By Amanda Lynn Marcroft
Are you bored? Restless? Cold?
Do you want to escape the oncoming storm if even for a little bit?
Well, you’re in luck! One of the serious perks of working in Japan is the grouping of holidays around New Year’s. With the careful application of paid leave, it’s quite easy to get nearly three weeks off in a row which makes winter break possibly the best time to travel—with the added bonus of escaping Aomori’s infamous icy hell snowy winter!
Smart ducks got their tickets ages ago but maybe you were busy. Maybe you were staying late for speech practice. Maybe you were playing Mario Kart. Maybe you were hibernating. Maybe you were fooled by those still-sunny autumn days and are just now getting the creeping realization that winter is indeed waiting just around the corner ready to pounce and tear you apart like a ninja cat—cute fluff on the outside, evil menace on the inside.
Or maybe you just suddenly got the travel bug!
‘’But oh no,’’ you say in a voice of endless despair. ‘’Winter break is just a month away! Tickets will be so expensive! どうしょう？’’
Fear not! While going home has become a pipe dream, you’re not necessarily doomed to spend the holidays holed up under your kotatsu crying. Southeast Asia is right next door (really! Just fold the map), and while you’ll still be spending more on airfare than you could have, living expenses in many parts of SEA are astoundingly low and easily make up for it.
While just about every place in SEA is super cheap to visit I’m going to concentrate my rambling on Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are many good reasons for this but I’ll just give the top two. First of all: it’s hot. Like a furnace. I understand that there was working hot water in my hostel, but I never had cause to find out. Unlike Cambodia and Japan, however, KL firmly believes in air conditioning, so no worries there. Point 2: KL is the central hub for AirAsia and is generally the cheapest place to get to with them—a good bet for you if you’re just booking now.
Once you land you’ll find KL is just as obsessed with Christmas and New Years as the rest of the world. For a more Malaysian flare, spend the festivities shopping like locals at one of KL’s many MASSIVE malls—seriously, words cannot express the size of these things. If you get bored of the one you’re in (maybe the three-floor trampoline across the street looks more fun), you can cross over via numerous glass pathways floating high in the sky—street level is for peasants.
The Petronas Towers and KL Tower are other great modern places to float above the rabble; or if the past is your thing check out the Batu Caves—my personal favourite. A steep 300ish step climb leads you up to the caves which house ancient temples in addition to the prerequisite bats and spiders. Or, if KL’s obsession with heights has your acrophobia acting up, there are also some great sights to check out closer to ground level; I recommend the world famous bird park and the garden across from it.
Of course, there are a great many things to check out in KL if you end up going, so don’t worry about ever being bored. DO worry about getting your tickets though so you don’t end up sleeping on the street. And, of course, if you’ve already got your winter plans sorted, KL makes a great place to travel at any point of the year; it’s not like it can get hotter.
- Check out the KL wikitravel page
- Most JETs won’t need a visa to enter Malaysia, but double check before you go
Your best bet is to fly from either Tokyo or KIX in Osaka. Probably via AirAsia but plenty of other companies offer the same run.
Alternatively you can try to swim. It might take a while. Keep your passport in a waterproof pouch.
- Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Singapore are all very close by and make great additions, though they may require additional flying.
It’s generally recommended to book international travel at least 3 months in advance, but sometimes the second mouse gets the cheese. If you’re flexible about your dates and destination you can snap up some great deals by waiting until airlines get desperate to fill seats–just don’t rely on it to get you home!