Malaysia and Thailand
I'm excited to share our experience in Malaysia and Thailand! We decided to go on this trip for two reasons: First, our very good friend was having a destination wedding in Thailand so what better excuse to go?! Second, almost all of Tim's extended family on his dad side live in Malaysia and I had never been or met most of them.
So, if you are planning a trip to either of these places from the USA be prepared, it's a loonnng flight. We flew out from Spokane Washington (even though, yes, we live in New Orleans. I'll explain that in another post where I share our cross country road trip) We flew from Spokane to Seattle, a little over 1hr, Seattle to Seoul, 11+hrs and Seoul to Bangkok, 6hrs. After all those hours of travel next you've got to deal with the time change and jet lag so don't plan on jumping right into vacation, give yourself a day or to to relax and recover.
We arrived in Bangkok very late and arranged for airport pick up through our hotel the Paragon Inn which cost us $24 a night! Now, the rooms are VERY BASIC but the outdoor space is glorious and the food is excellent. It was very convenient for a late arrival from BKK and we would absolutely stay there again (we did at the end of our trip)
Next we headed in closer to Bangkok and stayed above the Better Moon Cafe x refill station in Pears Room which we booked through Airbnb. It was $45 a night and worth it. We loved that the cafe below offered organic and sustainable options which was so refreshing. The street below was also full of food vendors which was fun to try. It's also close to the train station if you prefer to get around that way but we ended up using the app Grab which is similar to Uber.
We loved Grab because just like Uber you type in your destination and it tells you how much you will pay. It makes for very easy communication when there are language barriers and you know that the price you are paying is fair and set. Be aware that traffic in Bangkok is terrible and if you get caught in rush hour which in the evening is around 5-8pm be prepared to spend a long time in the car. We got trapped for 1 1/2 hrs in what should have been a 25 min ride. It only cost $6, but a waste of time.
The next day we explored Bangkok by boat. We took a Grab to the Sathorn Taksin train station where you can access the boats down on the river. There are options to take river cruises but we chose to ride like the locals and pay for each stop which cost 15 Thai Baht which equals .45 cents. Much more affordable.
One of my favorite things we did in Bangkok was go to a night market. There are so many to choose from but we selected the Rod Fai Train market which was amazing! It took hours to explore and had everything: touristy crap, vintage items for the home and clothing, small boutiques, food & drink, music and old vintage cars. A total highlight of the trip and I highly recommend.
MALAYSIA: Kuala Lumpur
We flew to Malaysia the following day to visit Tim's family located in Kuala Lumpur. There is an excellent train system called the KLIA express from the airport that was very convenient and cost RM40 which is $10 to take us from the airport to the city center. The train system in the whole city is actually great and an easy way to get around. They also have Grab which we used a lot but know that during rush hour you will NOT get picked up. We learned that the hard way.
In Kuala Lumpur we visited the Butterfly Park which was tiny but fun and worth $12 for both of us to see it. Around the same area is the free flight Bird Park which was enormous with a huge number of birds roaming around and seemed like a nice place for the animals although we were concerned with the ostrich, they looked very stressed and pulled out all their feathers. The owls didn't seem great either. Because of this I wouldn't recommend it.... it cost $30 for the two of us.
Our next stop was Melaka, or Malacca, about a 2 hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur. A charming city that has a river running through it which you can take a quick boat tour on to see all the lovely sights. There are a ton of murals throughout the city, very photographable, or Instagrammable hehe. At night you can visit the night market which we did very briefly but was far too crowded for our taste.
We stayed at the most perfect airbnb right in the middle of all the action and on the river. It was called Little House by the River and cost $48.
The last place we visited in Malaysia was Langkawi. A small island off the mainland coast of northwest Malaysia.
Here we took a tour on the cable car which cost $10 per person. It offered a breathtaking view of the island and once we made it to the top it was actually (almost) cool outside which was much needed because it's SO HOT AND HUMID. We walked along the sky bridge which was quite an amazing structure and worth visiting.
In the same area of the cable car was a 3D museum. We didn't know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised with how much fun we had there being goofy.
We had the great privilege of visiting Langkawi's observatory that Tim's auntie Mazlan Othman, an astrophysicist, founded. Yes you read that correctly, she founded it. Mazlan has made a huge impact in Malaysia and was the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna. She gave us a tour of the building and an explanation of how everything works. It was a great experience!
We stayed at the the Smith House for about $65 a night. It was a decent spot location wise, not on the beach but easy to get places and close to the airport. Again, we used Grab as our primary transport to get everywhere and it was a breeze.
We ate lunch at a great spot on the island called Bon Ton a beautiful resort where the proceeds go back to helping the street dogs!! We didn't stay the night here but it looked very beautiful and rooms start at $118.
Another fun place that we looked at but didn't stay at was the Tube Hotel it's about $23 a night and looks like a very unique experience as the rooms are literally in tubes! It's more of a hostel situation as you share bathrooms but looked like fun.
Our last day on the island we tried to visit the mangroves and take a tour but unfortunately it poured rain and our tour was cancelled. We were told by many people that it was worth seeing and if you decide to go on a tour be sure to choose an eco friendly one like Dev's Adventure Tours. We ended up eating near the beach and, like most places on the island, it was very affordable and delicious!
A few other food favorites were mangosteen. A beautiful fruit that looks like garlic cloves inside but is very sweet/tart and refreshing!
Another favorite was the roti. I ate it everyday no matter what. You must have it!!
This next one is not my favorite, in fact I really disliked it, but you should try it if you visit. The dreaded durian. Known for its horrendous smell and odd taste. I was not a fan but Tim and his entire family LOVE it.
THAILAND: Hua Hin
The last stop of our trip was back to Thailand to Hua Hin so we could attend our friends wedding. We flew into Bangkok and arrange a car to pick us up through the website 12go.asia which was so affordable and about a 4 hour drive.
A little ways outside of Hua Hin is a great organization called Rescue Paws Thailand that helps with stray dogs. We spent a few hours volunteering there one day and had so much fun hanging out with all the sweet pups!
We stayed at The Aleenta Hua Hin which was absolutely stunning. The best way to end our trip. We chose the pool residence which was a round room with an outdoor shower and private pool right on the beach. The restaurant there was also a delight, they use organic herbs and vegetables from their own garden! They offered bikes for free to ride around to easily explore the area which we did. It was a really great getaway spot, perfect for a romantic holiday.
The day after the wedding we used the 12go.asia to book another ride back to the hotel we stayed at upon arriving in Bangkok at the beginning of our trip, the Paragon Inn. Our second stay there was just as nice as the first. Again, rooms are blah but the outdoor space was very photographable and we loved it!
WHAT I WORE:
The temperatures in Thailand and Malaysia when we went (July, although it doesn't vary too much) were very hot and VERY humid. So be prepared to sweat. A lot. I brought a lot of looser fitting clothes to encourage a breeze, lots of kimonos to protect my shoulders from the sun and very comfortable shoes. Both countries are fairly modest so keep that in mind when visiting. There are no rules about how much skin you can show (unless you are visiting a temple or Mosque) but it's best to be respectful of their culture and try to make sure you aren't showing cleavage or too much leg. In the larger tourist cities you won't need to worry as much but the further away you get from major spots the more aware you should be about what you wear.