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The Majesty of Kuala Lumpur

When I was younger I watched a movie with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones called Entrapment.  There was a part in the film where they went to Kuala Lumpur to steal something from the Petronas Twin Towers.  The first time I laid eyes on that tower in the film, I knew that one day I wanted to see those towers in person.  Years later, my desire came true!

I landed at the KLIA 2 airport which was built specifically for Air Asia to accommodate their traffic needs.  While the airport itself is great, it is a bit far from central K.L.  Plenty of options are available however to get to the center of the City, including taxis, trains and buses.  The bus (cheapest option to the city) took about an hour to drop us off at the K.L. Sentral (that’s not a typo, that’s how they spell ‘Central’).  It was quite a scenic trip to the City and honestly I was surprised how hilly surrounding K.L. was.  From there, numerous trains and skyrails were available to take one to any corner of the city.

I had pre-booked (so unlike me, I know!) a little B&B about a kilometer from the towers called The Orange Pekoe for several nights while I awaited my next flight out to Indonesia.  While they did provide great directions on how to get to the B&B from K.L. Sentral, for some reason I ended up getting a little lost once on foot.  I’m just going to blame it on being shell-shocked after coming from a sleepy and chill city to the booming energy of K.L., and of course on the heat of the day as well!  Long story short, though I did wander in the wrong direction several times for about a half hour, I finally found my way (i.e. I stopped and asked for directions) to The Orange Pekoe.

The B&B is located in a partly residential, partly small business street of K.L. and is so obscured that I probably never would have noticed it had I not been looking for it!  While the room was a teeny bit on the dirty side, the rest of the charms of the place made one feel at home.  The staff were really helpful and friendly, and the breakfasts, while basic, were filling and satiating.  Overall I couldn’t complain about the place at all, especially considering its distance from the Towers.  It was perhaps only a 300 meter walk to the covered skywalk that led directly into the heart of the Towers.

I felt like a kid in a candy store having finally arrived in K.L. and able to see the Towers up close and personal.  So needless to say, after quickly settling in to my room, I headed over directly to the skywalk to get to the Towers.  Let me give a warning now to all those who really enjoy finer shopping… If you aren’t looking to break the bank or ring up thousands in retail purchases on your credit card, LEAVE THEM AT HOME!!!  The lower floors of the Towers are essentially a gigantic mall filled with every top clothing/jewelry name in the industry!  From Gucci to Ferragamo, Tiffany’s and Bulgari, the 5 levels and endless hallways of the lower towers are a shoppers dream come true!  Dozens of delicious but top-dollar restaurants are also found there along with at least another dozen coffee shops, a huge food court and a movie theater!!

Again for me it was a bit shell-shocking to arrive in such a grand place.  I normally shy away from larger crowds and detest malls because of the crowds, but I wrestled my way through them to the first level and out the front doors so I could stand in front and view those majestic Towers in their full glory.  Generally I can’t say I’m that impressed by buildings and their architecture, but the Petronas Twin Towers are very impressive!!  The way the light hits off the windows during the day and how brilliantly it lights up at night is mesmerizing.  I could have stood there for hours (and over the 4 days I was there literally did) gazing up their heights, taking in how stunning they are.  In front and behind the buildings they have water displays that light up in an array of colors and even have a water show to music nightly, similar to (but honestly not as grand) as those at the Bellagio in Vegas.

Just like in any large city, there is a lot to see in Kuala Lumpur.  And like many cities, K.L. is well-organized with their transportation options.  One of my favorite features was the ‘Go K.L.’ busses that offered free transport to various parts around the city.  During my time in K.L. I used the free service to get to a starting point, then walked on foot around various parts of the city, eventually rounding my way back to the towers in time to see them light up at night.

I explored China Town (which honestly wasn’t that impressive as it was mostly all about bargain shopping and not food!) and the very impressive sentral market; enjoyed a lovely picnic and walk around the park with a couple I’d met at the B&B from Norway, as well as a visit to the Muslim museum.  I was also there during Deepavali, which is the ‘festival of lights’ celebrated by all Hindus, so I got to enjoy several nights of fireworks up and down the streets.  I had thought to visit the caves while in K.L. but sadly the weather wasn’t as cooperative as I was hoping for, and honestly I was content just spending my days lingering around the city, spending time in the Towers and chilling with my new friends.  I did of course take advantage of the movie theater in the towers and  watched the movie “The Wire” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt based on the true story of the high-rise wire walk between the NYC twin towers.  Kind of ironic I believe…

On to Teaching English in Indonesia

Back to Malaysia 

Further tidbits on the Towers: The Petronas Twin Towers are so named because of the oil company (Petronas) which occupies the majority of the office space of the towers.  They were designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art, reflecting the Muslim religion. A joining walkway is found on the 41st and 42nd floors of the towers and tours are available most days for about 80 ringgit (if memory serves!).

It took a total of 7 years to construct from its groundbreaking to the inauguration at a cost of $5.6 billion!  The towers were the tallest in the world for 6 years, until Taipei 101 was completed.  However, to this day they still remain to be the tallest twin towers in the world!

Facts about the towers were provided by Wikipedia

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What IS That?!!?

I arrived in Ayutthaya by train from Bangkok.  Though it said it would only be just over an hour, as I’ve read from other travelers, travel times should never be trusted as it always takes much longer than stated.  The train was very basic.  No air conditioning, only windows and honestly reminded me of a school bus on train tracks.  People at each stop would hop aboard to sell water, bits of food, rice, etc for the journey.  Leaving Bangkok it was amazing to see how many people live and set up work directly on the edge of the train tracks.

Along the way a very friendly Thai woman started chatting with me and as it turned out she lived in Ayutthaya and volunteered to make sure I got off at the right place :).  Though they do have an intercom system on the train that tells you what stop is next, I was still very grateful I had someone to tell me for sure since my ears are not yet trained to hear Thai words correctly.

Just across the street and almost down to the end I found my hostel for the next several nights: Baan Are Gong GuestHouse.  Originally I planned to stay 3 nights, but extended to 4 as I just got so comfortable there!!  The people are very friendly, the accommodations are clean and the location couldn’t be better and easier as the train station is just down the road and the boat to get across the river is right next door!  I stayed in a private room on the second floor (fan only) and adored that everyone has to take off their shoes before going upstairs.

The only perhaps, let’s call it ‘culture shock’ that I hadn’t encountered yet was the bathrooms… They were shared bathrooms and there were several sets of flip-flops in front of the bathrooms to slip on before going in.  Inside the bathroom was a regular toilet, sink and mounted on the wall was a shower head and knobs.  But no shower curtain…  So when showering it’s literally like going into a standard single bathroom stall (except larger) and showering.  Water of course goes everywhere and there’s just no way to avoid that!  So it sprays all over the toilet, the sink and all over the floor.  There is a drain behind the toilet to drain shower water away, but if it gets clogged with hair, well you then have a mini-flood going on… Definitely was a first for me and I kept having to remind myself that all the water on the toilet seat was from the shower, not from people peeing on it… I hope anyway, lol!!

But all in all, I adored this hostel!!  They also have a little puppy that is just too darn cute for words and I just couldn’t help but play with him every second I got!  The woman who owns the place is very nice to talk to and she gave me some great information on places to visit in the country.

My stay in Ayutthaya included going into town the first night to watch the street festival in honor of the King’s Birthday.  One of the main streets was shut to traffic and they had stage after stage set up with live music, traditional Thai dancing, a muay thai boxing ring, and tons upon tons of street vendors selling everything from live fish (as pets), shoes, food, desserts, and my personal favorite to see: fried crickets and worms!  No… I wasn’t brave enough to try any, but it was awesome to see!!  A couple hours later once the sun set and the full moon rose high in the sky, fireworks started shooting off.  It was such a fantastic time!!

Other activities included spending the whole day wandering the streets of Ayutthaya visiting the tons upon tons of temples and temple ruins they have available.  From Wat Lokayasutharam (Buddha reclining) to the Phra Ram Park where several little Temples could be found, to Wat Maha That, site of an ancient Temple ruins, the Ancient Palace, Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit where one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand can be found and so many more!  Though some of the Temples have been given the status of being World Heritage Sites, they do charge admission (50 baht) for foreigners.  Some people I came across took issue with that, but it’s such a teeny amount, I really wasn’t that bothered by it.

One funny here: as I was wandering through the park, walking through the grass in my flip-fops, I was thinking to myself whether there were any animals in Thailand to be worried about.  Before going to Costa Rica EVERYONE and their brother (mine included) warned about the fer-de-lance snake (highly poisonous and can kill you within a half hour!!) but I hadn’t heard a thing from any fellow traveler to Thailand of critters to beware of.  Just as I was thinking this, up ahead on the side walk was… Is that??… What IS that?!?!?… No…. Is that a komodo dragon???  Do they have those here???  Of course, my instinct toward animals not always being on point, I stealthily rushed toward it so not to scare it off, but yes I wanted a picture!!  Later I looked it up and it’s not a komodo dragon, but rather what they call a ‘water monitor’.  Interesting stuff!

I came across a local fishing for shrimp in the river, which was fun to watch for a bit 🙂

They also have an Elephant Village in Ayutthaya in the center of town where people could ride them down and back on the street.  I opted NOT to do this, but did buy a basket of food that I fed directly to the elephants hanging out at the ticket area.  I have so much more to say on this topic, but will save it for another post as it’s too long for this one…

My last activity in Ayutthaya was of a boat tour.  For 200 baht, the two-hour tour included a visit to Wat Phanan Choeng near the Japanese settlement that featured a bronze Buddha that looked larger than the one at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, then over to Wat Phutthai Sawan followed by the ever so beautiful and my favorite (especially at sunset!!) Wat Chaiwatthanaram.  The tour ended by continuing along the river until we made a full circle back to our Guesthouse:)

On to Animal Exploitations?

Back to Thailand

Füssen

Getting to Füssen was seriously a bit of a battle and a lesson in patience!  It is a teeny town located in the South of Germany very near the Austrian border.  I was able to book a train ticket from Heidelberg to Pfronten-Weissbach, and from there a bus to Füssen via my favorite travel site (rome2rio.com).  In total, there were 4 connections with about 5 minutes between each connection… Perhaps I should have looked into longer connection breaks between each stop, but thinking that Germans are known for their precision and timeliness, I figured 5 minutes would be no problem at all!

I was wrong.  The train from Heidelberg left on time, but when I got to Stuttgart there was a delay of 15 minutes.  Which in turn threw off my connection in Ulm… And my connection in Kempten, which made me miss the bus in Pfronten-Weissbach… Instead of arriving for the bus at 3:15 I had arrived a bit after 6.  I must say that the train from Kempten to Pfronten-Weissbach was the cutest thing I’d seen!  It only had 2 little caboose (cabooses??) and was like a commuter train for the little town in the area.  Just adorable!

The cute train to Pfronten-Weissbach dropped me and a few others off at a little bench on the side of the road.  Great, now what??  Thankfully, as mentioned a few other people had also gotten off at the stop so I was able to ask where the bus stop was.  I was shown by a very nice lady and I made my way to wait.  It was just around the corner and according to the sign I had missed the last bus by 5 minutes or so and the next one wouldn’t be coming around for another hour!  Hmmmm…. what to do….

As miracles would have it, there was a bar just across the street:)  I wasn’t about to stand out in the cold for an hour, no sir!  Plus, I had had just about enough of the “hurry up and wait” game that I had been playing all day since leaving Heidelberg!  It was time for a little unwinding with a beer.  I went across the street and walked in to find a teeny bar with the bartender and an obvious local who kept trying to speak with me, yet I kept having to shrug my shoulders and shake my head to signal that I didn’t have a clue what he was saying!

About a half hour later two more locals came in, one of which spoke a bit of English:)  I had explained I was waiting for the bus which then erupted the bar into a conversation on whether the bus would show up at all!  According to the locals, because we were in such a teeny town, buses ran whenever they felt the need to and not necessarily when they were scheduled to… Joy!!  All I could think at this point was that I really didn’t care!  I had a couple of beers in me and thought, well worst case I would find somewhere to stay for the night, then make my way to Füssen the next day.

I made it back to bus station a few minutes before it was due to arrive, and thankfully about 10 minutes after it was due, it did show:)  I was in Füssen about 20 minutes later and to Suzanne’s B&B, which was located around the corner from the train station, about 10 minutes after that.

Suzanne's B&B
Suzanne’s B&B

Suzanne’s B&B is a lovely place.  It is run by Suzanne (originally from Chicago if memory serves) and her husband.  Part of the home is their private residence and the rest has been turned into a B&B.  Suzanne had a bit of a no-nonsense edge to her but was very accommodating both with information about the area and recommending ways to get to my next destination.  I paid more than I was hoping to, but being last-minute I lucked out that I was able to find anything at all.  The room was comfortable with a private bathroom and breakfast was included, so really I’ve no complaints:)  And best of all, it was only a bike ride away from the Neuschwanstein Castle:)

I ended up spending 3 days and 4 nights in Füssen filling my days with hikes, a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle, enjoying some Oktoberfest celebrations in the evenings and a day just relaxing/continuing to recover from the crud I’d caught.  I will say the nature surrounding Füssen is just beautiful!!  Especially with the colors changing on the trees and the color of the water in the lakes and rivers, it was just amazing!

On to Neuschwanstein

Back to Europe

 

 

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre in Italian literally means the 5 lands.  The 5 lands in this case is made of 5 villages on the Tuscan Mediterranean coast including, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost village, and the Riomaggiore the southernmost.  In the summer time these spots are quite a popular vacation destination, and from the few pictures I’ve included, it’s easy to see why!!

My dad and I drove there on a sunny late-summer day through the windy roads and arrived in Vernazza, #4 village of 5…

Seriously I will put this out that if you get car sick easily, you may want to consider taking a train into any of the villages of Cinque Terre… Because those roads are seriously no joke!!  It’s really amazing that there is even a road to begin with that connect each village, as I’m sure that they started as simply foot paths then expanded to allow cars!  Mind you, they haven’t really expanded that much… The roads are barely wide enough for 2 cars, and of course Italians speed around the blind corners of the really windy and narrow roads as if they could see the other side…

Since I’m on the topic a little, I’ve just got to vent for a few seconds that Italian drivers area absolutely NUTS!!!  I’m not even being prejudice in that statement because I include my father in there too, lol!!  And he knows about it, lol!!  But seriously, anyone who has ever been to Italy knows exactly what I’m talking about!  If there is an inch of space, it will be taken by a car or Vespa or bus!!  It amazes me how there aren’t more traffic accidents than there are!!  They are all crazy drivers yet somehow it just works out!!  It’s beyond me how, but it does!  My only saving grace on this trip was the absolutely stunning views around each and every terrifying corner!!  Simply beautiful and amazing!!

Sorry for the tangent!  Back on course here: We arrived in Vernazza about mid-morning, parked the car in the lot outside the village and walked down to the village for some exploring.  Now, this area of Italy is sometimes quite prone to dangerous and damaging floods.  Everything is literally built on the edge of the mountain that dives into the Sea, so when the floods come, it leaves lots of damage in the wake.  About 2 or 3 years ago a flood had happened in the Cinque Terre area and in fact as we walked down the road to the Village, you could still see evidence of the damage it did years ago.

We wandered around the village, spotted a cave that led to a little beach that is only visible (and passable) when the tide is down, wandered up to the church and tower at the top of the village, then had some lunch at one of the restaurants with a view of the water:)  The region of the 5 lands is in Liguria, which is famous for its pesto sauce!!  Yum!!!  In addition, Liguria is also known for a special shape pasta called Trofie, which is a hand rolled pasta made from pieces of dough that are twisted together.  So “when in Rome” I of course had to have a plate of Trofie al pesto!!  It was quite delicious and hard to stop eating until of course the plate went empty… So I had to stop, lol!!  We wandered a bit more, had a gelato then headed back to the car for Portovenere.

Oh, before I leave this section- for those into hiking, there is actually a pedestrian trail that goes from the first village to the last!!  It is quite a long hike though (remember to calculate in stop times to take a gazillion picts!) and the terrain has lots of ups and downs (literally)!!  It would probably take all day to walk one to the next, but I imagine it would be well worth it for the views alone!!

On to Portovenere

Back to Europe

Gatwick & Airport Fun (Leaving the UK)

Well, after about a month in Scotland, it was time to head to Gatwick and take off for Italy!!  After giving my many thanks to Anna for her hospitality, I left Glasgow via train and headed straight down to Gatwick.  I had booked a little B&B for the night (it took almost all day to get from Glasgow to Gatwick so it was a good thing I left the day before my flight!!) called Da Vinci Gatwick Guest House.  For 40 pounds (yea I know it was pricey but I got my own room/bathroom, breakfast and after traveling all day I enjoyed a little pamper:)) I reserved a single room only about 10 minutes from the airport.

Though a little pricey, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci Guest House!!  I found it comfortable, quaint, warming, welcoming and over all just had a great vibe!  The people who owned, or at least who took care of it are Latin American (I could hear them speaking Spanish) and the woman at least was very accommodating, polite and welcoming!  I didn’t get any actual chat time with the man, that’s why I only mention the woman:)  Though when I made my reservation over the phone, I spoke with a man (maybe the same one??) and he was very polite and accommodating too.  They even provided me with a number of a taxi service that they use that costs half what other taxis cost (according to them) and they picked you up right from the train station.

Quick note here though about taxis… CARRY CASH!!!  AT ALL TIMES CARRY CASH TO PAY THE TAXIS!!!!  Otherwise they will charge you a fee of 7 pounds to use a credit card!!!!!!  Yup, it happened to me… I was fuming!!  Though of course that was on the way to the airport, so what could I do??  The fee almost cost as much as the fare!!!  Consider yourselves warned!!

In any event, the night at the B&B was spent picking off ticks from my forearms (only 4 of them and they were babies, so it didn’t take that long!) and going out for a bite to eat at the local (potentially only) pub and restaurant just walking distance down the road.  The food was great (surprisingly very international!!) and the beers were splendid as always.  Needless to say that night was a quiet one as I prepped to take off the next day.

Because my flight was in the afternoon (6pm) but I had to be out of the B&B by 11am, I opted to just go to the airport and wait until my time to board.  Unfortunately, Vueling Airlines only allows people to check-in 2 hours before their flight, so I had to sit and wait (with my very heavy bag since I was carrying gifts) from basically 11am to 4pm before being able to get rid of my bag and go through security… I finally got checked in and through security, then the cutest thing happened…

As anyone who has ever been to the airport knows, past security there are a ton of shops and stores, and restaurants.  The larger the airport, the more there are!  Gatwick was quite busy and had a ton of places to shop and eat!  I stopped by one place to grab a slice of pizza (easy, cheap and I hadn’t eaten all day!!) then wandered around to find a quiet spot to play a game on my tablet…

I was there all of a few minutes when all of a sudden an elderly woman came by and asked “con permiso, habla Espanol?”  Translation: Excuse me, do you speak Spanish?  To which I responded “Yes, a little” (in spanish of course) and that’s all it took!  She was off!!  Thankfully I actually did understand what she was saying despite her speaking a mile a second!!  She was on her way to Orlando but her flight in Gatwick was delayed and she had no way to contact her family because for some reason she couldn’t get her phone to work and no one in the Gatwick airport spoke Spanish and she couldn’t find anyone to help her because she doesn’t speak and English…

I kinda had to chuckle, because she was just too cute!!  In any event, I explained that her phone didn’t work because she did not have a SIM card for the UK (she was from Spain btw) and I offered her to call her family with my Skype account on my tablet.  She was very thankful, made her phone call to let her family know about her situation, thanked me profusely and went on her way.

I simply went back to my game playing when all of a sudden, about 5 minutes later she snuck back around one again asking for help, lol!!  Poor thing!!!  My heart broke for her and loved her all at once!!  Anyway, she handed me two slips of paper and asked if I could tell her what it was all about.  The first was her boarding ticket for the plane.  But there was no gate assigned to the ticket, only the flight number and seat number.  So I explained that because the flight was delayed, they didn’t know what gate the plane would actually be at and that we would have to simply watch the monitors for departures to see what gate it would be once it was announced.  She got a good handle on that, then I looked at the second slip.  It was a voucher for 5 pounds from British Airways to redeem for food or a beverage at any of the food shops to make up for the delay in the flight.  I explained this to her, then asked if she was hungry.  She said yes, and I offered that if she was interested in pizza, I just happened to know of a place that sold a large slice for 5 pounds… She agreed, so I took her to the food shop, ordered her the pizza to go, paid the shop with the food voucher and gave her the slice.

At this point, as chance would have it I checked the monitor to see if my flight was announced yet, and in fact both mine AND her flight were announced, lol!!  So I told her that the gate for her flight was ready, walked her to her gate (mine was on the way anyway!) then went on to mine:)  She was very thankful, but honestly the whole experience just warmed my heart to be able to help her, so really I thank her!!

On to Italy

On to Europe

Back to United Kingdom

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