Onward North

Leaving Langkawi was tough.  I really wanted to spend a few more days there.  But, reality was that the hostel that had grown to feel like home was quickly booking up for the Chinese New Year weekend, and I would need to move onward.  Penang was in my sights, and George Town was the destination.

In the spirit of going with the flow, I changed my plans for Penang on the fly when I realized that fellow Langkawi roommate Sean – who has a fantastic vlog site called Twenties – would be on the same flight as I was.  We bonded over our shared destination and chatted over a few duty free beers while in Langkawi before landing in Penang.

While I had planned to go and take in the somewhat touristy/theme-parkish Escape outdoor playground for adults, what I ended up doing was something that I think was a lot more fun.  Sean and I bummed around George Town – taking in the sights of the crumbling UNESCO-protected shophouses, enjoying drinks at a tiny bar on Love Lane called Micasa (highly recommended) and exploring the street food while in search of Sean’s own holy grail – a Penang curry (which we didn’t find, but still ended up having some great Indian food in the process).

You know a restaurant is good when it's filled with people, but you're the only tourists there.
You know a restaurant is good when it’s filled with people, but you’re the only tourists there.

Three nights in Penang, and it was time to leave.  With no flight booked, I woke up early Wednesday morning and after a ferry ride which returned me to the peninsula, I spent five hours on a train from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur.  The mission once getting to KL would be simple – refocus, assess my money situation, and figure out where I wanted to go next.

Simply put, right now is not a good time to be a budget traveller in Malaysia.  Travelling at Chinese New Year is like trying to travel during Thanksgiving in the United States or Christmas in Canada and the UK.  Flight prices – even on beloved low-cost carrier Air Asia – are sky high.  Many of the good places you want to stay at are booked up.  I was resigned to my fate that I might be spending a week or more cooling my heels in KL until things calmed down.

As I mentioned on the podcast, where I wanted to go to next was Bali.  Everyone I’ve talked to during my trip so far has raved about it – and I can see why.  It’s simply gorgeous in every traveller-shot picture I’ve seen.  However, getting a flight there would be cost-prohibitive until after Valentine’s Day.

I hate backtracking, so going north wasn’t what I was thinking was in the cards.  But every day sitting in KL (which I like, but I’ve already explored) was another day that I wouldn’t be seeing somewhere new – and possibly another day of relative “comfort,” which could throw me off my game for when I inevitably ended up in a new place.

But, I started to think about money, and the places I really wanted to see while in Southeast Asia.  While Bali might have been added to my list while I’m here, Vietnam has long been at the top of my list of countries I’ve wanted to visit.  Ever since a colleague of mine in radio – Dave Arnold – had gone on adventure of his own almost a decade ago, I’ve been intensely curious to see what the country was all about.  Throw in a heaping helping of rather recent history, and Vietnam ranks up there with destinations like Germany and the Czech Republic as places I really want to explore.

Did it make sense for me to kill time in KL when I could be going to Vietnam?  No.  It didn’t.  That’s when I cracked open Air Asia’s website, and was happy to find a flight for under C$100 to Ho Chi Minh City.

This time around, my wanderlust wouldn’t be as easily sated by just hitting the “purchase” button on the Air Asia website.  First, I needed to get some documentation in order.  I needed a visa to get in to Vietnam.

Once I finish the entire experience of actually clearing immigration to Vietnam, I’ll write a slightly more helpful article on how to get a visa, but suffice it to say that I got my letter from the Vietnamese government, and I’m cleared for entry next week.  I’m excited to explore this beautiful country and meet its people!

I’m happy I dodged the bullet of being stuck in a rut yet again.  Part of me was afraid that I’d be stuck in KL for some time, waffling on where to go next.  But, I have a clear path and a clear direction.  Onward, north!

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