January is so hard to resist… My annual leave count gets reset and it’s winter in Europe. To top it up, there are loads of flight offers. So it can’t be helped, I almost always travel somewhere warm in Jan/Feb. 2014 was not different in this matter. But it was a different year, and my first time in Asia. Here’s my story from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
First time in Asia
I booked my flight two weeks before the trip, I didn’t book any accommodation, nor read much about it. I did get recommendations from a friend who lived there. I knew it would be Chinese New Year, which I was looking forward to.
It was my first time to East Asia, and for some reason, I had the impression Asians are not very friendly with foreigners. First time I got to a station, I walked towards the only person on the platform to ask for directions. When he realized, he started walking the other direction. But that was ok, I was not having big expectations anyway.
Not a beach holiday
I found a hostel, left my backpack and went to ask the host where the best beach was. She looked at me a bit confused, then she told me about other touristy stuff and that there are actually no great beaches in Singapore. I was quite disappointed, thinking “What do you mean? It’s an island!” I got a map from her and went exploring.
I enjoyed walking around, the city is so well organized, so clean, so sunny. Locals complain about the weather, but I absolutely love it. I also spent half a day at the botanical gardens. Singapore is an awesome city and it’s one of my favourites, but a few days are enough to visit all you want. Gardens by the Bay are a must. And since I had two weeks and no clear plans, I started looking for a second stop. So I booked a last minute flight to Kuala Lumpur.
But before that, I met really nice expats and locals. They showed me around, we went to China Town, I tried new food and used chopsticks, learned more about the New Year celebrations and their daily lives. And it changed my initial perception completely.
And after getting so much fun and little sleep, I went half asleep to the airport to catch my early flight. The airport is really close to the city, and you can get there by underground (MRT). I got to Kuala Lumpur airport and took a local bus to the city.
In Kuala Lumpur
I told the lady next to me that I will fall asleep soon and if it’s possible for her to wake me up when we get there. A few minutes later she wakes me up. Me: “Really? Wow, that was quick!” She didn’t reply. I checked the time afterwards and it was more than 1h later, I just had a good nap. I hope I didn’t bother her though.
I spent next days walking around KL, did all the touristy things. Birds and butterflies, tower views. I went to a temple, took off my shoes, but when I went out, they charged me for taking them back. It was just a coin, but I found funny the whole thing. They had a pretty decorated China Town as well. One morning I went to Batu Caves and I really liked it, it was closer to the image I had in mind about S-E Asia.
Chinese New Year
I went back to Singapore, just before the CNY. I think it’s exciting to be in Asia before the New Year when everybody is preparing for it, China Towns are pretty and busy and there are fireworks. But not after, because everything is closed, the locals celebrate with their families and there is not much to do, even hard to find a nice place to eat.
Singapore has a great variety of food, and it’s relatively cheap. I don’t eat fish/seafood and very spicy, so I cannot describe some of their best dishes. But what I tried and I loved it, was hot pot. It’s everywhere in East Asia. I like the idea of the meal being cooked as you spend time with friends, but it’s not much effort involved, it’s fun. And I say that as someone who doesn’t cook. The same idea goes for Korean BBQ, I tried that the year after, in Seoul.
Although I haven’t travelled much during this trip (I usually don’t spend more than 3-4 days in one place), I didn’t get bored. And I went back with a different mentality, better and improved version 🙂 I think consciously or not, we end up with some beliefs, fears or just assumptions that have nothing to do with reality. And what travel does, it smashes them down!