Work Update – Travel Blogger

It has been a while since my last travel blogger update, but honestly, until recently, nothing much has changed. Am I famous yet? No, not really… at all. BUT, I’m getting more views, I’m writing two guest posts for other blogs, and I am in the middle of pitching my first collaboration (fingers crossed)! So, I’m pretty sure we can say I’m nailing my new travel blogger life. Here’s an update on how the blog is growing and what I’m doing to improve my credibility as a travel blogger.

The Blog

My viewership is on track to double from last month. I think this is largely due to:

  1. Social Media – The time I have been able to put towards social media has significantly increased since I left China. Now that we have full internet access, I can finally gain views from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. [Plus look how cute my new images are!!]Follow us on Instagram!
  2. Groups – I got accepted into the Female Travel Bloggers group a few days ago, and already I have picked up so many new ideas. The community not only builds great connections, but also provides real direction and advice.
  3. SEO – Thanks to the inspiration of my group members, I have started putting a bit more effort into my SEO (the background web stuff that helps Google find you). It is a lot of work, but I am slowly getting better at it and I’m already reaping the rewards.

Guest Travel Blogger

Per the request of someone I met online, I wrote a guest blog post called 20 Ways to Tell You Have Been In China Too Long. I won’t get paid for it, but I had a ton of fun putting it together and I will get a link from her website to mine. Her blog gets more traffic than we do, so her links to my blog will make me even more famous. So that sounds like a win! I’ll be sure to share the post with you all as soon as it comes out. I’m so excited!

Contributing Blogger

[amazon_link asins=’1602860742′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’theplacesweli-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0e06fd29-2b5a-11e8-ab51-63093bf66997′]

Josh was offered a job to be an ongoing contributor for the Open: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) as a literary travel author. I loved the idea and talked him into taking the offer. Once again, it is unpaid, but it builds links and is good for Josh’s resume. I am particularly excited about this gig as I, personally, really enjoy literary travel.

Our first project will be about The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng. It is a novel about a man growing up in WWII in Penang, Malaysia. The goal is to take a trip to Penang, visit some of the amazing sights that are described in the story, and have Josh write a journal article about it.

Collaborating Blogger

Ok, so this is the big leagues. Now that I am practically famous (not even close, but let’s just pretend), I plan on requesting my first paid collaboration gig. The piece we want to write for the O:JA&L will be based on a novel that takes place in Penang. I wrote an email to a few different hotels and travel excursion companies, let them know I wanted to write a blog about them, and am now waiting to hear back. This is my first time requesting an official media collaboration. Wish me luck!

So, that’s about it. I know I said not much has changed, but things are definitely changing, and in the right direction. I’m so excited about these new opportunities, and I can’t wait to share all of my success with you guys, my faithful audience.

Mall Rats

Mall Rats in Kuala LumpurWhat does one do in Kuala Lumpur? The Internets say “Shop!” And despite I am more of a hiking sort of gal, I have to admit that the shopping here is pretty top notch. So, I figured I’d better do a post on our Kuala Lumpur mall crawl.

If you remember, Josh and I recently visited the largest building in the world (by floor space) in Chengdu. The New Century Global Center includes the 12th largest mall in the world at 4,300,000 square feet (that is 1M square feet larger than the King of Prussia Mall, USA’s largest) . Kuala Lumpur and it’s neighboring subburbs hold the 5th and 15th largest malls in the world. This place knows how to build a mall.


Berjaya Time Square

Our first Kuala Lumpur mall was Berjaya Time Square, as it was one of the closest malls to our hotel. The first couple of floors include your basic mall stuff, but as we moved to higher floors, the stores become more “boutique”. I am not sure that is the word I would have chosen to describe them, but that is what they are calling those small, cheap shops packed to the brim with discount stuff. Also, they have an indoor theme park… and archery range… and bowling alley. Because why not?!

MyTown Shopping Centre

20180304_133800.jpg

We didn’t spend much time in this Kuala Lumpur mall, as it seemed to fit our regular vision of what a mall is. However, we did spend a good amount of time in the mall’s attached Ikea! The products on display weren’t really any different, but the layouts of the showrooms were a little more Asian in style. Most of the bathrooms didn’t have shower curtains, the tables were set with chopsticks, and many of the ranges had a wok displayed on top.

Mall Street

Ok, so I made up the name. But, the street of Jalan Bukit Bintang is home to a lot of malls! Josh and I made a day of exploring around. It is a very fun neighborhood with a lot of stuff going on and a lot of tourists strolling about. We visited Bintang Walk (not sure what is special about it), Fahrenheit88 (basic except for the cheap outlet store on the bottom floor), Pavilion KL (another basic mall, but with a great variety of higher-end restaurants), and my favorite – Lot10.

Lot10

Lot10 is a very pretty mall. I liked the color palette and the fun, moving balloons in the center. The stores are the same as everywhere else with an Isetan (a Japanese department store that is popular over here) attached and a large H&M. The best part about the mall however, is the large and cheap food court on the bottom floor. For 21RM/$5, Josh and I each got a large meal that we really enjoyed.

Now, despite the fact that these malls were huge and took us nearly all day to visit, they STILL were not the largest malls in Kuala Lumpur. These were just the little ones. I guess we still have some exploring to do. Time to start checking things off the list.

[amazon_link asins=’B004LLIKVU’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’theplacesweli-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5ae1529d-2b59-11e8-a5ef-a71b05ebd891′]

House Sitting with Molly in KL

After two weeks in our hotel, we have finally moved on to our house sit in Kuala Lumpur! After such a great sit in Chengdu, I have spent every day working to get us more bookings. So far, I have a good chunk of the year booked up, and more applications still under consideration. As we had hoped, this has been such a fun and convenient way for us to travel.

Our New Friend, Molly

We grabbed an Uber from our hotel on Wednesday and headed off to our house sitting gig just outside of Kuala Lumpur. Our hosts are Australian expats. She is an interior decorator back in Sydney and he works in marketing around the world. We are here looking after their beautiful home and their cheerful dog, Molly.

20180316_123812
Molly and I sitting on the back patio.

Molly has some separation anxiety, so we have been asked to spend the majority of our time at home with her. This has been no problem for us since we have recently seen a big up turn in our workload. Having the time to sit in this lovely home with Molly has really taken some of the pressure off of our “work” lives.



The Home

The house we are sitting is a beautifully designed and skillfully decorated single-family home in an upscale suburb. It is three stories tall with a large living space, private back patio, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms.

20180314_171951
The view from my new “office”.

Our room is wonderful! I nearly died when I first saw it. It is large, beautiful, and oh so very comfortable. We have a private bathroom with an enclosed shower and a balcony with plenty of visiting birds for me to admire.

20180314_145847
Josh is particularly fond of the high-speed internet.

The Neighborhood

Our home is part of Desa Parkcity, a master planned community. Our neighborhood is on a cobblestone street surrounded by a walking trail and dotted with fountains. We have a community gym and infinity pool just a few steps from our front door. We tried out the pool yesterday and enjoyed a moment of absolute bliss.

The planned community has a great collection of shops and restaurants, a large park next to a lake, and a country club that we have access to. Our host even gave us access to her Mercedes Benz(!) to allow us to visit everything Desa Parkcity has to offer. Are we in house sitting heaven or what?!

20180318_154432.jpg
The pool at The Club

Our Lives House Sitting in Kuala Lumpur

Despite we have only been here for a couple of days so far, we have already settled pretty well into our routines. First up was our “first day shopping trip”. This is where we pick up any toiletries we are missing, cereal, milk, sandwich stuff, and spaghetti. It is nice to always have at least one breakfast, lunch, and dinner covered at all times.

Mornings include breakfast and coffee, a jog with Molly (she likes to chase squirrels), and some social media time. Midday includes lunch, a short adventure, and then a sprint back home before the 3PM thunderstorm. Afternoon is our designated “do not talk to me” work times. I like to sit by the window while I work and watch the monsoon pass through. It can be quite frightening, but also very beautiful.

20180317_111435

For dinner, we have a home-cooked meal. There is nothing like home-cooking while we are traveling full time. I like to eat out just as much as the next foodie, but there is something so comforting about eating at home. Evenings are Jen and Josh time. We go out, watch tv, or work out together. The routine has been very nice.

We have a little over a week left here, then we are leaving KL for a ANOTHER HOUSE SIT! So far this has been a great way to really get to see the places we live, and to travel without breaking the budget.



KFC – Kuala Lumpur

I hadn’t planned on making Adventures at KFC one of my regular posts, but each country has at least a few unique items on the menu and that intrigues me. 

I hadn’t planned on making Adventures at KFC one of my regular posts, but each country has at least a few unique items on the menu and that intrigues me.

Photo of a KFC advertisement with Malaysian writing. The images show an egg and fried chicken sandwich, a bowl of porridge, and a plate titled Classic Rice which features a banana leaf topped with a pile or rice with a poached egg on top, large piece of fried chicken, and a bowl of Sambal.
This is the advertisement that originally drew us in. Sambal is a traditional Malaysian sauce and I had to have it on my Colonel’s chicken.

We made a special trip downtown to visit the KFC. We didn’t have to go that far (KFCs are kind of everywhere), but we hadn’t been down there yet and we wanted a walk. So, we took the metro for about ten minutes to Kuala Lumpur City Center and made a quick stop at Petronas Twin Towers!

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

Then back to business. We found the KFC, pulled out the photo we took of the advertisement, and got ready to order. Unfortunately, the food items we saw advertised were only on the breakfast menu. So, we went for our second choice, the KFC Chizza.

A white box with red stripes, labeled "KFC Chizza Chicken x pizza" sits unopened on a table. Next to it is a small ramekin filled with a red sauce and a white cup with a picture of the KFC Colonel and labeled "KFC. It's so refreshingly good"

For 20RM/$5, we got a small fry, KFC Original flavor chicken leg, chizza, and two sodas. In China, we could easily find Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, and Coke Zero. Here, I have seen far less Coke Zero, but a good amount of A&W and Mug root beer. I’m a fan.

Condiment dispenser at KFC. There are three nozzles with a picture of a bottle underneath each one. One bottle is labeled Thai chili, another Tomato Sauce, and the other Chili Sauce.

We had a selection of sauces to choose from: Thai Chili Cause, Tomato Sauce, and Chili Sauce. I thought about trying one of each, but the attendant seemed to be limiting everyone’s sauce consumption. I grabbed the Tomato Sauce, expecting ketchup. It was not ketchup. It was a little more plain and a little sweeter.

KFC Chizza. Piece of fried chicken with a red sauce, a large helping of pineapple, and some sauteed onions. On top are thick dollops of white cheese that is sprinkled with basil and red pepper flakes.

And the main event, the KFC Chizza. It is a fried chicken breast, topped with “pizza sauce” (more of the weird tomato sauce), mozzarella cheese, pineapple, onion, basil, and red peppers. The onions were very good, but everything else was a bit “meh”. I think the most troublesome part was the chicken. Fried chicken does not make a good crust. With tendons and other textures, it is difficult to take a single, clean bite. Also, pineapple does not belong on pizza!

Man attempting to eat KFC Chizza. Looks to be struggling with the white cheese. It looks very thick and difficult to bite through.

We cut the roof of our mouths on the crispy chicken, burnt our tongues on the molten cheese, and stung our nose with the loose red pepper flakes. Yet again, our KFC International meal was less than desirable, but that won’t keep me from trying whatever the specialty is in Thailand next month.

Today’s Adventure

“Some of these girls are really dressed up. Do you suppose it’s a private party?…. There are so many people here. It must be a super popular place… Check out that group of guys over there, they seem really friendly…” And so begins the story of how Josh and I found ourselves in…

Around ten years ago, when we were still living in Spokane, Washington, we had a moment of surprise while looking for a fun new place to hang out. It was still fairly early in the evening, and the place we’d settled on looked clean and not too packed, but with enough people that you could tell it would get busy later. As we walked in, we started critiquing our new potential hang out in hushed tones, as if we were famous bar reviewers. “The music here is awesome! I like the layout a lot. Someone really put a lot of work into designing this place. The people here are really good looking. Check out that group of guys over there, they seem really friendly.” Then, we shared a moment of silence and looked around one more time. It finally hit us and we practically screamed at the same time, “It’s a gay bar!” Every time we do something like this, expecting one thing from a place and getting something else, we re-tell this story, a fun remembrance of that time when we had no idea what we were walking into (for the record, we had a great time!).

Today, we were given a reason to tell the story again.

We were sitting at a little roadside stand, having some dinner, when we heard live music coming from a place down the block. It was time to do a little exploring and see what the fuss was about. The source of the music was a large, three walled-building. It was a bit dark, but we could see tables and people inside, so we walked in to explore. There was a stage against one wall, food stalls lining the other two, a bar, and tons of tables in the middle. “Wow, this is convenient. A food court, maybe? Some of these girls are really dressed up. Do you suppose it’s a private party? There are so many people here, it must be popular with the locals. Check out that group of guys over there, they seem really friendly…”

And so begins the story of how Josh and I found ourselves in a whore house.*

We walked in, took a quick tour of all the food stalls, and made our way to the bar to order a drink. This was my first major clue: despite this being a dirty, three-wall establishment for poor locals, there were only high end beers for sale. Interesting. We grabbed our beer and looked for a table. That is when I noticed how truly beautiful all of the girls were. Wow! Had we just stumbled on THE hottest hang out on this end of town? But wait…

Hint number two quickly followed. These girls are not only naturally hot, they are dressed in club wear. Each is wearing a tiny, sequined dress, and three inch heels. Make-up? Check. Expensive looking hair? Check. It is 6:30PM. Those clothes aren’t supposed to be seen in the light of day. Maybe that’s not the custom here? Also, why are none of the men good looking? I looked closer at the man closest to me. He wasn’t aging well and had a stain on his shirt, but the woman next to him was younger and absolutely stunning… and had her hands…. O… M… G!

“Why haven’t you picked a table yet? That one you passed looked just fine,” says Josh.

He hasn’t figured it out yet.

We find a table and I tell him my theory. He looks around and I can see his whole face change as he realizes it’s true.

Hint number three came next. A man came over, introduced himself as one of the singers for the night, and sat down with us. He said he was one of the 160 people that work there and that he was pretty sure I was the only woman in the place that wasn’t on staff. They were all “singers, dancers, masseurs, or… you know…”

As with everyone else we have met here, he was very kind and answered all of our questions without judgement, and I asked a lot of questions. I discovered, with the help of our new table mate, that this was one of the most well known local’s clubs in town. He told us what this sort of establishment was called in the local language, but we’ve since forgotten. This style of building is very common for these places, though, with a stage, food stalls, and large center floor. These establishments are for the poorer class.

“There are many more all over too,” he said as he pointed towards the night club across the street that I have been complaining about all week. “Those kinds are much more expensive though. They have many private rooms, but you must pay a minimum of 300RM. Some men can spend over 1,000RM in just a few hours. Here is easier. Better.”

As the conversation lulled and the other man was obviously trying to hint at something, we downed the rest of our beer and made to leave. “Thank you for having a beer here. Maybe a 10RM tip for my company?” Josh gave him a five and we left. The girls all stopped this time when we passed and waved good-bye to me and giggled.

Now that I am safely out of that large, dark, and crowded room I can say that this was, not necessarily a fun experience, but certainly an interesting one. We won’t be going back anytime soon, but I’m glad we decided to walk in. It was a candid peek into parts of the local life that you won’t find in any guide books, the type of experience that makes traveling worthwhile.

*Note: Prostitution is illegal in Malaysia, so I’m sure I just misunderstood the situation. 😉

Cover photo by: Caitlyn Wilson

Eating Our Way Through KL

The residence of KL are a mixed bag of ethnically different people. There are large populations of people from India, China (mostly Cantonese), and of course the native Malaysians. Even though there are different backgrounds represented, they all share one thing in common: an incredible respect and kindness for others. Not only is it an inspiring setting for world peace, but it is a foodie’s dream come true.

Did food somehow change when I wasn’t looking? I seem to be living in a world where food can no longer be bad. Spicy food is suddenly delicious instead of painful and burn-y. Foreign spices that once would have me wrinkling up my nose have a new savor to them. Am I losing my sense of taste? Or have I just been lucky enough to eat only amazing food on this journey? I’m guessing the latter, but the odds just seem so high against it that I’m starting to wonder if I’ve been transported to an alternate, more delicious dimension.

That’s right. Food in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is just as amazing as China. The flavor profile is entirely different, but everything I have put in my mouth has been one of the best things I have ever eaten. The only downside is that we’ve started a new diet, so we aren’t getting nearly as much of this deliciousness as we want!

The residents of KL are a mixed bag of ethnically different people. There are large populations of people from India, China (mostly Cantonese), and of course the native Malaysians. Even though there are different backgrounds represented, they all share one thing in common: an incredible respect and kindness for others. Not only is it an inspiring setting for world peace, but it is a foodie’s dream come true. This is just a taste of the amazing things we’ve eaten and places we’ve been.

Curry House

One of the more popular types of restaurants in KL are the Curry Houses. They seem to be everywhere, even right next door to our hotel. There are always groups of people sitting outside with tasty looking food, and others waiting in line inside, so we had to give it a try. We hopped in the line and watched everyone else order. Everything looked good, so I wasn’t too worried about trying to communicate exactly what I wanted. When it was my turn, I simply pointed to someone else’s dish and said I wanted that. I ended up with fried rice with a whole boiled egg in it, slow-cooked chicken, and a cucumber salad. It was buttery, juicy, and oh so good.

20180302_130456.jpg
The curry chicken is served on the bone. We used our utensils to eat it, but almost everyone just grabs the saucy mess with their hands.

Once we got our food, we grabbed some sodas from a vendor further inside the restaurant and sat down. A waiter came by and made sure we were comfortable, then pulled out his tablet (which seemed very out of place), totaled us up, and handed us a numbered card. After eating, we took our card up to the register near the front and were charged 17RM/$4.35 for our meal.

Little India

One of my favorite dining adventures so far was our trip to Little India in the Brickfields District. There were plenty of authentic restaurants to choose from, so we went with the first one we saw that looked easy to navigate (not all restaurants have menus or an obvious starting point). I got rice and fried chicken with a spicy sauce.

In several of the restaurants we have been to, we have seen scattered groups of people eating with their hands. At this restaurant nearly everyone was eating with their hands. Even the well-dressed young man sitting next to us in his pressed, purple button up and silk tie. So, we washed up and went for it. I had never considered how difficult it would be to eat rice with my hands. It was quite the challenge. If you’re feeling brave and not too self-conscious, I suggest you give it a try (at home, alone, where no one else will see you with sauce all over your face and fingers).

20180306_133000.jpg
I am very focused on getting the rice into my mouth without spilling it all over my lap.

New Meat: Sting Ray

To my lovely vegan, vegetarian, and meat-sensitive friends, please stop reading. Everyone has a weakness… this is mine.

Those of you that know me well will know that I set a goal for myself as a child to try as many different meats as possible. I’ve had the pleasure of trying all sorts of exotic meats like bear, snake, alligator, kangaroo, scorpions, worms, pigeons, shark, and even the Chinese delicacy that must not be named. But I have a new addition to add to my list: sting ray. Check out the video of this experience below:

We’ve only been here for a week, and already we are overwhelmed by the sheer number of food options available. We’ve had some amazing Chinese and Indian food already, and have picked out some Thai, Vietnamese, Moroccan, and other great looking restaurants and roadside stands. I can’t wait to try them all!

The Places We Live – Pudu, Kuala Lumpur

For our first two weeks in Kuala Lumpur, we are staying in Hote123, a cheap hotel in the neighborhood of Pudu. Pudu does not offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but there is a convenient KL Rapid Transit stop and a nice variety of local restaurants. Once we got use to it (and got over the fact that the internet is very spotty), we found ourselves really enjoying our quaint hotel in this local neighborhood.

We’re just wrapping up our first week in KL, and we LOVE it here! It is a bit hot at 90 degrees every day, but it is also monsoon season, so there is a cool breeze and a heavy rain to cool things off a bit. The other great touch is the air quality. It feels very nice to finally breathe again.

340_w

Kuala Lumpur is located in the country of Malaysia in SE Asia. Malaysia is a peninsula (plus some islands and a piece of Borneo) and Kuala Lumpur is just West of the center of it. The three major ethnic groups found in Kuala Lumpur are Malay, Chinese, and Indian, with the top two religions being Islam and Buddhism. The national language is Bahasa Malaysia, although English is very commonly used in schools and business settings. (Wikipedia)

For our first two weeks in Kuala Lumpur, we are staying in Hote123, a cheap hotel in the neighborhood of Pudu. Pudu does not offer much in the way of tourist attractions, but there is a convenient KL Rapid Transit stop and a nice variety of local restaurants. Once we got used to it (and got over the fact that the internet is very spotty), we found ourselves really enjoying our quaint hotel in this local neighborhood.

InkedGoogle Maps_LI
Pudu is Southeast of the Kuala Lumpur City Center which houses most of the major attractions.

The hotel is comfortable with a few different sitting areas on the first floor and another on the rooftop terrace. All of the staff have been crazy friendly and I get the impression that I could literally ask them anything and get an honest answer without judgment. They offer free coffee, tea, and water throughout the day and there is a washing machine for clothes on the terrace.

20180302_091538.jpg
Breakfast is 5RM each and is the same every day: Coffee, tea, water, toast (choice of butter or peanut butter), breakfast noodles, and fried rice.

We booked the cheapest possible room online, but were upgraded upon arrival to an identical room… but with a window. That’s right, we originally booked a room without a window! The only problem is that our window overlooks a night club, so I’m not really sure if it is better or not.

The room has two twin beds, a shelf, night stand, large TV (with only five channels), and a huge desk and chair. For a budget room, it is appointed decently well and kept very clean. We have seen a couple of ants roaming around and we now have a pet gecko that we’ve named Hector, but otherwise the room seems to be pest free.

20180307_155515
Our room with our “must haves” from home: framed photo of our besties and travel-sized CO Detector.

The bathroom is quite nice, but Asian in style. We have a sink, mirror, Western toilet, and a shower. As you can see in the picture below, we do not have a shower curtain. This is quite common throughout Asia, so if you are looking for a hotel and don’t see a curtain or divider in the ads, assume there isn’t one. Once you get used to it, it really isn’t so bad. We have found the best practice is to lift the lid of the toilet before showering. This helps the toilet seat dry faster. It can be a little uncomfortable at first to hang out in a bathroom that is wet from wall to wall but, with practice, one can learn to ignore it.

20180307_155610

We just have one more week left in this hotel before we move a little farther North for our house sit. I am particularly excited for this one because it includes a pool! After two weeks of this hot and humid weather, I think a dip in the pool will be exactly what I need to stay cool and feel refreshed! Also, it will be in a much nicer neighborhood, so we’ll get the chance to save up some cash while getting a taste of the good life. Still, our little hotel has been pretty great, with a friendly and (mostly) attentive staff, good surroundings, at a good price.