October 5, 2006

Malaysia & Thailand

malaysian school children filing into the petronas towers

When I ended my last update Brenda, Sarah, Melinda and I had just found seats in the Phnom Penh, Cambodia airport departure lounge to wait for our flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our departure was delayed somewhat but we did eventually board and we enjoyed a smooth flight. We flew on Air Asia which is a budget airline that recently started serving Phnom Penh. Our one way fare was $62.50 and the flight took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. We were surprised to learn that even though we were traveling west the time zone changed an hour forward which seemed backwards. Once we looked at a map a bit more closely we realized that even though Kuala Lumpur is west of Phnom Penh, much of Malaysia lies to the east which explains the time zone they use. Upon arrival at the Kuala Lumpur airport we collected our bags and proceeded through customs. We next exchanged money and then purchased bus tickets into town. The bus ride to town took a couple of hours so by the time we arrived at the central station it was getting pretty late. Upon arrival we went to the train ticket counter but it was closed for the night so we caught a taxi to a nearby hostel. We didn't have any reservations but the first place we tried (Pondok Lodge) had room for about $9 per person including breakfast so we checked in, took much needed showers and then went to sleep at about 1 am.

Bright and early the next morning we got up, ate a quick breakfast and then walked to the Petronas Towers ticket office. The lines were long but Sarah waited for tickets while the rest of us browsed in the nearby gift shop and explored the large mall on the lower floors of the towers. The mall was very nice and quite large with all kinds of stores and even a Cinnabon in the food court. Once we finally got our tower tickets we headed to the train station to purchase tickets for our overnight trip north. The train fare for the 12 hour journey was about $10 per person for very comfortable second class sleeper berths. After securing our train tickets we headed out to explore the city. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country so we first visited the national mosque. The grounds and
lunch at kuala lumpur central market
worship area are quite impressive with multiple fountains and good views of the surrounding city. I believe the main building can easily accommodate 500 people while the surrounding courtyards can hold at least 8000 worshipers. We were told that on big holidays the facility is often filled to overflowing. From the mosque we headed to the central market for some lunch and shopping. The market had lots of stalls selling boutiques, carvings and many other souvenirs. For lunch we enjoyed a nice variety of vegetarian Malaysian food, all of which was very good. We next walked through part of Chinatown including Petaling Street which is lined with shops selling everything from clothes to sunglasses to DVD movies. We also saw several Chinese temples before we caught the light rail back over to the Petronas Towers. The twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world until a taller building was completed in Taiwan in 2004. The towers are very unique however since there are two of them and they are connected by a two story sky bridge about half
rambutans, longans, mangos and dragonfruit
way up on floors 41 & 42. The observation deck which is open to visitors is located on the sky bridge where we enjoyed excellent views of the city. After our visit to the towers we hurried to our hostel to retrieve our bags before heading back to the train station. We were a little worried about catching our train since we hadn't taken into account rush hour traffic in our planning but in the end we made it with time to spare. We were even able to purchase some supper and a few snacks to take on the train before boarding at about 6 pm. On the train we ate supper, watched the scenery go by for a couple of hours and then climbed into our bunks to sleep for the rest of the night.

Before dawn and before my alarm went off I awoke to the sound of the conductor announcing our stop over the PA system. We were running about 15 minutes ahead of schedule so I quickly made sure everyone else was awake and we all climbed out of bed and grabbed our bags just as we were pulling in to the station. We were worried about
kuala lumpur lightrail
leaving things behind on the train since we got off in such a hurry but the only thing we ended up forgetting was a bottle of water. Upon arrival at the train station we hired a taxi to take us to a jetty where we could catch a ferry to the Perhentian Islands. The taxi ride took over an hour but we enjoyed watching the sunrise and napping on the way. At the Jetty we spent some time negotiating our ferry fare and then found a local restaurant for a traditional Malaysian breakfast of roti (similar to crepes) with eggs for about 25 cents per crepe. Just as we finished breakfast our ferry was ready to depart so we grabbed our bags and climbed aboard. The boat driver didn't seem to know anything about Bubbles Dive Center where we wanted to be dropped off so we settled on a second choice instead. The speed boat ride took about 45 minutes at the end of
petronas towers skybridge
which we were dropped off on a stretch of sand lined by several guesthouses and restaurants. The place we had originally wanted to stay was on it's own beach and cove with no other establishments nearby but we decided that this would do instead. After checking prices and looking at a room or two we were surprised to see a small boat from Bubbles Dive Center pull up to the beach just as we were trying to decide where to stay. After a quick conversation with the boat driver we loaded up our bags for a 10-15 minute boat ride around the island to the smaller, quieter beach that we had read about before our trip. The beach we went to is several kilometers away from any other establishments and is only accessibly by boat. We were told later that they don't even have any foot paths through the jungle from this beach. Luckily for us they still had room so we dropped off our bags and then changed into swimsuits and were swimming in the aqua blue water by about 11 am.

We were very thankful to have made it to our first choice place. We especially enjoyed the secluded beach and excellent snorkeling right off the beach. Over the course of our stay we saw a black tip reef shark, a turtle, a stingray and many colorful fish and coral. Besides snorkeling and swimming in the aqua blue water we pretty much just relaxed and enjoyed some down time on the beach. We ate all of our meals at Bubbles restaurant since that was our only choice. The food was very good though and we were able to try a variety of Malaysia dishes in addition to some more familiar western dishes. We also enjoyed ice based chocolate milkshakes fairly often
our private beach in the perhentian islands
which really hit the spot in the warm, humid weather. Our total cost per person on the island worked out to be about $14 per day including food and lodging.

After two days and two nights at the beach we got up early (before 8 am) on Friday morning to catch our boat back to the mainland. Upon arrival at the jetty we arranged for a taxi to the Thai border and ate some snacks for our breakfast on the way. Our taxi dropped us off at the border where we walked through the immigration and customs checkpoints and then walked about 15 minutes to the train station. Unfortunately the sleeper car tickets to Bangkok were all sold so we ended up sitting in the one air
conditioned non-sleeper car on the train. Before we boarded the train I went to a nearby market and purchased some water, fruit, cookies and other snacks for our trip. The train left at 11:30 am and was scheduled to arrive in Bangkok just after 8 am the next day. The cool air on the train felt very good after walking from the border with our bags in the heat but we soon found that the straight backed seats were not the most comfortable for sleeping. At least we were able to spread out as we had nearly the entire train car to ourselves. We spent the afternoon and evening reading and watching the scenery go by and then tried to get some sleep in various uncomfortable positions overnight.

In the morning we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and then finally arrived in Bangkok only about 40 minutes behind schedule. We then took the subway part of the way towards the church headquarters office and got a taxi for the second half of the trip. Upon arrival we weren't sure if Sarah & Melinda would have a place to stay or not since we had sent in a request by email but had not heard back yet. It turned out that the guestrooms were all full and the person we had emailed was on vacation. One of the church workers helped us find a guesthouse next door to the church office though where we were able to take much needed showers. We tried to make it in time for church but got there just as they were singing the closing song.
riding the train in thailand
Brenda and I were scheduled to fly out late that night so we decided to spend the afternoon exploring Bangkok a bit. First we ate some lunch and then we decided to try and get a boat tour of the floating markets. After asking for directions a time or two we ended up on a local water taxi which took us downtown. The water taxi is a high powered speed boat with wooden bench seats full of people plus more people standing. They also have tarps along the sides to block the spray of muddy water which made it difficult to really see out much. The taxi ride was an interesting experience though as they would just barely stop long enough for people to jump on and off the boat at each little jetty along the canal. At the end of the line we hired a tuk-tuk to take us the rest of the way to the palace area where we finally found a boat to take us on a scenic tour of the canals and "floating markets". As it turned out the real floating markets are outside the city but we did see some floating food stalls and a few vendors selling their wares from boats. The boat ride was lots of fun though as we got to see a unique side of Bangkok from the water. Along the way we saw people fishing, washing dishes and swimming in the dirty brown canal water. There were also some very nice houses and shops along the water. After our canal tour we caught a taxi back to our guesthouse where Brenda and I picked up our bags, said goodbye to Sarah and Melinda and then headed for the
arrival in bangkok
airport. On the way we stopped to pick up some Pad Thai (noodles), waffles and fresh pineapple from street vendors to eat for our supper. At the airport we checked in our luggage and then walked across the street to get a Thai massage. Unfortunately the massage place only had one person working but Brenda and I were still able to each get a 30 minute massage before heading back to the airport to catch our flight. The massage really helped to relax our muscles after spending the night on the uncomfortable train seats.

After sleeping through most of the flight we landed bright and early Sunday morning in
enjoying our canal tour in bangkok
Tokyo, Japan and made our way out through immigration & customs. Our layover was for several hours so we decided to use the time to explore the town of Narita which is just one stop by train from the airport. It was still pretty early when we got to Narita so not much was open yet. We ended up walking to a large department store where we bought some food for breakfast in the grocery section. It was fun to check out the different and interesting foods in the grocery store although we mostly got more familiar foods like cereal, milk, peaches, and yoghurt. We also got a sweet corn pastry which was quite good and some "almond butter" which turned out to be too oily for our tastes. After breakfast we walked to a large Buddhist temple complex. The weather was quite warm so we opted out of hiking on the trails through the woods but we did enjoy seeing a number of traditional gardens and buildings. It was also interesting to watch the worshipers going through their various rituals trying to gain good fortune. From the temple we headed back towards the train station. Along the way we stopped at a local pharmacy where we tried to find some medicine for Brenda's upset stomach which she probably got from the street food we had eaten the
temple entrance in narita
night before. After talking with a couple of nice ladies and explaining what we were looking for (charcoal) they produced an envelope of small beads. They explained in broken English that the beads are made there in their shop and contain a number of natural ingredients including charcoal and that they are most often prescribed to help when people have had too much to drink. We weren't sure what all the ingredients were but decided to give the beads a shot. One of the ladies provided a glass of water right there in the shop so that Brenda could take her first dose of 10 or so beads. We then paid for our purchase and caught the train back to the airport. The beads seemed to help as Brenda felt better for the flight on to Atlanta. Since we crossed the dateline on the way we actually made it back to our apartments in Chattanooga before dark on Sunday night. We sure slept well in our own beds after spending the previous 46 or so hours traveling on 4 boats, 4 trains, 4 taxis, 1 bus, 1 tuk-tuk, 1 car and 2 planes. It was a very good trip though and we had lots of fun along the way.

The next morning we both went back to work and it took a couple more nights to really get caught up on our sleep. On the plus side we didn't really have any trouble with jet lag since we were so tired that it was easy to sleep right through the night when we got home.

Well, I think I'll close for now and write more later about what we've been up to since we got back.

Bye for now,


Posted by andrew on October 5, 2006

My name is Valerie Mei and my hometown is cambodia my mom and dad were born there my moms name is Rom Mei and my dads name is Nam Mei and my mom said when you go to school and when it is lunch time they have to go buy food they don't have a cafatira in there school they would were uniforms and you can by some drugs for your parents and they don't care if your young and my cousin they went to Thailand that there hometown they went to go visit and they ride a elephant and my cousin Iline said she was so scared and that all I want to tell you.

Posted by: Valerie Tina Mei on December 9, 2006

Hey buddy!

Please keep sending me notes, when something new is added. Got a new E-Mail adress. How are you doin'?


Posted by: Jonathan R. Ide on December 22, 2006
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