Colorful murals next to a river

Malaysia: The Final Stop

The last leg of my December vacation was spending time in Malaysia. I made plans to spend some time in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, and at an Kuala Gandha Elephant Sanctuary. This would be the final stop before heading back to Korea.

To get to Kuala Lumpur, I opted to take a bus. Taking a bus was significantly cheaper than flying, and I wouldn’t have to wait around for hours at the airport. It definitely seemed like a win.

I left Singapore on a midnight bus with an ETA of 6am in Kuala Lumpur. But the combination of no traffic and a speedy bus driving got me to KL at 5am. The driver dropped me off on the side of the street and I was immediately hounded by cab drivers asking me where I needed to go. I politely declined and walked to the nearest hotel to use the bathroom and to ask if anything nearby was open.

So there I found myself in Kuala Lumpur at 5 am with nowhere to go.

I had no sim card and no wifi. After finding out the only thing open nearby was a 7-eleven, I decided to start walking toward my hostel. I was sure I’d come across something that was open. But I didn’t, and I just kept walking. About 4 kilometers later, I was at my hostel, exhausted and in desperate need of a shower. I bought some water from the convenience store in the lobby and waited until I could drop my bag off. Then, I used the cold pool house showers and took a nap on the yoga deck since no one was using it.

Then, I ventured out to look around KL. The public transportation wasn’t as good in KL, so the city was a bit harder to navigate. I made my way to the Petronas Towers and took them in, and dodged the people selling souvenirs and trying to get you to pay them to take your picture.

Once I saw the towers, I went back to my hostel and slept. I was starting to get sick, and wanted to feel better for day two.

Day two in Malaysia

On my second day in KL, I went to the Batu Caves. I really didn’t want to because I could feel myself getting a migraine. All the rain and humidity also irritated my eczema and I had itchy patches all over my hands and feet.

But I’m glad I went. It was pouring down rain, so they caves weren’t as busy as they would have been on a sunny day. Plus, the rain drove all the vendors inside, so I avoided being harassed by peddlers.

Getting to the Batu Caves was pretty simple. The metro goes right to the caves, so once you get off the metro you just need to make your way over to the 270+ stairs that lead to the caves. The stairs are brightly colored, and once you’re climbing them, it doesn’t seem so bad. Once you’re up high enough, you can see all the monkeys climbing along the stairs and the limestone.

When I finished looking around the caves, I decided I had done enough for the day and decided to go sleep off the migraine I had been ignoring all afternoon.

Day three: Kuala Gandha

For the third day in Malaysia, I went to Kuala Gandha elephant sanctuary. The sanctuary is located an hour and a half outside of Kuala Lumpur, so I had a driver that took me to and from the sanctuary. On the way, we stopped at the Batu Caves (again). While there, I fed some monkeys, and the person selling the food refused to give me my change, saying “it’s okay, you help me.”

Actually, it wasn’t okay. I didn’t have much money left for my trip and I really wanted to stick to my budget. But he wouldn’t give me my money. So I left the caves annoyed and wishing we hadn’t stopped there, but it was part of the tour I had booked to see the elephants.

When I arrived at the sanctuary, I had lunch there, which was covered in the cost of the tour. Then, I watched a short film about the sanctuary itself. It was interesting to learn about why elephant sanctuaries are needed in Malaysia. I hadn’t realized it wasn’t just to protect elephants from poachers, but because elephant habitats are being destroyed for palm oil plantations.

Kuala Gandha’s sanctuary has been operating for decades, but they’ve fortunately made improvements along the way.

There was a time when people could ride elephants, but that is no longer allowed. The majority of elephants at the sanctuary are not seen by guests because they are released into wild lands. Guests can see young elephants that were injured in the wild and that are being trained as members of the elephant rescue team. The elephant rescue team is trainers and elephants who help calm wild elephants that are being relocated.

After spending an afternoon at the sanctuary, I headed back to KL and got dinner with a girl in my hostel who was traveling from Singapore.

Day four: Melaka, Malaysia

For my last full day in Malaysia, I booked a bus ticket to Melaka. The city of Melaka is about two hours from KL and the bus ticket only cost $2.50 each way.

One thing I learned in Malaysia is that the bus terminals are incredibly far away from city center. In KL, I had to budget about an hour on the metro to ensure I wouldn’t miss my bus. When I got to Melaka, I had wanted to walk into the downtown, but after walking for 20 minutes, realized that wouldn’t be a possibility.

I also decided to take a cab after being harassed on the street. In all my time solo traveling, I never experienced street harassment before. Sure, I’ve had peddlers and taxi drivers try to get me to buy souvenirs or a ride, but I had never been harassed. It was the first time I ever felt unsafe while traveling abroad. I wanted to go back to my hostel and just stay there.

But I quickly found a cab and went downtown. Downtown Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it really is quite beautiful. I wish I had been in a better mindset to experience the city, but I was pretty upset after what happened that morning. I walked around and looked at the murals, had some lunch, and decided to book an early bus back to KL. Sure, I lost money on the ticket I already bought, but I didn’t really care.

The next day, I headed to the KL airport and waited for my flight back to Korea.

I’m disappointed that the end of my trip wasn’t as great as the beginning. But I’m also pretty lucky that I had so many great travel experience before, especially considering Malaysia was my 13th country.

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