I spent my last night in Vietnam close to the airport, because the airport in Hanoi is quite a bit out of the city, and I had to take an early morning flight (and the shuttle service didn’t start until after I wanted to be at the airport). I booked a small and friendly hostel, and after some searching I finally found it. After checking in, I went out and got some food. Or, that was the plan. In the end I walked out of the hostel, and immediately got invited to a group of random Vietnamese men that were sitting there, drinking beer and eating food. Vietnamese men love to ‘cheers!’ with foreigners every 5 minutes, so they gave me a glass, poured me some beer, and did that exact thing for the rest of the night. Luckily they also had food, and they wanted me to try everything, from pieces of tofu to pieces of really good meat to lychees, so in the end I had my food (and my drinks) without making any effort and without paying anything. After I wasn’t hungry anymore, and after all the men had left me, I went to bed, because my plane to Malaysia left relatively early.
The next morning at 5am, my alarm went off. Great. Packed my stuff, got ready, checked out (I’m very sorry for waking you up, random hostel employee person, but you did promise me a 24h reception). Called an Uber, and got myself to the airport. And then, a few hours later, I arrived at my last country for this trip: Malaysia. I have to say I felt a little bit of a culture shock when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. I loved cities like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, because of the endless chaos that somehow worked out, but Kuala Lumpur felt a bit too western-y for me. All these huge shopping malls, huge buildings, and everything felt ‘controlled’, instead of just chaotic. Ah well, first step was to get to the hostel, and I’d see what would happen from then on. It was a very chilled out hostel, full of nice and friendly people, clean, and even fairly cheap. What else do you want from a hostel? After I made myself at home for a bit, I went for a walk through the city, because I ran out of shorts… In Vietnam, all the local restaurants features tiny plastic stools. And my shorts generally didn’t seem to like those stools, so all three shorts I took with me died a horrible death in Vietnam. All trousers I had left were 2 different elephant pants, and while they are extremely comfy, I wasn’t going to walk around in elephant pants 24/7 for the last 3 weeks. So, after half a day worth of walking through shopping centers, I retuned to the hostel without new shorts. Let’s try again tomorrow. That night we went and celebrated one of the guests birthdays with pretty much the entire hostel, which was great. We started off at the ‘sky bar’, a bar with a roof instead of a sky, and beer prices that are ridiculous even for European standards, but the view was nice, so we still went. After that we strolled around the city, went to some hostel with a rooftop bar, and way too late that night, we all returned to the hostel.
The next morning I started off slowly, but not too slowly, because otherwise I wouldn’t have seen anything from KL. Walked quite a long route through the city, passed a few temples, and the national mosque (which just closed 2 minutes before I went there, maybe more luck at the end of my trip, where I’ll have one or a couple of days in KL again), and then started my quest for food. You might think it is easy to find food in Asian countries, but that isn’t necessarily true for Muslim countries during the Ramadan. Luckily, after some walking around, I managed to find a place that had some delicious food, where I ate a (extremely spicy) curry. That afternoon, I went to the Petronas Towers, the (if I remember correctly) 4th tallest buildings in the world. Underneath those towers was a huge shopping mall, and I finally found myself some new shorts. Then I went back to the hostel, albeit with quite a detour. On my way I passed a park with a rather comforting sign, listing all animals that lived there and that were able to kill me. And that’s in the center of the capital. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to spot any monkeys, and fortunately I didn’t spot any deadly animals, and after that I headed back to the hostel. The remaining part of the day I just chilled out, translated some older blogposts to English, and talked with some of the other hostel guests.
That was more than enough Kuala Lumpur for me, so I headed to Taman Negara the next day. The oldest rainforest in Malaysia. I couldn’t really find an available tourist bus that went there, so I had to improvise my way there with the public transport. While I was changing buses halfway through the journey, some Germans approached me, asking me if I knew what I was doing, because they were completely lost. Fortunately, I didn’t know what I was doing either, but somehow we managed to make it from the first bus to the second (the Malaysian people that almost dragged us into the right bus might have also helped with that) and after just under 2 hours, we made it to Taman Negara. We asked the tourist information center for a nice and cheap hostel, and when we arrived there, it was closed, so that wasn’t really going to work. Around that time, we all started longing for food more than we longed for a hostel, so we decided to get some food first, and worry about hostels later. To get from the village to the rainforest, you had to cross a small river, and the river was completely filled with all kinds of floating restaurants. So we had lunch in one of those restaurants, with a perfect view of the national park. Life could’ve been worse. After that, I got my Lonely Planet, and there we found a nice and cozy hostel. It was very basic, not more than an empty room, a fan and two beds with mosquito nets. The bathroom was just as basic, with a hole in the floor that was meant as a toilet, and a shower that showered both yourself and the entire bathroom when you turned it on. But we didn’t really need more, and for that not-even-€5-a-night, we couldn’t really complain. After catching our breath for a bit, we went into town, and we booked a 2 days, 1 night trekking. After that, we ate something on the river again, and played some card games afterwards.
And then it was time. The trekking. Packed my small rucksack, because there is pretty much exactly nothing in the jungle. We had to take everything for the 2 days from the start. From the bottles of water to the sleeping bag and from the cutlery to the candles. While I did (notice the past tense) own a small backpack, that just about stored everything I needed, it was one of those very much unreliable things that positively surprised you price-wise, but negatively surprises quality-wise. Somehow, the bag didn’t completely rip apart during the trekking, but I had to walk slightly crooked the entire second day, because there was quite a sizable rip in one of the sides. Ah well, back to the trekking! We started with the ‘canopy walk,’ a 30 minute walk through the tree tops, going from rope bridge to rope bridge. Walking so high up in the ‘sky’ (between the trees) was amazing. After that we spent some time in a speedboat, to get to the actual trekking. There, we walked about 8km in 4 hours, because we constantly had to climb, tumble, crouch, jump, balance and sometimes even walk through the rainforest. It was an impressive hike, and on the way our guide kept on randomly stopping to explain interesting stuff about trees/plants around us, and how to use them to survive the jungle. It’s not that I would survive on my own in the jungle now, but it definitely didn’t hurt. After the hike, we arrived at our place for the night: a gigantic cave. We put down our sleeping mats and sleeping bags, and then it was time to start the cooking process. For that, we first had to find some river with water, and we had to cook that water to get rid of the germs and make it okay to eat soup from. Despite the fact that we were in the middle of the jungle, we had a really nice meal, and after that meal we just sat next to the campfire and talked with the entire group (sans the two French people that didn’t really want to be part of the group), and then, everyone went to bed. Well, everyone but me and one of the Germans I met on the bus, because we were still far from tired. After talking for the better part of the night, and seeing a porcupine munching our leftovers, we decided we’d better go to sleep as well, because the next day was going to be just as challenging as the previous day.
The next day we had a delicious breakfast with toast, jam, honey and coconut jam, and after that, we broke up our camp again. Walked for 3 hours, with quite a lot of walking over fallen trees to cross some small streams, and then we arrived at our lunch. Near the place we had lunch, there was a stream, and our guide promised that there were neither piranhas nor crocodiles there, so it was safe to swim. It was great to cool down for a bit, after being soaking with sweat for 1.5 days. After the swimming, we had a nice lunch (apparently, there’s also instant noodles in Asia, and they make for quite a nice lunch if you add some fresh veggies) and after that we walked the last bit back to the boat. Before we went all the way back to the village, we first stopped at a (very touristic) local village, where one of the locals showed us how to make fire with nothing more than bamboo (and probably quite some willpower and maybe even more training) and we could all try to shoot a blow pipe. Don’t ask me how I managed, but I was the only one in the group to even hit the target, and with my shot I pierced the poor, defenseless doll right through its soft, plushy heart. And I even felt great about it. I’m a horrible person. After that, we headed back to the village, where I took a well needed shower. That night, we had dinner with pretty much the entire trekking group, and afterwards, we went back to the hostel again. There, once again, me and the German weren’t too tired, so we spent another good part of a night talking, and then went to bed in the end. Approximately the entire trekking group went to the east of Malaysia, while I was going west, so I had to say goodbye to them. If it wouldn’t have been my last two weeks, I would definitely have joined them, but I haven’t been in the same place for more than 4 nights, and I have hardly been in the same place for more than 3 since I started traveling, so I want take it a little easier these last weeks. Not that I’m doing nothing for two weeks, but also not rushing all over the place and only spending a couple of days everywhere. Unfortunately that meant that I had to leave a really nice group behind, but I’ll surely find a new group in the next place.
After the goodbye-breakfast, and saying everyone goodbye, I completely refactored my backpack (I had been too lazy to do that the last few weeks, so it was a complete mess) and then I got into my bus to the Cameron Highlands. I love that place. It’s located in the mountains, 1500 meters high, so the temperature is way more comfortable than everywhere else. Finally, after 2.5 months for 35+ temperatures, it was between 20 and 25 degrees again. I needed that. I’ll spend the next few days here, and then I’ll probably head to Penang or another island.