My trip to Malaysia and Thailand was: incredible, eye-opening, an adventure, laid back. But, most of all it really opened my eyes to all the corners of the world that I've still yet to see but have since made high priority to visit in the near future.
I started my trip in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where most notably the food was amazing. I loved Chinatown where vendors were packed in so tightly and you could buy fresh mango for almost nothing. Near to KL are the Batu Caves, a collection of limestone caves and Hindu temples. There are 272 steps leading into the main cave; even in 35° weather, every step was totally worth seeing what was at the top.
Chinatown - Jalan Petaling Street -Malaysia
The Batu Caves - this is a statue of the Hindu Lord Murugan,
and stands 140 feet tall, in front of the main cave.
My next destination, just 2 hours south of KL, was Melaka. Melaka is most famous for its beautiful town square as well as its various monuments around the city dedicated to its colonial past. I spent only a sort time here, but loved sitting by the Melaka River and (again) enjoying some of the most delicious food ever. Also lots of wandering around and following a map checking out all of the various historical buildings scattered around the city.
"A Famosa" built by the Portuguese during their
occupation of Melaka. A bit of a hike, again, but totally worth it.
The famous town square and the rickshaw pick-up spot (see next picture)
The most common mode of transportation in Melaka is by rickshaw: a bicycle that pulls a 2-wheeled cart which seats up to 2 people. It was very popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the municipal government of Melaka now subsidizes Rickshaw drivers in order to preserve this important part of Melaka's history. I think it says a lot about the city that this is the most common mode of transportation - Melaka is laid-back, dedicated to it's historical roots, and also (unlike the rest of SE Asia) acutely aware of the importance of preserving the environment.
Next on my itinerary was Pulau Langkawi, a small island in the north of Malaysia, right near the Thai border. Both KL and Melaka have no beaches, and it felt weird to me to be in such a hot place but nowhere near the ocean - needless to say, I was very excited to get to "some of the most beautiful beaches in Malaysia" (Lonely Planet). After spending the night on a 12 hour bus to get to the ferry terminal, waiting 2 hours for the ferry in Kuala Perlis, and spending another hour on the ferry, Langkawi did not disappoint. Compared to the rest of the beaches I visited in Thailand, Langkawi was, in a way, understated - it was beautiful up to the point where it wasn't a huge tourist destination. Everywhere else I went was so ridiculously beautiful that the rest of the world had caught on, and was there too. Langkawi, my favourite part of my whole trip, was laid-back, small, friendly, and CHEAP! In 4 days I think I probably spent only $100; my hostel (simple but definitely passable) was $5/night, and we could eat like kings for another few dollars. I met some great people on Langkawi, some of whom are also teachers in Korea! We managed to explore the whole island in a few days. In the north we went to a place called "7 Wells", with 7 beautiful, big pot holes for swimming; a great waterfall/swimming hole; and took a ride on a cable car to the top of a mountain with a great view of the whole island. On my last day we hired a boat to take us "island hopping". We went to a fresh water lagoon which was beautiful but totally ruled over by vicious monkeys that stole our snacks for the day, and a number of other islands that were thankfully monkey-free.
The 7 Wells
Cable car ride which was actually more like a roller coaster
Our preferred mode of transportation on Langkawi
Ok so I realize that I'm only 9 days into my trip and this post is excessively long already, so from now my re-caps will be shorter, promise!
After a solid 26 hours of traveling I met up with some fellow Jeollanamdo english teachers in Koh Phangan for the infamous Full Moon Party! One word: Crazy. Absolutely Crazy. 15,000 people drinking various liquor concoctions out of buckets, partying on a beach until well past the sunrise.
One of the best parts of Koh Phangan was the clifftop bar
we went to the night after the Full Moon Party. It seems like everywhere we went
involved a steep hike/many stairs, but always so worth it in the end.
Just a short, 20 minute ferry ride away was my next destination - the neighboring island of Koh Samui. Koh Samui is famous for its posh resorts and deluxe spas, unfortunately none of which I frequented. However, the atmosphere was noticeably calmer than that of Koh Phangan, and for that I was thankful. Unfortunately I was sick with what must have been the flu for most of the time I was on Samui, but I did manage to sneak in some time at the beach and a few massages before I was bed-ridden.
Just one of the many beautiful resorts on Koh Samui.
Unfortunately my hostel was just a few stars short of this luxury.
After Samui, I crossed the peninsula and arrived in Phuket, on the west of the Andaman coast. Phuket was loud, touristy, busy, and everything that is great in small doses. I spent a few days here soaking up the sun on the crowded beach and enjoying both the diverse people and the sights. Phuket is home to many "ladyboys" (cross-dressers or transgendered people) which made for a great cultural experience.
The busy streets of Phuket
The preferred mode of transportation in Phuket:
scooter and Tuk Tuk (taxi-trucks for hire)
Amazing, amazing street food in Phuket - this guy
is making me a banana/coconut crepe
Next up was the gorgeous island of Koh Phi Phi. As I mentioned before, this is one of those places that is absolutely stunning, and the whole world has caught on to its beauty. Even so, the crowded streets were all part of the island's charm and the tiny, brickwork trails that tie the island together (no cars on this island!!) are so small that it would be hard for it not to be crowded. I spent a lot of time on the beaches here, since it was too hot to do anything else. I also went on a boat tour that took us to the famous "Maya Bay" where the movie "The Beach" was filmed. Some of the bluest water and white sand I have ever, ever seen.
On the boat to Phi Phi
The southern beach (the island is so small that the northern beach is
only about a 5 minute walk away)
My daily lunch: roasted corn on the cob and a fruit smoothie.
Another treacherous yet entirely worth-it hike to the highest point on the island.
Like in Phuket, Ladyboys were also very common on Phi Phi, as you can tell..
These panoramas are obviously much better on a bigger screen,
but it gives you a good idea of what I got to see for almost a month!!
Sunset at the viewpoint
On the boat tour
Maya Bay crowded with longtail boats
My last stop was Bangkok. I spent not even a full day there, but managed to spent every last Baht I had on Khao San Road - the main tourist/market street in Bangkok. You could literally buy anything there, as my last few pictures will show!
Street food! mmm...
Hair braiding and/or dreadlocks
Of course, beer..
Fake IDs and Diplomas!
Fresh fruit smoothies and juices
All in all, a whirlwind adventure and fabulous 29 days. It went by too quickly, as it always does, but of course it's nice to be "home" in Korea. The school year officially starts in March so my first few weeks coming back from vacation have been lax to say the least. Sorry it's taken me so long to post this, but hopefully it is thoroughly detailed and makes you just a little jealous ;)