Browsing Category: Malaysia

My Travel Plans for the Rest of 2017

My Travel Plans for the Rest of 2017 - The Atlas Heart

I don’t know where this year has gone already, but I am left gaping every time I look at a calendar and realize it’s already May. May, people! That’s the fifth month (my birthday month, woot woot!), as in, 2017 is already almost half over.

In other words, I need to get my bum into gear. I had so many plans for this blog in 2017 and I’ve only incorporated a few of them so far. I’m ready to throw myself completely into my passions and not look back.

As I mentioned recently on here, I want the rest of this year to be a year to myself. And no, I’m not meaning I want to go be an anti-social hermit and have no friends. I mean I want to focus more on what I want this year, and not make compromises in my life to make someone else happy.

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Travel Misconceptions: Gay Travel in Malaysia

Travel Misconceptions: Gay Travel in Malaysia

One of my goals on The Atlas Heart is to break down travel misconceptions or judgments about places and ideas. Perhaps it could be that destination that everyone warns you not to visit because of how dangerous it is, or maybe you yourself had preconceived notions that were proven wrong once you arrived to where you were going.

My aim is to present a variety of different opinions and experiences through the eyes of other travelers. It’s important to hear travel stories from all different perspectives in life, I call it seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens.

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A Guide to Visas in Asia

Monkey in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The other night, I spent close to 3 hours researching where I want to go in Asia. Let me be honest, I’m not heading back to Asia for awhile yet (Oct/Nov 2016), but I made the mistake of going to a bookstore and I quickly became lost in the travel section. And I’m not talking about just any old bookstore, I’m talking about the largest bookstore in the WORLD, Powell’s City of Books. It takes up a whole city block in Portland, and the travel section alone is a good corner of that block.

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A Year to Remember

After many technical difficulties, I’ve finally been successful in uploading my video celebrating my one year travelversary!!

In the last year, I visited 8 countries, moved to 3 new cities, volunteered at 3 music festivals, and went to an outdoor short film festival. I rode an elephant, learned how to cook Thai food, went to my first footy game, got my scuba certification, and kayaked in the beautiful Halong Bay. I tried more new flavors than my taste buds had ever known before, including the likes of kangaroo, snake blood, emu, and crocodile. I’ve had the most challenging and best time of my life. It’s hard to convey in words what this year has meant to me, so I thought instead I’d say it in pictures. Thank you to all of the people, places, and experiences that have had an impact on my year abroad. It has been one hell of a ride, may the journey continue… 😉

 

[vimeo 92379042 w=500 h=281]

 

2013, a year to remember

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

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My favorite quote from 2013, and one that I find pretty relevant to my life these days as a hopeless wanderer. 2013 was a year of change, new beginnings, and a lot of falling headfirst outside of my comfort zone. I traveled to 7 new countries, attended 4 festivals, moved to two different cities, said more goodbyes than I’d like to remember, yet have made countless more friends and opened a variety of new doors in the process. 2013 was in a word, epic. I don’t think I’ve grown more in a year previously than I did in 2013, I have a feeling 2014 is going to be even better and more adventurous. Here’s a glance at what my year of travel and spontaneity included.

January – New York, Oregon, California

I started this travel blog just before the New Year, my first posts consisted of my travels around the States for the holidays and reminiscent anecdotes from my summer in Tuscany. I started the New Year off with a bang partying under the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City for New Year’s Eve.

View of the Chrysler Building at night

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“Last June, I walked across the stage at my college graduation with the words the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams“ glued to my cap. I found the quote appropriate, not only because my college at UC San Diego is called Eleanor Roosevelt, but because those words are what I hope to live by as a recent graduate.” – The Future Belongs to those who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams

February – California

The month of the most change for me in 2013, this was one of my final months in San Diego before moving to Oz. I pierced my belly button, donated most of my belongings, cut off a foot of my hair, and broke things off with my longterm boyfriend.

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me and aaron

“There has been a lot to think about with my departure date coming up so soon, and my whole trip itself becoming more real than it has ever felt before. I’m proud of myself for embarking on such an endeavor, one which I wouldn’t of had the confidence or the bravery to pull off as little as four years ago when I first started college. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling selfish and even guilty sometimes for leaving certain people behind to chase my own dreams of traveling, knowing that I’ll miss out on so much in the process of fulfilling what I want to do with my life.” – Walkabout: La Jolla Edition

March – California

My final month in San Diego, I left two jobs and an internship behind and said my final goodbyes to my friends and my life in the beloved place I called home. Even though bittersweet, I was also extremely excited to take on my Aussie adventure, knowing how much it would benefit me in the long run. I lived in the moment, appreciating all those who had touched my time in San Diego, and enjoyed all that the seaside city had to offer. I also made sure to eat as much Mexican food as possible, I even had a burrito on the way to the airport.

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“I’ve realized the only way to love the life I live is through passion, optimism, and spontaneity. So, this year my travel resolutions will revolve around just those things, letting go of the negative aspects in my life in the process.” – Travel Resolutions 2013

April – California, Melbourne

My big move to Melbourne and my first month in Australia was a whirlwind of new experiences, tram rides, footy games, new friends, the best coffee, and learning how to live like an Aussie and adapt to colder weather.

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“The sun is gleaming through the palm trees, I’m riding alongside the ocean, the orange sky as my canopy. What a way to say goodbye to this cherished place I’ve taken for my own, a place I call home even with these restless bones.” – On leaving everything behind to follow you dreams

May – Melbourne

I celebrated my 23rd birthday and bundled up to settle in for the long hall for my first Aussie winter and my second consecutive winter coming from California with opposite seasons. I explored what Melba had to offer during the winter months… it was heaps. From museums, to hidden coffee shops, to live gigs and warm dumplings, I loved spending winter in Melbourne.

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“There are few things I love more than layering up in a warm sweater, finding a cozy cafe, and getting lost in a good book while sipping on my daily caffeine intake. Especially, when the coffee is as good as it is in Melbourne, and the cafe atmosphere just as phenomenal. I try and hit a different cafe every day because there are too many good ones to choose from.” – 7 ways to spend the winter months in the city

June – Melbourne

In June, I moved across the city to a new apartment and met my new roommate, someone who would become one of my best friends in Australia. I found a second job to help save for Southeast Asia, started volunteering at a yoga studio, and used my rusty culinary skills from my time in Florence to improve my cooking. I basically lived at the Queen Vic Market and the Carlton Gardens, my two favorite spots in the city.

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“Moving abroad is something I’ve always dreamed of doing, and I’m actually doing exactly what I want to do with my life right now, which is a feeling I’ve never completely felt before with all the pressures of adolescence, and the “correct” path of going to a 4 year university instilled in my American mindset since I was little. It’s the first time I’ve broken off the path of what society deems to be the ‘American Dream’, expanded my perspective of what my life could encompass, besides just worrying about hitting all the generic milestones at the appropriate ages. That in itself is an invigorating realization. And as long as I keep living a balanced life, no matter where I might call home today or tomorrow, I’m going to be just fine.” – Be Free

July – Melbourne

My favorite month in Melbourne. I had been there long enough that it finally felt like home, I loved my job as a bartender in the city, one of my best friends from back home came to visit, I had a solid group of friends, and a couple winter romances as the cherry on top. Perhaps it’s proof that the most fleeting moments in life are usually the most beautiful as my departure to Southeast Asia in August was coming up soon.

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“Comparing where I was when I arrived and only had two friends in the city, to where I am today just a few months later, the changes are extraordinary. I’ve somehow built up my own friend base, a support system from scratch in a completely foreign place. I must say, that is one of the most reassuring realizations you can make in life; that you can start over anywhere and be more than okay, you can be genuinely happy.” – Life is a journey, not a destination

August – Melbourne, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam

My last couple weeks in Melbourne before heading over to Southeast Asia. I drove the Great Ocean Road, went wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, said my round of goodbyes for the second time this year to a city that I had begun to call home, and visited Sydney for the first time. In Southeast Asia, I traveled around to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam with my British friend I met in Europe a couple summers ago. We had our feet cleaned by fish in Malaysia, laid on the beaches of Bali for a week, explored modern Singapore, and fell into the hectic pace of Ho Chi Minh City.

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“It was one of those surprisingly sunny days in Winter that Melbourne is fond of having every now and then. My friend and I decided to spend the day exploring more of the Royal Botanic Gardens in the city, because it was just one of those days you had to be outside for. We had a picnic at a place I deemed my own ‘500 Days of Summer’ spot, it was truly a perfect day in Aussie land.” – The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, a way to spend an afternoon

September – Cambodia, Thailand

In September I fell in love with Cambodia and the Khmer way of life, went through scuba certification on a deserted island in Cambodia, ate some bugs in Bangkok, rode an elephant, played with baby tigers, learned how to cook authentic Thai food, and had an amazing time in the southern Thai Islands at the Full Moon Party.

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“It’s the people I meet on my travels that keep me trekking on and grounded when I feel lost, disillusioned with what I find in certain places. A chance connection on a night bus with a Welsh guy, having an enlightening conversation at midnight about our lives on the opposite sides of the world we grew up on. A friendly English girl who became our roommate in Chiang Mai. The fun groups of guys we met at the Full Moon Party. And of course my travel companion and partner in crime who has been with me since the beginning of Asia.” – Moments from the road

October – Vietnam, Melbourne, Sydney

The last stretch of Southeast Asia consisted of traveling down the coast of Vietnam. I loved the old way of life in Hanoi, immersed myself in the beauty of the limestone cliffs in Halong Bay, traveled to Hue, and lovely Hoi An, and found myself in Ho Chi Minh city again before flying back to Melbourne.

I spent a bittersweet week in Melbourne, doing all of my favorite things in the city and seeing all the friends I had missed for the past two months, before I moved for the 2nd time to a new city. My first couple weeks in Sydney weren’t the easiest and I didn’t feel quite at home as quickly as I did when I first arrived in Melbourne, but I found a job my first day, made heaps of new friends, and have since meshed much better into the Sydneysider way of life.

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“There’s no magic place where all the bad aspects of life go away, but, of course, there can’t be the good without the bad as comparison. That’s what makes life so complex and interesting, the hurdles you come across, make your best days just that much sweeter. There is no such thing as a new beginning. Even when you start over in a new place, you’re still going to be you, you’re still going to have the same baggage that has made you into the person you are today, there is no escaping who you are to your core. I’m finally understanding who I am as a person, and what I want out of my life now, and even that alone has made my time in Australia worth it.” – Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy

November – Sydney

I took this month to explore Sydney as much as possible on my days off, going to a lot of festivals and art exhibits around the city, and simply enjoying the raw beauty Sydney has to offer on any given day.

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“There are two things I’ve noticed about Sydney since moving here: There are a lot of people jogging everywhere and doing group exercises in one of the many parks, and there’s always some sort of festival or event going on in the city. In other words, it’s basically LA without the famous people. I’ve particularly been enjoying the latter – although I’m hoping to join the former with the communal exercise (yoga!) as I’m settling into my life here and now have a more manageable work schedule.” – Celebrating inspiration at Sculpture by the Sea

December – Sydney, Byron Bay

December whizzed by in a matter of minutes it seems. Between countless out-of-town music festivals I was volunteering at, to the realization that my time in Australia may be coming to a close in April, sooner than I’d like to think, I kept myself overly busy with work, creativity, and hanging out with as many friends as possible. It was perfect to end the month disconnecting from all things social media and camping in Byron Bay to ring in the New Year at Falls Fest.

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“When I was walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I thought back to when I was 13 and walking across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my dad at one of my many basketball tournaments in San Francisco. When I think back to where I was at that age, a decade ago now, it’s remarkable the changes I have gone through. From an anxious, hesitant little girl who had no idea what was ahead of her, to where I am today, I hardly recognize that person anymore.” – Walkabout across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

I’m still brewing up some solid goals for 2014, but I do know that I want to travel to at least 3 new countries: New Zealand, Fiji, and probably either Canada, Japan or Mexico…(suggestions welcome). I also want to see Hawaii this year to sleep on the beach, hike a volcano, and surf at sunrise.

Happy 2014, I’m ready for you.

Watch me –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDSazU1fvsg

Travel budgeting for Malaysia

I’ve kept a detailed tally of all of my expenses from country to country, my first installation for Southeast Asia budgeting is Malaysia! Or more specifically, Kuala Lumpur. Here’s the run down of my relatively budget friendly expenditures for our first stop in Asia.

Note: All prices are in US dollars, and I rounded when necessary to keep things nice and easy. 

The currency in Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM for short) and the conversion is about 3.27RM to US$1. I already converted all the prices to approximate US dollars.

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Time spent = 3 nights, 4 days

Accommodation = $9/night (or $27 total)

I would definitely recommend staying in the Golden Triangle neighborhood, as it was my favorite in Kuala Lumpur. We were told most accommodations in this area were around $10/night for a dorm bed. We just walked in and out of places until we found a decent enough dorm for a few days at Anjung Guesthouse. It wasn’t anything special, the WiFi didn’t work half the time, and it wasn’t the cleanest we’ve stayed in, but it had a heavy duty air conditioner and fan in the dorm which was much appreciated. We landed on this guesthouse more out of pure exhaustion than anything else after a long travel day, if you look around a bit you could probably find an even better dorm/room for the same price in the Golden Triangle.

Transport = $2/day ($6-$7 total)

The monorail is extremely easy to use, we took it everywhere and used it often, and still it only came out to about $2 a day.

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Food = $7.50/day ($30 total)

There is a wide variety of prices you can find for food in Kuala Lumpur depending on if you’re on a main touristy road or a local hangout. My favorite cheap place to eat is called Blue Boy Vegetarian in the Golden Triangle, a full meal came out to about $1.50.

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Smoothies/juices = $5.50 total

These will always have their own category in my Asia budgeting because I’m such a smoothie fiend.

Water (1500ml) = Around $0.50 each/$2.75 total for 5 bottles

Misc = $13.50

Breakdown of my miscellaneous purchases:

  • Fish feet cleaning = $3
  • Earrings from Central Market = $1.50
  • Floss = $1.80
  • Donation at the Batu Caves for a Hindu blessing and bracelet = $1.50
  • Bug spray = $5.75

Including everything, I spent about $21.50 a day, or $86 total.

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Malaysia wasn’t the most expensive we’ve come across in Asia (hello, Bali), or the cheapest (Cambodia), but it came out to a nice low midrange if you know how to budget your money. Of course, there are things that I had to miss out on in order to stay on budget, such as a trip up to the viewing platform at the Petronas Towers or the neighboring Menara tower, and a Malaysian cooking class, but there are so many other things to do in Kuala Lumpur that don’t cost any money at all. In most cases, the free things I found to do in KL offered more cultural insight than any of the overpriced tourist attractions combined, so I consider my budget choices a win.

And the Petronas towers offer a breathtaking view from anywhere you stand in the city. A sparkling treat to the eyes, free of charge.

Photo essay: A glance at Kuala Lumpur

The cheapest and best local breakfast in town

Discovering Hindu temples at the Batu Caves

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Fish feet cleaning in the Central Market

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A quick bite to eat at one of the many fruit stands

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Merdeka Square, Muslim roots, and the Old Quarter

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Wearing a burka and exploring the National Mosque

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The crazy atmosphere that is Chinatown

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Petronas Towers – Day and Night

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Favorite place in Kuala Lumpur, The Golden Triangle

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First taste of Southeast Asia, Malaysia

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First impressions of Malaysia, it’s rad

Hot. hot. hot…and my backpack feels about 15 pounds heavier than when I checked it in this morning. Okay, but let’s be real, Malaysia is rad. I know I’m skipping around a bit because I haven’t even written about my time in Sydney yet, or the few more posts that I had planned about Melbourne, but I just wanted to give a quick, dry, and dirty run down of my first impressions of Malaysia while they’re still fresh in my mind.

It’s a bit surreal that we’ve actually made it – It’s exactly as I imagined Asia to be, but better because I’m actually here experiencing the crazy vespa drivers, the street food, the random vendors blasting Top 40 from about 5 years ago (yes, that includes some classic Pitbull and Chris Brown). It’s literally a party in the streets.

But let’s start from the beginning. It was a crazy day from the get-go. I made it to the airport an hour later than I was supposed to because I got off on the wrong stop in the CBD in Sydney for my train connection. When we finally arrived at the check-in counter for AirAsia, my carry-on was too heavy. Apparently you’re only allowed to carry the weight equivalent of a small book for discount airlines. I stepped aside to repack, and stuff more of my things into my backpack, a seemingly impossible feat, but I somehow made it work. I think sitting on it and using every ounce of my strength to squish it down helped a bit, and I’m sure I was great entertainment for everyone else waiting in line watching me.

I let out a big sigh of relief when we finally made it to our gate about 15 minutes before they started boarding. Laura, my British friend whom I’m currently traveling with, and I were two rows apart. We soon realized that in the row between us sat the most annoying children I have encountered on a plane – or as Laura so eloquently put it, “the demon children”. When they weren’t poking Laura in the back of the head, they were stealing my bag underneath my seat or staring me down without blinking, it was creepy.

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After 10 hours on the plane, we stepped out into some of the most humid weather I have ever experienced, I don’t even think Italy in the summer rivals it. And then it was on to tackling the public transit. Our plan is to stay as cheap and authentically local as possible, so I’m sure I’ll have some hilarious stories to ensue shortly. Us and one other girl were the only non-locals on the bus, I especially liked the Bollywood ringtone that kept going off from the man in front of me for the hour long journey into the city.

After we stepped off the bus and into the humid rain, we found the monorail, and ended up in the Golden Triangle neighborhood where we walked around aimlessly going into random places and trying to figure out where we were. We had one hostel in mind, but we were so exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated at this point that we just started going into guesthouses until we found one that clicked enough for one night. I don’t even know the name of the place we’re staying in, but it’s cozy and pretty decent for the equivalent of AUS $10 a night in the heart of the city.

Also, Kuala Lumpur is a gorgeous city at night. There are so many colorful lights everywhere, this was especially apparent on the monorail.

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I had my first wonderfully delicious Asian dish at a street stall called “Frog Porridge”. They do in fact sell frog porridge, Laura and I are going to try it our last night in Kuala Lumpur. Tonight, however, I stayed with the safe choice (fingers crossed), of the spicy green vegetable curry. It was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G., and I’m not even in Thailand yet. I already know that the food is going to be one of my favorite things about this whole trip, I absolutely love Asian food.

Trying my first real Asian dish in Malaysia

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Fun facts I learned while reading about Malaysia on the plane – it is home to the largest species of cockroach in the world. However, it’s also the greenest (aka most jungle-esque) country in Southeast Asia, so I guess the pretty scenery makes up for the first fun fact? I hope. If I see one of those cockroaches I may reconsider.

And so, the Asian adventures begin…