I recently concluded my first international vacation with a few colleagues. We wandered off to Malaysia for 8 days solely because the flight tickets were much cheaper than traveling to a place locally. Boarding a total of 5 flights cost each of us Rs. 19000 (or ~$280 at the time). We relied on Skyscanner, AirBnB, Uber/Grab and HitList (highly recommended!) for travel and lodging for the most part of our trip.
In retrospect, the vacation turned out to be an epitome of liberation for me. I witnessed exotic sights, had scrumptious delicacies, stayed in lavish residences(thanks to AirBnB!), met some fantastic people and finally understood the definition of CHILLING.
The journey began by flying to Kota Kinabalu from Bangalore via Kuala Lumpur. Kota Kinabalu is a small city located in the Eastern part of Malaysia called Sabah. The day we landed here, it was pouring so heavily that you could literally observe the overpowering silence created by the massive smashing of rain to the ground. The city came across to me as sort of a retirement paradise. Pleasant weather, modern architecture, good restaurants/bars and picturesque islands at stones throw distance. Overall, it had a very laidback feel attached to it. I’d definitely settle here if I plan on taking a pause from life. Philosophical notions aside, Kota Kinabalu has umpteen number of speedboat services that ply from the Jesselton Jetty Point to a number of islands such as Manukan, Gaya, Sulug, Mamutik, and many more. You could either charter a boat and hop around all of them or hitch a service to any one of them. We zeroed-in on Manukan and tried out some snorkeling for the very first time.
While relaxing on the island, we started to get bewildered by the changing climate which eventually turned itself into a storm in a short span of time. The entire population present on the island started to rush towards the shacks to protect themselves from the sand, rain and falling trees. Vacant boats started to evacuate family crowd first. We were one of the last factions to leave the island. Call it fate, but the storm subsided as soon as we left the island. The video below(recorded by my colleague) shows the initial behavior of the storm. The storm became more violent after this and then eventually subsided.
I really wanted to trek Mount Kinabalu and give scuba diving a shot. Since we were short on time, we decided to explore the city instead. Personally, I’m not an ardent supporter of going to bars or visiting shopping areas or traveling within the city in general. But to maintain the fun quotient of your travel group, it’s important to please everyone’s interests. We hung mostly around the Suria Sabah Complex and Waterfront. Waterfront is a really beautiful place in the daylight and a place bustling with bars, pubs ,and discotheques when the sun settles. Decent place for moderately priced drinks and food.
The next day, I bid adieu to the most mellow city I’ve been to and boarded a flight to our next destination, Penang.
Penang is an old city with a load of historical backing. Penang isn’t as exciting as other places and is more of a family destination. Definitely, not meant for explorers or people who’re on a relaxed vacation. Won’t ramble much about Penang, since there wasn’t anything awe-striking to witness here. Regardless of that, we had a lot of fun renting out bikes and exploring George Town. Apart from that, we also visited the Penang Hill and the infamous Love Lane at night. The most exhilarating part of my stay here was my AirBnB accommodation. Simply magnificent. Have a look at the pictures and feel free to judge.
Next, we moved our human forms to Langkawi. Traveling via a sea-ferry that I’d easily term as the most disappointing water ride ever.
Langkawi is probably the third most popular tourist destination in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur and Tioman Island. We had to visit this place. Langkawi is split into 2 parts - Kuah and Pantai Cenang. We made a huge mistake by booking our accommodation in Kuah. Even though it was a lovely place, it was far from popular places such as the Langkawi SkyBridge, beaches of Pantai Cenang and various duty-free areas. Regardless, we hung around at Pantai Cenang most of the time. Clean beaches with shacks for cheap food and drinks, make-shift counters for trying out adventure sports, scenic sunset, refreshing sea breezes and an equally satisfying weather won us over despite Langkawi being flooded with tourists. Below, are the pictures of our accommodation with an infinity pool overlooking the sea and some views from the SkyBridge.
The absolute best part about visiting Langkawi was renting out a speedboat to visit places such as the Pregnant Lady Island, a lake where we encountered a creature similar to a Komodo Dragon, feeding the eagles in middle of the sea and relaxing at the most breathtaking beach that I’ve ever come across, the Pulau Beras Basah beach. This beach was literally pre-occupied by only about a dozen people when we arrived here. The water was crystal clear, the sand was white and you could see monkeys chilling next to your beach mat. The sea was just ankle-deep for about a 100 meters. You could also see ducks and swans drinking water and catching their meals from the sea. The island was pretty small though. Nothing much happened around here and we soon left after relaxing here for a bit.
After Langkawi, we spent a day in Kuala Lumpur before heading back to Bangalore. I’m not that excited to articulate my KL experience as it was pretty generic. Well, what can I say? City travel and nightlife seem quite meaningless to me. But we did visit some places such as the KL Bird Park, KL Tower, the famous VCR bakery and just walked around KLCC grabbing a bear and exploring the city. On a funny note, I developed a sugar rush which spoilt my entire night. Well, we liked VCR so much that we ended up ordering (and then eating) everything on the menu.
Embracing all the experiences collectively, I must say, it was a pretty solid trip that one can take using his savings from college. I enjoyed thoroughly and developed maturity as a traveler. My subsequent trips would follow a “Skip the cities. Embrace the nature.” approach. My next destination would be Vancouver. Let’s see how that turns out. Signing off with a Korean Bing Su that we devoured in Langkawi. Ciao!