A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about malaysia

On leaving a continent

Things take on a new significance when they are about to end.

sunny 24 °C
View Liberty Goes East & Re-Europe on Zaspirucho's travel map.

Last days of Asia

Last days of Asia


Six months it was. Six months ago I arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the first time. On that day I knew nothing. Coming out of the subway station I was dazzled by the light and movement, and surprised by the great structures looming over me. The Twin Towers! In my frenzy, I had forgotten to read up on where I was going, so I had no idea the iconic buildings where actually located in Kuala Lumpur. Like going to New York and being surprised to find the Empire State Building there. But lo and behold, the famous Petronas!

It takes on a new form, that which is known. It gets blurry and fades away some. I walked that same path several times that first week in Malaysia, and some more in the following visits to KL. The towers became familiar, my friends. When I got lost in the city I could look for them in the distance, be reassured by their far-off presence. When walking under their shadow I needed not heed them, rather I would look at the people, at the cars and advertisements. The great giants a part of the scenery, part of the world.

Then there is a mysterious link between the first and last. The senses get sharpened by the feelings of conclusion, by the coming end. When you’re aware it is the last time (that you know of) that you’ll do this or eat that, and it your senses will sharpen, trying to capture every detail possible. Every sound, every smell and colour. When the world that is known is about to disappear, we strive to experience; to remember. That way it may live on, in our memories at least.

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In this spirit I spent the last days in Malaysia; visiting the places I had come to enjoy, and saying goodbye. I saw people I had met six months before, turned some old smiles into new kisses. By now I had my favourite sites too; places where they didn’t need to ask: upon seeing me they’d know whether I required an ice coffee or a double espresso. The kind of places that become a home, where the people treat you as a friend. And to top it all off, I was able to meet with Tihomir, my Bulgarian Liberty crewmate, and with my cousin and her beautiful kids and husband. Thus the trip ended in the same loving manner as it began. The circle is closed now, time to move on.

Countries, food, experiences, thoughts, this has been a trip of many firsts. I’ll surely revisit the region. But for now, it’s time to go back to the west. There’s no need to go all the way there though, so first I’ll stop at the border, there where the two worlds meet. We shall fly through the night and tomorrow I’ll see the Sun rise over Istanbul.

All things come to an end, such is the nature of the world. And then they start again.

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:43 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur travel end malaysia friends istanbul family trip asia kl liberty thoughts learning Comments (0)

The three day thing

As this Chapter nears its end.

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It’s been six months since I left Mexico City. Two of those I've been in South East Asia.
As I approached Kuala Lumpur a fourth time, I felt as unready and lost as that first time, six months before. I still don’t know what lies ahead of me. My map is still covered in fog. I cannot see clearly anything past a few weeks, and anything beyond three months is so blurry as to be a waste of time even trying to fathom it.
If all had gone according to plan, I would still be sailing, marveling at the ocean’s vastness and the beauty of islands and sea. It would have been a great time, I know, just a completely different experience to what I've had.
During this two months in Asia I have journeyed here and there, catching barely a glimpse of what the region has to offer. Someday I’ll come back. And in the rainy season too! There is just too much that stayed beyond the horizon this time. Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the North of Thailand. And that’s without looking South. But I am now to enter the silence, to digest all that’s taken place in the last weeks and months. To let sink all the smiles, all the kisses, the hellos and goodbyes.

I've been doing the three day thing this past weeks. Days merged into one, and it felt like I spent more time in vehicles and walking to the next place than actually there. After leaving Angkor and Siem Reap, I passed through Kampot, Kep, Phnom Phen, Sihanoukville and Koh Rong. I kept going deeper into Cambodia, but didn't find the kind of effortless belonging of those early days in Siem Reap…

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I spent a grand total of two days in Koh Rong. It’s a nice yet difficult place to explain… The only reason I went to there in the first place was because I read online that the island was beautiful, yet cheap, and that I could find 1$ dorms. This is not so. The cheapest dorm, at least this season, is 7$, escalating all the way to 60$ thatch bungalows and treehouses. It is not a cheap island. Having said that, it is a gorgeous place, and the people are great. Hippies, locals and expats, most understood my situation as a confused and broke traveler and were very sympathetic. ‘If you want anything cheaper than 7$, you´re gonna have to work for it’ they said. It took less than an hour after setting foot on that pier to get a place to stay. I spent the next two nights on the furthermost point of 4K Beach, a 40 min walk away from town. All they needed was someone to be there, so the place would never be completely alone. So I had a tent, noodles, beer, soft drinks, and red bull in exchange for just being there and keeping an eye over everything; for hanging out on the beach and selling the occasional beer. Basically for doing nothing. Heck I cleaned the place up, even raked the sand and burnt some leaves just to feel productive. It was great. I could have stayed there for days, weeks even... So then I left in the morning. After having camped, danced, walked at night in the jungle and swum in the dreamlike, shiny, phosphorescent blue sea… It just could not get any better than that. Not there. So Bangkok, Padang Besar, Langkawi and Penang soon passed under my feet. And then I was back in KL, back at the beginning.

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Here are some things I've experienced in the last days/weeks:

Stay away from rocky outcroppings, or be ready to limp for a couple of days.

Even small coral can be very sharp, and cuts on the sole of the feet are very, very uncomfortable. Noted, learned.

Sometimes the $1 dorms are amazing and awesome. Other times they mean bedbugs. Flip a coin.

In Siem Reap I stayed at the Garden Village Guesthouse. It was awesome. I made friends and got great memories from there.
In Sihanoukville I stayed at the Utopia Hostel. Don’t stay there. Don’t go anywhere near that place. Just don’t.

Send messages to strangers. Couchsurf. Say yes.

When last I was in Bangkok I contacted on Facebook a girl who lives there. Turns out they have a spare room they are trying to set as a small B&B, so I stayed with Alexander and Abigail for 3 nights, with Petrina meeting me there. It was awesome![/b][/center]

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Wine is best after not having any for months. Even more if it’s free.

One of the nice things of meeting locals (as in people who live there) is that they tend to know what’s going on. And that might just be the anniversary party of a nice, hip bar. I hadn’t had any wine in six months.

Travel with someone. Separate. Meet them again.

We met in KL that first week, then again after our sailing adventures. Now we coincided in Bangkok a third time. We could exchange stories from the time apart, and had someone for a few days we didn't have to introduce each other to, rather build on the friendship. It’s a great relief!

When crossing borders, double check the local time zone.

When Petrina and I arrived in Padang Besar, Malaysia, neither of us bothered to check the local time. As such, we missed the last bus out and got stranded there. Nothing wrong with the place, it’s just not somewhere you want to stay in for longer than necessary.

Smile.

I smiled at a girl in Siam Reap. Our eyes and smiles met again in Kampot. Fancy to meet again, and sharing a cab with her and her brother, in Padang Besar, all the way to Langkawi. Then going out drinking with them in Penang. Who knows, maybe I’ll see her again in KL. Or in Germany someday!

Help someone.

I met a somewhat lost Australian waiting for the bus. I guided her to where she wanted to go, and stuck with her the rest of the day. A nervous little thing, she would have never eaten in the indian restaurant I took her to, nor ridden the bus all the way to the Kek Lok Sie temple. The thing is, I was ready to let the temple pass, but it is one of the best places Penang has to offer. It is beautiful, and its commanding view of the city, gorgeous. I would have missed out greatly and wouldn't even know it. I still don't know who helped out the other more.

This is not Kek Lok Sie Temple. I very smartly forgot the camera battery.

This is not Kek Lok Sie Temple. I very smartly forgot the camera battery.


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And now I ready to enter the silence. It’s the last adventure in SE Asia for now, and one that’s been long overdue. I've wanted to take part on a Vipassana meditation course for months now, but somehow it didn't work out before now. Most of the centers open for applications several months prior to the course, and it’s been a while since I've known where I’ll be so long in advance… But this time all is set, and I’ll be there for ten days, away from everything, in a new experience. I've never done extended sitting meditation, so I’m not quite sure what to expect. But I feel it will be great.
So, world, see you after the retreat!

Posted by Zaspirucho 22:38 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur food ocean nature beach travel cambodia meditation malaysia city island beautiful paradise camping asia koh nomad learning Comments (0)

Onwards!

Some Malaysia, Singapore and now Thailand!


View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For months I had been feeding the fantasy of a great sailing adventure spanning thousands of miles and innumerable seas and islands. When that thought came to its abrupt end, I was left in the labyrinth of decision. A thousand doors around me, each leading on a different path, all equal, all great. Which to choose? But just you wait, keep your eyes and mind open, and all will fall into place. So in the meantime, to give Time some time, I took to touristing.
After regrouping with my thoughts in Kuala Lumpur. I met with my friend Petrina and together we left for Malacca. Three months earlier we'd met in KL, and we had both gone on sailing adventures. Now we met again and exchanged stories. Turns out her experience was not too different from mine, with her captain’s company and attitude being only manageable, then building up to becoming intolerable, at which point two of the three crew left, and she ended up back in Malaysia, just as me. We both required some company, and with the approaching Lunar New Year Celebration, Malacca looked like a good place to be.
101_1119.jpgIt's a happy place

It's a happy place

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There’s a couple of things they don’t tell you about Malacca. First that, well, there's no beach! True, they never do quite say there is one, but being by the sea and all… There is an island nearby, and beaches will be easily found there. I guess. We didn't go there. Instead we walked around Chinatown and Little India, ate laksa here and sate there, and had a good time. But our hostel was not IN Chinatown, rather in the budget hostels quarter, right next to the tower of the eerie sound. That’s the second thing they don’t tell you. Don’t stay anywhere near that tower! It cuts the wind in such a way that an eerie, ethereal and invasive sound is created. It will crawl up your spine and enter your dreams… Other than that, with its Portuguese, Chinese and Dutch backgrounds and monuments, the place is nice enough. Petrina stayed a couple more days, but for me Malacca was over quickly, and in the traveler’s style we said goodbye while walking, backpacks on, each going their own way. On, towards the next destination! For me it was to be Singapore.

'Later!

'Later!


Now Singapore I really liked! It is a very modern city, and big too, but very nice. It is clean and walking friendly; it feels safe. I walked around it for hours on end, and it only felt more comfortable. The water’s clean too! And people were very smiley. For a big, modern city, I felt the atmosphere surprisingly relaxed. Had a chat with a retired Singaporean while we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant, outside a metro station. No worries, no rush.
Although I don’t need no excuse to visit a place, this time I had one. Some weeks earlier a high school friend had gotten me into contact with a friend of hers, saying we had similar ways of thinking, and we’d surely enjoy chatting. That was still back in India. And that was it. And that would have been it, for I thought she was in Japan. But in the weeks that passed she had moved to Singapore to study! Now in Malacca, being a few hours away from her and not coming to visit… that would have been a royal shame, no? So I hopped on a bus and set off to meet her in person! I knew I would like her, no shocker there! I was surprised by what I found in the city though.
101_1235.jpgHappy Year of the Horse!

Happy Year of the Horse!


Singapore is as modern and expensive as it is reputed to be. The price numbers there are the same as in Malaysia, it's just that one’s in riggit, and the other in dollars. Yet it’s also smiley and very walking friendly. The water is fresh and safe to drink, there is food everywhere and some places are open until very late at night, and there are parks and museums galore. It is a city worth visiting. I stayed at the Empire Hostel, for about 10 SGD a night, or 28 RM, a lot less than I expected.
As for attractions, people kept saying I should go to their Disneyland resorts and casinos island. Instead I spent a day in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. I was so amazed by all that I saw there, the relics, the ceremony, the information (to some I would say the presence too), that I became stupefied. I went upstairs and had a long nap in the Roof Garden, in the Pagoda of the 10 000 Buddhas. And that name’s no exaggeration either! 101_1240.jpgAll full of wonders

All full of wonders


On another day I walked around with my newly met friend Haruka. We made our way to the Supertree Grove, in the Gardens by the Bay. You can spend hours there, going up and down (literally) and eating and marveling at both the natural and man-made wonders there. We timed our visit for sunset though. We knew the place would light up at night, still we did not expect the show of light and music that awaited us. I would definitely recommend a visit!

It's worth a look!

It's worth a look!

And now, after some traveling, I am in Thailand.
Lets elaborate on that poor sentence. It resumes two nights of sleeping on a train seat, with a layover in Kuala Lumpur (where, as it happened, I could see Petrina once more!). By the second morning I was in Thailand, and at the border I met two travelers, an aussie and a dutch, and spent the rest of the day with them. We had beer for breakfast and noodle soup for lunch, then beer for dessert. The next train was very late and we had to run with all our things to the pier, to catch our night ferries. They were going to Koh Tao, but my destination would be Koh Phangan. We said goodbye traveler style. And didn't look back.

With the sun I stepped unto one of the biggest party islands in the world. And here I am. Still unsure of what is to come, still open to whatever may!
I don't think I'll party tonight though. I have a bed for luck's sake!

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged malacca kuala_lumpur singapore travel train thailand malaysia backpacking koh phangan Comments (0)

Back in Asia

So where to from here?

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I have been trying to explain why I abandoned the Liberty. It's been difficult to tell without making it sound horrible. But it wasn't. The sailing was great. It was an awesome trip fixing the ship then crossing from India to Malaysia... So why did I leave? There were no big incidents. Just a build up of small details. Well, I'll try explaining once more. So let’s start at the beginning.
When we left India we were shaded by the continent, so we had barely any wind. And Liberty is a heavy thing, so it needs WIND to get moving. Leaving the Indian coast, and then sailing southeast past Sri Lanka, that was interesting. India shades the wind, and Sri Lanka too, so in that channel between them… That was the roughest passage we had, with young rambunctious waves, and plenty of cargo ships to look out for. The A.I.S. radar kept beeping all the time. And after that, the deep blue.

I do mean blue

I do mean blue


As we sailed east, the currents would push us south, and so strong they were that even when the compass said we were going full southeast, the GPS would say full South. Rarely would those two agree. Then, once the currents abated, we continued southeast, towards the Equator and beyond. We had good wind, nice weather. For days we didn't need to adjust the sails. We ate pancakes, we read and watched the clouds move. That day came though, when we changed course, avoiding the flimsy equatorial weather and went up and around Sumatra. There we anchored next to an island and made a two day illegal visit to a fishing village, where I had my first good coffee since Kuala Lumpur. After some more days motoring and watching out for cargo ships, we crossed the Strait of Malacca, and then, one month later, it was all over. The wind on my skin, the warm waves flowing on deck, the rain washing the salt off my face, the dolphins playing on the bow, they are were now just memories to treasure, of my sailing adventure on the Indian Ocean.

Dancing would describe it better!

Dancing would describe it better!


When we were nearing departure, when we were docked still, I started looking at prices of sailboats in New Zealand. Maybe I could get my own when I got there! Where would I sail her? What to do? Where to go? I was also wondering though, what could I do different from this Captain? I wasn't learning too much; a trick here, a useful technique there… I was rather applying all I’d ever learned before, and that felt good too. It wasn't the work that bothered me. It was the delays. One week at a time, one day at a time. And we worked in such an inefficient way, that things just didn't get done. We toiled for a full week, well into the night, yet the essential tasks kept getting postponed. And Gerd had openly told us that he gets very nervous before departure. We learned though, he also behaves like a jerk when he’s nervous. But everything would be better when we’re at sea, I kept telling Tiho. Just wait till we’re sailing, and we're relaxed. Everything will be fine then.
And while things DID get better at sea, they never actually got to be fine. Somehow, everything felt like this was the first time ever that the Liberty set sail. Say, for example, how can someone have lived in there for years, yet have no place to keep the food? Gerd insisted upon keeping the potatoes in their sack, in a shelf in the galley. When they started rotting, his solution was to spread them on the floor. So on one side of the table the floor was taken up by his 2 meter wooden statue, on the other we had potatoes… The onions he kept in a crate inside the bathroom; in the least ventilated place in the ship. I took it as my duty to sort out the rotten or moldy ones. At some point ALL of them were moldy. This is just an example of how unprepared we were for the trip.

But the sailing was good. NOW I was learning. A ship is a big mash up of so many complicated systems! The steering, the sailing, the engine and communications... Many new words, lots of new meanings! The metal sheen over the evening sky, the halo around the moon, and the shape of the waves. Some things I learned from Gerd, and some from books. We talked a bit, read some more and slept a lot. For almost a week there is no mention in my journal of the captain’s craziness, most only sunrises, wind and distant lands.
It was around New Year that the mood shifted... “Will the whole trip be like this?” reads my journal, “saying one thing, then doing another?” Two weeks into the sailing, ten weeks since I’d first seen the ship, and I still could not feel at home. Everyday Gerd became more morose, distraught, and openly rude; definitely not a good company. I started thinking of time and money. I wasn't really happy, and spending way too much of both to be in a place where I wasn't happy… I decided first I wouldn't go all the way to New Zealand. It would be New Caledonia for me, then I'd make my own way south. Then it was “wherever we are in July”. Then June. But then disaster struck! We broke the sails, we had no gas, and we turned for Malaysia. I was ecstatic. Such was the feeling of release at having a chance to leave the boat soon; land so close at hand, that I decided to go no further.
I had known from the very start that it would be difficult, I just didn't know how much so. Not the sailing, not the working, I enjoyed those! But being a part of someone else’s story… not having power of decision, having to ask for permission to move or adjust or do anything, go anywhere; not being responsible for myself, being only a character, part of the crew, part of the boat. Liberty just didn't live up to its name, not for me, and I didn't see that changing anytime soon. Then I was given a second chance to explore Asia, and I took it. This is, after all, the first time I've been this side of the world!
So now I’m back in Malaysia, where this journey started last October, that chapter closed, a new one beginning. I pour over maps and visa requirements, I chat with my fellow travelers and learn of routes, tricks and places. Very soon I will move on. I enjoy the anxiety of possibility, of decision. Where, how and when? That awaits so be seen, there’s no rush. No rush at all.

What is to come, will come. In the meantime, Happy New Years everyone!!

Happy year of the Horse!

Happy year of the Horse!

Posted by Zaspirucho 07:12 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel malaysia sailing equator liberty crew desertion crazy_captain Comments (1)

Asia, first stop

Kuala Lumpur

semi-overcast 26 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

The flight over the Pacific was a mere 15 hours. Sleep, movie, dinner, sleep, breakfast, reading, and you're there. As we left rounding midnight, and got to Kuala Lumpur rounding midday, I didn't even get much jet lag. It was the heat that struck me though. The thick, humid heat. I should have expected it, and should be somewhat used to it, seeing it's not so different from the Veracruz heat. But I've never carried a heavy backpack around there, nor used the subway... This marks the farthest I've ever been from home. Just a bit further and I'd be halfway around the globe!

I didn't really research much about my destination. Good thing there's plenty of wifis to hang on to! Most people speak english here though, but you have to get used to their accent. And so, I made it to my cousin's address mostly on my own. I stepped out of the subway to the sight of this:
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It's easy to find your bearings when your reference is more than 400 meters high and glows at night. I walked up and down, wound up in Chinatown. One day I'll see the real stuff, for now, I keep crossing Chinatown gates here and there; this one's the sixth already.

It's a lively place, Kuala Lumpur. With lots of movement and building of skyscrapers and avenues and malls. Luckily, there are a few nice parks as well. In one of them we had a little Couchsurfing event, where people brought local food, and visitors helped with some crackers, drinks, or their food, like the spanish tortilla contrasting with the... local currysome chickenly food. It was delicious. And it happened to fall on Eid al-Adha, so several of them were dressed in their traditional attire! I woke that morning to the chants of the nearby mosque, and finished it with chinatown drinks in company of fellow couchsurfers. Not a bad welcome to Malaysia.

So, on my fourth day, my cousin and her family came back from their trip. They'd gone to Penang, to eat and rest and have a good time. And now I got to see them finally! We had just met once before, but we kept contact since. She does live quite faraway, after all! So it was great to see her daughters and husband. Last time, little Andrea had been a toddler, now she's almost 10! And Carolina is a toddler now. Will I see her again in 10 years? I hope sooner than that!!
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I would like to say that everything is different, being in Asia and all. It is not. Everything is similar, if only with some eastern tint. The food of course, and the language. But you can pretty much live here having no clue of bahasa. And the middle class, we're the same everywhere around. At least in the city; maybe outside of it, things would be different. People keep telling me I should go to the jungle; I'll be there soon enough. As for the people, the Malaysians have to potential to be really beautiful, what with the mixture of Malay, Chinese and Indian heritage. Sadly, they don't mix, and so, well, they're not really beautiful (statistically speaking). And it's getting more radical it seems, with racial issues gaining strength. There's even talking of it being outlawed for non Muslims to say the word Allah. Well Allah.

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I say that three days is enough to get the essence of a place, as Kino taught me, and I find it to be true. The pure essence. Then, if you stay longer, you begin building bonds, developing affection. Run away at the third day, dear traveller, if you want to see the whole world. I didn't, so now have friends in this place. People I'd enjoy meeting again some other time. I met family and friends; I went walking on water with them, and took (a very little) part in the organization of a bikini competition. Too bad I won't be in town for that one!!

For the 23rd I fly to India. Meet up with my Captain, with the ocean, and see the Liberty with my own eyes. A very fitting name for a sailboat.

Posted by Zaspirucho 21:02 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malaysia city asia kl heat Comments (0)

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