Malaysia Madness: An Unexpected Journey

An overseas vacation can be one of the most magical times of your life. As you enter a world so different from what you are used to, you are swept away in the beauty of it all. The musical sounds of foreign languages add a relaxing tone to the mystical surroundings. Vacations abroad can deliver this and so much more. But in Malaysia, our vacation was far from utopian.

By 2010, the missus and I had seen most of Taiwan, so we decided to spend a week in Kuala Lumpur. We found a cheap hotel online, got a great deal on flights, and made our booking. In no time at all, we were off to mysterious Malaysia.

By the time we arrived at Hotel China Town Inn, it was minutes before midnight and we were exhausted. We were hoping to quickly check in and head to our room. But the receptionist quickly told us that our online booking did not go through and that no other rooms were available. After delivering the good news, she briskly walked away. If that doesn’t scream “Welcome to Malaysia”, I don’t know what does.

When we made it clear that we weren’t leaving, she made a call to a nearby partnering hotel. Fortunately, they had a room available. We grabbed our bags and walked through a crowded night market to Hotel China Town Inn (2). After stumbling into the sequel’s reception, we were checked in and quickly talked into buying two tour packages. With elephants and a boat trip to look forward to, we were in high spirits – until we saw our room…

It was the only room available that night and it was street-facing. All the noise from the night market below followed us up to our room. Despite how tired we were, we couldn’t sleep. We were able to change rooms the next morning thankfully, but because of a broken toilet, we had to change rooms again. Finally we were put in a quiet room with a working toilet. It had no windows or natural light of any kind, but there was a possibility of a good night’s sleep. Things were looking up!

Then the cash crunch hit. Although we were assured by our banks that our debit cards would work in Malaysia, they did not. We did exchange some Taiwanese Dollars for US Dollars before leaving Taiwan, but not enough to pay for a week in Kuala Lumpur. With our cash disappearing faster than we could say “tourist trap”, we were a little concerned. We were in a city where even using the restroom comes at a price. Hope came in the form of a Canadian Credit card which we had unknowingly brought with us. Once we realised that it worked, our vacation was back on track.

Our first tour brought us to a small zoo with an impressive collection of animals, including a sun bear. After a brief stop there (at most, 45 minutes), our tour bus headed towards the Elephant Sanctuary. Visitors were allowed to feed, ride, and even swim with the elephants. Unfortunately, there was a lot of waiting under the scorching sun. Shaded areas were very few and far between. Refreshments in the form of a juice pretending to have something to do with pineapple and coconut was on sale, but water is the only thing that can really quench a thirst, and there was little of that available.

The second tour guide was a lot friendlier and even took the time to talk to the people bringing him business. We were a very diverse group. With us were an Indian, a Chinese couple and another tourist from Japan. The Missus was able to translate for the Chinese couple, but no-one spoke Japanese. We felt bad for the elderly Japanese gentleman because of that, but he still seemed to have a good time.

The tour began at a street made famous by its monkey population. Casting all warnings given in ‘Planet of the Apes’ aside, we fed the monkeys. One would think that this kind of behaviour would be dangerous, and may even encourage the monkeys to start jumping on cars. And one would be right.

The tour bus headed off to a river where we were treated to a feast and a beautiful sunset. With full bellies, we were ferried onto a boat to see fireflies. Perhaps it was the wrong time of year for this. As the boat wound its way through the peaceful waters, we didn’t see too many fireflies. But with nature’s splendour surrounding us as the water gently rocked us, it was still a wonderful, tranquil evening.

Continued in Malaysia Madness: There and Back Again

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