013: How Did Malaysia Exceed My Expectations?

It’s been a few months after that quick trip to Malaysia and I could still remember it quite vividly despite all that took place to the time of this writing. After spending almost two weeks home in the Philippines, my best friend, Denice and I decided to take 3 days and 3 nights off our busy schedules to explore the diverse Asian country.

Den picked me up around 4:30 on a humid Thursday afternoon and we headed to the airport in where we later checked-in and had a light dinner as we waited for our boarding call. We took the only evening flight Cebu Pacific had to Kuala Lumpur and arrived at the Explorer’s Hostel located in KL’s Chinatown during the wee hours of the next morning. We were to wake up in 4 to 5 hours to kick-off our first day in Malaysia and as much as I would like to say that I had a good sleep – I didn’t. On the other hand, Den slept like a baby panda and was the rock of making sure we were able to get the most out of our Kuala Lumpur itinerary.

Day One

The day started pretty rough thanks to my lack of sleep and hits of anxiety so I was kind of expecting the day to be awful already, but thanks to Den she was able to calm me down and encourage me to enjoy the trip ahead. We started the day off eating brunch at a nearby canteen in where we had chicken curry noodles and roasted duck with a side of rice and soup. While the duck was already expected to please, I did not expect to like the chicken curry noodles as much as I did. The curry was sublime in aroma and taste, while it delivered an interestingly tangy heat in my mouth – not too hot, but just right. After getting our fill, Den wanted to try a Malaysian street stall that served this coconut drink called, “chendol”. To break it down for you it was a shaved iced drink that had a base of coconut and – I think – condensed milk mixed with some toppings like tapioca and pandan jellies – quite a cool treat while walking the hot streets of Kuala Lumpur.

We then took a metro from Pasar Seni to KL Sentral Station where we bought metro tokens to the scheduled line that would take us to the Batu Caves. We spent a good hour inside the mall that was right next to the station and as time closed in we headed down to the platform and boarded the train.

At first sight, you’ll feel a bit underwhelmed when getting out of the metro station as the entrance to the caves look a bit shagged down with unkempt temples and litter on the premises. Though, as you march forward and reach a corner where this rainbow temple presides, you get a sense of being close to the main attraction and the expectation starts building up again. As you turn the corner of that temple, the humongous golden statue of the Hindu deity, Murugan, and the colorful hi-rise steps that would lead to the Batu Caves greeted our eyes. We took our photos in front of the iconic structures and prepared our legs for the hike up.

Fair warning, the leg workout we got from those stairs was enough exercise for the whole week. The colorful steps were quite steep and bless your heart if you choose to look down when you’ve reached the final flight at the top. Vendors and monkeys aside, there was surprisingly not a lot of people inside the caves as we spent a good amount of time going around the shrines. After an hour, we headed back to the city center for the next part of itinerary – the Kuala Lumpur Eco Forest Park.

The Colonial Walk

We thought we had the whole commute down from the Batu Caves, however we kind of got lost and ended up at the Colonial Walk – the historical center of Kuala Lumpur. Quite a sweet detour as Den and I recall, however we did use up a lot of time trying to find the eco park asking locals and tourists alike. We gave up after numerous attempts and finally called a Grabcar that would take us directly to the park itself.

Why all this trouble for a park you may ask? Well in the Kuala Lumpur Eco Forest Park there is a canopy walk that you can explore for free.

After going through the outstanding treetop bridges, at a good distance you can walk up to the famous KL Tower that provides the only panoramic view of the city. So you can guess where we ended the day…

After checking out the beautiful skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Den insisted that we had some ‘bah kuh teh’ or meat bone tea and an egg omelette for dinner at Big Mouth. So we capped the night with the scrumptious Malaysian delicacies, some mandatory social media updates, and had a good night’s rest.

 

Day Two

We wanted to go out-of-town on our second day in Malaysia and as we did our research we were caught between the historical village of Penang and the green plantations of Cameron Highlands. We decided on the destination that took less hours to get to so the winning place was the latter.

We woke up at 5:30 A.M. and prepared before our tourist van from Klook arrived at 7:00 A.M. Den and I were joined by a mother and daughter pair from South Korea while our driver, Ahmad, was also our tour guide for the day. We left the city by 7:30 A.M. and reached Cameron Highlands at past noon, just in time for a hearty lunch. Ahmad took us to a nearby town center that had a popular eatery that served ‘nasi kerabu’, a Malaysian meal that had blue rice, fried chicken, a generous amount of salted egg and pickled sides, and some prawn crackers.

First up on our tour guide’s itinerary was the famous BOH Tea Plantation. Malaysia is quite popular for its tea plantations and the BOH brand would have to be the most popular – having had visits from members of Britain’s Royal Family and other respected dignitaries in the past. Den and I admired the greeneries the plantation had to offer while also salivating over their interesting selection of cakes. Unfortunately the lines to the café were too long, so we opted to buying their tea products at their souvenir shop.

Right after the BOH Tea Plantation, we went to the bee and butterfly farms close by and observed nature’s little soldiers doing their work. Later on, Ahmad took us to the street market to shop for some goodies before heading to what, my opinion, was the highlight of the tour – the Big Red Strawberry Farm.

If there’s one fruit that gets me excited, it would have to be the strawberry, so the thought of going to a farm that specializes in its production gets me really psyched. Though it was not because I’d get to witness the growth stages of the delectable fruit. It was because of this particular farm’s menu of strawberry goodness! Now, Den and I didn’t go crazy – we just ordered their tasty strawberry sundae and crème brulee.

Once we finished up our visit to the farm, Ahmed took our group to a nearby waterfall for pictures before heading back to Kuala Lumpur.

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We got back to the city at around 8:30 P.M. and took an hour break at the hostel before going to the renowned Jalan Alor Food Street. We created a short list on what staples we should try and none of them disappointed our taste buds. Check them out below:

  • Appetizer: Wong Ah Wah Chicken Wings and Satay
  • Main Entrees: Meng Kee Grill Fish Pan Noodles and Oyster Omelette
  • Dessert: Sangkaya’s Coconut Ice Cream

Once we got full from the offerings of Jalan Alor, we went back to our hostel and prepared for our last day in Kuala Lumpur.

Day Three

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Outside our hostel

We checked out of the Explorer’s Hostel by 11:00 A.M. and kicked off our day at the ABC Café where Den and I had our brunch. We ordered some coffee, split a very huge breakfast burger, and had their popular chocolate brownie a la mode, while talking about life and our plans for the future.

Afterwards, we hailed a red cab that would take us up close and personal with the Petronas Towers. It’s quite impossible for you to get a good whole body shot of you and the towers in the same frame, so we suggest crossing the intersection to get it. You bet that’s what we did and it took us a lot of trial and error to get the shots that satisfied us.

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Petronas Towers

We went inside the Suria KLCC Mall shortly after to be greeted by a mass of people preparing for the Chinese New Year.

Once we got tired of window-shopping we headed to the Ilham Gallery for some art appreciation and was later greeted with a sign saying that it was temporarily closed. Luckily enough, we spoke to some locals at its gift shop and they tipped us off saying that the National Art Gallery was open.

And so we went.

The Balai Seni was open to the public for free and had a few exhibitions on display. From Malaysian political pieces and street art to abstract pieces and profanity, everything about our trip turned full circle. Den was surely ecstatic. I for one was just thankful I survived and enjoyed the trip despite how it started off.

We took – rather haggled – a red cab to take us back to Chinatown where we shopped for the rest of our souvenirs at the Central Market.

I got a few shirts and magnets for the family while Den got this patterned sling bag. We had dinner at the market’s Penang Hotwok before heading back to our hostel to catch a Grab that would take us to the airport.

 

Conclusion

I always thought Malaysia was similar to the Philippines, both having Malay backgrounds and extensive colonization history. Moreover, Malaysia is a country that embodies what a diverse Asia would look like. It’s a multinational nation that holds residence to a good Indian, Chinese, and Malay population that holds tremendous respect for the various culture, traditions and religion that each chooses to practice. In turn, this respect has resulted to a melting pot of people from all walks of life and a gastronomic hub of flavor that you know only Asia can offer. The city of Kuala Lumpur is a testament to this as you can see the cultures converge around the busy streets and famous landmarks.

‘Malaya’ in Tagalog means ‘free’ and I cannot think of better roots to what Malaysia is achieving in the name of Asia and the world.

And I make this conclusion after just 3 days and 3 nights of being in the country. What if I came back for longer?

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‘Til next time, Malaysia!

Check out the Malaysia Vlog below:

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