I found the cure for being homesick!

I woke up this morning very late at 1pm. Another weekend in South East Asia and another Saturday night at a night club. I met a couch surfer named Patricia at Club Zouk in central KL. Club Zouk was listed in the top 10 for best night clubs in the world last year by DJ Mag and has several rooms catering to different types of music. It was absolutely jam packed and full of smoke so I spent much of the evening in the outside lounge area. Patricia is really into photography and fashion so she took a lot of photos of club goers. By waking up at 1pm you’d think I had a bender of an evening but in reality it was a very casual night that ended with fried noodles at a local Malay hawker restaurant. My experience in KL is that people stay up and sleep in late even if it isn’t about partying.

I’m not one to normally to spend an entire afternoon in bed so I think my body was a bit off because I woke up feeling quite homesick. Today was the first time since leaving home that I have felt this way and could have used a snap of my fingers to be home if even just for a few hours. This happens from time to time, especially if I stay in one place too long. This was my queue to get a change of scenery. I went and had a double cheeseburger then came back to my hotel to purchase a flight tomorrow to the city of Medan, Indonesia. This will be my base for some jungle trekking in northern Sumatra which you’ll read more about soon!

After watching a silly comedy movie and taking a shower I decided to go in search for something to do. It turns out I found the cure for homesickness and it’s some Lebanese food and a foot massage followed up by ear candling and some meat on a stick from a Chinese street stall. I found there are more Lebanese restaurants in Bukit Bingtang (Star Hill) than in all of Beirut! The chicken shawarma was delicious and my mint tea was a good kickoff. I wandered down the street a little and found a “foot reflexology” center. These are spotted all over Kuala Lumpur and are a good place to rest for a bit and get treated to a nice foot massage. I paid 25 ringgit (approx $8) for a 30 minute massage. I didn’t have any cash on me so I wanted to use my debit card but there was a 50 ringgit limit. I decided to add on ear candling which is a way to clean out the toxins and wax in the ear by using a lit candle. I honestly do not know how it works but I feel like a million bucks right now. I headed back to Chinatown and still had a bit of hunger so I went to my favorite local vendor of meat on a stick and picked out a couple of sets of lamb. If I could only keep myself away from the restaurants and eat street meat, my money would go so much further. It was $1 per set so after 2 sets I was satisfied.

Money has been flowing a little too freely so I told myself as of tomorrow I have to be much better with my money. I expected that when I arrived to Kuala Lumpur I would make some purchases for going forward. Chinatown has a large market of knockoff items and I got two pairs of shorts, sunglasses, a hat, and a wallet.

So, I’m ready to leave KL after recharging and will only be passing back through the Malay peninsula to go north to Thailand towards the end of the month. I’m really looking forward to the jungle. I have been doing far too much city travel and I want some more interesting things to write about than going to night clubs and walking around.

Good night, sleep tight…

Oldie But No Goodie
When I first checked into Red Dragon Hostel on Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown district something didn’t feel right. I had spent a good week and a half in a very basic but acceptable room when I was here last but now it seems as though management has let things go. The shared bathrooms are no longer kept up and the rooms are beginning to fall apart. The common area now has free WiFi and an extra television but this wasn’t enough to keep me loyal. If bathrooms are shared, then cleanliness is paramount to just about everything else.

Checkout Time
I checked out the following morning, disappointed that I couldn’t rekindle the experience from four years ago. Chinatown is jam-packed with guest houses and mid-ranged hotels so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find something. My first choice was a new guest house that just popped up called Monkey Inn that is apparently spotless and sufficient. This was full for the day. My second stop was a backpacker’s staple in the area named straightforwardly enough, Backpackers Travellers Inn. I checked out a room here and it wasn’t much of a step up from my original choice.

Grocer’s Inn
Just one building down from Backpackers Inn was a rundown colonial Malaysian building with a sign pointing down a back alley. I figured I’d give it a shot so I walked in and was met by friendly staff offering a room on the second floor with a/c, Free WiFi and a shared bathroom for 45RM ($15) The room was very simple but there was natural light coming in and the bathrooms were very clean, so I took it. There was also a really cool rooftop lounge that overlooked Chinatown as well as a decent view of the KL Tower in the background. I was settled in and paid for two nights right from the start then spent the afternoon and evening near the Petronas Towers waiting for nightfall so I could take some photos.

The Warning Signs
I returned early but spent some time on the rooftop uploading photos and writing. I finally retired to my bedroom where I watched some shows and surfed the net before coming up with the genius idea that would be the beginning of two rather sleepless nights. I decided to look up reviews on the hotel I was currently staying at, just for the fun of it. I hadn’t read about it in any guidebook so I knew nothing about it previously. What harm could be done?

Subject of from the first six reviews:

Review #1: DISGUSTING! BED BUGS!
Review #2: Yep, People weren’t lying about the bed bugs.
Review #3: Bed bugs are still out in force
Review #4: Bed bugs and bad staff!
Review #5: BED BUGS BED BUGS BED BUGS
Review #6 Bedbugs and used condoms

Review’s 1-6, all about bed bugs. I immediately started to itch. I’ve spend a good amount of time overseas and never encountered bed bugs and the grim reality that I may have found myself in the bed bug motel settled in. I wasn’t sure what to do so I started reading about bed bugs in more detail. Everything I read made the situation worse. For travelers, bed bugs can be a curse. Not only do they bite, which is not the biggest problem, but once you are infested they generally hitch rides and follow you until you completely exterminate them. There are stories of backpackers bringing them home with them from travel and infesting their homes. It seems like NYC recently had a big problem with them. I studied some pictures of them so I would know what to look for. I figured, since I hadn’t seen any yet there was no reason to panic so I cracked open a small bottle of whiskey I had purchased, took a few gulps from it and wrapped myself up in my clothes. Complete with socks tucked into my pants, long sleeve shirt and a buff around my neck.

I didn’t sleep well the first night because of the research I had just done on bed bugs. I ended up taking a nap later in the day and then went out to meet a Malaysian girl from Couch Surfing who took me to a really nice Malay restaurant outside of the city center. We spent several hours chatting and she dropped me off back at Grocer’s Inn.

Second Night
It was a nice evening that I wish stayed that way but I decided to grab a couple of beers from the grocery store below and listen to some music on my laptop in my room. From the corner of my eye I catch a small black dot coming up from the side of the bed onto my sheets. I did a double-take like in TV shows. I literally let out a sigh and said, UGH. It was immediately apparent what it was. A rather large, red bed bug. The red color is important to note because red means it already has blood inside it since they are transparent. And, since humans are the only source of blood for bed bugs, it was clear that I was probably already a victim of this one.

I did some more research on the possibilities of there being only one bed bug and not having an infestation. I made the decision to get my head lamp out and make a full inspection of my mattress, pillow and headboard. It came out clean. I couldn’t find anymore. I was ready to do the same thing I did the first night and just suck it up with some whiskey to take the edge off. I’m not incredibly afraid of bugs, spiders bother me but in general if I can’t see bugs I’m OK with it. The prospect of a bed bug infestation was what made this difficult.

Just as I was about to lay down I saw a really tiny dot zig zagging up the wall next to my bed. It was a baby. Moments later, another one crawling near my pillow. Three bed bugs now. At what point does someone just say, enough is enough? This was my point! I immediately started packing up my bag. It was already 2:30am and I threw everything in my pack and headed out the door. I gave the receptionist my key and didn’t tell him why I was leaving. A lot of the reviews I read about Grocer’s Inn were from 2005 and before so I figured I’d give it a chance. It is obviously though, that management doesn’t care about the bed bug problems if they are still persisting in 2011. Why even bother telling them?

I went back to my original hostel, Red Dragon, but they were full for the night, as are most budget places at 2:30 in the morning. I went down to a mid-ranged hotel and checked in for the night. It was significantly more expensive but offered a nice hot steamy shower for me to take to get over the itchiness from bed bug sightings. I only spent one night in the hotel and checked out in the morning in search of another bed. My two main goals for today was to find a cheap but nice room with a clean bed and then do all of my laundry in case some bugs ended up in my clothes.

Etika Inn
In a fortunate turn of events, I didn’t have to look too far. Right next door to Grocer’s Inn was a much newer looking building with a glass door leading up a clean staircase to a guest house called Etika’s Inn. It was obviously recently open as the tiling was brand new and the walls spotless. I asked to see a room and the bed was immaculate. The bathroom was tiny with the shower directly over the toilet but it was private. I found my home. I booked the first night only and settled in. I haven’t moved my bag anywhere near my bed yet. All of my clothes have been washed except what I had on yesterday, which I’ll do tomorrow while I wear another outfit. When I take my next shower I need to leave my bag in there afterwards so that the steam fills it up and hopefully kills any bed bugs that may have tried hitching a ride. There is no evidence that I have been infested but there is no use in taking any risks. Tonight I will not let the bed bugs bite!

I’m Back Home in KL

Kuala Lumpur, most commonly referred to as KL, is one of my homes away from home. I stepped off the bus at Puduraya station and headed towards Petaling Raya, a sort of backpacker’s haven, similar to Kao San Road in Bangkok. Street meat, massages, cheap knockoff clothing and bootleg music, ah yes, I’m back again. I spent a lot of time in KL four years ago and for good reason; it is my kind of place. It is multicultural with Indian, Chinese, Malay and a lot of foreigners. There are definitely more tourists here than there were when I first came four years ago. I remember a big campaign trying to put Malaysia on the tourist map with “Visit Malaysia 2007.” It looks like it worked because the usual backpacker crowd is mixed in with the obvious tour packagers with a lot of older western tourists. Everyone seems to converge on Petaling Jaya and China Town.

I spent my first night in the same hostel I was in last time but quickly realized there was either new management or the old management just isn’t trying anymore. There is free WiFi everywhere but that wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of upkeep at Hostel Red Dragon. This morning when I woke up I took to the streets to find better accommodation. I was successful and I have a nice air conditioned room right down the street for only 10 ringgit more (about $3.25). Which came in handy because I wasn’t feeling well today and rested for much of the afternoon. The hostel is in a colonial style Malaysian building with a nice little roof top lounge area where I sit now.

Petrona Towers at night (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

I absolutely love looking up at these towers

Like Singapore, I had unfinished business in Kuala Lumpur when I left the last time. I took a ton of photos of the Petronas Towers, which at one time were the tallest buildings in the world and currently hold the title of tallest twin towers in the world. The problem was, with all the photos I took I didn’t get any night shots so I promised myself I would make my way down to the towers and take some night shots.

I’m not really sure how long I will be staying in KL. I think I’ve scratched the idea of going to Myanmar since it is more headache than it is worth. Getting a visa is probably the easy part. Dealing with the logistics of travel is just a pain and there are a lot of people who boycott travel to Myanmar since all the money spent in the country generally gets filtered into the hands of an oppressive regime.

Instead I will probably visit some of the sights in the Malay Peninsula that I missed the first time and then take a ferry across the Strait of Malacca (another pirate infested passage) to Sumatra, Indonesia. I’ve done a little research on the island and could see myself jungle trekking and seeing orangutans within a couple of weeks. Of course, anything can change as seems to be the theme with this trip so far.

If you want to see photos of my trip, join Joey Goes Global on Facebook by clicking on “like” at the top left of the page.

If you’re reading this at work and Facebook is blocked, just wait till you get home! :)

Weekend in Singapore

The lack of updating is due to the lack of real adventurous things to write about. However, I had a really great weekend hanging out with my good friend Shawn from Singapore. I was able to stay at his house and save on accommodation. Shawn and I go back just over a decade and were both DJ’s in central Florida. I gave up the turntables but Shawn stuck with it and has made a pretty solid name for himself with residencies in Singapore and gigs throughout South East Asia. Friday and Saturday we went to Butter Factory in Marina Bay. The club was really cool and was quite big. Shawn had the crowds going crazy after midnight. I really enjoyed it and thankfully his girlfriend was around to keep me company while Shawn DJ’d because it was a long night on Friday till 4am.

Singapore's Central Business District

Singapore's Central Business District

One of my main goals coming back to Singapore was to make sure I got to see the skyline this time. I missed it my previous trip to the country and wanted to make sure it happened this time around. Luckily the club was near the central business district so it wasn’t too difficult.

This is now my second Chinese New Year that I’ve spent in Singapore. Coincidentally, it was the exact weekend three years ago that I flew into Singapore and spent Super Bowl/Chinese New Year hanging out with Shawn. Last time, we missed the Super Bowl because we tried to stay up all night instead of just sleeping and waking up really early. Lesson learned and this time we got to see the game from home. The broadcast was different than in the U.S. It was All Sports Network which covers the game for Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and other South East Asian areas. Obviously, the game was great and the right team won! The sad part was, I’m pretty sure Joe Theismann was doing the commentary which was absolutely brutal.

Singapore seems like a place that could really grow on me and I certainly will at least keep it in mind when looking for work. Shawn’s girlfriend teaches there and said they treat educators really well. It would take me awhile to get enough experience to teach in a city like Singapore but I’ll keep it in the back of my mind going forward.

I took off this morning for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I currently reside. More coming soon of course. I just wanted to update about the weekend.