Pulau Pangkor | Malaysia 2017

They say, of all the books in the world, the most exciting stories are found between passport pages, and without a second thought I can assure you it’s true! This trip is one of my most exhilarating, thrilling and exciting ones that I’ve been on. It was the first time Payal and I were travelling on our own; navigating our way through highways and untouched beaches. Ever since I landed in Malaysia, we’ve been anticipating and planning these four days and, honestly, it’s been worth every second. Imagine two girls filled with adventure, on a fairly empty island, jumping off massive boulders and swimming with fluorescent fish! Breathtaking, right? So, here goes an incredible travel story…

We departed Kuala Lumpur from the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) bus station, just before dawn. The bus ticket to Lumut Jetty is about 27 ringgits for one way. It’s pretty cheap considering the air-conditioned luxury that these buses provide, and the time. Although I slept for most part of the bus journey, I woke up to see flat, never-ending landscapes of lush green grasslands and attractive mountain ridges on either side. Of course, the Malaysian skies never failed to hypnotize me and I; I let them take me where they pleased! After an easy three-hour road trip, we reached the Lumut bus station, which is the gateway town to Pangkor Island. We bought a 28-ringgit return ferry ticket to Pangkor Island from the Lumut jetty. The ferry ride lasts only about 30 minutes so we relaxed and mentally geared up for what was going to be the best two days of my stay in Malaysia! On the ferry, we bumped into fellow Indians living in Malaysia, who often visited Pangkor and they were kind enough to give us a few tips and suggestions for our stay in Pangkor. Meeting helpful and generous people in a foreign land is a genuinely comforting feeling. We knew who to call in case of an emergency.

We had to take a cab from the jetty to our hotel and our thoughtful friends from the ferry made sure we bargained the cab prices before we hopped onto cute, pink colored taxi vans that read “Pulau Pangkor”. Excited was an understatement!

We stayed at the luxurious Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort that overlooked the pastel blue waters of the ocean. That day we spent walking around town, spent some time on Nipah Beach watching the sunset and hunted down places to eat. As it was the off-season time, a lot of restaurants and shacks were shut and the few that were open were not quite worth the food or ambience.

The next day, we rented out a private boat to go island hopping around the main land. Now, one would think that it isn’t the safest option for two young girls to set off with a random boatman but I guess I’d argue that if you don’t fully trust and believe your intuition, you’d never know. So, we set off post a heavy breakfast with a bag full of snacks, drinks, a bedsheet, lots of sunscreen and our swimwear! The boat ride was fast and bumpy. I watched the oh-so blue ocean surround us, and the main land slowly disappear into the horizon. Payal looked at me with so much excitement, and it filled my heart! She loves the sea and sand; it’s her happy place. Her energy poured over into me and we were like two little excited puppies. Our boatman was a genuine guy. He introduced himself, offered us bread to feed the fish and took care of us. We sailed to the beautiful Marina Island, Coral Bay Island, Pulau Mentagor, Pulau Giam, Pangkor Laut Island, Monkey Island and Paradise Beach while he told us stories about each island and why they were named the names they have. Unconsciously, I knew most of them were myths and stories that circulated in town but with the excitement and humor that he added, I listened with utmost concentration.

Finally, he took as to an unnamed, untouched and newly discovered isle that floated in the middle of the ocean. It was so small that I could literally take a walk around the periphery of the island. There was only but one small shack made up of 2 bed sheets, a couple wooden planks and coconut tree leaves. The golden sand shined under the sun and the water was a crystal clear blue. I was awestruck, mesmerized and shaken by how absolutely beautiful this virgin island sparkled under the sky, surrounded by the vast ocean. I simply could not believe the existence of that islet. My faith in Mother Earth rose up and I imagined that there were many more places like these, born out of her loins, that remain untouched by man.

We spent the entire day on this gorgeous island, snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and clicking a thousand pictures. I spent uncounted hours floating around in the ocean, looking at the water and the sky. Studying each wave, different from the last. Seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea. I noticed how perfectly quiet it is underwater. A silence I can’t wait to hear again. The fish swam around me but I didn’t feel a single one touch me. It was so beautiful that when I walked out of the water, I didn’t want to talk or move; I wanted to just be. My conscience took me by surprise. I felt at peace.

We returned to the mainland that night; stuffed ourselves with local food and fell asleep at dusk. We woke up the next morning to an overwhelming sunrise. The sky turned from pink to a hundred shades of orange and I stood there watching the horizon drawing itself in the sky. Close to the hotel, our boatman owned a water sports company. He insisted that we try them, and Payal convinced me to do at least one with her; so, I did. It was fun! A different kind of adventure, and something I hadn’t done before. You guessed right, we didn’t just do one, we did them all! It was quite an eventful day- I did watersports for the first time, Payal’s phone stopped working and we couldn’t find good places to eat! So, we stayed in all day, went into the pool for sometime and then sat at the beach watching the sun set and starlit sky.

Here’s to a trip that taught me more than any textbook, school or teacher did. To a friend who is forever, to fears and joys that can exist symbiotically, and to a life so simple and precious.

DAY 1:

DAY 2:

DAY 3:

DAY 4:

Taman Negara | Malaysia 2017

After spending almost a week in Kuala Lumpur, exploring the little nuances of the city, Payal’s family and I took a weekend getaway to this old virgin tropical rainforest – Taman Negara! At 130 million years of age, Malaysia’s Taman Negara rainforest is the oldest in the world. Covering 4,343 square kilometres, the national park is one of Malaysia’s biggest draws; its dense jungle and fast-flowing rivers pulling in thousands of tourists every year. When Payal first told me about this place, I did a little research of my own on the Internet and I was blown away by its sheer beauty. There are quite a few ways to get to this sanctuary; by a tour bus, in creaking wooden boats or other ways alike. However, I was lucky to travel with Payal and her parents, we decided to take a road trip! You probably already know how much I love road trips and this was yet another one that will stay with me forever.

We left Kuala Lumpur rather early on a Saturday, before dawn broke behind the hills. I watched the city wake up to the most spectacular sunrise and then left it behind me altogether. You know, I was extremely surprised with my ability to stay wide-awake on the road trip, even after waking up at 3 am. In any other case, sleep deprivation and me are like oil and water; they do not go well together! Jokes apart, travelling and road trips, especially, excite me to another level. I cannot even put into words what road trips teach me, how much they inspire me, and how much I love going on them. I could practically live in a car! Our journey to Kuala Tahan from KL was roughly 4 hours long. Speeding past lush green pastures, ascending mountain slopes, slowing down at hairpin bends and disappearing into tunnel portals only to see another mind-blowing landscape on the other end, was a road trip take away. Majority of the Malaysian highways cut through large-scale palm tree plantations and peninsular regions, owing to oil extracting companies. You may also get to see buffaloes cooling off in the shallows and macaques stalking the banks of the Tahan as the jungle closes in. Credit to the Malaysian government for keeping the country so green and pure!

Late into the morning, we reached the entry point from where we had to take one of those creaking wooden boats across the river that surrounds the island to the resort. Although the village is teeming with budget stays, we stayed at the pricey yet lovely Mutiara Resort across the river. It is the only resort in the middle of the rainforest surrounded by natural beauty and purity. I was completely mind-boggled by the organic, raw structures and the placing of the property. The river, the village in the distance, massive green trees, a clear blue sky above and the sun rays creeping in through the branches of the canopy, it was all there! Here is paradise on earth!

We savoured the local food in the floating shacks on the Tembeling River, went canoeing in the evening and explored the jungle that day. After a short nap, refreshments and dinner, we felt a bit adventurous, and so – midnight trekking! Although I was quite upset that we didn’t spot any big animals, we did get to see some new species of insects and birds. I loved the dark and spooky night for its mystery, while Payal was paranoid for most part of it.

The next day, we woke up to the drone of cicadas, the chirping of new bird species and a myriad of other unfamiliar sounds that formed a consistent cacophony unique to rainforests. After a heavy Sunday breakfast spread, we took off on another morning trek into another part of the forest leading to the canopy walkway! I was most excited about this part of the trip because of how much I had heard about it and to strike it off my bucket list! It is the world’s longest canopy walkway and I walked steadily on. I stopped in the middle only to see all shades of green surrounding me. Above me were some of the oldest treetops with massive tree trunks, below me was a carpet of green leaves and I found myself lost in the most extraordinary way.

We left this incredible jungle that afternoon. It was terribly hard for me to bid it farewell, but I let go. It’s strange but I find it extremely difficult to leave such beautiful places behind me; but somehow it’s easier to let go of people. I wonder if that happens to just me, so I’d like to know from you too. The drive back to Kuala Lumpur had me awestruck with the changing cloud patterns that gracefully veiled a sky painted with hues across the spectrum.

Walking on the world’s longest canopy walkway, visiting the Aborigine village, trekking under a sprawling rainforest canopy, climbing the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia, midnight treks, caving, fishing, camping and observing wildlife was an experience of a lifetime. If you love tropical rainforests and outdoor activities, Taman Negara will definitely not disappoint you.

Creaking wooden boat ride to Mutiara Resort
Mutiara Resort

Our lovely little villa #Room34
Canoeing

Next Morning

Here we go! Longest Canopy Walkway.

Look at how gorgeous this view is!

One of my most favourite people! Payal (:

The End

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog! Put down your thoughts in the comments below or you can email them to me. Stay tuned for more adventurous and exciting trips.

Kuala Lumpur | Malaysia 2017

Unlike many parents who take their children to an exotic country every summer break, my folks don’t support the idea. I have been pleading and begging them to take me out of India for as long as I can remember but they always rejected the proposal. I was always told that I could travel abroad with my own hard-earned money, or if I had to go for work. Now that I am old enough to understand why they refused to take me, I am rather grateful to have folks who have brought me up the way they have.

Early this year, I had the opportunity to work on an ad film. I did it for the experience and hardly even thought about how much I was going to get paid or whether I was even going to get paid at all. When I received my first paycheck, I stared at it for a few minutes and it was the most overwhelming feeling. I took over a month to decide what I wanted to do with the money and of course, my folks were the first ones to say GO TRAVEL! I cannot even begin to explain to you the feeling of spending your first paycheck on your first trip abroad. It is an irreplaceable emotion and you will experience it only once. I choose to visit my first and closest childhood friend, Payal. She lived in India for a few years, then moved to Kuala Lumpur and had been inviting me to visit her every time we spoke. So, when the opportunity to visit her finally arrived; I grabbed it without thinking twice. So here’s to my first paycheck spent on my first trip abroad with my first friend. Too many firsts in one go!

Petronas Twin Towers
Say Hi to Payal!

I landed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport early in the morning and Payal was there to pick me up. I was slightly cranky because I couldn’t really sleep on the flight, probably because of how excited I was. And then I was told that it was an hour-long drive to the city centre. But, the roads, the scenery and the music elevated my mood. Of course, my first impression was that the city is so clean and proper unlike any in India but when we entered the city centre, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I watched the city speed past me and I couldn’t help but be a little more excited than before. So much so that when we reached, I wanted to head out and explore! My over-enthusiastic self probably surprised Payal and her family. But very patiently, she took me shopping that evening. It was all so cheap and affordable that I wanted everything! No, really. Malaysia is so cheap in comparison to India that my shopping spree didn’t burn a hole in my pocket!

In a place like Kuala Lumpur, there is so much to do that I didn’t know where to start. I was going to be in Malaysia for about 20 days so, that night, Payal and I roughly planned out our itinerary. It was only my first day but I couldn’t have been anymore excited than I already was.

Malaysia has a mixed population of Indians, Chinese and the locals, Malays. The people of Malaysia are extremely sweet and hospitable. Even when I walked down a street, clicking pictures and just taking in the place, I didn’t feel like a tourist even once (except of course at tourist sites where you have to pay a little more). What was most intriguing was the fact that I heard Bollywood music in taxis, cars, shops and other public places. Even Payal’s mother very carefully put together two CDs of Bollywood songs and that was her way of missing India, I guess. How sweet, no?

Three and the most important dishes you must try when in Malaysia are the Nasi Lemak, Chicken Satay and Kway Teow. Nasi Lemak is considered the national dish of Malaysia. It is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. However the Chicken Satay and Kway Teow were two of my personal favourites! These two are otherwise famous in Thailand, Indonesia and the other Southeast Asian countries. Another food I was told to taste was the Durian fruit which is again, a popular delicacy in Malaysia. However, the smell of the fruit made me want to run away so I never got to trying it but if you have the courage to, please do and let me know the experience!

Must visit Restaurants/Cafes in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

  1. Papa Rich – Best known for Malaysian desserts, Chendol and Sago-gula-melaka.
  2. Secret Recipe – Head to Secret Recipe for the best Tom Yum Seafood Soup and best cheesecakes in the whole world! The blueberry cheesecake and Tiramisu are for the win!!
  3. Sin Ling Kee Restaurant – This restaurant is in Petaling Jaya. It’s  It serves the best combination of prawn curry, steamed bun and Tiger beer! It was truly one of the best meals I relished in Malaysia.
  4. Strawberry
  5. Rotiboy
  6. Aunty Annie’s – Throughout my trip to Malaysia, I lived on the Pretzels from Aunty Annie’s and terribly miss them here in India. Try their Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel and Pepperoni Pizza Pretzel, and you will be sure to love them!

For the most part of our travel within the city, we used the public transportation system, which is so good and economical! It saves a lot of time, it’s cheap and it is 100% convenient! Essentially, KL has 4 major metro transport facilities. i.e. LRT, KTM, Monorail and KLIA Express (airport transit); and we used all! They are suitable for travellers like us and very well connected to all parts of the city. Avoid taking the cabs, they’re quite expensive and troublesome. I’ve put down a list of places you must go to, just to soak in the city and it’s vibe.

 

Top 7 Places to visit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

  1. Shopping Malls
  • Mid Valley Mall & Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) – These malls have all the high-end stores for clothes, furniture, technology, restaurants etc. (like any other mall). Mid Valley was very close to Payal’s place so we went there quite often to grab a bite or shop. KLCC is a part of the Petronas Towers and also has the Aquarium. I think both are great if you really want to splurge!
  • Barjaya Times Square – This particular mall is not like any other mall. It has this interesting concept of street shopping in a mall. So, you get all the cheap stuff here, you can bargain all you like and it’s all in an air-conditioned surrounding! Best of both worlds!

 

  1. Petronas Twin Towers or KL Tower – Initially, Payal and I were contemplating whether to visit the Petronas or the KL Tower or both. Payal had never gone into the Petronas and she suggested we go see the KL Tower while I wanted to go into the Twin Towers. Eventually, I convinced her and we bought the tickets to enter the Petronas. It is advisable that you book the tickets 1-2 days prior to your visit since they are mostly sold out on the day itself. We booked our tickets for the 6:30pm slot so we got to see the cityscape during the day and at night. The ticket for an adult is for 85 ringgits. We walked into an elevator (almost the size of a room) that took us to the 42nd floor, which is where the sky bridge connects the two towers. After which we took another elevator that took us to the 86th floor for a view that makes you want to sit there for hours just watching the city speed, the sky and every little movement you can see. I was completely pulled into a state of reverie.

 

  1. Aquaria – We also visited the aquarium, Aquaria which is located within KLCC. It is home to over 250 different species and over 5,000 land and aquatic animals from Malaysia and around the world. They also organize interactive information sessions for children and tourists that are interested.

 

  1. Zoo Negara – We dedicated a day to travel to Zoo Negara, the National Zoo of Malaysia because it’s quite far away from the main city. It is about an hour away from the main city, occupies 110 acres of land and organized by the Malaysian Zoological Society. We saw a lot of animals and even more different species from all over world. I even got to see Pandas! They were the cutest fluff balls ever! Again, the Zoo is a great place for children and tourists likewise.

 

  1. i-City – One of the nights, after we got some dinner, we headed out to see the “City of Digital Lights.” This is a technology park located on the outskirts of KL. At night, the place comes alive with a forest of man-made trees brightly illuminated with millions of colorful LED lights. For children, especially, it is a fairytale wonderland. There are a few working rides and attractions as well. It’s a place one can go to for the experience but not a place I’d want to go to again. Artificial arrangements don’t please me all that much.

 

  1. Batu Caves – We had one day, which was free, and we didn’t have much to do so we took the metro to Batu Caves. It is a limestone hill that consists of several caves and cave temples dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is one of the largest and popular Hindu shrines outside of India. I am usually not someone who enjoys visiting religious temples and places of worship so; I wasn’t a big fan of this place. However, I enjoyed the journey from the city to the cave!

 

  1. Firefly Park Resort – One night after dinner, Payal’s parents, Payal and I set off to look for this resort trusting a print ad we heard of. This resort is set in Kuala Selangor, which is about an hour-long drive from Kuala Lumpur city. It had become quite late when we set out looking for this place. We drove where the road took us until the street lamps began to disappear and there was absolutely nobody around us. It was like a spooky night in horror movies. We followed the GPS directions and until we saw the first light ahead of us, we couldn’t stop freaking out. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we halted under a huge banyan tree with its roots hanging above us only to make the night scarier than it already was. The Firefly Park Resort is a family owned hotel for guests and tourists alike. The family organizes short, 20 minute long tours to watch the fireflies in the night. Upon purchase of the tickets, we were given a life vest. We were then arranged onto a fiberglass boat with a small canopy that took us into the thick, dense bushes alongside the riverbank. With the unseen moon and stars, the sky illuminated with the city lights from far away. After a good amount of time had passed, and no sign of fireflies, our hopes loomed low; until we turned a corner at the river bend; and lo and behold! We watched the million fireflies light up the riverbanks like shiny glittery stars. Hands down, this was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life so far and I am so thankful for Payal and her family for taking me on this journey. To date, I cannot forget what my eyes met in the quiet, mysterious hour of the night. Unfortunately, I could not take pictures of this night but I hope that you can experience it and save it as a precious memory!


Petronas Twin Towers, Sky Bridge – Level 42
Petronas Twin Towers, Observation Deck – Level 86

Spot the KL Tower behind this Twin!

Aquaria at KLCC
Zoo Negara – National Zoo of Malaysia

I found Milo!
Butterfly Park at Zoo Negara

Panda!
i-City

Nothing beats cracking open a coconut and drinking straight from it! (At Batu Caves)
Miss the KL Skies!