Eat, move and sleep. All sounds pretty basic yeah? Thats pretty much what we do everyday. But how it is to do it in a country with such a different culture I ask you?
Well, it will depend where you are and your requirements. So let me tell you how it was for a vegetarian Portuguese traveler to do those basic things while in Malaysia.
Well, I must say that Malaysia was probably the most difficult place so far when it comes to eating – for me. As a vegetarian I did struggle to find food. Seems like the vegetarian concept is not very spread around, and even in the capital I had a hard time to get nice vegetarian meals.
There are at least 2 specific episodes that really keep coming to my mind and I want to share with you:
- When I arrived to the bus station in Kota Kinabalu, I was starving so decided to eat in one of those little bus stations restaurants. I was happy that the lady did speak some English so our conversations went like this:
Me: “Hello, I am vegetarian, don’t eat any meat or fish, so would like to ask you what can you recommend me”
Restaurant lady: “Oh that is not a problem at all. We have chicken!!!”
Me: “Oh, but , but chicken is meat. I don’t eat meat”.
Restaurant lady: “Don’t you worry, this chicken was vegetarian. She just eat grass”
Me feeling lost:”Ermmm thanks a lot… but I will pass. Do you have anything else? actually, forget that. Do you have rice? like just rice?”
Restaurant lady: “you mean just rice, with anything else? and we do have it”
Me: “Yes, JUST rice, with anything else. Please bring me some, but really just rice”
Restaurant lady: “ok”
And so it was, my meal was rice… with rice. At least I could see there was no “vegetarian chicken” in the middle.
- Another funny story was when I saw Pizza Hut. Now bear in mind I am not a big fan of fast food, but Pizza Hut seemed like the perfection option: how easy is to do a Vegetarian pizza or Vegetarian pasta?
Not easy if you are Pizza Hut apparently. So after looking the entire menu, there was only 2 items that were apparently vegetarian, both were Pizzas. Veggie lover and Veggie island, well, at least I have 2 options I thought, could be worse… start reading the ingredients of both “Vegetarian pizzas” but for my surprise (actually shock) I realised that in small letters there was a scary caption: “Not suitable for Vegetarians” I have read. What a joke! What a big massive joke!!! So I ask to speak with the manager, but not even the manager could explain me why it wasn’t suitable for vegetarians…. the enigma goes on… any ideas?
But I did have a couple of “good” meals… one of the hotels I have stayed had the most amazing breakfast with plenty of vegetarian options where I could choose from.
I will also never forget the moment I had my first wrap with real fresh and raw vegetables. I refused to eat any raw vegetable while in India, so having that wrap was a special moment indeed… lol
I did find the famous Portuguese “natas” or “pasteis be Belem”, in the ex Portuguese town of Melaka and also in Kuala lumpur (yes, there was a Nando’s in KL lol), but sadly they were far from the real thing.
But I have to share a secret with you all ahahah well, as it was so difficult to find vegetarian food and since I have found a couple of great supermarkets for expats, full of international foods and international brands, I kept it safe by buying baby food. Yep… that’s how I have survived in Malaysia, by eating the baby food I used to “steal” from my sisters when they were baby and toddlers and I was a little kid.
I have found Cerelac and Nestum from Nestle, and end up eating at least one of them every day. Also, was saved by instant noodles… definitely not my fav food, but at least I could have something easily. Just needed boiled water 😀 Now you know. It is our secret tho.
Oh, and just for the record, don’t blame me. I had no option… if the hotel I was staying in KL, which was an ok hotel, couldn’t manage to serve me an egg & cheese sandwich, what else could I do? Seriously, real story. I would request an egg with cheese inside a piece of bread. Would explain how to do it and even offered myself to go to the kitchen and teach the cook as the 3 times I have requested it, there was not even once when they brought me the right thing….
Well, dislocation from one place to another can be quite challenging…. and so it was for me while in Malaysia. Since I spent time both in Malaysian Borneo (Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu) and in the mainland – Peninsular Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur and Melaka), I had to dislocate quite often using flights, buses, metro and taxis.
– Flights were cheap, quick, organised and overall a great experience, bonus added to the most beautiful views: jungles and rainforest and a beautiful turquoise waters.
– Bus was a rather good surprise. Extremely cheap and comfortable. After coming from India were buses were shocking, I can say that one of the bus trips I did was so posh and comfortable that I can’t even remember a time I had a better journey.
– Most places the only way to dislocate was really getting a taxi. Like in Kota Kinabalu where is too small for a metro system and found it quite expensive, funnily enough, in KL, the capital was actually cheaper to get a taxi… maybe more offer? Also you almost need to fight for them to put the meter on… but eventually they do, otherwise just leave the taxi. I did that several times 🙂
– As for the metro, just had it in Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised tho, as it was clean, and quite organised… Also cheap and covers most of the city.
So while in Malaysia, I am proud to say I tried pretty much all the types of accommodation – and no, I didn’t sleep under a bridge.
I stayed in a great hotel, stayed in a crap hotel, stayed in a lovely hostel, had an wonderful home stay and was lucky enough to surf a real cool couch :p
After India, where I slept with bed bugs and showered with cockroaches, I felt like I deserved a treat. So booked myself an wonderful hotel in the middle of the rainforest. And wow, can’t hardly describe the feeling it was to jump on a very soft king sized bed. Opening the huge french windows every morning and see the rays of light coming in and spread that golden vibe inside the entire room. But the best was definitely the bubble bath. I never though I could be so happy for having bubble baths.
Unfortunately my burned leg didn’t allow me to go to the swimming pools or even sunbath but was great regardless to be outside appreciating the nature. So yeah, if you go to Sabah in Sandakan someday, make your self a favour and book yourself in this beautiful refugee. Oh and the food was great, excellent breakfasts. Sabah Hotel
As I was spending almost 2 weeks in Kuala Lumpur and would be there during NYE, I decided to divide my time between an hotel and an hostel. And what a mistake I did. Staying in a hotel in KL was not one of the most clever things I have done for sure. Maybe I choose the wrong hotel (definitely did and don’t even get me started on my list of complains – remember the egg sandwich? just one of many).
I don’t know if you have been in an hotel by yourself during an holiday season? Well, trust me, got a lot of weird/dirty looks. And isn’t annoying when people keep asking you if you are alone. I mean, can you see anyone next to me? And you saw me yesterday, and 2 days ago.. why would you keep me asking that stupid question? Costumer service in Asia is something that needs a lot of work still….
So one of the highlights of Malaysia was having a good friend coming into town (more in the next blog post), so we booked a twin room in a lovely hostel in the old part of the town. It was awesome! Not only the hostel was great, on a super location and really cheap for the quality we were receiving, but most important I had my good friend Corrine with me and we would have the coolest singing sessions in our room (with really loud speakers, still think everyone hated us there ahahah but who doesn’t love a bit of Beyonce and Lady Gaga???) I definitely recommend Irsia Hostel if you happen to be in KL.
Have you heard about airbnb? If you haven’t go and research it now. You will love it. Basically you stay at someones place, usually with a empty room at home, but you can get the entire flat/house many of the times, and instead of staying in a impersonal hotel, you can stay at someones real comfortable place (if you choose it right).
I have using it a few times, specially if I am with a group of friends, also done it by myself, and had such great experiences that I have decided that for my first Christmas without my family, instead of some hotel I would rather stay somewhere where would remind me of home, and well, let me tell you was a very clever decision as I stayed in this gorgeous and homey apartment in Kota Kinabalu which happened to be owned by one of the most sweetest Asians I have met so far: Precilla. Not only she made me feel at home but she also made me feel like part of the family. On top of that I even had xtmas presents. Hotels don’t do that :p Thank you hun xx
Couch surfing/Hospitality Club:
And if we are talking about something more personal, what is more personal than surfing on someone’s couch? For those that don’t know, Couch Surfing and Hospitality Club are websites that create a platform for travellers to meet other travellers by host, being hosted or join events and meet in organised meetings. HS was the original website, but being replaced in the last years by his “copy” competitor CS that recently was sold to a private for-profit organisation.
So even tho I used to use these platforms a lot, and where I hosted over 200 people and been a guest myself in several places all around the world, in this trip Malaysia was the first time I decided to give it a go, and what a great go. After analysing a lot of profiles I have found someone with enough great comments to make me want to stay over this wonderful host. And so it was, I was lucky he accept my request and for a few days I almost felt like I had a normal life: doing my own washing, preparing my own milk, have DVD nights on the sofa… was great and once again thanks Robert not only for make me feel at home at your place and show me around, but also for taking care of me and checking I was ok at all time. Thank you thank you xx
I couldn’t find these amazing places without the help of:
If you have any question regarding any of these subjects don’t hesitate to contact me, wherever I can do to help I am here.
Happy travels and happy readings 🙂