A Travellerspoint blog

February 2018

Kuala Lumpur

KL's culture and curry.

semi-overcast 32 °C

The overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur was surprisingly restful and arriving into a much warmer climate with blue skies (despite the bad weather forecast) perked us up too. We stopped briefly in the airport for a drink and snack, as our budget flight had included ZERO refreshments and then set off in search of the public bus to get us to the city. With relative ease we managed to get a ticket for around £1.50 for the hour long journey. The journey gave us the opportunity to see some of the lush, jungle-like landscapes. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but the vibrancy of our first impressions stayed with us throughout or short stay.

Arriving in the city, we drove through Little India and the bus stopped not far from it. By this time it was about 10am and we couldn’t check in to our hostel until 2pm so we donned our back packs and tried to find our way back to Little India, which didn’t take long. We had a wander around some of the streets there which were lined with painted archways and had a back drop of modern skyscrapers and blue skies, before deciding to get some proper food in a little canteen. It was quite quiet when we walked in and it turned out to be a buffet which suited us just fine. The food was INCREDIBLE. Possibly the best we’ve had on this entire trip. So fresh, so authentic and so wholesome, we ate until we were stuffed. The bill for two buffet plates and a large bottle of water? Around £3.

It really was too hot to carry the backpacks around for much longer so our next challenge was getting on the metro to the hostel. The metro system isn’t particularly user friendly because at the transfer stations there is usually a mall that you have to navigate through to find a different lines. And the malls are massive. We ended up being side tracked on our way through but eventually made it to the metro, which was deliciously cool thanks to the A/C and went overground, above the city, to our stop so we got some great views on the way.

The hostel was in a street which had an array of colourful but shabby facades and was very charming. It was also a stones throw from China Town and the Colonial Area, so after a quick freshen up, we went straight back out to walk around the city and we absolutely loved it. Every corner we turned brought more colours and character, with evident international influences from India, China, the UK (a cricket house and lawn) and the Middle East. The city is a huge melting pot of culture and it’s absolutely awesome.

An evening downpour sent us back towards the hostel and in search of dinner (though nothing would ever match the first meal) and bargains in China Town. As it happened, we had arrived in the middle of a Hindu Festival and so locals were giving out free food and drinks in the street which demonstrated how truly hospitable the country is towards everyone. A march carrying a golden religious statue which had started from outside our hostel earlier in the evening passed the street where we sat to have (second) dinner and when it quietened down we headed back to the hostel for a much needed sleep.

The next day after a quick breakfast, we set off towards the iconic Petronas Towers and spent a large part of our day in the surrounding area, firstly trying to sort out some admin-y bits and bobs and then making the most of the beautifully landscaped park which sprawls beneath the towers and finally going for a look around the huge udnerground shopping centre, where we found... wait for it... a Marks and Spencer, among other things. Later in the day we tried to visit THE Kuala Lumpur Mosque, but unfortunately, our hostel had given us the wrong information regarding opening hours, so that was slightly disappointing but all in all, the city had completely mesmerised us but it was already time for us to pack our bags in anticipation of heading to Vietnam the next morning...

Posted by amysblog 04:35 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food mosque culture market malaysia city towers curry Comments (0)

Vietnam: Week 1

Phu Quoc, The Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 30 °C

Arriving in Vietnam was quite a significant turning point in our travels. Until now, our journeys had been meticulously planned and yet here we were, on an island just off the south west coast with only one thing dictating our travels - our return flight to China three weeks later from Hanoi, in the north. Naturally, there was an ounce of drama upon arriving, we had arrived a day early for our accommodation. Luckily, that was easily resolved by an extra night on beautiful Phu Quoc island - you can't really complain - which gave us more time to plan the rest of the trip... well, that was the idea. We spent the next few days indulging in some much needed down time, and delicious seafood and Pho. And did very little planning. Phu Quoc was a surprisingly lively destination, with fairly busy beaches and a bustling night market, even in low season. It was in a quiet beach cafe overlooking the palm fringed beach that I had my first experience with Vietnamese coffee. Initially I thought it was just plain vile, but over the next few weeks, it became a staple part of my diet.

After three beach filled days, it was time to make a decision on where to head to next and we agreed on Can Tho, a city famous for its floating markets. It would be our first real challenge in Vietnam; we booked a ferry to the mainland and then we would have to find transport to get to the city which was about 3.5 hours away. This 'challenge' turned out to be incredibly simple. Upon arriving at the harbour, I noticed a huge banner for the bus company we were hoping to track down. As it happened, you could by tickets right there and there was a free shuttle to the main bus station. Within an hour on the mainland we were already on route to Can Tho. Even better, upon arrival, there was another free shuttle to the front door of our hostel. The whole trip could not have been more straightforward and that initial experience took all the possible stress out of future journeys. We realised then that travelling up Vietnam was going to be great.

Due to our expected late arrival at the hostel in Can Tho, we had already organised a boat trip to the floating market the next morning before we arrived. We had to be up and out by 5am latest and our guide was there on the dot to meet us. It was still dark when we left the hostel and we walked down a pitch black alley, arriving abruptly at the water edge to board our small motor boat. We then set off down the river towards Cai Rang Floating Market, about 6km away. The market is only active early in the morning and it is where people go to buy fruit such as watermelon and pineapple from large boats. There are some smaller sellers with rowing boats full of colourful produce and our little boat did laps of the market so that we could see all the action as the same came up. We stopped to get some (Vietnamese) coffee and Pho for breakfast - it's not everyday you have noodles for breakfast on a river!

When we had seen our fill, our guide took us to a noodle factory near the markets which was fairly interesting, but the most enjoyable part of the tip was leisurely meandering back along the Mekong Delta towards Can Tho. The scenery was beautiful and we passed small settlements with people washing clothes in the river and going about their daily business. It was very relaxing and the perfect temperature. We got back to the hostel around 9am and felt like we had already done a full day! We were leaving Can Tho that same afternoon so after checking out, we went for a stroll around the city. It was nice but wasn't particularly busy and we actually ended up catching an earlier bus to Ho Chi Minh because there really wasn't much else we could do with so little time.

We arrived in HCMC at about 5pm. This time the free shuttle only took us part the way into the city. It didn't seem like too far for us to then walk to the hostel, so we strapped our bags on, stopped for a snickers and then went in search of Backpackers' Street. It was evident as soon as we arrived. The streets were teeming with travellers and there was English everywhere. Arriving at the hostel, there was a tad more drama, they had missed our booking so we were shown to another hotel on a slightly louder road but it was overall OK. We went out to get some food and look around the area local to our hostel. The surrounding streets were called "walking streets" but a more accurate description would have been "stumbling streets" because they were full of bars and drunken westerners, still, it made for an amusing evening stroll.

The next morning we set off in search of a more authentic HCMC. Initially, we were fairly disappointed by the walking route we followed from the Lonely Planet guide book. It was just a lot of walking and not a lot else. However the afternoon picked up when we reached the area surrounding the Reunification Palace. We saw the Notre Dame Cathedral and stumbled across a small book market before ending up at the War Remnants Museum, where we spent a couple of hours reading harrowing accounts of the Vietnam War, looking through graphic photos and learning about the modern history of the country. Although it was an emotional experience, we were really glad to have taken the time to visit the museum.
That evening we went to a roof top bar called 'The View' in the backpacker's district. Although it wasn't in the city centre, the perspective we had due to being a little further out was really cool, and we made it just in time for happy hour!

The next morning, our history lesson from the previous day came into good stead as we took a trip out of the city to visit Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of underground tunnels used by Vietnamese fighters during the war. It was a great trip and we learned about the different kind of traps and avoidance techniques the Vietnamese used against the American forces. We also had the opportunity to go through a section of the tunnels. The length was just 100m - easy, right? Wrong. The tunnels were so small that it was impossible to stand up straight at any given point. They were so narrow that most of the people in our group turned back before the last section as they weren't sure they could get through. We emerged at the end of the 100m stretch breathing heavily and dumbfounded by the exertion it had taken to travel such little distance. Back in HCMC, we went for some lunch before heading to the airport; the day before we had booked a flight up to Hoi An to save us some time. It was time to leave the south and head for Central Vietnam.

Posted by amysblog 04:56 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beaches sea food history market river island asia traveling phu_quoc mekong_delta ho_chi_minh boat_trip war_tunnels Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 42) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 » Next