Our school is located pretty far away from the metro. I originally thought that it was too far to walk to and that we would have to get a cab every day, but luckily one of my coworkers found a short cut that gets you there in about a 15-20 minute walk. While yes, that walk does lead you next to two sewer canals, it also lets you pass by this makeshift bookstore you see above. If books aren’t your thing, there are also multiple “wholesale” fruit trucks along the journey….as well as one random van that always seems to be distributing different products to another car. Not quite sure if what they’re doing is legal, but I’m not too concerned with asking.
My first day of school happened a lot quicker than I would have wanted. Due to issues with my visa, I got to China much later than I was originally planning. I was finally able to fly into SH late Friday night, when work started at 8am the following morning. I spent my short weekend trying to catch up on jet lag as well as find an apartment. I will say that while I did manage to find an apartment, I didn’t get much sleep.
When I first signed up for this position, I was signing up to work at a brand new school. When I interviewed last March, they were in the process of actually building the school from the ground up (in every way possible) and everything was going to be fresh and clean (as clean as you can get in China). Fast forward to a few months later, and two weeks before I’m set to leave for China, and my boss emails me to subtly inform me that our new campus isn’t even finished being built. Actually she didn’t even email me to specifically tell me this, she just slid it into conversation when talking about a different subject. So instead of having a nice, shiny new classroom all to myself, we will now be sharing a campus with another established school in SH. This is the campus where I had my interview, so I remembered that it wasn’t anything amazing. Not only is the campus incredibly far from any subway stop, they also only have squatting toilets in their offices…so things weren’t looking too bright for my career in Shanghai. While I may be able to handle taking a cab from the metro with a smile on my face, I do not enjoy squatty potties.
So things already weren’t off to a great start, but I tried to be optomistic and see what was in store for my next two year contract at this place. Since I was staying at my friend’s apartment in Pudong while I looked for an apartment, my morning commute to work was insane. The school campus is in the middle of nowhere Puxi, while Ali’s apartment is in the middle of nowhere Pudong. Complete opposite sides of the city, so my morning commute was going to be about 2 hours. With school starting at 8am, and not having slept the night before due to jet lag, I wasn’t looking forward to my first morning of school.
I woke up anyways and tried to put a smile on my face. While I had met a few of my future coworkers back in March when I interviewed, I was interested in seeing who my other remaining work-mates would be. When I showed up, I was able to meet those people, all of whom seemed really great. Our entire school is only compromised of 30 faculty and staff. About 10 people are in admin positions and the rest are teachers. Out of those 30, 11 of us are foreigners and the rest are local chinese staff. Everyone seemed upbeat and friendly and we were all excited to get the ball rolling on this whole new school year.
We had a little meet and greet/breakfast hour and then it was time to get down to business. And by business, I mean an hour long meeting just going over the schedule for the day. Literally. A meeting that lasted an entire hour just explaining the agenda for the day. Not actually doing it. Just talking about doing it. While I thought it was a little crazy at the time, I was willing to give it a chance. I thought I was just bored and confused due to jet lag, but little did I know….that was just one of the hundreds of pointless random meetings that we would be having that week and throughout the year. (Apparently the Chinese like to talk a lot and never actually do anything…which I would learn in the weeks to come while working here.) Like I said before, a majority of our staff are local Chinese. While some of them speak great english, most of them can’t speak a word of it beyond hello. (Similar to the equivalent of how much Chinese I know). Also, the school we’re sharing a campus with is strictly a Chinese public school, so nobody there speaks english as well. So the entire week, and weeks to come, all meetings are either bilingual (meaning twice as long as a normal meeting) or all in Chinese with someone typing a “translation” on a projector screen.
The principal at the school we’re sharing a campus with is really great. He is super well respected in the city and has an awesome attitude. (He only speaks Chinese so I haven’t been able to personally witness his amazingness, but I’ll take the word of my Chinese speaking coworkers.) Because we’re sharing the school with them, and also partnering with them next year even when we do have our own campus, he led our second meeting of the day to welcome us. Because he only speaks Chinese, the meeting was only in Chinese. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a meeting in China before, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The prinicpal talked for 3.5 hours straight. Again, literally. I wish I was exaggerating. That was the meeting. He had about 12 typed pages and basically just gave a speech.There was no participation from the “audience”, not even a PPT to make it more colorful. Just him talking for 3.5 hours without taking a breath. While he was speaking, someone was supposedly translating his words for us on the projector, but it wasn’t coming out well. If what the translator was typing was true, the principal was just talking about how our new school is going to be good because we have good teachers and that this school will be good and we will work hard and He likes that our school will be a good place to be and it will be good and we have good teachers and things will be good. I was almost bored to death…to actual dying, so I looked around at everyone else in the hopes of staying awake and noticed that there were at least 3 other coworkers that were actually sleeping at that point. Sitting up in their chair, yes. But awake….definitely not.
Again, this was just the foreshadowing for what the rest of the week and probably what the rest of my China life would be. Luckily, we were able to break for lunch at this point. I typically don’t eat in school cafeterias, but because I didn’t have time to sleep my first weekend back, let alone go grocery shopping, I decided to eat my first meal on the school campus like everyone else. (The meal was also free, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.) The cafeteria at the school is a three story building with different options on all levels. All of those options are Chinese food, but options none the less. To my surprise, the food was actually really good! Nothing like the crap you find back in the public schools in the states. Yes, some things were fried, but there were no french fries, pizza, or “chicken sandwiches” to be found. We also got a massive chunk of watermelon to go with our meal, so I was a happy camper.
A happy camper that is until it was time to go back to our meetings. The next meeting was from another Chinese speaking admin from the other school, so the translation was projected on the screen. While this meeting felt like 3 hours as well, I think it was only 1 and a half. 1.5 hours talking solely about the IT of the school. Not telling us about the new software programs we’ll be using and online grading systems, just TALKING about IT. According to the translation, he was talking about internet speed and the fact that we’ll be given internet throughout the year. And it’s nice that we’ll have internet and the speed might be an issue, but we’ll have internet. Again, just talking and talking about the same thing over and over again, for no apparent reason. My english version of that same meeting would be a 5 minute talk saying, “The internet at the school will be incredibly slow because we’re in China. Good luck dealing with that. We have people at school who are supposed to help you with your IT needs, but they really don’t know what they’re doing and will just waste your time. Good luck dealing with that as well.” End meeting. Actually, that wouldn’t even be 5 minutes. I could have saved 1 hour and 44 minutes of the school’s time if they would have let me lead the meeting. I could have even google translated that ish to have it be bi-lingual. Maybe next year they’ll give me the honors.
So if you can tell, day one wasn’t the most exciting day of my life. The only plus side of the situation is that my coworkers really did seem great. In the few break times we had throughout the day and at lunch, it was great starting to get to know them and hear their stories. What I’ve found with most of the expats in China that I’ve met is that we’re all like-minded. I think you have to be to some extent to just uproot your life at “home” and move to a foreign country. While we all definitely have our differences, there are things that tie us together, and I think those things are what’s going to make it a good group of people to work with. I hope so at least!
Getting back to Shanghai felt like I was coming home. I was a little surprised that it felt that way, but I’m happy it did. I was happy to be back to the chaos and strangeness that has become my life. (I was also happy to have a job and an upcoming paycheck after not having one for about 5 months).
I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing friend in SH named Ali, that let me store all my belongings at her and her husband’s house this summer while I was away. They also head back to the states for the summer, so they were adamant that it was no problem to take up their guest room with my things while they were away. They weren’t coming back to Shanghai until a few weeks after my arrival, so they were also generous to offer their house to me to live in my first few weeks back to town. This was so helpful for many reasons, but mainly because I would have had to had booked a hotel for my first few days in town while I apartment hunted as quickly as possible. Staying at their place was not only amazingly comfortable and homey, but it also gave me the freedom to take my time apartment hunting in order to find the best house I could for the year.
If you read any of my posts last year, apartment hunting in Shanghai is a big’ ol’ biatch. There are actually some amazing apartments in this city, but they’re only available to people with an unlimited income. The remaining apartments are either completely disgusting and tiny, or incredibly hard to find. To search for apartments here, you can use an agent, similar to how you would back in the states when buying a house. I had the numbers of some agents, but also looked online in the mean time at some house postings on craigslist and smart shanghai. I found an apartment online that met my price requirements and looked pretty good in the pictures. The craigslist post where I found the apartment was labeled, “Brand new decorated, modern design”. I made an appointment with the agent to see the apartment the next day. When I got there, I found out that this is what the kitchen looks like….
"Modern design" my ass. Needless to say, apartment hunting in Shanghai is not one of my favorite past times.
I proceeded to call around to a few more agents to try to find a place to live. “Hey lady. What are your rekwiments?” I would tell them what I needed and made it very clear to not waste my time on shitty apartments.
The 2nd apartment I went in was a little better. The agent showed the house to me, but also brought two friends along as well. One of the two dudes blatantly took my picture when I came into the house. He tried to disguise it like he was taking a picture of the kitchen, but was not very smooth. While I’m used to random people asking to take my picture here, I wanted to give him a hard time so I asked, “Did you just take my picture?” He immediately clammed up and said (surprisingly in English) “I’ll delete it!… Actually, you’re not even in it.” I told him that if he would have asked, I would have at least smiled.
I went around to a few more apartments but didn’t see anything I loved. There was finally one apartment that I liked, but it was in a neighborhood a little farther than I wanted. I decided not to take it and went downstairs to head to the next apartment. Before even leaving the compound, I realized that the apartment was actually pretty awesome and a good price and that being in a new neighborhood wasn’t a bad thing. I told the agent that I changed my mind and now wanted it and asked if we could we go back upstairs to confirm with the landlord. Literally 2 minutes later we were back upstairs, but found out that the landlord had just rented out the apartment to someone else. Literally 2 minutes too late for finding a nice apartment in this city.
The following day I made an appointment with a different agent to check out some houses. Again, we went to a different neighborhood than I originally wanted, but at this point, I wasn’t too picky. The agent met me at the nearest metro station and we were going to walk to the apartment together. Now, looking back at the experience, there were so many signs I should have followed during this experience, but chose to ignore them. For one, the agent was really annoying. Not only was she wearing one of those fake bun/weave things to try to cover up her graying hair, but her voice also was the equivalent to fingernails on a chalkboard. I tried to look past her annoying personality and just keep my mind open and send positive vibes to my potential new apartment we were about to look at. We get to the apartment only to find out that the landlord isn’t there yet. We had an appointment at six, but when the agent called him, he said he’d be there in 10 minutes. At 6:15, he’s still not there. At 6:30, he says he’ll be there in 10 more minutes. I have no idea why I waited. I think I was really holding out hope that this was the place for me. It was a brand new building in a really clean complex, so I had high expectations. When the landlord finally does show up, we head upstairs to see the apartment. He opens the door and the apartment is AWESOME! It’s brand new, spacious, and has everything I would want in a place. I decided that it was worth the wait and I quickly decided to not pass it up. I told my agent I would take it if he would knock 500rmb off the asking price and add a new coffee table and dining room table. After about 20 minutes of negotiating in Chinese with me just sitting there watching, the landlord finally agreed to my price and said I could have the apartment. I was thankful to finally have the apartment hunting process over and was happy to start planning my next trip to IKEA to get all the extra things I would need to make the apartment feel more like a home. While the process isn’t fun, I guess it’s just something you have to endure to find a place to call home in this crazy city.
How I felt being back home with easily accessible “normal” food. #Tacos4life
(I may regret posting this, but I’m sure I’ll get over it soon.)
The pictures above were taken about 375 days apart from each other, at the end of the summer on the way to airport before flying to Shanghai. Let’s just say year number 2 in Asia is already off to a better start than last year.
While I was home this summer, I had my 29th birthday and to be honest, it freaked me out a little bit. While most of my friends are already in their 30’s or more, I never realized that it would happen to me as well. While I’m definitely looking forward to that next chapter, I realized I’m not quite ready to close the chapter on my 20’s just yet. I feel like I need to have a few more stories to tell about my 20’s before I move on, so I’m trying to make most of the next 12 months.
I know I’ve wasted a lot of my time in the past decade and a lot of that time was wasted on not being healthy. So I made a “last year resolution” to try to remedy that. While it’s similar to what we all try to do around New Year’s, I didn’t want to wait until January to start, and I didn’t want it to fizzle out like most of those “promises” to yourself usually do. So for my last year, I “promised” to get healthy and stay healthy, because I know it only gets harder the older you get. My bones are already creaking if I sit a certain way, so what am I going to do when I’m 60 if I don’t start now? I also promised to live each day to fullest and not sit around and wonder what could be. I promised to go out more (and I’m not talking about to the bars). I just meant to go out and do things and see people and have experiences that will then become those stories I will remember forever. And I promised to be more honest and open. Whether that’s by letting my friends and family know how much I love them and by staying in contact, or by not making excuses for the things I don’t want to do or for the things that I do choose to do.
We are only given one life and I don’t want to look back and see that I wasted mine. I’m definitely looking forward to a year from now when I can see what that 3rd picture looks like and look back on my time well spent.
Wish me luck.
The life I’m currently living is not one that I ever imagined for myself. If you would have told me 5 years ago what my life would look like today, I wouldn’t have believed you. But while it might not have been what I expected, I know it’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I’m not just talking about China. I’m talking about all the things in between. This year I’ve learned that my plans are not important, and if this life was left up to just me….it would not be a great one. I’m thankful to have God by my side in all my decision making processes because He has opened so many amazing doors that I could have never dreamt up on my own.
When I was home this summer, I had a fun time looking through old family photos and little keepsakes in a box under my bed. I found some pretty awesome stuff, and some stuff that I can’t believe I held on to for so long (like a Susie Zoo sticker collection for example). Among those things, I also found this paper I wrote awhile ago. (And by paper, I mean paragraph, because that’s long enough in elementary school.)
There are many many things wrong with this paragraph….which is what makes it so great. First of all, I’m pretty sure I didn’t write this when I was 3. I don’t remember being that bad at math growing up, but apparently I was. I actually have no idea when I really wrote this, but I’m assuming I wasn’t in high school yet.
Unless you know nothing about my current life stage, you will know that nothing in that paper came true. And I’m totally ok with that! If that was my life at 23, I would have missed out on so many other amazing experiences that I’ve been fortunate to have. While yes, I still do want to eventually get married and have a family, I can still have my “happily ever after” without all that right now. I know it would make my Grandma incredibly happy if I would just get married already, and my mom would be happy with a few grandchildren by now, but that’s not that path I took. The path I am on though is a great one and I haven’t been this happy in awhile. It took me awhile to figure it out, but once you stop waiting for your life to happen, you can finally realize that it has been happening this entire time and it can be pretty amazing if you let it.
While I could have kept traveling South East Asia probably for the rest of my life, the thought of coming home was getting me incredibly excited. I’m sure my neighbors on the plane ride back thought I was crazy because I couldn’t stop smiling. I was obviously stoked to come home and see my friends and family, eat “normal” food, and be as far away from China as possible, but I could have never imagined how great it really was to be home. The reality of my All-American summer far exceeded my expectations.
For starters, I woke up almost every morning to the view in the picture above. That totally justifies a $1000 plane ride, right? I very openly admitted that I missed the dogs in my life more than most of the humans. But being able to snuggle with a cute, clean puppy every morning was something I missed more than I thought I would.
Reason #2 I was stoked to be home was because just about everyone I know either got married or had a baby in the year that I was gone. I started my first few weeks home being able to finally meet my bff, Brooke’s, sweet baby boy. She did a great job of having him less than 3 weeks before I made it back to the states. While I’m now going to miss the next (too many) months of his life, I’m glad I at least got to be there for the first few.
Being away for so long definitely lets you clearly see who your real friends are and how much you love them. There are people in my life that I know will be with me forever, and have proved that year after year. This year though surprised me in some cases. Some friends that I thought would make more of an effort didn’t, and some that I never would have expected stepped up to the plate and made me feel loved all the way across the world. That being said, some of my favorite people to hang with this summer were my old coworkers. While I completely adored them when we worked together, I never thought that they would be the ones that I would stay in contact with the most this year and the ones I would be the most stoked to see in my few months back. I’m so thankful we got to spend the summer drinking wine together and/or going to baseball games around VA. I thought about trying to smush them in my suitcase back to China, but I decided I’ll just value our emails and facetimes instead.
Summer of Love 2014 was also awesome because I got to spend some quality time with one of my favorite women in the world. My one and only Grandma is probably my main inspiration for traveling the world in the first place. While she seems to be the one that misses me the most when I’m away, I probably wouldn’t be living abroad without her love and motivation. She was very eager to catch up in person to hear about my adventures, but I ended up stealing most of our time together because I wanted to hear her tell me about HER adventures. Not only is she still a live wire at the age of 88, but she has also spent the majority of those years living life to the fullest and traveling all over the world. For example, when she was in her 80’s, she packed up and went to Thailand for 3 weeks with a bunch of her girlfriends. If that’s not motivation to live each day to the fullest, than I don’t know what is. If she can do it, so can I.
I mean just look at her house… You feel like you’re already in Asia without even having to pack. It would have been crazy if I didn’t end up there myself.
Summer was also awesome because I got to spend more quality dog time with my main squeeze, Sammygirl…
Hang out with my amazing Sis, Brother-in-law, and dog Nephew, Moose…
I was also able to spend a lot of time in the OBX. While this is my usual summer past time, I realized this year that this is probably my favorite beach in the entire world…even if it is only 2 hours away from my hometown. There were many times this year that I realized there was no place in the world I would rather be than Southern Shores. While I’ve definitely been to more beautiful beaches in the world, this is the one I love most.
I mean what’s not to love? You can find some pretty people there….
And see some pretty sunsets…
I never thought that I’d want to live in the OBX year round, but after living in a place like Shanghai for awhile, I can definitely imagine myself living there a little way down the road.
After the beach it was back to Williamsburg to take full advantage of it’s sites. (And by sites, I mean the Cheese Shop and sno-to-go.) While my “snowball” wasn’t as good as I was remembering, it still hit the spot. And the deliciousness of Cheese shop obviously goes unsaid. I wish they had frequent flier cards there because I definitely would have racked up a free sandwich or two this summer.
While I missed a ton of my best friend’s weddings this year, I made it home just in time to see one of my oldest friends get married.
I got to hang out with some of my favorite dudes of all time…
And see my bff, Lauren! She made her way back to VA from Colorado at just the right time.
My other BFF, Melissa, made her way back from Florida as well! While I like to pretend they both came back home just to see me, you can tell in the pictures above and below that their main focus was probably that adorable kid that they were holding and who they were able to meet for the first time this summer.
Like I said before, everyone I know either had a baby or got married while I was away.
(Those are all different people’s babies in the pictures above!!! What on earth?!!) My favorite “baby experience” happened right before I was leaving though. This year my friend, Colleen, told me she was preggers with her second child. Her due date was set for the middle of August, which was well after I was already meant to be in Shanghai. I joked all summer asking her to just push him out a little early. While she would have happily agreed, it was definitely impossible with her baby due date and my due date to be back in China. I was able to make it to her baby shower and hang out with her family a few times before leaving, so I was happy to have at least that. After we had said our goodbyes, I ended up having some issues with my visa and I was stuck in Virginia for longer than expected. While this was really annoying at first, it ended up being perfect timing in the long run. On my last night in Williamsburg, after finally getting the go ahead on my visa, I got a text from Colleen saying she was in labor in the hospital. I was set to drive up to DC the next morning and fly out the following day, but luckily Colleen lives in Richmond (and delivers babies quickly), so I was able to see her on my way out of town! Holding a less than 12 hour old baby was probably one of the coolest things I did all summer. I couldn’t decide if I should have been incredibly happy about the situation, or actually pissed that I got to meet sweet baby Gannett in the first place. If she didn’t have him until I after I left, I wouldn’t have been able to see how amazing he was. Now that I know he’s wonderful, I’m going to miss him even more.
After meeting the last of the babies and saying goodbyes to my family in Williamsburg and friends in Richmond, I was off to DC for my last two days of America life. I tried to soak up as much quality time with both my sister and Target as possible. (I probably went to Target 30 times since I was home. Don’t ever take Target for granted people!)
While the whole thought of moving back to Shanghai for year number two seemed much easier than the initial move last year, saying goodbye to the people you love never gets easy. By the end of summer, I was really ready to move back to China and start my life there again, but at the same time, I didn’t want to leave the states. I wasn’t nervous to leave, but my last day in town was a little overwhelming. I got some bad news from a friend that I love and the thought of leaving him was heartbreaking. Living overseas has been a life changing, amazing experience. There are definitely hard times though when you miss out on things back “home” and can’t be there for the people that mean the most to you…or can’t have them be there for you.
After such an amazing summer, right before I left, it hit me that I was crazy to be leaving such an amazing life here. While my brother in law tried to persuade me of this all summer, I knew there was no turning back. My same friend with the bad news reminded me that love can cross oceans and that you don’t need to be physically next to a person to “be there”. I went to Great Falls before my flight, which is a beautiful view near my sister’s house, to get a little clarity and fresh air before leaving. I said a few prayers and set a few intentions for the following year and for the people I was leaving behind. Like I said, saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s getting easier at least because I know I’m exactly where I need to be. It’s not the place I would have ever imagined myself to be, but I know it’s right and I’m excited to start this next adventure.
So long story short, THANK YOU to everyone who hung out this summer and filled me with enough love and light to get me through the next year or two across the world. It would not be as exciting without you.
I knew I couldn’t go to Borneo without seeing the rainforest, so my last full day in KK was planned around that. I got picked up by a driver to take the “canopy walk” tour around Borneo. The first stop on the trip was Mt. Kinabalu. We didn’t get to actually hike the mountain, but we were dropped off at an awesome viewpoint to see it’s peak. We got there at the perfect timing because about 10 minutes after we arrived, clouds started rolling in and completely blocked the view of the mountain after I snapped a few photos. If I have any desire to be a mountain climber in another life, I can imagine coming back here to hike Kinabalu. I’m sure it was even more amazing once you got a little closer.
The real reason I was on the trip though was to see the rainforest, so I happily got back in the car and headed to the final destination. The rainforest wasn’t really what I was expecting, but it was still pretty sweet.
After hiking for about 20 minutes up the mountain, you reach the canopy walkway.
I don’t know what I was expecting of the canopy, but whatever those expectations were flew out the window and I was just scared shitless. I didn’t think the walkway would be scary, I just thought it would be awesome. I was definitely wrong. The picture above was the only picture I took while on the walkway because I was too scared to take my hands off the ropes. Only 6 people were allowed on the canopy at a time and that was about 5 too many for my taste. With other people on the same, small, skinny, rickety, wooden plank as you, the whole thing shakes precariously and it’s hard to keep your balance. Even if it was perfectly still, I would have probably been a little scared, but add 5 strangers to the mix, and you don’t know if you’re going to make it out alive. I did though…make it out alive. And I became a better person afterwards. It was definitely awesome, but one of those awesome experiences you only enjoy after it’s over and you’re on solid ground again.
My flight was scheduled to leave late that night to head back to the states, so after we finished the canopy walk, we headed back to the hotel to pack up all my belongings (and hope they still fit in my backpack.) Before heading to the airport, I stopped at the mall to get a bite to eat.
Right outside the mall was a rundown building with a bunch of random graffiti.
While none of it was amazing, I found the perfect stencil on one of the pillars right before it was time to leave.
Peace out, Asia. It has definitely been real.
America, I. CAN. NOT. WAIT. TO. SEE. YOU!!!!!
After the Perhentian Islands, it was off to the final destination of my Asian adventures. Kota Kinabalu was the last stop on my trip before heading home to America. I had heard about the wonders of Borneo for awhile now, but never imagined I would actually go. It’s crazy to look back at my life only a few years ago. I never would have thought I would be where I am today, or have as many experiences under my belt. That being said, I was so stoked to add Borneo on my list of places visited. I’m not sure if I was excited to be here, or just excited to know that this was my last stop before seeing my friends and family again. Either way, I tried to soak up the experience as much as possible before I had to catch my final flight.
KK itself doesn’t have the most amazing beaches. The one pictured above is Tanjung Aru Beach, the main public beach and about the best you’ll get on the island. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was at least expecting the water to be a little clearer. Either way, I set up shop on the beach for the day. I was one of about 3 people on the mile long stretch of beach. I was happy to have some peace and quiet, but quickly realized I wasn’t truly alone. There was a whole colony of tiny crabs all along the beach and they were making this incredible landscape in the sand. While I’ve seen crabs dig holes in the sand before, I’ve never seen anything like this. The tiny little crabs work all day to dig up these holes and scoop out little sand balls all over the place. I’m assuming there were thousands of these crabs doing work, because the entire beach was covered.
I watched the crabs, read my book, took a nap, and swam for awhile. Because the beach was so empty though, it got a little boring after awhile. I was planning on staying until sunset though because this was supposedly the best view on the island. Unfortunately about an hour before the sunset, a storm started to roll in, so I decided to leave before I got drenched.
While the beaches on KK itself proved to not be too amazing, you can take a 20 minute speed boat from the jetty port on the island and find yourself in another amazing world. There’s a series of about 5 islands off the coast of KK that you can easily get to. You can hop around each island, or choose one and stay there for the day. I was getting sick of boat rides, so I decided to go to Sapi island and stay there for the day. There wasn’t anything to do on the island besides hang out on the beach, but that’s all I ever want to do anyways, so I was perfectly content. The water here was see through and perfect.
Once you make it past the first set of painful rocks, the water deepens and you can swim around freely. While I’m sure having an actual mask and snorkel would have helped, I could see the fish perfectly clear from top of the water.
After a few hours here, the boat came to pick us back up and bring us back to KK. It’s crazy that we were only 20 minutes away and the water and scenery was so different. We had perfect timing though, because right after we docked and I jumped in a cab, it started pouring. Apparently it’s a theme in Malaysia to start raining right before sunset. I headed back to my hotel to wait out the rain and make my final plans for my last day in Malaysia.
After KL, it was off to the Perhentian Islands. When you google “best beaches in the world” (which I do pretty often), this is a place that usually shows up. The islands were a quick plane ride away from KL and well worth the time spent to get here. When you get off the plane, you take about an hour taxi drive to the jetty port. You then get on a large speed boat with a bunch of people and head to your island. I didn’t take a picture to prove it, but the water on the ride to the island was a shade of blue I’ve never seen before. It was absolutely amazing and I started to get really excited. Like I mentioned before, I didn’t really like Kuala Lumpur, so being on the water quickly washed any of those previous anxieties away. When you start getting closer to your island (there were two options), another smaller boat pulls up to the side of the bigger boat in the middle of the ocean. You throw your bag into the boat and try to climb in yourself without tipping the whole thing over. The boat then pulls up right to the shore and you climb out onto the beach and walk to your hotel.
Before I walked too far, I realized that they took me to the wrong island. I actually didn’t even remember which of the two islands I was supposed to be on, but luckily they are both tiny, so everyone knows where everything is. I told them I was staying at the Perhentian Island resort, so they told me to get back in the boat, and they took me 5 minutes away to the correct island.
The Perhentian Islands are the closest I think I’ll ever get to a deserted island. There is nothing to these small islands besides a few resorts. The resorts themselves are bare bones also. They have electricity, for the most part, and a restaurant, but that’s about all. Luckily I was just there for some R&R and beach time, because those were my only two options. I think the second island might have had some bars to go to, but the one I was staying at had nothing. I was totally ok with it, but I’m glad I wasn’t expecting anything more. There aren’t even ATMS anywhere on either of the islands, so you have to bring everything with you that you need. It now makes sense that the people on the boat with me when we first arrived were carrying bags of groceries with them on the boat.
The island was beautiful and I’ve never experienced anything like the adventure of being there. Like I said, I felt like I was on a deserted island. The water was crystal clear. There was a ton of coral on the ocean floor and the water was really shallow, so it made swimming a little difficult, but if that’s all I had to complain about, then I’ll shut up.
The sunsets here were breath taking and life didn’t seem real while I was there. Unfortunately, I was only there for two nights, but I was ok with that. It was so remote, and I was traveling alone, so I was happy to move on to the next location. While the beach was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been on, having only such a short time there made me really appreciate where I was, knowing that I probably would never be back.
After leaving Cambodia, my next stop was Malaysia. I flew into Kuala Lumpur and stayed for about 48 hours before leaving to other parts of the country. While I won’t rehash all the details, KL was not my favorite place I’ve ever been. I didn’t have the best feeling here and actually felt a little uncomfortable at times. Nothing detrimental happened, but I’ve definitely had better travel experiences. I did cross off the two things on my to-do list while here though. One…see the twin Petronas towers. And two…go to the Batu Caves.
The caves were about a 20 minute cab ride out of town. While Cambodia’s temples were mostly Buddhist, this site in Malaysia was Hindu. (Most people in Malaysia are Muslim though, so I guess you can get everything here.) The gold shrine at the entrance to the caves is one of Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war. It’s the largest sculpture of this “god” in the world, and I have really never seen anything like it. I don’t think the picture does this place justice. That statue is huge.
The only thing I knew about these caves before coming here is that there was a huge Hindu sculpture and a shit ton of stairs. I don’t know why I willingly came to this place knowing that I was going to get a workout just to get to the entrance, but it was worth it. Luckily Malaysia wasn’t as hot as Cambodia, so it wasn’t as painful as I was expecting to walk up a few flights of stairs. 272 stairs to be exact, but who’s counting. About half way up the stairs, a man stopped me and pointed towards my necklace. He didn’t speak English, but I could tell he was motioning me to take off my necklace. I did as I was told and didn’t ask any questions. The second I got to the top of the stairs, I realized why he said that. There was a group of kids in front of me all wearing lanyards to show they were a part of a group. Right when they reached the top, a monkey swooped down and grabbed a little girl’s lanyard right from her neck and ran away. I couldn’t help but laugh, but I was also really thankful that it wasn’t my necklace that went missing.
When you get to the top of the stairs, you get to enter the caves and walk around. You had to watch your step while exploring because not only were there monkeys all around , but there were also a ton of birds pooping everywhere. It was also a cave, if you didn’t realize, so there were random droplets of who knows what falling from the ceiling.
The caves were beautiful though. I couldn’t figure out how to take good pictures here, so what you see is what you get. Just take my word for it that there was much more to this place than what I’m giving you.
It was a smaller space than expected, but I was happy with what I saw. There were a ton of random Hindu sculptures embedded in the cave walls.
I held closely to my belongings because I wanted to leave with the same amount of things that I came with. Luckily most of the monkeys were too preoccupied with their food to bother me. There was a worker there that kept the monkeys in check though by screaming at them and batting them away with a stick if they got too close to the visitors. I learned to love that guy, even though we weren’t formally introduced.
On the walk up, I was so preoccupied with the task of actually making it up the stairs alive that I didn’t even turn around to see the view. Luckily I got to see it before heading back down to the entrance gate.
Going down the stairs was even harder than the climb up. Not the physical aspect of it, but because all of a sudden there were far more monkeys to bombard than before. (Or maybe I just didn’t notice them as much on the way up.) Luckily, they tended to jump out at the people in front of me, so I missed any actual run ins. It was probably the most stressful part of my trip. But if bombarding monkeys was the most difficult part of my adventure, I think I should be pretty thankful.
While I’m not a fan of monkeys (if you can’t tell), it was hard to think that the image above was not cute. I didn’t want to test the abilities of an overprotective mother monkey, so I used the zoom feature on my camera to take this. I made it down the stairs unscathed, and headed back to the hotel to finish my last night in KL.