Pulau Perhentian – April 29 – May 2, 2018

KLIA express train to KLIA2, a 1hr AirAsia flight to Kota Bharu, a 1hr shared taxi to Kuala Besut jetty, and a 45min bouncy boat ride to paradise.

Last year, I stayed on the bigger island at a resort that was tucked away from other things (and my room rate had included all meals). This year, we stayed on the smaller island, and even on the quieter side, there were several places to eat.

The days run together a bit, but it was perfectly relaxing. Beach side roti canai (banana & cheese: interesting, but not good with the curry sauce, IMHO), an evening stroll over to the Long Beach side for a swim, a mid-afternoon milkshake with the girl we met on the taxi ride, snorkeling in the mornings (still amazing!), hiking beach to beach, a water taxi back when we got tired…

Related note: I love my dorky full length swim getup. I didn’t burn while snorkeling this year (it’s UPF 50), and I pretty much lived in it on the island. As long as I took a quick dip in the ocean every so often, it kept me really cool. Also, it helps prevent both jellyfish stings and insect bites. Plus, I look like a mermaid. A really, really pale mermaid.

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Melaka, April 28, 2018

Since I was finally feeling a bit better, we decided to make a day trip to Melaka. We took a train to the TBS stop, where we found our bus. We had bought tickets online the night before (and found that all of the earlier morning buses had filled up!) so we spent a leisurely morning in KL before getting our 11:45am bus. That also gave us time to find the right line at the bus station (to get our boarding passes), and to scope out the glamorous snacks available for purchase.

In Melaka, we took a taxi to Nancy’s Kitchen and enjoyed a very tasty (and very late) lunch before exploring the city on foot. It was a hot day, and we wound up splitting up for awhile before wandering the night market together. Unfortunately neither of us was very hungry since we’d had such a late lunch, but we appreciated the fresh watermelon juice.

Eventually, we needed to find a taxi back to the bus station. We stopped at a corner hoping to flag one down, when we saw a hotel/cafe that advertised taxi services. When we first enquired about it, they told us their boss had just left, and asked if we could wait (no, sorry). Then as we were about to leave, he returned. We agreed upon a price, and we followed him outside to his car, and got in… Only to have him turn around in surprise to see us. He was just moving that car to a better parking spot. The taxi was the next car, up. Oops! We all had a good laugh about that.

Back at the bus station, we ordered food and chatted with the manager(?) who had spent some time in Texas. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to eat because our bus was (surprisingly!) on time.

Travel tip: when ordering food that might wind up being “to go” rice or noodles would be a smarter choice than soup.

KL, April 26-27, 2018: These are not the adventures you’re looking for

Our sister trip to Malaysia got off to a little bit of a rocky start, but with some good lessons learned. Also, some good sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur in between (mis)adventures.

Travel tip #1: in addition to notifying your bank regarding your travel plans (which we both had done!), it’s a good idea to bring more than one ATM card. If you’ve just got the one, and an ATM decides to “retain” the card on your first day (before you’ve managed to get any local currency) it can throw a wrench in the works. Fortunately between the 2 of us, we had 3 ATM cards and a fair bit of USD cash to exchange.

The ATM that retained A's card

Travel tip #2: if you’re feeling ill in Malaysia, just get thee to a clinic! My throat that had just been a little scratchy when I left home, turned into a full on swollen neck/too painful to swallow food or water even after a bunch of cold medicine and Advil, so eventually I decided to seek medical attention. Within 30 minutes of asking at hotel reception, I was escorted down the elevator to the parking garage, taken down a hallway to a clinic (where the woman from the front desk made sure the doctor was in before leaving me there), checked in, saw the doctor after no more than 5 minutes wait, diagnosed, prescribed medication, asked to wait in the waiting area (again no more than 5 minutes) and sent on my way with 4 different things including antibiotics. All for 107 ringgit. That’s about the price of a copay visit at home (if you have really excellent insurance!) And within 24hrs I was feeling better (but of course finished all of the antibiotics as prescribed!) I only wish I’d gone the first day!

Travel tip #3: when it’s raining in KL, don’t bother trying to take the free bus. Traffic comes to a standstill. Either take a train or walk — there are some really excellent covered, above street level walkways especially near the city center.

The KL tower offered good views of the city

We found a great local place serving excellent roti canai behind our hotel, near the monorail. We breakfasted there a couple of times.

The Petronas towers do look pretty at night (and it’s easier to look up at them once the rain stops).