More Kuala Lumpur

I was originally going to visit the famous Batu caves temple on Sunday which is a Hindu holiday called Thaipusam. There is a big celebration that starts somewhere in Kuala Lumpur then a parade of people, estimated to be multi-millions of people, walk 13 km to the temple at Batu Caves. There are many things going on and chariots are carried up the colorful stairs. I have anxiety about crowds on a good day but I still feel under the weather. I decide it is a good idea to skip this celebration and visit another day.

Another day

It’s raining. I am supposed to go to Batu but don’t feel good and dont feel like dealing with the rain today. I decide to rest and then make myself do laundry instead. I get dinner and then walk around a bit. I see the lively Jalon Alor as it wakes up. It is supposed to be a great place to go get food at night. Wandering around there is one street I call massage row. As I walk by dozens of ladies ask me if I want a massage. For the first time in a while I don’t. I walk past an area where there is a bunch of bar restaurants. I think about getting a cocktail but I still don’t feel 100% so I forgo and call it an early night.

Batu caves last chance.

I have one last chance to visit the Batu Caves and temple. Luckily I don’t feel as terrible as I had previously. I was going to take the train but the train would take me over an hour and I had to switch lines whereas grab was less than 30 minutes. Grabs being so affordable it was a no brainer. I get there a little after 8 am. The crowds are thin. It is finally not raining but it is humid. I take some pictures out front before I get all sweaty. I ask a lady to help me with a photo, in return she wants to take a photo with me – the weird looking giant (I’m 5’3). I start up the stairs. I am sweating for sure but I am not as tired as I thought I would be. Either the steps are not as bad as I thought they were or my traveling stamina is kicking in. There are monkeys everywhere. They find food where they can. There was a large Hindu celebration two days ago and not much of the mess has been cleaned up; or maybe it has but there is still so much left. The monkeys pick through the garbage to see what meal they can make of it. There are piles of sandals everywhere. There are temples below and two more temples at the top. Chickens roam the place. Once I get inside the top is open like an open air cave. You can hear the birds fly above as well as the chickens below. People walk into the temples to get blessings. Some carry bowls up the stairs which I believe are milk. I think about how crazy crowded this place must have been just a couple days ago.

After my visit I walk to the nearby train station. I am told that the next train isn’t for two hours. This is obviously a commuter rail system and not a regular metro or subway system. There is nothing to do in the area so I don’t want to wait for two hours. I call grab. It is so cheap it again is a no-brainer. I ask to be dropped off at the Islamic Arts Museum. I want some culture … and air conditioning.

The Islamic Arts Museum is a good visit. One exhibit talks about the history of mosque architectures and the differences in the different countries of Islamic peoples. There are good dioramas displayed. There are various old Quran books on display. There are some other books and inventions used by people of Islam. Finally there is a large exhibit dedicated to this one type of sword. Weapons are’t really an interest of mine but I do spend some time here getting educated on it all.

After my visit to the museum I walk by the mosque nearby and other interesting buildings as I head back toward my hotel. There is also a market I walk through.

It’s time to eat so I seek out the other place on my radar to try, Lai Foong LaLa Noodles and their spicy clam soup (LaLa Noodles). It is very good.

In the building that houses that cool bookstore I noticed a weird ice cream shop. Today I am in the mood to try some. I get some cheesy boozy ice cream as dessert.

That pretty much finishes off my visit to Kuala Lumpur. I didn’t see all there is to see but I did a good amount considering I felt pretty bad most of my time here. This is also a good example why I always try to schedule extra down days while I am traveling. You never know when an illness or transportation or whatever is going to take you down. Having padding in the schedule relieves some stress of it all. I need to remember to keep doing it.

Tomorrow I head to Bali where I am spending a couple weeks. I again have a little anxiety about the vaccine entry requirements. The websites say I need to download this app and upload my proof of vaccine ahead of time but the feature to upload the proof has been down for maintenance for over a week. I guess we will see what happens when I get to Bali.

Chinatown Singapore

I am starting my first day in Singapore and I do what I am supposed to do, force myself to stay awake to get on the current time zone. Luckily I have a food tour booked so I have a reason to force myself out of the room.

I love taking food tours and cooking classes when I travel. I love food and I love discovering new food loves. Singapore is very big on Hawker culture (there are so many Hawker complexes). I know me though and I get nervous and intimidated initially in ordering foods in some foreign countries. This tour, that concentrates on popular and Michelin rated/documented hawkers, is the perfect introduction to the hawker culture.

I’ve done some reading ahead so I know a couple things: like using a tissue pack to save a seat/table (called chope) and I have a list of foods I really want to try. But my guide fills in all the gaps. He tells us great stalls to try, history of things, and even great parts of town to visit. I also meet three lovely ladies on my tour, two of which I hang out with the next day for Chinese New Year. I love when my shy anxious self finds an easy way to meet new people!

We start the tour immediately visting the hawker building Hong Lim. Our guide tells us how hawker culture began. There used to be street carts like you would see in other parts of South East Asia, serving food and whatnot. At some point the city decided to take these into covered areas to make the foods safer, provide facilities for cooking with running water with tables for people to use to eat. Now you have what are present day hawker centers. There are numerous in the city and while a large number of them are Chinese, you can also find various other food types: Malay, Indonesia, Thai, Indian or those with a flair of many different cultures in one.

We start at Jiji Noodles House and he brings us a bowl of Signature char siew wanton noodle (pork). It comes with a side of a soup with goji berries that you can eat alone or dump into your noodles if they are not wet enough. This meal is fantastic. I craved it later. I wanted it the next morning but I assumed it would be closed (note: a girl on the tour told me the next morning that it was in fact open the next morning. I missed out on a second serving.). This is one of the places in the Michelin guide because it is so good.

Next I try a tea that is quite good – Ice Lemon Tea that I will try once more another day.

Then we head to try a curry puff. The guide calls it curry in a hurry. But you cannot eat it too fast because it is served piping hot.

We walk through a market where we look at the fruits. Of course durian is brought up. Durian is quite popular but it has an interesting taste and texture. You either like it or you don’t. I am still in the don’t like it category. I’ve tried it twice: once in a fresh fruit format and once as a cracker (accidentally). Both times it took me quite a while to get that distinct taste out of my mouth, in fact when I smell it, it comes back to me. Most hotels ban you bringing it in because it will “stink” up the place and its hard to remove.

We next stop to get a pandan cake but due to the Lunar new year they seem to be sold out so we try an orange chiffon cake instead and it is quite good. I’ve had pandan before a few times and I love it so I vow to come back to this store another time to try the cake.

Next we try the Chinese version of the Portuguese egg tart. It is not as sweet as the Portuguese version.

We then go to the Maxwell complex to visit the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. If you have watched any show on Singapore hawker culture this dish is featured; Anthony Bordain loved it. The chicken, served room temperature is good, but the special is the rice. It is very good. Some eat it as breakfast. It is considered a national dish.

Time to try some juice. We order soursop, a not so sweet fruit drink. I like how this vendor does no added sugar. It is quite refreshing.

We stop and visit the Buddha’s tooth relic temple. Yes you saw that correctly. There is supposed to be an actual Buddha’s tooth upstairs but we didn’t go up to see it. But the temple is quite beautiful and iconic in Chinatown.

We visit one last complex called Chinatown complex. We are very full already so we split a spring roll and enjoy Singapore Iced Coffee. The coffee is good and strong but being sweetened it would be an occasional treat for me.

I love the knowledge we received from our tour guide. I need to remember to do at least one tour such as this in each major city. It really cuts through the anxiety I have with being somewhere vastly unfamiliar.

Since I thoroughly enjoyed time with those in my tour and we are all mostly solo travelers we make plans to meet up tomorrow to see some of the Lunar New Year celebration. I am pleased to have met people so easily.

My first thoughts on Singapore is that it is a clean, safe and friendly country. While it is generally more expensive than most of South East Asia, it is a fantastic starter city for the region. Most people speak English here and things are more accessible to foreigners because you can stay in a hotel in a format that people are accustomed to with all the comforts of home. And the food, well Singapore is a full of many different cultures so the food choices are endless.

After my tour I wander around a bit. I do go back to my hotel to rest but I force myself to go back out with the lure of the visiting the birthplace of the original Singapore Sling at the Long Bar at Raffles hotel. It is a popular spot on the tourist trail so there is usually a wait but luckily I don’t have to wait long. They have a machine that shakes the cocktails. They mostly shake them by hand these days but I do get to see the machine in action briefly. This is also the only place in Singapore where it is lawful to litter: you can throw your peanut shells on the ground.

After I decide to walk the water to get a view of Marina Bay Sands and other things in the area. I return in a couple days to see more. Being exhausted i find a place for a quick but not great dinner and then head to bed early.

First day = success.

Prambanan Temple

Prambanan Temple

After an amazing morning visit to the Borobudur temple I head over to the Prambanan temple closer to Yogyakarta in the afternoon. It is also a 9th century temple but this one is a Hindu temple. Not as impressive as Borobudur but still a nice temple to visit.

Prambanan is a UNESCO sight that happens to be the largest Hindu complex in Indonesia. Some bricks lay outside the main temple structures that must have been remnants of a 16th century earthquake that destroyed the temples. Restoration efforts started in the early 1900’s and continue to present day. Luckily they have restored a good part of the temples for us now to enjoy.

It is a warm beautiful day at the temples. The crowds are thicker here with school children and seemingly mostly local visitors.

It is at Prambanan temple that I started to realize how popular I am in Indonesia. I stand out pretty much every where I travel (I never do a great job at fitting in) but in Indonesia I really stand out. At places like Prambanan that doesn’t get as many western tourists I am a novelty. I am used to students in south east Asia wanting to speak with me to practice their English – I even welcome it. However in Yogyakarta it proved to be a little inconvenient, especially at these temples. There were so many groups of students and not as many of “me” types so I am constantly being stopped for school projects. Besides the students there are groups of males wanting to take pictures with me. It is flattering only to a degree but then I spent the rest of my visit literally hiding behind temples until the coast is clear to go exploring again. I know it sounds like I am exaggerating but the attention is excessive. Looking back maybe I could have made time for every group of students that wanted to talk with me, maybe not. At least I hope I am a positive representative of an American while I am a guest in the country.

One of the friendly groups of students I chatted with

Walking back to the park entrance I find these fun straw creatures being assembled nearby.

I’m beat after a long day of sightseeing so I head back to my hotel to rest up and get ready for a night food tour I have scheduled. Been a great day so far in Yogyakarta, looking forward to trying to new food.

Sunrise at Borobudur

One of the most popular things to see in Yogyakarta Indonesia is the Borobudur temple. This 9th century UNESCO temple is considered to be the largest Buddhist monument on Earth.

I am going to see it at sunrise.

Borobudur temple sunrise viewing is probably the best sunrise viewing I have ever witnessed.

I almost regretted this 3 am wake up call for sunrise but I am definitely glad I went to see it.

I tried to nap during the car ride to the temple. Everything is still pitch black when I arrive. I arrive at the main building to check in and retrieve a sticker to show I have paid admission. The plan is to head out to the temple to watch the sunrise then head back to the main building for a buffet breakfast.

It is off in the dark with a little flashlight to the temple.

I get up to the top of the temple and soon the sun starts sneaking up the horizon.

I find the dragonflies flying around the temple at sunrise charming. Someone tells me their life span is very short.

I actually had tears in my eyes watching the colors off in the distance against the shadow of the mountains. I have never cried at a sunrise before.

The sun puts light on the temple so gently.

After the sun rises I view the temple in full light.

It gets quiet in areas as the crowd dies down. It really is a peaceful experience.

I descend the temple to walk to the main building get my buffet breakfast. Not memorable but I enjoy the coffee (I am so addicted).

Temple from the bottom looks very different

Video of the experience….very sorry about it being vertical.

After breakfast we head out to another temple. I am definitely going to nap on the way!

Bali Silent Retreat Day 2

Bale for Yoga and meditation

We are given a warning gong in the morning to wake up and another to signify the start of meditation in the morning.

It is my first morning at the retreat and I missed the first gong – I must’ve slept through it. I hear the neighbors stirring and I don’t have much time until the second round goes off. I contemplate skipping meditation because it is 40 minutes long and I really don’t know what I’m doing but I go anyway. I never got around to buying yoga pants during my travels and show up in my PJ shorts and T-shirts. My attire seems to work out ok. Meditation is challenging since it has been a long while since I have last attempted meditating. During the class I sit there and pretty much do my own thing and I guess that is fine.

Next is yoga right after the meditation. I think about skipping out on that too but I stuck around. Luckily all the poses I have done before for the most part (Sun salutations, warrior poses). However I am out of shape so the poses are challenging enough. I sweat like a pig. There are no fans and no AC so it’s not the greatest for me. I run back to my room and shower before breakfast.

Breakfast is amazing especially the sourdough bread they provide every day however there is no coffee. How did I not notice that there would be no coffee or caffeine for three days? I’m going to die. I start looking at maps to see if there are any local coffee shops. It appears that there is nothing nearby. There is an optional temple tour coming up today so I table the issue. Maybe I’ll find Coffee near the temple. Except during our temple outing I left my money in the locker in the ashram🙁. It doesn’t matter since there was no where to buy coffee anyway.

We go to a temple where we see them prepare offerings. So much work goes into making little baskets and such.

Batu Karu temple


I come back from the temple tour and eat all the delicious lunch. I wish I would have taken a picture of the spread but I respected their wishes and kept my phone out of the kitchen.

The rest the afternoon is spent wandering the retreat, resting, writing in the journal and reading.

I read some more in the lodge until it darkens. I walk back to my room and prepare for bed. I hear some noises from around: talking in the distance, kids playing, birds, bugs, and some evil geckos. The water usage from the rooms around me seem to echo loudly in mine but I try to pay it no mind. I fall asleep soon enough.