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Malaysia

Chapter sixty six - A bus somewhere

Another long journey...

overcast 25 °C

Day 243: Somewhere in Northern Malaysia, Malaysia 29/05/2012

Wake up late again and enjoy the benefits of our luxury room. A look out of the window reveals a grey, murky day with little potential for the beach, so over a spot of lunch we discuss what to do and where to go. Heading back for Thailand wins out in our debate and it is back to the room to pack our stuff and apply our newly purchased Tiger Balm to the multitude of horrendously big, itchy and irritating red bites literally all over our bodies. Not sure if they are due to bedbugs or mossies but literally devastating.
En route for the bus we spot a fairly big lizard scurrying about in the drainage channels, which we watch for a bit before we carry on up the road and spot a huge monitor lizard skulking around in a field. Scary. Realise the frogs in the room are a far better option than coming up against one of these…

The bus eventually arrives and we have a nice stable seat, which has partially penetrated the rusty floor. Back at the bus station in Kuantan we have a bit of difficulty establishing the best route to take back to Thailand, mainly due to the ridiculous proportion of extremely unhelpful people. Finally establish the best route and head to the nearby shopping mall to kill a bit of time ahead of our nine o’clock bus to Alor Setar. Nice comfy seats await on the bus and we manage to settle down nicely for the night.

Posted by tevs 08:54 Archived in Malaysia Tagged monitor_lizards travel bus malaysia Comments (0)

Chapter sixty five - Cherating

Frogs, bed bugs and monitor lizards

semi-overcast 28 °C

Day 241: Cherating, Malaysia 27/05/2012

We get up nice and early, have a nice breakfast with Bev and Mark and soon find ourselves at the bus station ready to move on once again. Board the bus for the East Coast (baby), have a little sleep and arrive earlier than expected in Kuantan, from where we catch the connecting local bus service to Cherating.

Arrive in this small, eerie little town around four in the afternoon and it becomes apparent that the majority of the accommodation is made up of wooden chalets modelled on B&Q’s excellent range of garden sheds (other DIY retailers are available). However, we find ourselves something a little cosier and are soon bunkered down in a breeze block shed at a meagre five quid a night. Truly a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous, having come from Mark and Bev’s lovely home this morning.

Head out for tea after chasing a couple of frogs out of the room (‘nature’ the owner helpfully says) and after a decent bit of food we head online to speak to people back home. After arriving back at our home for the night we are greeted by another of our amphibious friends. This time however, he proves to be a bit more athletic and difficult to eject than the dumpy, toady little things everywhere and moving like a ball of flubber, the route he takes before finally being captured goes a little something like this: my leg, the wall, across the room to the curtain, Gemma’s pillow, my backpack and back into the bathroom. I eventually manage to detain him by throwing a fluorescent yellow workman’s vest on him, which helpfully was hanging on the back of the door. Bed seems the order of the day after this drama.

Day 242: Cherating, Malaysia 28/05/2012

After being awoken very early by a monkey running loudly across our corrugated tin roof we have a bit of a lie in and head for a very cheap lunch up the road. Before leaving however, we usher another frog out from behind my backpack (how do they keep getting in?).

A sunny afternoon is spent on the beach, which due to the Malaysian school holidays, is pretty busy. I go for a quick run to the other end of the beach and reach the river estuary which seems to have escaped the attention of the numerous tourists playing at the other end.
A few games of Pictionary in the sand and a couple of hands of Uno later, we plan where we want to go next and the next stages of the trip. We adventurously head for tea at the same place as lunch and hit the hay (well a makeshift foam mattress) nice and early. Disappointingly, no frog activity to report this morning.

Posted by tevs 08:34 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches beach malaysia frogs cherating Comments (0)

Chapter sixty four - Kuala Lumpur

A tale of two beds

sunny 29 °C

Day 235: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 21/05/2012

Up around tennish, a spot of toast, a look online and we are soon on the bus for KL, after riding the rustbucket local bus where the back seat has sunk through the decaying floor. On the bus with a shedload of sweets and the two hour journey to the capital is easy enough before jumping on the train downtown. Jump off when we see a hostel name we recognise, then have a hunt for a room. Not the easiest hunt thus far - some real shitholes. Try one last one before a cab to one we saw online, and it's a good one at a good price. We take.

A quick look around our immediate neighbourhood - Chinatown and environs - and check the market out. Lots of buzz about KL, lots of places to eat and a real lively atmosphere. Good dinner. Retreat.

Day 236: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 22/05/2012

A fitful night's sleep before I am awoken by Gemma in our unnaturally dark room. I take this opportunity to go for a run and despite it being just after ten, the temperature is ridiculous. Huge sweat. Then off for a haircut, where the poor woman doesn't want to touch me for all my perspiration. The haircut is horrendous, compounded by the fact the owner wants a picture for his catalogue to attract more western clients. Don't think this particular chop will endear anyone to step foot in the shop again but I willingly scowl for the camera.

Do some laundry in the DIY machines at the guesthouse and after lunch we go to see some sights. Visit the I ♥ KL museum, which is disappointing, photo opportunities apart. Stumble across Little India, visiting a Hindi DVD shop in search of Billa 2. Search for the Petronas towers and with the weather looking more than ominous we head back to the hostel and watch a film in the common room. A really weird Jordanian guy is staying - think body odour, zero social skills - who earlier interrogated me on my family, all whilst giggling away to himself. Oddball that he is, he decides to just fast forward the bits of the film he doesn't like despite the other viewers.

Leaving Borat to it, we get the latest country tats, have a spot of tea and buy personalised keyrings. Cultured.

Day 237: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 23/05/2012

Watch breakfast and watch a film in the common room. Watch the Jordanian guy write a full letter, two sides of A4, again giggling to himself, before he rips it up. Take this as our cue to leave. Shower then head out for lunch and see some more of KL. Lunch is down a back alley then we head off for a walk. We take in a forestry department exhibition (poor), sit on KL's biggest sofa and then get up close and personal with the Petronas Towers, formally the tallest building in the world.

Head inside the Petronas mall and it is nice to get into the safety of the air conditioning. Take a walk around the park here, where there are lots of people jogging. Talking of which, my legs feel adequately sore after yesterday's half hour excursion. Agony.

Head back to the central market for another personalised keyring then tea and bed. Somehow, I manage to put my foot through the wall whilst writing in the diary. Quick exit needed...

Day 238: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 24/05/2012

Lazy morning, breakfast then leave before a surveyor can check the walls in our room...Sad to be leaving the strange Jordanian behind, lunch at the same place we have been frequenting on the street. Then upwards and onwards to stay with some expats (friends of Paolo's) so on the LRT to Bangsar, where Bev and Mark live. Not sure what time to expect them home (should have read the email) so sit on their front step before we head for a quick walk, whilst parking our bags in the cosy little cupboard set into their perimeter walls (it's for the dustbins). Get back and before long Bev arrives, lovely woman, and before long we are sat having a cold drink. Lovely home - great place to stay for a couple of days.

We head out for dinner after a couple of drinks and find ourselves down the entertaining Bukit Bintang, which is a circus of great street hawker food stalls. Have frog, fish, chicken and Tiger and head back to find poor Mark locked out as we are out so late. Sorry.

Day 239: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 25/05/2012

So after a few drinks and the comfort of being in the first proper home since leaving the UK, we are terrible guests and stay in bed a bit later than we hoped and are down for a very late breakfast. A cup of tea and a round of toast and we are back at the LRT station (after a very cheap cab ride). Head back to the Petronas Towers for photos (no camera last time) and Gemma masters the art of perspective and photos (ask her about the Statue of Liberty episode). Then head back downtown to satisfy our need for walking miles a day.

Head back about sevenish and Gemma wants to take full advantage of a house kitchen so we run out to the most pretentious supermarket ever. I mean calling itself and an 'Urban Gourmet Hub' and having a car park full of Lamborghinis surely indicates the price point but in all fairness homemade Spag Bol is amazing.

Day 240: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 26/05/2012

Up a little earlier this morning (not hard) and we are soon out with Mark and Bev who take us to see some more of the sights of KL. We visit the Batu Caves, a huge cave complex with a Hindu temple built into it, with massive stalactites and stalagmites, lots of steps and some great views of the city, as well as lots of resident monkeys.

Head back to the city centre from here, where we are taken to experience some more great views, having a cocktail overlooking the Petronas Towers from the bar at the top of the Traders Hotel. A couple of Mai Tai's and some great photos later we head back down, go back to Mark and Bev's and enjoy some early evening drinks at theirs before heading into Bangsar village itself for dinner. A rather nice neighbourhood, a great city and we will certainly miss the home comforts we have been treated to here...

Posted by tevs 06:03 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala_lumpur food malaysia city capital petronas Comments (0)

Chapter sixty three - Melaka

Boom shaka Melaka

overcast 28 °C

Day 230: Melaka, Malaysia 16/05/2012

Up and out for about nineish and after a quick breakfast it was back on with the backpacks and the short stroll to the Queen Street bus terminal to catch the bus back into Malaysia. A painless bus journey over the border and we are impressed with just how efficient and clean the whole immigration experience is both sides of the fence. We appear to have alighted the bus a little early and we have to catch another bus to the main bus station in Johor Bahru to get a connection up to Melaka. A combination of a huge lunch and a very comfortable bus leads to an inevitable, slack jawed, dribble inducing nap.

Arrive at Melaka Sentral station where we are met by the friendliest, most helpful touts we have ever come across, and it seems there is quite the range of modern, affordable guest houses to choose from. After a quick bus ride (fourth one of the day) we are soon checked in to a city centre room and after quickly getting ourselves sorted, we go for a stroll and mini exploration of the area. There are two huge shopping malls opposite each other, each with the essential mix of turbo air con, western shops and multiplex cinema that makes for a winner. Oh, and of course both malls have an indoor, top floor archery centre as one would expect.

A quick stop at one of the cinemas to watch Johnny Depp in Dark Shadows (with obligatory dirt cheap, huge bucket of caramel popcorn) is followed by dinner on the street and entertainment in the form of the chef performing a bit of karaoke. Back to the room and bed.

Day 231: Melaka, Malaysia 17/05/2012

A good night's kip is followed by a hearty breakfast of tea and toast and we head out to see a bit more of Melaka, undergoing our usual routine of walking, walking and walking some more. Although the legs feel heavy after the Singapore Marathon (not an actual one) we manage to cover a fair bit of Melaka, snaking our way through Chinatown and Jonker Walk, being amazed by the many antique shops and the many trinkety places selling all types of mystical Oriental items. Meet a man who makes wooden clogs by hand - 'Girl you want clop clop shoe?' - and have lunch at a Chinese place that has a range of cool Chinese articles on the wall, including numerous portraits of Chairman Mao. Hmmmm, Red. Woman here is impressed with my very limited use of Mandarin.

We try to find the supermarket Gemma claims to have seen, which is easier said than done, though in fairness it is hidden underground with its entrances through a department store or multi storey car park. Turns out to be rubbish and we only buy bananas. Back at the hostel I make a start at updating the blog before being coerced into playing playstation instead by some Belgian guy. Shades of university...

Back off out - flit between the two malls in search of food, ending up in an incredible food court where the cheap food is not only delicious but served in the type of ridiculously huge portions yo mama used to give ya. Back to the cinema to feed the latest habit (popcorn and Hollywood). Whilst buying tickets a huge poster for the Bollywood 'straight to DVD' epic we starred in in Goa reveals itself and promises the film to be a mega Indian blockbuster. Billa 2: a must see I think.

Day 232: Melaka, Malaysia 18/05/2012

A lazy morning - breakfast and a morning watching the telly. Catch the bus to the zoo for the afternoon but first must get to Melaka Sentral station, which is meant to be around the corner but takes forever as old women direct the driver to stop outside their front doors, where there is the biggest Tesco this side of Slough to delay us further...

Eventually get to the zoo (cheap), which is amazing! Beautiful birds, naughty monkeys, tigers, lions, a (lonely) chimp and orangutans, one of which knows how to open a bottle, drink the contents and then refill it with water from the moat around its enclosure. Don't approve of giving iced tea to an animal but still pretty amazing to watch. More dexterity and resourceful than half my siblings.

Leave the zoo after a thrilling couple of hours then proceed to spend a less thrilling sixty minutes waiting for the bus back. Find the last bus to town centre has gone when at the station and find an unsuspecting English girl to share a cab back with. Tea is followed by another trip to the pictures, leave about half twelve and return to the guesthouse to find that the weekend market is in full swing outside. Investigate, hold a python (not that one) and freak Gemma out as she looks up to see me with a great serpent in my hands.

Day 233: Melaka, Malaysia 19/05/2012

An uneventful morning, find a shop where there are over a thousand pairs of football boots stacked precariously and 'everything is half price'. Poor. Back to the hostel after a solid lunch and I really make a start at typing this ol' blog up (about five hours worth). Due to technical issue with the memory card, Gemma goes to the internet cafe round the corner to upload some piccies. We talk to each other online which is strange.

Head out for tea, tackle the night market again and then watch a DVD before enduring the embarrassment of watching the Champions League Final that never was. Some of the Malaysians at the hotel are Chelsea fans which makes for a bit of fun.

Day 234: Melaka, Malaysia 20/05/2012

Wake up late after staying up til all hours with the football. Gemma runs out for lunch as I doze and comes back to tell me that there is a B-Boy contest in full swing down the road. Lunch, ice cream, breakdancing. Some incredible dancers including a troupe of seven year old girls dancing inappropriately let's say.

Uneventful evening - skype, blog - then bed.

Posted by tevs 04:32 Archived in Malaysia Tagged chinatown history malaysia cinema melaka Comments (0)

Chapter fifty two - Penang

overcast 28 °C

Day 195: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 11/04/2012

Another early morning start (you must all be feeling so sorry for us!) as we wait for our 6am minibus pick up to take us on to Malaysia, the fifth country of our trip so far. So, the bus stops after about ten minutes to pick up some more passengers we think. Wrong. The driver it appears has forgotten to feed his dog and we all watch as he dishes out some Pedigree Chum for his furry friend. Eventually get going and before long we are at Hat Yai, the last big town the Thai side of the border. Here we buy a ticket onto Penang, which works out cheaper than it would if we had booked direct in Krabi, so happy days.

The drive to the border is completely stress free and it must be said that this border is approximately one million times nicer and easy than the positively evil Poipet Thailand-Cambodia border mentioned earlier in the blog. There's even a KFC here, which speaks volumes for the place...Through customs and immigration problem free, the complimentary 90 day visa is a more than welcome addition to the pages of the passport. In a fashion similar to crossing the border into the West Midlands on the M42, the heavens open as soon as we step onto Malaysian soil. Back in the minibus and the eyelids start to feel a bit heavy...

Wake up somewhere over the bridge into Penang, where impressive views of the waterfront and the cluster of high rise buildings that adorn it. Eventually arrive and look for a decent room, which is easier said than done as the standard of accommodation here is pretty poor. However, we eventually find a good room and upon checking in and getting online discover that there is a tsunami alert in place for the region, including Penang. Krabi has even been evacuated, so if we had stayed just a few hours longer we might have had to flee. Cue reassuring emails home that we are safe, to the mostly oblivious relatives back home!

Head for food after this bit of excitement and end up getting Tandoori chicken (well received by moi and moi only). There is a real interesting ethnic mix about the place, with big Malay, Indian and Chinese influences obvious. There are also a hearty mix of prostitutes and ladyboys patrolling our street.

Day 196: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 12/04/2012

A good night's sleep (especially after the tsunami alert was lifted, phew) sees us up and about and ready for action. Shower (shared bathroom is fine) and head for breakfast. Ok, this is lunchtime really and we find a Chinese place that does very good Hokkien chicken rice at unbelievably cheap prices. Hench Chinese man serves us. See him eating raw eggs at the table opposite. New man crush.

Take a stroll and come across a very sleek, modern, air conditioned shopping mall. Not cheap. We catch the bus from the bus terminal stationed at the mall and take a visit to the Kek Lok Si Temple, an absolutely incredible Chinese Buddhist temple at the top of a pretty steep hill. There are ornate carvings and gold Buddhas galore and a 30.2 metre high (at a guess) bronze statue of a Chinese Buddhist figure. Some great city views from the top of the temple, reached by a crazy cable car. There is also a sacred pond with thousands of turtles captive in it. Reminders of the crocodile farm in Siem Reap.

We take the bus back (not to where we meant to go however) and stumble across Little India, an incredible bakery and lots of quirky, interesting places besides. I must take this opportunity to thank the Penang tourist board for pointing out and advertising the presence of an incredible aquarium/pet shop, where there is every manner of animal and fish available for sale, including snakes, frogs, puppies, spiders and of course raccoons. Almost like a trip to the zoo.

We grab dinner on the street and sit with a woman who has found herself now making up part of the crew of a yacht destined for Darwin. What a way to get about and sustain the travels! Then buy some chocolate covered peanuts, wondering why both Gemma and the guy in 7/11 are howling with laughter as I buy them. Only after leaving the shop do I see they are called 'Nips'.

Day 197: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 13/04/2012

Another lie in this morning and we are ready for another lunchy/breakfasty type meal. Find the ideal place in a nice looking cafe, where Gem's BBQ beef noodles and my soup, omelette, prawns and spinach with rice comes to about three quid. Thinking of going to Ipoh tomorrow so we go and price up the bus tickets. Mooch around the bus offices, into the mall and spy the cinema. Find myself in perhaps the most embarassing spot of con artistry/hustling as I go to the shop to get change for the bus, where a sweet little old lady, with shaved head and mullet provides me with five screwed up one Ringgit in exchange for my crisp ten. No, granny no. 'Will you take seven?' No. She hands back my money and proceeds to give me some verbal before plodding off to find someone else to rip off. Unbelievable.

ASBO nan causes a forty minute wait for the bus (we missed the first one as a result of her cheek) and we find the reclining Buddha we had read about. After a bus journey with an annoying posh British family, we arrive at the temple to find it is Songkran (South East Asian New Year) traditionally celebrated with water fights. Cue a soaking outside the entrance to the temple. More amazing however, was the hundreds of pissed up revellers raving in the temple grounds with the monks. We are absolutely soaked and refused entry to the Big Buddha and have to make do with photos from the entrance.

We walk back and dry off via the waterfront and millionaire's row. Not bad. Another street meal for tea and we head off to the cinema to see Battleship, which is surprisingly good. Another action packed day.

Day 198: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 14/04/2012

Lazy morning for a change then lunch then a packet of Nips (still funny). We decide to visit the botanical gardens and wait a considerable while for the right bus. Doesn't turn up before we leave. Instead, we head back to the room to decide where to go next, with Indonesia prevailing as the winner. An internet cafe session reveals a poor skype connection and the revelation that the ferry to Indonesia no longer runs from Penang. Find flights (which are actually cheaper than the ferry would have been).

We have a walk around and discover that Little India provides some reminiscence of our time in India, though scaled down in terms of noise, people and chaos by some one billion percent. Stumble across a big park, where families are enjoying their Saturday evenings and enjoy dinner at the same stall as last night. A huge fish noodle soup (intended for a family of four I would say) finds its way in front of me...

Get back on skype and after four computers and three venues the technical issues are ironed out and we even find ourselves watching a skype broadcast of the Grand National, direct from the Cribbin living room.

Day 199: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia 15/04/2012

Jet lag (one hour's difference to Thailand) sees us up late again and we have an early lunch and a walk around. Try again for the bus to the botanical gardens and again discover we are too impatient to wait. We find ourselves in the park we discovered yesterday and sit with an ice cream watching some kids play football. Then a quick stroll around the waterfront, Fort Cornwallis and Penang State Museum (we sound so cultured!).

A brief stop back at the room before dinner at a hawker stall food court, where our drinks are served by a portly five year old boy. Being presented one plate of noodles instead of two by the old man cooking prompts a comedy conversation. 'You want one more?'. 'Yes, please but no prawns.' 'Pork and prawn?'. 'No, just pork please.' 'No pork?' 'No, no prawns.' 'No prawns?' (looks at me like I am crazy). 'No prawns.' 'Ok'.

Posted by tevs 01:10 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food culture buddha penang georgetown Comments (0)

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