A Week in Sepang, Malaysia

I know you are all waiting patiently for my first post about Melbourne, but I have one more adventure to share first. To save a little cash, we ended up spending another week in Malaysia, this time in the city of Sepang. It is surprising how much money I can save on flights simply by researching my options. I’ll go over this in more detail later, but long story short, I was able to save about $100 by flying from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, staying there for a week, then flying to Melbourne on the first day of my house sit. Here is a quick recap of our week in Sepang, Malaysia.

Sepang, Malaysia

chuttersnap-176806-unsplash.jpg
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Sepang is in the same state as Kuala Lumpur, but about 40 miles to the South. It is the city where the main airport is located and therefore very convenient for anyone looking for a KL layover destination.

Our hotel was easily accessible by either the airport train, a 30 MYR taxi for two, or a free airport shuttle (mostly full of employees). This made it incredibly convenient and inexpensive (cheapest option to KL is about 70 MYR). In addition to the cheap transportation, the hotels are cheaper, and so is the food. Sepang proved to have a much more local-friendly price range.

Our hotel was in a small suburb near the train station. We counted about five restaurants, three grocery stores, six laundromats (?!), two barber shops, one hotel, and that’s about it. Literally. Imagine a block-sized strip mall packed with practically identical shops, a parking lot wrapping the whole thing, a street surrounding that, then jungle. Just jungle. That is where we were. It was… odd.

Breakfast? Dessert? Who cares!

We became quick regulars at the five restaurants in the neighborhood. As soon as the staff saw us, they would call for whichever server spoke the best English and he would come running and start offering us all of the same things we had the day before. We quickly learned that our dining choices were the talk of the town. It wasn’t our fault. The server would hand us a menu three pages long, we pointed to what looked good, he would giggle for an unknown reason, then we would eat our delicious meal. We did eventually discover that we were eating the dishes in all of the wrong orders: dessert for breakfast, breakfast for dinner, dinner for lunch, etc. Whatever. It was amazing!

Roti bread dish served in Malaysia. It is a circular loaf of bread cut into eight slices. It looks to be glazed with a light brown sauce. The plate also displays three dipping sauces. There is a dark red sauce that looks spicy, a yellow one, and an orange one.

Let’s put it to the world. The above dish is a deliciously fluffy bread. It is covered in a sweet glaze. It tasted like a heavenly breakfast or a light dessert to me. BUT it is served with savory, curry dipping options. So is it dinner? What IS it?!

Aside from our continual faux-pas or ordering off the wrong page of the menus, we had an amazing time returning to the delightful dishes of Malaysia. We ate as often and as much as we could and enjoyed every bite. We were particularly excited to have another chance at our favorite, three layer tea.

Two tall glasses of iced, milk tea. The tea has three layers, the bottom layer is dark brown and thick. The middle layer is milky, and the top layer is light and brown. A menu for Hijas Restoran is held up in the background.

Eating our way through KL: a dining adventure of spicy goodness. ♥

Staying Busy

It might be noticed that I haven’t mentioned the name of our hotel. That is because we were very torn about our opinion of it. It was cheap, but extremely clean. The internet didn’t work very often, but when it did, it was lightning fast. The staff wasn’t particularly helpful, but they were incredibly friendly. It was just sort of “meh”.

White walls and white floors with a black desk in the corner. The desk holds bottles of water, a purse, framed photo, and a CO alarm.

We were put in a windowless, white room. The only thing that wasn’t white was the tiny desk in the corner of the room (the major selling point to the room), but the desk didn’t have any accessible electrical plug-ins, so that was a bust.

Read about our hotel in KL: Hote123 ♥

What do you do in a windowless white room with random internet? Sleep. A lot. After a couple of nights, completely losing track of time and our tans, we finally came out and started to explore again. Who knew fresh air could feel so good?

One night, our neighborhood hosted a night market. We grabbed one of just about everything and had a small feast of crazy flavors for less than $10. I also purchased my second souvenir of the trip, a beautifully decorated head scarf in the local style. Maybe not my most practical purchase, but I really liked it.

Night market stall selling grilled meat on sticks.

Nasi Lemak Burger

If it sounds like I am giving off the impression that all we did in Sepang was sleep, work, and eat, it is because that is exactly what we did. So the story of our Sepang adventure ends with yet another story of food: the McDonald’s Nasi Lemak Burger.

That’s right, nasi lemak is one of our go-to meals in Malaysia as it is filling, varied, delicious, and usually cheap. Most often, it is a plate of coconut milk rice, paired with dried anchovies, cucumber salad, boiled peanuts, sambal, and either fried chicken or lamb curry… or both. It seemed like an odd combination at first, but we warmed up to it.

A plate of nasi lemak in Malaysia. White rice, curried lamb, grilled shrimp, cucumbers, hard boiled egg, boiled peanuts, dried anchovy, and sambal

Luckily enough, we passed by a McDonald’s on the launch day of their new Nasi Lemak Burger. In line with our previous American fast-food chain adventures around the world, we went in for a taste.

Close up of McDonald's Nasi Lemak burger in Malaysia.

It was a little more expensive than we would usually pay for lunch, but totally worth it. The bun was the star of the show, a coconut milk bun with pepper flakes. Next, a layer of sambal, cucumbers, and caramelized onions. Finally, a fried egg and large fried chicken breast. We were very happy with this burger and the flavors paired very well together.

To Melbourne… Finally!

As we travel full-time we can sometimes get caught up in the “can’t wait” loop. “I can’t wait until we get to China! I can’t wait until we get to Malaysia!” etc. This is a horrible habit that keeps us from appreciating where we are here and now. We are absolutely excited about Melbourne and we know our readers are too, but I can’t let my excitement keep me from posting about an entire week we spent in Sepang.

But now that the time has come and gone, it is time to get stoked for our next adventure. Good-bye SE Asia (for now) and hello Australia!


Love it? Share it!

"From This" image of traditional nasi lemak plate "To This" close up of McDonald's new nasi lemak burger in Malaysia.


 

Brews Around the World: Malaysia and Thailand

Long time, no see! That’s right, it has been two months since my last Brews Around the World Update. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking beer. It just means I have been waiting to share all of the awesomeness until I finally had enough to write about. Get ready for a dual post of Brews Around the World – Episode Four: Beer of Malaysia and Thailand!

S1E1 Brews Around the World – Beer of Idaho, USA 

S1E2 Brews Around the World – Beer of Florida, USA 

S1E3 Brews Around the World – Beer of China 

Malaysia Brews

The month of February was spent in lovely Malaysia, where brewing beer is illegal! Drinking beer, however, was still OK, yet it was all imported and decently expensive. We did the best we could, though, walking miles out of our way to try something interesting. My favorite find was the Penang Craft Beer IPA, which we drank in Penang… but is brewed in California. I also really enjoyed Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale. This is one of my all-time Oregon favorites, so it was really nice to have a taste of home while in Kuala Lumpur.

As a result, I did not collect any new Malaysian brews. I did add a few things to my Life List though. We left Malaysia with six new brew flavors, bringing my unique brew total to 54.

Anchor Smooth Draught, Heinken Asia Pacific - The Places e Live  Dead Guy Ale, Rogue Brewing - The Places We Live  Guinness Draught, Guinness - The Places We Live  Penang Craft Beer IPA, Bay Bridge Brewing - The Places We Live  Skol, Ambev - The Places We Live  Tiger, Heineken Asia Pacific - The Places We Live


Amazon com guinness draught.pngAmazon Link: All purchases earn Josh and I commission. Thank you!


Thailand Brews

We spent the majority of March in Thailand. Beer in Thailand was readily available, but limited in variety. Our choices were pretty much just Leo, Singha, Chang, or overpriced import beers. I was a little disappointed with only three new flavors, but all three ended up being pretty tasty. They paired very well with the hot weather and spicy food.

So, once again, I did not collect many new flavors while in Thailand. I added three new flavors to my Life List, bringing my unique brew total to 57.

Chang - The Places We Live  Leo Beer, Boon Rawd Brewery - The Places We Live  Singa, Boon Rawd Brewery - The Places We Live


[amazon_link asins=’B01N8OPVOB,B01MEHYZ4Q,B07418JP1G,B00CSTVS8Y,B016J273QQ,B01MSFJBLZ,B06XW26M31,B074DLJKCJ,1441322620,1632203154′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’theplacesweli-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’bbba8c62-50f3-11e8-aa9b-2b7ef3ef424d’]

Amazon Link: All purchases earn Josh and I commission. Thank you!


Like it? Share it!

Brew Around the World S1E4 - The Places We Live Brews Around the World S1E4 Title - The Places We Live Beer of Thailand - The Places We Live


 

Budget – March 2018

There seem to be a bazillion nomad bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy!

There seem to be a bazillion travel bloggers out there talking about how cheap it is to travel, but very few are open about their finances. We’ve gotten quite a few questions about how we can afford to travel full-time, so we’ve decided to open up the books and do a monthly post with the details of our travel budget. The hope is that these posts will help prepare others who are thinking about jumping into the nomad life, and help us re-assess our spending habits. Enjoy this Malaysia travel budget!

Check out our full-time travel budgets for another month. ♥


Malaysia has proven to be a bit more expensive than China, both for food and lodging costs. However, we were able to keep our spending on track (mostly), and really save a lot at our housesit in KL. Our goal budget for this journey is $200 per week, putting us at $800 to spend for the month of March and our Malaysia travel budget.

  • Average Daily Food Cost: $11 per day
    • Hotel – Breakfast was included, so we only needed a light snack, and dinner each day
    • House Sit – Groceries for three meals and snack per day. One night dining out per week.
  • Average Daily Lodging: $10 per night
    • Hotel – $20 per night for basic room in questionable neighborhood
    • House Sit – $0 per night for luxury home, pool, and car use

Money Spent: -($818)

Income: $157

Monthly Net: -($661)


Three Month Spending Total: -($3,585)

Three Month Earning Total: $852

Total Journey Net: -($2,733)

(Goal was -$2,600 for month three)


Week One Malaysia Travel Budget: -($200)

We were very happy to stay exactly on budget this week. It took a little extra effort to balance the cost of food, but we made it! We loaded up on hotel breakfast every morning and tried to hold off for as long as we could until dinner. It wasn’t a strict rule. If we were hungry, we ate. But if we weren’t hungry, we did our best not to spend money on food we didn’t need. At the end of the week, we were feeling healthy and were excited about our spending. We spent $200.

Read about the amazing food in Kuala Lumpur. ♥

This month, we are cutting down on the amount of “unfocused” work we are doing. Josh has one last project on UpWork to complete, then one hour a day going forward. It won’t make us a lot of money, but will hopefully provide us more time to focus on the projects we truly want to do. We made $0.

Week Two Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($123)

We started our house sit this week! Once again, we found this arrangement to not only be comfortable and fun, but a great way to save money. We purchased groceries and cooked most meals at home. We spent $160.

Meet Molly, our new furry friend! 

Josh made some money from his one hour per day UpWork time. We made $37.

Week Three Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($172)

Even without trying, we totally nailed this week. We only went over budget on two of the days; once for a nice dinner out and another for our trip to KL Tower. We found some fish at the grocery store we really liked, making the home-cooking even more enjoyable. We spent $192.

Read about our KL Tower adventure. 

We made $20.

Week Four Malaysia Travel Budget: – ($166)

As per usual, our transition week was a little more difficult than the others. We moved from our house sit in Kuala Lumpur to Penang. We’re here for a short excursion before heading to our next house sit in Thailand. The train tickets, food, and hotel costs weren’t too bad, but always a bit more than I would like. We spent $265.

Josh has been working really hard this month to publish two short stories in addition to his CannaHealth article each week. He has been doing an amazing job and even made his first dollar as an author!!! He made $1.80 from people viewing his story, “Open Letter to my Hostel Roommates“. I’m so super proud of him! We made $100.

_Open Letter to My Hostel Roommates_


Each month seems to get better and better. For our third month over-seas, we are feeling very good. We only barely spent over our travel budget and were able to offset quite a bit with some income. We still aren’t breaking even, but each month gets closer and closer.

I can not wait to see what next month has in store!!


Instagram advertisement for @theplaceswelive. It has a blue box labeled "Follow us on Instagram" and is surrounded by four pictures. One is of a woman dancing in a desert. Under that a bowl of pork noodles. Then a photo of a bridge in Chengdu, China. Under that a photo of a farm in Yangshuo, China.


 

Bird Watching in Kuala Lumpur – March 2018

Bird Watching in Kuala Lumpur

The Zebra Dove I caught on March 6th was my official 100th bird!! I’m so excited to have finally made some major progress in this new hobby that I enjoy so much. Bird watching in Kuala Lumpur was a ton of fun. I can’t wait for my next 100 birds!

Birding Life List #100. Zebra Dove, June 3, 2018. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Bird watching in Kuala Lumpur was difficult, but wonderful. Most of the birds were well hidden in the tall and gnarled trees. Just outside of my window at the hotel, there was a huge tree. Each morning, I could hear the beautiful calls of at least three different birds. Even after two weeks of watching that particular tree, I was not able to capture many photos.

Read about our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. ♥

My favorite bird of the month was Asian Koel. As is common for this bird, I wasn’t actually able to catch it with my camera. However, their call is very distinct and there is no way I could have misheard it… right outside of my window… at 4:00AM.

I also really enjoyed learning about the Zebra Dove during my identification research. The few I saw were so small and delicate. I thought they would make beautiful house pets. Apparently I was right. Zebra dove competitions are very popular in Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. The winner of the competition is the dove with the best call.

Birding Update – March 2018

Identified: 12

New: 10

Life List: 108


Like it? Share it!

"Malaysian Birding. The Places We Live"


Batu Caves

When I was looking for things to do while in KL, one of the major attractions that just kept popping up was the Batu Caves. They are a set of five caves located inside of a limestone mountain just a little North of town. One is used as a research area and the others have been fitted with Hindu temples. Although a lot of the travelers we spoke with seemed to love the cave, many of the locals and expats warned us against going. It was close to our house sit AND free though, so we went ahead and made the trip anyway.

I found this blog about the five caves to be very helpful. ♦

Batu Caves

The moment we were dropped off, we experienced all of the negative experiences that our local and expat friends described. The place is infested with pigeons, monkeys, and stray dogs. I sort of felt like it was the dirtiest theme park I had ever been to. Any of the religious relevance seemed hidden behind the gift shops and side shows.

That said, we did end up having a great time. We were in good spirits from the start, so were really able to enjoy some of the quirks as they came along. There were quite a few tourists wandering around with sarongs sloppily thrown on. You’re not allowed to wear shorts in the cave, so they had been forced to buy the sarongs before going it. We were able to avoid this by wearing long pants, even though it was super hot and humid. Even so, our walk around the area was quite comfortable. After some quick exploring, we decided to visit the Temple Cave (The Batu Cave) and the Dark Cave (the conservation cave).

Temple Cave

The Temple Cave was turned into a temple in the late 1800s and dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war. Lord Murugan towers in front of the cave, making it clear why the tourists love Batu Caves… it is Insta-Worthy.

20180328_130203.jpg

Unfortunately, that is about it. It is decent hike up steep and crowded stairs to the mouth of the cave. I bet the temple is usually quite grand, but we showed up in the middle of renovation. Otherwise, the cave is large. That’s it.

Like my photos? Follow me on Instagram! ♥

Dark Cave

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the Dark Cave, the science research and conversation cave, was our favorite. This cave was not free, but was only 35RM ($9) and included a 40 minute, guided tour.

Did you know Josh is a Ph.D biologist? Learn why he gave it up to travel full-time. ♥

We booked our time slot on our way up to Batu Cave, then came back half an hour later to start the tour. We joined about 10 other guests and were fitted with helmets and a flashlight. Our guide was an adorable, young Chinese student who spoke nearly perfect English.

29829787_10160182637185293_904100568_o

The tour was very informative and fun. Throughout the entire tour, our ears were bombarded with the sounds of squeaking bats. I saw only one fluttering around in the dark, but I could tell that there must be hundreds if not thousands. Our tour guide even pointed out a pit of bat guano (poop). She said that if we were to walk through it, we would sink in up to our knees!

We even saw a couple of creepy crawlies. She pointed out a centipede with super long legs, a huge spider, and a cave cricket. There were several other creatures hiding in the dark that we didn’t see, but she did a pretty good job of explaining each one.

20180328_143200

The part I enjoyed the most was when we moved into the deepest part of the cave. She had us turn off our flash lights, put away our phones, and stand in complete darkness for over a minute. It was crazy how dark it was. My eyes kept telling me that there was something to see, but even when I waved my hand right in front of my face there was just nothing. It was a bit creepy, but exciting at the same time.

The Adventure Home

I have a dirty little travel secret for you. McDonald’s saved our day today… and it wasn’t the first time.

Whenever we get into a bind on the road, like realizing we don’t know how to get home, we turn to our off-line maps… and search for McDonald’s. It is the most embarrasing thing to admit, but it is truly the most useful travel tip I have. Always know where the McDonald’s is.

We took an Uber to Batu for 18RM and assumed we could take the train home. Turns out the train couldn’t take us home. Since we didn’t have internet, we turned to the taxis… who wanted to charge us 60RM. What do we do? We’re in the middle of a poor neighborhood at the far edge of town. We walked about a mile to the nearest McDonald’s, ordered a much needed beverage, hopped on their wifi to call an Uber, and enjoyed a rest in the air conditioning.

Thank you, McDonald’s, for being everywhere we go and for always having AC, cheap sodas, and free wifi. You have saved our lost butts way more times than we can count.

Overall, it was a successful trip. If you only have time to see one thing in KL, maybe go to the Petronas Towers. But if you have time for two things, the second one should definitely be Batu Caves.


Like it? Share it!

Batu CavesBatu Caves 2


Couch Surfing Meetup

Traveling with a partner has some great advantages, but fresh conversation isn’t necessarily one of them. After three months with only one other person to talk to, we both needed some contact with other people. So, in beginning this journey, we decided it is important to go out of our way to meet people on the road. Today, we left our comfort zone and went to a local meet-up group. This particular meet-up was organized by the local couch surfing community for some food, drinks, and fun.

CouchSurfing.com

We have been members of Couch Surfers for several years now and have really enjoyed the community. It is a website that matches travelers looking to meet people on the road with locals willing to offer them a free place to stay. We have actually never surfed, but we have hosted eight groups of surfers in our home. It was a great way to meet others who’ve made travel a big part of their lives. Not only that, but we got to be a part of their journey through our part of the country.

Each of our guests had unique and interesting stories to share. For example, we met one young man from Portland who had Asperger’s syndrome. He was visiting Eugene to go to the Country Fair, an annual hippie fest out in the woods. He told us he looked forward to it every year because the people were so understanding and accepting of his condition. Then there was the Chinese couple who were on their way to Utah to start graduate programs in modern dance. We took them to the coast to go crab fishing, and they shared some of their performances with us. And of course there was the young woman from Australia who got proposed to by strangers in Morocco. They brought camels to her hotel room and everything.  All of our guests were great, and we would welcome them back in a moment.

Couch Surfing Meet-up #1

It was this sense of camaraderie and openness that led us to check out the local Couch Surfing Meet-up. Of course, being the responsible young adults that we are, we showed up right on time. Disappointment set in when we found out only one other person showed up. He was a nice kid from Portugal studying computer science as an exchange student. We talked for a while, sharing our travel stories over beer and getting to know each other. Behind us, others started trickling in. Then more. Then even more. In the end, the restaurant was packed full with over thirty couch surfers and hosts!

I started off sitting with Josh at a table with a local Malaysian who has been with couch surfers for ten years, a woman from the UK traveling through SE Asia alone and fearless, and a man from Taiwan working in KL. Like us, not one of them were currently surfing or hosting, but had done so before. After dinner, I moved and joined a table full of Germans who were working on a Master’s program in a town a little North from KL. We talked travel, beer, and politics. Despite our limited budget and social skills, we stayed out quite late to enjoy an evening with all of these interesting travelers. On par with the rest of our KL experience, one of the amazing KL locals even offered us a ride home.

20180323_215029

Couch Surfing Meet-up #2

This week, we headed over to dinner after our adventure at the KL Tower. There weren’t nearly as many people this time (around 20), but the conversation was still lively and we met some awesome people. There was a young man from Iran who is taking his first trip to the USA this summer to the amazing state of Wisconsin. We also met two vacationers from India and Italy, and a digital nomad from France.

Read more about our trip to KL Tower. 

We will not be able to attend the meeting next week and are already having a little bit of #FOMO. Despite being a little out of our comfort zone, we will definitely start making these events a bigger part of our travel experience. Not only is it good for our collective sanity, but it’s really what travel is all about, meeting and sharing with people from all over the world.

20180323_213222

KL Tower

Kuala Lumpur is home to some excellent modern architecture. The city center houses both the Petronas Twin Towers and the KL Tower. Both invite tourists to the top to get a view of the city that even the birds will envy. Unfortunately, with our time and budget restrictions, we could afford to do either one or the other, but not both. How could we possibly choose?!

Check out some of my favorite buildings in Chengdu ♥

Petronas Twin Towers vs KL Tower

The Petronas Twin Towers are the symbol of the city. Currently, they rank together as the 15th tallest buildings in the world and host a double-decker bridge on the 41st floor! The price for tickets is 85RM, which is around $20.

Man and woman standing outside of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur's city center.

KL Tower is the 7th tallest free-standing structure in the world and costs a significantly more expensive 105RM. However, it does have a nice view of the Petronas Towers, an open air observation deck, and fun photo op called the Skybox.

The Absolute Best Free Things to do in Kuala Lumpur via Vickiviaja

20180301_124556

Decision time

So, do we go up the cheaper, more beautiful, and taller building? Or, do we pick the one with an amazing view of the more beautiful and taller building? The question made me think of an episode of “An Idiot Abroad” that Josh and I really liked:

In the end, we listened to Karl’s infinite wisdom. We paid a little extra to visit the KL Tower so that we could have the best view of the Petronas Twin Towers… and so I could get my picture in the Skybox.

The Top of KL Tower

20180323_194846

Once again, Josh was a good sport and went out of his way to get the pictures I had been pestering him about all day. Admittedly, nearly all of the photos are unusable due to his hands shaking, but I appreciated the effort. He even took a couple of scared steps into the sky box.

See Josh facing his fears at the KL Eco Forest Park ♥

20180323_200845.jpg
The poor fella kept squirming. I couldn’t get a single non-blurry shot.

I’m really happy we ended up at KL Tower. The view of the city was amazing, and I had fun in the Skybox. I don’t think Josh can say the same. I’d love to try again at sunrise or sunset to see the beauty of nature and the city combined.