Adventure in Malaysia and Thailand
By Linda Heath
26 Dec 2008
Not long after being laid off from my corporate travel job of 15 years, I took my son on what was most likely to be our last major overseas travel adventure. At my last travel convention I had won a trip to Malaysia, and Malaysian Airlines was kind enough to add some travel to Thailand. So off we went, and since I didn't have a job to worry about, and still on a year's severance, I decided to make it a month and a half visit.
First stop was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had researched enough to know that the Chinatown hotels near the night markets had much better hotel deals. What I didn't realize until I checked into my room, was that even though the hotel looked great, on closer inspection, it was a nightmare. I opened the door to our room, it looked nice.. turned the light on, and a zillion roaches went running. I'm not a bug person, I was horrified. It was 1am and no other rooms or hotels would be available till morning. We pulled the beds out in the middle of the room, sprayed around them with the Off Bug Spray we brought with us... and slept as much as we could with the lights on. The next morning, the hotel bombed another room for us and moved us over. The new room was great, no bugs... and I loved the night markets and Kuala Lumpur. I had the best $20 facial and massage anyone could ever get, we tried durian and threw up, and I got Louis Vuitton wallets for $5. What more could you ask for?
One thing I should mention is the use of the bathroom in South East Asia (outside your hotel). You should carry your own toilet paper, not be afraid to wade through water, and be in shape to do a lot of squatting.
Next we took a long cheap bus ride to some of the islands of Malaysia, Penang and Langkawi. As the only Americans, we were quite an attraction. My favorite stay of the trip was on Langkawi. The sunsets were marvelous, the people were very nice to us, and the bungalows we stayed in were just perfect. Also the prices couldn't be beat. I paid about $50 a day for a bungalow directly on the beach, all food, and a rental car. You can't beat that! It also seemed we were the only American's on the island. The waiters at our resort would fight over who would serve us because not only were we friendly to them, but we helped them with their English, and we tipped for service.
Langkawi is also were they built the summer house for the movie with Jodie Foster, "Anna and the King" (the remake of the King and I). Lovely location and best sunsets of the trip.
From there we took a ferry to Satun, Thailand. We were going to take a bus up to the ferry to the Phi Phi Islands, but once off the ferry, lots of Thai cab drivers approached us. One said he'd take us by air conditioned car the 5 hour journey for $50. I couldn't resist that. So off we went.
We spent a lovely 2 weeks on Phi Phi Don in a jungle tree bungalow, just up from the beach overlooking Phi Phi Leh. We got to know some of the locals, so we ate very well while we were there. We also took lots of day trips around the islands. And I got a half hour back massage every day for $3. Can't beat that. Phi Phi Don has no running water of its own, their water is brought by boat from the mainland, so at one point they ran out of water and we had to shower with sea water. I got to know some of the girls who worked in the local bars. They all lived in one hut, and made about $40 a month. They were saving up to move to the big city, Bangkok.
Next we boarded a ferry to the mainland, and then onto a bus to Bangkok. The 13 hour ride, which was overnight, cost me $12 for both of us. This is the first place we ran into any other Americans. They had come from Phuket.. and told us that one morning they awoke to a cobra in their room. I really didn't need to visit Phuket.
We arrived in Bangkok at 6am and had to take a tuk-tuk ride to our hotel in the Pat Pong section. I soon learned that there are basically no set prices on most services in Bangkok, everything is a negotiation. We then went to McDonalds thinking we could get an egg mcmuffin. But no, in Thailand they only had porridge in McDonalds for breakfast. And at KFC, everything is spicy.
Mass transportation is very good around Bangkok and we had no problem visiting most of the locations we wanted to see. We also took some day trips like the floating markets and the old capital. Our hotel in Bangkok was just lovely and in a wonderful location. Just across the streets from the night markets of Pat Pong. I found that I'm a very able negotiator... and ended up with way to much stuff to get home easily. Oh well, I negotiated some luggage also. I also spent too much money, because I was going on to Chang Mai... but alas, the money was running low, and after 7 days in Bangkok, we headed home.
Leaving Thailand at a balmy 85 degrees and landing back in Newark where it was 14 degrees was a bit of a shock on our systems. I had to put my flip flops away and buy a pair of heavier sneakers before leaving Thailand. While standing on the train station platform in Newark, I wondered why I didn't apply to be an ex-pat... in Malaysia for a while.