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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

KL Forest Eco Park

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). 

When we told our friends and family about our plans for the year, Kuala Lumpur (known as “KL” to the locals) was not on the list. This wasn’t intentional, we just didn’t know we would be coming here! We ended up booking a two-week house sit, and since the whole plan is to go where the wind takes us, it seemed like a great opportunity to go somewhere new and unexpected.

With only two weeks notice, I didn’t have a lot of time to plan and had no idea what to expect. I had done a one-day guided tour from Singapore into Malaysia once when I was kid, but it was through some poor fishing villages in the south. I had no idea whether or not the entire country was like that; we came in almost completely blind, with no idea of what to expect in terms of local culture, food, economy, and adventures.

Thankfully, I am an avid travel planner. Every time I see a travel picture I like on Pinterest, some delicious dish on Instragram, or an enticing adventure on my favorite travel shows, I “star” it on Google Maps. I have stars scattered all over that thing in every corner of the world. So I already had a number of stars around Kuala Lumpur when we arrived.

As Josh and I were walking around on our first day I noticed a star on KL Forest Eco Park. I had starred it so long ago I couldn’t remember why.  Is it good for birding or hiking? Is there a rare plant or animal inside? Does it have historic significance? Without internet, it remained a mystery. We decided to check it out, hoping I would know what I was looking for when I found it.

The KL Forest Eco Park hosts the oldest permanent rain forest reserve in Malaysia, and it’s the only natural rain forest in the world to be located in a city center. If that wasn’t enough to earn a star, then maybe it was the fact that the KL Forest Eco Park ticket price was free (March 2018). We walked right in and enjoyed a couple of different, well-maintained trails that weaved through the park. The trees were old and tall and thick with leaves. I didn’t see a lot of birds, flowers, or even bugs, but there was a lot of greenery and almost all of it looked tenacious.

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One path we ran into had a larger sign than the others and looked quite lovely. We enjoyed a stroll up the side of a small hill and noticed what looked like a tree house off to the left. Although Josh was interested in checking out the tree house, he was also skeptical due to his fear of heights. But, he was a good sport, took a deep breath, and climbed up.

The view from the top not only gave us a beautiful view of the tree tops, but access to what must be the REAL reason I starred this particular park: KL Forest Eco Park Canopy Walk. 650 feet long and 69 feet off the ground, the series of sky bridges was formidable. Josh immediately panicked when we got to the top to see them towering through the forest in all of their glory… and with a small child bawling her face off trying to walk across one.

After some (I’m using the word “some” simply out of politeness) goading, I was finally able to get Josh to walk across the bridge. Little did he know, that the other side didn’t provide a way back down to ground level, but instead another sky bridge… and another… and four more. He was a good sport, sweating, and slinking across each bridge with the poise of a scared cat. And, to both of our surprise, he made it all the way to the end. He claims it is the scariest thing he has ever done.

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My story isn’t nearly as dramatic. The Canopy Walk looked scary with wood planks and rope sides, but hidden underneath was a thick layer of metal gratings and steel reinforcements. The sky bridges were steady with only a little bit of movement. The view was awesome. I loved looking at these old and gnarled trees up close. I only wish we had seen some of the monkeys that are said to be spotted there.

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I think it is a good sign that our first adventure in Kuala Lumpur was successful and blog worthy. I have had a chance to review some of my other Google Map stars and am really looking forward to the adventures we have ahead of us… including ANOTHER rendition of Adventures in Eating at KFC!

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Travel Day – Chengdu to Kuala Lumpur

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month.

It’s that time. We have maxed out our visas and have to leave the country before the start of the month. After one final night of exploring Chengdu and taking note of the places we need to come back to this summer, we grabbed a ticket for the metro and were on our way.

Grassy park with flower landscaping and panda statues in Chengdu, China

Check-in and customs were no trouble at all. We zoomed right through without any problems. Our flight was on Air Asia, one of Asia’s discount airlines. The plane was large and clean, but there was a strict note on the website, on my ticket, and in the ongoing announcements that no outside food is allowed on the plane. I was a bit worried about this, but assumed that meant they would feed us.

Unfortunately, it was a very Chinese style flight. The passengers rarely listened to directions, talked loudly throughout the entire flight, and paid absolutely no attention to the no outside food rule. To top it off, the airline only provided items for purchase… including WATER. That’s right, I went on a five hour plane ride without water because I was told not to bring any on the plane. What?! I guess I should have read the fine print… or ignored the large print.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise when I say that we were a bit cranky upon our arrival in Malaysia. We ignored the polite greetings from nearly every staff member in the airport, half-listened to the delightfully artsy and charismatic Uber driver, and barely showed our impatience to the kind and giggly hotel clerk. We were tired, we were hungry, and I needed some damn WATER!

Our hotel is in what looked liked a bad side of town. Our room faces a night club that blared music all night. There are ants on our floor. We got two twin beds instead of one queen. Our internet access was spotty. Despite how tired we were, we knew it would be a long and sleepless night.

Then we fell instantly and completely asleep.

We woke up refreshed and with a completely different outlook. The weather was warm and sunny. We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel, complete with real drip coffee. And in the daylight, our neighborhood isn’t really that bad. Heck, we’re in walking distance of an IKEA. We took a long walk around this afternoon, and as of right now, I feel pretty confident that we are going to love it here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This is a brand new country for us, with a whole host of new adventures, and we can’t wait to get out and experience it all!

Woman sitting in front of "I Heart KL Tower, Malaysia" sign