So my time in Oceania was over; it was time to say goodbye to the amazing group of friends I’d made and the place I’d spent the past 4 1/2 months of my life. But it was also time to start a brand new adventure. Before I start writing about that though, I want to tell you the story of how I nearly went to another continent without my phone.
Max came with me to the station where I was to get the bus to the airport. I gave Max my phone to hold whilst I got my ticket. We said our goodbyes and he walked away as I stood in the queue for the bus. I put my bags down for a rest and then started searching for my phone. It wasn’t in my pockets, it wasn’t in my bag… then realisation dawned. Max still had it. I immediately scooped up my backpack and rucksack and ran, desperately and stupidly back through the station. Luckily, they had glass walls and by chance I looked left and saw Max had taken a different exit out of the station and was walking along the street. I ran faster as he was still a good forty metres away from me. As soon as I was outside I started screaming ‘MAX!’ Like a mad woman in front of a crowded street. ‘MAX!!’ Finally, he turned round, ‘You have my phone?!’ He looked confused for a few seconds then felt his pockets. He had it and thank god, or else that would have been really awkward!
We said our goodbyes again and after that ordeal, I could relax the rest of the way to the airport. The flight was long and despite asking for a window seat so I could sleep, there was a gap between the window and I. That was fine though, I still managed an hour or so. And then, suddenly, I was in Singapore. In the shuttle bus it was cool driving past the city at night; all the lights and magic.
My hostel was ok, I was ‘upgraded’ to a pod bed. It was alright, I was a bit claustrophobic and woke up and hit my knee the first night, but it was nice to have my own plug socket and light. I spent two days in Singapore, which was more than enough. I walked all the way to Chinatown about 10km away, had some street food lunch which was delicious and then walked all the way back to my hostel, another 10km, all in my flip flops. Big mistake.
At night I went to see the Gardens By The Bay and the Singapore Flyer. The girl I was sat next to on the plane told me I could walk around the Gardens without needing a ticket. She was right and I got an excellent view. I love things like this, just all the beautiful colours against the night sky. I could have walked round for hours, but I was too scared to walk back alone at night.
My next destination was Melaka in Malaysia. I booked a bus at 1pm, not too early and not too late as it would take 3 1/2 hours, so I would arrived at a decent time. Oh how I was wrong. From the moment I left my hostel to the time I arrived at my next hostel, it was 10 hours. Yup, TEN. We took ages through immigration and then the driver was so slow and even missed the turning for Melaka! I had been told that bus was the best and most reliable way to travel. Eurgh. So we arrived at Melaka Sentral at half 7, then the local bus to take us to Jonker Street didn’t arrive for two hours. In this time I had made friends with a Dutch couple who were also waiting for the bus. I was starting to panic as I swear I had read on Hostelworld that reception closed at 8:30pm and I wouldn’t have anywhere to sleep. I jumped off the bus and said goodbye to my brief friendship and literally RAN to my hostel. I rang the doorbell over and over again until someone answered and luckily someone did! Relief just overcame me. It was probably one of the worst days of my travels.
Waking up late the next day to catch up on the sleep I’d missed out on, I decided just to go and walk around for a bit, get lost and find my way back. Jonker street is the Main Street for food and shops. It’s a cool little street and I found food and coffee easy enough. I carried on wondering, walking part way down the river and ending up at a Mall somewhere before I decided to head back.
The hostel had a nice vibe, pretty chill with a rooftop area. I heard one of the volunteers telling people how last week/a few days ago/last night (his story kept changing), they had the whole hostel up there drinking together and having a party. On Hostelworld it said this was strictly a non-party hostel. I also heard him saying he hates meeting English people (he’s from Essex) whilst travelling because they drink too much and get into trouble. Hmmmm.
That night I met Ella from England who had just arrived and was at the start of her travels. We played this board game, Break the Ice, to literally break the ice. I also met Carenza who I had had to let into the hostel earlier because no one was at the desk. There was a group of us just drinking beer and having a chat on the rooftop for a bit. The next day, Ella, Carenza and I explored Melaka properly. We did a boat cruise along the river where you could see the most amazing street art and it was nice to have a breeze on our faces. Again, we walked around for a bit, had lunch at this weird Coriander Cafe place. The food was nice but the service was a bit… odd.
That afternoon, a big group of us did a guided bike ride to the floating mosque for sunset. I was a bit sceptical of riding a bike, not having done so in years, with the Melaka traffic, but it was actually the best. And I didn’t fall off! (Haha…) To get into the mosque we all had the cover up and wear long dresses and the girls put on hijabs. It was kind of odd and hard to recognise everyone, but the mosque was stunning. After, we watched the sun set behind the floating mosque, one of the most stunning I’d seen, before riding back the scenic route to the hostel.
Most of this group decided to go out for dinner together and then grab some drinks. It was an incredibly fun night. We headed to this one place that had ‘ladies night’ where we each (the ladies) got two free cocktails before getting a beer tower between all of us. We then drew straws to sing karaoke. Luckily I didn’t get it! I’ve never done karaoke before because I am constantly told by my friends and family that I cannot sing. At all. After a short burst of tunes we decided to ask a local where we can go to get cheap beers. We ended up at what looked like a local’s living room. The cans of beer were RM5 (90p), and we taught people how to play odds on, so we were happy. At one point Ella and I decided to find the toilet. When we found it, a couple came out of the shower room next door just wearing towels. Shower sex?
This was my first experience of a squatter toilet. It’s literally a toilet in the floor and you have to squat and wash yourself with a hose. Yeah. Glamorous. The rain then came. It was so heavy and stormy, we originally said we would wait it out until it stops. It got to about 1am and it was still going, so we had to run for it. Turns out it’s very hard to run in flip flops when it’s pouring down with rain and you have to keeps your purse dry. Absolutely soaked, we finally made it back.
So a few people in the group wanted more beer, and thought it was a good idea to try and wake up JP, the guy who worked there, to open the fridge for us. We discovered his room wasn’t even closed and a couple of the girls crept in. Bad idea. He was not happy. He started saying how rude it was to wake him up, that the bar closed at 11pm, he wasn’t going to get up for us etc. I think we were just shocked because of how much he bigged up this hostel as a party hostel.
So what did we do instead? We ordered an Uber to go to 7/Eleven. Emma and Carenza decided to go, but we made the mistake of not giving them the money before they went, so we ended up with just a couple of beers each. For me though, this was enough. It got to around 4am before I decided it was time to sleep! I think he others might have stayed awake until around 5 before heading to bed.
The next day I had a bus to Kuala Lumpur. Instead of trusting the local bus again, I went with an Uber to the station; definitely a lot easier. The bus to KL was quick, it you then have to get a couple of trains into the centre. It was all pretty easy to work out, as long as you knew where to go. The hostel I chose seemed really nice and clean, had a lovely rooftop area, it I never saw anyone up there except the people my room and the people who worked there. It was very odd.
A girl from Hungary arrived a little later than me and we decided to go for a little walk around China town to try and find some food. It was ok, I think I just had noodles and veg and she had some sizzling chicken. The markets were pretty cool, but very packed and people kind of pounced on you, trying to get you to buy stuff.
The next day I just spent walking around KL; my main destination being the Petronas Towers. They were pretty epic. I had posted on a Facebook group ‘Girls About The Globe’ asking if there would be anyone doing the same dates as me in Malaysia. This girl Devon responded; her and her friend Katie we’re in KL visiting Katie’s mum, so I organised to meet up with them the following day to visit the Batu Caves. It was such an effort to find each other. We said we would meet at this cafe, which I walked to but their Uber driver couldn’t find. They were at the towers so I just told them to stay there I’ll come and find them. Luckily, with my bright ginger hair they were able to spot me easily as I walked along the lake. It was pretty cool organising a meet up like this. My hostel was pretty dead so I was glad I made contact with these guys. They were pretty awesome people.
We headed to the caves and the first thing you see is the big Buddha statue. The pictures you see of it don’t do it justice of how big it is. It’s incredible. And then you have to walk up the stairs. Oh my days, they were long. But they were made more enjoyable by the monkeys we met along the way. But they were not the nice monkeys I met in Gambia. They were cheeky and at one point they stole a bottle of Fanta from someone. I put my hand out to ask for it back, but I got hissed at and quickly ran away.
When you get to the top of the steps, there is not really a great deal to see. There is this big empty cave that leads to a few little shrines. It was cool, don’t get me wrong, but when it’s 37 degree heat and you’ve just walked up a load of steep steps, you kind of feel lousy. There is another cave, but you have to pay to do a tour.
Later that evening, Devin and Katie had organised to meet up with a friend of a friend who was to take them out for dinner with a couple of her friends. Lots of friends. They invited me to tag along, which of course I did, and it was probably the best decision. We went to this Malaysian street food place and they ordered us this sour plum drink straight away. Oh my god, it was the tastiest thing. Then, although I have basically turned veggie, I told myself that if something interesting to try was to come up, then I will try it. We had sting ray, frogs legs, clams, fried chicken, vegetables and noodles. The sting ray, I could just recommend to anyone that goes to Malaysia. It was like a meatier kind of fish. The frogs legs I could probably pass up on next time. And everything else I at least tried a little bit of. It was such a good night and I was even driven home by one of the Malaysian girls.
It was late when I got back to the hostel. I was worried about waking my dorm mates up when I got to the room, but no one was there! I was on my own for the first time in 5 months! Until a girl turned up half an hour later. Ah well. She was from Canada but was doing a semester in Singapore and was taking opportunities to explore parts of Malaysia. Pretty cool.
It wasn’t long until we slept though and in the morning I had decided to swap hostels, just because this one was so… dead. It was nice and peaceful, yes, but except the girls in my room, I met no one. So at midday I went to Step Inn 2, which had much better reviews and more if a social vibe. That evening I went to dinner with a girl called Millie. She was a bit weird though… like aggressive. We went to eat in this small Indian place to begin with, and then she immediately started arguing with the little waitress and I was just sitting thinking… What the… We did end up finding a cute little place to eat though and Millie calmed down. We then had a walk through the markets and I bought myself a nice little dress and a tshirt.
The next day was my last in KL. I decided to go up the KL tower which was pretty amazing. It cost a bloody fortune mind. I decided to wait in the queue to get my picture taken in the glass box overlooking the Petronas towers. The queue took forever though. Literally an hour. I just kept telling myself that I was making the money I spent on this worthwhile!! And then when it was finally my turn, I tripped on the steps going up with everyone watching. Of course.
I went for one final walk to the towers that evening to see them at night. It was worth it, but my chosen photographer was awful. Eurgh. Oh well, it’ll get over it. On the walk back I was kind of scared of getting mugged, so I put my phone in one side of my bra and my credit card in the other, with my GoPro in my hand, ready to hit someone with it. Luckily, I survived and I felt I bit over dramatic afterwards.
I had to leave early next morning to catch the train to then catch my bus to Penang. I deliberately chose an early one so as to avoid the long dramatic day that was Singapore to Melaka. However, despite arriving half an hour early and having a local talk to me about the Western girls he’s had stay with him and then ask me what I thought about muslims and terrorists before adding me on Facebook, my bus was cancelled and I had to buy a new ticket for an hour later.
This turned out to be a good thing though. The bus driver shouted out something inaudible and after checking maps.me I realised we had arrived at the Butterworth ferry port. The driver began driving off again, so I had to climb to the front and ask if this was where we got the ferry to Penang. After an effort, he finally understood what I meant and let me off along with three girls who also were not sure where to get off. Jess and Bec, both from Manchester and Jess from Australia who had worked in the U.K. For two years with Bec.
We found our way to the ferry, it cost a cheap RM1.50 (maybe about 30p) and soon we were on our way to George Town. It was a calm and quick ride over and some locals even took pictures of/with Jess and Bec. We all got a taxi together to their hostel, mine was a five minute walk away and they invited me for dinner with them that evening. Devin and Katie also arrived in Penang that day, so I invited them along as well. I met the other girls at their hostel and we walk to a place called the ‘Red Centre’ (I think) with a could of other guys they had already met.
Devin and Katie met us there and it was just a really nice night trying some foods from the different stalls of the food market and drinking quite a bit of beer. We headed back to the main area and grabbed a couple more beers at this random place before calling it a night.
I met with Devin and Katie and this American guy from the beer place that had a weird name, but I can’t remember it right now… We had a walk around the street art (Penang is known for it’s cool Street Art) and took a stroll down a jetty with markets on it. We got to the end and saw none other than Jess, Jess and Bec sunbathing there. They had all just got cool hennas and we’re just chilling with a beer. We arranged to meet for dinner at the same place that night.
I was the last to arrive and the girls had brought a new friend, Lucy! From Devon but went to university in Manchester. We had another nice evening trying different foods again and drinking even more beer. After, we headed to this bar where we ended up sitting with three guys from the Australian Army. They were a bit odd… I was talking to the youngest guy, just chatting about Australia and then he had to take one of his friends back to the hotel. This is where the oldest guy said to me he had been given the job to keep me there until his friend got back. Ew. No. Cute, but no. In the end it was just me and Aussie Jess left with two of the guys. The bar was packing up so I decided it was time for me to sleep. The young Aussie offered to walk me back, but I politely refused.
Since Devin and Katie were leaving the next day, Jess, Jess, Bec, Lucy and I organised to get a bus to the national park so we could walk to this place called monkey beach. I hadn’t been to a beach for nearly a month, so I was fairly excited. Until we were on the bus and the winding road made me want to vom. When we got to the Park entrance, monkeys came over and grabbed the bag of oranges out of Jess’s hand, stealing them all. She was not happy. We then had to walk another hour to get to the beach. I mean it was fun, basically trekking through the jungle, but very sweaty. I think we were all grateful to finally jump in the sea.
We spent a good few hours on this beach, getting fairly sunburnt. I thought I had put plenty of sun cream on… apparently not. Maybe it was because it was cheap sun cream. Thankfully we got a fast boat back to the start where we each took turns steering it.
After another windy journey back, we all agreed on getting a curry for dinner. Finding one was a challenge though. We headed over to Little India and had to ask a couple of people where to go before we found a decent looking restaurant. It was worth it though. One of the tastiest biryanis I have ever had. Mine was so big (oo-er) I could barely finish it and shared it out with the rest of the girls.
Jess, Jess and Bec were heading to Langkawi the next day, so Lucy and I made plans to meet up and see more of the street art. We actually found some pretty cool pieces, including a tiger which was easily my favourite! We had lunch at this kind of urban looking cafe where they had yoghurt! I have never been so excited to eat yoghurt before!! It was an apple crumble kind of flavour, amazing and so refreshing. We then went to this bus depot place that had even more art. This was definitely a highlight as I don’t think many people knew of his place and they also had a painting of Julie Walters. After another curry dinner, we headed back to Lucy’s hostel to organise our travels the next day to Langkawi.
So overall Penang is definitely my favourite place so far. It’s like a bigger version of Melaka, and a bit nicer. So much street art to see; they have loads made out of metal frames that are lit up at night. Not going to lie, when I first arrived in Asia I did not think I was going to survive. At all. I still don’t think I’m going to survive to be honest, but I’m loving it! It’s so much different to the Western countries I’ve been to on this trip and I think I needed that.
Just a warning, the next blog I post probably won’t be an overly joyful one. A lot of things have gone wrong between Penang and where I am now, so I may have a little moan. Not all of it will be bad though! There are some highlights of my trip as well, but you’ll have to see.
Thanks for reading x