Wrap Up: June 2017

A Favorite Island in Malaysia: Things to Do in Penang

June signified the halfway point of 2017, and made me realize just how much I still want to accomplish before the end of this year. There’s a lot (as per usual)!

It was weird thinking about where I was at this time last year. I was hammock camping around the States, anxious to get to Asia in October, and spent a lot of time with my family.

I was also extremely appreciative of the start of summer after surviving my first (and only) Portland winter. I definitely realized after living in the Pacific Northwest that I’m a person who needs regular sunlight.

This June, I was on the other side of the world, spending my time in Laos and Malaysia. It really didn’t feel like the start of summer since it was the rainy season in both places, and I had more than my fair share of random torrential rains.

Hiking to Monkey Beach - Penang National Park | Asia Travel
Hiking to Monkey Beach in Penang National Park.

At the start of June is when I made my early departure from Asia official. I’d been thinking on and off about it at the end of May, and when I found a flight to Athens from Singapore for $300, I pounced on it.

Once I had an official date that I was heading to Europe, I felt this wave of relief wash over me. I didn’t realize it before I bought my ticket, but I honestly think I was ready to leave Asia a couple of months ago.

When I’m no longer enjoying all of the new things I’m seeing and the cultural quirks in front of me, I know it’s time for a change. This is the third time I listened to my gut feeling in the last two months, and every time I have it has led me to a happier place.

Vientiane, Laos | Asia Travel
Vientiane, Laos

June ended up being a bit of a transition month for me. I focused more on slow travel after a busy May. I flew to Malaysia on the 8th, and although I enjoyed my second time in the country, I have to admit my mind was already elsewhere for those few weeks.

With that said, I still had some incredible memories in Malaysia. I’ll be writing more about them soon. I had a very different experience in the country this time around, which is to be expected since I only saw Kuala Lumpur for a few days last time I was there in 2013.

This visit I went to two new spots: Penang & Langkawi. I loved both of them for different reasons.

I flew to Athens on the 29th – yes, I’m officially in Greece! And I’m slowly setting up my life in Europe. I feel like I’m exactly where I want to be right now and it’s the best feeling.

This is where I went and what I got up to in June!


Pakse | As I mentioned in my last wrap up, I spent a few days in Pakse. I mainly worked, walked around the city, and took in the sites with a local by the name of Kent. There wasn’t actually that much to do within the city, and they stop running tours for tourists in the low season.

Pakse Market, Laos - Asia Travel
Pakse Market

Most people head to Pakse for the popular 2-3 day motorbike loop. I wasn’t doing the loop, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do besides work and walk around the city.

With that said, I still enjoyed my time there. It was nice to take a break from the touristy nature of most places in Southeast Asia. It’s also where I met some cool new friends, like my Australian friend Seth who I ended up spending the next few days with.

Vientiane | I went back to Vientiane at the very start of June to fly out to Kuala Lumpur. I spent about a week in the city to catch up on work and just stay in one spot for a bit.

I loved exploring the cafe scene in Vientiane, they have some of the best coffee in Laos.

And I hung out with Seth doing a random assortment of things, like going to Buddha Park, the COPE Visitor Centre, seeing Wonder Woman, and dancing Zumba with the locals at sunset two nights in a row.

Vientiane, Laos - Asia Travel
Seth and I photobombing the stage cam at the local live music venue in Vientiane.
Vientiane, Laos - Asia Travel
Dancing at sunset with the locals.

The Zumba was probably my favorite experience in Vientiane, it was so fun and hilarious.



Kuala Lumpur | My return to Kuala Lumpur was bittersweet. I enjoyed my time in the city a few years ago and I remembered loving the food.

Curry Mee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Curry Mee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

However, my return also reminded me of the fact that I was sexually assaulted in broad daylight last time I was there.

Obviously, this can happen anywhere, but I didn’t realize how much that experience had stayed with me until I returned to Kuala Lumpur. Every time I heard a motorbike coming up behind me, I’d feel a tight sense of panic in my chest and turn away from the street.

The local men in Kuala Lumpur (and Malaysia in general) are also more forward with western women than a lot of other Asian cultures, so it took some time adjusting to the culture and keeping an open mind.

Putting aside my past experience in the city, I actually enjoyed myself quite a bit in Kuala Lumpur. I did some more sightseeing at a few popular spots and ate so. much. food.

It’s not my favorite place in Malaysia, but it’s also not the worst big city I’ve been to, so there’s that.

Penang | I’m so happy I made the 5.5 hour train journey up Butterworth and then a ferry over to Penang. When I started researching my trip to Malaysia, Penang kept popping up as a destination that appealed to me.

Cafe life in Penang, Malaysia - Asia Travel
Rose mocha at one of my favorite cafes in Penang.

It’s known for its amazing food, great street art, coffee and cafe scene, and its colonial architecture. What’s there not to like? I spent a week in the city and I still didn’t get to see everything I wanted to, there’s so much to do!

Penang is where I met Jeremy, a Belgian guy who was in my dorm and who I hung out with almost every day for a week. He helped me with my spotty  French and we explored a lot of the city together.

Street art hunting in Penang, Malaysia
Street art hunting in Penang.

We went hiking in the jungle, hunted for street art, ate a whole lot of Indian food, and took three hour walks around the city at 1am just because.

Langkawi | My last destination in Malaysia was Langkawi and it was the perfect place to wind down my time in the country. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a bit of an obsession with islands these days.

Langkawi was touristy but since it was the low season, it was a comfortable spot to spend a week without it being overcrowded.

Cotton candy sunsets in Langkawi, Malaysia - Asia Travel
Cotton candy sunsets in Langkawi.

I hung out with Steffan, a German guy who I also met in my dorm in Penang, for part of that week. We spent a day riding scooters around the island, and again, ate a lot of Indian food (are you sensing a theme here?).

The scooter driving was a huge step for me. Ever since I almost killed myself on a scooter in Costa Rica, I’ve been very anxious about the idea of driving my own scooter. I would always let someone else drive while I happily jumped on the back throughout my last eight months in Asia.

I think it was partly the fact that I knew my time was almost up in Asia, and partly the fact that I knew I had to get over myself and just do it. I had this ‘now or never’ kind of attitude. I asked Steffan, who had his own motorcycle back home, if he would give me a quick lesson and we were off!

Scooter driving in Langkawi, Malaysia - Asia Travel
Finally getting over my fear of driving a scooter in Langkawi!

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit terrified during some of the treacherous steep mountain roads, especially since my turning skills were still on the wide side.

I survived though, and I felt so much more confident driving my own scooter as soon as we pulled back up to our accommodation. That feeling of accomplishment is like nothing else in the world, it’s why I love continuing to face my fears when I can.

Singapore | I was only in Singapore for half a day, and most of that was spent waiting in the longest customs line I’ve experienced in a very long time. It took over two hours to get my passport stamped and hop back on the bus to the city center.

I spent the rest of my time at the airport before my flight to Athens, which was fine by me. I’ve already been to Singapore twice before and it’s not a place that I find incredibly enticing.

Athens | I arrived in Athens after an 11 hour red eye from Singapore on the 29th. Those first couple of days involved me trying to adjust back to the western world and experiencing Greek culture for the first time.

Funky streets of Athens, Greece - Europe Travel
Funky streets of Athens, Greece.

The only things I really knew about Greece before arriving were from Mamma Mia, and my college roommate from Freshman year who I celebrated Greek Easter with.

I must say, the food is even better than I imagined it would be, and I’ve already realized just how lovely a summer in the Mediterranean is going to be.

I’ll be writing more about Greece and my first month in Athens and Crete in my next wrap up, but let’s just say I’m very content and happy right now.


I didn’t get to much reading again with the upcoming life changes and travels. I’m hoping to get back on track for July now that I’m near the beach and the more relaxed nature of Mediterranean life.

I did finally finish reading Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, which took me a lot longer to finish than I thought it would.

Honestly, I thought I would enjoy it more than I did. I’ve read his fiction work in the past, and I was eager to read his nonfiction because he’s revered as one of the best American travel writers.

I did enjoy his imaginative prose and descriptive writing about life on the train and the people he met along the way, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was kind of an arrogant male chauvinist in real life, in the same vein as Ernest Hemingway.

Of course, he wrote this book when he was in his 30s, so his later work may be completely different.


I just checked into my accommodation in Crete a couple of nights ago. I’m sharing a room with five other girls, for €100/week. I have a balcony that looks out over the ocean, my own kitchen, and a friendly hotel owner to chat with on a daily basis, by the name of Fragiskos.

Sunset balcony view in Crete, Greece - Europe Travel
The view from my balcony at sunset in Crete, Greece.

It’s still surreal that I’m actually in Greece. I mean, it was only just over a month ago that I decided to come here, and now I wake up every day and wonder with glee how I got here.

It’s sunny every day, there’s fresh gelato, the beach, and a completely new culture to dive head first into. You could say I’m very happy to be where I am right now.

I plan to be here for the next couple of months and from there we’ll see where life takes me.

Until next month!

3D latte art in Penang, Malaysia - Asia Travel
How cute is this 3D coffee in Penang?

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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