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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n February 2017 we went on a very interesting trip. The route and the region weren’t new to us. In fact, as you guys know – we have traveled there quite a few times during the last 3 years, but Malaysia (especially Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi island) feels a lot like home for us after all the time we have spent in this beautiful country.
However, what made this trip so much different from all the previous ones – was the people. Usually we are traveling on our own. This time we invited 6 more people to join us for these 2 weeks.
We didn’t know anyone of them before. Only one of them was experienced traveled. But for 4 of them it was their first time in Asia. How will it work out? We had no idea.
On the 13th of February in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport we met all together for the first time. And we instantly hit it off – they were so easy and friendly! And, what’s even more important – ready for an adventure! On the second day it was clear for me – these guys are really ready for everything. But that’s all we needed. If you are ready for an adventure, we are more than ready to show you the real Asia and all we love about it so much.
In one of the previous articles I already talked about the practical side of this trip (read about it here), if you would like to do something similar on your own. But here I’m going to share with you some short stories from that exact trip. Some of situations we got into. Something that made us smile or laugh about then and will probably do the same in the future.
Kaspars, They Are’t Giving Us a Visa On Arrival. Because We Don’t Have an Onward Ticket…
It’s 10 AM. We are at the airport in time. Waiting for our travel companions.
We know – obtaining a visa on arrival at Bangkok airport can take an hour or two. An hour has passed, when I receive a Facebook message: “Kaspars, they are’t giving us a visa on arrival. Because we don’t have an onward ticket…”.
To obtain a visa on arrival in Thailand you should have a return or onward ticket, and you may be asked to show it at the immigration control, we knew it.
But we didn’t have them. Because we were planning to travel to Malaysia and Singapore overland, buying tickets for all the buses, trains and ferries later. At the same time we had an itinerary written down. We could show all the hotel reservations. We knew also the exact date, when we will leave Thailand. And then there were also tickets back to Latvia (from Singapore). Still at the end none of that was enough to get a visa on arrival.
Read more about proof of an onward travel, when and why you might need it, and how to get it. It might be helpful for you not only when traveling to Thailand.
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Long story short – luckily there was internet, so guys just “rented” an onward tickets for 10 bucks, and were given a visa. Almost 2 more hours later…
Yes, it took quite a while. And even though we weren’t really worried, that everyone will get a Thai visa eventually, these were 2 long hours. At first we chatted for a while on Messenger. I sent all the information they might need. I sent our itinerary one more time + hotel reservations. And then there was a silence. Because, as we learned later, at first they were interviewed by one immigration officer, then – by another. And every time they needed to start explaining their situatio over again. At some moment then they were offered a solution, which they didn’t like.
Until they decided to just “rent” a ticket. And it took another 40 minutes, most of the time simply waiting for these tickets.
And then we finally met.
At the airport we get onto the Bangkok Airport Rail link, a really modern train, which takes us almost all the way to the city center. And from there we are walking to the bus stop, to take a bus to Khao San Road, to our hotel. Even though it’s still early afternoon, traffic looks heavy and very slow today. Will we need to wait long until our bus comes? Yesterday in the evening we waited for the same bus for almost 2 hours. We haven’t yet reached the bus stop, and there comes our bus. We run on the road. Driver opens the doors, and we all get in. Bus is almost full. Bus conductor, an elderly Thai lady, is very happy to see us. And we are happy that we made it just in the right time.
Our adventure has started.
Is He Going to Eat It???
Una: It’s 8 PM. Kaspars has went to the airport again, to meet our last 2 travel companions. But we are going back to the area of Khao San Road. We are at the bus stop, waiting for our bus to arrive. It’s dark outside. And here we see them. Huge rats of Bangkok. Lots of them.
There are some plastic bags full with garbage standing by the bus stop. And only now we have realized, that they are all moving. Oh!
What follows a couple of minutes later is something I haven’t seen anywhere before. A local man comes and starts to kick one of these bags. He does it for some time, until it’s not moving anymore. Then he opens the bag, takes one of the rats by its tale, and… walks away. With a rat swinging in his hand. Creepy to say the least, haha.
Did he take it home for a dinner? I don’t know.
Friendly Scooter Driver
It’s been a long and interesting day. At first we visited few of the Bangkok’s most impressive Buddhist temples. Then we took a boat trip to go and see how canals of Bangkok look like, and how people are living by these canals. Last time in Bangkok we didn’t see this part of the city. Then we went to several big and crowded markets.
And now is the time to return back to Khao San Road, to take our backpacks and head for the bus station. Late in the evening we will leave Bangkok on an overnight bus to Krabi, our next destination in Thailand.
We are some 5 kilometers away from the Khao San Road area. There is enough time. And so there are no questions. We will just walk there as well, avoiding main roads and letting Google Maps to be our guide for the next hour or so. The area really looks different than the others we have been to so far. There are a lot of shops selling car parts and accessories.
And then, as we are standing by the side of the road, waiting for the traffic light turn green (you know, in Bangkok traffic lights aren’t there just for decoration, haha; so we wait), a local man on a scooter makes a sharp turn. He stops just in front of the bus coming our way. He has blocked all the traffic. And now he is waving to us to show, that we can cross the road. He doesn’t say anything, only waves. Ok!
Thank you, friendly man!
Rain, 100+ Kilometers on Scooters and Hot Springs
We arrive to Krabi on time, at about 8 AM. An hour later – after being taken to the wrong part of the town at first, some arguing with a taxi driver and unplanned walking – we check into our hotel. As our rooms are free already we can check in 5 hours earlier. Here everything goes without a hitch.
We head out to the town. Rent scooters. Book a boat trip for the next day. It’s 11:30 AM already. And it starts to rain heavily… But we are planning to drive for more than 100 kilometers today.
Should we go as planned or should we change our initial plan? What if it doesn’t stop raining? Well, and then you remember about these comments on internet… saying, that there is no point in going to that hot spring waterfall. Because it’s nothing special – who wants hot water in Southern Thailand, where it’s hot year round? (We hadn’t checked this waterfall ourselves before.)
What we do? As soon as it’s not raining that heavy anymore we go to the nearby gas station, and then – head out of the town, in direction of the waterfall! Or as far as we will get or will want to go!
Weather forecast didn’t look promising. It will rain for a whole day, it said. But despite that, in less than half an hour it isn’t raining anymore. Win!
And what about the hot spring waterfall? Oh boy, it was so, so good to immerse yourself in hot water after driving for some 90 minutes, one third of which you were all wet. So good!
One Assam Laksa, Please
After 4 days on Langkawi island, during which we crisscrossed the island several times on our scooters, swam, hiked, and sometimes did nothing – chilling on beautiful white sand beaches, it was time for George Town (Penang island). When most of people say Penang they actually mean a city called George Town, which is the main city on the island and the second largest city in Malaysia by population.
And what do you do in Penang? You eat and you make photos with city’s beautiful street art.
One of the most popular dishes in Penang (and also in Malaysia) is Assam Laksa. It’s a spicy and sour noodle dish, which I would call a soup, like most of noodle dishes in Malaysia. And, as we can read on Wikipedia, “the old market at Air Itam has become one of the more well-known places to sample Asam Laksa.” Seeing where it’s located (really close to another, interesting for us place – Kek Lok Si Temple) we didn’t have second thoughts. It was decided – on our way to Kek Lok Si Temple, one of the most beautiful Chinese temples in all Southeast Asia, we are heading also to that market to try these noodles.
A bus stops and some people are getting out. We are just few hundred meters away from the Air Itam market and about the same as far from the Kek Lok Si Temple. This must be our stop as well, I say to everyone. And so we head to the doors. Driver, a friendly Chinese woman, assuming that we are going to the nearby Kek Lok Si Temple, offers to take us further, even though the next bus stop would be several hundred meters after it. We say thank you and refuse the offer, because we want to eat first, haha.
It’s a really local looking neighborhood, which reminds us of all the small Malaysian towns saw in 2014 (when wee hitchhiked from KL to Singapore and back). We haven’t been in this part of the city before.
We find the market. Like all the neighborhood it doesn’t look like a touristy place. Far from that.
We find Assam Laksa stall. A local man points us into the right direction. And we order the famous Penang Assam Laksa. In the end – only 4 of us. Who are brave enough, haha. To be true, reading that Air Itam is the most popular place where to try this famous dish, I didn’t expect this food stall to be like this – very basic, like the ones you see in Malay villages. And even in villages most of the eateries/restaurants look better that this place.
Seeing how they serve the noodles – filling up the bowl, then pouring half of it out, and repeating the process… – didn’t make my companions more eager to try out this dish.
5 minutes later our Assam Laksa arrives. Bowls look very messy. But noodles… they are very, very tasty.
No Rooftop Bars and Restaurants for Us, Oops!
Late at night, after returning back to our apartment, we have decided to book ourselves tickets to visit world’s famous Petronas Twin Towers. As only few of us wanted to go there, we didn’t bother to book these tickets in advance. And now we see, that we can’t get them. Because there are no tickets neither for tomorrow, nor the day after. Oops!
But we knew also that there are a lot of great rooftop bars and restaurants in Kuala Lumpur (see a list of the best rooftop bars in KL) with even better view of the city. And so we start to read about them, to find out which ones have the best panaromic view of KL. All to find out, that we can’t get to any of these top bars or restaurants either. Because no one of us have appropriate clothes. All these bars have a very strict dress code, mostly – smart casual, but you can’t be wearing faded jeans and so on. Oops one more time!
So we just go to our 8th floor infinity pool for a midnight swim, ha.
If you are going to Kuala Lumpur and you would love to visit some cool rooftop bar, then MARINI’S ON 57 sounds like a really good choice. Here you can read about their entry rules.
Long Journey to Singapore, 2$
Despite of leaving our apartment a little bit too late, we have arrived to the train station in time. 20 minutes before departure. But train is late.
At the end train leaves KL Sentral station almost an hour later than scheduled. Will we make it to the next train?
We arrive to our train’s last station more than half an hour too late. But the next train is still there, waiting. One thing you need to know, when traveling from Kuala Lumpur (or anywhere else in Malaysia) to Singapore, is that train isn’t going to take you all the way to Singapore. It stops just before the border of Malaysia and Singapore at the place called Woodlands.
At first bus takes you only across the bridge connecting Malaysia and Singapore. There everyone gets out and goes to Singapore border control.
Border crossing is very slow today. Queues aren’t too long, but it takes more than an hour until we get through it.
“On the other side” we need to find the same bus, that we have tickets for. But there are so many buses.
I find one, which looks like the right one. Boarding has started. I ask a guy, who is standing in a queue, if this bus is going to “our metro station”. He says – yes. I ask, how much does the ticket cost? I want to know, in case we would need to buy new tickets. And he… he gives me 2 Singaporean dollars saying, that this should be enough.
Oh, what, why, …, thank you! I’m a bit confused. He has already boarded a bus. And I have realized, that this is not the one we need.
At the metro station we try to take out some cash from ATM. There is an extra fee for that. So we just decide to do that later, from another ATM. Because we have enough cash for metro anyway.
It’s late already. And we realize, that either we are going straight to the area of Marina Bay Sands or we are missing out the last light and water show for tonight. As with most of the decisions during this trip there were no really any second thoughts – of course, we are going there.
Soon, however, we realize, that it’s too late to make it tonight. Ok – tomorrow.
… and Unplanned Midning Feast
It’s almost midnight, when we get to our hostel in Chinatown. 4 of us decide to rest after long day, but other 4 of us need to eat. Of course! We aren’t sure, if we will find anything, because all the nearest restaurants are closed.
In 5 minute walk there is a McDonalds. Ok, if we don’t find anything else, at least there will be McDonalds. It’s working until 4 AM, and they accept credit cards. The latter is important for us, because we don’t have enough cash between us to afford a meal.
Few hundred meters further there are several Chinese restaurants. Prices look good. There are a lot of people, so food must be good here. They accept credit cards. We walk a bit more. Nah, I don’t to walk anymore, let’s go back and eat – everyone agrees.
We are very hungry. Which leads to a decision to take 2 extra dishes to share between us. Who knows, will it be enough for us otherwise.
Andrina’s soup comes first. At first we are shocked for a moment. But then we can’t stop laughing for the next 5 minutes. Because there is a lot of it. The bowl is huge and there are 4 smaller bowls, in which to serve it. The rest of the portions are bigger than we were expecting, too.
Finishing all that food is hard. But we manage it. And after such an unplanned midnight feast we head for the same as unplanned 10+ kilometer walk through Singapore.
After the midnight Singapore is so beautiful and peaceful!