Malaysia is home to over 30 million people and is a country filled with diversity in cultures, food, and cityscapes. During my trip to Asia, I made a stop over in Kuala Lumpur, the modern and unique capital city. Upon landing, I noticed the Malaysian flag everywhere - people carrying flags, flags on buildings, flags along the streets. I thought - wow this is a very patriotic place. Then I realized it wasn't just a normal day - it was Merdeka Day, or independence day! What are the chances that I land in Malaysia on this special holiday? Malaysia was celebrating their 60th anniversary of their independence from British rule.
With only 24 hours to spare in the city, I wanted to catch the Merdeka celebrations and hit the city's top highlights: the Batu Caves and Petronas Towers. Check out the behind the scenes video:
1. Merdeka Day
On Merdeka Day, August 31st, we woke up to the sound of military planes flying over the city. A group of fighter jets flew in unison across the unique cityscape.
2. Batu Caves
The Batu Caves are one of the most unique sites, easily accessible by the metro. We took a 30 minute metro ride from KL Sentral directly to the Batu Caves, a sacred Hindu site that features limestone caves and mischievous monkeys. As soon as I exited the metro, it felt like we were in India. Outside the cave is an Indian market, which is a feast for the senses. It smells like incense, there are fresh coconut stands, people making durian crepes, mukukku (an Indian snack), marigold flower necklaces, among many other shops.
The caves are accessible by a large staircase, lined with many mischievous monkeys. There are so many monkeys that we have to dodge them as we climb up to the caves. Finally, we reached the cave entrance - which was dark and filled with Hindu deities. It was magical and mysterious.
3. Petronas Towers
The Petronals towers are the Iconic symbol of Kuala Lumpur and the tallest twin towers in the world. The towers have an impossing, gun metal grey color that dominates the skyline. At one point, they were the tallest buildings in the world, but that title was taken by the Taipei 101, and other buildings. There is an observation deck, but it has extremely limited availablity of about 1000 tickets per day, and it is time slotted. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance. Otherwise, you can enjoy the towers from the outside, which includes a large water fountain and park.
Next, we take the train back to the airport - off to other adventures. Terima Kasih Malaysia!
Welcome to Thailand! On this trip, we take the Phuket Ferry to the Phi Phi Islands, a magical group of islands about two hours off the coast. The beaches include Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh islands, which have turquoise waters, sheer green cliffs, and some of the best snorkeling in the world. It looks like paradise. Here's how to photograph these beautiful islands.
Behind the scenes vlog:
First, we board the ferry around 9am which takes us on a scenic ride to the Phi Phi Islands. We dock off coast of Monkey Beach off of Ko Phi Phi Don to go snorkeling. Our boat provided the snorkel gear and I brought my GoPro. We dive into the underwater adventure and see the best coral reefs and sea life, like parrot fish.
Here's what to bring to get those amazing underwater and aerial shots:
View of the longtail boats from monkey beach:
Time to dive in! View from the waters of Phi Phi Islands:
Next, we go to Monkey Beach where we see mischievous monkeys grabbing tourist's items, like sunglasses, beer, and more! Here is the view from the water looking towards Monkey Beach (shot with GoPro).
We get back on the boat to visit Krabi beach, where we go swimming in the warm waters. Then it's time to head back to Phuket!
Phuket Ferry Schedule:
Phi Phi Island Boat Tour:
What are your favorite places in Thailand to go snorkeling? Comment below!
Welcome to Siem Reap! Wondering what to do in this region beyond Angkor Wat? We ventured 1.5 hours outside of the city to a remote jungle area where we find a sacred mountain and hidden waterfall with significant history to the ancient Khmer Empire. Let's go check it out!
Behind the Scenes video:
First we visit Phnom Kulen, which is a National Park area located about 48 km to the north of the provincial town of Siem Reap. Phnom Kulen is considered a holy mountain in Cambodia, of special religious significance to Hindus and Buddhists who come to the mountain in pilgrimage. It is where the Khmer empire was established in the 9th Century and also served as the quarry for Angkor Wat.
When we arrived at Phnom Kulen, the entire area was filled with Cambodian music, satay and grilled meat street food, and the smell of intense lingering from the temple. The site has two waterfalls and a magnificent Buddhist temple that sits a few floors above ground. Inside the temple is a reclining Buddha with epic views of the jungle.
The waterfall is where locals gather for picnics and festivities. We followed a dirt path that winded beside a stream, and we new the waterfall was near. Once we saw the waterfall, there were crowds of locals and tourists taking photos and enjoying the view. The water was very shallow, which was refreshing after experiencing the 90 degree humidity.
Phnom Kulen was also one of the last strongholds for the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and even still has landmines. The country is making great progress to remove the landmines and rebuild its economy from the civil war. Despite the tough recent past, the country is extraordinary and Cambodian people are some of the sweetest and most inspiring people I have met on my travels.
What are your favorite places in Cambodia? Comment below!
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