Gotta Get to Malaysia!

8pm, Krabi, Thailand: “Hi can we book a bus to the Perhinthian Islands, Malaysia for 7am tomorrow morning?”

Lady, looking at us like we’re morons: “It’s Ramadan, buses are full the next few days.”

Right. That’s an issue.

Next and only option- fly. Fly directly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or fly to Singapore and snag a bus to KL to save $45? Why not make what could have been a four hour journey into a 16 hour journey? For the sake of saving $45, we took option B.

After flight, boarder crossing, and several city buses later, we found ourselves on our last (coach) bus of the night wishing it was an all nighter. That’s how you know traveling has become part of you- you’re actually wishing you could stay on the bus, because you know that when you arrive at 2am you still need to find accommodation. Hostel shopping at 2am is always a good time. We actually didn’t think we’d get into KL any later than 10pm. HA.

We never book in advance. The only other time we couldn’t get on a bus the next morning was from Sihanoukville, Cambodia to Siem Reap and that was only a minor inconvenience. Trust us, we’ve been on our fair share of buses (over 65 hours in Vietnam alone). Throw in Ramadan and you get our second fully booked bus incident.

Unfortunately this cut off the Perhinthian Islands. We spent a little to much time in the Thai Islands (mainly because we couldn’t get ourselves to leave Koh Tao), so that cut into our Malaysia time already. It would have consumed too much time for us to travel from KL to the north in order to dive in the Perhinthians. That’s okay though, it was and adventure!

Honestly, times like this just make travel hilarious. All we could do is laugh, and I’m actually happy about how things turned out. It was an interesting journey with more thrills than just getting on an organized bus. We are so patient with transportation and being in travel mode from one place to the next it’s not even funny. We joke “Hurry up and wait!” because they’re always rushing you, just to make you wait.

Basically, we hung out in KL for five days walking around the city, window shopping at the mall, sleeping in, eating WAY too many sweets, chilling in the most lively China Town I’ve ever experienced, and climbing the countless stairs of the Batu Caves.

I really liked Malaysia. It was exciting to be in a big city- a really nice one at that! Malaysia was very different from any other country because it had so many different ethnicities but was mainly Muslim. I had never been to a Muslim country so it was nice to experience a new culture. I found the people of Malaysia to be the friendliest I have ever met. They always said hi to us and were willing to help us in any way they could.

I left Malaysia with a smile on my face, ready to concur Singapore!

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Next up- an odd time in Singapore!

Where are you now?

Obviously a key part of traveling is … traveling! We knew we would be taking lots and lots of taxies, buses, trains, planes, tuk tuks, boats, metros, motorcycles, and on and on.

We were aware. Anna went all over New Zealand and Australia. I went all around Scotland and Western Europe. We already knew how to travel.

The other evening around 7 p.m. we wandered into a travel agency and tried to book a bus for the next morning at 8 a.m. We wanted to go from Krabi, Thailand to the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.

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Is it misinterpretation or do they actually just not care?

Ahhh signs. Meant to direct and instruct. Give tourists some sort of hint of what in the world is going on. Not in Southeast Asia, though!

It may be a pool sign that roughly says ‘if swimming after 9 p.m. not response.’ Not response? The hotel isn’t responsible? They won’t respond? What if I were drowning?! Nope. No response.

Or it might be a sign directing you up a mountain, except the translation is so butchered that no meaning can be interpreted.

 

Anyways! Here are a few of my SEAsia signs:

 

I do not want to know why this sign is necessary.

I do not want to know why this sign is necessary.

Formality is key during border crossings.

Formality is key during border crossings.

Usually

Usually

Wait. Wait just a minute!

Wait. Wait just a minute!

Every city needs one.

Every city needs one.

Solid attempt

Solid attempt

And my personal favorite!

And my personal favorite!

 

To Nam

Anna and I just wrapped up three weeks in Vietnam. We stopped in seven different cities and rode approximately 300 buses (it was actually nine buses, and around 60 hours.)

Quick recap of our time:
Three nights in Hanoi.
Two nights in Halong Bay.
Pit stop in Hué.
Seven nights in Hoi An.
Two nights in Nha Trang.
Two nights in Da Lat.
One night in Mui Ne.
Two nights in Ho Chi Minh.
Add a few nights on sleeper buses and you have our itinerary!

Every stop was completely different. Hanoi was wildly busy and bustling.

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Halong Bay was an oasis.

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Hoi An was a city of lanterns and our week of pure bliss.

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Da Lat was mountainous and refreshingly chilly!
Mui Ne was rolling sandy dunes colored with paprika and curry spices.
Everywhere we went the people were kind (and always eager to sell you something!).
Some days were pure relaxing on the beach.
While others we challenged ourselves to learn about the Vietnam War from the other perspective.
Beginning I was a little bit worried about how people would treat us. Would they resent us? Or blame us? But in actuality most people were incredibly kind. Many people told us the past is the past and they live in the present.
We went to the Cu Chi Tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh. I can’t remember the exact number but there were thousands of soldiers and civilians living underground to avoid being killed. There were entire civilizations underground with schools, kitchens, living areas.
We climbed through one of the tunnel that has been widened so westerners can climb through. It was 100 meters long and even with the expansion I was feeling very claustrophobic!
There was also a larger display of the traps they would set for US soldiers. I didn’t really listen at this part because our guide was kind of laughing as he said things like ‘Ah! And then we killed another American! Got him!’ I think going out of your comfort zone to better your understanding of the world is extremely important, but the way he talked about death so casually bothered me.
But the country was mostly fun! We spent a lot of time trying to NOT get hit by motorbikes while crossing streets. In Ho Chi Minh there are 10 million people and five million motorbikes. They have two rules of the road: honk constantly and there are no other rules.

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We met so many amazing people — local and other travelers. We watched World Cup games and saw the sun rise!
I could have stayed waaaay longer. It was just truly amazing. I can’t wait to go back!
Now we are in Cambodia and heading to the islands soon!!

xx

Still without a computer charger so posting from a cell phone. I’ll try to update again soon!!

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Bangkok, Thailand

 

I have never sweated this much in my entire life.

I have done long runs on endless country roads in blistering summer heat. I have spent nights in agony camping on river banks. I have lived an entire summer in a college house in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with no air conditioning. But the heat in Thailand is something I have never experience before.

I tip my hat to the people of Thailand. There were men in suits and women in sweatshirts unfazed by the humid heat beating down on my ill-prepared Midwest skin. With a high of 95 degrees 70 percent humidity, I was struggling. I won’t go into detail but think butt-sweat.

It took four days, three planes and a few long layovers, but our trip has finally begun!

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Anna Langer at the MSP airport

 

On the 25th we landed in Los Angeles. Our pal Morgan took us under her wing, and the three of us checked out Hollywood Boulevard the first night and Venice Beach the next day. It was beautiful in LA, but the pollution was very noticeable. In our light tanks and Chacos, it was evident we did not blend in well. No night scene for us!

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Venice Beach boardwalk

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Venice Beach

 

 

 

We hopped a 1 a.m. flight to Taiwan, an island off the coast of China. We slept for a majority of it (it was a 13 hour flight!), so the next day wasn’t an issue. We left the airport and explored Taipei and Tamsui. The costs were pretty similar to the costs in the U.S., so we struggled to stay as close to our budget as we wanted. Mostly we just jumped from one air conditioned building to the next!

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A glimpse of Tamsui, Taiwan

Finally after another late night/early morning flight last night, we found our way to Bangkok. We got to our hotel pretty early this morning and allowed ourselves to sleep until we woke up. We probably would have slept longer, but we didn’t realize there was an air conditioner in the room. It was so hot. So, so hot. (I’m sorry – hot will be a theme throughout this blog. Please assume that I was sweating during every activity.)

We spent today bobbing and weaving throughout busy city streets on a tuk tuk — a three-wheeled motorbike — with our incredibly kind driver JoJo. For a very small price (less than a dollar) he drove us to various stops around the city to beautiful temples and shops.

 

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For anyone concerned about our safety due to the military coup, you can breathe with ease. We saw a few soldiers today, but after talking with other travelers (for example a 60-ish couple from Hawaii who was leaving after a few weeks of traveling and two 20-something women from England) and some locals, it seems that peace is in order. From what I have read and learned from locals, most people are not in support of the coup, but they cannot deny that the presence has brought peace back to the country and the city.

Tomorrow we are taking a night bus to Chiang Mai. On Sunday we will leave for a three-day trek to spend time with some locals and see what the city has to offer!

xox