Staying at a Backpacker’s Penthouse in Malaysia

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Ever heard of infinity pools?  Though the sleek concept involving cityscapes and a seemingly endless body of water is popular in some countries, coming from Tokyo, it was a brand new experience for me.  After exploring some remote beaches in Mersing and near Singapore, I took a 6 hour bus ride to Malaysia’s bustling metropolis; Kaula Lumpur, and stayed in a penthouse with other backpackers for the duration of my trip.  During this time I connected with other people from around the world that I’ll never forget.

After browsing a few places online, I settled on Sky Society, a backpacker’s penthouse boasting both a high quality stay and a stunning rooftop infinity pool.  I figured I’d have to try staying in a penthouse at least once in my life, and with dorm prices going as low as $15 per night, who could complain?

My stay there was incredible.  The Regalia Tower in which Sky Society is located has high security making you feel safe at all times, and it feels like a homestay because the hosts take extremely good care of you.  There’s free breakfast every morning, plus they have clean private showers.  Despite staying in the cheapest dorm room, everyone was quiet and respectful of one another.  However, I was able to socialize with other backpackers out on the balcony even after midnight and that’s where I met some of my best friends on this trip.  No matter how social you want to be, you can have a great time here.  Did I mention the pool?

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View from my penthouse room in Sky Society.

That just shows the basic swimming pool.  Here’s the grand infinity pool on the top floor:

It was a bit narrow, but the breathtaking view made up for it.  You can see all of the most iconic buildings, including the Petronas Towers, from this pool.  The number of people up here was just right too.  There’s a minibar, though I recommend pregaming in your room first like I did.  Overall, this is an experience that I think everyone should have.  I will be writing about exploring the city of Kuala Lumpur next.

Exploring the Remote Beaches of Mersing (Malaysia)

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Chasing after Malaysian skies in my Orient shirt.

During my aesthetic adventures in Singapore, I decided to take a side trip to Malaysia via bus and see some of its beautiful remote beaches.  This meant waking up before 6:30am and riding a 6 hour bus from central Singapore to Mersing, but the experience I had made it worth it!  The bus was air-conditioned, and getting through customs early in the morning meant we didn’t have to wait as long.  Singapore’s Sentosa Island has a number of gorgeous beaches, but the ones in Mersing have the essence of unspoiled beauty.

I decided to book a $28 bus through Easy Book online to get to Mersing, Malaysia, and then took a private boat tour through Let’s Go Island Tours for 450 Ringgit to see the islands.  This price was actually a bit cheaper than what I paid for private boat tours in Thailand, and includes some of the same activities like scuba diving and sightseeing.  If you get to Mersing early enough, you can take a group boat tour for a much cheaper price.  Since I was going to central Malaysia later that night and didn’t have a lot of time, I opted for a private tour.

The private boat I rode was only myself and the captain, so it was quite the adventure!  A light storm was approaching so the waves made the boat a bit rocky, but the captain expertly navigated the waters.  Our first destination was Lang Tengah Island, where I stopped for Pina Coladas and got to see the Batu Batu Resort area.  It was quite beautiful, but the beachfront was actually very small and the weather conditions made it difficult for swimming.  However, I still enjoyed walking around and seeing the beach huts and palm trees.  I even saw a baby lizard!

After spending about an hour here, the captain took me to another beach at Besar Island behind the resort area that was completely private.  It looked like something out of a movie or anime, and I had it all to myself!

Swimming here was definitely the experience of a lifetime.  You can see in the third picture that the sky is dark because the storm was approaching, but I fortunately had over 2 hours to swim and explore this beach.  The tour was extremely laid back and I could choose where I wanted to be.  I was so happy to spend some time alone (besides the captain) on this island!

The interesting thing about Mersing is boats don’t always leave exactly on time; the boat companies all pay close attention to the tide and then set the departure time.  Due to this factor, I would recommend staying 2-3 days on these islands so you have enough time to see them.  I was able to see a lot on my private tour, but I wished I could have additionally seen Tioman or Rawa Island, which are extremely popular to stay at.

When it started to rain, we headed back to the Mersing Harbor where I waited for my bus to Kuala Lumpur.  This was yet another 6 hours bus ride that I booked through RedBus for $15, but I ended up having it all to myself!  I don’t recommend booking 2 buses in one day because it’s a lot of travel and it’s nicer to stay on an island in Mersing, but I was on a tight schedule.  If I come back here again, I will be sure to take more time in this area.

In the end, the driver dropped me off right at my hostel and I got to see a lot of Malaysia!  We went from the border of Singapore, all the way up to Kuala Lumpur.  The scenery went from monkeys on the side of the road to bright flashing lights in the center of the city.  It felt great to be in a foreign world once again!

A Sacred Beach Getaway to Koh Nang Yuan (Thailand)

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The postcard-worthy view of Koh Nang Yuan in Koh Tao, Thailand.

Koh Tao is yet another popular destination in the Gulf of Thailand due to its colorful coral reefs that make it popular for diving because it attracts a large variety of sea creatures.  In addition to that, there are many beach huts and ocean resorts on the island making it a lively place. “Koh Tao” actually means “Turtle Island”, and you can see that a lot of the islands within it resemble turtles due to their leafy green foliage and surrounding rocks.

I chose to go to Koh Nang Yuan (on the northwest coast of Koh Tao) which is a chain of 3 gorgeous islets that are great for scuba diving.  Once arriving by speedboat, you can reach all of them on-foot by using a sandbar that spans in-between them.  If you climb up a trail from the boardwalk you can see one of the most amazing views in Thailand!  The emerald oceans glisten beautifully from above, and it truly feels like paradise.

In order to reach Koh Tao, I took a speedboat from my resort in Koh Samui.  I booked an affordable tour from Klook in advance, and had more than enough time to go swimming, hiking, and eat a buffet meal that was included in the tour.  Though some articles I’ve read online warn tourists to stay away from Koh Tao due to a series of murders that were found on the island (source: News.au), I did not sense any hostility while I was on this tour, and I think it is more than fine to visit even as a solo traveler as long as you are responsible.

During my trip here, I decided to stay in Tango Bay Resort on Koh Samui (for around $50 per night), because it is conveniently located and there are more activities to do on the island.  I enjoyed staying on Chaweng Beach because it is lively but still feels like a private beach.  My resort came with a private hut, a pool, a delicious restaurant and bar with a happy hour every day, and a beach, so I felt more than welcome!

When I walked into my room, both of the towels were folded like elephants!  It was truly a sight to behold and I couldn’t get over how cute they were.  I was impressed at how beautiful the beach was at night with the lanterns hanging from the trees and reflecting off the ocean.  I saw many people having weddings here and felt luxurious since I came here by myself.  Whether you’re with people or alone, it’s really hard to be sad here.

There are 3 foods that I recommend trying in Thailand: Seafood (any kind), sticky mango rice, and coconut ice cream (ideal if it’s from a real coconut).  I was fortunate that I could have all three on the beach!

It was great to relax here after being trapped in an office for so long.  I can’t stress how important it is to get away from the city and take an island vacation!  It doesn’t have to be expensive because countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more are very affordable, and the quality of service is usually quite good.  I hope that everyone reading this is inspired to come here some day!

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That’s all for now–see you next menu, Space Cowboy!

Swimming through the Picturesque Phi Phi Islands (Thailand)

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I started the first day of my trip to Thailand during Golden Week by traveling to the picturesque Phi Phi Islands in the Krabi province. These islands have been used as film locations for several movies due to their beautiful formation consisting of many beaches and caves, and also are a popular resort destination. Whereas my first trip to Thailand focused on seeing 3 major cities of the country (Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai), this trip focused on exploring tinier islands and beaches for their unique charm.

To get to Phi Phi, it is easiest to take a speedboat from Phuket so I booked a group tour through Phuket Sail Tours to reach the chain of islands.  This tour was awesome because all of the people were around my age (mid-twenties), and the tour guide provided us with free beer.  It felt amazing to go diving off the boat and get lost within the Emerald waters of the Andaman Sea!

The first stop was Maya Bay, which was used as a film location in the movie “The Beach”. Unfortunately this beach has been closed until mid 2021 by the The Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation according to Bangkok Post due to it being overcrowded with tourists, but most tours will stop so you can take pictures of the island.

We then stopped at Pileh Lagoon for swimming and diving, and headed towards Phi Phi Don for snorkeling.  I was able to see a colorful assortment of fish and even swim with some!  I also saw tiny sting rays and sea urchins at the bottom of the ocean.  The time allotted for each location was adequate for seeing a lot of amazing sights. The bright atmosphere, bountiful schools of marine wildlife, and colorful assortment of boats really makes this a pleasant trip!

Next we sailed by Viking Cave, which we were unfortunately unable to enter due to the preservation of bird nests inside of it (according to our tour guide), but it was still interesting to see.  One of the most amusing stops was Monkey Beach, where we swam and watched monkeys ransack kayaks and backpacks for bananas.

The monkeys in Thailand are a lot like the ones in Japan–usually non-violent, but definitely handsy!  These monkeys were self-trained to open backpacks and knew exactly where to find the bananas.  Fortunately I did not get anything stolen, but it is advised to keep your luggage with you or on the boat so they do not ransack it.  Regardless, I had a lot of fun watching the monkeys here skillfully snatch food while relaxing on the beach!

To end the trip, we had a buffet lunch and chilled on the white sands of Bamboo Island.  Most tours have curry buffets with mixed vegetables, chicken, seafood, and rice because they are easy to make and are very filling.  I only eat seafood and vegetables, but fortunately I still found a lot of options.

For more information, please watch this video by Phuket Sail Tours, and please keep an eye on my future posts!

“Cube” by Manabu Koga at Clear Art Gallery Tokyo

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By capturing photos of scuba diving models underwater and using editing software to place different angles of them within cubes from a unique point of view, artist Manabu Koga combined two of his major passions (both swimming and plastic models) with his latest artistic work “Cube“.

Displayed at Clear Gallery Tokyo in Roppongi from May 17 – June 15, 2019, this was a free exhibit that thoroughly showed the process in which these works were created.  In addition to several portraits that were hung on the wall, a detailed movie was displayed on a projector showcasing all of the models that participated, and also how the images were placed to make this highly aesthetic cube:

The short movies of each model were really fun to watch, because it was evident that each girl had her own individual style and attitude she put on for the shoot.  Photo books and magazines of Koga’s past works were also available for browsing.

This gallery was small in size, but was one of the striking galleries I have seen in Tokyo.  I very much enjoyed seeing the unlikely combination of kneesocks and athletic swimsuits being paired together.  I would love to try modeling for or shooting a future project like this in the future, and I look forward to seeing more of Koga’s art!