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Laureen

    Asia Travel

    Languishing on Langkawi

    Location: Langkawi Malaysia

    A week or so before we arrived in Langkawi we met a young women who was concerned when we told her we would be on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia for 26 days. She felt we didn’t understand how little there is to do here.

    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah

    We laughed about it later. Our favorite places in the world are the places with little to do. We particularly enjoy island-time and take it whenever we can get it. And our time here languishing on Langkawi has served us well both physically and mentally.

    Langkawi Malaysia Cenang Beach
    Cenang Beach

    Although we spent many days doing pretty close to nothing, we also have enjoyed several busy and active days around the island. And after getting to know this small (25 miles long and 12 miles wide) island just off the coast of Malaysia and Thailand, I would argue that there is indeed plenty to do here.

    Sunset Cenang Beach
    Margarita at Sunset, Cenang Beach

    Most people come here for three or four days. Maybe a week. When we told the young man on the beach who peddles the beach chairs we would be here for more than three weeks he was amazed. He said it was unusual. We have also noticed our age bracket here is unusual. Langkawi seems to be an itinerary of the young-backpacker and honeymooners …with a handful of people in their forties and fifties. We haven’t met any other Americans but it seems popular with the Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Malaysians, Germans and Australians.

    Parasail at Cenang Beach
    Parasail is one of many activities at Cenang Beach

    Our languishing on Langkawi days have often been spent at Pantai Cenang, Langkawi’s most popular beach. It’s a two-minute walk to Cenang (pronounced ‘Chenang’) from our Airbnb and we can rent two chairs for the entire day for $5. The water is ridiculously warm and Cenang is the best place to watch the sunset. Although we did none of these things, it’s very popular (and seems relatively cheap) to go parasailing, rent jet-skis, ride on a banana boat, go island hopping or take a mangrove tour.

    Syrian Restaurant on Langkawi
    Yasmine Syrian Restaurant
    The Cliff Restaurant Langkawi
    Fresh caught red snapper at The Cliff Restaurant Langkawi

    Cenang has lots of hotels, restaurants and shopping. We enjoyed fantastic meals at Happy Happy Chinese Seafood and The Cliff Restaurant but probably my favorite meal was at Yasmine Syrian Restaurant. We also enjoyed several small sidewalk food stalls especially the Lebanese Shawarma Kebab sidewalk cafe and the Warung Cafe for breakfast.

    Seafood Restaurant Cenang Beach
    Happy Happy Chinese Seafood offers whole fish cooked to order
    Cable Car Langkawi
    High Above Langkawi on the Cable Car

    We rented a car on three separate days over our 26 day stay, when we felt ready to get out and see more of the island. The rental car cost us $20 a day while gas runs about $2 a gallon. There really isn’t much public transportation but we found Grab (Uber) to be very efficient and super cheap.

    Sky Bridge Langkawi
    A walk across the Sky Bridge in Langkawi will be memorable

    The first day in the rental car we went to the Langkawi Cable Car and rode to the top for spectacular views. It’s relatively expensive by Malaysia standards ($20 pp) but worth it. From the top you can pay an extra $4 pp to walk out on the Sky Bridge. It was foggy when we were there but still a spectacular thing to do. Next we hiked the Seven Wells Waterfall. Free but ouch. It was 600 steps up and boy did I feel that in the morning. But it was worth it. Really beautiful. The waterfall has beautiful pools you can enjoy as part of your languishing in Langkawi efforts. We did not do the Umgawa Zipline, but it seems popular at around $100 pp.

    Seven Wells Waterfall Langkawi
    One of the pools at Seven Wells Waterfall

    Our second day in the car we drove to Temuran Waterfall in the northwest corner of the island. This is Langkawi’s highest waterfall and it was really spectacular. It’s much easier to access (200 steps) and also has a lovely pool at the base of the falls to cool off once you arrive.

    Scarbourgh Fish and Chips
    Scarborough Fish and Chips Langkawi

    Next we stopped to take a peek at the small but beautiful Pantai Tengorak Beach, but because there was a school field trip there we decided to move on. We enjoyed a spectacular fish-and-chips lunch with view at Scarborough Fish and Chips before heading next door to a much bigger and very beautiful beach called Pantai Tanjung Rhu. We spent several hours here. The water like a bathtub.

    Temuran Waterfall Langkawi
    Beautiful Temuran Waterfall is the highest in Langkawi
    Tanjung Rhu Langkawi
    Tanjung Rhu Beach in north Langkawi

    Back in Cenang we enjoyed one evening at the Aseania Resort where twice a week they offer a “Cultural Show and BBQ”. Think Luau. Similar to many such shows we have done around the world (New Zealand, Australia, Easter Island, Spain, Portugal, Hawaii), even though it is touristy it’s always fun, informative and delicious. Even though the sound system could use an upgrade, I was really glad we went. At $15 pp and all you can eat, you can’t beat it.

    Aseania Hotel Langkawi
    Cultural Show at the Aseania Hotel, Cenang Langkawi

    We spent three separate days enjoying day-passes at two beautiful beach resorts. We walked three miles to Resorts World Langkawi at the tip of the peninsula. For $10 we had access all day to their infinity pool, enjoyed pizza and a drink. Two days we walked one mile to Dash Resort. An all-day pass here was $9 and included a drink. It’s a nice way to take a break from the beach and feel a bit pampered. We liked the pool at Dash the best.

    Dash Resort Langkawi
    We loved Dash Resort, Langkawi

    We went to the Thursday-only Langkawi Night Market which is tiny but we grazed our way through and had a full-meal for two for about $7. There is also a nightly food truck area right off the main drag- we weren’t overly impressed with the offerings so we never ate there.

    NIght Market Langkawi
    The Cenang Night Market is every Thursday

    Nearly every morning we did a beach and boardwalk run, taking advantage of the flat and beautiful terrain around Cenang to get back into running shape. I really appreciated having the time to do that.

    Running in Langkawi
    I always felt safe on my runs in Langkawi

    Speaking of running, while we were on Langkawi the island hosted the Malaysia Ironman. What a spectacle that was! It was very difficult to get around during the event as so many roads were closed so we were only able to enjoy the finish line which was very near to our Airbnb. Super fun and exciting to witness an event like this. This is considered the second most difficult Ironman in the world. We saw the top three, all who beat the the course record despite the unusually warm day. It gave me goosebumps to watch them get their medals. What an accomplishment.

    Ironman Malaysia
    Philippe Koutny of Switzerland crossing the finish line takes second place in the Ironman Malaysia event

    The following week we rented a car again for one more day of exploring. We drove around the southern road of the island to the town of Kuah. It’s a big town with lots of shopping and resorts. Not really something we are interested in but we wanted to see it. We then headed north with the intention of going to the Lucky Temple, a Buddhist Temple that accepts visitors. But we couldn’t find it. So next we headed to the Langkawi Cultural Craft Center. I was wishing I had more room in my suitcase for some of the beautiful baskets. I did purchase a beautiful hand painted Kaftan. We spent some time at the beach before heading back to Kuah to the Wednesday Night Market there.

    Cultural Craft Center handpainted kaftan
    My beautiful hand-painted Kaftan
    Kuah NIght Market
    At the Kuah Night Market

    Sunset in Cenang is pretty amazing. Our favorite places to watch sunset was from the rooftop of the El Toro Mexican Restaurant with a margarita in hand, or from the rooftop Flo Lounge on top of the Nadia Hotel. Our favorite beachside bar was Thirstday or we would bring our own scotch down to the beach for a nightcap.

    Sunset Cenang Beach

    Flo Lounge view from the Nadia Hotel

    Speaking of Scotch, the entire island of Langkawi is a Duty Free Zone. I don’t know why but lucky for us. We could buy a case of beer for $15, a liter of gin for $9 and a really nice bottle of Aberlour Scotch for $50. Aberlour 12 year in the USA would sell for about $90.

    Strangely though, few restaurants serve alcohol since the majority of the businesses are Muslim owned. But you can find a drink in hotel and beach bars.

    Scotch at Sunset Langkawi
    Scotch on the beach

    Sometimes we would take a long walk instead of going to the beach. Although the humidity can be tough, there are few cars on the roads and it felt good to get out and just walk around.

    Hiking on Langkawi
    Six mile hike to Resorts World on the Peninsula

    For nightly free entertainment there is never a dull moment down at the beach after sunset. The tiny town really comes alive, and pop up hookah lounges, fire dancers and foot massage studios take over the beach after dark. You can kick back all night in beach bean bag chairs if that’s your thing – definitely fits the languishing on Langkawi theme don’t you think?

    Beach entertainmment at night Cenang Beach
    Fire dancer on the beach after dark, Cenang Beach

    We were on the tail end of Malaysia’s rainy season and during our visit to Langkawi and other parts of Malaysia we witnessed some crazy big tropical storms. But always the sun would return eventually. Other than during the Ironman and the week of the Indian holiday of Diwali, most hotels and restaurants and tourist attractions were lightly populated. High season will begin in November.

    Tropical Storm Cenang Beach
    Storm rolling in makes for a beautiful shot, Cenang Beach

    At the end of our visit, we had hoped to do a guided sunrise hike to the top of Gunung Raya, the highest point on Langkawi. But the weather did not cooperate so we had to cancel. So instead I booked a spa day at Alun Alun Spa in Cenang. It was really nice. I had a manicure, pedicure and a facial. There are many, many places in Cenang hawking foot massage, manicure, full-body massage etc. BUT since I am very particular about hygiene I decided to go to the more expensive and upsacale Alun Alun. I was really glad I did.

    After nearly a month languishing on Langkawi -this tiny island ranks pretty high for me as a great place to both kick back and relax AND find plenty of things to keep busy. We were never bored. It fit our definition of island life pretty well, whether languishing on Langkawi or being on the go.

    Beautiful Langkawi
    A beautiful view of a beautiful island. Thank you Langkawi.

    After forty days in Malaysia it’s time to go. Malaysia now falls fourth in the list of countries we have stayed in the longest (Spain, Thailand, New Zealand are the top three). But Malaysia ties for first place as the least expensive country for our travels – tied with Bulgaria. Coming in third is the Maldives.

    Cenang Beach Langkawi Malaysia
    Cenang Beach with my guy

    Thanks Langkawi. Terima Kasih Malaysia. We have loved our time here.

    Next stop Myanmar!

    Please note WiFi in Myanmar is very poor. We will do our best to continue to post a Travel Blog each Friday and a Book Review each Wednesday. If you like what we are doing here, we would greatly appreciate you showing your love with a share or a pin! Please invite your friends to follow our blog. Thank you!

    Languishing on Langkawi
    Reading Wednesday

    Elsewhere by Richard Russo

    Reading Wednesday

    I had never read anything by Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Russo, but when I saw this book in our darling little neighborhood lending library it sounded like a winner. And yes it was. Here is my book review of Elsewhere by Richard Russo.

    First of all this is a memoir. And a beautifully done one at that. I’ve thought a lot about memoir writing myself…perhaps I have a memoir in my own future. But not all memoirs are done as well as this one…a wonderful tale of Russo’s lifelong relationship with his mentally disturbed mother.

    The story begins at the beginning. Russo’s childhood spent living with his grandparents and mother, with very rare appearances by his father. His very needy mother is certainly a loving mother, but also very focused on her own personal image no matter the cost. Her insatiable need to “appear” independent plagues Russo throughout his entire life. Because the reality is, she is not.

    She tags along to Arizona when Russo goes to college. That’s right. What 18-year-old wants their mother at college with them? This is a great example of the relationship Russo and his mother have through out his life.

    Only at the very end of her life and after her death is Russo able to really reconcile the fact that his mother had mental illness – having spent decades trying to make her happy, feeling much of her unhappiness was his fault.

    This is a wonderful memoir of a life of mental illness, something in the 1950’s that was never spoken about. His mother was always said to just be “nervous”. Through this work it’s clear her problems were much deeper. Hopefully the book can open the discussion further about mental illness in the people we love.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four stars for Elsewhere by Richard Russo. Read last week’s review of Maid.

    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Islands Around the World

    Just Call Me Island Girl

    After three weeks on Malaysia’s island of Langkawi, I’ve been thinking a lot about all the islands we have visited around the world. It’s a lot of islands. My favorite islands around the world are usually remote and small. But I have also loved some larger, populated and sometimes touristy islands. We are headed in January to the island of Mauritius – I’m looking forward to six whole weeks there! Just call me Island Girl.

    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi Malaysia

    We have been working on our travel plans for the rest of the Grand Adventure 3.0 and have just booked two weeks on the island of Cyprus in April and more than three weeks on the island of Malta in May. There are several other favorite islands around the world that are high on our bucket list we hope to visit over the next few years including Madagascar, Sao Tome, Cuba, Jamaica and Guernsey…to name a few. Ahh my bucket list never seems to get any shorter.

    Prince Edward Island Canada
    Prince Edward Island Canada

    So in today’s blog I thought I would share some of my favorite islands around the world, and a brief description of why they make my fav list. There are several other islands we have visited I don’t mention here…I had to narrow it down. But if you have ever considered traveling to any of these – here are my recommendations;

    Langkawi Malaysia

    • Visited in October 2019 for 26 days
    • Average Temperature 84 F
    • 25 miles long by 12 miles wide
    • Population 65,000
    • Best time to visit November -February
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • Quiet and super inexpensive. Beautiful, clean beaches, lots of restaurants and great sunsets. Grocery accessibility is average. Very friendly people.
    • Don’t miss sunset at Cenang Beach
    • Learn more
    Langkawi Malaysia
    Langkawi Malaysia

    Praslin Seychelles

    • Visited in May 2017 for 33 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average temperature 80 F
    • 15 miles long and 7 miles wide
    • Population 7500
    • Best time to visit April, May, October, November
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • Very quiet but also expensive. Beaches are nice but having a car at least part of the time is a must if you need to shop. Groceries are very expensive and produce is difficult to get. The people are quiet but nice and it is just beautiful. Boats available to visit other islands.
    • Don’t miss swimming at Gold Beach Anse Volbert-Côte D’Or,
    • Learn more
    Seychelle Islands
    Praslin Seychelles

    Antiparos Greece

    • Visited in October 2018 for 21 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average temperature 70 F
    • Size 23 mi diameter
    • Population 1190
    • Best time to visit April to October
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • In October Antiparos was really quiet as the season ends in September. But we had exceptional weather. Some restaurants and businesses in the tiny town were closed for the season but we found everything we needed at reasonable prices. Ferries available to surrounding islands.
    • Don’t miss hiking out to Panagia beach
    • Learn more
    Antiparos Greece
    Antiparos Greece

    Huraa Maldives

    • Visited in February 2018 for 21 days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 85 F
    • Size 1 mile by 0.5 mile
    • Population 550
    • Best time to visit November to April
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • By far the tiniest island we have been on, this very low lying Maldivian island is actually an atoll, made up of coral. The weather was incredible and we had the most relaxing three weeks of our life here. Best one day snorkeling of my life off of Huraa. Very little to do, and nearly no shopping. Note that there is no alcohol on this Muslim island!
    • Don’t miss snorkeling at Sand Island
    • Learn more
    Huraa Maldives
    Huraa Maldives

    South Island New Zealand

    • Visited in February 2017 for three weeks
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size 150 X 500 miles (12th largest island in the world)
    • Population 1.3 million
    • Best time to visit December to May
    • Where we stayed – we rented a caravan and traveled around
    • New Zealand is downright amazing. We loved both the North and South Island and we would really love to go back and visit again. This is not a laying in the sun island. Rather it is an island for all things recreational: hiking, walking, cycling, bird watching and more. Absolutely stunning. And ridiculously expensive.
    • Don’t miss hiking the Abel Tasman Trail
    • Learn more
    South Island New Zealand
    South Island New Zealand

    Mackinac Island, Michigan USA

    • Visited twice in the late 1990’s
    • Average Temperature 60 F
    • Size 2 x 3 mile
    • Population 500
    • Best time to visit May through September
    • Where we stayed Hotel
    • It’s been a long time since I visited magical Mackinac and I sure would love to go again. It is so unique, especially in the USA, to find a place with no motor vehicles. Both times I was there in the summer with beautiful weather. Renting bikes and riding around the island is a highlight.
    • Don’t miss a romantic horse drawn carriage ride
    • Learn more
    Mackinac Island Michigan
    Mackinac Island Michigan USA (photo from Canva)

    Maui Hawaii USA

    • Visited more times than I can count, the last time in June 2016
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 80 F
    • Size 25 x 50 miles
    • Population 145,000
    • Best time to visit Year Around
    • Where we stayed Condo
    • I’m lucky to count myself as one who has visited every Hawaiian Island that isn’t privately owned, and hands down Maui is the best. It is expensive but beyond that everything about it is perfect – the weather, the water, the beach, the food, the activities and the fact for people who live on the west coast of the USA, it’s really easy to get to.
    • Don’t miss whale watching for humpback whales in the winter months
    • Learn more
    Maui Hawaii USA
    Maui Hawaii USA

    Lombok and Bali Indonesia

    • Visited in March and April 2018 – two weeks on Bali and one week on Lombok
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 80 F
    • Size Bali 40 x 90 miles Lombok 50 x 50 miles
    • Population Bali 4.2 million Lombok 3.1 million
    • Best time to visit May through September
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • We loved our time on both of these beautiful islands. Bali is very popular with tourists for its beauty, beaches and vibe. Lombok on the other hand is a unique, tiny and non-touristy island where we spent six glorious days doing nothing but laying in a hammock.
    • Don’t miss an authentic Balinese Cultural performance in Ubud
    • Learn more
    Lombok Indonesia
    Lombok Indonesia

    Zanzibar Tanzania

    • Visited in September 2009 for five days
    • Average Temperature 90 F
    • Size 20 x 50 miles
    • Population 1.3 million
    • Best time to visit June through December
    • Where we stayed Lodge
    • I visited Zanzibar with my sister after spending a week on a safari in mainland Tanzania. It remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is also the second worst sunburn I have got. The white sand beaches are amazing. The people are quiet and kind. The seafood delicious.
    • Don’t miss a ride in an authentic Zanzibar Dhow Boat
    • Learn more
    Zanzibar Tanzania
    Zanzibar Tanzania

    Rapa Nui, Chile (Easter Island)

    • Visited in January 2015 for six days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 75 F
    • Size 7 x 15 miles
    • Population 5761
    • Best time to visit April to June or October to December
    • Where we stayed Lodge
    • Definitely one of the most interesting places I have ever been. This tiny island out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is difficult to get to and expensive but worth it. We loved our time here learning about the Moai and the history of Rapa Nui. I highly recommend.
    • Don’t miss touring with an authorized tour guide to understand the amazing statues and history of this island
    • Learn more
    Rapanui Easter Island Chile
    Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Chile

    Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

    • Visited in January 2018 for three weeks
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 81 F
    • Size 120 x 250 miles
    • Population 21.44 million
    • Best time to visit December to March
    • Where we stayed Airbnb
    • We did a five day tour with a guide around the major sites of Sri Lanka seeing some of the most amazing things including the astonishing Sigiriya ancient mountain fortress. Then we kicked back for more than two weeks in a tiny hut on the beach in Hikkadua, which ended up being “interesting” but super fun and the weather and the beach were perfect. The Sri Lankan people are some of the kindest on the planet.
    • Don’t miss Sigiriya Fortress one of the most incredible things I have ever seen
    • Learn more
    Sri Lanka
    Sri Lanka Sri Lanka

    Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

    • Visited in May 2010 for one week
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 75 F
    • Size 50 x 80 miles (Isla Isabela, the largest of the archipelago)
    • Population 25,000
    • Best time to visit January to June
    • Where we stayed – we were on a small 12 person cruise
    • My first dip into my bucket list was this trip to the Galapagos Islands to celebrate my 50th birthday. Living on a boat for five nights we saw many islands and the most amazing collection of wildlife and sea life. We loved every minute of it and although it’s expensive, we recommend it to anyone!
    • Don’t miss swimming with sea lions
    • Learn more
    Galapogos Islands
    Wildlife is abundant on the Galapagos Islands

    Singapore, Singapore

    • Visited in February 2018 for three days
    • What we wrote
    • Average Temperature 81 F
    • Size 721.5 km
    • Population 5.6 million
    • Best time to visit February through May
    • We only had a couple of days in Singapore, the teeny island city/state that is one of the most expensive places in the world. It is also one of the cleanest and most colorful, particularly at night. I hope to return.
    • Don’t miss the Singapore Gardens by the Bay at night and the amazing Singapore Botanic Garden
    • Learn more
    Singapore
    Singapore Singapore

    Nantucket Island, Massachusetts USA

    • Visited in April 2002
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size 5 x 12 miles
    • Population 11,229
    • Best time to visit May through October
    • We only had a couple of day on Nantucket but we were traveling with our young children at the time and it was a great little place for a family vacation. We were there in spring before the hoard of tourists descend in the summer and it was peaceful and beautiful and historic.
    • Don’t miss a Clam Bake and riding bikes around the island
    • Learn more
    Nantucket Island
    Nantucket Island USA (Photo from Canva)

    Prince Edward Island, Canada

    • Visited in July 2007
    • Average Temperature 50 F
    • Size 30 x 100 miles
    • Population 157,000
    • Best time to visit July and August
    • We drove up to the Maritimes from Boston and enjoyed the drive as much as the islands. Prince Edward Island was still at that time very quiet and we enjoyed riding bikes, eating lobster and learning about history.
    • Don’t miss searching for sea glass at Souris Beaches
    • Learn more
    Prince Edward Island Canada
    Prince Edward Island Canada

    Honshu Japan

    • Visited in 1999 for five weeks
    • Average temperature – Honshu is a big island with multiple climates but Tokyo average summer high is 80 F
    • Size 150 x 500 miles
    • Population 104 million (2nd most populous island after Java Indonesia)
    • Best time to visit – March to May and September to November
    • We spent five weeks exploring the island of Honshu. Our kids were little and it was a magical time for us as a family. Japan is one of the most unique and beautiful places in the world. I hope to go back some day.
    • Don’t miss Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka
    • Learn more
    Japan
    Honshu Japan (photo from Canva)

    San Juan Island, Washington USA

    • I have visited these islands many times as they are in the backyard of where I grew up
    • Average Temperature 55 F
    • Size – there are nine islands in varying sizes. The two largest are Orcas and San Juan
    • Population 6900
    • Best time to visit – Summer months
    • We have traveled to nearly all of the islands over my lifetime growing up in the Pacific Northwest. The islands are a great place for family camping or romantic getaways. Hiking, cycling and kayaking are popular.
    • Don’t miss getting up close and personal with the famous J-Pod of Orca Whales on a whale watching tour.
    • Learn More
    San Juan Islands USA
    San Juan Islands Washington USA (photo from Canva)

    And that’s our list! We hope you have been inspired to find your own “island time” adventure. You might enjoy this article about The 26 Largest Islands Around the World.

    We thank you for reading and for sharing our blog!

    Maldives
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Maid by Stephanie Land

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land.

    Like last week, the book I am reviewing this week is by a Seattle area author. It is a memoir of her hard-scrabble, (nearly) single-mother life and how she climbed out of that life to save both she and her daughter.

    At 28-years old Stephanie Land is about to make her dream of attending university and becoming a writer come true, when she finds out she is pregnant from a summer fling.

    All plans go on hold for the next five years as Stephanie struggles to feed her child and keep a roof over her head. With constant verbal abuse from the father of the child as well as little support from a boyfriend, Stephanie works as a maid in homes all over the area she lives in outside of Seattle. Making barely enough to get by, Stephanie sees the nitty-gritty of people’s lives as she cleans the homes of upper-class middle America, while only rarely ever actually meeting or talking to them. She sees unhappy couples, dyeing and depressed old people, families who aren’t exactly the perfect picture they show the world. All while barely making minimum wage.

    Neither of Stephanie’s parents are supportive or in her life. She has no one. After living in a mold-infested apartment for a year she realizes the mold is making both her and her daughter sick. She has nowhere to go. Her resources are exhausted.

    Stephanie finds an advocate at a domestic violence non-profit where she was a volunteer. Through this advocate she begins to realize her own worth and that she can make some changes in her life. She applies for scholarships and financial aid and gets what she needs to re-visit her dream of college.

    And obviously she does very well there, as she now is a well-respected freelance author with work featured in The New York Times, New York Review, The Washington Post and many other publications. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow for Community Change.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for Maid by Stephanie Land. Read last week’s review of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk.

    Asia Travel

    What to do in Kuala Lumpur

    Beautiful and Cosmopolitan Malaysian City

    Location: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

    We had six lovely days to leisurely explore the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur. You could easily see most of this city in three days, but we have the time and enjoy taking our time, which is exactly how we explored KL. If your travels take you near this city, plan some time here. It is worth it. Here are our recommendations on what to do in Kuala Lumpur.

    Sultan Abdul Samad and Merdeka Square

    Sultan Abdul Samad Colonial Era Building Kuala Lumpur

    The Sultan Abdul Samad Building is among Kuala Lumpur’s earliest Moorish-style buildings, it was built in 1897 and named after the reigning sultan of Selangor at the time. Originally used by the British during Colonial times, the building is most beautiful after dark. Across the street the wide green Merdeka Square, also known as Independence Park is a lovely oasis in the middle of the city.

    Eco Park and Hanging Bridges

    Kuala Lumpur Hanging Bridge Canopy Walk Eco Park

    A surprising find right in the middle of the city (and coincidentally right across the street from our hotel). The Kuala Lumpur Eco Park is a hidden jewel. The forested park is home to a number of swinging bridges that take you up into the canopy to view the flora and the skyscrapers beyond.

    Petronas Twin Towers

    Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur

    These iconic towers were the tallest in the world from 1998 to 2004. They remain the tallest twin towers. The design looks somewhat like a tall tin can, but at night they glow beautifully and can be seen from miles around. We went to go up the towers on a Monday, only to find out they are closed on Mondays. But we have been up many tall towers so we really didn’t mind. Looking at them from below was really enough for us.

    Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Federal Mosque

    Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Federal Mosque Kuala Lumpur

    We have visited beautiful mosques all over the world, but our visit to this mosque was the first time we were greeted with such grace and hospitality. This mosque has a design similar to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It’s a bit out of town, but we took a Grab (Uber) from the Batu Caves and it only cost a couple of dollars. The Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan Federal Mosque has a visitor program that is so welcoming. They provide women with the appropriate covering before giving a free tour with an English speaking guide. Our guide was named Noor and she was the sweetest person. Since we arrived right before prayers (we didn’t know that) she invited us to sit in and witness the faithful at prayers. It was a wonderful opportunity. She then gave us a lovely tour and insight both into the mosque and her faith. I highly recommend a visit.

    Batu Caves

    Batu Caves and Hindu God Statue Kuala Lumpur

    We have also visited several Hindu Temples in our travels, and are often struck at how different they are from Mosques. Where Islam has no idols, no flashy temples and only worships one god (Allah), Hinduism has many gods, lots of color and idols that the faithful pray to.

    The Batu Caves is a Hindu temple and shrine that attracts thousands of worshippers and tourists, especially during the annual Hindu festival, Thaipusam. 

    A limestone outcrop located just north of Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves has three main caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines, including the giant statue of the Hindu God at the entrance to the 272 Rainbow Stairs.

    Batu Caves are easily accessible from KL Central Station via train.

    Thean Hou Temple

    Thuen Hue Temple Kuala Lumpur

    Thean Hou Temple is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia. Overlooking the city, the six-tiered Buddhist temple is also known as the Temple of the Goddess of Heaven. Built by KL’s Hainanese community in 1894, it is set on a hill and offers wonderful views of the city.

    Supposedly a perfect place to watch the sunrise over Kuala Lumpur, we visited in the late morning and really enjoyed this beautiful place.

    Little India and Chinatown

    Little India Kuala Lumpur

    Kuala Lumpur is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures and taking a bit of time to wander through Little India and Chinatown provides wonderful insight to these thriving cultures in Malaysia. Both neighborhoods are filled with an abundance of places to eat, excellent shopping as well as people watching. KL’s metro provides easy access to both.

    Off the Eaten Track Food Tour Malaysia

    Food Tour Malaysia Kuala Lumpur

    We are so glad we booked with Food Tour Malaysia, because what we got was by far one of the best food tours we have ever been on. Off the Eaten Track was a wonderful tour not just in Kuala Lumpur proper but at several stops in the suburbs outside the city. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Possibly the best thing we did in all of KL.

    Roof Top Bars

    Heli Lounge and Rooftop Bar Kuala Lumpur

    We read a lot of reviews that talked about the rooftop bars in KL, and even though we are rarely out after dark, we did get to two of the three we wanted to see. The Deep Blue rooftop bar and the Heli Lounge Bar we absolutely recommend for the stunning view. The Heli Lounge is a helicopter pad by day, outdoor bar by night. Crazy. We didn’t get to the rooftop bar at the W Hotel but we sure heard great things about it too.

    Subway and Monorail and Grab

    Kuala Lumpur Metro

    We always get to know the local metros in every city we go to – and are amazed how often we talk to travelers who are afraid to use public transit. KL like almost all other major world cities has a clean, efficient and inexpensive Metro/Subway, train to outlying areas and a short monorail to some neighborhoods not served by the metro. Throughout Asia we also use Grab reliably. Grab is the Asian version of Uber, works just the same but its way cheaper!

    What we missed

    Well we should have gotten to everything given we were in KL for six days, but we did leave behind a few things we wanted to see including Botanical Gardens, the City Mosque, the Jalan Alor Night Market, the Islamic Art Museum and scores of music and live theater options. I guess we will need to come back!

    By the way, we stayed at the amazing Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel and we absolutely loved everything about it. $100 a night in the Executive Suites included breakfast, high-tea and evening cocktails with food. Our room was beautiful and we enjoyed the pool, workout facility and spa. And a block from the metro.

    Thanks for being a great place to visit Kuala Lumpur! We loved you!

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. Only after I started to read this book did I remember that I found The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes through a list of books by authors from the greater Seattle area…that of course being where I am from. I added it to my list for that reason, without knowing much more about it.

    I want to support local up and coming writers, and I think Estes has a great future as a writer, even though this work of hers shows her as a neophyte author. I actually loved the plot but my only objection is when an author uses coincidence to further the plot in a way that seems far-fetched.

    Beyond that, the story is beautiful. A tale of a wealthy young woman from Seattle who discovers a beautifully embroidered silk sleeve hidden under the stairs of her ancestral summer home in the San Juan Islands.

    The novel unfolds in two parallel stories; that of 21st century Inara searching to find out whatever she can about the long hidden blue silk embroidered sleeve and Mei Lein a young Chinese immigrant living in Seattle and then the San Juan Islands a century earlier.

    How are these two women connected? What is Mei Lein’s secret and why did she hide the embroidered sleeve under the stairs? What garment does the sleeve belong to and what story might be solved if that garment could be found?

    Estes weaves the tale, adding a few too many coincidences to wrap it all up in the end, but this first novel for Estes is tender and thoughtful and leaves a message that we can forgive the sins of the past if we are brave enough to do so.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, by Kelli Estes. Read last week’s review of 11/23/63.

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    Asia Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Two Countries, Two Cuisines, Too Delicious

    The Food of Taiwan and Malaysia

    Location: Taiwan and Malaysia

    Taking a cooking class and going on a food tour in every country I visit is a goal I have. And I accomplish it often, but not always. But when I can I always enjoy it and over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing two countries, two cuisines, too delicious – the food of Taiwan and Malaysia.

    Taiwan

    We spent six days in Taipei Taiwan. We weren’t really tuned in to the Taiwanese cuisine, half expecting it to be just like China. But unlike China, Taiwan has been strongly influenced from Japan (with historical influence also from Portugal and Holland) and it’s noticeable in the cuisine. The Chinese influence comes primarily from Eastern China (Fujian). And certainly the fact that Taiwan is an island, the cuisine has a much stronger focus on seafood than much of China.

    Scallion pancake on Food Tour in Taiwan
    Scallion Pancake is one of our favorite foods we discovered in Taipei Taiwan

    GoTuCook

    A search online led me to Chef Calvin at GoTuCook. Thorough out our world travels I’ve taken cooking classes large and small, in cooking schools and home kitchens, from world famous chefs and humble housewives. And usually my favorite experiences are the ones where I have one-on-one time with the instructor in their home. This was my experience with GoTuCook.

    Mushroom and chincken soup in Cooking class in Taipei
    The beginnings of a delicious shiitake mushroom and chicken soup

    We met early in the morning at the Beitou metro station from where we walked to experience the bustling thriving market and the local vendors selling to the local people. I always love this experience with a local who can explain unusual ingredients, answer my questions and enlighten me to this way of life long gone in America.

    At The morning market Beitou Taipei
    Me at the busy Beitou morning market

    Next we headed to Calvin’s apartment, set up perfectfully for cooking classes. I had chosen three dishes I wanted to make ahead of time from a variety of options listed on the GoTuCook website. I chose as a starter Jellyfish Salad and for a soup course a chicken and mushroom soup and for our main course two kinds of pork dumplings.

    Displaying all the dumplings made by hand in Taipei cooking class
    My pretty dumplings ready for the steamer

    I liked both the jellyfish salad (requires an overnight soak of the chewy jellyfish in the fridge before prep) and the fragrant soup with a broth we cooked with chicken feet as well as meaty parts from the blue chicken, but my favorite was the dumplings.

    Chef Calvin of GoTuCook
    My new friend Chef Calvin of GoTuCook

    Making Chinese style steamed dumplings takes some practice. I’ve done similar work in classes before (making empanada in Argentina, pirogi in Poland and dumplings in Vietnam) but it’s still a chore to get your fingers to make the beautiful designs if it’s not a task you do everyday. We made pork with cabbage and spices and pork with corn and different spices. And then we ate!

    Of course we had leftovers and I brought dumplings and jellyfish to my husband who was back at the hotel.

    I really enjoyed this class and plan to tackle dumplings on my own soon. I recommend GoToCook if you visit Taipei.

    Pork bun One sample from Taipei Eats Food Tour
    The pork “burger” was one of the best things we had on our Taipei food tour

    Taipei Eats

    We also took an amazing walking food tour with Taipei Eats where we expanded our Taiwanese cuisine knowledge with Taiwan Pork “burger”, stinky tofu, betel nut, scallion pancake and much more. Taipei Eats was one of the best food tours we have ever done. Our guide was amazing, there was so much food and we learned some interesting facts while meeting local people as well as other travelers from around the world. Such a wonderful experience!

    TStinky Tofu at Taipei Eats Food Tour
    This is probably the one and only time for me with the Stinky Tofu

    Malaysia

    What a country Malaysia is for a foodie. This remarkable country is a melting pot of many cultures, and it shows in everything, especially the food. Malay food is often spicy, and nasi (rice) features often. Eating with your hands is common. Pork is rarely featured in this cuisine because most Malay are Muslim.

    Prepping the chicken at Indian Cooking Class Kuala Lumpur
    Learning Indian cooking in Kuala Lumpur

    On the other hand, many Chinese immigrated here in the 1800’s when this land was a British colony and the Chinese food is abundant, and often includes pork. Noodles, chicken and dumplings are also widely enjoyed.

    And then there is the Indian food, representing the vast number of Indians living in Malaysia. The use of pungent spices and curries, more noodles as well as lots of vegetables make up this delicious cuisine.

    Indigenous Malaysian sweet treat
    Ancient Malay cultures enjoyed this rice flour treat

    No matter what ethnic background, the people in this country love fried foods and fried chicken, seafood, samosa and much more are popular both as street food and in restaurants.

    Off the Eaten Track

    The food tour we took in Kuala Lumpur was very unique and one of the best ever. At the end of the evening we had sampled twenty-four (yes you read that correctly) foods of this diverse and delicious country.

    Chinese Soup at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    A very local Chinese Soup with veg, chicken and tofu

    We signed up with Food Tour Malaysia for their Off the Eaten Track tour and were met by our guide Timothy at a subway stop in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur called Petaling Jaya where we began our gluttonous odyssey at an outdoor Malay neighborhood food court that operates 24 hours a day seven days a week. Here we found just locals enjoying the foods they loved. We had Nasi Lemak wrapped in banana leaf; ota ota, a smoked mackerel wrapped in palm leaf; a rich goat and potato soup; fried chicken and fried tempeh. I was full before we left this first stop.

    Amazing Night Market at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    My husband Arne recruited to work on the “carrot cake” stir fry – one of our favorite things we had on our Kuala Lumpur food tour

    Next we headed to probably the best night market I have ever been too, also in the suburb of Petaling Jaya. Here we learned about the popular “carrot cake” (not a cake in the sense we are used to, more of a pressed tofu), we had spring roll, noodles, dumplings and sweet Chinese daun pandan filled with peanuts.

    Trying new foods like mackeral in palm leaf at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Mackerel cooked inside a palm leaf

    Next we headed to a very local-only Chinese open air restaurant to sample more noodles cooked over an open fire and a delicious soup with chicken, okra, long beans and potato.

    Chinese sweet treat at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Daun Pandan a sweet Chinese treat

    Our final stop was an outdoor Indian restaurant, and we were the only non-Indians there. And darn it I was so full I couldn’t really enjoy the amazing feast of roti, lentil dal, curry, a giant fried pancake with a coconut curry dip, fried chicken and mango smoothie. Roll me home. What a night it was. If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, do this tour – but pace yourself!

    Indian Bananan Roti at Kuala Lumpur Food Tour
    Banana Roti a sweet Indian treat

    The Versatile Housewives

    To round off our food frenzy in Kuala Lumpur we spent one morning with Ruth, a cooking instructor who brings the flavors of her native India to visitors in Kuala Lumpur through her business The Versatile Housewives. We learned to make one of India’s most famous dishes, biryani, with a group of local university students in Ruth’s kitchen. Biryani is a rich and flavorful traditional dish, often served at weddings and ceremonies. It can be beef or lamb or chicken. We made a chicken biryani. The flavors of this dish come together by slowly preparing the fresh ingredients of caramelized onions, vegetables and spices like cardamon, cloves and pepper as well as herbs like cilantro and mint. After slowly blending all these flavors with rice and chicken, the biryani is served in a giant bowl and enjoyed communally. Check out Ruth’s website for a great selection of delicious Indian recipes.

    Indian Cooking class Kuala Lumpur
    The beautiful Biryani we made with our instructor Ruth

    No matter where you travel, diving into the culture through food is the most interesting and tastiest way to engage with locals, learn history and culture and broaden your culinary chops. Be brave! Eat the world!

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