Southeast Asia, Day 11: Breakfast burritos in Siem Reap, and then moving on to the hip Kuala Lumpur nightlife

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

This morning in Siem Reap, I woke up  after finally getting a decent night of sleep. I lazed around the pool of the hostel, ordering a $4 breakfast burrito (complete with beans, sausage, eggs and pico de gallo), a welcome mood-booster. Side note, if I want to order this in Vanuatu, it costs over ten dollars. Just some perspective.

I ran some errands around the hostel, including picking up some snacks for the plane from the pastry shop across the street. I got a beautiful croissant sandwich thing that looked amazing, with ham, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce for ONE DOLLAR. I was thrilled. Today was already looking good.

At the hostel, I ran into Scarlett before heading off, so I was successfully able to exchange information. She was heading off to Bali around the time I'd be there, perhaps later, so we promised we'd talk when the time comes.

I hailed a tuktuk to take me to the airport (today I'm going to Malaysia!) and happily headed off in my favorite form of transportation. The traffic jams, the open air, the wind in my was just plain fun riding these things.

During this trip, I decided I would fly from country to country. It was cheap enough ($60 or less), and my trip was short in length, so sacrificing a day on a bus just wasn't worth it.

I checked in for my flight to Kuala Lumpur and rearranged my belongings in case they checked the weight. There were tons of signs indicating the 7kg limit for carry-on luggage, as well as the quart-sized bag for toiletries. They checked neither, and I was through security in no time.

I also noticed they never did any sort of exit stamp, or any check on my visa. Odd.

The seat I was assigned was the last row, with no recline. Thankfully, it was a short flight. And a strange one. As we neared landing time, an announcement came over the loudspeakers: "The health authority requires that the cabin be sprayed prior to landing. It is recommended you cover your face during fumigation. We regret any inconvenience this may cause." Um, what?!

The word fumigation is intimidating. The reality, though, was a flight attendant took an aerosol spray can and sprayed the top of the luggage storage, near the lights, just along the edge. That's it. Then she was done. Granted, it smelled awful, the near equivalent of those anti-static-cling sprays. But fumigation made me think the whole thing would be filled with a green smoke.

I landed in the Kuala Lumpur airport and went through border control, which requires fingerprint scans (I can't remember if I've ever had to do that in any country I've visited), and then I was through. First task was to get a bus.

I went to one counter, where she said the next bus was 7:45pm. It was about 6:50pm right now...and if I wanted the 7pm bus, I had to go to the downstairs ticket window. I ran down the stairs and saw the ticket window..."CASH ONLY." Ugh. So then I got to the currency exchange, where the guy was taking his sweet time, then printing out a receipt telling me how much money I would get for $75 USD, and I was waving at him to hurry up, which he thankfully laughed at, and he hurried but by the time I got my ticket, the timeframe for the 7pm ticket purchases closed. Ugh. No worries, though, I used the time to hang out by the custodian's mopping cart in the bathroom to charge my tablet for 40 minutes!

Traveling solo is the classiest lifestyle

The shuttle bus was about an hour, but it was an express directly to the station near my hostel. Stepping out into downtown Kuala Lumpur, it was a sight to behold. The streets were beautifully paved, well marked, and all the construction that was taking place seemed well organized and useful. Sidewalks were flat, without potholes...standards were HIGH.

The hostel had no clear indication outside that it was Mingle hostel, but I went into the neighboring cafe (same owners) and they told me to go upstairs.

The hostel is very cool. It has exposed concrete walls, with a sort of industrial-chic look to the whole place. The furniture and stairs are dark, reclaimed wood, and old typewriters and electric boxes line the tables and walls.

However, it didn't seem very social. The woman at the front desk said the bar upstairs was a good place to meet people. I went up there and it just seemed like a normal bar. It didn't have the social attitude or party atmosphere that I think of when I think of a party/social hostel. I dropped off my things in my room, which while small (a 2-person room ought to be), had all the proper trimmings of a hostel room: individual plugs, functional lockers, reading lights, and dark curtains that completely enclose the bed. Then I decided to head off to Reggae Mansion Hostel, dubbed the best party hostel in Kuala Lumpur, to check out the scene to see if I'd like to switch.

This was a whole different kind of party hostel. There is a sort of assumption when you think of a party hostel, that there's a grunge to it. After all, they're usually frequented by early twenty-somethings who are chugging beer and getting rowdy. This place looked like a five star hotel. The receptionist guided me to the public rooftop bar, and it was dark, clubby and moody. It was sort of like Cafe Del Mar, but in hostel form. This was not a place where backpackers would frequent, based on the limited wardrobe that a multi-climate packing list can provide. I felt underdressed in my skirt, speckled top and sandals. However, despite the time being 9pm and the music thumping away, the vibe was pretty quiet.

In typical Asian fashion, the service was a bit pesky, as I couldn't just stand aside and observe my surroundings without at least two different cocktail waiters trying to get me to order a drink. FINE! I ordered a vodka pineapple for a mere 10 myr, which is about $2.50. I looked around and saw a guy sitting on his own among the tables of young people enjoying hookah and cocktails. I introduced myself and met a new Argentinean friend: Francisco.

We chatted over pizza and drinks, and I learned he's a diplomat living in Singapore, here in KL for a brief weekend getaway.

Time passed pretty quickly, and the dancefloor got a dozen or so people thumping to the top 40 dance remixes that were coming from the speakers. The tables around us were filling up with more hookah smokers, and the two billiard tables were occupied. We didn't want to go out very late, but I personally just wanted to walk around and explore. Prior to coming to this bar, I was walking along my hostel's street in Chinatown, and it was packed with street vendors and food stalls. I figured that heading back there would be a good place to start.

But it was dead. Now that it was almost 12:30am, the stalls were long gone, and the city, at least near my hostel, was quiet. I told him that the hostel bar was probably open, so we headed up there.

Previously, when I left the hostel bar, there was inexplicably some (fake) bloody handprints all over the walls and creepy music playing in the staircase corridor. I had no idea as to why, since the bar didn't seem to have a murderous theme.


Well, once we got the drink menu there, I discovered that it indeed did, as it was a speakeasy bar called The Deceased. The drinks weren't too pricey for what it offered: craft cocktails with a macabre theme, in an industrial-chic atmosphere in a quiet rooftop bar. In Chicago, a place like this would run you poor, but here, you could get a custom-made cocktail for only $13.

We got some basic drinks and chatted well past closing time (the space stays open for hostel guests after the bar is closed) and separated ways around 2am, with plans to possibly connect tomorrow. I led Francisco down the creepy staircase/hallway before heading off to bed.