It feels so good to be back!
I left Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Chiang Mai this past Monday. Oh welcomed me at the Chiang Mai airport with a sign. She’s too cute.
I’ve been reunited with both my partner and my adopted home. It’s a massive relief.
To say that I didn’t enjoy my five weeks in Malaysia would be a massive understatement. I’ll delve into this a bit.
Before I do, just to recap, I flew to Kuala Lumpur at the end of December in order to buy time for Oh’s house sale so that we could be free to go off on grand adventures together for most of 2020.
Due to increasingly restrictive visa policies in Thailand, I ran out of time in the country.
I was originally going to rely on a combination of tourist visas to stay in Thailand for 2020, but the immigration stance was rapidly changing/tightening and that began to strike me as a poor/risky idea. It was a short-term and impractical solution to a more long-term problem.
Oh and I then had a series of conversations and devised three different long-term options to stay together, which I laid out toward the end of 2019.
We decided on the third option; however, Oh ran into severe difficulty regarding the sale of her house after her buyers backed out. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to unload the house in the near future.
So I found myself in Kuala Lumpur pointlessly. The reason I was there in the first place – buying time for the sale of a house and the start of adventures – ceased to exist.
At the same time, I was completely bewildered by the place.
If you follow me on social media, where I update everyone on my early retirement life abroad in real-time, you already know that I didn’t like Kuala Lumpur pretty much from the start.
I’ve lived in and visited cities big and small all over the world. I spent my childhood in a crack house in Detroit. Lived the small-town life for my high school years. Spent almost a decade in Florida. Seen much of the US. Vised Central America numerous times. And I’ve been living abroad for more than two years, checking out a large chunk of SE Asia in the process. This is to say, I’ve been around. It’s not my first rodeo.
But I’ve never in my entire life experienced anything quite like Kuala Lumpur. And I mean that in the worst way possible.
I’m going to quickly brush the past five weeks aside. I don’t enjoy dwelling and complaining, nor do I enjoy hearing others dwell and complain. There’s nothing to gain from it. I’m an optimistic person who prefers to focus on the positive aspects of life. I just keep moving forward, no matter what.
However, just to be fair and transparent, I’ll run down a few key reasons why I didn’t enjoy Kuala Lumpur.
Extreme racism, rampant homelessness, the constant spitting everywhere, incredibly slow internet, food that’s barely edible, the miserable populace, tension, aggression, and poor infrastructure almost across the board.
The place looks great on paper. But the reality I saw with my own two eyes is far different.
Everyone is different, though. I’m sure others might love the place.
But I will say that I’ve heard from plenty of other people about KL – after I decided to go there and share what I was going through.
In this “age of outrage”, nobody wants to be honest and upfront. It seems like everyone is afraid of offending people. I can’t even tell you how many people have privately and discreetly told me about their horrible experiences in Kuala Lumpur/Malaysia, but they have no desire to publicly express any of that.
The descriptors I’ve heard from others that most accurately portray Kuala Lumpur are “dysfunctional” and “joyless”.
That sums it up. If Thailand is the “land of smiles”, Malaysia is the “land of frowns”.
However, I did get very, very lucky. It could have been much worse.
I was supposed to remain in KL until mid-March. I booked a condo room on Airbnb until then, which lasted the duration of my allowed three-month stay (no visa required).
Oh and I were thinking it’d take a few months for her to wrap a number of things up in Thailand – the sale of her house, the ending of her job, etc. And since I received three months in Malaysia, it was perfect.
Well, it was quickly apparent that the room wasn’t as advertised. And the host was immediately hostile toward me. It was highly bizarre and uncomfortable.
I quickly documented the issues and shared all of it with Airbnb, but they were unhelpful. From what I’ve gathered, they don’t like to get involved unless it’s some kind of emergency.
Fortunately, after five weeks of staying there, an emergency did occur.
The host was kind of obsessed over electricity usage and keeping his electric bill down. He kept almost everything in his two-bedroom condo (I was renting the second room) unplugged. And he kept the air conditioning in the main living area and his room turned off. Yes, he kept the air conditioning turned off 24/7. In one of the hottest and most humid cities in the world.
That was not going to work for me.
I kept the air conditioning turned down pretty low in my room (it had its own temperature control) in order to compensate for the fact that the rest of the condo was like a sauna.
After he received his electricity bill, the guy started to berate me. I videotaped said berating. Then I sent it to Airbnb, at which time they opened a case to investigate what was going on.
The host didn’t like that at all. He then threatened me with physical violence.
So I went down to the police station to file a police report, because this guy seemed to be pretty serious about causing me physical harm. The police, shocked to hear about all of this, completed a report and escorted me back to the condo in order to possibly start an investigation. This only served to anger the host further, upon which time he physically assaulted me – with the police present.
It then became an emergency. Airbnb verified the situation, apologized, immediately canceled my reservation, and issued me a refund.
I had to book a hotel on the spot, which I reserved for two days.
Seeing as how staying in Kuala Lumpur, a city I now regard with disdain, served no further purpose, I decided to come back to Chiang Mai and regroup after the most baffling set of encounters I’ve ever run across.
I’m so happy and grateful to be back. Seeing Oh at the airport with her sign filled my heart with joy.
I spent five weeks in what I like to call “stoic mode”. This is a switch I flip on whenever I’m going through some kind of difficult challenge. I basically numb myself to everything around me and become laser focused on an end objective of some kind. It works brilliantly. But it’s not a very nice way to go through life. It’s designed as a temporary measure only.
Coming back to Thailand meant I was able to flip this switch off, which gave me great comfort.
Oh and I stayed in close contact throughout the stay in Malaysia. After the home buyers fell through, we had to go back to the drawing board and revisit our remaining options, as the plan to travel together for the foreseeable future wasn’t going to work.
I’ll soon share exactly what we plan to do.
All that said, the stay in KL wasn’t a total loss.
I was given renewed perspective on just how wonderful Thailand is and how fortunate I am to live here. I’m not totally sure I needed this – almost all of the content I’ve produced over the last two years has gushed with gratitude. I mean, 5 Steps To Retire In 5 Years has me literally jumping for joy on a Thai beach. But it’s always nice to be reminded.
In addition, my five-year-old laptop crashed on the same night that my Airbnb host went nuts. That certainly made the situation even more frustrating. The good news is, electronics are significantly cheaper in Malaysia than Thailand. Laptop prices can be positively outrageous in Chiang Mai. But I scooped up a new HP laptop on the cheap right before I left KL. That was a score.
Lastly, Oh and I signed a lease on a beautiful condo. Taking a fresh and necessary look at the accommodation choices in Chiang Mai revealed some fantastic options. The condo is only about 500 meters away from the apartment I was renting before. However, it’s nicer, cheaper, and in an even better location than that apartment. I can throw a rock to everything I use on a daily basis – the gym, coffee shop, market, etc. We couldn’t be happier about it. I will publish some pictures and details about it before the end of the month.
I’ve been reunited. And it feels so good.
Back to normal life and everything I’ve worked so hard to attain and enjoy. “Stoic mode” off.
What do you think? Ever been to Kuala Lumpur? Have you had a crazy travel experience?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you’re interested in achieving financial freedom and retiring early, make sure to check out these fantastic resources that I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!