Meandering through Malaysia
Malaysia was the final leg of my 2 month long trip, and my time there was pretty bittersweet - I was excited about exploring but also homesick and sad because I knew it was coming to an end...a real plethora of emotions. I flew into Kuala Lumpur and spent a couple of days there alone, which was actually quite nice as I hadn't really been alone for the majority of the trip. Kuala Lumpur is a real mish-mash of cultures, very bustling and cosmopolitan, with fantastic shopping and gastronomical delights. I met some cool people, spent most of my time walking around in a sweaty daze and even took some time to actually chill! Out! How! Unlike! Me! 10th of October 2018 'As I'm writing this it's absolutely pissing it down outside - this is the first lot of rain I've seen in a long while, and it's torrential! Just as well I got back to the hostel in time. The hostel is pretty basic but it's got everything you need pretty much - bed, toilet, shower, basic breakfast, Wi-Fi. There was a Spanish girl in my room last night who was nice but she left to go to the Philippines this morning. I watched a film with her and some other people last night, which was really nice as I was apprehensive about sitting in an empty room last night! I didn't really do much exploring last night when I got here - just went to McDonald's (classic) and did a bit of planning. Today I got up at about 9, got ready, had breakfast and then headed out. Surprisingly I've been feeling super calm since being here - I don't know if it's because I know Dad is arriving in a few days or because I've stayed in a city by myself before. Either way, I'm glad I'm not feeling anxious! It's honestly one of the most horrible feelings I've experienced. Anyway, I went to the National Mosque and the Islamic Arts Museum this morning, which was pretty cool. Felt very cultured. I also went to Chinatown and had some lunch at a really old café and oh my goodness, the noodles were amazing. I'm pretty sure they were some of the best Chinese noodles I've ever had in my life. I ain't even lying. Petaling Street and the surrounding area were really cool, there was lots going on, lots of shops and stalls and stuff. Now I'm just back here chilling. I don't think I'll be going out again until this rain stops!'
11th of October 2018 'I went to the Batu Caves in the morning, which was pretty impressive, although the journey there was sweaty. I don't know if it's a good idea to walk everywhere but I'm doing it anyway, haha. KL just seems to have a lot of huge dual carriageways and roadworks and not a lot of space for pedestrians, which makes things a little bit awkward. And it's so humid here!! The humidity is like, 85% or something ridiculous, so it feels like it's about 38 degrees. However, I'm trying to cover up to avoid more insect bites, aha. Can't win. The caves themselves were super cool and all the temples and stairs have recently been painted so everything was really colourful. There's obviously a really big Indian population here in Kuala Lumpur - I feel like I've seen more Indian people than Malaysian people! I guess because Hinduism is also really big here in Malaysia. I had Indian food as well today for lunch - I walked in and told the lady that I was a veggie and she just whipped up this really tasty dish for me (have no idea what it was.) It was also like £2!! Honestly, Malaysia is probably the cheapest country I've ever been to. I bought food, drinks, transport and souvenirs today and all I've spent is £12!! It's ridiculous. I went to Central Market to get my souvenirs. I loved it - there were so many nice shops selling clothes, jewellery, accessories, decorations, souvenirs...if I didn't have a backpack and had unlimited space instead, I would be buying shit tons of stuff. I'm so bad when it comes to souvenirs - I insist on buying everyone and their mother a present!! I also had a coffee and some cookies after I was done with my shopping, and it was then that I felt super calm and really at peace with just being alone. I think it's really important to know how to spend time with yourself and also how to just "be" in the moment. One thing this trip has taught me is how to relax and go with the flow a lot more, although I don't know if when I go home I will revert back to my normal self. I hope not!'
12th of October 2018 'I think there's a lot of pressure when you go travelling. There's pressure to have a really amazing time, to see as much as possible, to meet cool people and to be 100% positive 100% of the time. This is of course all bullshit. Travelling may be an abnormal and exceptional period of time but that doesn't mean that you suddenly change as a person. You still get ill, get tired, have "off" days and need variation. You do tend to push yourself a bit when you travel because it's likely that you won't visit these places again but it simply can't be great all of the time and you aren't some sort of superhero. I've definitely come to accept this. It's important to know what your body wants and needs. It's ok to not feel like doing something. You're tired. You're putting yourself through so much mental and physical pressure as you scour the globe and leap into different places, different time zones, different cultures. You're constantly facing challenges and at the same time, you may be missing home, or maybe even feeling guilty for missing home because you should be "living your best life." And another thing.
You're never going to be able to see everything anyway. You're never going to be able to do everything there is to be done or eat all of the different foods. C'est impossible. And so, bearing that in mind, it shouldn't be difficult to accept that you just need to go with the flow. Travelling can be great. It can also be stressful and confusing and painful. But what makes it an experience is that after everything, you come away with so many memories. It was all worth it. I think today I was really just hot, bothered and itchy. Really itchy. I've got so many bites, it's like Japan all over again although thank God it's not as bad. I managed to see a couple of things which I'm happy about, namely a mosque, Merdeka Square and the eco forest park thing - there was a canopy walk inside which I went on and it was cool.'
The next day I picked my Dad up from the airport and we headed to Borneo! This was our route...
Our first stop was Kuching, the capital of the state of Sarawak... 15th of October 2018 'Well, we're here in Borneo! Kuching is an interesting city, pretty small and old with a riverside promenade and lots of good places to eat. We went out to explore once we had settled in and it was just really, really dead pretty much everywhere, I guess because it was a Sunday. In the evening, however, the riverside promenade completely transformed! Turns out it was the governer's birthday so there was a whole celebration going on in, I guess, his honour. I giggle at the prospect of everyone in the UK celebrating Theresa May's birthday. What different worlds we live in... There were so many food stalls, people selling nick-nacks and souvenirs and crowds eagerly awaiting the beautiful fountain show that lit up the whole river. It was really hard to see just because there were so many people but we managed to catch some of it. We bought some colourful layer cake after our tasty street food dinner and then had a hot drink before calling it a night. We had a really early start this morning - 6am! Haven't done that in a while. It was pretty grim, but after a buffet breakfast I was ok. We caught a local bus to the Semenggoh Wildlife Reserve, hoping to see some orang-utans. The journey there was so long because of all the traffic and there wasn't really much to look at out the window apart from shops and advertisements. However, once we got there we saw the most beautiful trees, plants and flowers - and an orang-utan! I was a bit worried that we wouldn't see one because the ranger told us that they only show up sometimes; they're semi-wild so they usually find their own food in the forest. We were lucky! Even though it was just one orang-utan, that was enough for me. He was so funny! And weirdly elegant, the way he swung from branch to branch. We went back to Kuching, had some food, looked at a mosque and the Islamic Museum, which was a faff to find and also looked like it had seen better days. We were both really sluggish and hot by this point, and I think Dad is still jet-lagged (and he's also come down with a cold. Thanks, Mum.) Bless him, he was being quite indecisive, so we went back to our favourite vegan café, had a drink and went back to our hotel.'
16th of October 2018 'Today we headed to the Bako National Park, which everyone says is one of the best national parks to go to if you're in Sarawak. It did not disappoint! Well, we didn't really see much wildlife (I was really keen to see the proboscis monkeys and some cool birds) but the nature was absolutely breathtaking so our hike was definitely worth it! We had to get a speedboat to the park, which was actually really exciting because the scenery was so cool - felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie or something! When we got dropped at the beach it really felt like we were about to venture into the jungle and locate some dinosaurs, I ain't even lying. The hike was really difficult at first and I thought it was going to be like that the whole way but luckily it got easier. The forest was screaming with life but after a while it kind of sounded weirdly tranquil. The humidity was a lot but after a little while you sort of just get used to your environment, find a rhythm and plough ahead. I love walking. We reached a cliff eventually, which overlooked a pristine beach and miles and miles of sea (containing crocodiles.) It was kind of magical. It was a bitch to get down onto the beach but honestly, it was just so cool and also very surreal. I really did feel very far away from home in that moment!'
18th of October 2018 'It's actually about half 3 in the afternoon and this flight that we're currently on - from Kuching to Miri - only takes about an hour. Dad and I have both just spilt orange juice all over ourselves, so the flight is going well so far. Our time in Kuching went so fast, I can't believe it. It felt like we had just settled into our little routine - we had our hotel, knew the area, knew where we liked to get food and coffee - and now we're off on a new adventure. It's crazy how much you do absorb when you stay somewhere for a few days. You have to quickly get used to your surroundings. And then bam! You're off again. It's all just a fleeting memory. Yesterday we got up early again to go to a national park - Kubah National Park, to be exact. We took the waterfall trail which was very wild and full of amazing trees that were absolutely huge and looked like they had been there for millions of years. Once again the forest was screaming with life but we only saw an interesting variety of bugs. It's true that the majority of the time it's actually the forest that is always watching you... The trail was a bit precarious at times - the path was damp and some of the bridges definitely needed replacing! For a long time we were the only people on the trail, so we both felt truly secluded. The waterfall was nice but we didn't stay for long as we ended up getting attacked by all these weird hornet things. On the way back I felt super tired, which was strange because it had been much hotter at Bako and I had had way more energy. I think I am subconsciously itching to get home and sort my life out. Clara said she had the exact same thing when she went away to South America for 3 months. The prospect of sorting my life out is a scary but exciting one. Damn, I am gonna have so many mixed emotions when I leave Borneo.'
Once our short time in Sarawak was over we caught a flight to Miri, which is just outside the state of Brunei, and got picked up by one of my Dad's old work friends who is currently living in Brunei. 19th of October 2018 'All cosy in my flared trousers and knitted jumper! I've had a cup of tea, biscuits and am currently a happy bunny. We are staying with Fiona and her husband, Dave, who is an absolute hoot. Fiona is lovely too, and has been a teacher here for 4 years, which is such a long time! She is loving it though despite all the challenges of living in a very Islamic country. It's so strict here and so different to Malaysia / Indonesia. It's so small as well, and very rich, although there still is quite a lot of poverty in places. Apparently the government are trying to bring in groups of indigenous peoples to the towns and essentially Islamify them, through bribing or whatever. It seems as if there are a lot of weird things going on here, quite a bit of corruption and just a melting pot of different cultures perhaps struggling to live together with one small stretch of land. Fiona was giving us the lowdown of all of this in the car and has been telling us so many different stories - there's a lot to absorb, especially considering I had no previous knowledge of Brunei before I came here! It was really nice to have pizza and wine last night - whilst we were crossing the borer we stopped at this liquor store to get a shit ton of alcohol! One person is only allowed to bring in so many bottles so Fiona was taking advantage of us, haha! It's nice to be staying in a family home, hence I am chuffed at being able to have tea and WAITROSE BISCUITS, even if the tea is Lipton. I had a really good sleep last night and conked out. No offence to Dad, but I'm happy to not be the victim of his snoring!! We had an early start today - got up at 6am to go on a waterfall jungle trek that was actually pretty damn difficult! Having been on quite a few I thought this one wouldn't be too bad - particularly as Fiona didn't want to do anything too strenuous - but the terrain was hard to work with and we had to cross over the river numerous times and scramble up rocks! All very wild. I think we definitely got quite an authentic experience as our guide, Michael, lives in the longhouse that we visited just before we set off and there were literally zero other tourists. I'm not kidding when I say we were in the middle of nowhere. It was truly some George of the Jungle shizz. The waterfall was beautiful! We were allowed to swim in it but I kind of wasn't bothered and was still quite skeptical of all the wildlife. But it was a lot nicer and a lot more peaceful than the waterfall we went to the other day. It was so serene. The way back wasn't too bad as we kind of knew where we were going and I think we were eager to get it over and done with. To be fair I had a lot more energy than at Kubah, so I could have gone all day! Well, not really but you know. It also wasn't as hot as it could have been.'
The longhouse is a wooden structure that accommodates several families and is a traditional way of life for the Iban tribe in Borneo. As well as different family homes it also contains a communal meeting space. If more families move in, the longhouse is simple elongated. Longhouses are typically found in very rural areas of the forest as the tribal people use the forest to hunt. It is a simple and very communal way of life and it was really interesting to meet several people who had been born and raised there, including Michael, our guide, who was very proud of his roots.
21st of October 2018 'Well, I ended up leaving a bunch of laundry on the washing line, didn't I?! God knows how I'm going to get my clothes back. Fiona said that the postal system here is a bit dodgy so it may take quite a while. It's not a lot of stuff but a few bits of hiking gear is there, and I needed that for our escapade at Mount Kinabalu. I don't think we're going to climb the mountain, which is the highest in Borneo, but we will be doing a few walks within the national park. We're currently flying to Kota Kinabalu, which is I guess the main city, or maybe one of the main cities in Sabah. It was so, so nice to stay with Fiona and Dave. It felt like a bit of repose for us - they reminded me a lot of home, even though they've been out here for like, 4 years. Yesterday morning we just chilled for ages and it was great. I read, drank some tea and did some research on what I want to do with my life, ha. Didn't really come to any sort of conclusion, funnily enough. I think I've decided to just go with the flow and take everything one step at a time. There's no point trying to plan lots of stuff and then getting more stressed about it all. I'm just going to focus on what really excites me and makes me happy. We drove to the capital of Brunei yesterday, Bandar, and went on this incredible boat trip through the mangroves. Felt like I was in Apocalypse Now or something - it was probably one of the best boat trips I've been on to be honest. We cruised past a water village and then through the mangroves - it was so stunning. We saw herons, crocodiles, a monitor lizard and finally some proboscis monkeys!! I was really happy to have seen them as they can only be found in Borneo and I was worried that we wouldn't get another chance. We saw quite a few and got a really good view - it was so cool! The crocodiles were actually pretty scary - one was like 11 feet long or so! We edged pretty close to it and I was actually pretty nervous! I mean, I don't think they can jump but honestly, wildlife is so unpredictable. The sun was setting as we came back to the centre of town and oh my gosh, it was so amazing! We also got to see one of the main mosques as prayer was taking place as the sun was going down. Gorgeous.'
22nd of October 2018 'Kota Kinabalu was so different from Kuching - it was smelly, raw and very busy! At night it really came alive - we checked out the huge food market and had a nosey around the handicrafts market, too. It felt like a truly authentic experience; there were mostly locals hanging about, bar the odd tourist. We've hardly seen any tourists though - it's definitely not peak season. I'm curious to know how busy it gets in peak season. Seeing such a colourful array of food at the market made me really want to cook! I haven't cooked in bloody ages - it's so weird to eat out every single day whilst travelling. It kind of takes the novelty out of it, even though so many places I've eaten at have been far from fancy. I also can't wait to eat healthily again - and eat actual vegetarian / vegan food! Basically I miss a lot of things, it's not even a joke. Can't wait to go home. But yeah, the market was cool except for the fact that there were a lot of children walking around begging. I haven't actually seen anything like that up until now - I suppose I haven't really been in the right places - but it was really sad to see. Some of them didn't have any shoes. We bought one little boy a drink but we couldn't buy every single person a drink, you know? It's always difficult in those situations as you have absolutely no clue what the deal is, whether they've got families or are being used or are genuinely desperate.
It rained quite a bit during the day which was annoying, so we took shelter in a shopping centre and somehow I stumbled across a Sephora! I mean, of all the places to find one..?! We just kinda walked around and got a feel for the place, and then headed back to our hotel, which was pretty nice.'
'This morning we checked out and then took one of those service buses all the way to Kinabalu Park. It took a while, and the bus was pretty hot, but the scenery was stunning. We drove up winding roads with thousands of trees on either side and saw incredible valleys that reminded us how high we were actually going. It's a lot cooler up here, that's for sure; I'm currently sitting in bed in a jumpsuit and a sweatshirt and my hair is still not dry even though I had a shower quite a while ago. It's annoying as well because we got absolutely soaked on our walk today and I don't know how quickly our clothes are going to dry. Ugh, that walk! We thought we'd have a little wander around our area and get our bearings (not really much here, let's be brutally honest!) and got a map of the park at the information desk, so we picked a trail and headed off. It was so much more difficult than I expected! The thing is, it's not so much the incline that's a challenge, it's the terrain and the wildlife that comes with the walk. The weather changed so quickly - it started off a bit misty but nothing too crazy, and then suddenly it got really dark and started absolutely pissing down with rain. That's when I started getting bitten by leeches.
Ok, I got bit by one leech, but they were literally attacking my shoes, and this combined with the environment and the weather just sent me into panic mode. It was horrible. I felt like I just needed to get out of that forest asap, and I was absolutely legging it down the trail, not really taking in what was going on where I was going. I felt really bad for Dad as I didn't want to ruin his walk but to be fair he was probably not enjoying the rain that much either. It just really put me off and even now I've calmed down I feel quite nervous about tomorrow although it looks like it's going to rain all day which is shit. I'm just trying to stay positive. I've only got 4 days left of the trip!'
23rd of October 2018
'Well, today was a lot better than yesterday, although I have to say we didn't do an awful lot! We had a good sleep, despite dreams of constantly slipping over in some dark rainforest, and had breakfast before heading to the park. I made sure to wear no less than 3 pairs of socks to keep the leeches at bay and thank God it worked. Came across one or two clinging to my leg but I wasn't even mildly fazed. The walk we did took about half an hour and we had sunlight streaming through the trees as the weather was really lovely and bright. We bought some fruit from a lady at the roadside who was really sweet and then retreated indoors, expecting a thunderstorm to hit.
Well, it didn't for bloody ages!'
24th of October 2018
'I think I am currently 99% noodle. Most of today was spent travelling and that was pretty boring...
...the best part was when we walked around the village we're staying in and witnessed a gorgeous sunset amid the really picturesque rural scenery. Everyone in the village is so friendly. They all greeted us as we walked past and the little kids couldn't stop themselves from chattering away to us and giggling. We briefly watched a group of boys playing the game whose name I have forgotten...basically it's like kick volleyball but not. It's bloody hard, I know that much. We watched it on TV the other day - there was a national game being held in Kuala Lumpur. Might as well be martial arts!
We are staying at a homestay belonging to a man named Ismail. He's about my Dad's age and his English is brilliant - we sat down with him this afternoon and talked with him about everything from religion to politics to health. He's got some interesting things to say and seems very open-minded, which is nice. It's also nice to be staying with a local as you just get so much insight from them.'
25th of October 2018
My mood is definitely fluctuating at the moment. When I'm distracted I feel fine, but when I have nothing to do I'm so restless. I've finished my books, don't really have much to write and the Wi-Fi here is shit so we can go for half a day without any connection at all.
We went to a little local place for breakfast, which was really nice actually. It was noodles with blended nuts and egg - lots of protein and highly delicious. I've kind of forgotten what nutrition actually means if I'm honest. Just given up on being healthy here. We headed back to Ismail's afterwards and just spent the rest of the day chilling. We chatted to him for a bit and just kinda rested. I guess it is a good thing because we've got 2 long days of travelling ahead of us but, you know, it was fairly boring. I just watched more YouTube videos because they remind me of home, haha.
In the afternoon we went on another river cruise, which was fun. There were so many Chinese tourists! I was a bit taken aback as I haven't seen tourists for a while. There were also lots of monkeys loitering about and being cheeky - one even stole 2 of my free dumplings while I was having a cup of tea! Whilst on the boat we saw more monkeys and some lizards. It was really nice weather so the sun was shining bright and everything was super vivid; we could even see the mountains. We got off the boat and then ended up at this beach just as the sun was setting. Oh my goodness, it was the most magical sunset I've seen in Borneo! It's always good when there are some clouds as it adds more dimension to the sky and looks fantabulous in photos!
We had a quick complimentary dinner and then headed back to the jetty to go out on the water and see some fireflies. Well, we saw loads! It was really quite surreal actually. They made the trees look all Christmassy!
27th of October 2018
'Still cannot believe it. I've been waiting for this day for a while and now that it's here I'm like "oh...ok". I have to say though, going away for a significant amount of time does make you appreciate home. All the comfortable and familiar things may seem boring and routine at times but we should actually be grateful for them because people really do have it a lot worse elsewhere in the world. We are insanely lucky.
I've seen so much incredible stuff and learnt a lot, which makes me realise just how rich with life and history even the smallest areas are. The world really is a diverse melting pot of cultures and I know it sounds cliché but exploring is just such a good thing to do, if you can. Again, not everyone has the opportunity to go and explore so that's why I feel like I should.
Now to go and blog about it all!'