Monthly Archives: October 2011

feathered friends…

Kuala Lumpur is home to the word’s largest free flight bird something-or-other. They don’t make it veryeasy to get to, and I had almost given up looking for the entrance, but once I found my way in, paid about £10 I really enjoyed it, check out these birds!

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur

A city of contrast. It’s one of those places that is a little bit odd, pretty amazing and doesn’t quite make sense all at the same time.

Yes, there are some buildings that are examples of breakthrough architectural design, some that are almost magical in their appearance and some that you would never want to enter.

There are streets stacked with shopping malls; one even has a rollercoaster in it. There are streets lined with hawker stalls, serving amazing food at phenomenal value if you don’t look too closely and occasionally you’ll get a waft of some rubbish rotting away in 30C on someone’s doorstep.

I learnt the hard way that maps don’t always tell the truth: Google maps, Lonely planet and the local maps I picked up all feature different roads and name then differently. I also learnt the hard way that something might be “walking distance” but that could mean you have to cross a 6 lane highway with no pedestrian crossing to get there. Pavements are great when they exist: they often come abruptly to an end or have parts missing or giant holes, housing families of rats. Pedestrian crossings are for games of roulette: pressing the button and waiting for the green man to appear means you could stand there for hour on end, if it does appear, drivers don’t pay much attention.

Highlights for me?

  • Eating for about £1
  • Wandering through the markets of China Town and Little India
  • Taking the monorail to get somewhere and enjoying views of the city for about 40p
  • Having the dead skin nibbled off my feet but a school of very hungry fish for £1
  • Enjoying a manicure and pedicure at the price I’d have to pay for about 3 fingernails at home
  • Wandering around the world’s largest free flight aviary ( future blog to come)

Here are some of the best moments I captured:

apologies: technical issue I have uploaded them all more than once! soooooooooooorrrry!

Are you alone?

Somewhere in Malaysia about a week ago…

Temperature: 30C

Weather: cloudy and HOT

I love travelling: I adore it. I enjoy the sensation of not quite knowing what people are saying, of trying to understand the layout and transport system of a new city, of eating a dish I can’t pronounce, the satisfaction of discovering something or somewhere the Lonely Planet didn’t mention. I relish the challenge of trying to work out a way of getting somewhere, of asking a local to help me and that warm fuzzy proud feeling of doing it right.

I decided to spend my stopover in Kuala Lumpur because knowing nothing and having no experience of Asia what-so-ever, it seemed the easiest, most user friendly option. I began to worry that 4 days in one city would piss me off, so followed the advice of a friend and booked a night in Melaka, 2 hours away. Once I arrived in KL, however, true to form, I dithered and dizzied over the new sights and lists of things to do, wondering if I should cancel my night away and make the most of my time in the capital. But, NO Grace, you made decision, now stick with it!

So I arrived in KL and was immediately surprised and awestruck with the modernity, the use of English and the ease in which my first few transactions were completed. I tried not to walk around with my mouth gaping as I stared up at the impressive skyline and watched my step for missing pieces of pavement.

The heat hits you like a slap round the face, like someone has opened the oven door and you can’t walk around it. You leave an air-conditioned building and immediately the skin on your face turns to liquid, as you draw in breath, it’s filled with car fumes and you look around and see locals in jeans, ladies wearing black hijabs, people wearing suits. No one is sweating, no one is uncomfortable everyone is just getting on with it, when it feels like If I stop walking, I’ll just seamlessly melt into the pavement.

My knowledge of Asian culture and Asian people is admittedly very limited and most of the time, I couldn’t tell who came from where. What was clear though, was that there weren’t many of me. Not many white people walking around and certainly no white girls walking on their own. This didn’t bother me: it possibly helped me, as had I wanted to buy any of the many things people wanted to sell me, my skin colour would have stuck a bargain. If I wanted a taxi, the fact that one beeped at me every 5 minutes, meant they weren’t hard to find. And had I needed help, people would have fallen over themselves to do so.

Are you married? I was asked by women on more than one occasion. No, I’m not married. Are you single? A Chinese girl asked me, who sat next to me on the bus. Yes, I am. Are you alone? I was asked by two hijabbed women separately. Yes, I am. Be careful, was the response. One older lady looked at me in awe and said “You are very brave”. It’s a hard concept to grasp that I should be so brave, when to me, travelling is a means of education, it’s a way for me to branch out and say, Yes, I can do that. Walking around on my own, having to answer to no one, going at Grace Pace and seeing what I want to see when I want to see it can be total bliss. But a constant reminder that, yes, I am doing this alone and no, I’m not married does make one wonder a little about where one is going and why.

The whole point of this venture for me is yet another reason to not settle down in the rat race quite yet and to use the fact that I am not married and with very little responsibility as of yet to make the most of my not married status and see a little more of the world. But there is an interesting line between the concept of travelling alone and feeling alone. It can stop being a novelty when a Monitor lizard scuttles across the road in front of you, or 10 minutes with your feet in the fish spa leaves your sides aching from laughing so hard, or you catch a glimpse of an impossibly perfect sunset lighting the KL tower in a way you never imagined in a city skyline and you realise there is no one beside you to share that moment…

Am I travelling alone? Yes

Am I alone? sometimes.

Australian adventure

Just over 3 months after arriving back in the UK and my clothes are sitting in neatly folded piles, waiting to go into my suitcase again…

Flight, travel insurance, visa, money: Check. Plan: not applicable.

After a few drizzly months claiming to be summer, some hard slog teaching, indulgence of mum’s cooking, mum and dad’s wine cellar and sleeping in my own bed, my feet started to itch again and the plans I made in my head about 7 years ago have materialised finally so that on Monday I will be taking off again to…. Australia!

Why Australia? Why so far? Why for so long? What are you going to do there?

Well 7 years ago a friend and I dragged two suitcases round New Zealand and up and down the East coast of Australia sampling the weather, the sea, the easy going lifestyle, the breathtaking scenery, the beer and getting hooked on fun. There was something about the attitude to life and the promising sun that took a hold of me and I got back on that plane promising myself I would return one day, on a working holiday visa and do it properly. So now it’s time.

The “so long/so far” answer is that Australia is the other side of the world, maybe if it was closer it would be less appealing? Europe has made me really tired the last few years. I feel I have been working very hard for very little reward and I need a change of pace, a change of scene and to be honest, fancy a little less of a challenge and a bit more fun. The year? Well, it really isn’t worth going that far for any less time.

What am I going to do there? Well, I am going to arrive in Melbourne, go straight to the tv studios for Neighbours and get famous of course! No, what I am actually going to do is fly to Melbourne, spend some much needed time with a dear friend and then see what happens.

I’ve got about 1000 Australian dollars to my name, I have some phone numbers of schools to call on arrival, I’m taking only 20kgs with me and bags and bags of enthusiasm and willingness to last at least a year. Will I teach? Maybe. Will I stay in Melbourne for the year? Probably not. I do plan to avoid winter this year, as I was unfairly dealt two last year ( UK and Slovakia).

Oh, and by the way, I’m stopping in Kuala Lumpur on the way for 4 days, just to throw something else into the mix, and visit a continent that is totally new to me.

So, join me on my walkabout down under…