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Thoughts on Penang (and other exciting news!)

In keeping with the rest of Malaysia, Penang is very nice. In difference to the Cameron Highlands, Penang is very hot! I haven’t really sweated yet since I’ve been away, yeah, it’s been hot, but Penang? WOAH! I’m thinking it could just have been the change from shivering at night in the Cameron Highlands to stepping off the plane into a blanket of heat but wow!

After my wonderful night at Jim’s Place, (not only was there a bratty jungle kid but my fan didn’t work!!) I awoke bright and early and was ready to leave ASAP. I showered, packed my bag, checked the map for an idea of which direction to head for cheap hotels and so I was set. I headed downstairs. Complete darkness. Brilliant. The shutters were down, no-one was around…then I saw a man on the sofa. It was Jim.

“Jim? Jim?” I whispered, “Jim?”

He stirred.

“I need to leave now”

“Ok. You can go out the back, baby.” That’s the kind of guy Jim was. He had notice boards on the wall filled to the brim with quotes from “Sir Jim”, mainly about having sexual intercourse with the Thai population.

Glad to have finally left, I ended up in Banana Guest House! Doesn’t sound much better, does it? Thankfully, it was, and I had a very pleasant last night’s rest in Penang. A much needed one after my 8km trek through Taman Negara Pulau Penang earlier that day. That’s Penang National Park to you and me. It was a fun, sweaty hour and a half before reaching a beautiful white sandy beach with a turtle conservation centre – and a tank full of baby sea turtles! It was very cute!

I met a lovely man called Izman and his two cousins who were so kind, and gave me a lift to the Toy Museum that I’d seen on my way over. However, when I got to the entrance, I noticed the ticket price – as far as I could make out, it would have cost me 100RM (20quid!) just to see some toys. I was kinda hoping for 1-10RM…so I headed to the bus stop straight away to catch a bus back into town.

“Where do you want to go?” came an angry sounding voice from the shelter.

“Err, I need bus 101? Into the city, Komtar?”

“Ahh, yes, ok, it will come. But i’ve been waiting half an hour already. Huh!” She was quite a character, “So where are you from?”

“England.”

“Ooo, long way. How do you like Malaysia?”

“I love it! I was in Indonesia before, and I hated it. So Malaysia is great in comparison!”

She nodded and smiled. We sat for a few moments and then she asked, “What do you believe?”

“I’m sorry?”

“What do you believe? Like, God, religion? Are you a Christian?”

“Oh, I’m not religious. I…don’t know what to believe.” This was an easier answer than getting into a religious debate. I turned the tables, “And you?”

“I’m a Christian. I used to be a Hindu but then I changed. What is the point of a religion when I can’t do anything, you know? But being a Christian, I can ask for forgiveness, you can’t do that in Hinduism, I mean, we all make mistakes sometimes, we need to ask for forgiveness and my old religion didn’t allow for mistakes so now being Christian LOGOS HOPE!!!” The endless monologue was interrupted when two minibuses drove past with the words “Logos Hope” on the side.

“What’s Logos Hope?” I asked.

“It’s a boat, a travelling book fair, and it’s here in Penang, first time in Malaysia and first time in Penang and it’s here!”

What a lovely idea. A book boat shop that travels the world.

She was chatting all the way on the bus too. A very nice, open woman called Mala.

The following morning I left Penang and after a few hours stop in Kuala Lumpur airport, I arrived in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah on Borneo yesterday. So far, so good! I caught the bus into town for 30p as opposed to at least a tenner for a taxi and went for some lunch in a shopping centre. I found a small cafe in a supermarket where I chowed down on a plate of fried noodles for 40p, only to be filmed by the women on the next table…I wasn’t literally chowing the noodles down, I’m not a dog. I was eating sensibly despite being ravenous. So that wasn’t the reason they were filming me. I did still have my backpack on but get a life! I even turned back as I walked away and she was still filming me!!

It was a half hours walk from the bus station to Lucy’s Homestay (the cheapest in the book!) and if they were full there looked to be plenty of other options nearby. Thankfully, they had space and I’m now in a lovely hostel for the next three nights (well, two now!) with free breakfast and wi-fi AND I’ve had my laundry done! Hooray!

Even more exciting news is…

  1. I may be able to do a try dive in the Semorna Archipelago – apparently one of the best dive spots in the world!
  2. I have planned Borneo down to a T and should be able to hit the orang-utans (not literally), Semporna, Gunung Mulu National Park and Kuching within a time span allowing me to…
  3. GO TO SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX!! Yes! How amazing is that?! It falls just when I’m ready to leave Borneo, flights from Kuching are dirt cheap (I’ve already booked one!) and Shakira, Linkin Park, Shaggy AND Rick Astley are playing!! I mean come on, Rick Astley? Cherry on top of a fantastic cake or what?! It’s a night race around a track in the city centre so different to most races around the world. What a cool place to see my first Grand Prix! Of course, I’ll be rooting for Hamilton and Button….if I’m not too busy singing along to Rick Astley that is!

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Categories: Malaysia, Singapore, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Kuala Lum…phuurr, what’s that smell?

And so I’ve just got on the bus heading towards the Cameron Highlands to leave Kuala Lumpur.  And I’ve encountered my first Malaysian asshole. After waiting for far longer than I should have for the bus and beginning to think it was not going to arrive, I was quite relieved to finally sit down in the seat the bus driver pointed me to. I wave goodbye to my mum and sister who are, well my mum is, looking up and down the bus to locate me. Then these two men get on, one of them stares at my seat number, wanders up and down a bit and then comes back down for another seat number staring contest.

“The driver told me to sit here,” I said, “I think my ticket says four but he’s sat in four….what does his ticket say?” I waggle my finger towards seat number four. No-one bothers to ask seat number four guy what his ticket says for quite a while. Eventually, after a lot of asshole hovering in the aisle, someone asks seat number four guy. His ticket doesn’t say four! Asshole’s friend sits down next to me, and despite there being plenty of seats still free on the bus, asshole keeps hovering.

“Would you like me to move?” I asked, slightly annoyed at the fact I’d had to close my loading laptop twice already.

“Yes, yes,” he responds.

“Right, well just say so then. It’s not that difficult, no need to cause a problem is there?” I mumble, loud enough for the English people in front of me to hear, but quick enough for the asshole not to be able to understand. Quite glad now that his English was minimal. I contemplated throwing a difficult to translate insult in there for good measure but decided against it.

Despite this, Kuala Lumpur has been rather good! I was joined here by my mum and sister, Hayley, who took an impromptu holiday to see me for a few days after the disastrous start that was not being allowed on my plane, having a rubbish host in Yogyakarta and consequently a rubbish (actual) birthday. I was glad of the company. It was nice to be able to have someone I know to show my photos to, moan about how crazy dirty Indonesia is and show my surfing bruises to. I think Hayley had suffered a bout of culture shock by the time I arrived, as she found Kuala Lumpur very dirty and smelly! To be fair, it is a little, but it’s not a patch on Indonesia!

I was met at KL Sentral bus station and taken to the hotel to drop off my bags. I was then shown the sights of Central Market, where I let some little fish nibble on my feet! I know this seems to be the latest trend in the UK at the moment, but I’d not got around to having it done there and was keen to try it. Until I took my shoes off and faced the fish. It’s actually quite scary!

“They have no teeth,” the fish spa lady informed me, “They won’t bite, just massage.”

I eventually mustered up the courage to dip my feet in. It feels very odd. Difficult to describe but I’d recommend giving it a go.

We headed to “Kenny Rogers Roasters” for dinner. Yeah, Kenny Rogers as in the country music star. He was plastered all over the walls. I don’t know if he’s affiliated but it was an odd restaurant. My mum had asked if I wanted some Western food for a change, and for the sake of my sister’s dislike for rice and noodles, I agreed. Looking back, I think Hayley would have preferred a huge steaming bowl of rice boiled in Kuala Lumpur sewer water. We both opted for pasta as meat on the bone isn’t our strong point. I chose the Chicken Macaroni Cheese and she went for the Tangy Chicken Spaghetti. Mine consisted of macaroni shells, fake cheese sauce and those bits of sandwich chicken you buy in Tesco. Had I become so accustomed to nasi goreng that this was gross?

Apparently not as Hayley didn’t much enjoy her meal either. She had the same chicken as me, the macaroni substituted with spaghetti and instead of fake cheese sauce; she had “tangy” gravy poured over it all. Delicious.

The next day, we took the KL Hop On Hop Off bus to the Butterfly Park. This was great as pavements here aren’t made for walking. Unfortunately it rained during the bus journey so the lady at the butterfly park informed us there may not be as many butterflies due to the rain. Where they were hiding I don’t know. I didn’t mind though, because I saw more tortoises and turtles than butterflies! Hooray!

I also realised during my batik course in Yogyakarta that my souvenirs were becoming significantly tortoise themed after being given a little wooden tortoise by the French family in Bali and making my own tortoise batik. To add to the collection, I got a little fimo tortoise magnet from Kuala Lumpur yesterday. I’m not obsessed, they’re just everywhere…

Anyway…back to what I’ve been up to. The next day I saw some more tortoises and turtles. Genuinely. But they weren’t the main attraction, the KL tower was. However, when you get your ticket, you are offered to choose one additional activity, and as the F1 simulator was taking a siesta, Animal Zone it was! The KL tower lift made my ears pop, but when you arrive at the top, you’re given a little iPod-esque device with a video tour telling you which window to look out of and what you can see, quite cool. Then we went to Animal Zone and saw some tortoises.

Yesterday was another animal themed day. This time there were no tortoises, just deer, two bears, some pets and some ELEPHANTS! We went on a little package tour to a nearby elephant sanctuary – stopping at Deerland on the way – where you could feed the deer, see a hamster in a cage big enough for one of the bears and have your photo taken with a bear! An actual honey bear, like Winnie the Pooh. Except if A.A Milne had had his books illustrated with real honey bears, then Disney would now not be raking it in from the 100 Acre Wood.

The main attraction was of course the elephants – and the extraordinary amount of Lancashire folk on our bus, which always alters my mum’s accent. That’s Lancashire folk that alter my mum’s accent, not elephants. She doesn’t speak Mammoth.

Our ticket entitled us to feed the elephants, ride the elephants and bathe with the elephants! Very exciting! However, on hearing the words “Watch out for the poo”, seeing the colour of the water and watching everyone else being splashed with said water as soon as they sat on the elephant, we chose not to “bathe” with them. The feeding was fun though, and the ride. Hayley and I rode together.

“Can I get on first? Behind the man, then I’ll be in the middle, think it’ll be safer,” she asked, not knowing how sweaty the elephant man was going to be.

All in all, I have a very good first impression of Malaysia. Especially in comparison with Indonesia, so much so that I’m now considering changing my plans again to avoid having to head back to Sumatra for orang-utans and diving, but instead heading to Sabah as originally planned to do the same stuff in an all round nicer feeling country.  Subject to change. But hopefully not.

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Categories: Malaysia, South East Asia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Uploads, Uploads, Uploads!

Hello!

Today I did a very relaxing, arty Batik course. I’ve had plenty of free time this afternoon and easy access to speedy internet so I’ve taken the opportunity to upload a heap of videos to Youtube and photos to Flickr. Feel free to check them out and have a break from my words and actually see what I’m up to!

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Pangandaran, which is a small beach town that was hit quite badly by a tsunami a few years ago so is now very quiet, but still a brilliant place to try surfing, which I hope to attempt!

Categories: Indonesia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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