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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Backpacking Solo in Malaysia


I was bored and just browsing the internet when I stumbled upon Air Asia's website back in September of 2011. Lo and behold, they were having a zero fare promo! Of course I was tempted to book. Who in their normal minds would pass up a chance to travel outside the country for only PHP 1330 with in-flight meal and 15 kilos baggage? Great deal, right? It also included a one-way Sky Bus transfer from Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) to KL Sentral by the way. Sweet. :)

Now, why Malaysia (MY)? Blame it to the Passage to Malaysia series of TLC (Travel and Living Channel). They had this month-long feature about MY which every single episode I watched and I was hooked. I found their country very diverse, rich in culture and just like the Philippines, blessed with natural wonders.

I booked my ticket 10 months ahead the actual trip without thinking if it'll be possible for me to take a break from work on those dates or whatever. And I just booked one for myself. Well, it's not easy to invite friends for an international trip. I realized I'm getting braver.

Months before the trip, I'd been asking around for travel tips and ideas from fellow Couchsurfers. If you're not familiar with it, it's an awesome awesome network connecting travelers and locals worldwide where you can seek for advise and often times accommodation. Yes, it is that wonderful. Planning this trip had been great. I got a lot of help from the local Malaysians which I very much appreciated. They were so helpful and nice. I immediately got a good feel about this trip because of them. :)

10 months had passed, 11th August of 2012 has come - my time to fly. :) It was my first time to fly thru AirAsia (AA), let alone in Clark (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport). I took the Philtranco Bus from Pasay that takes passengers directly to DMIA. I was afraid of missing my flight because Clark is 2 hours away from Manila and yeah it was my first time there. So even though I know it is way too expensive than just commuting to Dau, I chose that option. We arrived there just in time.

my 1st ever AirAsia flight

DMIA is just small, it actually didn't look like an international airport. There's just one waiting area both for local and international passengers. By the way, the Immigration officers there are more strict than the ones we have in Manila. I'm quite an impatient person, so I got a little irritated dealing with them. Geez. AirAsia flight was never delayed so I was a happy traveler again. :)

AA's plane is pretty similar to CebuPacific's. The FAs were just dressed casually, you know just polo and denim jeans. If I'm not mistaken, they were all Malaysians (based on their looks). They were more formal when it comes to dealing with passengers. About an hour and a half after we took off, they already served our pre-ordered meals. I tried out Malaysia's national dish, the Nasi Lemak. It was okay but a little too salty for my taste. And the water, it was just one gulp. Haha. I was seated beside a fellow Filipina from Baguio. She works in Kuala Lumpur (KL). She's delighted that she no longer have to go to Manila to fly.

Pak Nasser's Nasi Lemak

Malaysia Day 1

We touched down in KL at around 3:00 PM. Immigration process was stress-free. The first thing I did was change my money and bought a sim card. I was in contact with several people there and I was about to meet them so I definitely would need a local mobile number. I was actually supposed to be hosted by someone in KL but unfortunately, things happened so I went with Plan #2 which is to look for a hostel myself when I arrived. I also texted my friend/travel buddy that I'll be late for our meeting because I've got to deal with this mess. She worried for me a bit and told me if ever I'll need help, she'll refer me to a friend who's also hosting surfers. But I wanted to try my luck first.

I looked for the Sky Bus station because I pre-purchased a one-way ticket with AirAsia along with my airfare. It's easy to find. It's just at the far right side from the airport exit. While on the bus, I read my researched stuff and decided on where to search for a place to stay. I went with Bukit Bintang. The place is so central and anything is easily accessible from there.

Airport Buses Station

KL Sentral is about an hour away from LCCT. It was already 4:30 PM when we reached Stessen Sentral (another name for KL Sentral). Just by following the crowd and the instructions given by a hostel's website, I made it to the Monorail station. But heck. It was so crowded and the queues for the tickets were insane. Just like our rush hour here in the Philippines. Just imagine yourself alone in a foreign country for the first time, you're not sure where you can find a place to sleep, it takes forever for you to get that one train ride while you carry your heavy backpack, plus you're in the middle of a totally strange group of people under a hot weather condition.

I asked myself that time "What have I gotten myself into?" and "What the hell was I thinking?". I should've been home in Manila, sitting lazily in a couch watching my favorite tv shows or malling with my family or friends and having a good time. "Why am I doing this?". I looked around and saw several foreign travelers who just like me were making their way through the unfamiliar crowd carrying their "bigger" backpacks. I felt relieved. I am not crazy. I am not the only one. The validation I needed at that moment. I then whispered to myself, "I can do this!".

In Bukit Bintang, I went straight to Sunshine Bedz Bed and Breakfast and asked if there's an available space for me. Fortunately, there was! I felt lucky because there's just 1 space left, so I booked it right away. I got a bed in their Mixed Dorm good for 6 people. I just took a shower and hurriedly went to Suria KLCC just by following the transit map I downloaded from the web. The receptionists are not knowledgeable enough when it comes to directions and city transportation so I just found the best way myself.

my 1st Malaysian dinner

It was already 7:00 PM when I made it to KLCC. Emerging from the LRT station beneath the ground, I saw the foot of the glorious Petronas Towers for the first time. I got very excited thinking, so I'm really in Malaysia now. Hehe. KLCC was huge. I actually couldn't find my friend at first. Their floor numbers were confusing. It's not the same as here hehe. When we finally met, we headed to the food court for dinner. She's a Vegan, so we have to buy our own food by ourselves. Guess what I had? A squid nasi lemak. Haha.

Kuih Gulung

Because of my friend's recommendation, I also got the Kuih Gulung. It's a green spring roll filled with sweet grated coconut. The squid lemak was yummy. Way better than the one I had on the plane. The serving was big too. I had a hard time finishing it. I ended up taking home my green roll because I was already full.

We rented a computer in an internet shop inside KLCC and researched about our possible itinerary. We also looked for trusted travel agencies where we can book our tours. When we were done, we went out to KLCC Park to get some fresh air and for me, to see sights since it was my first time there.

Hello Twin Towers! :)

Petronas Towers is really a gorgeous sight to see, especially at night. It is beautiful! No wonder it became the famous landmark of the city of Kuala Lumpur along with the KL Menara Tower. I don't know, it is just too pretty. :)

Lake Symphony

There was an ongoing fountain show when we went out to the park. I was mesmerized by its wonder. :)

the magical fountain show

They call this the Lake Symphony which is a 10,000 sqm man-made lake with water fountains.

the main fountain

The main fountain can shoot water up to a height of 42 meters. Lake Symphony provides a hundred and fifty magical dramatic animations.

i don't mind watching this again and again :)

I enjoyed watching it. It was truly splendid. I noticed that the park is crowded at night. Not only tourists flock to see the fountain show. There were many locals hanging out in the park as well. Well, if I live in KL too I might be one of the locals frequenting this park. Hehe. Before we knew it, it was already 10:00 PM. We bid each other goodbye. I'll talk about my friend on my upcoming entries. :)

Another observation I had was, they stay later at night than us here in the Philippines. At around 11:00 PM the city is still crowded. You'll still feel safe going home "late" at night. When I went down to the LRT station the queues were incredibly long. I decided to just hail a cab. Yes, it was past 10:00 PM and I was alone. I was taken home safely. :) With the same scenario here in Manila, I would never do that. Surprisingly, traffic in Bukit Bintang never ceases even late at night so my fare went up to RM 10.00. It must be the high-end shops.

My day one in Malaysia had been unfavorable at first but I did not waver. Traveling is something that I really wanted to do and I'm not going to give up just because of some petty problems. I know a lot of fellow travelers who have worse experiences than mine. This is my first time to travel alone in a foreign country but I felt really blessed during the entire trip to the last minute of it. You'll find out why as you read along this series. :)

This is Part 1 of my Peninsular Malaysia travel series.

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