1. THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS IS TOUCHING ME BEYOND WORDS AND HAS 100% RESTORED MY FAITH IN HUMANITY
I have not had to pay for accommodation in over a month and food has been provided for me along the way on several occasions. Whether it be friendly and generous Couchsurfing or Warmshowers hosts, friends met during or before the trip or people at private houses, police and gas stations or temples where I have clumsily asked permission to pitch my tent, the response has always been overwhelmingly positive. I am just blown away by the generosity of everyone that has crossed my path so far. Although I know this isn’t the reason why they are doing it, I cannot wait for the day I can pay it forward when I am in a situation to do so.
Last year, I wrote a vegan food guide to Malacca in light of a week spent in this charming UNESCO World Heritage city. Malaysia is one of the easiest places in South East Asia to find vegan and vegetarian food, and I was thrilled to be back in Malacca this year to see what I had missed the first time around. As it turns out, I missed a lot! Below is a new and revised, more complete guide including restaurants and self-catering options. There are still a few places I failed to visit, so who knows, maybe there will be a take-three next year!
I came to volunteer at a guesthouse in Malaysia as part of my rehabilitation into the single people club. I needed some time to pick up the pieces and to decide what my next move would be before starting to travel again. Things seemed like they were lining up for me without having to ask, so I took the opportunity that was presenting itself – all I had to do was to hit the reply button, say “I’m on my way”, pack my bags, and go start this brand new chapter of my adventure. Opportunities to volunteer at guesthouses like this are usually found through work exchange websites, but I was actually poached by a previous guesthouse owner where I had stayed a few months prior – so in my case it was just a matter of good timing. And as unable as I was to decide what was best for me – it was indeed the perfect timing.
Spending time in KL after backpacking through the rest of South East Asia is comparatively expensive. Of course nothing compares to Singapore, but food, accommodation and entertainment in the Malaysian capital are likely to leave a dent in your wallet if you are not careful. That is precisely what started to happen to me. I intended to spend only a few days in KL with a friend to try some vegan restaurants before moving on – but life had different plans for me and I found myself stranded in Kuala Lumpur for nearly three weeks with a rather empty bank account. I had to be crafty and come up with ways to make my stay cheaper. Turns out, it’s absolutely doable to stay in KL on the cheap! Here are a few things I discovered.
I felt I hit the vegan jackpot when I started researching restaurant options in KL. Unfortunately I was only supposed to stay a week, so I did some elimination and curated a list of the places that I thought sounded the best among the lot to make things easier. Even then, I was only able to visit a handful of restaurants, but since a few people have asked me if I was going to make a vegan food guide of KL, I thought I would share with you the list and hire the help of a few fellow bloggers to describe the places I unfortunately couldn’t visit. Those were in my mind the restaurants the most worthy of a visit, and I am dying to try all of them! Here they are, in no particular order.
Ashley’s is the more laid back sister of Living Food Bistro and Café, which I reviewed a few days ago. Located in KL’s trendy Bangsar neighborhood amongst lovely shops and cafes and a few minutes’ walk from the Bangsar Village 2 shopping mall, it has the unmistakable warmth of a passionate family-owned business. If Living Food felt like an oasis in the middle of the corporate world, Ashley’s is definitely its after hours, loosened-tie counterpart. Its cool interior, cool music, cool waiters (coincidentally my waiter was also Canadian!) and cool ambiance all lend themselves to lingering and feeling on holiday, even on a weekday.
The (vegan) cavewoman in me always worries about starvation. I worry there will not be enough food and never leave home without a gazillion snacks. As a health-minded person though, juice cleanses have always been on my radar, but thanks to the aforementioned, I’ve always been a little wary of them. I decided to give one a try anyway with the help of the good people at Lifestyle Juicery in Kuala Lumpur.
I stumbled on Living Food Bistro & Cafe by accident as it is located in the same building as the Canadian Embassy in Menara Tan & Tan on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur. I immediately felt compelled to look at the menu – “living food” to me is food that hasn’t been killed by over cooking and that still brims with enzymes, nutrients and, well, life! That is how I ate back in Montreal when I had a kitchen and how I strive – but not always succeed – to eat on the road. I am so glad I got to sample some of the menu at Living Food and put a little mojo back in my diet, even just for one meal.
Kuala Lumpur is one of those places where, in the midst of a meat-eating nation, you barely have to scratch the surface to unveil an exciting health-minded paradise ripe for exploration. This week is all about #CleanEatingKL! A few days ago, I was able to visit Simple Life, a little chain of vegetarian restaurants who has healthy eating as its core value and is making Kuala Lumpur all the more exciting for me to explore.
Since I have been blabbering about laksa non-stop for about a month straight, I thought it would be appropriate to provide you with a recipe. Laksa is a mix of Malay and Chinese cuisine, a noodle soup that is traditionally made with fish. It is widely available in Malaysia, Singapore and in some parts of Indonesia. We have sampled several variations on the laksa, most of them made with a creamy coconut broth, but my favorite was the sour broth variant we found on Penang Island: the Penang Asam laksa, a unique and complex blend of spicy, sweet and sour flavors.
We returned to Georgetown like to an old friend, happy to soak in familiar faces and places, but also excited to revisit some of our favorite restaurants and eager to try the ones we had missed the last time.
Penang is possibly the #1 foodie destination in Malaysia, and fortunately vegans and vegetarians are not left aside – Happy Cow has 111 listings for vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants on Penang Island! We’ve compiled a list of the ones we have visited and enjoyed. You can read about our first visit to Georgetown here.
One year ago today, on January 1st 2014 at 8am, we locked the door of our flat in Montreal for the last time, leaving behind an empty shell of what was our life of the previous seven years, and dropped the key through the mail slot. As it resonated loudly in the dark empty box, I felt an excitingly familiar feeling in my stomach: we were homeless, the unknown awaited us. It was amazing to ring in the New Year in such a drastic, life changing, exciting way, and the feeling hasn’t left me since.
If you are an animal lover and a traveler like us, volunteering at a dog shelter abroad can be a fantastic experience, either just for a day or for an extended period of time. Not only will you get to play with hundreds of puppies and meet new people, you will also make a huge difference both for the shelter and for the life of these animals.
edit. Please visit my revised vegan food guide of Malacca here.
We returned to Malaysia with one goal in mind: eating all the laksa. Malacca was the only major city we had yet to visit in peninsular Malaysia and it fitted perfectly into our planned itinerary: we took a short flight from Bali to Singapore and hopped on a few buses that took us to Malacca with surprising ease, all within the same day.
The plan from there on was to spend a few days on the west coast of Malaysia as we slowly made our ascent towards Southern Thailand.
One thing anyone who is even mildly technology dependant should do before travelling anywhere for an extended period of time is to have their smart phone unlocked. Having 3G in South East Asia (in fact in any foreign country!) opens up so many possibilities. All of a sudden you are not dependant on tuktuk drivers telling you that your hotel is miles away, you can look up this nice hotel you just stumbled upon on Tripadvisor to see what other people thought of it and you can pretty much just hop on a scooter and go get lost anywhere, knowing that your trusty GPS will always bring you back home at the end of the day. 3G in South East Asia is extremely cheap and surprisingly very fast and reliable in most places.
A few months ago, I wrote about Richard’s beginnings in scuba diving off the shores of beautiful Koh Tao, Thailand. Despite what I may have said or written at the time, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would not in a million years try it for myself. The thought of letting myself deflate towards the bottom of the dark ocean sent shivers down my spine that clutched me at the ribs and left me panting for air. Being of the mildly anxious variety, I struggle for air well above sea level from time to time, so having a pressurized whip cream canister and a sippy straw for my only supply did not sound like a cool idea. Couple that with the fact that I am an overall well rounded wimp – count me out of any extreme sport or anything involving heights, suspended walkways, speed, fast moving water or narrow spaces – and you can very well assume that scuba diving and I were never meant to be.
I never really write about the big cities we visit. I feel that we never stay long enough for a blog post to be of any valuable interest and that I would just be chewing back what’s already been written too many a time anyway. There’s also the fact that big cities have their way with making me restless, unable to concentrate and staring at all the shiny things in amazement. Richard has been calling me a magpie for years. I blame Sephora and H&M. However, I still felt like regurgitating a line or two about KL, if you’ll humor me one instant.
Jeez! I was not expecting such a small island and so little time to turn into such an adventure. Georgetown was amazing, but the real reason we had come to Penang was to visit the Bao Sheng Durian Farm on the opposite side of the island. In order to have better access to the farm, we moved our living quarter to Miss Loh’s guesthouse in Teluk Bahang, an adventure in and of itself.
We had just set foot in Malaysia when I declared Georgeown to possibly be the most exciting place I have ever been to. A melting pot of cultures, Georgetown is like Europe, Asia, India and Islam all wrapped up in a neat little bundle adorned with incredible street art; a wonder for all the senses.
The eclectic crowd of Malays and tourist-fraught trishaws roam the streets past colonial buildings, old Chinese shophouses, mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples and churches, dodging the traffic in seemingly perfect symbiosis.