1 year ago 💎 for day 26, 2021 with 851 words.

Megacity layovers

There was a period during my solo travels last year when I spent five days in transit between one 'big trip' to the other. It was a return journey from Sri Lanka to Australia with stopovers in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Manila, an elephant of a trip that would eventually lead me to arrive in Sydney for - what I thought would be - the rest of the year, or even my life if it all went well. I was deliriously excited, exhausted and emotional about this big move - but first I had to get through these layovers, around a day and a half in each city.

If you've ever been to an Asian megacity, you'll understand the chaos, exhilaration and madness that accompanies your trip there. KL is a metropolis, expanding for what seems like neverending kilometres with skyscrapers towering over you at any given moment. Singapore is it's sterile neighbour, with all the megacity aspects but with absolutely no dirt, rulebreakers or the chaos of people. Also veeeery expensive. Manila, the last stop, is a jungle. Twisted alleyways and people, animals, everything everywhere, noisy and all your senses overwhelmed - not always in the best way, as I can attest to by walking through animal markets.

Flying from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Kuala Lumpur proved to be a challenge from the start. I had been unable to check in my backpack online, leaving me with an option to pay the €200 or so fee for checking it in at the airport or the Malaysian authorities confiscating it. This, accompanied by immigration confiscating my passport until I paid up, was traumatic and stressful enough - but I let it be. When I finally got to KL in the wee hours of the morning, my hostel had shut its doors. Verging on a nervous breakdown, I managed to find accommodation in a small hotel wedged between colonial-era buildings. I slept until 4 pm the next day, emerging from my hotel only to get coffee and Malaysian beauty products from the skincare mall - yes, an entire mall with 3 stories of skincare - and a huge plate of nasi lemak.

Singapore was one of my worst layovers. My capsule hostel was overpriced, unpleasant in every sense and had a strict no late checkout policy. The hostel would be cleaned from 11 am to 5 pm each day, meaning that guests had to be out of the premises for most of the day. With some recommendations from friends living there, I was lucky enough to find the best food I've ever eaten in a food court in the CBD, but the rest of the day was uneventful and sweltering hot. The humidity in Singapore is unbeatable and with little shade offered throughout the city, I walked around the metropolis in 34-degree weather, unable to find a small cafe to read in or find a swimming pool to cool off in. I wasn't about to pay exorbitant money for a day at the Marina Bay Sands and my phone had no data. People rushed everywhere, shouting into their phones and with general looks of stress and the need to be somewhere important right there that second. It reminded me of London, just in tropical temperatures.

Manila, my last stop, proved to be the final boss. I only had one day here and the rest of it would be spent at the airport, but by the time I got there, I was on my last legs. After five days of not meeting anybody or talking to a friend who was physically there, I was sure the rest of my existence would be confined to hostel-hopping and FaceTiming. Alike to Singapore, my hostel had the same check out rules, due to the fact that I was only staying one night and I couldn't store my bags. I spent a day walking around Manila with my backpack, like a donkey, with some British and Australian guys who couldn't believe I was travelling alone in such a 'dangerous city'. One of my British acquaintances had a chicken thrown at him after accidentally tripping over a seller's table - the weirdest thing to have happened apart from finding a cockroach in my pillowcase the night before. By the time I got to the end of these layovers, 9 impending hours of waiting in the air-conditioned Manila airport seemed like the Ritz.

I won't finish this piece by saying things like these layovers mean something significant in teaching me to be a good traveller, or that it's a meaningful experience about resilience. Honestly, the whole five days are such a blur I don't really remember much, due to fighting jet lag from 2 different time zones at once and the knowledge that in the end, I'd be flying 12 hours straight to Sydney.

I guess I just see this melange of intense and sleepless days as a stopover in every sense, something that I had to pass through to get to something better. Not terrible or amazing in any sense, but just a waiting room for a new opportunity.

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By Freya


Trying to create a habit. Yogini in training, copywriter, coffee-drinker, photo-taker.

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