Last week was sort of a blur: even though I travel quite often, this was my first trip abroad with friends (if you leave out my Singapore stint just after graduating when I piled on at a friend’s place), which meant that this was quite special in its own way.
Of course it wasn’t anything like my usual vacations with parents when we would pick a place with a lot of history, read up as much as we can, plan even the minutest detail in advance and most importantly, I can leave all the important stuff (handling currency, making decisions or managing the travel documents) to my folks and focus on the REAL stuff like dressing up, getting the pulse of the place or making random conversation with the local people.
But Malaysia was different: it wasn’t one of my usual vacation spots, it wasn’t my usual way of exploring a new country and it wasn’t my comfort zone. We tried to pack in as much activity as we could in five days, jumping from one place to another, not quite savouring the flavour of the place. We were the typical Indian tourists with a typical Indian itinerary: three days in KL, and one each in Penang and Langkawi. Given our shoestring budget, we were constantly held back, wondering if we could afford that extra bottle of water or that extra five bucks of cab fare. Since it was the Eid holidays (Hari Raya festival) there, the usual buzz in the city was missing, with a lot of places (including the Petronas Towers) being shut. Still we didn’t give up, getting by with a couple of hours of sleep, trying to soak in every bit of our five days there. Apart from a few isolated incidents like missing out on the Petronas, me throwing up after the cable car ride in Langkawi or not having enough money to shop, it remained a memorable trip where we lost our inhibitions, learnt to take responsibility and made the most of each moment. I was a touch annoying, suffering from OCD, as I almost turned into Monica Geller, “Guys we should start having fun sharp at 7:30 p.m., so go get ready”, but my friends were sweet enough to put up with all my idiosyncrasies.
My top picks:
1.I am not too fussy about food but even I would have to admit that the dinner at Bali Hai in Penang was simply out of this world.
2.While I never pray, the view and the serenity of the Kek Lok Si temple in Penang was something spiritual which was above the narrow limitations of religion.
3.The last minute mad rush at 7 a.m. to catch the bus to Penang was quite enthralling, as I missed my dad’s meticulous planning: something I have always teased him about.
4.The long walk through Bukit Bintang with a map as we tried to explore the city of KL in the rains.
5.Last, but not the least, the final night, when we got completely hammered and danced like crazy at the Rum Jungle: something I would NEVER do when I am sober/in Mumbai.
All said and done, I may not understand why Langkawi is such a popular honeymoon destination, I may not have explored the country the way I would have liked to and I may not have had enough time/money to enjoy everything the country had to offer, but all of it pales in the context of the people I went with, the wholehearted fun I had and the new sense of freedom it gave me.
Say hello to the girl who got a bit of her life back in a new country with new people and new experiences…