May shaped up to be another good month! I managed to hit up two places on my Southeast Asia wishlist: Langkawi and Bali.
I’m actually in a bit of a hurry right now, because I’m going to pick up my sister at the airport in a couple of hours! So this will have to be a quick one. And hence the instagram inserts instead of photo edits. I will write more detailed posts later (if I ever catch up, at this point!).
April 30 – May 14: Langkawi, Malaysia
I went to the island of Langkawi after a month in Penang. In Penang, I constantly had things to do and friends to hang out with. So when I got to Langkawi, I was actually ready for some quiet time alone.
Luckily, Langkawi was the perfect for that since it was low season when I went. Out of a 20-room guesthouse, another girl and I were practically the only 2 people there the entire time. And often, I was the only person eating at restaurants. It was kinda nice, actually.
But Langkawi wasn’t what I expected. I had visions of going to the beach (with clear turquoise waters!) every afternoon to swim and watch the sunset. Turned out, I didn’t even do that once. My area was quite far from the main Cenang beach so I never felt like making the 40 minute walk in the heat. There is a closer beach but I found the water to be quite gross and murky.
So I was pretty disappointed at first, but I started to appreciate the quietness. I also found some really good restaurants (the Indian food is amazing on Langkawi!), though one downside was that food was expensive.
Here are some of the highlights from the island:
Visiting the cable car and Skybridge – this was really the only thing on my to-do list! And it was amazing!
Goofing off in the 3D art museum – this ended up being so much fun, even when doing it alone. I had no shame in asking strangers to take a million pictures of me. And I learned to be a diva by directing them exactly how to take the picture.
Help! I'm trapped in a bottle! The Langkawi 3D Art Museum was a lot more fun than I expected! Only annoying thing was that I had to keep on asking people to take photos of me, and some people do not know how to take pictures! I realized to get the shots I want, I had to be more of a diva and direct them on where to stand and what frame I want 😂. Who else have that problem when traveling alone? And have you been to a 3D art museum?
Visiting the Wildlife Animal Park – This was the most fun ever!! I loved being able to interact with so many cute animals. I spent about 3 hours in the park (when most people spend 1.5) and took – no joke – 500 photos.
Budgies eating out of your hand at the Langkawi wildlife park! (This isn't my hand, but I got to do it too.) The park has probably over 100 budgies freely flying around, in all vibrant colors. I used to have two as a child – one bright yellow and one blue – and this made me miss them. They were such good pets. Maybe one day I'll settle down and fill my future house with all sorts of pets!
A mangrove tour to see the Langkawi wildlife – Even better than animals in captivity is seeing them in the wild. And this tour did not disappoint! We saw a ton of the famous Langkawi eagles and monkeys. It was also really fun to ride on the boat through the peaceful mangroves.
Going on an island hopping tour – On my last day, I finally set foot on a beach with the white sands and clear blue waters I was hoping for. The rest of the tour was just alright, though, but you can’t complain when it only costed $7.
I have a couple of last pictures from Langkawi! This beach looks beautiful, no? This was part of the island hopping tour I took. The main island of Langkawi is surrounded by 99 smaller islands. Ranging from just the size of a large rock to islands large enough to step foot on. This island has a gorgeous beach with clear blue waters and soft sand as fine as flour. What you don't see is the hundreds of people behind and around 😂😝
I also learned that strange things happen sometimes when you’re traveling alone. Like I mentioned, I was practically the only guest the entire time with another girl. And one day, out of the blue, she asked me to sleep with her. No, not like that, you pervs! She was taking some new painkillers and felt dizzy, so she wanted someone close by to help keep an eye on her. Strange request, definitely, but I agreed to do it for a few nights because I figured, if I’m alone and needed help, I would really appreciate it if someone helped.
She had been living at the guesthouse for over 3 months and grew very close to the family that owned it. So when she left, the owners threw a little party for her with a few home cooked dishes. It made for a pretty memorable stay.
Langkawi ended up being a perfectly nice time, but I wouldn’t say I’m eager to return. It felt like it was catered mostly towards tourists and the food was too expensive. And the real bummer – the beach wasn’t even so nice. If I wanted to live on an island, I prefer Penang 10x more.
May 14- May 28, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
For some reason, Bali never called out to me as much. I think it’s maybe too overhyped and I just know it’s going to be too touristy. But I really needed to get out of Malaysia, and I may as well finally visit Ubud. Besides, a couple of my blogger friends had really good things to say about it.
Boy, did I underestimate the touristy-ness of Ubud. The town was absolutely crawling with them. It literally felt like that the population was more white people than local Balinese people. Which is not what I want in a travel experience.
I usually jot down notes of my thoughts throughout the month. At first, my notes read that Ubud has been ruined by the sheer amount of tourists. But as my time here went on, I started to see Ubud in new ways.
I still haven't made up my mind about Ubud. On one hand, I love my homestay and I love the beautiful temples dotted everywhere around the town. I also love all the healthy food here. But on the other hand, it is soooo annoyingly touristy. And I'm tempted to write a scathing, honest opinion piece on what I think. But I do have over a week here still and I hope to get out of the town area. Have you been to Ubud? What did you think?
Despite all the tourists, the local culture here is still rich and unique. From the intricate Hindu temples to canang offerings to local handicrafts, Ubud (Bali’s spiritual capital) is a place rich in tradition and culture. It’s impossible not to be awed by it. But the thing that changed my mind is the genuine kindness of the locals and the encounters I had.
I am still polishing up a more detailed post on what I think of Bali. So for this monthly recap, here are some of my favorite moments:
Hanging out with my homestay family – I loved my homestay, the family, and the kids. Sometimes, I ate my breakfast outside on one of the platforms with the kids all crowding around me and goofing off. It really made me feel welcomed.
My favorite part about Ubud is hanging out with the family at my homestay. The children are so cheeky and playful. They're not shy about crowding around me and they love taking pictures with my camera. It's so nice to see children actually playing and running around outside most of the day, instead of being cooped up indoors with electronics and TV.
The kids loved taking photos with my camera. I let them run around with it and later, see what surprises I find on the camera. I really should do an entire post on the photos taken in my homestay!
Befriending a local cafe owner – Sri made my time here feel more like home. She was always the friendly face I could go to at the end of a day for a chat and delicious Balinese food. And it was seriously the best food I had in Ubud!
Hmmm, my bio up top is "eating my way around the world", but I've hardly been posting any pics of food! This is the cafe I come to all the time. I met the owner my first day in Ubud, when I walked by and asked her where I can get a local SIM card around here (seriously impossible to find!). To my surprise, she offered to give me a ride to the shop on her scooter. Since then, I come to eat here almost daily and it definitely helps that they (a husband + wife team) make the BEST local food I've tried. Everything is delicious but I love the fried rice most!
A scooter adventure to Batur Volcano – I met another local friend at the gelato store he worked at. I took him up on the offer to go ride out to the Batur Volcano. Bali by scooter is the BEST. It was such a fun day of riding through the beautiful Bali countryside with the wind in your face.
When I first started traveling alone, I was so scared that I wouldn't make any friends (since I don't ever stay in hostels… just not for me) and that I'd be lonely and depressed all the time. It's only been a couple of months of true solo travel, and already I have grown so much in confidence. I've learned that I'm not as shy as I think, I like meeting new people, and I also like doing things by myself too. And that friends can be made from almost anywhere. And it is so true – it's sooo much easier to talk to people as a single person. Today, I went on a scooter adventure to the volcano with a new local friend I met in a gelato store here in Ubud. It was such a fun day with so many unique sights and memories. It's stuff like this that makes me fall more and more in love with solo travel. Do you travel by yourself and how do you usually make friends?
Touring the rice terrace with Laia – I was so glad that I was able to meet up with Laia once again in Ubud (after just having said bye in Penang)! We were able to hang out for a few days before I left. We explored a lot of town together, as well as went out to the breathtakingly gorgeous Tegalalang Rice Terrace.
I've "known" Laia (@dreamtravelgirl) about 2 years and finally met her in Penang last month! Less than a month later, we meet again in Bali. And today, it was hard saying bye because this time, who knows when we'll be able to meet up again. This is the best and worst thing about blog friendships. Even before you meet, you feel like you already know each other so well, and then when you say bye, you never know if it's going to be for the last time. But I really love the true friendships I've made from blogging, and when I'm lucky, I get to cross paths with someone in different parts of the world. :)
Bali is an undeniably beautiful island. The green-ness and lushness around every turn is just stunning. Despite the initial poor first impression, I did leave with a fondness and appreciation for Ubud. And I can definitely see myself returning just to relax and live a healthier lifestyle.
What’s going on in June
After Ubud, I came back to Kuala Lumpur… because my sister is visiting me all the way from California! I am SO excited! As I write this now, I’m compulsively checking the time to see if it’s time to go get her from the airport.
She has 2 weeks vacation time and we are going to make the best of it! Our plan is: 5 days in Kuala Lumpur shopping and hanging out with my local friends, 5 days in Penang eating, and 3 days in Redang Island snorkeling (we’ll be going with my previous Penang Airbnb host). I’m also going to be taking my first REAL long vacation since I started freelancing (no work at all!), so I’m super excited for that as well! As you read this now, we have just arrived to Penang!
After we get back from Redang, she flies back to the U.S. in exactly mid-June. I plan on just resting and staying in KL for the rest of the month, until more exciting travel plans in beginning of July. ;) (Hint: it will involve hanging out with a blogger friend, baby pandas, and very spicy food! Any guesses?)
What are you guys up to this month? Any plans? :)