Dec 072019
 


After a good night of sleep (I still wasn’t rested I don’t think from all the go-go-go of the past seven+ days and jet lag) I managed to wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. No, make that hit by a Mack truck, and then backed up and run over again.

Based on how I’d felt the past few days it was clear I’d been teetering on the edge of something, and I finally lost the battle. I was very glad I hadn’t booked any of the side trips I’d considered, because my energy levels were such that I could manage 30-60 minutes at a time max.

This continued for two days, unfortunately, so it was mostly just short little dashes around HCMC with lots of little stops to do/see things. Thankfully, whenever I got tired Grab was there to take me back to the hotel if needed. Unfortunately, this meant I wasn’t going to get the in-depth re-explore of HCMC I’d been hoping for, but at least I did get out and manage to see a little bit while recovering.

We’ll start with the view from the Le Meridien executive lounge. It was also raining on and off the entire time I was there, so it as a good thing I didn’t plan for much walking. On the upside, while this meant it was also incredible humid, the temperatures stayed in the reasonable zone.

After a lazy morning on the first day, I felt I had just enough energy go to out and see what real Vietnamese banh mi was like (as opposed to the stuff you get in DC which is delicious, but has too many “perfect” ingredients to feel too authentic.)

One thing about feeling not so hot is that you can spend an hour researching the best banh mi online, and not feel like you’d wasted time. I skipped over the two most popular places, and based on a few reviews that said they were thrilled to have found this little place I headed to Bánh Mì Hồng Hoa. Supposedly this place could have quite a line, but when I got there there was no line at all.

There were english translations on the posted menu, and my meatball banh mi was delicious…and less than one dollar!

I still had a little energy after banh mi, so I took a stroll through the city walking for nearly an hour. Fortunately, once I got tired out I was near East West Brewing where I stopped for a sampler. Still rather impressed by the HCMC craft beer scene!

Still feeling pretty good, I decided maybe I could handle the mile or so walk to my hotel. Despite being overcast, the humidity was impressive, and as you can see when I stopped on the way to take a selfie with Uncle Ho I was already quite a sweaty mess.

After a couple of hours resting and recovering I felt good enough to go out and get some dinner, but really didn’t feel like venturing far. Since I’d had a couple good beers the night before, and their food menu looked good as well, I headed back to Heart of Darkness brewing. They did some super delicious sliders! Who would have expected in Vietnam!

The next day, I was still feeling pretty shaky, but did manage a couple of hour long walks. (Note I’m saving you from any Starbucks pictures…and you better believe I made it to Starbucks – I’d need to be REALLY sick before I skipped that.)

Apparently this bank was having some sort of opening / spirit cleansing / good luck ceremony.

At some point in the afternoon I made it to the Winking Seal Beer company while I was out walking. The tap handles were absolutely amazing with the Vietnamese hats on the seals!

I also made it to the Ben Thanh Market while I was out walking. Back on my previous visit there wasn’t more than a tourist or two in site when I walked through, and haggling was a real chore since there was no English spoken. Now? Crawling with tourists and all the merchants spoke enough limited English to haggle. Amazing how much the city has changed!

I always love looking at the fruit and vegetable sellers in markets – it always looks so fresh compared to the stuff you get in American grocery stores (unless you go to Whole Foods that is…)

One thing definitely hadn’t changed in HCMC in the last 15 years ago – there were still motorbikes everywhere, and you have to be brave to walk out into traffic to weave between them to cross the road. They’re not going to move out of your way!

It was fun still seeing a bit of communist propaganda here and there in the city, but again, way less than there was 15 years prior!

All in all, I was disappointed I wasn’t able to do more, but given how I felt I’m really happy with how much I managed to fit in. My hope was I was over things because going to the Arctic was up next…and I really didn’t want to get stuck up in the Arctic seriously ill!

Up next: off to the Arctic! I might be the only person ever to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Yellowknife!

Dec 062019
 


Since we had a relatively early flight (well, not really that early, but when you take into account time to get to the airport, etc) we hadn’t planned much for the morning other than a lazy breakfast at the hotel to enjoy one of the better hotel buffets in the world.

No trouble getting a Grab, and since it was the weekend traffic to the airport wasn’t terrible either. We had managed to check-in online, so no need to stop by the desks, and queues for immigration and security were minimal so we had some time to try the Cathay lounge.

Just as on previous visit it was a little difficult to find, and once we did it was unfortunately absolutely packed just like the previous time. I don’t know if this is always the case for this lounge because it has flights to Singapore and Hong Kong at the same time, but it was difficult even finding a place to sit.

A couple of glasses of bubbles later, I didn’t terribly care, and decided to chat up the lounge agent and see about changing my set to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). A couple weeks prior they had swapped in an aircraft with first class seats on this route, however, they were not selling first – getting access to these seats was at the mercy of airport agents since the app wouldn’t permit it.

I totally admit that I might have been a bit flirty back to the lounge agent when they initiated it, and after much back and forth with a supervisor in some mysterious location on the phone, this exchange took place: “I would love to help you, but that seat is reserved for the bassinet.” I made a joke that “it’s ok, I’m pregnant and promise to give birth before Hong Kong” to which they laughed hysterically. First class seat was mine. Hopefully it would hold…

Cathay Pacific flight 750
Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) to Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart 11:40, Arrive: 15:30, flight time: 2:50
Boeing 777-300, Registration B-KQT, Manufactured 2014, Seat 12K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 186,401
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,878,703

Boarding was a bit of a scrum with everyone rushing the gate the minute they started boarding, and my first impression of the seat was pretty good. Reasonably private, lots of space, and I would be happy with this seat on a 10 hour flight, not to mention a regional flight of under three hours! Ian had the seat behind me, and off to Hong Kong we went!

Bubbles and water for a pre-departure beverage…

What’s for lunch today? Can you imagine if US airlines served nice meals like this (complete with a menu!) for mid-con flights?!

In case of evacuation, throw your baby in a rubber sleepsack…

Lunch was served right after takeoff, complete with garlic bread, more champagne, and a nice thai salad.

I went with the Thai pork which was delicious. The perfect combination of savoury and sweet.

Choice of three flavours of ice cream for dessert. Strawberry for me, please!

After lunch was over, I walked past the galley and noticed a sign saying “work quietly, speak softly” – can you imagine this in the galley on US airlines? I’m sure the flight attendant unions would throw a fit! It would interrupt terribly important gripe sessions about their jobs, passengers. On the upside, a quiet environment would improve their concentration for Candy Crush and Suduko.

Arrival in Hong Kong was right on time, and since Hong Kong doesn’t trust Thai security we had to clear again – unfortunately behind what seemed like dozens of inexperienced travellers. We barely had enough time for the connection as it was, and were determined to stop in the AmEx Lounge for at least 10 minutes.

Hong Kong (along with a few other locations like Mexico City and Buenos Aires) is one of the few AmEx Lounges that has a “lounge within a lounge” for Centurion Card holders, which actually makes it a lounge I’ll go out of my way to visit.

As usual, Hong Kong was quite warm and we were a little sweaty by the time we arrived, but the champagne was poured and all was forgotten.

Despite having a very short time we were promised they could get the meals on the menu to us in five minutes or so, so we decided to order the caviar. Definitely a wonderful choice! Caviar and champagne make everything better!

Quick gobble of the goods, and then a bit of a run to the gate…where of course boarding was delayed meaning we could have spent some more time in the lounge. Said goodbye to Ian, and I was off to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time in 15 years!

Cathay Pacific flight 799
Hong Kong (HKG) to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (SGN)
Depart 16:50, Arrive: 18:35, flight time: 2:45
Boeing 777-300, Registration B-KQM, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 187,326
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,879,628

My seat assignment had stuck, and I was shown to seat 2K by the crew. It technically would be business class today, but the crew was still acting like it was first class, apologizing that they would only be able to offer business class champagne today. Could they get me some?

A bit warm from the run to-and-from the lounge, but my kitty fan and some champagne while settling into 2K made everything better.

What’s for dinner tonight? Similar to the lunch menu from Bangkok.

The thai red chicken curry was delicious – I do love the thai dishes that seem to appear frequently in Cathay business – they’re always tasty.

Choice of ice creams once again for dessert. They were out of Tegrity, so I decided to go with cookies and cream…and more champagne…this time around.

It had been fifteen years or more since I’d been in Vietnam, and in that time tourism had taken off and getting a visa had become much easier. No need to go to the consulate or embassy anymore, you can now do a visa on arrival by paying/arranging with an agency online who sends you an approval letter.

The whole process was quite confusing, and there was a waiting area where you had to fill out a form and wait. I asked about a dozen people if I needed to wait there with my letter, and the first several indicated yes, but eventually I just went up to the windows (causing several people to get upset with me) and they told me no, go straight to the arrivals queues.

Well, that would have been great, except with 20+ queues open they were all still 50+ people deep. It was going to be quite a wait. Still better than having to wait for the visa-on-arrival counter where some people said they had been waiting more than four hours!

I eventually found a line for VIP/diplomats/SkyPriority so decided that despite flying Cathay I would stand there since I have SkyPriority through Delta. That line only took about 10 minutes, but I was then berated by the guy at the counter who insisted I show him my boarding pass with SkyPriority on it – not just my card.

Feigning a bit of not understanding him he finally gave up on me and just stamped me into the country. I’m not usually a fan of gaming the system like this, but hey, to save a few hours and be able to at least enjoy the evening? Absolutely.

The other thing that had changed since my previous visit were the hotels. 15 years ago, there was no such thing as chain hotels in Vietnam, and we stayed at the Grande Olde Dame the “Rex Hotel” which was about as good as it got back then.

Now? There’s a half dozen different Bonvoy options, not to mention Hiltons, Hyatts, and everything. Grab worked well to get me to the Le Meridien (which seemed to be the recommended hotel based on online reviews) and I was given a nice room on the executive floor.

I have to wonder, however, as someone afraid of heights, what’s with all these hotels lately with 20+ floor atriums and waist-high railings where I felt I might plunge to my untimely death:

It wasn’t too late, so I figured I would head out for a walk and try and get my bearings for the coming days. The city had changed so much a walk was in order, and there seemed to be a great craft beer place less than a mile away that looked walkable.

I immediately wasn’t a huge fan of the changes in the city, as literally dozens of younger ladies from massage parlours grabbed my arm as I walked by and tried to get me to come inside. Ugh. It reminded me of Bangkok 20 years ago and the seedier side of tourism in Southeast Asia.

I managed to keep going, and was eventually rewarded with a great selection of beers at Heart of Darkness brewing. How amazing to find a Joseph Conrad-themed pub in the middle of Vietnam. While globalization definitely has its downsides in the homogenization of culture, there are some benefits…

After a couple of beers to tire me out, it was back to the hotel to rack out. I had two days to enjoy Vietnam, and wanted to make the most of them!

Dec 052019
 


After sleeping off the massive meat coma from Meatlicious the night before, we slept in a little bit before heading down to breakfast. I used to think the W Bangkok had the best hotel breakfast in the world, and while it’s still very good it’s just not up there any more.

A lot of the problem seems to be that the hotel now caters to large tour groups especially on the weekends, so the breakfast is usually crawling with people and often quite picked over and not at all relaxing. Reminder to self, it may finally be time to stop staying at the W and choose one of the other excellent hotels in Bangkok.

That said, the breakfast was still excellent, with plenty of fresh fruit, great vienoiseries, and dim sum.

After grabbing some Starbucks for proper caffeination, we headed out to do a little bit of exploring since Ian had never been to Bangkok before. It was a shockingly pleasant morning out, not too humid, and on the walk to the SkyTrain we encountered a worker cleaning the koi pond next to the W. There was something “creature from the lagoon” about it…

We road the SkyTrain to the Siam stop, where the celebration of Pocky Day (apparently that’s what 11/11 is now in Asia?) was well underway:

We wandered a bit in the CentralWorld Mall, and I really wanted the “Stranger Trump” t-shirt, but decided to be good and resist:

The “Bloody Bunny & Friends” store just left me confused.

Hey, I’m not high, Jer high! (Well, at a minimum the cat in the ad is definitely high!)

Whatever I was battling had me feeling pretty sick again, and after some sitting around and a fresh orange juice I was feeling better so it was back to the hotel to rest up a bit.

We’d decided that since Bangkok is the home of affordable massage we would book for the afternoon, and based on great reviews we decided to try Perception Blind Massage. Bangkok has hundreds and hundreds of massage places, so it’s a bit hit and miss, but the reviews for Perception were quite good so we decided to give it a go.

I was feeling just better enough that a massage sounded like a nice idea, so we headed out. It turned out to be barely a five minute walk from the W, so that was definitely nice. We booked the two hour thai massage plus head/neck/back, and were in for an adventure.

You know it’s gonna be fun when Ray Charles greets you in the entrance:

Other than the massage school at Wat Po the only massages I’ve done in Bangkok before have been high-end hotel massages, so I was a bit surprised we were led to what were essentially mattresses on the floor with curtains separating the massage areas. That said, it was dark (not like anyone could see anyways?) and once I relaxed it was an excellent experience.

It was definitely one of the better massages I’ve ever had, and I really enjoyed the whole experience…and at less than $40 including tip for two hours it was a bargain.

They even take a picture with you at the end to post on their social media if you’re ok with it. Very cool experience, and it’s great to see a company creating jobs for the difabled (my new word from Indonesia) and assuming they do pay people fairly you not only get a massage but get to do some good.

Nice and relaxed, it was late afternoon and time to shower up and head out to our early 6:30p dinner at Sorn. We were still a bit bummed out that Gaggan had closed, but were really looking forward to the 20 course menu at Sorn in its stead. Things started off with the classy menu:

First two courses: (1) young mangosteen with crispy krill, shallot, and coconut plum sugar and (2) cashew nut relish with cashew nut butter and cucumber. Both were delicious bite-sized starters, and the hidden chili paste at the bottom of the cashew packed a huge punch!

Next up was course (3) called “The Beach” – sand mole crabs with seaweed powder. This also had some Thai chilis and while a little spicy, was an awesome combination of flavours and textures.

Course (4) was a bonus course, and was charcoal-grilled abalone. Delicious! The presentation of every course was amazing – nothing was just served, every course was a production.

Next up as course (5) was the “2 degree lobster” which was phuket lobster with mixed thai herbs and lime zest. Served super cold, it was absolutely delicious, and you could really taste the sea in the lobster. Not at all fishy, but a briny taste that was really awesome with the texture.

Number (6) is one of their traditional dishes which never changes, the “Gems on crab stick version 2) – crab, crab roe, yellow chili paste, ginger, and lemongrass. Absolutely delicious, with a really fierce chili burn on the back end from the yellow chili paste. One of the highlights for me – especially the crab roe in the mother of pearl spoon.

Up for number (7) to cool some of the heat from the previous course was “coco on coconut” – “all good things from coconut” – southern plants, dried quid and shrimp – the coconut milk broth was wonderful for killing the heat and was served quickly enough after the previous course to help. I loved the serving bowl and spoon!

The eighth (8) course was called “Fresh off the Boat” (version 2) – and was black squid, squid ink, and squid roe. Absolutely delicious.

For course (9) we had what was definitely one of the highlights for me, roti crab curry (version 3) with roti pastry, crab curry, and pepper tree leaf. Just enough spice from the curry, but you could really taste the crab. I loved this course.

For course (10) we had a dish called “vegetables” which was prepared table-side. The tray of vegetables came out, and then the chef prepared it. It was called “the forest meets the sea” and was described as southern herbs, tumeric rice, morinda rice, and fish innards dressing. It was an absolutely fantastic salad – very fragrant, but also super combination of tastes.

Courses (11) through (16) were all served family style at the same time and included (11) fresh yellow curry with mangosteen and fish roe, (12) pumpkin and egg with lobster and pork, (13) grilled smoked duck breast with southern chili paste, (14) steamed egg and winter melon soup, (15) stinky beans, and (16) oxtail curry.

The condiment tray for the family style course:

Pumpkin and egg – Nakon Si Thammarat pumpkin, free range organic egg, lobster, and pork. Absolutely my favourite disk, but rather rich. On the top you can see the stinky beans with homemade abalone, mantis shrimp and hoof fermented sauce with sea conch. These two dishes together stole the show.

Oxtail curry with fresh coconut milk – a little too fatty for my preference, but very tasty.

Next was a palate cleanser of torch ginger sorbet.

Dessert was natural tapioca boiled in coconut water with longan ice, longan jam, frozen coconut milk, and grilled coconut. Very unusual and not textures I was used to having combined, but really good.

Finally, a signature desert to end things off.

…and because that wasn’t enough, Thai tea with coconut cakes. An amazing way to finish an amazing meal.

We may not have been able to eat at Gaggan, but still had an amazing dinner, and would recommend Sorn very highly to anyone who’s up for some rather spicy southern Thai food!

It was still early, so we decided to stop by Mikkeller to have a couple beers to end the night. They were having a tip fundraiser to support Justin Bieber’s retirement, so I was definitely a big supporter!

Back to the W, and it was still early, so I stopped by the bar for a nightcap. They no longer had the purple cocktail I’d had on previous visits, but the bartender remembered it and agreed to make it. The staff really make the W for me, and are one of the biggest reasons I keep coming back.

Fat and happy full of delicious Thai food it was off to bed. The short tour around Southeast Asia was coming to an end and we had to head off to the airport in the morning. Ian was headed home after what was mostly a short mileage run, and I would head on to Vietnam for the next segment of my trip!

Dec 032019
 


KLIA Ekspres Train to the airport was a piece of cake, and since we’d checked in online we headed straight for security and immigration before taking the inter-terminal train out to the satellite where our flight would depart from.

The Malaysia Airlines Lounges had recently been renovated, and this would be at least the third renovation since the first time I flew with Malaysia back in 2005 – back when they still had recliner seats in first class between LA and KL via Taipei!

Back then, the first lounge was still rather glamourous with free-flowing champagne, but these days in the business lounge you have to contend with $7 per bottle sparkling wine.

I will say the lounge was nice and open and felt spacious, but overall it still felt a little low-end. There was nothing “nice” or luxury about it, but it was definitely a solid and quiet place to spend time before the flight. Plus, it had reasonably tasty sweets:

We got to the gate about five minutes before the boarding time listed on our boarding passes, but they were nowhere near ready. Security is at the gate at KUL, and they weren’t even ready to start security screening passengers to get into the gate area.

I always wonder about airports that have security at the gate It’s one of the things I find the most puzzling about Singapore. It’s an amazingly-advanced passenger-friendly airport in so many ways, but why is security at the gate?

Anyways, enough wondering. We eventually were allowed into the gate and boarded right on time!

Malaysia Airlines flight 782
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)
Depart 14:50, Arrive: 16:05, flight time: 2:15
Airbus A330-300, Registration 9M-MTF, Manufactured 2012, Seat 01K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 185,352
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,877,654

I hadn’t experienced an A330 on Malaysia before, but based on the configuration I expected seats very similar to SWISS or Brussels. I had managed to reserve a “throne” seat in advance, and got exactly what I expected!

Unfortunately, on flights under three hours Malaysia Airlines is still completely dry, so PDB choices were juice or water. I was still feeling pretty run down and sketchy this morning, so opted for water…the PDB of champions…

Beverages may have been lacking, but there were completely proper printed menus for the relatively short flight.

I went with the “Nasi Hujan Panas” which was described as basmati rice cooked in aromatic herbs and spices served with chicken rendang traditional achar rampai. Only half those words were familiar to me, but the chicken rendang was absolutely delicious. Definitely one of the best short-haul business class mains I’ve ever had. I seriously wanted seconds!!

Arrival in Bangkok was right on time, and it was the first time in ages I wasn’t arriving in Thai First so instead of a buggy I had to walk to immigration. Fortunately, I was feeling quite a bit better at this point, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Queue for passport control was about 20 minutes (which seems on the short side these days in Bangkok) and soon we were through. I’ve always used the airport taxi service before, but having enjoyed Grab in both Jakarta and KL this trip we decided to use it in Bangkok. Super easy to find the car, and about half the price of the airport service, so it was definitely a good call.

Rush hour traffic was pretty bad but not terrible, and soon we were at my usual choice of Bangkok hotels the W and checked in. It was already getting rather late and we had dinner reservations, so we headed off to Meatlicious.

So, a bit of history. The whole point of this stop in Bangkok was to eat at Gaggan, since it would be closing in just a few months. Then, despite the fact we had a reservation, they ended up closing down with zero notice.

We decided not to bail on Bangkok, and at least try one of Gaggan’s affiliated restaurants and look for something higher-end Thai for the next night.

Reviews for Meatlicious online were decidedly mixed, but my reading sad that this was people with unrealistic expectations, so we decided to go with it. First impression? It was much smaller and more intimate than I expected, and we sat at the “bar” which was more of a chef’s table since it faced the open kitchen.

We ordered the tenderloin tacos as a starter, and they were absolutely delicious:

The good thing about the bar/chef’s table was being able to chat with the chef’s and some regular patrons, which led to us being offered some raclette as well. I swear Switzerland is stalking me this year…

We decided we had to go big or go home, and ordered the smallest of their tomahawk steaks to share. At around 1400 grams it was definitely not small, but we were confident in our abilities. Was awesome how they showed it to you before throwing it on the grill:

MMmmm, sizzle sizzle, we were even invited into the kitchen as it cooked:

Carved table-side…that’s what I call a steak!

A perfect rare to medium-rare. Absolutely delicious…and don’t worry, we finished every last gram of it’s beefy deliciousness.

Absolutely stuffed, it was still hard to say no to dessert. How can you go wrong with a meringue and passionfruit combo:

Loved the cow-themed artwork around the restaurant.

With that, our day in transit and awesome dinner was in the books. Next up: one full day in Bangkok and figuring out how to relax! We had amazing dinner plans coming up the next day as well, and no daytime plans, so after one night in Bangkok, we’d say what kind of adventure awaits!

Dec 012019
 


After finally waking up early afternoon and realizing just what getting hit by a truck feels like, I rushed to make the most of what was left of the day. Fortunately, Ian hadn’t completely waited for me and had done a bit of exploring so I didn’t feel completely awful.

On the way out, admired the view of very dark KL from the hotel elevator lobby. It definitely looked like rain was on the way…

Of course, the first stop was Starbucks to get some caffeine to try and undo the haze from 12+ hours of sleep. Can someone please explain to me why you’d want to add cheese to a glazed donut?!

Caffeinated, we grabbed a grab to the Batu Caves. Ian had never been to Malaysia before, and this is one of my favourite sites, so I decided if we had time to go “see” one thing, this should be it.

Of course, the minute we stepped out the door to get our Grab, the skies opened up and heavy rains came down. The hotel doorman suggested maybe this wasn’t a good idea because “it will probably rain for a long time” but the radar didn’t look too bad to me, so off we went. It would be a 30 minute drive, so hopefully the rain would at least let up a bit….

The Batu Caves are a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan in this predominantly Muslim country, and are over 100 years old. They had done a lot of work, maintenance, and painting since my last visit. and things were extremely colourful now. The 42+ meter tall statue of Murugan was also looking resplendent with a fresh golden painting:

Feeling like death from oversleeping, I wasn’t looking forward to climbing the 272 colourful steps to the top in the heat and humidity, but the rain had mostly stopped and was just a very light mist now, and the temperature had really dropped. It was only around 22C now, and actually almost cool and pleasant! What luck! Finally inside the caves, lots of the individual shrines had also been brightly repainted:

Loved how the bright green of this peacock contrast with the rest of the shrine it was next to:

It looked even more brilliant against the rainbow-coloured shrine:

From my first visit, I remember hundreds of begging monkeys everywhere. Some effort had clearly been made to get rid of many of them, but there were still a couple dozen hanging about begging for bananas:

Love the gesture I caught this one in…seems to be saying “what do you expect from me? She gave me a banana!”

Looking back down towards the city from the caves:

Nom nom nom, banana! …and post-banana carb coma face:

After the caves we had a fairly difficult time getting a Grab, with the app repeatedly saying none were available due to metering. I guess the local taxi mafia managed to get caps put on how many Grabs could be on the road and being rush hour there weren’t enough to go around. We finally got one after 20 minutes or so, and headed back to the hotel to get ready to get drinks and dinner.

It felt a bit odd going to dinner when I’d barely been awake four hours, but hey, it was what it was. I wanted to take the Monorail to dinner because I’ve been on a bit of a “subway / monorail / urban train” counting kick lately, and hey while it’s a bit more of a Shelbyville idea, I felt I had to ride it!

Finding the monorail and buying tickets was a piece of cake, and soon we were at our stop. It looked on google like it was a 5-10 minute walk to the bar we were headed to, but it turned out to be right at the bottom of the monorail station.

Heli Lounge Bar is on the 37th floor of an office building, and it has two parts. The first is an inside bar where you get the drink included free with your cover charge. For some reason, you have to order this inside. But hey, they had a mirrorball helicopter, so that was kinda cool. I went with the lychee martini:

After getting your free drink you’re allowed to go upstairs to the rooftop helipad to drink it. Carrying a full martini up two flights of stairs wasn’t an easy task, but finally we made it and emerged to the awesome view. We had timed the visit for shortly before sunset, and timing was perfect!

Had to pose for a photo with the Petronas Twin Towers!

Sunset over KL…nice oranges and pinks in the sky, and the buildings were all lighting up for nighttime.

Petronas Twin Towers lit up at night:

After having a couple drinks and bar snacks we were pretty much over the place. It was a neat one time experience, but as someone who doesn’t like heights to begin with I was a bit unsettled the whole time. That combined with feeling poorly due to oversleeping I’d had enough, so on to dinner we went.

Another friend had recommended a local pub that did good pizzas, so we ended up going there for pizza and a couple of craft beers. It was good, not great, and we assumed from the pizza prices on the menu that the beers were similarly reasonable. Nope, not at all, and 2 individual pizzas (which were like $10 each) and 3 beers each came to over $100. Clearly Malaysia is not the place to come for craft beer!

After a good (and more reasonable six to seven hours) night of sleep I was awake at 530a. Ugh. Hello jetlag, this was going to suck. I made the most of it and went to the hotel for a short workout, followed by Starbucks while I let Ian sleep in. Hooray, I’m in Malaysia!

A couple hours later when Ian was ready to go I was in need of more caffeine to struggle through the long day, so we headed off to another coffee place he’d found the day before.

It seemed to be a Vietnamese chain and was called “CONG Caphe” and I was able to get a delicious iced Vietnamese coffee. We sat in the upstairs balcony, despite warnings that we should “mind the naughty step” whatever that meant!

Fully-caffeinated and ready to go it was back to the hotel to pack up a few things and then head to the KLIA Ekspres to the airport. Bangkok awaits!