USA! Chicago and Milwaukee

This is quite a diversion from my otherwise mainly Asian escapades, but taking things chronologically, my next significant trip last year was to the USA. I had been to Chicago before, so this time was less about seeing the sights and more about going to a wedding and catching up with friends and their dogs. I really love the city and recommend visiting.

One interesting part of this trip was my solo journey from Kuala Lumpur to Chicago, via Shanghai. I use the word “interesting” purely in hindsight, to be clear. It was severely dull at the time. I believe it took about 37 hours in total, including a 2 hour delay on board the plane at KL airport (ugh), 6 hour flight to Shanghai, overnight in an airport hotel, then a 14 hour flight to Chicago. I remember the time zones bamboozling me and totally destroying my body clock, as I was due to take off in Shanghai around 12 noon and land in Chicago approximately one hour later, local time. The time difference was about 13 hours, so basically completely upside down and back to front. It seemed like a lifetime of horrible plane food and bizarre movies, but I was very happy when I finally arrived!

In Chicago we went to a wedding – a weird one for me, as I hadn’t met the bride or groom before (they’re Joe’s friends, I’m not the world’s most dedicated wedding crasher) so I won’t write too much about their wedding here. Their photographer did use us as models (or you might prefer to say dummies) for the official photos though and look how cute we are! I’ve also added a couple of snaps of us dancing because I think they’re quite funny.

We stayed the whole time with my friends from Northern Ireland who moved to Chicago. I visited them in November for Thanksgiving a few years ago, which is when I did more of the tourist things (and a 5K on Thanksgiving morning, a.k.a. the turkey trot).

One activity which I was happy to repeat again was the architecture boat tour on the Chicago River. You get loads of great views, some information about the history of the city and famous buildings that make up the skyline, and this time (June) it wasn’t freezing! We also went to see two different shows – one was called ‘Ms. Blakk for President’, about America’s first drag queen presidential candidate (it was as fun as it sounds but also moving) and the other was “She the People”, a really funny (and all female) sketch show, which was also brilliant.

I love a walking tour anywhere, so we did one of those focussed on the gangster history of the city, drank wine, ate pizza and played with my friend’s adorable dogs.

We then went for a few days to Milwaukee, which was about 3 hours away by car in the neighbouring state of Wisconsin. Milwaukee is known for a few things, two of which are beer and cheese. The timing was pretty good for me, as I didn’t drink beer before moving to Malaysia, where I’ve acquired quite the taste for it on a hot aftern… evening. And I’m still not a fully fledged vegan, despite my occasional efforts, so I fully indulged in the cheese as well. We went on two brewery tours – the Lakefront Brewery, which was fun, quirky and served fries with beer cheese sauce (as good as it sounds), and the Pabst Brewery, which gave a more historical educational tour, and also served beer and cheese.

All hail the queens of cheese!

On the way back to KL, we stopped for 6 days in China, so that’s up next!

Adventures in India, Part 2

Coming to you from an (almost) lockdowned Malaysia, at a time when it’s least likely that anyone will be interested in my trip to India almost a year ago. But here it is, the long awaited Part 2…

Agra (Uttar Pradesh)

Let me be honest first about Agra in general – it was very dirty. If you can imagine what a quite underdeveloped, busy, hot city with a barely functioning sewage system and cows doing as they please all over the place might smell like, well, you can imagine the scent of Agra. It was quite shocking for the city boasting India’s most famous attraction, but even the street where we stayed right beside the Taj Mahal was “squiffy”, as my mummy would say.

But I don’t regret going here. The Taj Mahal really is magnificent and beautiful. I was really amazed when I saw it for the first time, because it’s one of those things that is almost a figment of your imagination until you see it, and it actually looks like it does in pictures (except bigger and better). Unlike pretty much everything else around it, it’s pristine and glowing. I said magnificent already, but I’ll say it again. Magnificent!

A few more positive things that I’d like to say about Agra is that people were really nice, the food was good (but this was basically true everywhere we went in India), and they have some quirky rooftop bars. Not swanky rooftop bars. Haphazard little things on relatively small buildings about 4 storeys high where you can sometimes see the Taj and always hear the chaos of the streets below. One night we were sitting on one of these and saw a little boy on a roof a few streets over, just sitting there. I thought he was too far away to notice us among all the other rooftops and sights, but then he gave us an adorable little wave and it made my night.

Jaipur (Rajasthan)

Jaipur was very hot, humid, and overall pretty fun. It is famous for shopping and I really did love the markets. I read that you simply must haggle with the traders. If you show any interest in an item at all, expect the hard sell. I soon realised that having a general browse like I might do at home isn’t really possible, because when you genuinely don’t want something and try to walk away, the price reduces drastically and the pressure to buy is amped up. But always a fan of a bargain, I enjoyed playing the game, pretending not to want a pair of colourful Rajasthani slippers with actual bells on (as if I wouldn’t want these) and now can occasionally be seen and heard wearing them around Kuala Lumpur.

Jaipur is also full of very grand old buildings, forts and temples. We visited Nahargarh Fort up on the hills, the Hawa Mahal (an old pink stone palace) and sat by the lake at the Jal Mahal (palace in the middle of a lake). We initially planned to do more, but it was very hot, around 45 degrees centigrade, and humid. And I was growing impatient with the constant unwanted attention from locals taking photographs of us, with or without speaking to us or acknowledging that we were not just inanimate objects that had been placed in the city for peoples’ amusement. It wasn’t everyone, but it was a lot. I can understand children being innocently interested in some foreign looking people, or locals being generally welcoming and friendly of course, but I don’t think following someone around taking pictures of them because they look different is cool behaviour from fully grown adults. So if you ever see photos of me looking like a sweaty version of the unimpressed-sideways-glancing emoji, they’re probably from Jaipur.

In summary, India…wow. What a place! This was a trip that I’ll never forget and I’m so glad I had the chance to explore this country a little bit. It can be quite a stressful place to be and was undoubtedly a culture shock for me, but I would like to go back. Thankfully there’s quite a large population of Malaysians who are Indian or Indian-origin so I can keep enjoying the delicious food, for now.

Travelling Light

After the Cameron Highlands, it was back to KL for a few days. It felt lovely to be back. We didn’t have a view of the famous Petronas Towers, but I still love to have any view of the city at night, especially when the sky lights up every few seconds with fireworks (it’s Diwali) or lightning (it’s stormy).


It’s worth going to see the towers up close anyway, I think they’re beautiful.


The next part of the trip will be Singapore for a couple of days, and then Indonesia for 4 or 5 weeks.

Welcome to the “Travelling Light” experiment!

It has been a real (mental and physical) pain hauling 3 heavy bags around Malaysia. We only took one flight – KL to Penang – with hand luggage each and one checked-in bag. But even when travelling by bus or train, and moving every week, or every few days sometimes, exhausting and annoying to have so much stuff. I know that I could have survived with WAY less, particularly as we always had access to a washing machine or laundry service. So this time we’ve got one backpack each and this is ALL we’re bringing with us to survive the next month or so across Singapore and Indonesia.

Personal context: the first time I went for a weekend trip to London (i.e. two nights) I brought a large hand luggage bag and a small suitcase to check onto the flight. What can I say? I like to have options. So for me, this is a very unnatural step and a particular challenge. Will I survive? Wish me luck!