New month = new countries. We had no fixed plans for July and we ended up travelling through 3 other countries in Southeast Asia!
We started the month flying from Java island (in Indonesia if you read last month’s newsletter) to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
We were very pleasantly surprised by this Asian megalopolis. In particular, we enjoyed the architecture and the cultural mix that is characteristic of Malaysia. But these are not the only reasons our stay in Kuala Lumpur was excellent, we also:
- met up with friends who are on a tour of Asia (and everything is so much nicer with friends)
- took advantage of the excellent and affordable accommodation market with a fully equipped apartment in a tower with a 42nd floor swimming pool and hot tub (the view was better than in the hyped rooftop bars)
- ate diverse food from all over the world
- shopped for some necessary replacement travel gear thanks to the many malls
The best things to do in Kuala Lumpur
After 5 days exploring the city, we have selected our top 13 things to do and see in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
We then went by train and ferry to the Penang Island. There, we visited Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage city, and one of the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, we must admit we were disappointed by Penang and regretted not having gone directly to Thailand where we would have had time to visit the North. It is ok however; we will visit Northern Thailand on a future trip to Myanmar or Laos!
The border crossing between Malaysia and Thailand was difficult. Indeed, in Indonesia and Malaysia we could use Google translation and learned some basic words because the language is written in Latin alphabet. On the other hand, the Thai script is derived from Khmer and looks like Sanskrit. In other words, it is completely unreadable to us! This crossing was all the more stressful as the border is labelled as a potentially dangerous place according to the French government website. After laboriously crossing the border, we went on a sleeper train. This train through Northern Malaysia was really worth the trip. It was like being on the Hogwarts Express (please excuse the nerdy Harry Potter reference). We had very comfortable sleeper seats with a restaurant worthy meal served. In the carriage after ours, the windows and doors were wide open and we could see the landscape scroll past us as we went. On our itinerary we try as much as possible to avoid flying, especially for environmental reasons, and in the end we did not regret this experience!
To celebrate Clémentine’s birthday, we went to the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. It was so heavenly that we stayed longer. We have seen beautiful sunsets and incredible beaches. It was also full of marine life under water and as a birthday present we equipped ourselves with our own diving masks. This allowed us to snorkel directly from the beach.
After this, we went back inland to stay in the town of Hua Hin. The city was a good base to visit national parks. Our first encounter with elephants in their natural habitat was a very moving moment we will remember forever. We were lucky and we observed entire families.
Nowadays, there are unfortunately more elephants in captivity than in the wild in Thailand. Since the beginning of our trip to Asia, we have witnessed many mistreatments of wild animals. In addition, these practices are encouraged by some international tourists. In Thailand, this is for example the case for tigers or elephants.
Next week, we will post on our Facebook page a post with more details on dangerous tourism practices for elephants. In the meantime, do not hesitate to write to us if you have questions
Moreover, we explained in our last newsletter how Asia receive our plastic waste but sadly they also seem to get our worst tourists… Even though we knew the sad reputation of sex tourism in Thailand, it did not prevent us from being deeply shocked by the customers. We did not notice anything in the other Thai cities we went to but it is in Hua Hin that we have been confronted with this terrible reality. This seaside resort is very famous because it is the holiday place for the royal family.
We were very surprised to discover this city is also popular with male sex tourists in their 60s … Most are French-speaking: French, Swiss or Canadian. Consequently, the city is full of French restaurants (after all they do not travel all the way to Thailand for the gastronomy…). These Westerners who take part in sex tourism are also supporting paedophilia networks, human trafficking and sexual slavery. Many sex workers (adults and children) are forcibly taken from neighbouring countries. It was made all the more horrible because we felt so helpless about this issue.
After much hesitation and as we did not have time to do both, we decided last minute to go to Cambodia rather than to the North of Thailand where the rainy season seemed more advanced. The crossing of the border via a night bus was another a great adventure…
We came to the city of Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat temple ruins (which are even visible from space). We found so much more in Cambodia which has been a favourite location on this this world tour. We regret not having more than a week and we wish we could have visited the seaside villages and islands.
The recent Cambodian history, and especially the conflicts with the Khmer Rouge, shocked and moved us. We were all the more shocked by the lack of knowledge we had on this subject and we do not understand why it was not something we studied in school (especially with Cambodia being a former French colony). The reconstruction of this country which has been a victim of its neighbouring countries’ wars is stunning. A quarter of the population was killed including all of its intellectuals (doctors, teachers or even just anyone wearing glasses). It has been only twenty years since the conflicts calmed down and the countryside and forests are still heavily mined. Although this is one of the poorest countries we have visited we have found the locals incredibly caring. We had the chance to exchange a lot with them about the horrors they went through under Pol Pot and the wars which followed, it is truly amazing to hear such testimonies.
While waiting for the article on blog, find more details about our stay on our Facebook page. We published on our temple visits, the country history, meetings with the locals, the surrounding villages and our activities.
After our week-long hitch in Cambodia we returned to Bangkok. The perfect place to enjoy food from all parts of the country. We embarked on local market tours throughout the city and tasted a lot of street food. We also visited tiny restaurants (some recommended in the Michelin guide) where the cooking is done on charcoal directly in the street in front of the restaurant. The dishes are also cleaned in basins in the street. It was also an opportunity for us to take cooking classes. Nicolas loves to cook and Clémentine loves to eat! Do not hesitate to ask us for a demonstration next time you see us.
The city of Bangkok is very nice and we also visit the beautiful temples with their giant Buddha statues.
In August we are visiting two very different destinations which promise to be very intense: India and the Seychelles Islands. We have to be honest and admit we are worried about India but very excited to discover the Seychelles. Stay tuned for our impressions in next month’s newsletter or before on our social media (Facebook and Instagram)!
Although we are still on our honeymoon, it is already our wedding anniversary!