After concluding my first year of college in early May and seeing friends off to the airport, I packed my bags and headed off to Malaysia with my dear Mother. Before entering college I had taken a gap year in Malaysia as a youth ambassador under the State Department and was ready to go back to visit friends and (host) families, while bringing my mother along for the ride. This trip was long waited and someday I will elaborate more on my experience in Malaysia before college.
After taking a short plane ride to San Francisco, we waited at the airport and had a ramen noodle lunch at a little Japanese restaurant in the international departures. Our flight was shockingly delayed so we met some other commiserating travelers and made friends until our long fourteen flight to Hong Kong took off. After many sheets of adult coloring (yes, that is a thing), movies, music and many attempts to make friends with my seat mate that was Korean, but raised in Argentina, we finally landed in Hong Kong to realize that our flight had been canceled and we would be spending the night courtesy of the airlines in the airport hotel. Traveling; you just have to roll with the punches. I rolled right onto my bed and proceeded to get two hours of sleep before heading back into the airport for our flight into Kuala Lumpur. We purchased new tickets with Air Asia for our next leg from KL to the island Langkawi and boarded the short flight into Kuala Lumpur, took the train to KLIA (the other airport exclusively for Air Asia) and boarded a very small plane for another short flight to Langkawi.
While doing research for our trip, we had decided it would be a great idea to go be by ourselves, recover from jet lag and relax before meeting up with everyone on mainland Malaysia. Plus, Langkawi was gorgeous from photos I had seen and everyone I had spoke to had given great reviews of it. We took a short taxi ride from the Langkawi airport to our hotel, The Andaman, which was in the private Datai Bay that the hotel only shares with one other hotel. The Datai Bay was also named one of National Geographics top ten beaches and we were drawn to the quiet more exclusive nature of the hotel. It was also very economically feasible given the quality and location and we did our reservations through booking.com.
After arriving at The Andaman, we were greeted with welcome drinks and friendly staff that immediately upgraded us.
The Andaman is phenomenal, located in a historic jungle that is juxtaposed by the stunning Datai Bay. Our first night there we ate at the hotels beach restaurant Jala, which serves fresh seafood and my mom marveled at the fact that you sit with your feet in the sand while eating and enjoying the sunset.
For some reason, I had no jet lag and proceeded to wake up early before sunrise, and walked around the private beach, exploring the coral reefs and watching the beautiful sunrise. I have an obsession with watching the sunrise everywhere in the world; it is always pure magic. I was also stalked by several aggressive monkeys before they were chased off by some other people. The hotel does warn you about locking the doors to your deck and staying away from the monkeys. Let me tell you this now….listen to them! Monkeys are not friendly. I repeat, they will steal anything from you and sell it on what I imagine to be their black market.
Walking the beach in the morning after the sunrise was another favorite thing that I did every morning, combing the beach for shells and sand dollars while just appreciating how beautiful the setting was. The Andaman is so great and has a plethora of actives to choose from right at the hotel including kayaking, snorkeling, a great massage, nature walks, learning about the coral preservation and much more. You could go to Langkawi and just stay at The Andaman and have plenty to do.
The incredible sunsets had me gasping and almost in tears because it was so beautiful. The next day we had an early start and headed out to the Skybridge, which is an engineering feet and a fun tour to do. We hired a car to drive us about thirty minutes to the bridge and made our way past all the “tourist” town of gimmicks and gifts before arriving at the gondola to take us to the bridge. Before that, we also had to go to a mini planetarium viewing box and watch a roller coaster set to EDM music…who knows why.
We had a great time wandering on the bridge and making our way through the construction that was happening. This bridge is not for the faint of hearted as it does sway in the breeze! But, it is absolutely the best view on the island and is absolutely stunning. After taking in the views from the top (and avoiding all the selfie sticks like the plague), we headed back down the rickety gondola and drove to the other side of the island for a mangrove boat tour.
The boat tour was fabulous as was our guide and fellow aussie companions on the trip. We saw plenty of monkeys, got a great overview of the history of the historic geoforrest. fed some eagles and cruised out in the ocean where we could see islands off of Thailand. We also stopped at a fish farm that was clearly made for tourists, but was still a fun experience.
The last photo is the last sunset we had on Langkawi, and the best was certainly saved for last! Every night, staff from the hotel and volunteer guests go out and pick up trash that has come in from the bay. That’s another great thing about The Andaman, they are doing so much positively for the environment. Overall, I just can’t say enough nice things about this hotel and the Datai Bay. If you can ever go in your life….GO!
After bidding farewell to Langkawi, we boarded our flight back to Kuala Lumpur and arrived at the airport where we were greeted by a dear friend; someone who I had met during my exchange experience in Malaysia. Aunty Jenny is one of the kindest, fun, spirited and overall greatest person/Chinese aunty that I am so grateful to have in my life. Because it’s Malaysia, we went straight to have some dim sum before settling in at our hotel in Subang Jaya, The Empire, which is also attached to a shopping mall. It’s a lovely hotel, very clean and modern and was great to stay at for two days.
The next morning, we hit the road early to go outside of the bustling city and eat the best, most authentic Bah Koh Te with Aunty Jenny’s longtime friend. We went to two restaurants that had already finished their morning supply, before settling on the third. Bah Koh Te is spiced meet that comes with rice (of course), a soup broth and lots of garlic and sauces on the side to mix with it all. We also had traditional Chinese tea with our meal…I love Chinese Malaysian food. Eating in Malaysia is an experience and I can truly say, the absolute best food I have ever had!
After breakfast/lunch/does it matter what meal it was, we are going to eat again…all the time, we went to a Soogee Temple and got to walk around the grounds without anyone else there! The temple is stunning and is also home to beautiful orchid gardens and intricate stone carvings depicting buddha and his followers.
After walking around, we said goodbye to Aunty’s friend (whom I really hope comes and visits me in Colorado!) and drove back into the city for a rest before our next meal.
Eat, nap, repeat.
My mother quickly picked up on the fact that Malaysia is a country that loves to eat and she should brace herself.
Later that night, we went for an evening supper at a nearby restaurant and had fabulous noodles, rice (every meal) and vegetables. I don’t know how you pick a restaurant and know which ones are the best, so I trusted Aunty Jenny entirely on where we were going to eat.
Before going back to her house for an evening chat, we picked up some durian at the mall as well as some rambutan that we had purchased earlier that day on the side of the road. I love durian, however it is an acquired taste! It took me at least three times during my time abroad to appreciate it, but my mom took to it immediately. It’s amazing and there is nothing else like it!
The next day I made an impromptu trip to Singapore to visit my friend from college, that you can read about here, Singapore. Meanwhile, Aunty Jenny took my mother to Melacca and showed her around and they naturally ate…a lot! I returned the next day to Melacca through a four hour bus ride from Singapore and joined them in the eating festivities!
I stayed in Melacca during my exchange experience before college and had been looking forward to eating Melacca food (because it is the absolute best), reuniting with one of my host families and seeing some friends from school.
On the way to Aunty Jenny’s house, we stopped on the road to buy more durian, some goreng pisang (fried banana) and the food that is pictured above that’s name is escaping me. I love how in Malaysia you just pull over, buy food and take it away-I guess it’s like drive through fast-food, only it tastes a thousand times better and there is no happy meal.
After taking a quick shower (you have to take at least two a day because it’s so hot), we drove into town and stopped to have some noodles. Delicious. So good. I would have never found this place by myself and it was the absolute best! That night was also Jonker Night Market, which is world famous and has been happens on the weekends. They sell everything there from clothes, spices, toys…literally everything! It originated a long time ago when it was just a spice market. It is so crazy to be in such a historical place that has become so modern with backpacker hostels and traveling tourists mingling with locals at every turn.
At this point it was about 11pm and I was getting tired from a long day (of mostly eating), but I wanted to meet up with one of my host families for you guessed it, more eating! It was so wonderful to see them again after two years and I really cherished that time. There are just about the kindest people I have ever met and I will always wish them the best and hopefully stay in touch. I also got to meet the newest addition to the family, a grandson which was really special.
Kindness is never forgotten…
The next day, we woke up relatively early to go have breakfast of roti cinai and dim sum with other members of Aunties extended family. Roti cinai is the best thing you will ever eat and it is basically fried dough euphoria. The bao dumpling was also dearly missed and I enjoyed it immensely.
After breakfast, we packed back into the car with Aunty’s sister and granddaughter and drove about two hours to Muar, Johor (another state) to have the famous Otak Otak. Aunty insisted that we go to Muar and no where else to eat Otak Otak, because we only should eat the best!
Otak Otak is basically fish paste that has been cooked over a grill in a stapled leaf that is constantly being flipped. I can’t say its the best thing I have ever had, but I enjoyed it. We drove back to Melacca where I had the chance to meet up with some of my friends from school who are all doing great and at university getting ready to change the world!
After eating and catching up with my friends on Jonker street and then the mall (because it was too hot and we need air conditioning), my host family picked me up and we drove into the kampung (village) of my host mother’s aunty to visit her on her farm. I missed her a lot too and got to see her goats, pick fruit and catch up over tea and delicious Malay desserts.
The next morning, we went into town to have the famous Melaccan chicken rice balls. It is basically the best thing you will ever eat…every food in Malaysia is. But chicken rice ball is basically chopped chicken that is accompanied by rice that has been shaped into balls and I don’t know why it tastes so much better than other types of chicken and rice, but it does. Who am I to argue with my taste buds!
We then went to Jonker street and walked around before going to one of the oldest Chinese temples that is also on the same street as a mosque and Indian temple.
After visiting the temple and giving up offerings, we drove to the side of the road to have the famous coconut shakes that Melacca has. It is amazing. Fresh coconut water, meat and ice cream all blended together with free coconut water top up!
After our fabulous time in Melacca, we went back to Kuala Lumpur where we had decided to stay at the hotel, Le Meridian, which is directly across from KL Sentral (the transit hub) and in the middle of everything. It is also an absolutely lovely hotel that mostly caters to business people, but has a great rooftop hotel that it shares with The Hilton.
That night, I took my mother around Kuala Lumpur on the monorail and LRT train systems which she found to be very discombobulating, and I found to be a great walk down memory lane. We of course visited the famous Petronas Towers for posterity and my mother marveled at the magnitude of the size of the KLCC and malls. In Malaysia, they love to shop!
The next day, we went on a private tour to the elephant reserve, Kuala Gandah outside of the city. There is definite controversy over elephant sanctuaries across Southeast Asia, but I found this one to have a good reputation and from what I observed, they really treated the elephants nicely here. We got to feed the adult elephants sugar cane and the baby elephants papaya. We also stopped by another animal farm and did some batik shopping that was part of the private day tour, but neither my mom or me was a great fan of.
Later that day, I went to eat my favorite food and drink, Roti Cinai and Teh Tarik with a friend to catch up. Roti Cinai usually comes with a variety of curries to dip into while Teh Tarik is basically lipton tea that has been combined with condensed milk and poured from one cup to the other until it has a nice foam on top. Neither are great for your health, but I had to have my fill until I come back!
The next morning, we met up with one of my dear friends and went to the Batu Caves. After avoiding the cheeky monkeys, we made it to the top of the steps to the cave and marveled at what a wonder the place was before descending back down and naturally, going to eat. Later that night we went into Bangsar to have some delicious banana leaf rice with some more friends that my mother got to meet.
So much more could be said for our time in Malaysia, but that’s all for now! It was a great eleven days in Malaysia that was packed with lots of food, great friends and new experiences and set the tone for the rest of our trip across Southeast Asia.