Bed Bugs Gone Wild in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
If you’re going through hell, keep going.
– Winston Churchill
Since the outset of our time in Southeast Asia, Nadine and I have traversed the middle of peninsular Malaysia, doubling back south and again turned around and headed north up the western coast to Penang, just south of the Thai border. Tomorrow we are going to head to the beaches of Thailand and Krabi. We’ve had a few experiences.
Today’s title to the blog entry, with much effort and coercing, was courteous of Matthew Pepper. He correctly answered the earlier blog question that “lima” is the number “5” in Malay as well as the capital of Peru. All those degrees are paying off.
Upon our arrival to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands, cool temperatures welcomed us. This afforded us time to wash our grungy sets of clothes and enjoy the cool weather. Two days passed without any real exploration or physical movement for that matter, we decided that since we were in the Cameron Highlands, we should actually experience the Cameron Highlands, not just the limited area around the hostel and the main thoroughfare. We joined other rain jacket clad tourists on a morning tour. First stop was a Buddhist Temple and then the Rose Centre. Ahhh, the Rose Centre, how much fun can a bunch of flowers be? Well, the Rose Centre was actually worth the visit. It was a multi-leveled terrace with views of the underlying valley, thousands of roses and non-roses, and random Disney characters standing among the vegetation. Who would have imagined Snow White and the Seven Dwarves waiting for us, the White family?
We followed the Rose Centre to another masculine spot, the Butterfly Farm. Did I accidentally sign us up for the sissy New Mexican tour? The Butterfly Farm did have some redeeming qualities, snakes, lizards, large black scorpions, turtles, toads, and, yeah, a few thousand butterflies. I went into it apprehensive, but the chance to have all of these nasty animals crawl over my body made it well worth the 3 ringgit entry fee.
The earlier stops were just simple distractions to the real reason people visit the Cameron Highlands, the tea plantations. The last stop was a guided visit to the BOH tea plantation which provided amazing views of undulating hills covered with green patterns of tea plants. I also took advantage to taste all the free sweet peach tea samples in the BOH gift shop . . . numerous times.
From the Cameron Highlands, the bus carried us down from the curvy and swaying road of the highlands to the juxtaposition of the sprawling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur. Nadine’s stomach returned to normal on the flat, straight paths along the coast of western Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur was captivating. So our first day in Kuala Lumpur, K.L. to locals, we made our way around, near, in the periferia, but not quite to the actual base of one of the most emblematic buildings in the country, the K.L. Tower. The sixth tallest in the world hovers over the city, so you would think stepping inside the largest tower in the world would be easy. It took us a little over an hour to reach it, and we never actually walked to the tower on our own accord. A guy kindly offered us a ride directly to the tower. Gazing from the 1,381 foot tall tower, you could make out the hazy outlines of some building over there, a bridge, and something else in the late afternoon light. The view was clouding in a combo of haze, clouds, and pollution blocking our panoramic view. Damn pollution!
Our second day would take us again to soaring heights. We left early and headed directly to the tallest set of twin towers in the world, the Petronas Towers. In order to visit these towers, and quite a bit easier to reach, you queue up in the morning line and receive a time in which you can climb the 41 stories to the observation bridge connecting the two silver Petronas Towers. During high tourist season, these free tickets are as much of a challenge as receiving quality education in the New Mexico School System, but we were dawdling around during shoulder season, tickets were easy. Compared to the K.L. Tower, we more clearly saw the surrounding expanse. Better look quick though, to keep the flow of people moving, guests only have 10 minutes for photos. Fine with us. Back on level ground, we obtained two more tickets for the afternoon. Hey, it’s free, great view, we’re on a budget, and it’s quite popular.
As any good traveller knows, you need to have a roll of toilet paper with you at all times in case the situation arises that you have to go, confronted with a squat toilet, and have no t.p. We went to a local store to purchase a roll or two, but the smallest package available contained 10 rolls. What are you going to do, go without? No way, we walked out with a 10-roll package under our arms. Now we have to find space to put it in our backpacks.
To complete the day, we headed to Chinatown and the festivities there. Walking through stifling heat and constant requests to buy a watch, haven’t bought one in a decade, we decided to hide in a t-shirt store. Here I saw the absolute finest t-shirt I have seen the entire trip. Up on the wall was a yellow shirt in light brown print, Oklahoma. Not so great until you know what accompanied the Oklahoma shirt. In some sweatshop’s creative division, the idyllic vision of Oklahoma was one where sunsets shine over secluded beaches and palm trees in all directions! Obviously they have NOT been to Guthrie, Oklahoma. In my five years living there, I can’t recall a single spot of land with any resemblance to an ocean lined with palm trees. I would have bought several of these shirts as Christmas gifts, but there was only one left, and it was a small. Must be a popular choice. I know I loved it.
Our first night in K.L., we stayed at a hostel that even locals would label a little shabby. At night, we saw several cockroaches scurrying across the floor in the hallways. A single night was sufficient. Our first hostel resembled a fine hotel after our next night. The second night in K.L., we moved to Le Village, a hostel with respectable reviews in our guidebook. We arrived with expectations of insect-less rooms. During the day, it appeared respectable, at night, that was when the insectarium thrived. At night, the bed bugs came out to play and feast on all the residents. We attempted to sleep with loud noises coming from our deaf Japanese neighbors packing suspiciously at night, we also felt crawling on our legs. All of that was enough to wake us up and do a proper search of the place. It was then that we found these small bed bugs scurrying all over. From that point on, Nadine didn’t sleep and spent the night in the lounge area with a fellow female traveler with the same disgust for bed bugs. This followed an exhausting day in the heat of K.L. I showered, sprayed bug spray on my body, and jumped in my sleep sheet and got 4 hours of disturbed sleep. Promptly at 6 a.m., yes waking up a 6 a.m. on this trip!, we were out the door and eagerly finding a bus to Melaka. While in Melaka later that day, we discovered the damage from our one night at Le Village, tiny, red bites covered both of our backs. We’ll bring our battle scars with us to Thailand tomorrow.
After two horrendous nights of sleep in K.L. and 3 months of hostels, we decided we were going to stay in an actual hotel! We found a three star hotel on sale for 90 ringgits, $27 U.S., and stayed three nights. As a result, we loved Melaka. The highlight of Melaka, outside of the Emperor Hotel, was the night market in Chinatown. We strolled the market trying chocolate covered strawberries (a delectable delight not found in the Western world), pastries filled with exotic fillings, hopefully not too exotic, and some Tiger beer next to a road vendor. In all of our travels, we haven’t bought any real souvenirs other than postcards graced with images of random animals and decorative spoons my mom never actually use to stir her coffee. Here, we went a bit crazy. We bought three things. A painting, a nightlite, and some placemats. They should now be on their way to the States via the slowest ship available. Let’s hope that they at least beat us home.
Amongst our strolling hand in hand, tasting exotic foods, and breaking the bank with shopping, we stumbled into the area where locals try their best at karaoke. We pulled up chairs to a stage that stretched across the pedestrian street (at least tonight) and witnessed a woman serenading the crowd in a very high scratchy Chinese voice, which must only mean she was a really competent singer as an elderly man danced around with a red fan in his hand all while passersby plugged their ears staring at the stage. This was hilarious. This is why you travel. To make you not feel so bad about your own singing abilities.
From Melaka, we turned north to the stirring and dirty port city of Penang. We met some intriguing people. One couple left England with plans to travel for 3 years around the world, but changed their minds and extended it to 5 years. Another pair of friends are biking from Australia to Switzerland. There geography teacher would be ashamed for the lack of knowledge about a few bodies of water, but hey, who am I to judge? Bonded and ran randomly into the same Dutch couple from that horrible hostel in K.L.
Life is good. We will go to Thailand tomorrow and the town of Krabi. I am feeling well, but Nadine has a head cold now. She is getting some rest in a bed bug free, air-conditioned room as I write.
If anyone would like to spend a carpe diemish Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years break in South East Asia with some cool folks, or just a bit irritating at times, you are invited to join us for a bit. Even if you don’t think we are cool, you’re still invited. We have a pretty relaxed schedule in that we don’t have to be anywhere until Valentine’s Day in Hong Kong, China, so we could meet up with y’all anywhere.