We arrived in KL to a buzzing array of Chinese lanterns and once again felt the familiar pang of being completely lost in a new country! We’d booked into a hostel in the centre of Chinatown and as soon as we’d dumped our bags and freshened up it was time to eat!
As rookie Malaysian explorers we headed for the first place we saw, the food court. This was filled with little food stalls and table upon table of locals, so our initial thoughts were double win – local food and decent pricing.
The ordering process was a bit confusing and Dem returned to our table not knowing what he’d ordered or how much it had cost as he’d used the old faithful “point to things and hope for the best” method. But we were sure it would be lovely and were thoroughly amused that instead of no smoking or no littering signs, there was a sign for no spitting?! The food was good but I’m pretty sure after spotting our go-pro filming and wide-eyed expressions we were overcharged, but hey first day in a new country- it happens!
The upsidedown house
As we were on a time limit in Malaysia we only had two days in KL so we made sure to cram a hell’a lot into our first day. We started at KL tower and then headed to the upsidedown house where not so surprisingly, everything is upside down… who knew that two full grown adults could be so amused by furniture stuck on the ceiling? But at only £4 entry each – endless LOLs.
We then headed to the Patronus towers carrying an invisible tourist sign between us. Within about 2 minutes we’d been accosted by a man selling wide angle lenses for iPhones which of course we bought immediately, a £4 lens that can capture the length and breadth of both Patronus towers as well as both of us doing a quirky peace pose? Must. Have! We then took approximately 4 pictures with said lens and have we used it since… I’ll leave that one for now!
For dinner that evening we headed to Little India with our new pal Kate that we met at the airport. That was the evening I first encountered Mysore Pak, which are like little blocks of pure happiness being sold on small stalls in the centre of Little India. The flavour is buttery and not so dissimilar to a butter fudge, which was just the beginning of my obsession!
After visiting the Batu caves we headed to the Perdana botanical gardens crossing three major roads and playing chicken with a motorway in search of the park. After a short wander, it started to rain! As we started walking back, a car pulled over and asked us if we’d like a lift. So we bundled in with a lovely Malaysian family who were keen to find out all about our trip. We very nearly joined their family day out to ride horses before being reminded by rumbling stomachs that we had missed at least two meals!
Panoramic views from Skybar
That evening we headed to Skybar for panoramic views of the city, the star of the show being the Patronus towers all lit up like Christmas trees. Skybar was very formal and fancy reminding me of sushi samba or the shard back home which normally I’d love. But we did feel slightly out of place in minimal makeup (Kate & I) basic Ts, flipflops and rucksacks so once we’d snapped a few selfies we popped the overpriced menu down and headed to reggae bar before grabbing our bus to Georgetown.
On boarding the night bus to Georgetown there was an old Malaysian man chilling up front with us watching funny cat videos on YouTube at top volume, without headphones. Bearing in mind it’s 12:30 pm I’m a funny cat advocate but there is a time and a place! I was probably 10 minutes away from spiking his water with 20 Valium! The night bus, aside from the inconsiderate old dude, was actually ok, and pretty comfy.
Mind you after my Phi Phi floor sleeping habits I’m pretty sure I could sleep standing up. We were then woken up at 5 am and before I’d even had time to brush my teeth we were chucked out at a bus station that smelled like urine and bad life choices. From there we finally convinced a cab to take us to our hostel only to find that apparently no-one is there at 7 am so we settled down on the floor to wait for someone to let us in.
The food capital of Malaysia
Heading out into Penang (Georgetown) the heat was relentless and being the food capital of Malaysia we were ready to sample as much food as we possibly could. We wandered the streets taking in the art and street food in abundance. When in Georgetown you must head to Kapitan for a biryani clay pot, they are uh-mazing. Tandoori chicken, rice, dhaal, garlic naan, every single dish was on point! Penang reminded me of Camden 10 years ago (yes I’m old enough to remember it then) in the abundance of art, the variety of culture and multiple food options!
The next morning we had a bit of a nightmare journey to Langkawi ahead of us. The speed ferry from Georgetown was booked up (only 2 ferries a day) so we had to find an alternative route. Starting off with a free ferry to Georgetown at 7 am which took us to the bus terminal where our bus wouldn’t be arriving for another hour.
So naturally, I arranged the backpacks and rucksacks on the floor and took a nap. The bus was then roughly 2.5 hours and cost us 9 Ringits each (£4 for both) which wasn’t too bad until we accepted a homemade snack from a kind lady on the bus which was possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. I can eat most things but I struggled hugely and only managed one bite before we accidentally lost the bitesize bit of hell down the back of our seats due to “a bump in the road”. After that, all that was left was the ferry (18 ringits each – £8 for both of us) and although we were done with Malaysian transport we were pretty pleased that we’d got to Langkawi for half the price of the speed ferry!
White sand and clear blue sea
Wowzers Langkawi where do I start? The beaches are beautiful! We stayed a 15min walk from Penang beach which is literally white sand and clear blue seas, home to a million jellyfish. On spotting my first couple of jellyfish, Dem was leisurely napping and I was all about the screaming. I didn’t mean to wake him, but let’s just say I was happy when he did wake up and tell me they weren’t poisonous. Literally though the jellyfish DGAF, you know the way fish will avoid you in the sea, jellyfish will do everything they can to get all up in your grill making bat & ball a hell of a lot more complex!
A bridge in the sky?
Dem was keen to visit the sky bridge which is a whopping 600 metres above sea level and reached by the steepest cable car in the world. Anyone scared of heights? Does this sound fun to you. I spent the entire upward journey thinking of all the possible ways that the cable could malfunction whilst trying to pretend I was tucked up in bed watching re-runs of SATC. Anxiety isn’t the most fun thing in the world but I don’t like to let it have free reign so I made sure to get myself across the bridge and back before rapidly joining the queue to descend back to solid ground! It was a stunning view (when I’d convinced myself to stray from my very central path) and pretty incredible that it’s possible to build a structure like that so high up in the air but would I do it again? No.
Even whilst travelling Dem & I were keen to keep up our date nights, a nice meal somewhere just the two of us and this one little did I know was going to be a bit more special than the rest. Dem had organised a lovely candlelit beach dinner on our last night in Langkawi, it was stunning and the waiter could not be busier with the camera, he had every angle covered and if I could have employed him as our official travel photographer I definitely would have done.
I popped inside to use the ladies room and was greeted with a squatty botty potty and a bum gun, so I felt classy AF on my return to our beautifully decorated table and we had a good giggle at the stark contrast of beautiful setting and squatting nightmare… Well I guess it was to be expected, being a date night in Asia!
This particular date night turned into the night Dem proposed, and it’s forever going to be remembered alongside that bumgun story… FFS! The proposal itself was such a surprise, I’ve never seen Dem so nervous in my entire life, as most of you will know he’s mouth almighty and has an answer for everything. So seeing him tongue-tied and nervous made it that little bit more special. He presented my temporary ring (the real one being securely housed in a safe in Hatton Gardens) and as soon as I’d said yes and downed half a glass of prosecco our waiter appeared with flowers and a camera to document every single passing expression on my face (full beach engagement album available for those of you who would like to see the 365 pictures this dude took).
The first day of being engaged
Our first full day of engagement brought a travel day, after at least three bottles of prosecco the evening previous (we will never learn). Due to timings of ferries/buses and flights not correlating too well we ended up in the airport a whole 6 hours before being able to check in for our final flight to Bali. I’d just like to take this moment to thank KL airport for having a lovely selection of eats, good wifi and for Starbucks having a fabulous nap worthy seating arrangement. As we checked in it did make me laugh how I used to plan airport outfits and now I was happily rotating between leggings with holes in and shorts I’d worn to the beach…
Next stop: Bali
After a nightmare flight of turbulence, children screaming “scary, scary”, me thinking this is how it all ends and digging my nails into Dem, we arrived in Bali. No beating around the bush here, Bali is one of the coolest effing places I think I’ve ever been to. The taxi drivers all have an Australian twang (well ours did) and the airport is chocka with people picking up their surfboards from baggage collection. Everyone has long hair, are covered in tattoos and are just SO friendly!
If that’s not enough you are guaranteed to see scooters whizzing around with their very own surfboard accessories enabling you to attach your surfboard to your transport! You will literally arrive here and want to use phrases like “far out dude” and “those waves are gnarly man”. Unless you’re me and have a fiancé (lol I’m a fiancé) that keeps telling you to quit it with the accents!
With only a week in Bali and being lucky enough to be gifted a week at Karma Kandara, we were planning on a weekend of pure relaxation and that’s exactly what we got with prosecco and a massage on arrival! After drinking cheap beer solidly for 5 months I could have actually cried. & that was before I’d spied the roll top bath and four poster bed!!
I don’t think there would be a time when this place wouldn’t be my cup of tea, it’s like you died and went to “The White Company” heaven, white linen for days! But after a 5-month trip where we’ve literally slept on the floor on occasion, the amount we appreciated this place was through the roof! There were signs up sporadically informing us about the monkeys that you might see and warnings to ensure you always shut the patio doors. We kind of just smiled and thought they were just being over cautious as this didn’t seem like a place that monkeys would frequent.. WRONG!
It started off with a few monkeys watching us from the garden wall which we found funny as, as much as you see them in Asia, you never really tire of seeing a monkey, you just don’t. When suddenly there was a huge crash inside the house and we turn to see the King Louey of monkeys with nuts the size of apples happily munching through the expensive mini bar nuts that I’d been banned from opening. The monkey/ banana myth was busted right then when King Louey himself blanked an entire bunch of bananas and instead continued raiding the cupboards.
After politely asking the monkey to leave (is there a correct way in which you do this?) and it showing its teeth (not in a smiling way) we scooted off to reception where they quickly dispatched a monkey security guard… I shit you not! Who efficiently scared off the chilli nut snuffler!
Kuta has an uber cool “Shoreditchy vibe” with graffiti scrawled cafes serving smashed avocados and shakes galore next to trendy bars with local shops selling petrol in Absolut vodka bottles, making the typical Shell garages look pretty darn uninventive!
On one of the only days we ventured out of our little Karma dream, Dem managed to leave his phone by the side of the road. Luckily for us an American surfer dude found it, put his sim in and rang the first number he saw – AJs, at 4am UK time!! By the time we’d realised we’d lost the phone and got back to the villa AJ & Katie had FaceTimed this saviour called John and had his details ready for us to go and pick it up. Legend! The more time I spend in Asia the more my faith in humanity is restored, and the more I believe in karma.
All too soon our week in Bali was over. As you probably know we were (occasionally) trying to be savvy backpackers by saving a few penny’s so booked a 37 hour, 4 flight round trip from Bali to London calling at KL, Iran, Turkey & then London. At the time it saved us £300, did we hate our life decisions halfway through said journey, you bets it! The first 3-hour flight went without a hitch and we arrived in KL for an 8 hour stopover complete with multiple floor naps and a Burger King.
Our second flight was possibly the strangest I’ve ever had. A fight broke out between four grown men just before we got on the plane and the airport staff just sat back and watched it unfold. We then boarded, when an old man determined to use the toilet during takeoff pushed the air stewardess nearly earning him instant evacuation and getting the whole flight cancelled. Just as everyone settled down 8 or so guys at the back start clapping and dancing down the aisles.. rendering any chance of being able to hear my newly downloaded Bride Wars pretty slim.
Sleeping on the floor in Iran
On arrival in Iran, we got called to a transfer area where we were ensured our bags would be sent directly to our next plane with no need for us to check in or out. Great! Yeah not so great, they took our passports and we were then left in a holding area to sit/lie on a freezing cold floor to wait to be called for our flight which wasn’t for another 6 hours. Did I mention it was 7 degrees and there was nothing to eat or drink? Oh, & we had two more flights to go…
The last two flights went fairly smoothly and in no time at all (around 10 hours) our feet were planted back on British soil. We’d taken a valium on the last plane journey so we could get a quick nap in before tackling the rest of our jet-lagged afternoon. The valium didn’t work on the plane, what it did do was kick in the minute we went off in search of our luggage. We then discovered that Dem’s backpack featuring the hard drive and my makeup bag was missing…
What a welcome back to grey old London….but nothing a cup of good old British tea wouldn’t fix!