This week in Malaysia was cut short because, MAMA I’M COMIN’ HOME! However, the last three days were super special, and it was way harder to say goodbye to Kuala Lumpur than I thought it would be. Despite being turned off by the cat-calling, staring men and conservative values of most people, I fell for the diversity, the kindness, the amazing food, and the rooftops of KL. There’s also way more to explore of Malaysia that I will have to come back for!
- Love KL but man, whoever designed it was drunk. And that says a lot coming from a Boston girl. I’ve mentioned it before, but the roads are all tangled and one way streets are everywhere. Here’s an example, getting from our apartments to the grocery store:
- Walking: Right, left, right, left
- Driving, Right, left, right, right, left, u-turn, left, right
- They have Dunkin Donuts here!!! And they have a sandwich bar like Subway does. Not that they do this in Boston anymore, but really wanted to see if I could get an 87 cent coffee after the Pats won.
- McDonalds stickers for your car? Is that a thing in the US too and I’ve just been away for so long? In Malaysia, if you are a frequent ‘Mekdi’ visitor, you can get a sticker for your front window. When shown in the drive-thru, you get a free special of the day when you spend more than 20 ringgit (about $5).
- Malaysian food is known for being a perfect blend of sweet, salty, and spicy. And it’s true! Their tandoori chicken, and really all sauced up meat, is divine. I’m gonna miss nasi lemak, too, for surrree. It literally translates to ‘fatty rice’ and is made of rice, coconut milk, pandang leaf, onion, and ginger.
- The Malaysian flag looks like the US flag except instead of white stars in the blue part, there’s a yellow moon and star AND instead of 13 stripes, there are 14, one for every state. There’s also another flag that’s three horizontal stripes (blue, red, and yellow) that is the federation flag, showing the unity of the previous three federates that existed in Malaysia.
- Monday was Malaysia Day! It commemorates when Sabah and Sarawak of East Malaysia and Singapore joined in the federation of Malaysia. Fun fact our OM gave us: Malaysia Day was originally planned for June 1st but got delayed twice, once to take place after independence and twice to allow referendums to happen in certain places….sooo September 16th it is!
Last few days:
- Malaysia Day for us meant no AC in the workspace! So we found a café to work from called Meet Joe. It was in a super cool neighborhood and had great workspace vibes, would definitely have liked to spend more time there.
- Final night drinks for Lindsay for…get ready for it…drinks on a live (during the day) helipad. Be sure to check it out if you ever visit KL! Bar called Helipad, amazing views, nice vibe.
- Brunch with the Experience Manager, Shaz, and friends at a local Chinese restaurant. Delicious ginger chicken dish and new drink called ‘Assam Boi’, like a lemon, dried plum beverage, for $4. Love that you get such a variety of food genres.
- Quick stop in the KL EcoPark, one of the world’s smallest rainforests. It was right across from our apartments so about time I visited. The canopy walk was closed though, sad.
- Normal workday
- Fruit tasting at night. Lots of similar fruits to Vietnam but my new favorite was mini bananas! So cutttttteeeee.
- Ok so another thing happened today and I debated including it or not. However, I want to be as authentic as possible when describing my experiences in each place so here goes: Lindsay and I were walking back from work to the apartments. Right before we turned onto our street, a red laser pointer was directed in my eyes. When we turned to see where it was coming from, we were faced with a bare-bottomed man, shaking his junk at us. Yeah, being a woman is awesome sometimes….anyway, definitely not all sunshine and rainbows.
- Brunch with Shaz and friends again, at my favorite nasi lemak place. $2.50 for sweet and sour chicken, rice, and egg. Gonna miss Asian prices for sure, too.
- Remote Year event: Crafting Empowerment at Batik Boutique. I ended up being the only one that signed up for it, but it was a blessing. Chatted and painted the afternoon away with Shaz.
- This was the first month I really felt connected to the RY staff. The EM truly went above and beyond and stands for things like body positivity and women’s rights in such a badass way. The OM was also amazing, sharing laughs and giving hugs all over. Another reason KL was so dang hard to leave.
- About Batik Boutique:
- Social enterprise that teaches women craftsmanship, provides underserved women a stable income, and sells the products in the city and online that these women makeAlso offer workshops in the KL location to teach people how to create their own
- All products are in the art form ‘batik’ which is a wax painting technique that leaves really unique patterns on fabric
- Batik originally came from Africa, migrated to Indian where it’s used in Hindi culture, and now is created a lot in Malaysia
- The process: use brushes, metal pipes, and stamps to create a desirable pattern on your piece of fabric. Use a paintbrush to apply ink in and around the wax design, dry the fabric, give it a salt bath to do something I can’t remember, then place the fabric in boiling water to boil the wax off. When dried, you’re left with a beautiful, colorful piece. The workshop then made a notebook covered in my fabric.
- Ok y’all, I’m not the greatest artist and honestly I dripped wax in all the wrong places on the fabric but it turned out SOO good. Thus I’m convinced anyone can do it!
- Bubble tea with Shaz before goodbyes (including one to the maid that cleaned my room and one to the security guard who ogled me every time I went to the gym) and a final work session in Wework.
- Head out of the apartments for KLIA 2. KL has two airports close to each other, one for domestic flights and one for international. BUT, by domestic, they kind of mean anywhere in Asia. Flying to Taiwan? ‘Domestic’.
- Note about the airport: they make you go through a security gate after checking your bags but that’s NOT the official one. So make sure not to by water before the next one because despite the far walk to the gate and the appearance that you’re done/checked in, you’re not.
- 4.5 hour flight to Taipei, followed by a 16 hour flight to NYC where I am sufficiently disoriented and exhausted.
So that’s it! I have completed 4 months in Asia. What a whirlwind. Kuala Lumpur was the biggest and best surprise, and though I still liked Chiang Mai better, I would go back to both Thailand and Malaysia.
Before coming on Remote Year, I had a lot of apprehension about Asia: it’s far, it seems dirty, it’s so different, Asian tourists can be annoying, the food may be good but it also might get me sick, the languages are all symbols, the pollution is bad, etc. Part of me thought I would not make it past four months of RY. Well, I’m here to tell you that parts are dirty, parts smell (mostly like durian), Japanese and Vietnamese are all symbols, and yeah it was HELLA FREAKING hot. But, Asia cannot be classified the same across the board and I am SOOO glad I did not skip it. Each of the four countries we went to were so different, each with their own beauties and challenges. Vietnam was a sweaty, motorbike, chicken adventure. Thailand was a temple party with the best noms on the planet. Japan was a quirky, colorful, yet extremely organized and clean ride. Malaysia was a melting pot of people, food, and religions topped (literally) with bars and scooters.
Some of the little things I’ll miss about Asia:
- Cheap, fresh fruit smoothies
- Being able to see over everyone in crowds
- Inexpensive transportation (minus Japan)
- The true joy of enjoying a meal AND digesting it smoothly
- Bum guns
- Temples, especially Buddhist ones
- The friendly people
- The laughing exercise
- Street food
- Riding on the left side of the road
- And of course, public squat toilets with no toilet paper, sweating through every piece of clothing, not knowing exactly what you’re buying at the grocery store because it’s in a different language and Google translate is spotty, being inches from getting hit by a motorbike…..ok maybe not everything.
I will say, I am ready to not work late at night and a change of scenery will be nice. Anyway, what now?! I have a week at home, primarily to celebrate the wedding of my best friend Alexis (OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), then back to Parea for four months in South America!
Here’s to embracing this journey and all the crazy things it’s thrown at me! And here’s to quality time with family and friends!