I realize that ¾ of my blog entries begin with, “This entry is so overdue! But here we go anyway!” So uhhh, ya! This is nothing like that I swear, nah, I didn’t get back from Indonesia over a month ago…:]
For this blog, I just went ahead and regurgitated the notes I took along our journey, highlighting some of the great, the horrifying, and absolutely hysterical moments from our trip to Malaysia and Indonesia.
When we flew into Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital, upon stepping out of our cab, my initial thought was, “Sweet baby Jesus, I could totally live here.” The city is stunning. All the streets had such character and all the buildings had such distinctly differing architectural influences. Everyone speaks English! The food was incredible! People stay out past 9pm! After our first day trolling the streets, drinking coffee at a local park, riding public transit, and going to our third mall, I was bummed we had only arranged for three days in this fantastic city.
1)Going for a run, getting lost, and having to make my way home is usually my first order of business when I travel somewhere new. With the exception of the rolling hills that take over the city, KL has officially been my favorite place to do this in the past year. Maybe it was the stark resemblance between KL and San Francisco that evoked some of the most serene and euphoric nostalgia, or maybe it was seeing other people out exercising as well (therefore eliminating the notion that I am just a crazy white lady running through the streets). Whatever it was, I had never been so pleased to have to linger at stoplight corners waiting for the ‘Walk’ sign to give me the go ahead
2)Being in a primarily Muslim-based city during the celebration of Ramadan. Watching the city light up and the markets start bustling at 6:30 pm, saturated with people who have been fasting for the duration of the day was fascinating. People spoke so openly about their faith, and being able to witness such a communal appreciation for tradition in a pretty diverse city was really special.
3)GOING TO SEPHORA. It didn’t even matter that I can no longer afford even nail polish remover at that place. It did however make me miss my sisters. WHAT UP MOLLY AND KATE!
4)Public transit. I forgot how much I love the monorail. We rode it aimlessly for an hour on our first day.
5)Sushi. Did you know that when you haven’t had it for a year, even BAD sushi is GOOD sushi? Sarah and I were so desperate for this tasty treat and walked aroundfor an hour and a ½ looking for one restaurant in particular, as recommended by our Lonely Planet. When we couldn’t find it, we found ourselves settling on ‘The Sushi King.’ It was in a food court at one of the malls we’d been to earlier that day, and had a conveyor belt (just to further indicate what we were dealing with). While we unanimously agreed we would never dream of consuming this at home, it reeeeally really hit the spot after our year-long sushi hiatus.
6) Our day of “Reagan-ing” (This is a 30 Rock reference wherein Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy maintains an entire 24 hours of flawless…well, EVERYTHING.) For whatever reason, when Sarah and I were around, all the lights turned green, every stranger offered a smile, the National Mosque reopened after being closed all day for mediation, and every bargain (whether it was with a cab driver or a market lady) went in our favor. It was surreal, but we “Reagan-ed” the crap out of our second day in KL
1) As I’m sure most rational people would consider common sense, deciding that Indian food was a good choice for a midnight snack was a horrific idea. Sarah and I, not being in our rational state of mind, didn’t give it a second thought. The next day was a little rough.
1) Seeing Sarah Bartel at a Coach store. (Necessary Flashback; I first met Sarah one year ago, and can recall her adoration for coach products as I witnessed her succumb to a gravitational pull into the coach store at the SFO airport. I remember thinking…“Is this girl seriously joining PC!?!”) And now, one year later, she couldn’t have proven my incredulous prejudgment more wrong. She is undoubtedly the most badass lady around (not to mention the best dressed one at that).
2)We forgot to leave the airport. I’m not kidding, we were so dazzled by all the stores and restaurants and interesting looking people, when we arrived in KL, we “hung out” at the airport for three hours. THREE HOURS. We weren’t waiting for anything, we had no real agenda, but we got so caught up in what was happening around us that we forgot we still needed to get to the city, find a hotel, and uhhh, start our vacation? Ha.
3)Free perfume samples: When you’re too cheap to check bags yet still have to adhere to airport liquid regulations…FEAR NOT! That’s what the Body Shop’s free samples are good for! Going 20 hours without a shower posed plenty of unfortunate problems for Sarah and I, so we simply relied on delicious (and free) scents like ‘Exotic Bloom’ and ‘Luscious Lavender’ to make one another’s company tolerable.
4) We missed out flight. GAAAA! We woke up the morning of our trip from KL to Medan, the capital of Sumatra, an hour late, having never changed our cell phones to the local time in Malaysia. At the realization of this, we hauled some serious ass out of our hotel, into the nearest cab, and managed to arrive at one of the two airports with MINUTES to spare. We scrambled around check-in looking frantically for our airline only to find out we were at the wrong airport. So in true Jane and Sarah fashion, we laughed until our guts hurt, bought a coffee, and meandered over to the correct airport.
Our first night in Kuala Lumpur!
Visiting the National Mosque
Indonesia is drenched with provinces worth traveling to, and next time I will be sure to get down to Bali, Jakarta, and Borneo, however this trip was devoted solely to the crater lakes, orangutans, and volcanoes of Sumatra.
1) The music. It was just…just so GOOD. And it was so HAPPY. Everywhere we went there were small groups of both men and women hanging out, playing acoustic guitar, and wailing their brains out. It was always so raw, and fun and HONEST. I hate to say it, but I wish there was more of this in Cambodia (not that I don’t love a good dose of Khmer karaoke and cell phones that blare the latest K-Pop hit, but a few simple guitar cords can really go a long way).
2) Kayaking across and swimming in the largest crater lake in the world, Lake Toba. As you can see from my previous post, there was plenty about this trip that was both horrifying, and of course HYSTERICAL, but the greatness of this experience easily trumps the other two. It’s vastness was truly grand, and I had never visited a place so worthy of being overrun by tourism, and yet it was one of the most untouched, isolated, and peaceful places I’ve seen. Like I said, allow the pictures to simply speak for themselves. BREATHTAKING.
3) Trekking through a Sumatran Jungle and being surrounded, in the wild, by Orangutans. Thankfully we hired a man to guide us on this little sojourn, because between Sarah’s paranoia and my gung-ho attitude about…well, everything, we needed the balance that he offered, as well as someone who was familiar with monkey calls :] Absolutely stunning seeing these guys in their natural habitat
4) FOOD. It was mouth watering. All the currys, spicy veggies, the traditional Sumatran spagetti. I don’t think we consumed a meal that didn’t have us itching for more.
5)BEER. Bintang beer is undoubtedly the most delicious beer I’ve had a in year. It was the only beer available, it was typically served in tall bottles, and it was FANTASTIC.
6)Actually “vacationing.” I hadn’t realized until we arrived in Tuk-Tuk (Lake Toba) that we had spent the last 8 days being so mobile. I mean.. we were TRAVELING obviously, but had very little time to simply sit down and relax. I wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world, but I will admit that sitting by the lake for 4 days, reading, listening to music, playing endless games of scrabble, and finally devoting some time to writing felt really, really good. I used to believe I didn’t handle idle time very well, however, those 4 days of doing absolutely nothing proved me wrong.
1) Traveling man-free. Something I will never…NEVER do again in a developing country. As a foreigner, especially a female foreigner living in Cambodia, there is a fair amount of staring, some heckling, and even an occasional cultural faux pas wherein a man may disrespect my personal space by touching/grabbing me. However, being that I can speak enough Khmer to assert myself when needs be, the men have a tendency to fall back and recognize that this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable.
(sorry for the rant…mmm back to why I will never travel with just another woman)
From the minute we stepped off the plane in Medan, Sarah and I were harassed endlessly. As I said before, as women we are not exempt from this in Cambodia, however, the level to which the men took it in Sumatra was unlike anything I had ever seen.. and it was utterly HORRIFYING. We were followed everywhere we went to a point where it was frightening, whether it was walking to restaurants, local markets, and even to our hotel. People gawked incessantly, as if they had never seen a white person before. They grabbed us aggressively, cut us off with their motos on the sidewalks (so we found ourselves walking in the streets), and were unruly in their attempt to get a word out of us. If we asked kindly to stop, they’d mock us, call us “stupid white girls” and laugh violently. Forgive me for generalizing, but not a single city or small village we went to was there a group of men who DIDN’T display this kind of behavior.
It was quite unsettling, and at certain points, really interfered with our ability to enjoy all the wonderful places we were seeing
2) Our “Poseidon adventure“. We had to take a 30 minute ferry ride across Lake Toba to another town to get to an ATM. Upon disembarking, the sky was blanketed with dark, rolling clouds that offered none other than one of the GNARLIEST (yes, I just said gnarliest) storms I’d seen in weeks. The sky was on fire, and lightening was literally shooting down from every direction, mercilessly striking the lake.
Three quarters of our boat was made out of metal. Metal deck, metal chairs, metal railings. We flipped out! We were probably 4km from either shoreline, so we ran into the boat below the deck and stood between two wooden planks, squeezing each other‘s hands until our knuckles were white, and trying to listen to our Ipods as a distraction. We began fantasizing about how long it would take people to realize we were gone, how pathetic of a way to go it REALLY WAS, and how we couldn’t help but admit that at this point, the score was Indonesia - 324798, Sarah and Jane - 0. Obviously we made it, but that 30 minutes may have well been 3 hours with how panic stricken we were.
3) Either Starbucks is lying to you, or they simply export all of their tastiest coffee beans. I couldn’t find a good up of coffee to save my life.
1) Please refer to my previous post.
2) Hiking the “volcano” in Berastagi. I don’t know how they managed it, but the trail up that mountain was uphill both ways. BOTH WAYS!!! Anyway, when we finally made it to the top, there was nothing but a flat slab of concrete and a view of the jungle that was completely obstructed by some unimpressive shrubbery. We hiked 4 hours for THIS?! It was unbelievable. All I wanted was see some lava and maybe a little smoke show, but all we had was a very anti-climactic, non-triumphant arrival at the peak. We trudged down the mountain…shoulders hung, tail between our legs.
3) We ate at Mcdonalds four times. Gross, I know. I can’t even remember the last time I ate there in the states, but for whatever reason, we just couldn’t stay away. Our bodies hated us.
4)Springing for the Marriot. So after having a rough week and a half of being constantly belittled by the locals, NOT seeing any lava, and staying in guesthouses that, according to Sarah, “resembled the kind of places where the SAW movies take place,” we made it our business to treat ourselves to a little luxury (this isn’t entirely true.. Sarah had to do some serious schmoozing to get me to even CONSIDER forking over that kind of cash for one night, but holy lskjfsakj… I was so happy she did). We ordered room service. We took baths! I ran on a treadmill. We watched MTV in English. We slept with COMFORTERS. Man oh man, it was definitely high maintenance of us, but I’m glad we did it.
LAKE TOBA! YOWZA!
…so much McDonalds
The Orangutan Sanctuary
Playing soccer with some local kiddies
View from the top the the volcano in Berastagi
When we arrived back in Cambodia the following morning, I couldn’t help but relish in being bombarded by all the tuk-tuk and moto drivers. I missed Cambodia! I missed speaking Khmer! I missed all the sights and smells that have become home to me! We rode back to our guesthouse and shared some laughs about all the wonderful and hilarious experiences we just had. On the whole, it was a summer