Monday, May 26, 2014

And I quote...

“If you want to be happy, be.” 
-Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The quest for the veggie market

I've been craving salad... leafy greens topped with a plethora of vibrant vegetables.  It is one of those cravings that just won't go away.  However, since I live on Pantai Cenang (Cenang, pronounced Chenanag, Beach), a touristy area, there is a very serious lack of full scale grocery stores.  I HAVE been able to find fruit, but no veggies.

Finally, I broke, the craving won... I rented a bike (as did the Boyfriend).  It cost 20 MYR for my bike, about $6, and half that for Boyfriend's (he didn't get a mountain bike.)  And off, into the great expanse of the Langkawi back streets we rode, in search of veggies.

look how green it is, there has to be veggies somewhere...
hopefully not up those hills
We were out for about 10 minutes before I was absolutely drenched in sweat.  Have I mentioned how hot and humid Langkawi is?  We passed a few small shops, but nothing looking too promising (although one did have some warm water for our re-hydrating enjoyment.)

Sweaty me...
zoom out, you won't see the sweat that way
So, our day went as follows, up the hill, up the hill, down the hill, down the hill... my part in the manner was struggle, struggle, breath, breath, panic brake, panic.  I estimate we made it about halfway (maybe 10 km) to Kuah town, before we finally gave up and turned back.  We had debated continuing on, but weren't sure how to get back and were definitely sure we would not make it back by nightfall, painfully aware of the lack of lights on our rented bikes.

map showing Cenang Beach and Kuah Town
We left out of the north end of the Cenang area, and returned on the south end, where, we did finally find a few more things resembling veggie stalls/store.  And to a walkable location from our room, albeit a far walk... only one problem, we still hadn't found lettuce.  SERIOUSLY, where is the lettuce?  Another time, another day looks like we will have to continue our search.

Such is life I suppose.

Update: We did eventually find lettuce (and other salad fixins') a few days later, after I bitched to a friend of ours with a car, who took us with him the next time he went to the store.  It was in the opposite direction from where we had searched.  Oopsie!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

And I quote...

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” 
-Roald Dahl

Friday, May 2, 2014

Malls, maddness, and a missed flight

Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi, the final leg of my long trek... probably...maybe anyways.

Upon arriving back in KL, I left the airport with the most jolly taxi driver (who I'm pretty sure charged me a premium rate, although it was less than the rate being shouted at me by the taxi drivers lurking at the exit of the old LCCT terminal) and returned to the small hotel that I had stayed at over Christmas, for a weekend of shopping and massages (or so I thought, not knowing that the government had shut down all the massage parlors...more on that later.)  After all, the clothes I had been travelling with for the past 6 months were getting a little threadbare, and I did NEED a thing or two, if I was to be job searching.

Fountain in front of one of the shopping malls in Bukit Bintang, KL

Two days of pretty stores, clean malls, air conditioning, and shopping, until I literally dropped, not even counting the vast array of food available at my very fingertips, was a much needed respite, after the dust and grime of India.  I was well satiated and equipped to begin setting up my new life.

My mall trip led me to this revelation, the massage bed DOES exist.

I had booked my ticket through Malindo Air, for the short 1 hour flight from KL, to arrive Sunday, after my recharge weekend was finished.  However, what you might not know is that Kuala Lumpur has 2 airports (as is the case in most major cities), the main International airport, KLIA, and the smaller, more domestic Subang Airport (also known as Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport).  I purposely looked at flights leaving from Subang, thinking along the lines that a) I'd get to check out the smaller airport, figuring I'd probably have a few back and forth flights on the more domestic carriers, and b) with the exception of Air Asia, nearly all the domestic carriers leave from Subang, and I figured I'd get a better deal.  The main domestic carriers in Malaysia are Malindo (a combination of MAL-aysia and INDO-nesia) Air, Firefly, and of course, Air Asia.  Searching through the 3 sites, and my favorite flight search, Skyscanner, I settled on a flight through Malindo for just under $25, not too shabby I thought to myself.

Kuala Lumpur map showing the 2 airports

As I was inquiring later about the best way to get to Subang, as opposed to KLIA, at the desk of my hotel, through the few friends I'd been able to meet up with, Boyfriend, and even the jolly taxi driver from before, nearly everyone questioned if my flight was from Subang.  "Are you sure it isn't KLIA?"  I was asked repeatedly.  "Yes, yes, yes..." I answered to each of their inquiries.  I finally decided that just having the jolly taxi driver was the best and quickest option (ok, truth, I didn't search so hard, I was tired, and tired of travelling, and carrying my bag, and all the stresses that come with the territory.)

Sunday morning, the jolly taxi driver came to pick me up, in as good as mood as ever, and drove me to the airport.  We chatted the entire time, and even he praised my decision to opt for Subang in lieu of KLIA.  I reached Subang in a decent time, and went to check in for my flight.  I stood in line at the Malindo counter with a calm I hadn't felt in ages, certainly nothing close to the feeling I had taking the train solo across India.  I approached the counter, laid out my passport, and stood expectantly for my ticket.

"You don't have a ticket." the counter agent said to me as I was watching the scale teeter dangerously between just underweight and just overweight.  “Um… yes, I do...” was my snarky response while still watching the flashing numbers (I don’t exactly have the best history, with getting my luggage checked properly.)  I pulled out my phone, and pulled up the e-ticket receipt, and casually handed it to the lady, who was working diligently to try and figure out where I’d vanished to in the system.  She took one quick glance at my phone and said, “Oh, you’re flight is leaving from KLIA.  We only have a flight or 2 a day that leave from that airport, for people transferring from International flights.”  My thoughts (supposed to be thinking of my options at this point) went straight to… sonofabitch… sonofabitch… and how I was never going to live this down.  Quickly I asked, how long until the flight departed (2 hours), how long would it take me to get a taxi to the other airport (1.5 hours if I was lucky) and how much would it cost to take said taxi (100 ringgit – about $30, or more than I paid for the flight in the first place.)  And, finally I asked how much it would cost to buy a new flight, to which the lady (slightly less pleasant than she had been initially) directed me to the purchasing counters.  After a bit of finagling, I managed to have her hold my definitely overweight bag (Malindo only allows for 15 kg) and off I went in search of a new flight.

I formed, what I thought, was a great plan on my way to the ticket counter.  I was going to pit them against each other and work the best deal available.  Turned out, that was more of a pipe dream, as no one really cares if you buy their ticket or not.  I quickly checked with Air Asia, but as their main hub is at KLIA, I would have had to get to the other airport anyway.  So, I checked with Malindo and Firefly for flights that same day, stressing over the cost of buying a same day ticket, in person, at the airport, with a bag that was lying on the floor behind a check-in agent across the vast room.  As it turned out, I was worried over nothing, Malindo and Firefly both had relatively low cost flights, about $30 for Malindo and $35 for Firefly (who also had a higher weight limit on checked bags, 20 kg).  I purchased the Firefly ticket to avoid any possible overage charges, since (fortunately) my bag had already been weighed.

The new flight was to leave only 40 minutes later than my original (and now to be missed) flight.  I went and collected my bag from the Malindo agent, and drug it over to the Firefly desk, and did my check in, and then headed outside to call Boyfriend.  He was sleeping.  Our conversation made virtually no sense, and eventually I just shouted, be at the airport at 2:45, not entirely sure if he was registering any of the information.

I needed a Starbucks, which I had spotted while trying not to sweat through my comfy airplane pants lurking outside while on the phone.  I rushed in, pleased to find the air conditioner was well in working order.  I ordered my usual (iced latte) and after getting some weird looks, managed to locate a seat next to an outlet.

Couple hours later, they were ready to board.  The plane was one of those small twin-engine deals, which always reminds me of the Nazi fight scene in Indiana Jones.  All of our luggage was thrown onto the first few rows of the plane and we were loosely packed throughout the rear two-thirds of the plane.  It was...quaint.

The view from my seat UNDER the wing

And another.

About 5-10 minutes into our ascent, we hit some major turbulence.  I checked my seat belt, and watched as the front of the plane took a dip that I could detect visually from my seat just under the wing.  I actually saw the front of the plane move down.  DOWN, as in not up, you know the direction we were suppoed to be going.  I let out a nervous sigh simultaneous with the girl next to me.  We glanced at each other and nervously smiled, and began chatting.  Tension was extra high during the turbulence, and on the flight in general, as it was just a short month or so since the Malaysian airlines flight had disappeared, and (what I didn't know until I was boarding) Firefly is a subsidiary of Malaysian airlines.

The back of the seat in front of me.  I kept thinking what an oddly cute, 
morbid thing to see as you fell from the sky...a chart of flu symptoms.

Soon after the harrowing ascent through turbulence, we managed to get above the cause (a storm?) and it was smooth sailing from there.  I chatted with the lovely lady next to me (my new best friend in case of death) who was originally from Germany and living with her family in Kuala Lumpur, and was going to visit a friend for the week in Langkawi.  I was very thankful for her (as I’m sure she was of me) to keep our minds off of plane travel on this side of the world.

Map showing KL to Langkawi
Some islands just off Langkawi.  The blades moving so fast, 
they look as though they aren't moving.

Another island just off Langkawi, this one is a resort island.

We landed without incident, and right on time.  I walked across the tarmac; stopping for some lovely photos taken by my new German friend (it was so bright she couldn't see the screen on my phone, and apparently I could not fully open my eyes.)  I collected my bag, and walked through the arrival gate.

I look a little worse for wear, don't I?  Ah me...squinting into the sun...

Boyfriend was waiting for me, he had understood our incoherent phone call, and was the loveliest of sights to see.  I had made it.  I was home.