Day 6: Stopping by Cameron Highlands Before Heading Back to Kuala Lumpur

We had to check out at 11am so we had plenty of time to pack in the morning and to get coffee at a cafe nearby. I’m going to miss Penang. For some weird reason, it reminds me most of New York or just other cities like Seattle or LA but with its own little quirks.

For our last meal in Penang, we decided to eat at Borneo Kopitiam and I got the delicious Wan Tun Mee again. I’m sad that I’ll never find Wan Tun Mee that would be this good and cheap ever again.

Cameron Highlands

3 hours later, we arrived to Cameron Highlands and of course it was time for lunch. We ate at a place called Wonderlite and we just ordered different kind of rotis to try.

Roti Kosong (plain) on the left and Roti Telur (egg) on the right.

Roti Boom (condensed milk) was my favorite

The first touristy spot was the Cameron Lavender Garden, which only Jacqueline and I went since my parents and my sister already went through it before we got to Malaysia.

Lavender icecream that tasted a lot like soap/candle since it the flavor was so strong.

The garden was quite small and the influx of tourists from the buses made the whole garden a little cramp. The top floor was kind of tacky with a color castle and characters. Cameron Lavender Gardens is definitely a place you only need to see once.

After another 30 mins or so of driving we finally made it to Cameron Valley. We didn’t get any tea but we did get a picture.

The drive out of Cameron Highlands was horrible. There were so many twist and turns, it’s hard not to feel nauseous especially when it took more than a hour to get back on the highway. The drive back down was pretty interesting. We saw a lot of stray dogs roaming around, which reminds me of Peru. There were also a lot of small shacks and homemade storefronts along the roads where indigenous people sell their goods to visitors.

The car ride back to Kuala Lumpur was rough and took roughly 2 more hours. Our Airbnb was around the Pavillion which meant loads of traffic. We were stuck in traffic for a hour and basically couldn’t get dinner where I wanted because it was too late. We ended up eating at a restaurant that was kinda bleh on the ground floor of the Pavillion.

Being in the car for majority of the day was rough and so tiring that I had a GREAT night sleep.

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Day 5: A Hot & Slow Day in Penang

We were finally blessed with a beautiful day. It was sunny and hot, a perfect vacation weather. Our plan was to spend the day at the beach a hour north from George Town at the very top of Penang. Up north was known for the beautiful beaches and resorts.

We were heading to Batu Ferringhi and during the drive up we passed by a bunch of big resorts and their private beaches. We should’ve stayed a stayed a night at a resort and do some R&R since we our itinerary was light since Penang Hills was closed.

We were driving around the area only to find out that majority of the beaches are now either private for resort use only or just too dirty to actual go on. We were too hungry to continue searching so we had to get food and eat while we decide what to do next.

We got Indian food at a restaurant along the main road called Enca Cafe. It’s funny since I was craving naan when I woke up. I finally got to try Teh Tarik which literally translates to pulled tea. I realize that all the coffee and tea here is just too sweet for me, but it’s refreshing especially when you’re dripping in sweat from the heat and humidity.

Butter Chicken, chicken tikka masala, noodles and naan (cheesy garlic naan, and we tried onion and lamb naan as well)

After lunch we just stopped by a small beach off the main road to check it out. It sucks that all the nice parts are now owned by resorts. We decided not to go with our two back up plans which was monkey beach and the snake temple. Instead we drove back to George Town to explore the area a bit more since it was the perfect weather to do so.

George Town

The city was so alive, full of people walking around. Our first stop was walking through the Art Lane. It was like an indoors alleyway full of art, mostly graffiti and then some sculptures. I think artists all over the world come here to leave their mark and you can see a variety of different styles on the walls. We even got to see an artist at work!

Right next door to Art Lane, was a hipster lifestyle clothing style that had really nice decor. I ended up getting a jacket/cardigan and two solid colognes – something I never seen before. Unintentional shopping is the most dangerous kind.

I was able to get some more shots of Georgetown as we explored as well!

Afterwards, we walked towards the Jetties to see the how different it was during the day time. In the day time, there were a ton of people, both tourists and locals. All the shops were opened too. We walked through the narrow pier surround by shops and you can feel the wooden planks squeak. It feels like you’re walking along the boardwalk on the beach but with way less space to move. I definite enjoyed Chew Jetty way more during the day than the night.

We decided to head back to the Airbnb early and have a more relaxing night. My sister and parents went to the pool while Jacqueline and I relaxed in the AC.

For dinner, we decided to eat around Park Fortune since there was so many restaurants around us. We ended up getting Korean BBQ which was literally 5 minutes from our Airbnb. The banchan (Korean appetizers/side dishes) and tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) were really good but the meat for the BBQ smelled better than it tasted. It was too bland and I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean Korean food in Malaysia… I was pretty disappointed with dinner, I really wanted to get some more street food in Penang before we head back to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

We walked by the water for a bit before heading back and do some light packing since we were checking out at 11am.

Day 4: Disappointments, Exploring George Town and a Pasar Malam (night market)

The weather hasn’t been on our side on this trip. We woke up to a light drizzle and it didn’t stop when we were heading out. We were lucky that it didn’t end up pouring.

We got breakfast at a place a couple of minutes away called Borneo Kopitiam. I ordered the Malaysian 3 layered tea (from bottom to top: palm sugar syrup, evaporated milk and black tea) and Charsu Wan Thun Mee. Of course I took pictures of everyone else’s food too.

Charsu Wan Tun Mee
3 Layered Tea
Nasi Lemak
Kuey Teow

Penang Hill and Sky Walk was going to be the highlight of Penang. One of the top tourist destinations that I was excited for. It was just our luck that it was closed for renovations and it wasn’t going to be opened to the public until July.

Kek Lok Si Temple

Disappointed, our backup plan was the Kek Lok Si Temple which was only 10 minutes away. The temple itself was pretty big and we ended up spending a good amount of time there. I love the vibrant colors of the buildings and the view from the temple was amazing.

Didn’t forget the view from the temple!

Fort Cornwallis

After trekking down the temple, Fort Cornwallis was next on our list. It was built by the British East India Company and is the largest standing fort in Malaysia.

Only half of the fort was open for tourists since they were working on the other half. It was still drizzling at this point so we ate lunch at the restaurant located inside the fort.

Kota was a modern restaurant that specialized in Malaysian Fusion food. Inside the restaurant there was a rustic feel to it and if you were randomly dropped inside the restaurant, you would think it was located in New York or LA.

Nyonya Redang Chicken

Tandoori Chicken

Samosas

Sesame Noodles

Spring rolls, don’t remember the full name.

The Sunset drink

The food was amazing, a great mix of Nyonya and western flavors. If this restaurant was in NYC, the bill would’ve probably came out to be in the mid-$100 range. The bill ended up being 130 Rmb (roughly around $30) and that was after we got a 50 Rmb discount from the tickets we got for Fort Cornwallis.

It only took us 20 mins or so to see everything since half of the fort was being worked on and there was no show in the amphitheater.

It started to drizzle a little harder, so we decided to walk towards George Town and find a cafe to escape the rain and plan our walking route.

George Town

It stopped raining when we got to the coffee shop so we decided to take advantage of the weather and start exploring George Town. There were tons of shops, cafes and colorful buildings. I love the architecture of Penang – it was a mix of British, Chinese, Indian, Islamic influence. These buildings will catch your eye as you’re walking down the streets. It’s great that Penang was able to preserve so many heritage buildings. Apparently it has the largest collection of pre-war buildings in Southeast Asia. I wasn’t able to take good pictures that capture how beautiful these buildings were.

We walked around Little India and then hunted for Penang Street Art and were able to find most of them thanks to Google Maps. There was so much street art, it kind of reminded me of Williamsburg. One thing I love about George Town is how hipster it was. It was a good mix of historic and modern.

Penang Street Art

Beastly Street Art

Boy on Motorcycle

Boy with Pet Monster

Susu Soya Asli & Segar

Brother & Sister on a Swing

Children Playing Basketball

Architecture shots

We took a quick rest a cafe called Coffee On The Table, which specialized in 3D latte art.

Afterwards we decided to check out the malls in the area. The first mall we went to was Penang Times Square and it was kind of underwhelming. It felt more of a mall for the locals, so we decided to walk to the 1st Avenue Shopping Mall afterwards. 1st Avenue was much more modern and western. I didn’t get anything aside from necessities to bring back to the Airbnb.

By the time we got back to the car from the mall, it was already dark. It was interesting seeing the locals close up their shops and get a sense of how their day ends.

Farlim Pasar Malam

For dinner, we decided to stop by the Farlim Pasar Malam (night market) to get food.

Pasar Malam is an Indonesian and Malay word for night market. These night markets consist of different types of vendors from food to clothes to all kinds of accessories. These markets happen in a certain location and at a set day of the week.

These markets are full of vendors and people. You can buy and eat food there or take it to go. We tried a few things there and it explains all the bad pictures that I have of the food since it was so dark.

Char Keoy Kak

Cendol – creamy dessert made of coconut milk, green jelly noodles and pale sugar.

Fried cuttlefish

My favorite was the Char Koey Kak, which is fried rice cake. I got the one with duck egg and it was fucking amazing. Probably the best food I ate so far on this trip. So good that we got seconds to bring back. One thing I didn’t mention in my earlier post is that anything you take to go (food) comes in a plastic bag even drinks! It’s not the best for the environment but it’s probably cheaper than cups and containers here.

We ended up hauling a bunch of food back to our Airbnb to eat while we plan the last half our trip.

I don’t recommend planning during your trip since it’s even more tiring than you think, but my dad wanted to be super flexible. My flight to Singapore ended up being more expensive than it would’ve been if I booked everything earlier.

Nothing feels better than sleeping after a long day of walking.

Day 3: From Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh to Penang

It was a 4 hour car ride up to Penang from Kuala Lumpur. We only made two stops, one for the bathroom and the other in Ipoh which was 2 hours away. Ipoh is a city in northwest Malaysia and pretty much the middle point of our road trip up.

Ipoh

It was around 1 when we arrived at Ipoh and we were starving since we didn’t eat anything all morning besides some chips we picked up at the rest stop. First order of business, food. We stopped by a restaurant that was packed with people eating lunch called Restoran Ipoh Kong Heng. Ipoh is known for their bean sprouts so of course we had to get that as one of our dishes.

Our food from Restoran Ipoh Hong Keng

My favorite dish ended up being the Popiah. Fried popiah = spring roll but the Malaysian Popiah looks different than your typical spring roll. We got the non fried one where the wraps are stuffed with shredded turnip, jimaca, egg, peanuts and other veggies.

After lunch, we walked over to check out Concubine Lane, which is one of the touristy spots in Ipoh. History has it that it was where all the concubines and mistresses of British officers and wealthy Chinese had stayed.

Concubine Lane

Apparently after Malaysia has gained independence, all of the British officers abandoned the area and the buildings have been reclaimed by nature. Since then, the city has restored parts of the area as you can see. The abandoned buildings were my favorite part about Concubine Lane since you feel like you just traveled back in time.

Abandoned building

Loving the color

Concubine Lane was a good mix of the old and the new. There were lot of street art as well.

Street art in Concubine Lane

Colorful umbrellas

After walking through Concubine Lane, we did some light exploring around Ipoh before we got back on the road to Penang.

Can’t get enough of the architecture

Right before we got back on the road, I couldn’t help myself from stopping by a cafe called Plan B. It was just too beautiful to pass by. I ended up getting a refreshing elderflower drink for the road.

Refreshing elderflower cooler from Plan B

Penang

2 hours later, we have arrived in Penang. Right before we got on the bridge, I saw a building for Western Digital and HP – apparently they call Penang the Silicon Valley of East. Penang is one of Malaysia’s most urbanized states, the highest GDP per capita among the states and has the second largest city in Malaysia, Georgetown.

Our Airbnb was around Fortune Park, which was a close drive to George Town. Being in a car for so long is much more tiring than you think, so we relaxed in our Airbnb before we explored the neighborhood a little bit.

We didn’t explore much, just around the neighborhood to see what we were dealing with. We were blessed with a lot of food options, cafes and convenience stores.

Originally we were going to head to area where the Clan Jetties were before it was dark but we were too comfortable on the sofa and in the AC to make any moves. The Clan Jetties were unique Chinese settlements and were named after their surname. Tan Jetty and Chew Jetty are two examples. They are located along the waterfront of George Town and pretty much a floating village above water.

By the time we got there and found parking, it was pretty much night time and most of the shops at the Jetties were closed. After all, the shops weren’t stores but actual homes where they lived in. The entrance of Chew Jetty was pretty nice at night because of all the lights, but it was pretty much empty besides a couple of other tourists taking pictures.

Chew Jetty at night

We wanted to check out the Hean Boo Thean Kuan Yin Temple before grabbing dinner so we made our way through a lot of dark streets to get there. It was pretty much empty aside from the people who actually live in the area. It was very village-ly and kind of scary at night. Something I wouldn’t have walked through if it wasn’t for my parents being there with us. The only scenario where I wouldn’t have been nervous was if I was with a big group.

For dinner, we found a big food hall around the area where there were a bunch of different food stalls.

Not really sure what the place was called but we ended up getting a variety of dishes to share.

Assam Laksa
Popiah again!
Calamansi Juice – refreshing drink and it tastes like lime!
Seafood Fried Rice
Hor Fun

Nothing better than ending the night with a full stomach.

Day 2: Batu Caves, Central Market & Bandar Mahkota Cheras

We began our day around 10am which wasn’t exactly early but all the vendors near our Airbnb wasn’t open yet. We decided to start driving towards Batu Caves first and then find a spot for breakfast along the way. After an unsuccessful attempt at finding food, we decided to get McDonalds – super authentic lol.

I didn’t want to get anything that I could’ve gotten back in the states so I tried the Nasi Lemak Burger and got an Iced Latte.

Nasi Lemak Burger from McDonalds

The chicken in the burger was crispy, tender and juicy. The Nasi Lemak sauce was a bit too fishy for my taste, but overall it was really good. The iced latte was meh, couldn’t really taste the espresso as the milk was really overwhelming. The fries weren’t as good as the McDonald fries back in the states. Later on the day, my aunt told me that KFC was way better so that’s next on my fast food list.

Batu Cave

Lord Murugan Statue by Batu Caves

My first impression was being amazed at how big the Lord Murugan Statue was. Looking straight at it from the bottom made the statue look as tall as the hills behind it. Unfortunately there was so much construction going on that it made the overall experience less majestic.

Before trekking up the stairs, there was a pile of bricks and buckets that you could voluntarily carry up to help the workers. Of course, I had to bring at least one brick up.

Trekking the stairs up to Batu Cave

From the bottom the stairs look overwhelming, but trekking up wasn’t too bad. It was way easier than I expected it would be. The main challenge was avoiding getting your stuff stolen from all the monkeys running around. Lucky for me I had a small bag to hide my sunglasses and anything else that may look tempting to steal.

Monkeying around

These monkeys may look cute but quite mischievous. One of them threw a plastic bottle at these two girls and I ended up being in the middle of it.

My favorite picture I took at Batu Cave

We got to the top fairly quickly and you don’t notice how massive it really is until you’re inside the cave.

Inside Batu Cave
It’s crazy how they carry supplies on their head up

There was so much construction being done that it made the whole experience feel less magical than it should’ve been.

I wanted to explore the dark caves but no one wanted to do the excursion with me. I would’ve done it alone but I would’ve felt bad making everyone wait 45 minutes for me. Definitely on my list next time I’m back.

After trekking back down, we got some refreshing coconuts to reward ourselves. Next stop, Central Market!

Central Market

If you thought LA traffic is bad, you haven’t experienced traffic in Southeast Asia. I would never want to drive here, it seems like there’s no rules besides the traffic lights. Everyone is too busy getting to point A to point B and no one is really sharing the road.

Central Market

I love visiting markets in other countries. There’s so many things to browse, from clothes to trinkets to a whole lot of souvenirs. Don’t even get me started on all the food you can get! I ended up getting a whole bunch of postcards and we tried a bunch of snacks.

Love the tiles and color
Central Market outdoor vendors
All these coconuts

Chinatown

A couple of blocks away was Chinatown, so it was natural that it was next on our itinerary. To my surprise, either it was too early or it was because of the weekday it wasn’t too crowded when we walked throu

Chinatown
Chinatown market
The best Chinese styled BBQ jerky I ever had.

We did some light browsing and stopped by this place called Lost in Chinatown. It was a store with a tacky gallery with pictures of celebrities and movie characters. The best part of it was a section with Malaysian history, slang and authentic dishes. Since it was free admission, it’s definitely worth checking out just for that part of the gallery.

After Chinatown, we explored the area surrounding us before heading back to the car. I love seeing all the vibrant colors, architecture and food everywhere we go.

I wanted to buy all of them!!
Burger ayam!

Amazing street art

After stumbling upon a burger ayam (ayam=chicken) stand, we went back to Central Market to use the bathrooms before we head back to the car.

Right as we were going to leave, it started pouring so hard, we had no chance but to wait until the storm passed. After killing a hour, it was clear that it wasn’t going to stop raining. We waited until it was raining lightly before making the move to buy some umbrellas and make the trek. Rain, humidity and sweat is not a fun mix.

We were going to head to Merdeka Square and the River of Life, but we had to save that for next time because of the rain. It was also pretty late since we waited for the rain to pass and we had dinner plans with my grandpa and some relatives from my mom’s side of the family.

Bandar Mahkota Cheras

Next stop was Bandar Mahkota Cheras which was southeast of Kuala Lumpur. It was roughly 30 to 45 minutes away and it was where my relatives live. Outside their house they had two cute guard dogs and one house poodle that was really excited when they saw us. I haven’t seen my grandpa in years and it was my first time meeting everyone.

We ate at a place called Legend Seafood Restaurant and got a bunch of different dishes. The only picture I took was a tofu dish since I didn’t bring my camera out to dinner.

A really good tofu dish

After dinner we went durian shopping at a spot that my grandpa likes. Durian is pretty big in Malaysia and it’s considered a luxury. Most people can’t stand the smell of the fruit and it’s banned in a lot of places. My grandpa ended up selecting a musang durian and another popular one.

Durian for sale

Afterwards they ate it back at my grandpa’s house along with some satay. We had one more stop before heading back to the Airbnb and it was seeing the Petronas Twin Towers at night.

KLCC

Suria KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers was breathtaking at night. There was a water show by the Suria shopping mall and the Petronas Twin Towers were so tall that you had to look so far up and you can feel it in your neck.

Suria KLCC with the Petronas Twin Towers behind it
Petronas Twin Towers

There’s so much more in Kuala Lumpur to see, but we’ll save it when we’re back. Tomorrow we’re heading to Penang!

Day 1: Finally landed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It took about 6 movies, 2 layovers and around 20 hours to get to Malaysia from New York City. Aside from the long flight, everything went pretty smooth – Cathay Pacific is AWESOME.

When we arrived, we could already feel the stickiness in the air. Even more so once we got out of the airport. Lucky for us, my dad and my cousin picked us up from the airport which made our lives so much easier. For some context of this trip, my parents wanted me to come to Malaysia to visit relatives and so they can show me around since they grew up here. It’s also my first time visiting Malaysia since I didn’t have the time to visit when the rest of my family went previously.

The ride from the airport to Sentul was roughly around a hour due to traffic. Sentul is a large town north of Kuala Lumpur where my dad’s niece lives. My parents were stayed there for the night after coming back from Bali. It was nice seeing all my cousins that haven’t met before and my grandma from my dad’s side who is ~95 years old.

We were going to grab lunch with my dads niece and her family but we weren’t hungry yet. Jacqueline and I just wanted to shower and food wasn’t even top of mind after sitting on a plane for so long. We decided to head to Airbnb first, which was 15 minutes away from Sentul.

The building where our Airbnb was.

After showering, I ended up falling asleep for a hour or two. It felt great to just lay down on a comfy bed and stretch my body after a long flight. Jet lag hit me pretty hard and I would’ve opted in to sleep for the rest of the day if I was by myself.

It was time for dinner and a couple of restaurants that my relatives wanted to bring us were closed which was unfortunate since I heard amazing things about the food. We ended up going to Lake Village Restaurant and sat inside. Overall the food was decent, but there were a couple of dishes that stood out.

Fried calamari, they ran out of the salted egg fried calamari 😦
Steamed tilapia with ginger
3 layer egg – century egg, salted egg and egg

Not pictured above was a salted egg string bean dish that was amazing. Salted egg dishes are pretty common and it’s when a dish is coated with that flavor or salted egg oil. Two of my other favorite dishes that I didn’t get a picture of was the buttermilk chicken chop that had a nice spicy kick to it and a bean curd/ tofu dish.

After dinner, there was a light drizzle so we decided to chill a bit before heading to one of the night markets nearby. The night market we went to was the Pasar Malam Kepong Baru. It wasn’t too packed since it was pouring when we got there. There were also fewer vendors due to the rain. Walking through a narrow street surrounded by vendors holding an umbrella is not as easy as it looks. Especially when you have to avoid getting poked in the eye by other people holding their umbrellas.

Walking through the night market
Lots of different shumai

Crispy pancake with different flavor fillings

We ended up getting a whole bunch of street food and eating it back at the house in Sentul. I was able to get my hands on stinky tofu at the market, but it wasn’t as good as the one I got in China. I couldn’t help myself from keeping my eyes open for the rest of the night, so I was glad we were calling it a night.

Rambling Before My Trip

“Travel is the departure from one’s little pond.

It is the bold renouncement of the petty comforts that hold us prisoner.

It is a movement away from the known towards the unknown and unimaginable.

Travel is expansion, widening, opening-up. It is the conquering of one’s fears, insecurities, prejudices. It is the hovering above one’s life, past and present, and seeing it in the larger context of the world. It is the fierce struggle against our already formed concepts of the “other”; the vanquishing of our dearly held beliefs, of what is familiar, intimate, cherished.

It is the seed of our childhood imagination breaking open and facing the sun after a long sleep. It is our soul becoming free and unbound once again – alive, powerful, open to surprise.” – Destination Earth A New Philosophy of Travel By a World-Traveler by Nicos Hadjicostis

Many of you would probably be surprised that I would call New York City, my little pond. Mad even, how dare you compare New York City to a little pond, some random town in the mid west that no one ever heard of is a small pond. Not New York City, you idiot, that’s like the center of the universe (debatable depending on which big city you live in or affiliate yourself with).

No, I don’t hate NYC – I love it. I love everything about it even how much it smells like garbage in the summer, how expensive it is to live here and how shitty the MTA is. There’s no other place I can see myself living in. My point is the world is bigger than you think and there’s so much more out there that’s worth experiencing.

Yes, I know New York City is one of the most diverse cities out there, you can basically get any kind of cuisine you want for dinner! Whether it’s Ethiopian, Mexican, Chinese, Greek – the possibilities are endless! But it’ll never be the same as eating ceviche in Peru or pasta in Italy. Traveling enables one to immerse themselves into a new culture and gain experiences that wouldn’t have been possible if you stay within your comfy bubble. It’s eye-opening and you realize that’s there’s so much more out there than work and materialistic things, even though I’m guilty of always prioritizing work and I want nice things.

My first eye opening experience was when I went to Peru. Part of it was from the 3-5 day trek to Machu Picchu was staying overnight in a cabin in the mountains that our Quechuan (the Quechua are indigenous people of South America) host offered to trekkers. The other part was just learning as much about the culture as possible when I was there as well as trying things that was out of my own personal comfort zone. Experiences that you just can’t get from watching a documentary or reading about.

To be honest, I’m not even sure where I wanted to go with this post. I just felt like I haven’t been active on WordPress in a while and my last post was 19 days ago. But don’t worry – this blog is about to full of content for the next two weeks since I’ll be flying to Malaysia and visiting Singapore as well! If anyone has any recommendations, feel free to leave a comment 🙂

BEFORE I END THIS POST…

I just wanted to thank EmotionalNotions and Jenna Diane for nominating me for challenges in the past! At the moment, I’m trying to keep this blog focused on one theme, but in the future I’ll get to it! I do really appreciate it, so if you’re reading this post – I highly recommend checking out their blogs! I love reading lovely poems from EmotionalNotions and Jenna Diane has amazing pictures and posts!

Also, I really want to thank everyone who is following me and reading about my adventures, honestly I would have never expected this blog to reach 300 followers. Y’all are awesome! I hope all of you will be joining me on my adventure to Malaysia and Singapore!