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How to Travel to Three Countries for the Price of One.

August 25, 2011

There are so many countries on this side of the world I want to visit, each for unique and interesting reasons.   So when it was time to plan for summer vacation I had a tough choice ahead of me.   My adventurous eating buddy Britt and I decided to use two simple factors in the decision, good weather & cheap ticket prices.

The only budget airline operating out of Korea is Malaysian based, so the answer was Malaysia!  The only time I had heard of this country was from watching Anthony Bourdain, and since I remembered him loving the food there, I trusted this decision.  Little did I know, we were going to get so much more than we expected…and paid for.

Where is this place?

I expect not too many people can pin-point Malaysia on a map.  I understand this because I even had to look at one before buying the ticket.  🙂

Below Thailand and above Indonesia and Singapore lies Malaysia.  It stretches across the South China Sea onto the island of Borneo.  We chose to spend our entire trip on Peninsular Malaysia.

Our Trip Route

Here is a basic map of our route around Peninsular Malaysia.   Britt, Krista and I knew we wanted to go to great places and eat great food, visit amazing islands and spend some time with wildlife but the rest was created from suggestions from fellow travelers and locals.

The long distances were covered by one domestic flight (which we made by SECONDS, basically jumping onto the plane before take-off) and 2 overnight buses.

KL–>Georgetown, Penang–> Long Beach, Perhentian Islands –> Malacca (Melaka) —> Kuala Lumpur & surrounding area.

 So, how did I travel to three countries for the price of one?

Malaysia has a long and eventful history.  Indian and Chinese culture came as early as the 1st century AD, via trading ports.  Buddhism and Hinduism spread as a result.   From the 15th century, a Sultan’s son became a Muslim and began the spread of Islam in the area.  From then on Malaysia was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and then of course the British.   In 1957, the ethnically diverse state of Malaysia became independent from British rule.

Walking through the towns, smells of incense from the Buddhist temples filled our noses.  At the next street corner an Indian man is frying up samosas and curry spiced snacks at a hawker stall.  An Indian lady painted henna on our hands while Bollywood tunes were blaring through the streets of Little India.  At night, a Buddhist celebration broke out right before our eyes in a side street.  A huge fire was lit, paper was thrown in the air, and the ceremony welcomed the dead to come feast at the altar.  We continued on down the street to find traditional Malay men frying up noodles, pouring laksa and opening up coconuts to drink.  The food stands were full of Muslim woman covered from head to toe in the hijab attire.

Some days we had trouble finding a place to eat.  August is the month of Ramadhan when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk every day.  We would roam the town searching for curry, and instead opt for Chinese food seeing those restaurants were the only ones open.  In the hot humidity we visited a Hindu temple at the Batu caves.  The gold statue of the Hindu deity Murugan towers high above.  The we climbed up the many steps alongside many Indian women in their traditional attire to visit the shrines for the deity Shiva.  After leaving the area, my tank top and short jean shorts found themselves in a sea of fully covered Muslim women.

Malaysia is a place of beautiful and stark contrasts.   It seemed as if each and every culture and religion got along with ease.  In one day, I could immerse myself in Malay culture, then step inside India and also dabble in China.  I could visit a Buddhist temple in the morning, spot a Hindu shrine on my way to lunch, and after an afternoon cup of British tea (yes, they still have ‘tea time’ even with the British gone) I could stumble upon the one of the five daily prayers at a mosque.

The only exception to the above was found in the utopia of the Perhentian Islands.  On Long Beach (the backpacker beach on the smaller island) the island vibe and lack of ATMs, roads and even a town creates a place with no rules, no worries, and international beach bums.  Snorkeling during the day was followed by a nap on the beach in the afternoon.  A Thai green curry, TomYam, and lemongrass chicken was shared for dinner.  At night, the group of world nomads united on the candle lit beach to share in shi-sha and cocktails under the full moon.  We welcomed in a new day together by a dance party in the sand with fire dancers practicing in the distance….

With a place like this, many travelers just don’t leave.

Below is a gallery of some of my favorite pictures I took during the trip.

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Being gone for 6 months now, a few comforts from home feel pretty  far away.  Family, my closest friends and the simplest pleasures from life back home linger in my mind a little longer than usual now.   (The vast amount of free time this month could play a role as well).  Yet, I can’t be more thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given and the places I’ve seen so far.  Traveling around the world is one of the few things I’ve ever been certain about wanting to do.  17 countries and counting,  every country is more than just a stamp in the passport.  It is a cloth that washes away ignorance, it is a story that opens the mind….a  foreign footprint left somewhere in the sand.

Thanks again for reading, family & friends.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 7:21 pm

    what a great idea

  2. Dad permalink
    August 27, 2011 9:04 am

    Loved the blog ” Samantha”. Should I call the travel channel or will you. Get some rest. Love, Dad

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