Tag Archives: Malaysia

2017, A Year to Myself

2017, A Year to Myself | The Atlas Heart

I never expected 2017 to be a year to myself, but then again, I guess you never really know what life will bring you with each new year.

I should know better by now.

Even though I didn’t expect it to be a year to myself, I can say with full clarity now that I’m so very glad that it was. This was the year that I found my independence again, understood fully what I deserve in my life, and embraced my alone time.

I’m someone who is already pretty good at being alone. I’m an introvert, most of my pastimes are solo ones – reading, playing my guitar, listening to music, cooking. And my work is very much a solo pursuit, from writing to doing digital marketing for clients.

I’m used to being alone, but 2017 was a year where I really just had myself to pull me back up from my bootstraps, to lean on, to make sense of stressful, happy, and sad situations.

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12 Things to do in Penang, Malaysia

Things to Do in Penang, Malaysia

The best things to do in Penang! From street art to cafes, hikes, and wacky museums, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy in this multicultural city.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with my return to Malaysia this year. The brief time I spent in the country in 2013 was a good experience overall, but it’s also the first place where I was aggressively groped in broad daylight.

Granted, gropings can happen anywhere, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t taint my experience while in the country.

It stuck with me so much that even today, four years later, when I hear a scooter coming up behind me I get a dose of adrenalin and and my sense of awareness goes into overdrive.

I knew I wanted to come back to Malaysia someday to have a more positive experience, and focus on all of the good that the country has to offer.

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Looking Back on 8.5 Months in Asia

Wat Phu, Pakse - Laos Travel

“‘Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard…something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance.”  // Emma Morley (Excerpt from One Day)

When I stepped on that flight to Hong Kong last October, I had no idea how much my life would change in the course of eight months.

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Travel Misconceptions: Gay Travel in Malaysia

Travel Misconceptions: Gay Travel in Malaysia

Join Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys as they unravel the travel misconceptions of gay travel in Malaysia.

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

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 – I call it seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens. To start this series off we are going to explore gay travel in Malaysia and discovering the truth behind common travel misconceptions that have to do with gay Malaysia travel.

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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.


Time spent = 3 nights, 4 days

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

I would definitely recommend staying in the Golden Triangle neighborhood or Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. In the Golden Triangle area, 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 or Chinatown.

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.


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.


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.


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



Fish feet cleaning in the Central Market


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


Merdeka Square, Muslim roots, and the Old Quarter



Wearing a burka and exploring the National Mosque


The crazy atmosphere that is Chinatown


Petronas Towers – Day and Night


Favorite place in Kuala Lumpur, The Golden Triangle


First taste of Southeast Asia, Malaysia


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.


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.


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


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…