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Weekend In Melaka

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Just 2 hours south of Kuala Lumpur is Melaka, designated UNESCO World Heritage in 2008 along with Penang. It was once a trading port that was once run by the Portuguese. The town is small and walk friendly as most of its attractions are within a 1km radius. Being a huge fan of Penang, I was excited to hear about Melaka having the same cultural feel and couldn’t wait to check it out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Getting There

It’s easy to get to Melaka by Bus from Kuala Lumpur via Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The VIP luxury buses are only 14.40 MYR ($3.25) each way, the seats are roomy, and the ride is smooth, unlike other buses I’ve taken in Southeast Asia! If you are only making a day out of Melaka and plan to take the bus back on the same day, make sure you buy your return to guarantee your spot back. You can buy tickets at the station or for ease of mind you can pay an extra $0.25 to book them online. Once you get to the bus station in Melaka, you can quickly grab an Uber for ~7 MYR (~$2) to take you to Dutch Square, which is the heart of Melaka.

Dutch Square

Dutch Square is a photographer’s dream! All the buildings are painted red and make for stunning pictures. Dutch Square has four main buildings: the Stadthuys, Christ Church, Queen Victoria’s Fountain, and Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower. Here you will also see elaborate decorative trishaws lined up looking to take tourists on a ride around the city. There’s also a food stall across the street, selling chendol and fresh watermelon juice. This is a great place to start. The museum in Stadthuys is worth the visit and gives the history of Melaka.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Chicken and Rice Balls

Melaka is known for chicken and rice balls and the place to get it is Chung Wah. This shop is right at the entrance to Jonker Street and has been there since the 1960’s. Locals and tourists start lining up right before they open at 8:30 am to have a plate of their family recipe. Only two things are on the menu, Hainanese chicken, and rice balls. You have your option of half-chicken, whole chicken or two chickens served along with rice balls and an amazing chili sauce. I’m a huge fan of chili and dumped easily ½ a cup on my chicken! The flavor is amazing! You can find chicken rice everywhere in Melaka, but this is the best place to get it. The chicken was super fresh and probably the juiciest I’ve tasted. They’re only open for breakfast and lunch so make sure you head over there before they close at 3 pm

Price: 25 MYR ($5.75) for half a chicken and rice balls

Hours: 8:30 am – 3 pm

Location: 18, Jalan Hang Jebat

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Baba Charlie Nyonya Cake

I heard about this place from a friend in Penang; she said I must go there to get some Nyonya treats. I took an Uber to go check them out as they’re ~2.5 Km from town. Located down a narrow alley is a residential house that sells about a few dozen different kinds of desserts called kuih. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was a bunch of ladies hard at work making the treats. I asked if I could take pictures of them, which they happily smiled for.   Walking into another room is where all the magic was. So many colorful kuih! They give you baskets to load up, and I decided on three to take away and try. At ~$0.50-1.00 a dessert, it’s easy to add one of each to your basket! I refrained and picked three traditional items to taste. I liked all of them, but really loved the blue rice with palm sugar coconut.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Street Art

I hadn’t heard about the street art here, but one thing that keeps bringing me back to Penang (besides the fantastic food!) is the street art. It was an awesome surprise to see that Melaka also has their fair share of art on the street. Most of it is concentrated along the river, so I highly recommend walking the river and checking out all the wall murals out.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker 88 – Chendol

I’m not going to lie; I haven’t tried chendol until now. I know I’ve been to Malaysia at least eight times over the past year, and I haven’t tried chendol?? Honestly, there’s just so much going on with it that it intimidated me. Upon arriving in Melaka everyone, of course, says get the chendol! I hadn’t planned on getting it, but then I saw Melaka Chendol wasn’t like Penang’s. It’s like a stripped down version of it and not so scary. Melaka’s chedol is basic, served with red bean, green chendol and shaved ice then topped with a healthy portion of Gula Melaka (palm sugar sauce) and coconut milk. I figured I’d give it a go and was told Jonker88 was the place to get it. WOW! So good! I got mine without beans (don’t like them), and just the simpleness of the other four ingredients was a milkshake in my mouth. Jonker88 makes a few different types from plain to durian. Maybe next time I’ll try the durian version.

Price: 4-5 MYR ($1.00-1.25)

Hours: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm

Location: 88, Jonker Street

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Jonker Street – Night Market

I had heard about Jonker Street Night Market and decided to come to Melaka during the weekend so that I could check it out. The night market is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:00 pm – 12:00 am. I love markets! Jonker Street shuts down car traffic to make it a walking street after 6:00 pm. The road is narrow, so I would suggest going early as you’ll be walking through like sardines after 8:00 pm. At the end of the street, I noticed a big stage, huge screen, and a microphone. Karaoke!!!! There are even seats set up in front of the stage so your friends, family, and strangers can cheer you on!

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Flora De La Mar Museum

You can’t miss the restored Flora De La Mar Portuguese ship that has now been converted into a museum. There are many museums in Melaka, and this is one I highly recommend. Your ticket not only gets you into the Flora De La Mar but also the Royal Navy Museum and Maritime Museum. I rented the walking tour headsets to learn about the history. Was surreal to learn Macallum had a fingerprint in Melaka after just hearing about him in Cebu, Philippines. I love that all my travels and history are intertwining together.

Cost: 10 MYR ($2.25) Admission; 3 MYR ($0.75) headphone tour

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

River Cruise

While I didn’t actually take a river cruise, it looked awesome! I winded up walking down the riverside instead. I was told the best time to ride is at night, unfortunately, I was already set to leave that day. Next time I go, I will take the sunset or night tour. For only $3.50 for a 40-minute boat ride, it’s worth it!

Cost: 15 MYR ($3.50) for 40 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Menara Taming Sari Tower Ride

While checking out the maritime museum, I noticed tower across the way and walked over to check it out. It was the Menara Taming Sari Tower that rotates in the sky giving a 360-degree view of Melaka. The ride itself is only about 7-8 minutes long, but it’s worth the price. I couldn’t stop smiling or taking pictures the whole time I was up there. I rode up during the day, but I bet a sunset or night ride would be spectacular.

Cost: 23 MYR ($5.25) and includes a free water bottle

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Trishaw Ride

I’ve taken trishaw rides in Penang, but these take trishaw to a whole another level! These trishaws are elaborately decorated with loud music booming. You can find them lined up at Dutch Square with menus of attractions they can take you to. This is an excellent way to see the city on a hot day if you don’t feel like walking around.

Cost: 40 MYR ($9.25) for 60 minutes

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Walk Along The River

My favorite part of Melaka! I love the river running through the center of town. I would pick cafes to hang out at just to view the river. My hotel was right on the river too, so I walked the river every morning. There is a lot to see on the river walk as that’s’ where most of the street art is. Highly recommend walking in the morning or early evening.

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Watermelon Juice

This is the first time I’ve seen this! They take a small watermelon, make a hole in the top, take a hand mixer and mix up the inside, then use a funnel to add ice, then serve. Mind blown!

Locations: Dutch Square & Jonker Night Market

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

All prices correct as of April 2017

 

Melaka, Malaysia - Top 12 Things To Do - Robyn Around The World

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Learning To Cook Malaysia’s Beef Rendang

 

Learning to cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

 

I’ve been in Southeast Asia for two years, and my favorite food is Malaysian. Especially the street food. I’ve been holding out taking a cooking class here because I really wanted to find a place that teaches the street food. I haven’t been able to find a class, so I finally broke down and took a class at a school I’ve been eyeing over the past year and decided to learn Beef Rendang. I’m so glad I took this class! I’ve made Beef Rendang before, but have used store bought spice packets. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to learn how to make it! Fairly simple, just A LOT of steps. No more pre-made spice packets for me!

MARKET TOUR

I’ve been on market tours for most of the classes I’ve taken. I loved that this tour started with breakfast. We had a roti with tea before we walked through the market. Ana, the owner of LaZat Cooking School, walked us through the proper way to make a roti and the different kinds you can find in Southeast Asia. We then walked through and learned about all the ingredients we’d be using in the class. I love market tours, and even though I’ve already been, I learned a few new things in each which makes me never want to skip one when they’re offered.

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

AUTHENTIC MALAY DISHES

I signed up for the Authentic Malay course. This class is only offered on Saturday mornings because making Beef Rendang takes time. We learned how to make three dishes Beef Rendang, Acur Timun, and Kuih Koci.

First up was Beef Rendang! It’s not very complicated to make; there’s just a lot of steps and A LOT of waiting. This dish is so worth the time to do from scratch. The secret is being patient.

The second dish we made was Kuih Koci, a rice ball dessert. I’ve made a form of these before in Cambodia, but they weren’t nearly as good as these! Kuih Koci is coconut, palm sugar balls that are wrapped in rice dough then covered in a coconut glaze and steamed. I’m not a big sweet person, but these are pretty amazing and best when eaten right out of the steamer.

Our last dish was Acur Timun, which is a cucumber and carrot salad cooked in a fish paste. I wouldn’t have thought to cook the carrots and cucumbers but just heating it through to where it’s still crunchy but warm gives it a surprisingly good flavor. This side dish went really well with the Beef Rendang. The spiciness of the rendang perfectly complements the sour and sweet taste of the Acur Timun.

I loved making all three dishes and will definitely make them when I get to a place that has a kitchen for me to cook in. This was my favorite class so far!

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

Learning To Cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class - Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

 

Check out the other cooking classes I’ve taken around the world:

International Cooking Classes

 

 

Learning to cook Beef Rendang - LaZat Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur - Robyn Hartzell

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What Does One Year In Southeast Asia Cost?

What Does It Cost To Travel In Southeast Asia? Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my second year of travel expenses.

I separated out flights, and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories: Meals, Accommodation, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous includes shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t want to get too detailed for here and besides the most important is food and accommodation anyway, right? 😉 I also rented motorbikes in almost all countries which averaged ~$3/day.

Year 2 Total Travel Cost

I visited nine countries during my second year: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, with the last 6 being new countries for me. I spent a total of $22,165 of which $5,671 was dedicated to getting Scuba Gear and my Divemaster and Instructor Certifications. Not bad for adding over 100 dives to my belt and now I can teach others my passion.


VIETNAM


I spent most of my year here and was by far the cheapest place to live and play. I also had three months of free accommodation while working at the dive shop, so that accounts for a good chunk of it, but the food is very cheap too, with my morning Bahn Mi costing only $0.50!  I also took a 3-day cruise and did a 7-day motorcycle tour through the mountains, which was another expense, which I added on separately.


MALAYSIA 


The second place I spent my most time in. A lot of my ‘other’ expenses went towards swimming suits and electronics. My iPhone died on me for a second time. It was cheaper to buy a new Samsung rather than fix it again, so I’m now part of the Android family (and I miss my iPhone desperately!) I also bought a new external drive as the 1TB I brought with me is full!


THAILAND


Thailand is generally pretty cheap.  My main ‘other’ expenses went to renewing my passport, gifts for family and private swim lessons to prepare for the Divemaster swim tests. I know how to do a front crawl properly! ☺  I also went a little crazy on eating western here. I found a salad place and ate there almost every day. I really craved green salads, which are not easy to come by in Southeast Asia.


INDONESIA 


I love Indonesia; it’s cheap to eat and get around. Having the villa in Ubud, I made good use of the kitchen and cooked every day. More expensive than eating out, but I love cooking and made use of all my cooking classes I’ve taken.


PHILIPPINES


Surprisingly, Phillippines was not as cheap as I was expecting. The accommodation was cheap, I averaged $7/night for a place, but I did splurge on a beautiful Airbnb condo over the water for my birthday, which accounted for more than ½ of my total accommodation cost. Transportation was really expensive. I took the bus for half the time and the other I used taxis where I was able to negotiate 3-5 hour rides for $30-40.


SRI LANKA


My daily rate was high here at ~$62/day, but I spent three nights in a 4-star hotel after my incident at the guesthouse I was staying. I also couldn’t get enough of their famous pepper crab in Colombo and ate there twice!


MALDIVES 


My cheapest country only because my mom met me there and footed the bill (Thanks, Mom!) But my flight from Kuala Lumpur direct to Male was only $75! Super cheap to get there, expensive while you’re there. We averaged ~$200/day each for room and food.


CAMBODIA 


The most expensive country I visited! I traveled with a friend and ate at mainly restaurants for this trip, which brought my meal average up. If you stick to street food, you can eat for less than $10 a day. The temples are also not cheap to enter, but worth every penny.


MYANMAR 


I spent the shortest amount of time here and really wish I could have spent a month here. I absolutely fell in love with this country. Accommodation and food are cheap. The biggest expenses I had were the entrance fees to see the temples and the visa.


SCUBA DIVING


A quarter of my expenses from the year was on Scuba Diving this year getting gear and my PRO certifications. This is an investment I was happy to make. I also got in over 100 dives in 6 countries! A small price to pay, I think!


FLIGHTS


I got my first free flight! I accumulated enough airline points through AirAsia to get a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. I love AirAsia and their cheap flights! All my flights were under $100, with most being under $50. I should buy stock in AirAisa 😉

 




Weekend in Kuala Lumpur

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

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I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur more than a handful of times over the past two years, yet I hated it when I first stepped into the city. After traveling Bali, Thailand, and Laos, I just expected Malaysia to be the same, little villages with a lot of cultures. I spent time in Penang before I came here which I fell in love with. When I came here, I felt I stepped into New York. I’ve learned to embrace KL and now love having short stays here when I’m passing through. Here’s what how I spent my last weekend here.


SUNSET AT TRADERS HOTEL


Head over to Traders for happy hour and the best view of the towers. Be sure to bring your camera; you’re not going to want to miss this show!

Home of where the film Entrapment was filmed (Sean Connery & Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a huge shopping mall where you can find everything from Gap to Gucci along with other European favorites, Marks and Spenser’s and Harrods’s. Get your shopping fix on at this huge mall and head up to the observation deck to get a view of the towers.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


EAT LOCAL AT JALAN ALOR


Not your ordinary hawker center, This is filled with restaurants with everyone wanting your business. A perfect place to head with friends as you can order a bunch of local plates and share.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


VISIT BATU CAVES


Don’t be turned off by hearing about the gobs of people that go here. I went in the morning ~10 am, and there weren’t that many people there. There’s even a market below where you can buy trinkets and street treats. The caves are worth a visit and the main cave is free to go in. Only 5 miles from the city it’s just a short ride for ~$1 on the Kommutor. It’s a great cheap day out.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


GET EDUCATED ABOUT SHARK FINNING AT KLCC AQUARIA


Usually one against aquariums, I had to go in and support KLCC’s as they have a mission to stop shark finning which is a huge problem in Asia. The focus at the aquarium is educating the public on the harms of shark finning and what it’s doing to the fish population which is something I can get behind.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


FIND A GOOD BARGAIN IN CHINATOWN


During the day you can shop for all the knock-off watches and bags you want, in the evening this turns into a proper night market filled with vendors trying to sell their goods. Food vendors make their way to the streets too where you can buy everything from fruit to roasted nuts.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


STUFF YOURSELF SILLY AT CENTRAL MARKET


Dubbed the locals market, here you will find clothes, souvenirs, and even a fish spa. Stuff yourself silly at the hawker center on the top floor or some street treats right outside. Don’t miss eating Putu Bamboo which is right outside and is made fresh right in front of you. This pandan, rice flour, palm sugar, coconut treat is one of my favorite sweets.

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World


TAKE PICTURES OF MASJID JAMEK


Weekend in Kuala Lumpur - Top 7 Things to See And Do - Robyn Around the World

 




Expenses! What Does One Year Of Travel Cost?

expenses year one - Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my first year of travel expenses. I’m not going to get down to the nitty-gritty, just the basics so you can get an idea of what things cost. I separated out my flights and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories. Meals, Accommodations, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous is shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t break out SIM cards or transport but in general, I didn’t spend more than $20 a month on either, except for the Cook Islands, that place was just ridiculously expensive as you’ll see below.


INDONESIA


Indonesia was my first stop and by far my cheapest country to stay and play. My accommodation average is a little high because there were two nights where I spent $100 on housing. Even with the splurge, I was still right at $30 a day. Meals at the local warungs range from $0.75 – $1.10 for a dish with rice. Most of the temples are free to go in, and the ones that do charge are under $2.00.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


THAILAND


I spent the most time here and had two months of free accommodation while doing the work exchange in Chiang Mai. I visited Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, and Phuket. I spent a good chunk of the miscellaneous money on motorbike rentals (~$400 for six months) visiting and donating to elephant and Gibbon refuges. (~$350) Along with buying gifts and shipping them back to family (~$300) and the medical bill from my surgery is in there too (~$550). The rest is from buying clothes, toiletries, SIM cards, museums, and almost weekly massages ☺

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


LAOS


I was only here for ten days. Me and two friends took the slow boat from Thailand to Luang Prabang and visited the famous Kung Si waterfalls and walked the markets nightly. I bought quite a few gifts for family here and sent them back to the states. Food is cheap here too. My morning breakfast consisted of a lemon-ginger smoothie with a Nutella banana crepe for $1.50. There’s a significant French influence with a whole row of crepe, juice, and sandwich stands right on the main road. In the evening, there are many stalls that sell buffet style food where you can pile all you can on your plate for $1.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


MALAYSIA


I spent most of my time in Penang. I love the art and food culture here so much that I went twice! Even with all my eating (3-4x a day!) I still didn’t spend that much on food. I averaged $13/day to eat like a king! Most plates cost $1-2. My most expensive meal was when I went to dim sum (6 times!). I would get 4-5 dishes for $4-5. Still a bargain!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


AUSTRALIA


Surprisingly, I didn’t spend as much as I would have thought here. I stayed in a hostel right in the center of town and didn’t skimp on meals or seeing the sights. I saw a show at the Opera House, hired a car and spent the day touring Hunter Valley wine country (purchasing a couple of bottles while I was there) and visited a wildlife park.

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


NEW ZEALAND


New Zealand on the other hand, I spent more than I thought I would. All of the miscellaneous was devoted to Hobbit gifts and sending them home (postage is expensive here!). I also visited the Hobbit movie set and went black water rafting which was pricey, but worth every penny!

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


COOK ISLANDS


This island is EXPENSIVE! Although I got a good rate on my accommodation through the dive shop, most cheap accommodations here average $20-25 a night for a hostel and $30-40 for a private room. I cooked at home nearly every day. The cost you see below is from buying groceries. Vegetable prices were through the roof! It was cheaper to buy 2 pounds of chicken than it was to buy one small pineapple. Internet was ridiculous too. The island is all satellite, so 1GB of data cost $50. I spent $300 for two months of Internet! The cost of living in paradise…

What does it cost to travel the world for 1 year?


SCUBA DIVING


So after breaking it down, I was surprised that I didn’t more on my new scuba hobby about to turn profession. I spent just under $2500 to do 83 dives in 5 countries and also completed four recreational certifications (Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Emergency First Responder, Rescue Diver). Most people will spend that on one week of diving in an exotic location and only get 12-18 dives in.

Scuba Diving Cost - Robyn Around the World


FLIGHTS


I love Air Asia! My two biggest tickets were the flight from Seattle to Bali ($500) and my flight from Chiang Mai to Cook Islands ($800). The rest of the flights were between $30-$125 each. Air Asia is my go-to airline for flying around Southeast Asia.

Flight Cost - Robyn Around the World

Overall I spent a total of $18,450 which was $6,000 more than budget. Not bad considering I didn’t plan to pick up scuba diving along the way and stayed in mostly private rooms. Could I have done it cheaper? Absolutely, but I’m traveling to experience life in other countries, and when there were things I wanted to do that would give me an amazing experience (like black water rafting through caves), I did it. I could have also stayed in more hostels, but when I found places like the overwater bungalow for a month at a deep discount, I viewed it as a chance of a lifetime, and I wasn’t going to say no!


Sipadan Island: Diving At Malaysia’s Top Dive Sites

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

While I was in Phuket, I spoke with a dive shop that was right next to my Airbnb, and they said one of the top dive spots is on Sipadan Island in Malaysia. I was already planning to head to Penang so decided to check out ticket prices to get there. Malaysia is two parts. The mainland borders Thailand and the Island of Borneo is just Southeast to it. The tickets were cheap ($60 on AirAsia) and the diving even cheaper ($25/dive) so I decided to head out there and check it out.

Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Sipadan Island borders both Indonesia and Philippines. It’s rated as one of the top places to dive and only allows 120 dive permits a day. There are 12 dive spots around the island and the wall just off the beach is 600 meters deep. The island is so small that there are no resorts on the island. There is heavy military personnel there for everyone’s safety. It was a bit of a shock seeing them at first, as I wasn’t expecting it, but after hearing stories of all the recent kidnappings, I felt safe and better with them there. The dive sites we went to were Barracuda Point, Turtle Cave/Drop-off, Mid-Reef and Coral Garden. All were great sites and so glad we were able to fit in four dives that day.

The Fish

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

The dive shop on Phuket did not lie. All the sites are full of schools of Jack Fish, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Turtles, and I even saw a Day Octopus! There were so many schools of bumphead parrot fish that were huge! I swam through a vortex of jack fish like Superman, and it was amazing to see them swimming in a circle around me. Sipadan is right up there as one of my best dives right along side of Sail Rock at Koh Tao.

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Places to Stay

There are many dive shops that go out to Sipadan. I would suggest staying at a dive shop on Malbu as it’s only a 90-minute boat ride from the resort. I dove with Scuba Junkie, and while the Divemasters and instructors are top notch, they have the least amount of permits to give out a day (7). There are other resorts on the island who have double the permits. With booking a six-day dive package, I was only allowed to dive Sipadan 1 day. I didn’t find out until later that I could have been put on a waiting list to try to score another day. I would check TripAdvisor for other options and do your research before you go.

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

Diving on Mabul

While I was there, I completed my Advanced Open Water Diver course. If you’re looking for top-notch training, I can recommend Scuba Junkie for that, and if you can request Faustine or Mike, you will get the best dive education. The dive sites around Mabul are hit and miss. Sipadan is rated as one of the best places to dive, so I assumed the rest of the diving here would be just as great. I was saddened by the state of the sites around the resort. They do reef clean-ups, but there’s just so much that comes back from Semporna and the sea gypsies that it’s hard to keep up with it. There are some sites that are better than others. All the sites I went to on Kapali were pretty good. Stingray City and Little Okinawa were my favorite, but because the reefs are run down, there’s not enough big fish stuff to show you, so they point out the small stuff. If you’re a Nudibranch freak then you’re going to love diving here, you’ll see a lot. But if you’re looking for the big stuff, you’ll get a few turtles and a couple fish here and there, but not the big schools that you’ll see in Sipadan.

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site

During my stay, I dove a total of 6 days and 18 dives and became one step closer to becoming a Divemaster. I loved all my Divemasters (Val and Jo-Jo), and I learned so much from my dive instructor (Faustine). The only flaw with this trip was only being able to dive one day at Sipadan. Had I been able to dive all my days there, it would have been pretty epic.

Sipadan Island: Diving at Malaysia's top dive site


24 Hours In Cameron Highlands Visiting The Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

On my way down to southern Malaysia from Penang, my hosts suggested I make a stop at Cameron Highlands to visit the tea plantations. They said it’s a beautiful spot for pictures, and they couldn’t have picked a better place to suggest for me to go. I took the 6-hour bus down to the center of town and settled into my Airbnb for the night. There are two ways to see the plantations, by tour bus or hiring a private driver. Not one for tour bus operations I walked down to a taxi stand and hired a driver for 90 MYR ($20) who drove me around for a 4-hour private tour. I told him I wanted to go to spots that were good for pictures, and he took me to four different places.


BIG RED STRAWBERRY FARM


Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Our first stop was Big Red Strawberry Farm. They grow strawberries and lettuce hydroponically. Rows and rows of strawberry plants and the lettuce was super green. My driver went in with me and let me through some gates to walk inside the rows of strawberries. I walked around taking pictures for a while then met my driver at the café for a lettuce smoothie and taste the strawberries. Surprisingly they weren’t that sweet, but my driver said it depends which season you come and that the taste changes depending on the month. My lettuce smoothie was amazing, but may have been the sprite they added to it for sweetness.
Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations


BOH TEA PLANTATION


Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Our next stop was to visit Boh’s tea fields. I didn’t go in Boh as they were closed, but we drove around the grounds, and he took me to some places where I could climb up a hill to get some great shots. He was pretty knowledgeable about the teas and gave me a lesson on how they harvest the tea. The leaves are harvested every three weeks by machine, which gathers over 250 Kg of greens. The leaves are then left out to dry in a cool environment to reduce their moisture by 50%. They are then heated to remove the rest of the moisture and kill any bacteria. The leaves are then packaged for use. The rolling hills are just gorgeous with tiered rows of tea plants on acres of land that made for some great pictures.

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations


BUTTERFLY PARK


Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

On the way to the next plantation, we stopped at a butterfly park. I have actually never been to one, so I figured for $1 entry, I’d check it out. I don’t know what I was expecting, but these butterflies were huge! They were butterflies on steroids with some as big as my hand. Pretty cool to see and I took a few pictures. There were also frogs, beetles, snakes and flowers to look at. It wasn’t that big but was a nice stop along the way.

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations


CAMERON VALLEY TEA PLANTATION


Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Boh is the tea plantation most visited, but I loved Cameron Valley Tea plantation the best. I had Masala tea that was smooth, spicy goodness in my mouth. The grounds had the same tiered hills as Boh, but there were also paths where you could walk on to take you through the fields. There is a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the fields and tea houses right on the plantation. These were my favorite pictures of the day.

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations

Cameron Highland: Visiting Malaysia's Beautiful Tea Plantations


10 Fun Things To Do In Penang



Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

I love Penang!  I originally went for the art and street food, but found so many more things to do there than just stuff myself silly and find art in alleyways.  Which of course is way fun, but these other things are a bonus and definitely worth checking out.

10 Fun Things To Do In Penang


GEORGE TOWN ART


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

I like art of all types, but I absolutely love street art. There’s something about seeing art painted on brick walls, pipes, and doorways that amazes me. There’s a certain talent that street artists have that allow them to take any shape or form and create it into something beautiful. In 2012, George Town made the street art famous when two artists, Lithuanian born Ernest Zacharevic and Penang local Louis Gan, painted wall murals for the George Town Festival. Penang’s street art became an attraction drawing in tourists every year since.


HAWKER FOOD


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

I am in love with Penang’s street food!  Having traveled all around Southeast Asia, I have had plenty, but the city I keep coming back to for more is Penang. The Hawker fare is unlike any I’ve tasted. It’s not your normal street meat, but a gourmet pleather of dishes with complex flavors and spices. There’s so much to talk about that I created a whole guide on it. If you follow it, I promise you will be thoroughly stuffed by the end of your trip. It has my top 15 must eats while you’re in Penang.




PENANG HILL


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Penang Hill is known for it’s stunning views no matter what time of day you’re there. You can walk or take the tram up the hill. It will cost you 30 MYR ($7) to take the train up. Going on the weekends you’ll find a line, but it moves fairly quickly. The train runs from 6.30am – 11.00pm. At the top of the hill, you’ll find a viewing deck, street vendors, a temple, a mosque and even locks of love. On Sunday’s there’s a free Zumba class from 7:30am-8:30am and gets you a free ride up the hill.  Although you can grab a taxi, public transportation is easy to take. Get on Penang Rapid Bus #204 and it will drop you off right at the bottom of the hill.


NATIONAL PARK


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

This beautiful park has two trails.  The most popular is the lighthouse trail, the other is Kerachut Beach.  You can either walk the trails or hire a boat to take you to each. I hiked Kerachut Beach trail as a suggestion from some locals I met. The trail is long and takes about 75-90 minutes to get to the beach. It has a good amount of hills so bring plenty of water and wear appropriate shoes, don’t wear flip-flops (like I did). You’ll be much happier in sneakers, but pack the flips for when you get there. You can’t swim in the water, but you can sit on the beach and watch the stunning views. At the end of the beach is a Turtle Conservation Center which helps the two main species of turtles found here in Penang (Olive Ridley Turtle and Green Turtle).

Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

There are three main beaches that are monitored by this group for maintaining a natural habitat for turtles to land and lay eggs. These beaches do not allow for visitors to swim (Kerachut Beach, Teluk Kampi Beach, and Teluk Katapang Kecil Beach). You can visit the center and see the hatchlings along with a couple green seas turtles and talk to them about their conservation actions. Getting here by public bus is easy and is a 40-minute ride. Take the Penang Rapid Bus #101.


OCCUPY BEACH STREET – SUNDAY MARKET


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Every Sunday from 7am – 1pm Lebuh Pantai is closed off to cars and turns into a market full of vendors selling food, gifts, crafts, games, and even henna booths. You will find people dressed in costume and possibly even see a snake show.

Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

According to their website Occupy Beach Street came about for the following reasons:

  • To promote Penang as an eventful tourist destination
  • To uplift the business growth in Georgetown area
  • To create a safe platform for the public to view the Heritage area
  • To popularize the idea of healthy living, emphasize the importance of social interaction
  • To create further awareness on the Eco-Friendly Concept
  • To introduce and promote local creation




KHOO KONGSI


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Khoo Kongsi is a beautiful Chinese clan house that is closed to the public every night except the 3rd Saturday of the month.

Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

If you’re lucky to be in the area during this time, it’s a must see for the Chinese Dragon and Chinese Lion dance. And the temple is beautiful at night with all the lights. It’s one of those on the list of must photograph.


KEK LOK SI


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Kek Lok Si temple was built in 1891.  It has a series of steps in the form of a market to get you to the temple. At the entrance of the temple is a turtle pond filled with hundreds of tortoise and you can buy food to feed them from the vendors around the pond. Things to note are although this is a temple, there is no dress code. I went covered up and saw most people including locals wearing shorts and tank tops. Once you’re done touring the temple, don’t forget to stop at Air Itam to get Penang’s famous Laksa.


CLAN JETTIES


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Located on Weld Quay, you’ll find a bunch of houses on stilts. There are four clans (villages) that are over a century old the Lim, Chew, Tan and Yeoh. In the Chew and Tan Jetty you will find souvenir shops and food vendors. Fun fact, the houses on the jetties don’t pay land tax as they’re technically built on water.


CAMERA MUSEUM


Guide to Penang: 10 Fun Things To Do in Penang

Being a photographer, when I found out there was a camera museum, I B-lined to go check it out.  So amazing there were cameras from all eras of time, starting from the 1st cameras made all the way up to present day cameras.  There was also a pinhole room where you could play around with the pinhole cameras and a darkroom showing how pictures were printed back in the day.  I learned how to take photos with film cameras back in 1989 which was before digital was even a thought.  It was great to see a full darkroom and brought back a lot of great memories of me spending hours on the weekends in a darkroom just to print one perfect picture.


TRISHAW RIDE


http://www.thecameramuseumpenang.com

All around Penang you’ll see men waiting for passengers to ride around on their bike, called trishaws.  This was Penang’s mode of transportation in the early days and is still fun to do in present time.  You can hire a trishaw for around 30 MYR (~$7) for an hour to take you around town.  It’s a great way to see the city and have them show you where some of the art murals are.




Penang Street Art : Finding Street Art in George Town

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

Penang street art was made famous by Ernest Zacharevic an artist from Lithuania, after he created murals for the George Town Festival in 2012.  Louis Gan is a local street artist that needs to be mentioned here too.  This amazing artist has a hearing disability and was born deaf with a speech impediment.  He had a love for art and taught himself how to paint through watching videos and practicing on canvas. Along with these two great artists work, George Town is now home to many new pieces by both commissioned artists and local street artists alike. For the 2013 George Town Festival the ASA, Artists for Stray Animals, were commissioned to do a project called “101 Lost Kittens” to create more awareness for strays. Along with these giant wall murals that were commissioned, you’ll find local artists showcasing their work on pipes, down alleys, in doorways and in front of shops. Paintings are not all you’ll find in George Town. There are also 50+ wrought-iron caricatures named “Marking George Town” that tell the history of Penang’s Georgetown in the form of a funny cartoon.  There is always something new to see when you walk the streets of downtown George Town.

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

There is a map you can pick up that shows where all the popular murals and iron structures are. You can follow the map and walk around on your own, take the free CAT bus or for 30 MYR (~$7.00) an hour you can hire a trishaw to take you around to all the different spots.

Penang Street Art : Finding Street Art in George Town


GEORGE TOWN’S POPULAR WALL MURALS


Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Little Children on a Bicycle” by Ernest Zacharevic

Cross Streets: Lebuh Armenian and Lebuh Pantai

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Boy on Bike” by Ernest Zacharevic

Cross Streets: Lebuh Ah Queen and Lebuh Pantai

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Little Girl in Blue” by Ernest Zacharevic

Location: Jalan Muntri in-between Love Lane & Lebuh Leith

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler” by Desmond Yeo

Cross Streets: Jalan Penang & Jalan Muntri

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Children on the Swing” by Louis Gan

Location: Chulia Street in the alley between Lebuh Victoria & Pengkalan Weld

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Sister and Brother Playing Basketball” by Louis Gan

Location: Chulia Street in the alley between Lebuh Victoria & Pengkalan Weld

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Skippy Comes to Penang” by ASA – Artists for Stray Animals

Location: Lebuh Armenian in-between Beach St & Lebuh victoria

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“The Real Bruce Lee Would Never Do This” by ASA – Artists for Stray Animals

Location: Lebuh Ah Queen down an alley (Cross Street Lebuh Pantai)

 


IRON CARICATURES


Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Too Narrow”

‘The hand pulled rickshaw was the most popular form of transportation in early Penang’

Cross Streets: Lorong Soo Hong and Lebuh Armenian

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Double Role”

‘Up until 1909 the police doubled as George Town’s firefighters’

Location: Gat Lebuh Chulia (next to the fire fighter base camp)

 

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Ting Ting Thong”

‘Seck Chuan Lane was a distribution center for market produce many itinerant hawkers took advantage of the crowds by plying their food here. One of the favorite food sold is Ting Ting Thong or rock candy a hardened mixture of sugar, ses seeds, and nuts loved by kids. It has to be chi and hammered to break it into smaller biteable pieces.’

Location: Seck Chuan Lane

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Budget Hotels”

‘At the turn of the last century many shophouses were turned into cheap hotels and making this internationally known tourist strip very popular with backpackers.’

Cross Streets: Lebuh Chulia & Love Lane

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

“Narrowest Five Foot Way”

Location: Lorong Stewart


HIN BUS DEPOT


Although the main murals in downtown are beautiful, my favorite art pieces were at Hin Bus Depot. As the name suggests, it’s right by the bus station, and when you walk through the coffee shop, you’ll find a playground full of art murals. Hin Bus Depot also has monthly art shows so you’ll always find one going on there. Check their Facebook page for the most current show. What I love about this place is the random ‘Vans Off The Wall’ skate ramp in a section of the park. There’s also artwork by Alex Face who is a famed street artist from Bangkok; you’ll recognize his baby in bunny onesie hiding between a couple of trees.

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town
Penang Street Art : Guide to Finding Street Art in George Town

 


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