My flight into Kuala Lumpur was already landing late, but my Couchsurfing host Patrick was very kind in making sure to stay awake until I arrived. As midnight struck, my plane landed and my 40 hours countdown in the country began. I had initially planned spending at least two weeks exploring Malaysia, even working on a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands, but when looking at the calendar, I had two months left before flying to London to meet my family. I wanted to focus my time on delving into a culture to really experience it rather than hopping from one place to the next, just to cross them off a checklist.
Narrowing down my destinations in the region, I decided to travel through Vietnam, Laos, and Northern Thailand before making my way back to Bangkok for my flight. In between, I had a small layover in Malaysia since I had rushed into buying the ticket when I miraculously found internet in Myanmar once upon a time. I reserved the price in advance so that in the long-run it was actually less expensive to book two flights with the layover than a direct flight from Yangon, Myanmar to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was place hopping like I had wanted to avoid, but why pass on seeing another city if the worst that it meant was saving money?
When I arrived at Patrick’s, I immediately noticed Oscar’s shoes by the front door and his bag in the corner of the room. The same Oscar that Carlo and I had met weeks prior while traveling from Bangkok to Myanmar was now Couchsurfing with the same host in another country. Patrick showed me to my bed and I quickly fell asleep. The next morning we woke up before noon and Oscar and I had a grand reunion. We grabbed breakfast at a nearby market, bonding with Patrick while telling him our travel tales from Myanmar.
After eating, we began our full day of sightseeing in the city. Patrick had promised to pack in as many activities and places as he could since I only had one day. He wanted to make sure I experienced it all. Compared to other South East Asian countries, Malaysia is slightly more expensive, especially in the capital, but luckily Kuala Lumpur can be a great city for budget travelers if they know how to spend wisely. Many public buses run from the center of the city to the main attractions for free so of course we took advantage.
It was obvious that this was far from Patrick’s first time showing someone around his city. He had hosted over one hundred people yet was as energetic and excited as if Oscar and I were the first he was showing around. We visited the Batu Caves, various markets, observed the city’s diverse architecture, and of course gazed upon the iconic Petronas Towers. At night we walked all around the towers and even had the opportunity to see them from atop a nearby sky bar.
To get back to Patrick’s we planned on catching the last night bus but since my phone’s time was behind (still in Myanmar’s timezone) we waited for a bus that never came. About twenty minutes later, we took the hint and began our walk home.
The next morning we woke up early again, this time so Oscar and I could make American pancakes to thank Patrick for hosting us. Without access to measuring cups and with no previous pancake making experience, Oscar and I seemed to have all the odds against us in making these pancakes. In the end, however, we rose above all expectations and our pancakes were easily some 5 star TripAdvisor eatery (far better than pancakes that Milo and I had tried in Varanasi, India). Along with the pancakes, Patrick sliced up the freshest mangoes that I had ever eaten, though they were just a regular purchase at a market we browsed at the day before. We all ate until satisfied before Oscar and Patrick walked me to the bus en route for the airport.
My time in Malaysia had quickly come to an end but with the help of Patrick, I had still seen nearly everything that the guidebooks recommended to see in the country’s capital city. I was happy to have stopped in Kuala Lumpur even if for the small glimpse at what the rest of the country had to offer. But I was also looking forward to diving into Vietnam, a country which felt so distant and foreign.
Little did I know… Vietnam was bound to be one of the highlights of my trip, so much so that my initial thoughts of venturing into Laos and Northern Thailand during the rest of my time in Asia began to fade during my time there. I instead found myself amidst an unexpected relationship, uncovering the country’s vast hidden gems along the way.