12 October 2008

Malaysia

We took a 5 hour bus ride to Kuala Lumpur, from Singapore, and it was the BEST bus we've ever seen! It felt like first class, and was actually not too expensive, considering the comfort level. We regretted not getting any pictures, because it was a really fun way to travel. We actually wished that, instead of flying back, we could have taken the bus instead. The bus attendant was a young guy who brought water, food (although it was a little different than our usual meals!), and even got the kids some hot chocolate while everyone else was drinking their coffee and tea. The seats reclined far and had a foot rest, and they showed a movie that the kids could enjoy. Jeff watched Jane for a lot of it while Jack and I rested, and he had a very informative conversation with a nice Muslim man from Indonesia who was on holiday with his family. We had been very curious about all the women in veils in Singapore, and found it to be even more dominant in Malaysia. It was nice to get a little insight into their culture.

When we hopped off the bus, it was pouring rain. Awesome. We had NO idea where our hotel was, or how we were going to get there. (This is my incredible planning at play. Like I've said before, I did NOT plan this trip as well as I would have liked. This is one thing I would have liked to know before hand.) We stood around on the side of the road until taxi drivers actually started approaching us. Our faces must have spelled out, "WE HAVE NO PLAN!". In Malaysia, at least in KL, very few of the taxis use their meter. From what we could tell, the meter is so cheap, and the rates haven't been raised in over 12 years, so no one uses them anymore. So that meant we had to haggle with the driver about a price to a place an unknown distance away. I'll tell you right now, this was our least favorite part of our time in KL. Anyway, we found a driver that was reasonably priced and he turned out to be a really nice man. In the pooring rain, we got to our hotel quickly for about $5 U.S. Not too bad, but it's probably about twice what we would have paid with the meter. We tried to train ourselves not to think of it that way!

We immediately loved our hotel. The staff was absolutely fantastic, there was a nice, big lobby, and although the room was pretty modest, it was a good size for us and Jack had no problem sleeping on the floor. Everyone was SO smily, chatty, and helpful. We almost felt like we were back in Thailand, except everyone spoke English. It felt really good. It didn't hurt that this nice, big hotel was actually a LOT cheaper than our tiny hotel in Singapore. I try to convince myself that the place you stay doesn't effect the trip, but sometimes, it really makes a difference. I have to say, the friendly staff is what really made us enjoy ourselves here.


Since it was pooring rain, we decided to try and find something indoors where the kids could get their travel wiggles out. We felt lucky to find a mall with a huge indoor amusement park. Jack ran from ride to ride, while Jane tried to recover from her short nap on the train on the way over, poor girl. She was exhausted.


It was called Cosmo's World, and was themed all around a HUGE garden. It was really well done, and they had rides for kids and adults alike. We would have been spending our time in a different area if it was just Jeff and me, but we still loved going on the kiddy rides with them.


I did finally convince Jeff to leave me with the kids and to go on the big rollercoaster at least. We both LOVE rollercoasters, but not feeling well, I didn't think I wanted to attempt it. I was glad he did though, and he said it was really impressive! (You can kind of see the orange tracks winding throughout. It looked awesome!)



Jane perked up by the end and enjoyed a few of the rides, as well as the huge indoor playground. She and Jack found two brothers their age that they played and played with. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy evening out after a day of traveling!


From the train, we had to walk through China Town to get to our Hotel. I love China Towns. We didn't get to go in Singapore, so I was thrilled that our hotel was right next to it so we could walk through it easily. Since Jack had a good nap that day, I thought it would be fun to do something new, just the two of us. Have you ever heard of a Fish Spa?


While we were in Singapore, I saw the Fish Spa concept for the first time and thought (and probably said), "that is the dumbest thing anyone could ever think of". Especially when I saw the price, I couldn't believe what people were paying for a 15 minute session of dipping your feet in water with fish. Okay, so as we were walking through China Town, people were advertising their spas, of course! Just like in Thailand. I'm a sucker for a good massage, and will admit that I love when Jeff sends me off for a good foot massage after a long day. It's a great way to relax, enjoy the quiet, read a book, and feel very pampered for about $6. Who can beat that? I'm enjoying it while I can.

So, after seeing that the prices for this "new" fish spa in KL were pretty reasonable, I decided it would be fun to try. (I'm also a sucker to try something I've never done before.) I thought it would be much more fun to do this if Jack came with me, because he's always asking if he can get a massage like we see people doing all the time. I really don't want other women touching him, that's just weird, so of course, I've always said no. Plus, he giggles before I even make contact with him to wash his feet. It just wouldn't work. But, I thought this would be a good chance to do something like that together. Was I glad I did it? I think it was the highlight of my entire trip!


We went in, and I asked if we could do the 30 minute session just for 15 minutes so I could have my son do it too. They just laughed and said that it was a 30 minute fish spa with a 15 minute neck and shoulder rub, and the "baby" was free. We put our things in a locker, then they took us in to wash our feet. Jack was giggling like crazy as she was scrubbing his feet. She even carried him over to the fish pond because they didn't have flip-flops that would fit him. He sat down and stuck his feet in without hesitation. While she was washing my feet about 10 feet away, I could hear him giggling and laughing like I've never heard. I couldn't help but laugh and try to keep him quiet at the same time, so as not to disturb the other people during their massages. I sat down with him and experienced something I've never felt before! All the fish immediately start sucking on your feet almost in a rhythm. The big ones were a little much for me. It was really interesting and weird all at the same time. I had no idea that it would feel so different while it was happening, I guess I assumed I would feel a difference in the texture of my feet after or something. I didn't know, I just wanted to try something new. Jack didn't keep his feet still for long enough to really get too many fish on him at once, but he kept his feet in the entire time, which surprised me!

You can't see it in the picture, but as soon as we sat down, a lady came and brought us both water, and a huge candy dish for Jack to snack on. He was in heaven! She then gave me my shoulder rub, which would have felt much better if I wouldn't have gotten a little too much sun at the beach the day before! The highlight of course, was sitting there with Jack just laughing, talking, and imagining what Jane and Jeff's reactions to this would be. It was a moment I don't want to forget. I always enjoy doing something new, but doing it with Jack was way more fun than it would have been alone. I was thrilled he was so excited about doing the "fish thing", which to most kids would not have sounded that enticing!


Our first full day in KL, we were so excited to do a canopy tour that we'd read and heard so much about, that was just outside the city. We found a nice driver to stick with us for a few hours, while we walked 90 ft. up in the air over little bridges between trees. Sounds awesome, right? I'm sure it would have been, if it wasn't under maintenence for another 3 weeks! We were totally disappointed, but quickly realized there were other possibilities. We ended up going to the Batu Cave that was not too far away, and something I'd read about but thought we wouldn't have time for. This is a place where over 1 million Hindus come as a pilgrimage each year in January and February. It was at this point that we realized our camera battery was dying. Good timing. We did get a few good ones though.


Jack hiked up the 272 steps, watching for monkeys the entire way. They were everywhere!


One monkey even tried to snatch Jack's ice cream cone on the way back down. It was a little bit traumatizing. It is a little nerve-racking to be around wild animals that have no hesitation around people. They're completely unpredictable.


This was the inside of the main cave, with several shrines in different crevices all around. It was pretty impressive.


At the top, these guys had this snake and were letting people take pictures with it. I could tell Jack wanted to do it, but he wanted me to do it first. I felt like I couldn't not do it at that point, because then he'd think I wasn't doing it because I was scared, and he just needed that extra little bump of encouragement. Maybe putting some random snake on myself and then my five year old wasn't such a good choice, but at the time, I just didn't want Jack to back away from something he really wanted to do because he was too nervous. Anyway, I held it, then passed it on to Jack and he was SO excited!


Of course, right after, this the guy came up and asked for 10 ringgits each (about $6 total). Jeff looked at him laughing and said, "no". To keep the peace, I said, "I have 9 ringgits in my pocket" (which I did), and he seemed satisfied. Obviously, that whole thing happened pretty fast because I wasn't really even thinking about how much they would charge me! What's happening to me?

So, besides the fish spa, our favorite part of KL was going to church. We found the building pretty easily, thanks to the awesome church website, and felt SO at home there! As soon as we hopped out of our taxi, we met two young met from Nigeria and Malaysia who immediately took the kids hands and helped them across the street with us while we were getting our things situated. It felt so nice to be with other Latter-Day Saints. We walked in and were touched by the warmth we felt there. This small branch was extremely diverse with people from the U.S., China, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and many more countries. We felt right at home! We enjoyed a full block of meetings, where Jack and Jane happily attended their own classes and Jeff and I got to actually sit together in Sunday school. It was awesome. We stayed after and visited with several of the members and let Jack and Jane play with the kids of the branch president. Jack was SO sad he wouldn't see Janella next week! She had a little brother that was almost exactly Jane's age. I wanted to take them all home with us!


We were so happy to have had such an awesome Sunday in KL. It felt so good to be able to attend (in English!) even when we were away from home! This is the kids showing their muscles in front of the church.


Our last day, we went to see the famouse Petronas Towers in the middle of the city. They used to be the tallest buildings in the world until they were passed up in 2006. They are 88 stories high, and just a little bit taller than the Empire State building.


We didn't feel like getting up early to get the tickets to get into the observation deck (you can see it connecting the two towers), so we mainly just spent our time in the park right by them. If we would have had more batteries, we would have shown you how incredible this park was. It was gorgeous, and the play area was bigger than any other I've ever seen. I think it had at least 15 seperate and unique playgrounds all put together in one HUGE area. We were all SO happy to have found it, as it was a perfect way to relax and enjoy our last morning in Malaysia. Here's the last picture on the camera, of Jack in one of the play structures.


We were starving after a while, so we went in the huge shopping mall to find a place to eat. Guess what we found? Chili's! You probably don't know this about me, but I am NOT a fan of Chili's and Applebee's. They're fine, but with as infrequently as Jeff and I ever went out before we moved here, I always wanted to find a place that was unique. Preferably somehwere we'd never been before. But, you know what? Jeff and I hardly had to discuss where we were going to eat after seeing they had one. We don't have them in Thailand, so I guess it was unique in that way, right? I ordered a big chicken salad and it was SO delicious! Salads in Asia are usually a few leaves of lettuce with carrot sticks, celery, and maybe some beans and corn. I wish I was exaggerating. So, to get a huge, American looking salad, I almost wanted to cry. The kids ate free, (so impressive) and Jeff got a delicious sandwich. It's been a long time since all of us loved our meals at the same time. It probably sounds so silly, but we all just felt so at HOME!

I used to hate when I heard of people eating at McDonalds or Burger King when they were in a foreign country. Now, as much as I still think you should try to experience the native foods and culture, I understand more than ever how comforting it can be to just eat something that is familiar. I will judge no more!

So, my concluding thoughts about Malaysia, if you're still with me are these: We loved the people. Everyone was friendly and smiley. We felt right at home with the street vendors, markets, and prices. It was not clean, the sidewalks weren't good (if you're wondering why we notice this so much, try navigating a stroller over huge missing tiles on the walkways!), and it was really smokey, which was not my favorite. The people were great! I tell you, that makes all the difference in the world to us. The taxi drivers, although we had to haggle prices, were always nice and helpful and true to their word. The vendors were fair and decent and I never felt like I was getting ripped off when I was desperate for fruit in China Town.

One afternoon after visiting a planetarium, it was pooring rain. We were stranded in this park far away from a road with no taxis in sight. Suddenly one pulled up and said he'd take us to our hotel. He could have asked for any price and we would have had to pay it. He didn't. He was actually the only driver who ever turned on his meter, and we didn't even have to ask him. He was completely willing to help our poor little family in a very tight spot, instead of taking complete advantage of us, like I worry some would have! People definitely make a difference! Malaysia wasn't perfect, but we loved what we saw, and if given the chance, we'd go back and see more of that beautiful country.

Thank you Kuala Lumpur for smiling. Thank you for loving our children. Thank you for your beautiful greenery. Thank you for your unique architecture. Thank you for having so much to do in such a short amount of time. We hope to be back someday!

Here's a few more pictures from Singapore I left out on accident. Oops!

We loved this cool fountain in one of the shopping malls.




My boys being goofs on the tower at the tip of mainland asia.


Jane with one of our favorite treats: a Slurpee. Something else that is from "home" that we've found all over the place. Thank you, 7-11!

4 comments:

The Lee's said...

looks like you guys had a wonderful time. mckaila enjoyed looking at your blog. She kept asking when she could go over to your house and play. We miss you guys.

Bevany said...

Your blog is one of my favorites to look at. You are always having an adventure. That amusment park looks AMAZING!! The fish spa looks absolutely disgusting. You are daring to try it. Your kids are always dressed so cute. That red shirt of Jane's is so cute. It looks like such a fun trip! I have to admit I'm a little jealous.

Emily said...

What a fun trip! I loved the post about the fish spa.

napa-dipu said...

Jack and Jane very happy ! I like your trip.