Snapshot: little mysterious sand balls

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November 2013, Langkawi, Malaysia.

Caminando por una de las playas de Malasia noté unas bolitas de arena en la orilla. Me tomó unos minutos notar que estas bolitas formaban pequeñas obras de arte. Conclusión obvia: aliens.
Al ratito empecé a notar movimiento. Los autores de estas maravillas eran… cangrejos! Con base en un agujerito chiquito al centro de su trabajo, van formando estructuras concéntricas que se abren sobre la superficie.
Gracias a internet después me enteré que es un cangrejo específico de Malasia y que hace todo ese trabajo midiendo solo 1 cm de diámetro! Hacen esas bolitas mientras que buscan comida en la arena cuando la marea esta baja.
Linda la naturaleza, eh!

Walking along one of Malaysia´s beaches, I noticed little sand bubbles in the shore line. It took me a couple of minutes to notice that these bubbles made up a work of art. Obvious conclusion: aliens.
After a while, I noticed movement. The creators of this wonders were… crabs! The use a little hole in the sand as their base to create concentric structures that open up on the surface.
Thanks to internet, I found out this is the sand-bubbler crab, specific to Malaysia, and it does all this work measuring only 1 cm of diameter! They create the bubbles while scouring the sand for food during low tides.
Nature’s pretty cool, hu?

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Snapshot: Invitation to sea

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Langkawi, Malaysia, November 2013

Caminando por Langkawi encontramos ésta oferta pegada a un árbol.
El dueño de un barco a vela buscaba tripulantes para sumarse a su viaje comunitario.
Sudeste asiático para 2013 e Indonesia, África y Brasil para 2014.
Los costos y las tareas se repartirían entre los participantes.
La vida tiene esa capacidad de sorprendernos en cualquier momento!

While walking around in Langkawi we found this offer stuck to a tree.
A sail boat owner was seeking for crew to join him on a community trip on board of his boat.
South East Asia for 2013 and Indonesia, Africa and all the way to Brazil for 2014.
Costs and chores to be shared among travelers.
Life can always surprise you!

Nice to meet you, Malaysia! Pulau Langkawi

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After my torrid affair with Thailand ended, I fell into Malaysia’s arms, merely because it was on the way to somewhere else, to be honest. “Un clavo saca a otro clavo” would be the Spanish expression, which basically means that Malaysia was my rebound country. So we’re off to a bad start.

I got there with an ear infection and wounded feet, all scars that Thailand had given me, scars that didn’t bother me while being with my little turquoise jewels in the Andaman sea. That had changed. I couldn’t get in the water, I was on antibiotics and pain killers and had to put year drops every 3 hours. I was cranky and my energy was low. So my perception of Pulau Langkawi was tainted already because of my former Asian lover.
Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. It was also my first encounter ever with Muslim religion, which was a bit rough for me and took me some time to get used to since I knew very little about it. The hostel was an open space where people wandered around non-stop, it was hot, the bathroom was icky, mosquitoes where little ponies, eating me up. And food was weird. That was bad. Very bad.

However, Pulau Langkawi is so pretty that eventually none of that matters. We left Pantai Cenang mid-morning and headed towards the 7 pond waterfalls, Telaga Tujuh. After going up what seemed like a million steps we were at the top of the hill, having amazing views of the ocean while resting our feet in refreshingly cold and extremely transparent water. It was heaven. We laid there for a while and headed down to the waterfall itself. It was a great place to just be there and get kissed by the mist of the falling water.

Top pf the waterfall & ocean view

Top pf the waterfall & ocean view

Down the road from the waterfalls and after a 20 minute walk we reached the cable car station. Went all the way up to the gate of the sky bridge, 650 above seal level, WHICH WAS CLOSED! Bummer. Anyway, we got to enjoy beautiful views of Langkawi, not only Pulau Langkawi but the nearby islands. We walked around staring, amused. Then we got back down alone, the whole cable car to ourselves cause a couple refused to ride with us. Yes. They were Muslim. We made the best of it and between Julia’s screams of terror due to the height (finally! Something she’s scared of! Hahaha) we took some crazy pictures.

View from the entrance of the Sky Bridge

View from the entrance of the Sky Bridge

Beautiful overview

Beautiful overview

While coming down, we spotted a little white sand beach sitting on a little bay called Burau Bay. We had to get there! So we headed that way. Turned out the beach was owned by a huge resort. We put our rich girls faces on and just walked in. As soon as we got to the lobby, it started raining, so we just stayed lounging in one of the beach chairs under a couple of palm trees until it stopped. The beach looked amazing but there was a jellyfish warning sign. Boo hoo. Here’s a pic I found online for you to see the beach and the resort. We researched it later and the cheapest room is almost 400 usd. Yeah… bye!!

Berjaya Resort Langkawi

Berjaya Resort Langkawi

Alcohol in Malaysia is expensive! So, good-bye beer! Luckily we found a Falafel and Shawarma food stall run by a lovely Syrian guy so we became regulars there. Julia got her Henna on, I got my hiking shoes on a duty-free shop and then, we were ready to get going. Gotta keep on moving!

I knew Malaysia didn’t stand a chance against Thailand even before getting there. Thailand was my first in SEA, how can you compete with that? However, I will always keep fond memories of my time there and Malaysia had some trick up its sleeve that I was not expecting!

Sunset in Pantai Cenagan

Sunset in Pantai Cenagan

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The mystery reveals itself. Kuala Lumpur, My.

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I have a confession to make: when I was in Bangkok I’d met this girl who kept talking about a place called Kael. I kept nodding when I actually had no idea what she was talking about. It seemed so obvious that I had to know it that I didn’t dare ask. This happened again with other people I met along the way. Turned out, I was now heading there without even knowing it.
Kuala Lumpur, or KL (K-L, for Christ sake!), was the first mega metropolis (exaggerated much?) I was going to encounter since leaving home 2 months ago. I was excited. I loved my month and a half island-hopping in Thailand, but a part of me, even if it’s small, will always be a city girl: the lights, the chaos, the feeling of being alone surrounded by thousands of people and the certainty that there were lots like me out there.
Going around by foot in KL is difficult and most people just don’t; when we asked for directions for things we eventually realized were 15 blocks away locals would emphatically point that walking was not an option. Then again, you have… MONORAIL! So why would you want to walk? The monorail is tiny and often smelly but it’s a must and it offers a great way to see the city while enjoying AC. However, I recommend walking around the Petronas twin towers area while every so often lifting your gaze, it’s like they are playing hide and seek between other buildings. And you always win.
Aside from the twin towers, you can visit the KL Menara to get a view of the city. We chose to go up the twin towers because we wanted to see them from the inside. A renowned Argentinian architect was involved in the design, so we have a soft spot for it. If you want to go up, you have to go buy your ticket a couple of days before or go at 8 am. Access is limited each day so it doesn’t matter if you’re leaving the next day, if it’s sold out, you’ll miss it.

Most of our time in KL revolved around the towers. By day. By night. For breakfast. For lunch. For dinner. They are just so magnetic! And it made it obvious that we were where we where. It was a little traveling milestone: I´m in Kuala Lumpur, I´m on the the other side of the world. Happiness.

Look at that! / Miren!!

Look at that! / Miren!!

Ermahgerd! / Ohpordios!!

Ermahgerd! / Ohpordios!!

My great gig in the sky

My great gig in the sky

Inside the Petronas Twin Towers

Inside the Petronas Twin Towers

The other option is to go up the Menara and get a look at the twin towers from a distance and seeing them immersed in the whole grand scheme of the city. Or, if your budget and time allows, do both!
KL is a great place to indulge in a bit of comfort while backpacking. They have everything you need and want and more! Need tech gear? Hit Low Yat Plaza near Imbi station. Need a new change of clothes? Hit H&M, Forever 21 and tons of other, affordable and not so much, choices in Bukit Bintang station. If you get a chance, stroll around Pavilion: it’s a gigantic mall with over the top decorations year round. I got to see both their Christmas and Chinese New year’s ones. While you’re in there, go to level 4 and head to the 5 RM store. It’s the Malaysian version of a Japanese store called Daiso and we learned about it through our Japanese friend, Takako. We wanted to buy some stuff at Muji and she suggested we checked this other store first. She was right. Everything in the store is, you guessed, 5 RM (1.5 usd) and you can get kitchen ware, Japanese snacks, toiletries, blankets, stationary, batteries… you name it, it’s there!

Japanese lesson with Takako / Clase de japones con Takako

Japanese lesson with Takako / Clase de japones con Takako

Near Bukit Bintang you have Chinatown. During the day is a market that bases its existence on knock off merchandise. You can get gorgeous Celine bags, that of course aren’t Celine but they look so much like the real thing! The same with Chanel, Prada, Chloe and many more. Being a recovering bag junkie it was hard to walk away empty-handed. But there’s no place for a faux designer bag in my backpack and in my life and they were still a bit out of budget. By night, on Petaling street, there’s an incredible street market that revolves around FOOD! Amazing pork, duck, seafood. It’s packed with people and waiters chase you down the street to get you to sit at their table. It can be a little overwhelming, but just stare at what other people are eating and when you see something you like, try to seat nearby, that’s what we did.

We had the chance to visit the National Mosque. To get in, it was mandatory to be covered from head to toes so they gave us a purple robe. We met a man that explained most of Islams basics and we then got into what I consider a complicated subject: women and Islam. We asked him a few questions, thanked him and just left the thing be. Gave back our robes and roamed the city one more time.

Muslim get up

Muslim get up

We were there during rainy season, meaning it was hot and sticky and it rained every day so when we were in need of some cooling down, we just entered the first mall in sight and enjoy the free AC.
We left KL feeling renewed, with the adrenaline rush only a city can provide and ready to tackle our next destination: Melaka.

 

 

It’s cold in here! Cameron Highlands, My.

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(“There must be some Toros in the atmosphere”, right? couldn’t help it!)

While being in Penang, we were trying to figure out where to go next. “Lonely Planet says there’s a place south of here where it’s cold…” I don’t care where it is, how much it costs to get there or if there’s nothing to see. Let’s go! After more than 2 months being sweaty 24/7 and having crazy, frizzy hair, the promise of cold sounded like heaven. What do we want? To be cold! When do we want it? Now!

Our van picked us up from our hostel in Chinatown. It was supposed to be a 3 hour ride on an air-conditioned transport with lots of legroom. Not really. No AC. No legroom. Luckily, I got the seat by the “hop-on” step and was able to stretch a bit. We hit the road and a traffic jam, simultaneously. Long story short, the ride lasted 6 hours.
On the way to our lodge, I noticed people on the streets wearing jackets. Oh, happy day! I’d been dragging a pair of boots for 2 months. I was FINALLY going to use them. Woohoo! (Yes, I get happy easily) We got to the lodge mid-afternoon. We went up to the dorm to leave our things; it looked more like an orphanage than a dorm, but hey, it was 5 usd a night!! Love it!

We hit town to get acquainted with our surroundings. 5 blocks. That was it. We were already acquainted. Ok… what should we do now? The answer was obvious: EAT! Indian it is. I had been craving naan since Thailand and had a mediocre one in Penang, so when we saw the guy rolling the dough and cooking it right there, our mouths watered. Indeed, awesome naan and raita. We planned our activities for the next day and called a night since we were super tired. Surprise, surprise! I got into bed and suddenly I started to feel itchy. Very. Of course, my mind jumped into the obvious conclusion: finally, bed bugs had found me and my delicious blood. Bet mosquitoes told them I was coming, since they love my delicious blood too. I must admit that I am a very conflicted hostel-bed user. I think about the sheets, if they’ve been washed… I distrust patterned sheets. And don’t get me started on pillows! So, I’ve been travelling around with my own pillow case. I’m a filthy animal with many other things, like, I can wear the same socks for weeks, but it’s my filth, get my point? So, I put my pillow case and used my sarong as a sheet. Then, I proceeded to cover my entire self. Slept in leggings, socks and a hoodie. No part of my body was going to touch anything. Still, itchy itchy itchy!!! I know by then that it was going to be a long night, especially since we had an early start the next day. As expected, I fell asleep an hour before having to wake up. Well done!
We started our day trekking through the mossy forest to see the famous Raflessia flower. It only lasts for about 7 days after it blossoms so we were lucky to see it. There it was with one cabbage patch kid of her own, it was amazing, it looked like an alien flower. We also found the root that is used to make Tiger Balm! Very amusing. We were sweaty and muddy and happy.

Raflessia & me

Raflessia & me

After a 3 hour trek, we went to a tea plantation. I never gave much thought to how tea is actually made so I didn’t really know what to expect. It blew my mind. It looked like a green ocean, with waves rolling through the hills covering everything on their way. The plantations are just there, next to the road, no entrance fee, no nothing. They are part of the landscape. So are the workers that everyday go harvest the tender tea leaves that will later be processed in the plant. After wandering around the plantations for a while like little kids and staring in awe at everything, we made our way to the processing plant. We went to Boh Tea Plantation, founded in 1929 during the British colonial era in Malaysia. We saw how tea leaves are dried, chopped and classified. We made a quick stop through their store and picked up a Lychee and Rose one and an Earl Grey with Tangerine one. Both were really good, very aromatic and a pleasure to drink during our cold nights and mornings in Cameron Highlands. We then sat down at the cafeteria and enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed tea while overlooking the tea-covered hills. The cafeteria had glass walls, so we felt like floating over the plantation.

Tea with a view / Té con vista

Tea with a view / Té con vista

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Tea Plantation / Plantación de té

Tea Plantation / Plantación de té

Ater that, we stopped by a strawberry farm! Oh my god, I was so excited about this!! We got the chance to go to a farm and collect our own strawberries. They gave us a little basket and a pair of scissors and off we went. I felt like Strawberry Shortcake, one of my favorite cartoons as a kid. Then they weighed them and place them in a box, and all mine! Loved them, I ate the whole bunch in one sitting as soon as we got back to our lodge.

Dreamy strawberry fram

Dreamy strawberry fram

Harvesting my strawberries / Cosechando mis frutillas

Harvesting my strawberries / Cosechando mis frutillas

During day 3 it rained all day so it was a chocolate-and-movie day. The lodge had a DVD player and a broad movie selection so we hit the supermarket, stocked on chocolate and enjoyed the afternoon being a couch potato.
Cameron Highlands is a solace of green and coolness that we really enjoyed. But it was time to hit the road again. Next stop: Kuala Lumpur!