ($10.50) either way.

Where to stay-

Kota Kinabalu- The Masada Backpacker- 40 ringgit ($9) a night with AC, good wifi and breakfast included.

Sandakan- The Sandakan Backpacker is ok for a night or two. The staff is very nice. The rooftop view is the nicest thing in the whole city. Its 35 ringgit per night. If I could do that trip again I would stay at the hostel in Sepiloc for the same price that has a pool!

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