I was meant to volunteer at Travel Hub in the heart of KL in exchange for free accommodation for a few nights. They wanted me to produce lots of short promo videos. I dragged my heavy luggage in the sweltering heat from the apartment to the station, on the train and to the hostel, damaging the melted wheel completely in the process.
When I got there, I found the room that I was meant to be staying in was a shared dorm with seven other people. I had never slept in a bunk bed before in my life nor had I shared a room with men before. It was painted an ugly green.
I left my suitcase there and went to China Town thinking this wasn't for me. I didn't want to stay there and quite frankly, I was a little tired of KL. I had already explored all the main spots. I found myself heading back to Central market, to the Old Town coffee shop that I went to a few days ago where I felt comfortable. I whatsapped Benjamin, the guy I was cat sitting for and asked if I could come back. I knew he'd say yes and he did.
So I went back to the hostel and was about to grab my suitcase and leave when I got talking to the girl in the bed below me. She was French and had been travelling through Thailand and Cambodia the past couple of months. Only 21. So young and brave. What was I doing when I was her age? Going to uni and temping as a supply teacher. I had barely stepped out of east London! Life as an Asian Muslim female doesn't really encourage you to go far from home.
Frank, the guy who worked at Travel Hub joined us. He was also staying in the room. He was Chinese, worked as an accountant for a few years before being offered a job at Travel Hub because he kept hanging around the bar. It was interesting hearing about his life; he described his home town which was north of KL, less congested and much more peaceful. Apparently his parents had signed the house over to him because they wanted him to be secure. Well how bloody nice of them. My mum couldn't wait for me (and my sisters) to get married off and move out so she can have the house to herself!
We had another new tenant too, a Scottish guy who lived in Penang. He left Scotland 20 years ago because he was sick of the cold and hadn't returned since. Maybe that could be me? He encouraged me to explore Penang, a little island just off of Malaysia. Benjamin also said the same thing the night before. I felt like it was a sign. I had to go to Penang. I was enjoying talking to them, I actually considered staying and couldn't make a decision as to whether I should go back to the nice comfortable apartment I left or stay here and get to know these guys. In the end I decided to sneak out with my suitcase. I couldn't be bothered to explain myself to the Travel Hub team why. 'Oh sorry, this place is ugly and I don't want to stay here so it's not worth working for you for free because I'm not getting anything I really want in exchange?'
I met a Nigerian guy during my second day at KL who was trying to muscle his way in on my trip (another story) and I had decided then that this was MY trip and I decided what I wanted to do and with whom.
I didn't feel 100% comfortable returning. The situation had changed; I left the apartment and I was meant to move on, not go back. When I got there, Sophia and Kunga (Ben's girlfriend) had cooked Ben a welcome home dinner. They were very nice as usual but I felt a tad awkward.
That night, I slept in the little spare room on a mattress on the floor. It was comfortable but there was a temporary feel about it whereas when I was staying in Ben's room, with an adjoined bathroom, it felt much more like a home, my own space. There was a small bathroom next to the little room too but it belonged to the cats. Ben had put their litter bin there and no one used it. So even the cats had their own bathroom and I didn't.
Ben and Sophia had told me there were buses that went directly to Penang, a 5 hour scenic route. I looked for buses online and decided I would leave the next morning at 9.30.