We’re not sure whether it’s luck or skill, but we’ve very rarely been affected by jet lag during our travels. This week, however, we were hit hard, and spent a lot of our time sleeping or being annoyed that we couldn’t.
Monday 4/11: Since we’d been awake for around 34 hours by the time we finally got to bed on Sunday night, it was perhaps no surprise that we slept in on Monday morning. But we were both surprised by exactly how late we stayed in bed: we didn’t manage to get up until 1.30pm. Our usual work day was postponed in favour of trying to get over our jet lag, shopping, and spending time with other bloggers.
We got off the commuter train from the suburbs at Kuala Lumpur station, which, despite its name, certainly isn’t the busiest or most important transport hub in the city. Its domed windows and super-long platforms evoke an earlier golden age of rail travel, but we found it hard to find an exit. A short walk took us to the central market, a squat baby-blue building adorned with a Malaysian flag and packed with shops selling “traditional” Malaysian products: bamboo placemats, scarves, bags, jewellery. There’s also a fish foot spa, which we have visited in the past but gave a miss this time, and a couple of cafés as well. We installed ourselves in Old Town White Coffee and had a cup of their signature sweet white coffee (surprise!) which is prepared in a unique fashion using beet sugar.
Our route to Jalan Alor took us through the Petaling Street markets, which seem to have softened in the two years since we last visited — we were there for a good five minutes before someone offered me a handbag. The products here are a bit more varied than at the Central Market, and tend towards the mass-produced, but we found a couple of things we wanted, such as new headphones, a pair of flip flops each, and a tripod with an iPhone attachment.
Thanks to my new flip flops, I wasn’t sliding around as much on the wet ground, but we still managed to be a bit late for our dinner engagement with Tanya and Andrew from Magictravelblog.com. It was great to meet them, and we had a pleasant evening chatting over chicken wings and Asian greens.
Tuesday 5/11: Jet lag really is a killer. We’ve been lucky not to have experienced it much during our travels, but this week our sleep cycles were well and truly out of whack: we couldn’t sleep when we needed to, and spent most of our waking hours in a fog of tiredness. So passed Tuesday, though we did manage to get Monday’s work done — including recording and publishing a podcast.
Dexter and Natalie didn’t want us to leave Malaysia without first trying durian, so after a tasty Chinese-food dinner with them and their flatmate, they drove us across town to a small durian enclave: four or five stalls, each selling various varieties of the smelliest fruit on earth. Attendants armed with large knives hacked open the spiky exterior to expose the custard-coloured pods of flesh beneath. Craig and I both bravely took a piece and bit into the soft yellow fruit, using our teeth to scrape off the edible part from the large stone in the centre.
They say you either love durian or you hate it. When Dexter told us this, I replied, “I think I hate it.” It really is an acquired taste, and possibly an acquired texture too: the slimy custard-like smoothness isn’t the most pleasant. We both managed to finish our pieces, but left the extras for our friends to enjoy.
Wednesday 6/11: We’ve posted things from Malaysia before, so I didn’t expect it to be difficult to send a small parcel to the UK. Oh, how wrong I was. We’d bought a small wedding gift for a cousin of Craig’s from the Central Market, and I headed off to post it while he worked in Old Town White Coffee. When I asked where the post office was, the woman in the information office directed me “next door,” while a friendly cafe attendant said “it’s just behind here”. It wasn’t, in either case. I found myself on the wrong side of a shopping centre, and a kind security guard walked me back the way I’d come and halfway through the parking garage before pointing at some windows and telling me that this was my destination.
While certainly being part of the post office, it wasn’t what I was looking for, as I discovered when they tried to charge me €60 to send a 350g parcel. Finally another customer directed me upstairs to the main post office, where I could buy stamps for my parcel but not an envelope that would fit it — I found this in a bookstore back near Petaling Street. Once packed, addressed, and stamped, we found that it wouldn’t fit into the mouth of any of the post boxes we came across, even those right outside the (by now closed) post office — where we returned on our way back to Kuala Lumpur station. Luckily, a post office attendant was on hand to direct us to a small room beside the post office, which housed large bins with slots large enough to post our package into. Now, I just hope it arrives!
In comparison with this adventure, our journey through passport control and security at the airport was tame. The biggest challenge was being annoyed about having to empty my refilled water bottle at the second security check, because it meant I had nothing to drink while waiting at the gate and for the first 90 minutes of the flight. Our flight attendant was very friendly, but apparently there was no way she could sell us a bottle of water before it was time to do the drinks run — and of course we were at the back of the plane and last in line. Being at the back was otherwise great, though, as the plane narrowed there and the seat configuration changed from 3-4-3 to 2-4-2: we had a window and aisle and plenty of extra space. I’m very glad that I checked in online back in Skopje!
Thursday 7/11: Our flight arrived in Melbourne right on time, and my sister, Anna, flew in from Canberra a few minutes later — it was perfect! She drove us back to her place and gave us the grand tour of her new house and farm (including a stop to see the baby alpaca). Anna’s husband Mat took Craig and three-year-old Henry for a trip on the quad bike to check out a pump (or something); I snoozed on the couch with baby Leo on my lap.
Friday 8/11: I love visiting supermarkets in different parts of the world; some of the products for sale are so interesting! However, when Anna and I went to Coles, I spent most of my time choking in disbelief at the prices. I’ve lived in Australia so I know things are expensive here, but somehow I’d forgotten. It’s also probably not fair to compare with Berlin, where everything is so cheap.
At least the eggs we collected from the farm chickens were free!
Saturday 9/11: Anna and Mat’s house had a large basement that they’ve converted into a unit, but it’s not quite finished. I spent a bit of time down there with Anna and Henry, sweeping floors and varnishing woodwork, while Craig was on babysitting duty. He later installed himself in the kitchen to use the skills we’d learned at our Tuscan cooking class last week, and though the pasta didn’t turn out quite as well as we’d hoped, it was still delicious!
Sunday 10/11: Craig often brings me coffee in bed on a Sunday, but I’d never have expected it from my sister. She said she was just sharing the love because Mat had taken her one earlier — whatever the reason, it was awesome! She continued the awesomeness later in the day by producing a great lunch and a delicious dinner of roast duck. Yum.