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

 

 

Bad Ideas: Chengdu-Style

Since arriving here, I have awoken each morning with so much excitement to explore this amazing city. Chengdu has beautiful architecture, varied restaurants and shops, and a million and one other activities to enjoy. Each night I plan an adventure, and each morning I wake up ready to put my plans into action… and then each evening, I come home tired and disappointed. These aren’t just Jen’s Less Than Totally Epic Adventures, these are Jen’s Laughably Failed Adventures.

Bad Idea #1: Coming to Chengdu During the Lunar New Year

Do not come to China for the Spring Festival. It would be like going to Utah only on Sundays or to just about anywhere in the states only on bank holidays. The large majority of Chinese are home with their families for the holiday… which lasts two full weeks. That means only one in every 15 stores are open, prices are inflated for anything that is open, buses are limited, and all events are on hold. We are living in an enormous ghost town.

20180220_145634-EFFECTS.jpg
This picture was taken at a very long stop light on a six lane road.

It is difficult to express how strange it feels to walk along a nearly empty eight lane highway between sky scrapers. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie, with the survivors making their way down empty, eerily silent streets. Sure, the freedom of movement is nice, but it’s a little spooky. How is it possible to feel so alone in a place with 14 million residents?

Bad Idea #2: Going to Tourist Attractions Over the Weekend

The only thing worse than seeing none of the 14 million residents, is seeing all of them at once. The few people that stayed in Chengdu for the holidays are facing much of the same problem that we are. The other day, we decided to do something other than cook another American meal at home and watch TV. We needed to get out of the house, so we went to the only place we knew wouldn’t be closed: the streets of downtown. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones…

20180219_151453.jpg

I made a walking tour with six stops. We made it to four of them before we started to slowly lose our minds. Every square, sidewalk, alley way, shop front, and park were all packed with people. You could hardly take a step without bumping into somebody. The above picture was taken at what looked like a very nice set of storefronts built into a section of the old city. But the narrow road was so packed with people that we had no time to stop in any of the shops, or even to just look at them. The strangest thing of all was how happy all of the locals were to be there, as if this was just a pleasant day trip. The two of us were so keyed up and anxious by the time we got out that we were visibly shaking. Never. Again.

Bad Idea #3: Trusting Maps

China has been in a state of constant construction for many years. They build up suburbs, then ship in whole villages of people to live there. They claim it is to reduce poverty. I don’t know and I won’t comment. The point is that China is very much under construction.

20180220_160045.jpg

After a failed trip downtown, I decided to ride my bike to a park a little farther afield. I have an offline GPS map and a paper map (they do exist!). I was ready for a two hour, round trip bike ride through an impressive neighborhood of new sky scrapers to a non-touristy park.

Instead, I ended up getting stuck in a little sub-village that was so deeply under construction that, despite the number of bridges and streets, there was only one way in or out. I needed to go either North or East. I circled the village for over an hour before I realized that all 12 of the through-roads were closed except for the one I came through on the Southwest side. I never did find my way to the park. I rode my bike for four hours straight, only to come home with a few pictures of buildings and lots of pictures of blocked-off areas the size of a whole town.

Bad Idea #4: Letting Your Bad Ideas Stop You

I’ve had three full days of failed adventures now. My feet hurt, my lungs hurts, and my pride has been wounded. Despite our attempts at nearly all of the top ten sights in Chengdu, I don’t have a single blog-worthy adventure to report. I haven’t missed a single blogging goal since we left three months ago, but in the last week, I have missed two.

But, we are still chugging along. I have another adventure planned for today and another planned for tomorrow. I forced my way through this post, despite disliking how negative it is. I want to be truthful about the negative side of this lifestyle, but this post by itself isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of our lives. Yes, we haven’t had any great adventures since we have been here in Chengdu, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun. No matter how tough it gets at times, I’d still rather be out here, chasing my dream and failing, than to have never tried at all.

 

 

 

Bad Ideas: What Not to Do in China

Since arriving here, I have awoken each morning with so much excitement to explore this amazing city. Chengdu has beautiful architecture, varied restaurants and shops, and a million and one other activities to enjoy. Each night I plan an adventure, and each morning I wake up ready to put my plans into action. T,hen each evening, I come home tired and disappointed. These aren’t just Jen’s Less Than Totally Epic Adventures, these are Jen’s Laughably Failed Adventures.

Bad Idea #1: Coming to China During the Lunar New Year

Do not come to China for the Spring Festival. It would be like going to Utah only on Sundays or to just about anywhere in the states only on bank holidays. The large majority of Chinese are home with their families for the holiday… which lasts two full weeks. That means only one in every 15 stores are open, prices are inflated, and all events are on hold. We are living in an enormous ghost town.

20180220_145634-EFFECTS.jpg
This picture was taken at a very long stop light on a six lane road.

It is difficult to express how strange it feels to walk along a nearly empty eight lane highway between sky scrapers. It’s like a scene from a zombie movie, with the survivors making their way down empty, eerily silent streets. Sure, the freedom of movement is nice, but it’s a little spooky. How is it possible to feel so alone in a place with 14 million residents?

Bad Idea #2: Going to Tourist Attractions Over the Weekend

The only thing worse than seeing none of the 14 million residents, is seeing all of them at once. The few people that stayed in Chengdu for the holidays are facing much of the same problem that we are. The other day, we decided to do something other than cook another American meal at home. We needed to get out of the house, so we went to the only place we knew wouldn’t be closed: the streets of downtown. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones…

20180219_151453.jpg

I made a walking tour with six stops. We made it to four of them before we started to slowly lose our minds. Every square, sidewalk, alley way, shop front, and park were all packed with people. You could hardly take a step without bumping into somebody.

The above picture was taken at what looked like a very nice set of storefronts built into a section of the old city. Unfortunately, the narrow road was so packed with people that we had no time to stop in any of the shops. We could hardly even look at them as we shuffled past. The strangest thing of all was how happy all of the locals were to be there. It was as if this was just a pleasant day trip. The two of us were so keyed up and anxious by the time we got out that we were visibly shaking. Never. Again.

Bad Idea #3: Trusting Maps

China has been in a state of constant construction for many years. They build up suburbs, then ship in whole villages of people to live there. They claim it is to reduce poverty. I don’t know and I won’t comment. The point is that China is very much under construction.

20180220_160045.jpg

After a failed trip downtown, I decided to ride my bike to a park a little farther afield. I have an offline GPS map and a paper map (they do exist!). I was ready for a two hour, round trip bike ride through an impressive neighborhood of new sky scrapers to a non-touristy park.

Instead, I ended up getting stuck in a little sub-village that was so deeply under construction that there was only one way in or out. To get out, I needed to go either North or East. After circling the village for over an hour, I realized that all 12 of the through-roads were closed except for the one on the Southwest side. I never did find my way to the park. I rode my bike for four hours straight, only to come home with a few pictures of buildings and lots of pictures of blocked-off areas the size of a whole town.

Bad Idea #4: Letting Your Bad Ideas Stop You

I’ve had three full days of failed adventures now. My feet hurt, my lungs are tight, and my pride has been wounded. Despite our attempts at nearly all of the top ten sights in Chengdu, I don’t have a single blog-worthy adventure to report. I haven’t missed a single blogging goal since we left three months ago, but in the last week, I have missed two.

But, we are still chugging along. We have another adventure planned for today and another planned for tomorrow. I forced my way through this post, despite disliking how negative it is. But, this post by itself isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of our lives. Yes, we haven’t had any great adventures since we have been here in Chengdu, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t having fun. No matter how tough it gets at times, I’d still rather be out here, chasing my dream and failing, than to have never tried at all.

What not to do in CHina

[amazon_link asins=’B004KNWWO0′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’theplacesweli-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3d5c69b5-2cb1-11e8-b23c-9fdd7d762f7d’]

 

 

 

 

Re-Evaluate and Adjust

Moving is never easy, especially when moving to a new country that is so vastly different from my own. It is not fun to admit, but the last few days have been hard. Really hard. But we both woke up on Saturday feeling inspired. 

Moving is never easy, especially when moving to a new country that is so vastly different from my own. It is not fun to admit, but the last few days have been hard. Really hard. We are over budget, cold, out of routine, Josh is sick, and we’re down one working computer. That is on top of all the craziness that is China. We fell asleep on Friday feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

Maybe it was the fact that we both finally slept the entire night through, but we both woke up on Saturday feeling inspired. I woke up with a clear head, positive attitude, and ready to adjust my life to fit the needs of the world around me.

Our first order of business was to buy coats. We are already over budget due to the early departure from Guangzhou, but it had to be done. We purchased $15 heavy coats from across the street and felt an immediate lift to our spirits.

[Note: My coat was a 2XL and Josh’s was a 5XL.]

20180106_094056[1]
I bought this mask 10 years ago in China and still use it any time I feel particularly anxious. It is perfect for China as it keeps a lot of the weird smells out AND keeps my nose warm.

Because we are over budget, Josh is temporarily shifting his priorities from writing to working. Unfortunately, he needs a working computer and word processor to do that. We remembered walking past a few electronics stores when we were out the other day, so we took the computer and the broken cord to each one and played the “point and shrug” game. We didn’t have any luck, but it confirmed that we needed to move to Plan B (buy Word for my computer and share).

Feeling physically comfortable with the coats and mentally comfortable with a resolution to the computer/budget problem, we continued our walk further in to town to explore. We visited the Sun and Moon Pagodas which were just pagodas, but the surrounding park was very peaceful.

20180106_110255[1]

On our way home we tried a new neighborhood for lunch and had an amazing meal. We ate a big bowl of pork dumpling soup and our favorite style of fried rice for about $1.80.

Josh had the sniffles all day, but really started to feel sick as the day progressed. We went back to the hotel, bundled up, and took a nap. We only left the hostel again for dinner, which was not at all what we ordered, but still decent.

20180106_183034[1]
Two bowls of rice, orange juice, and a collection of sizzling seafood and veggies.

As part of our inspiration today, we were determined to make some friends. We planted ourselves in the common room and started playing a game. We didn’t get any bites, but when a group needed to use our table, they kindly invited us to join their game instead.

We enjoyed a fun night of chatting and Taboo with two different groups of travelers, two women from Israel and a couple from New Zealand. The women just wrapped up their term in the military and were taking a few months off to travel around China, SE Asia, and India. The couple are ex-pats who met in New Zealand. She is a French woman who is a Spanish teacher and he is a civil engineer from Mexico. We stopped keeping score in Taboo, but I think my team won. Although I am sure Josh would debate that.

20180106_213021[1]

It was a great way to end the day. Although Josh is still sick, we are still over budget, and I am still getting my feet wet every time I brush my teeth (more on that later), we solved all of the problems that were holding us back. I’m feeling a lot more confident about the next couple of months and looking forward to our next adventures.