Malaysia won’t leave you speechless…

Malaysia is so much different from its neighbouring countries both on the north and the south. Landing in the dense, smoky urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur can be a massive shock, especially for me as I was coming from over a month spent on the pristine beaches and unspoilt natural beauty of Samoa and Fiji.

Malaysia isn’t beautiful – and this is the first time I say this of any country I’ve visited – sorry my dear Malaysian friends, no personal offence intended!

At the end of my Pacific wandering, I was looking for a place to meet up with my best friend and spend Christmas together. I shall be honest, Malaysia was our choice simply because for both of us (from Samoa and from Italy), it was the cheapest flying option.

Info about Malaysia

60% of the population in Malaysia is Muslim and you will find (and hear) mosques everywhere. But, you can also find temples too. Around 20 % of the population are Buddhist and Hindu.
Malayan is the language of the country and I recommend you learn a few words before heading there. It’s always nice to be able to say hello and thank you wherever you go.

Before heading to Malaysia

Currency

The local currency is Malaysian Ringgit and the current exchange is 1 USD = 4.46 Ringgits. Withdrawing money from  ATMs is easy and Malayan Bank doesn’t charge any commissions for foreign cards.

Safety

Malaysia is very safe. I’ve never felt at risk or in a dangerous situation while there. It’s like this in most of the countries in Southeast Asia I have been to.

How to get there

If you want to get by plane, there are many cheap flights companies coming from the countries around Southeast Asia. Air Asia offers good deals, especially flying to Kuala Lumpur. Check Skyscanner to make sure that you get the best fare if you are coming by plane.

You can also get to Malaysia overland from Thailand and Singapore. From Thailand, you can get there by train or bus.

Visa

Securing a visa for backpacking Malaysia isn’t going to be an issue. Most of the countries have free visa for 30/90 days to visit Malaysia. You just need to hold a passport with at least 6 months left, and you should get your stamp at the airport with no issue.

Weather

The weather in Malaysia is quite unpredictable and different from part to part. Peninsular Malaysia can be wet any time of the year even though the wet season officially lasts from November to March. The dry season is from April to October.

How to get wifi in Malaysia

Getting wifi in Malaysia is easy. You will find wifi almost everywhere. There are many places like malls, shops and bars where you will find wifi. And the connection is really good compared to a lot of countries in Southeast Asia.

Accommodation

Accommodation is very cheap in Malaysia. There are a lot of hostels where you can pay $4-5 for sleeping in a dorm and there are beach cottages for even less!

Below you will find my recommendations as always under the Dream section.

Kuala Lumpur

Initially, exhausted by 14 months of non-stop travelling, I spent almost three weeks in KL hosted by a dear Instagram friend from London who has relocated there with her husband. I lived the great life in her stunning apartment a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers; I could actually see them while typing away on my Mac in her living room and while swimming from her awesome pool. Valeria totally spoiled me with her scrumptious and healthy lunches and I also managed to get back to the gym in the morning too. It was strange to finally settle back in the old home life and routine after so long on the road. It really felt strange to have a home, even if not mine, even if only for a short time. And it was amazing. Thank you, Vale! <3

The capital of Malaysia is a huge, messy, work-in-progress Asian city. Traffic jams are guaranteed every day and it’s far from being a pedestrian-friendly town. However, being the perfect shopping capital in South East Asia (after its bigger sister and architectural inspiration, Singapore), it’s a place worth a short visit (two or three days are enough).

Things to do in KL:

Petronas Towers and Marini’s on the 57

Sri Temple  

Batu Caves  

Brunch & Work at VCR

Get lost in The Rabbit Hole…. 

For some mysterious reasons, I have no pictures of this place even after spending several awesome nights there…I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but the Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole is here 🙂
Address: 16, Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Pulau Pangkor

After exploring KL, my best friend and I headed to the ocean for some well-deserved relax and beach time.

– Directions: take a bus from KL to Lumut and then the ferry from there.

 

Georgetown / Penang 

Georgetown is such a well-made cocktail of cultures, religions and history that my friend and I struggled to leave when it was time to catch our ferry north.

 

MUST – DOs in Georgetown: 

Upside Down Museum

Malaysia

Caffeinated break at Wheeler’s Coffee

Malaysia

Wander along Love Lane for some weird encounters…

Malaysia

Eat, Love and Eat. And Repeat 

Thanks to its Malayan, Chinese and Indian communities that gather to this peninsular country many centuries ago, here you can find incredible types of food that will never leave you hungry. Malaysia is truly foodies’ heaven and even the most sophisticated palates are going to find something new and delicious here.

malaysia

Dream at House of Journey

A cute, little hostel with an incredible vibe and staff. Minimal breakfast is included. Wi-Fi is weak but free.
 
Address: Pulau Pinang, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

After spending a few days in this little multicultural town, Fede and I got the ferry  to Langkawi 

Langkawi

Langkawi is the perfect place for relaxing that you can’t miss it when backpacking Malaysia. It’s a cheap place to buy alcohol and devices. And if you think about the usual party places of Thailand, Langkawi is not one of them. It’s a place for you to enjoy the beach during the day, and the quiet peace at night.

Do NOT Dream at Tubotel

I rarely leave bad reviews, but Tubotel really was a massive disappointment. The staff is poorly trained and far from friendly. Facilities are often dirty and despite they have and advertise having wi-fi, it is always turned off for some obscure reasons (even when politely requested…I work online!!!) The location is also inconvenient and next to the airport/port. No beach. We only stayed here because we made our booking at the very last second for NYE and it was one of the very few places available (we now know why!) The only plus of this place was the generous breakfast which was free and delicious.

Malaka

While backpacking Malaysia, Malaka or Malacca must be part of your itinerary. This old colonial town still retains the charm of the Portuguese influence and architecture. I loved this place maybe because it’s totally different from the other places in Malaysia.
friendship

Masjid Selat 

Work from 

Kaya Kaya Cafe

A very lovely cafe that serves excellent coffee and sumptuous meals. WiFi is quite good too.

Kaya Kaya cafe

Dream at 

Ringo’s Foyer Guest House
Address: Jalan Portugis, Kampung Dua, 75200, Malacca

The owner of this hostel is a character and full of life person who will take you to explore the town by bike and he’s always making sure the guests are having fun and are comfortable. The hostel is very nice and clean and in a OK position. I reccomend it ! 🙂

Directions: from Langkawi take the ferry to Kuala Perlis and from there catch an overnight bus to Melaka.

Continue reading

Jodhpur – Blue is the Warmest Colour

Jodhpur was probably my favourite citadel in Rajasthan: I don’t know if it’s because it’s here that I took the executive decision that my stay in India would last (much, much) longer than I originally planned or because all that blue really blew my mind away, or perhaps because I was quite sick and so I had the time to stop and explore at a more reasonable pace than ever before, or more likely because I met some very amazing people here who showed me around town including some secret spots that I haven’t shared below but that I will include in my upcoming CREED guide of India that I will be giving away at Christmas to all my blog followers who request one.

Whatever reason, I really loved the blue city.

 Creed Guide to Jodhpur

COFFEE

Cafe Sheesh Mahal
An establishment in the coffee scene of Jaipur, with a wide selection of coffee (and specialty teas), snacks and light meals. Get a seat next to a window: people watching on this stretch of the Sardar Bazaar can be extremely entertaining!

Coffee Menhar
If you are visiting the fort (see the explore section of this guide) then a coffee break at this lovely and simple cafe is mandatory. Get a black coffee or try one of their many tea flavours.

READ

Testo libero

Krishna Book Depot
An establishment in the city and whole Rajasthan perhaps with a wide range of books in Hindi, English, French and German (maybe others too) about Indian arts, music, theatre and cultural scene. Some renovation works where taking place on the ground level, so I guess it will be even better now.
Address: Sardar Market, ask for directions as it might be tricky to find

EXPLORE

Jaswant Thanda
You will find many cenotaphs while in Rajasthan, but this one, if you like me have an obsession for symmetry and white, will blow your mind away. It was built in 1899 by Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, whom initiated the irrigation systems and protected the city from bandits. Much better from the outside than the very simple indoors, but you still need to buy the ticket to get close to it. Another bonus point is the great view over Jodhpur and the fort itself, especially in the morning.

Mehrangarh Fort

This impressive fort looks like it has been there forever and ever, in fact it looks like it was carved in the rocky mountain rather than being built on it back in 1459. I fell in the trap of the free audio guide as it was described to me as outstanding, it’s good, but the entire tour at that pace takes more than 3 hours and when it’s 38/39 degrees you can’t really do that!! Skip the tempting offer and just download some history online before getting there. We didn’t take the elevator as it would mean miss so much of the atmosphere of the first gates, I guess.

Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
I normally won’t recommend places I haven’t been to, but as this one was suggested to me by several people and had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of it while maintenance works were undergoing, I feel I can add it to my list here and be sure it’s a place worth a visit.

EAT

Omelette Shop 
This take-away spot by the main clock tower is always packed with locals and tourists, you need to try it to understand why.
Address: just off the clock tower on the right

The Blue House
Lovely, little family-run, rooftop restaurant at The Blue House Guesthouse. Food is simply delicious and a chat with the entire family (including granny and toddlers) in their living room at the end of your meal will just make things even more perfect.
Address: Sumer Bhawan’ Moti chowk, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

DREAM

If you want a traditional stay and meet the locals, you will have plenty of havelis and guesthouses to choose from, just be aware that tourism has put in danger some of these beautiful and ancient buildings, so just do your research and choose one that is safe and environment-friendly. Also, make sure to make a conscious use of water during your stay as peak season and irresponsible travelers are making things worse every year.

We were kindly invited to stay at Shahi Heritage Guest House, a fantastic 350 years old mughal-style Haveli right in the middle of the old town with a spectacular view over the fort and an amazing restaurant on the rooftop.

I couldn’t recommend this place enough, the staff, the food, the friendliness of the entire family made me feel at home during my stay, which was in fact extended by a few nights.

Address: City Police Gandhi Street, pop Narsingh Temple, Jodhpur, 342001

Gallery

 

Udaipur – The City of Lakes

Your new C-R-E-E-D guide is here, this time to tell you about the magical city of Udaipur.

*

This is the city of love par excellence in the whole India or maybe the entire Asia. Honeymooners from all across the country and beyond come here to enjoy the serendipity and romantic vibe of the place, but also every age and love-stage couples come here to celebrate their anniversaries or more simply to renew or reinvigorate their love.
This is why, Udaipur is also known as the ‘Venice of East’.

But, of course, singles, love-seekers and convinced love-haters are welcome to come the City of Lakes has it has so much to offers to anyone. Udaipur doesn’t need much introduction in fact: this picture-perfect city spread on the banks of the Pichola lake and surrounded by lush green hills is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature in the best way possible.
A boat ride on the lake at sunrise or sunset would start or close your day in the perfect way. And a visit to its City

*

COFFEE

*

Brewmen
I said it many time, but here I’ll tell you again: No day should ever start without a good cup of coffee, so the best option you have in Udaipur is Brewmen: excellent vibe, great arabica espresso and top-notch service. Oh, did I mention the delicious brownie with ice cream? Nope, well just check the picture below and let your mouth water… 🙂

Address:  Hitawala Complex II, Saheli Marg, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

*

READ

*
If you have time (which unfortunately I didn’t have that time!), you should go to check the Gulab Bagh Public Library . From the outside, it’s a very stunning building, but I’ve been told that inside there are some pretty amazing literary treasures too.

In terms of books, you should read:
Maharana: The Story of the Rulers of Udaipur 

and again, get a copy of
Rajasthan Style (out on November 10th)

[see the READ section on my Jaipur guide for the details]
*

EXPLORE

Like most cities in Rajasthan, there is so much to see, but In Udaipur especially, the best part is on the streets itself. Make sure to save at least 45 minutes to one hour just to roam free in the narrow lanes and…get lost! Yes, that’s real fun and you will find some of the oldest bikes and Vespas ever, you will talk to some locals or just exchange a few smiles with them and have some street food. Then, when you had enough, turn on your google or pick actual maps and make your own way to the Jagadish Temple, a popular hindu place for worshipping made even more special by the colourful saris of the Indian women sitting and praying ( note: photography is not allowed inside).
Once you are done there, make your way to City Palace: this one is unmissable.The quite expensive ticket makes it worth the while, but remember to make a separate ticket for your camera too. To end your afternoon, head to Ambrai Ghat where you can have a stunning view over the lake as well as the City Palace and Lake Palace, another outstanding building right at the center of the Pichola lake now turned into a luxury hotel.

*

EAT

*

For this special edition of your CREED guide, please refer to the DREAM section for my dining suggestions; The Leela Palace, with its various restaurants and its Library provided the best food in town so we didn’t feel the urge to explore beyond its kitchens!  

*
DREAM

*

With a prime location on the Lake Pichola and a superb view of the Aravalli Mountains, The Leela Palace evokes grandeur and opulence of the land of the Mewar. Beautifully designed to reflect the surrounding style and influences by Jeffrey A. Wilkes and the attention to detail in the art and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair makes it the ultimate royal trip in India.

I never really understood why a normal person would spend their holidays barred in a hotel when in any location you choose for a holiday or a break there is always so much to see and explore, but after spending a few nights at 5-star hotel at The Leela both in Udaipur and New Delhi, I think I have a few answers! Why on earth would you even think to leave heaven when you can have a massage, a swim, outstanding food and so much more all under one roof?
Well, this is what we actually did and that’s why we only left our paradise to test the fabulous and uber chic Leela tuk-tuk to roam the street of Udaipur and see its main sights.
Whether you are coming to Udaipur for your honeymoon or for a relaxing holiday, do come and stay at The Leela Palace. Not only the best hotel in town, but also the best Spa in all Asia according to World Spa Awards. And having had the best Swedish massage ever I can only confirm the award!

But let’s not forget the whole magical halo that surrounds the Leela Palace in Udaipur.
Our fairytale started right at the jetty where our boat driver was impatiently for us.
The boat was sailing Pichola lake at a leisurely speed when I suddenly saw it standing right, in its gorgeous greatness right in front of me. While entering the palace a rain of rose petals softly fell all over me like I was the princess they had been waiting for. The entrance, in its grandeur splendor was shining of sparks and mirrors. The huge chandeliers standing above us was impossible to miss or to not look at. And then, a beautiful indian lady welcomed me with a bindi as a local welcome to their royal palace.

From there we were transported to our suite which comprises of a huge bedroom, an even larger living room and a stunning, spotless bathroom (if you were following me on snapchat, you probably remember what I’m talking about).
From there, every single detail of this venue was a pleasure to the eyes and to the heart, walking on the corridors, was more like a walking in a museum where local artworks collected by the late Krishnan Nair and his wife Leela, hung on the walls throughout the properties.  You can easily spend half a day just browsing it all and already feeling inspired and in touch with the Rajasthani culture and art trends.

Another point goes to the stellar food we had throughout our stay, especially the bespoke dinner Chef Rupak prepared for us at Sheesh Mahal, the fine dining restaurant overlooking the Pichola lake.

What else to add? Well, the true cherry on the cake of all Leela’s properties is probably its outstanding service: the staff, constantly smiling and incredibly courteous and helpful truly made me feel like a princess in a castle.

*

*This article was sponsored by The Leela, 5 stars luxury resorts, all the views are my own.

Greece Off Season

There are some obvious advantages from traveling off season, for example flights and accommodations being much, much cheaper, less crowds around and shorter queues to museums and restaurants. And I have traveled “off peak” a few times now to be able to affirm that is, by far, my favourite way to see places. I love avoiding the rage of cheap airlines’ hostess if my hand luggage is 0.8cm longer than allowed, or having that extra sit in between me and the next fellow passenger where we can both put our stuff. I love peace and calm. It might well be because I live in one of the most populated cities in the world, but when I travel, I don’t want to have the same stress I have at home. I want to be able to find peace in a peaceful place.

Santorini

Anyhow, having said that, when you go to Santorini off season is totally different.

It is like being on a movie set but before the stars and director arrive. It’s like being there with the scenographers, the costume designers, make-up crew, before the start day. Everything is getting a fix, a new layer is being put, the set is being finalised: walls are freshly painted in white, doors and windows fixed, steps and stairs re-done. Wherever you look, there are painters and handy men doing their things. And there no actors (aka= tourists) whatsoever. I mean to say the complete truth, while I was in Oia, there were 8 (eight) other people, clearly not locals,  who were also exploring the beautiful island in an awkward (or less popular?) time of the year. It was just fantastic! Can you imagine having one of the most famous islands in the world just for yourself (and very few others)? Well, that’s the feeling when you go to Santorini in January. The advantages are others too. A friend of mine who was there with me this week, who also visited it in the summer, said it was impossible to take a singular picture without head, arm, leg or a** of someone suddenly walking in front of your camera. She also told me that on some spots it was necessary to queue for 40/50 minutes to take that specific, famous pic. Now, I ain’t a patient person, that wouldn’t have gone done well with me at all. I would have skipped the picture and gone home without. A local we met told us, like it’s written in the Frommers guide to forget about Oia postcards-looking sunsets during the summer as there are too many people and it’s impossible to get a nice spot, unless, of course you are lucky (and rich) enough to have rented a cave house with a terrace or you are staying at one of those luxurious hotels with a swimming pool on the balcony.

Well, I got both in January: one of the most amazing accommodation I ever stayed (in one of the typical cave houses), with a stunning view of the Caldera, the sunset and the rest of white & blue Oia, for a very, very reasonable price. On top of this, I also got the sun and the warmth, of course not the summer warmth, but warm enough to walk around in my t-shirt and get a shy tan on my face too.

Santorini There are obvious, but small, disadvantages too, I’m honest: for example there were only two restaurants and one bakery open in Oia. But hey, I hate taking decisions and having too much choice, so while we were there we made sure to try both and choose our favourite without too much thinking. If you are not a minimalist like me, and love your shopping while on holiday, you probably would go mental staying in a place where there are no shops open.  But for me, being totally uninterested in buying touristy crap, it wasn’t an issue at all, I actually didn’t miss it at all.

Fira, being the capital is a completely different story: shops, bars and restaurants were mostly open, the choice was much harder and longer, but we easily decided to have a very long lunch at Cafe Classico, one of the best views in the whole island. Food was lovely, local white wine too, the view spectacular and we also managed to had a nice chat about the island with the owner as he only had other few guests while we were there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The other thing I love while traveling off season is that locals have time. They are naturally inclined to spend more time with visitors, they aren’t stressed by the queues I was mentioning above and oftentimes they are willing to sit down at your table to share some funny or interesting facts about their city/island/village as it obviously happen in Santorini. It’s is a unique advantage you can never get in the hectic months of the summer and the one I love the most: being able to connect with the locals and scratch under the surface to understand the place and the people I’m visiting. That’s the difference between being a tourist and traveler, I believe and I obviously put myself in the second category.

Other interesting facts about Oia, this tiny cute village in the north part of Santorini, is that there are probably four wi-fi routers and you can basically connect with the same password wherever you go, or worse, your phone will connect letting you know you have a new email, whatsapp or something. As soon as I realised that, I made sure to turn off all my notifications 🙂
Holidays for me is time away from the “digital society” too. If I’m travelling solo, it’s the opportunity to connect with locals and meet other travellers, if I am with friends, like this time, it’s our chance to have quality time together. So it was this time too: I would only connect to post a couple of pictures and make my friends around the world jealous (joking! Or maybe not… ) But I knew, from experience, that all the rest could wait and so it did wait this time too.

Santorini

The last two days of our trip were spent in Athens, Greece capital, a city pregnant with history and social differences. It was there, outside the idyllic, almost-fake-looking Santorini, that I realised the poor state this country still is. Not only looking at the fading facades or scrappy buildings, but mainly looking into people’s eyes and faces. If you, like me, are an alert observer, you could see and feel the general resignation, disappointment, delusion and defeat that soaks Greek people on Athens streets.

Greece is not just ancient history, you must remember that its legacy had and has an incredible influence on our current global culture. Think of the Olympics, but also of philosophy, theatre, fashion and not lastly, democracy, possibly the most important heritage they left to the modern world. I was walking among the ruins where this word was born, and I was thinking about its origins : in Greek is “δημοκρατία” which combines the elements demos (δῆμος, which means “people”) and krátos (κράτος, which means “force” or “power”), basically “people power”. If you think that these ideals of fairness, personal freedom and ultimately governance by the population itself where born in the 5th century b.c., it is quite breathtaking and impressive.  As I was thinking all of this, it was also shocking to realise that Greece was, very unfortunately (and very similarly to my own home-country, Italy) let down by its own democratic government which spoiled itself with huge and unacceptable public spendings for decades. Since the global financial crisis which hit Greece in 2009, the Greek demos has been suffering six straight years of steep decline only rescuing 0.8 GDP growth last year.

Athens I really wish Greece the best with these new election at the end of the month. I really hope this amazing country will find the way to its glorious and shining previous outlook. I wish the stunning beauty and history that surrounds its cities and islands will help the Greek people to look up and find their smile again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling off/on season, but I’d also love to hear your ideas on past, present and future Greece.

Live More. Do More. Be More.

More picture from Santorini & Athens here.
Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Andrea Sachs. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Sabrina Andrea Sachs. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. If you are interested in buying any copy or prints, please email me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail.com

For bookings and enquires please use the email above.