I’m about to embark on big trip- a Southeast Asian adventure, and it occurred to me that I never wrote about the other trips I took this past year.
Malaysia. Why did I go to Malaysia? I don’t know. Maybe it was those “Journey to Malaysia” commercials that aired years ago.
Not this, but something like it.
Even before I decided to teach in Seoul I thought, ‘But maybe I should go to Malaysia???’ It was one of those alluring thoughts you have, but you don’t know why you have them. I just felt compelled to go. So I did.
I found a round trip ticket from Seoul to Kuala Lumpur for only $314. Sold. The next day I realized it was because the airline, AirAsia, had just had a crash.
‘It’ll be fine,’ I told myself. ‘It was one crash in how many years?’
Days went by. I did research. The airline was notorious for safety issues. They were more concerned with quick turnaround times than making sure the plane could safely get off the ground and stay in the air.
They were banned in Europe and the American government strongly advised not flying with them.
Teaching in Korea was a way for me to get away from a terribly run American company. A place that was more concerned with making money in the short run than customers coming back next month. ‘If they had an airplane, would I get on it?’ Absofuckinglutely not.
More time goes by. I put it in the back of my mind. I focus on planning the trip. My friend Carmen wants to join. She buys a ticket for the same flight.
Carmen and I meet up one evening to outline our trip, using the Malaysian government’s tourism website. The afternoon prior we each review the site and make a list of where we want to go. Then that evening we compare lists.
A lot of what we want to do is the same- everything there is to do. We spend the evening figuring out how we could bounce around the country and do it all in 2 weeks. We’re two weeks out at this point. Within a week we have it all figured out and booked.
Now it’s a week out and I start typing up an itinerary for both Carmen and me. This is a tip I learned working at Ashoka, an international organization whose staff travels A LOT. Having your itinerary on one sheet of paper keeps you sane.
I go to input my flight details and I see this:
I mean, I just can’t.
I stop sleeping. My mind is racing with thoughts that I’ll disappear, my carcass strapped into a seat, limbs floating, head bobbing, in some Southeast Asian sea. It would happen in Southeast Asia. No flights go down around Korea. They only go down down there. It’s like Asia’s Bermuda Triangle.
I turn into a mad woman. Looking at that email I felt like I was staring death in the face. All because of the allure of going to Malaysia.
My third sleepless night I get up at 3am. I check my email. AirAsia’s moving my flight time and I can get a refund. Oh thank god. I open Google flights, read reviews of Singapore Airlines, book a flight, and fall asleep.
I tell Carmen the next day. She gets it. She thinks I’m crazy, but she gets it. Whatever. I’m not above “a sign”.
A few days later, Sunday, I arrive in Kuala Lumpur. Carmen’s already been there for day because she took the worst flight of her life. Crowded. Noisy. No food. She described landing as, “the plane falling on the ground.” But she survived. And the flight attendants were hot. SO HOT.
Of course they were hot. This company was just like the one I had worked for in Chicago. The only way they could have their women was hot.
My flight with Singapore Airlines was great. It was like being in an adult crib in the sky. They even played delicate music during landing. It was like we weren’t even doing it.
And the flight attendants were beautiful. They were not cheap sluts you use and abuse for the night. They were classy. They were worthy of being- dare I say- the one.
Getting into the city was easy. There’s an express train from the airport to KL Sentral, the city center. It comes every 15-20 minutes, takes about 30 minutes, and only costs RM35 (~US$8).
We stayed in a hotel right by the train station, mainly out of convenience, so I waddled over to it. Carmen wasn’t around. She was out seeing sites for the day, and of course I ran into international travel confusion. The hotel only had one key for the room, and Carmen had it, and was I really who I said I was, and oh, I don’t know where the cleaning people are, maybe they have one, sit here for a while at this desk in a back room with piles of money on it because I don’t trust you to go in that room but I do trust you to sit alone in front of tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
Eventually they found someone to let me in, and when they did I definitely got A LOOK.
I freshened up a bit and decided I should go out and see something of the city. Maybe the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park?
Didn’t happen. I stepped outside and the afternoon heat and humidity of a thousand dragons’ breaths hit me. I walked across the street into a mall and just stayed there.
The thing about shopping in Korea is that, Korea is so gung ho about its own brands that sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for. Like, I get that you have all these awesome clothing shops, but I’m not a size -6 so I can’t buy anything here.
But in Malaysia, people are all shapes and sizes. Oooooo. The clothes fit! So the nasty heat led me to a much needed shopping spree.
After clothes shopping, I stopped in the pharmacy for a few things.
Then after the pharmacy, I discovered laksa (because looking at gross pictures of people’s skin infections never killed a doctor’s child’s appetite).
This is how Wikipedia describes it:
Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. Laksa consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup; either based on rich and spicy curry coconut milk, or based on sour asam (tamarind or gelugur). It can be found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand.
I didn’t know any of that at the time. I just looked at a picture, pointed, paid, and ate. I also had a milky tea, too. It was the right thing to do.
Six months later I ordered this dish at an international restaurant in Beijing. I was eating with my friend Matthew. He’s gay and has the taste buds of a god. He was super jealous. It’s moments like that that make you feel like you’re winning at life.
So yea, I recommend laksa.
I don’t really remember what happened after that, other than weird men staring at me. At some point I went back to the hotel and somehow got into the room. A while later Carmen came back and we exchanged stories. She’s a Cuban refugee who grew up in Miami. She was loving the heat, humidity, and fresh fruit juices. And palm trees galore.
I don’t know what we did. Probably bummed around the hotel for a bit and then I think we got something to eat. We were heading out that night for Borneo, so there wasn’t time for much. We had to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Miri, then Miri to Mulu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were going to explore caves.