Observations from Backpacking in Malaysia and Singapore


We saw the final episode of American Idol in a hotel room in Melaka. This marks the third final I’ve ever seen…once in Panama, once traveling back from Nicaragua in 2007 and now this one. I have no idea who won any of them…including this one.

I got a bee sting in the rainforest.

A muslim woman in the ocean
Muslim women apparently need to wear burkas while snorkling. Makes sense I guess.

I saw a Muslim woman snorkeling with a full burka on

In a Kuala Lumpur hostel there were signs everywhere to leave the toilet seat UP in order to help the ladies. This is because the shower is in the same room as the toilet and when the seat is left down it is soaked for the next sitter. I only mention this because it goes against everything we are taught in the West to leave the seat down for the women.

We visited a museum in Melaka that would have been very interesting, except that half of the signs were illegible due to terrible printing and the entire third floor, which housed the exhibit on beauty that we wanted to see, was about 100 degrees.

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Before going up the Petronas Towers we had to watch a 3D video that was just a 10 minute promo for the Petronas company. They just made it 3D to make it seem cool. It didn’t work.

Nothing happened, but it is always worrisome when your boat captain quickly puts on and fastens his life vest in the middle of a boat trip

Our guide to the rafflesia arnoldii flower refused to take a photo of us with my camera. I guess it must be some religious thing, but I’ve never heard of that before.

Carrie and I find it hilarious when we order something from a restaurant and see the waiter leaving a few minutes later then returning with a bag of groceries including the ingredients needed to make our dish.

While holed up in Melaka, we sat in the mall next to our hotel for hours to use the free wireless Internet from the coffee and donut shop inside.

A Kuala Lumpur subway station
A Kuala Lumpur subway station

Even though Kuala Lumpur is a small city it has some of the best public transportation I’ve ever seen.

In Kuala Lumpur we had amazing fresh pineapple shakes that for some reason also included chunks of gooey pineapple candy at the bottom. Delicious, but definitely not fresh.

We ran into Claire, who we met on the top of the volcano we hiked in Bali, Indonesia, on the same minibus we took from the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia nearly a month later.

After leaving a squatty potty stall to find a Western one in a public bathroom I exchanged places with a local who had just left a Western style toilet to find himself a squatty potty.

The Malaysian post office is called POS for short.

Enjoying a steak with not a strand of hair on my head
Enjoying a steak with not a strand of hair on my head

It’s growing back now, but I finally fully  shaved my head with a razor on my last night on the Perhentian Islands.

I swatted some of the biggest mosquitoes I’ve ever seen in the Cameron Highlands. Sometimes they didn’t even die. I’m pretty sure they might be mutants.

We feasted on delicious and cheap Indian food every night in the Cameron Highlands. Mmmmm!

I’ve pretty much been sick for the last month. First it was a stomach bug. Then my not-quite-swine-flu. Then I got a cold or allergies…still not sure. Then I got a neck thing that made it hurt to move my head for a few days. Now it hurts  to clench my left fist. Sheesh!

A food court in Chinatown — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A food court in Chinatown — Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A byproduct of all the sickness is that my weight was temporarily 164lbs. You can see every bone in my body. Don’t worry…I’ve been eating everything I can get my hands on since.

We drove by a wedding procession. The men were in back and the groom had an umbrella held over his head while he walked. The women were in front with the bride in the very front: unshaded and carrying her own wedding cake.

I did not have a single beer in Malaysia due to the super high USA type prices. $3 for a can at a supermarket. Crazy!

Many taxis in Northern Malaysia have the side view windows on the side of the front of the hood of the car.



Dozens of local men stand outside a little store watching a soap opera
Dozens of local men stand outside a little store watching a soap opera

We saw a group of about 30 men standing outside a bodega in Little India at 7pm on a weeknight watching a teeny TV inside that was playing a soap opera.

Apartment buildings have poles sticking of the windows to give residents a place to air dry their clothes.

On the bus ride to Singapore, Carrie and I decided to play a game called “who can find the first piece of litter,” expecting it to take all day. We were shocked to find that there was trash all over the place moments after getting off the bus. So much for being the cleanest city on earth.

When we hailed our first cab we asked the same question we always do, “is meter possible?” He reacted like this was the strangest question he had ever heard, as all cabs in Singapore are meter. What a nice break from constant haggling over fares.

When I was sick in Singapore I had a can of baked beans for breakfast that I couldn’t finish so I put them in a shopping bag and carried them with me until I could have a few more bites.

Singapore subway security stand
A subway security stand. I was stopped at one of these with my giant backpack on our first day in Singapore

On our first day in Singapore I was stopped by a security woman in the metro station who wanted to go through my big backpacking bag.

There are white business people everywhere.

There are also tons of Indians everywhere.

I forgot the laws and spat on the street a couple of times and quickly remembered and looked around, hoping no one was waiting to cane me.

When I told a cabbie we were from the USA he asked us if we were traveling for six months or a year. I guess they don’t ever see the one week work vacationer from the USA. Too far away.

Air fresheners and clean smelling air sprays are constantly being sprayed in subways, malls, buses or anywhere there can be fake air.

While waiting for our bus to leave Singapore we saw our first ever Muslim female backpacker, complete with burka.

A woman at the supermarket stopped me to ask if I could get an item down off of a high shelf for her. The amazing thing is that there are items on high shelves at all considering the average height of a local Singaporian is very short.