Winter Vacation Part 8 – Kuala Lumpur

The last stop on our one month long vacation through Osaka, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bali, was Kuala Lumpur. A city made famous by the 1999 crime, romance, action movie Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones.

AirBnB

We landed at the airport in the evening and took a cab to our AirBnB, which was incredible. It was an apartment on the 20th floor of a steel and glass skyscraper. The apartment was massive, 3 bedrooms, floor to ceiling windows, a balcony that looked out over an incredible pool. The apartment building also had it’s own store and dry cleaning facilities. This probably says more about me, but this was by far the nicest apartment I’d ever been in. In stark contrast, there was a slum immediately next door made of rusted corrugated metal. Ironically there was a tennis court in the middle of it.

 

Our AirBnB hosts were out on vacation themselves, they were teachers at an international school. However, there were two other guests staying there. A venture capitalist from South Africa named Jacques Van Heerden and his wife. They were looking to set up an office in Asia somewhere and had recently begun their tour around the world. Jacque and I talked quite a bit in the few days we were there. I can honestly say he is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. I encourage you to check out his website.

Nicole gets sick

I mentioned this a little bit at the end of the Bali post, but Nicole got sick, really sick. She couldn’t keep anything down, or in, and felt really nauseous. I suspect it was some of the food we had at the place with the Balinese dancer. It’s called Bali belly and literally 100% of the people I know who visited Bali got it (6 out of 6 people). I felt alright, not great, but alright. Progressively throughout our stay in Kuala Lumpur I started to feel sick as well. Eventually Nicole and I visited the ER across the street and got her checked up. They gave us some hydration salts and we spent most of our time laying around the beautiful apartment feeling terrible.

Petronas Towers

On our last day in Kuala Lumpur we finally made it to the Petronas Towers. We took a guided tour up to the skybridge between the two buildings and to the top of the towers. The view from the top was incredible because sections of Kuala Lumpur aren’t built up so depending on which way you look, you can see straight over the city and for miles outside of it. The towers are the tallest pair of twin towers in the world and for awhile they were the tallest buildings in the world. Each tower was built by a different company. A japanese company built one and a Korean company built the other. Since Japan and Korea are bitter rivals it was a pretty clever way to get the buildings built in a hurry. I found conflicting information on which building was finished first. However, I do know that the Korean one was a little bit crooked and had to be corrected part way through construction.

Nicole and I had a bite to eat at the mall in the base of the towers. The mall was filled with really nice designer shops and a ton of people. However, the vast majority of people were just loitering. No joke, most people were just standing around. Almost no one was actually shopping. Funny story, after lunch Nicole goes to the bathroom and I’m waiting in the mall just checking my phone. This group of Malaysian guys walk up to me and ask to take a photo with me. I oblige and it takes a few minutes to take the photo. While they’re trying to take the photo a line forms. I can’t make this stuff up. After they get the photo another group of people ask to take a photo with me. At this point I realize I’m going to be here all day if I say yes so I tell them I have to meet my girlfriend and politely leave. Nicole told me later another group of people approached her when she exited the bathroom. It was a weird experience that reminded me of Bangkok when we got that really great service and tons of free food seemingly for no reason.

Burger Night

After we got back from the Petronas Towers Nicole and I ordered burgers delivered to our AirBnB. It was glorious, delicious, and came with a truffle sauce for the fries, best burger in Kuala Lumpur. Which leads me to another point, food selection. What is up with the selection of food in Korea? Literally everywhere else we went in Asia, with the exception of Bali had a wider selection of international food than Korea. Heck, Hong Kong had Marks and Spencer. Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur: their selection of beers, wines, cheeses, and meats were incredible, and reasonably priced as well. While Korea has some of those things, they’re often harder to obtain or steeply priced.

Returning to Korea

After our burger meal, Nicole and I packed the last of our things and took Uber to the airport. Our flight was around midnight and we arrived with plenty of time. We flew all through the night and got to Busan, South Korea around 8am the following morning. From there we took a bus back to our apartment in Gwangyang.

Overall, it was an awesome trip. We saw Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali, and Kuala Lumpur. I’ll remember this vacation as one of my best vacations to date, and one of my longest. Here’s to many more!

Winter Vacation Part 7 – Bali

For those following along at home, Nicole and I visited Osaka, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore before moving on to beautiful Bali. Nicole found an awesome travel deal for a resort in Bali. For around $400 we got a week’s stay, a deluxe room with a hot tub on the balcony, free dinner one night, free breakfast everyday, and free airport drop off/pick up. It was an amazing deal and one of the cornerstones of the trip. It was one of the first things we booked and the basis of what we planned around. If you don’t want to read the whole post, watch the video below, courtesy of the GoPro Nicole bought me for Christmas.

Sleeping in the airport
Sleeping in the airport

If you remember, Nicole and I spent the last night in Singapore sleeping in the airport. I’ve never slept in an airport before but if I ever had to do it again, I would stay in the Singapore airport. We woke refreshed and since we’d already passed through security, our walk to the gate was only a few minutes. The flight wasn’t very crowded and everyone seemed in a good mood. After all, they were going to Bali.

Getting to Bali

We landed a few hours later and disembarked. Bali was hot, but tropical island hot, not city-in-summer hot. To get through Bali customs you need to pay around $30 for your visa. That equates to an absurd amount of money in Indonesian Rupee. We took out something like 400,000IDR each. Then I lost my debit card. The ATMs in Bali were really slow so I think I just walked away with my money and receipt and the machine ate my card. I’ve never lost a credit card or debit card before and already I’d lost it literally 15 minutes into our trip. No big deal though. I cancelled my card at the hotel and that was that.

As part of the Travelzoo deal that Nicole found, we got free airport pickup, a first for me as an adult. The driver was nice and the hotel was even nicer. It was one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. There was a pool with several waterfalls, a swim-up bar, a beautiful dining area that opened out into the pool. Our first day we just explored Sanur, the area we were staying in.

Yoga

The second day in Bali, Nicole and I took a cab to the Yoga Barn in Ubud. Nicole’s always wanted to visit the Yoga Barn and I like doing yoga sometimes so it was a good fit. We signed up for a relaxing type of yoga. Most of the hour we laid on the ground and squished a tennis ball into our kidneys using our body weight. It was not the best use of $5.  After yoga we ate at their vegan cafe. I had some sort of tempeh taco and a mint lime drink with a shot of honey. It was pretty good. I would definitely recommend the cafe.

A note about cabs. The blue cabs with a bird logo on them are the ones you want to use. The other ones are likely to scam you.

Massages

massages
massages

After yoga, Nicole and I got a couples massage and body scrub for an hour for nickels. Okay, not quite that low, it was around $10 a person. The massage was amazing and the scrub was….rejuvenating. I’m sure if you’re a lady without body hair it’s great but for me it just felt like someone with a handful of coarse sand was trying to scrub off my top layer of skin.

Monkey Forest

After being massaged and scrubbed within an inch of my life Nicole and I visited the Ubun Monkey Forest. It’s a preserve filled with semi-wild monkeys. They roam around and people feed them. Nicole was too afraid to get near them so we skipped the feeding part. The monkey forest is also filled with some incredible temples, waterfalls and bridges. Admission was something like $2 and included a free postcard.

Surfing

Surfing
Surfing

The following day Nicole and I visited Kuta and went surfing. Kuta is a bit more lively than Sanur. Sanur is a more laid back restaurant and quiet beach area. Kuta is where the backpackers go to buy neon tank tops, ray-bans, and tattoos. There are lots of hawkers on the street selling bracelets and bars blasting dubstep. All that aside, there’s a nice beach with great waves. Nicole and I rented a board to share and took turns surfing up and down the beach. Nicole had never surfed before so I taught her, and after a little practice, she was able to stand up and ride a wave.

That night we returned to Sanur and the hotel and went out for food there. We found a place right off the beach that had those giant drinks you see in movies about tropical islands. My drink came in a pineapple and Nicole got a drink inside a coconut. Both had umbrellas and fruit. We also got surf and turf for a few dollars each. We were only halfway through our time in Bali and already trying to find a time to come back again.

Snorkeling

Snorkel cafeOriginally we’d planned to get SCUBA certified in Bali. However, there was so much to do in Bali, it was impossibly to commit to three days of training and sitting in a classroom when we could be surfing and rafting. We decided to book a snorkel trip instead. Based on the time constraints of our week in Bali, it was definitely the right decision. A van picked us up from the hotel and took us to the dive center where we signed our lives away and met a nice guy from the UK. He was doing a dive that day and recommended a number of great dives for us the next time we’re in Bali.

The drive out to the boat was only an hour, like just about everything in Bali. It’s not that anything is particularly far, its just the roads are small and windy so the travel itself takes awhile. We dropped our things off at a little cafe on the beach and changed into our swimsuits. Our buddy from the UK took one boat and we took another. The trip out to the reef was only a few minutes and definitely worth it. We put on flippers and hopped overboard. The reef was incredible, and so close. It was right below us. At times I thought I might scrape myself against the coral it was so close. There were so many fish and different colored coral. It was even better than what I remember of the Great Barrier Reef.

Nicole and a traditional Balinese dancer
Nicole and a traditional Balinese dancer

We stayed an hour at that reef before boarding the boat again and visiting another coral reef 5 minutes away. It was inside of a small cove and just as vibrant as the previous spot. Our guide led us around the reef and showed us schools of fish as well as some giant brain coral.

At the end of our trip we took the boat back to the beachside cafe and had some lunch before heading back to the hotel. That night Nicole and I went out to eat in Sanur again. At the restaurant we went to they had traditional Balinese dancing and a live band performing. The performance was a sort of “best of” various Balinese plays. There was one lead female dancer and she invited Nicole up on stage to dance with her a few times. The food was really good as well. A little too good.

White water rafting

Nicole and I rafting
Nicole and I rafting

On our second to last day Nicole and I took a white water rafting trip. A van picked us up early in the morning and took us and an Arabic couple high into the mountains, seemingly to the top of Bali. We hopped in a raft with our guide and made our way down the rapids. Many years ago I went white-water rafting in Costa Rica and while the rapids there claimed to be level 3, they felt pretty tame. The rapids in Bali were a whole other story. We were tossed around and went over rocks, rapids, and even a waterfall. The rafting was fantastic and I highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit Bali. However, be careful when choosing your guide. Some of the guides out there are less experienced than others and you’ll spend more time on the rocks than actually going down the rapids.

At the end of our several hour rapid adventure, we hopped off the raft and climbed what felt like a thousand steps. Nicole and I have climbed many steps before like in Hong Kong and at the Cherry Blossom festival, but this was insane. I was fine to climb them, but Nicole was feeling a bit under the weather and had to take some breaks on the way up.

Leaving Bali

It’s with a heavy heart that I write about leaving Bali. We had a blast while we were there. We rafted, snorkeled, surfed, dined, relaxed. We did it all in only a few days and for a fraction of what it would cost to do just about anywhere else in the world. Of all the places I’ve ever traveled, Bali was one of my favorites.