Malaysia

Trip Start Sep 01, 2008
1
12
15
Trip End Sep 01, 2009


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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Monday, March 23, 2009

So it's finally my turn to write in our blog. Now you get to hear what really goes on in our travels! We arrived in KL unscathed and eager to be back in Asia. Yes! Cheap food and accommodation, hadn't seen that for a long time.  Besides all that we love really Asian culture. Our first impressions of Kuala Lumpur was that it was just another big dirty city, which hasn't changed. Checked into Le Village hostel in China Town for $10 a night, and then headed out for some street grub. Chicken satay and rice at $4 for the two of us, brilliant. Ahhhh! Good to be back! Stayed in the city for a few nights and then we decided that we wanted out of the metropolis for a bit, so we took a bus the next day down  south to a port town called Melaka.
After a pleasant two and a half hour air conditioned bus ride, we arrived in Melaka. Great time to visit as it was Chinese new year, but not so great for finding accommodation. After discovering that our Lonely Planet recommendation was booked, we pulled the old trick where I get to wait in a café with the bags whilst Tone hunts for a room. Not a bad deal for me. He found us a great spot with a roof top "patio" just around the corner from the main street. The place was in need of a few licks of paint but you can't complain for ten bucks a night. We got settled in and then set out to explore. The little town had a lot of character with all of the red Chinese lanterns draped across the streets for the celebration. Vendors selling everything you could imagine and wonderful aromas coming from various food stalls. We wanted to try something new and adventurous for dinner, but after walking around for an hour and trying to find a seat, we settled for some fried rice. Something new and different? Not so much. Oh well. There would be many more culinary adventures to come.
The next day we had a very leisurely walk around the city, checking out all the sites. That night Howard (the owner of our guesthouse) took us to his pub where they had live music. His business partner Ringo plays guitar and sings there most nights. When he heard that Tone and I like to play he had us picking out song selections. I got up and sang a few with Ringo and then Tony and I did a few numbers. The Chinese patrons very much liked their Canadian musical guests. It was great fun.
In the morning I informed Tony that we were getting a trishaw ride and heading into Little India for some curry in the afternoon. So after a stop at the royal wooden palace, we bartered for a noisy trishaw trip. They have their vehicles all pimped out with huge fake flowers and blast music out of big speakers rigged to the back. Lots of  Billy Jean and Thriller pumping out of those things. So we spent some time walking around checking out the bindis and the mehndi and the bangles and the saris. Man I could spend hours in any Little India. I'm sure that Tone would agree. We stopped off for a bite at our first banana leaf restaurant. They serve you all kinds of curries, chutneys and sambles right on your banana leaf place mat. The best part is that you get to eat with your hands!
Few places where you can do that and it's actually acceptable (with the exception of medieval times). The food was fantastic.
All in all we probably spent about six fairly laid back days in Melaka. Lots of strolling and lots of eating. When we had enough we headed back for the noise of KL. We didn't really want to stay there long, but there was a Hindu festival going on at the near by Batu Caves. So we would have to rough it for a few more days. The festival is called Thaipusam and we were both pretty excited about the fact that we would get to experience this, as we have heard about it and always wanted to go. A chance of a lifetime. Every year over 3 million Hindu followers travel to the batu caves where they show their devotion to their gods. Many of them give back for wishes granted that year by piercing themselves with skewers and hooks of different shapes and sizes. Not for the squeamish.
  So when the day arrived we were pretty eager to get on the train to the caves. After a long and sweaty wait for our ride, we finally arrived at our destination. Immediately after stepping off the train your through the gates. You're greeted by the site of many people (men, women, boys and girls) getting their heads shaved for the event. Loud (and I mean deafening) music is blasting out of speakers everywhere, and surprisingly enough there are even fairway rides. Beautiful women are decked out in wonderful silk saris with little white flowers hanging from their long ebony locks. There are tonnes of stands lining the walkways where they're selling everything Indian from bangles to Bollywood. We passed by there as quickly as we could (which wasn't very fast) so as to get closer to all of the real excitement. We broke through the crowd to find yet another slew of people who are watching the never ending procession of devotees making their way to the caves. There were women with large urns of milk called "cassava" balanced atop their heads who seemed to be in a trance state. Some of the men were participating in this as well only with much larger urns. Though the real spectacles, were the men (and a few women as well) who were carrying very large cage-like contraptions that were adorned with pictures and peacock feathers. And as if this wasn't enough, they were pierced with several hooks (some through the back, some through the chest) which in many cases had some type of fruit hanging from them. Some of them even had thick skewers that went right through one side of their face, through their tongue, and out the other side. Wow! What a site. You don't see that every day that's for sure. I was snapping pictures left right and center, while Tone was busy getting some video footage. Every once and a while we had to back up, as some of the men were really getting into the dancing and their large contraptions could have taken an eye out. I had to take a breather and step away from the crowd for a minute, so I left Tone to filming. People were interested in where I was from and wanted to know how I was enjoying myself (we were among the few white tourists) and would come up from out of nowhere to start a conversation. They are really lovely people. I learned that they have actually banned this type of festival in Indian, interesting. Tone came over and we met each other with inquiring looks. Hmmm. Should we go for it? Yeah, let's do it! We headed over to commence the long trudge up the two hundred and seventy two steps to the caves. As we were walking we saw a familiar face and shouted out "hey Pierre!". Our French friend that we had met on Fraser Island in Oz was heading to the steps as well. Small world. So the three of us squeezed into line as best we could. We were at a stand still for at least fourty five minutes or so, absolutely soaked with our own sweat as well as the sweat of others. Pierre decided that he had had enough and pushed his way out of line. All of a sudden the crowd began to surge forward carrying us with it. People were pushing and shoving, and one man was even involved in a tug of war with a thief over his camera. I even had the pleasure of having my bum grabbed several times by lord knows who. I angrily turned around and shouted " hands off my ass!"which was just met by men giggling like school girls. Charming. "Tony, I'm going in front of you from now on." When we reached the foot of the steps our hearts were pounding with adrenaline. There was a bit more space on the steps which was a definite relief.   I haven't even felt such a rush since my last Tool concert. Some guy looked at us and said "you two okay?" We assured him we were fine. "Where you from my friend?" "Minnesota baby!" This dude was having a riot. We finally got to the top of the massive   opening. We were told that it's the second largest cave in the world. It was jam packed with, you guessed it, more people. Our nostrils were filled with the smell of incense and there were many people being blessed by swamis while others chanted loudly. Quite the sight for our western eyes to behold. As you can imagine we of coarse had no idea as to what was happening, it was just a thrill to be a part of it. After taking in all the sights that the cave had to offer, we started our decent down the steps. It didn't take nearly as long going down as coming up.  We thought that we would want to stay all day long and into the night, but after four hours we were done. Completely exhausted! Imagine how some of the pierced worshipers felt. So we took our filthy selves back into the city for a much needed shower.
We decided that our next stop in Malaysia would be in Batu Ferringhi on the island of Penang, named so after the penang or beetle nut which some Asians mix with tobacco and chew to put a little lift in their day. After we had come to this conclusion, Tone checked his email and discovered that his parents had booked a last minute trip to Malaysia and were heading to Batu Ferringhi. It couldn't have worked out better. They had booked a three bedroom apartment with access to the resort pool. We were both definitely excited for this and very ready to leave our little shoe box of a room for some luxury. So we got the okay from the property manager Kelvin and went to the condo a few days earlier than the folks to get settled in. Wow. Clean fluffy towels? Air con? Big cushy bed? We have arrived. 
Kelvin came in the afternoon and drove us to Gurney plaza so that we could pick up some groceries and other provisions. What a super nice guy. The next night he took us out to dinner at one of his local spots where we tried ostrich for the first time and it was very tasty. We then killed some time at the night market before the parents were to arrive.
Kelvin came with us to wait in the lobby for them, and when they finally arrived they were absolutely knackered. It was so good to see them after so long, and so weird and wonderful to have people from home with us in Asia.
We spent the next few days lounging by the pool and catching up with James and Steph. Well you can only take so much pool and sun so one day (don't ask me to remember which) we peeled ourselves off the deckchairs and ventured into Georgetown. First we went to the reclining Buddha temple and the Myanmar Buddhist temple. James and Steph loved their first taste of authentic Asian architecture.  We then headed around the town to a few other temples and a taste of the city. We ended our excursion in Little India which you all know I love, and this one was no exception. Probably the best one I've been to yet.  After a long and crazy bus ride we were back in Batu Ferringhi.
We spent many more days lounging, working out at the gym and swimming. It was so great as we all needed the break. Steph and James were sick of the winter and all the shovelling, and as silly as it may sound, Tone and I were wiped from traveling. Not all of our time was lazy though. Steph and I decided to have a girl day and went back to Little India so that we could do some serious shopping without the boys. We had an amazing day looking in on Hindu temples, eating Indian cuisine, and of coarse, shopping!   I was really in need of the female company.  We came back at around 9 pm to find that the boys had been out on scooters all day long, and had driven around the whole island. Props to them for braving the crazy traffic! They both had a terrific time.
 
James and I had our own day as well. We went to the fish spa where we had an hour of reflexology, a half hour neck and shoulder massage, and finally the fish spa. For those of you who aren't familiar with that, I'll explain. The spa has tanks full of little fish called garra ruffa, or more commonly known as "Dr. Fish". You put your delicate tootsies in the water and the fish immediately go to work eating away all of the dead skin. Sounds gross, but it actually feels very relaxing after you get over a fit of the giggles. When you're done your toes feel as soft as a kitten. They had small, medium and larger fish, so we opted to go for the big boys. We both really enjoyed it, only it seems the big Dr. Fish were a bit over eager when it came to Pounds as they ended up taking a little chunk of flesh off his leg. I thought that they weren't supposed to have teeth? Still, he soldiered on and got over his injuries just in time for a margarita at lunch. It was great to have some one on one with Pounds.
Tone and Steph ended up renting a scooter and touring the island. The highlight of their day was spending time at the snake temple. They were privy to the feeding of the resident ten meter long reticulated python. He has amazing footage of the thing swallowing a live chicken whole. They were then instructed to leave the cage because "one chicken not enough and the snake may still be hungry".
So it was about three weeks that we ended up staying with the parents, which both parties were thrilled about. "We thought we'd only get two!" they exclaimed. The last Friday before we left the four of us had a night out at the Lone Pines. The buffet dinner was 69 ringgit (about $23) and all you can eat and drink until about 10:30, so we showed up for 6. Needless to say, the night got a bit messy. The minute your glass touched your lips the waiter was over to refill it, we didn't have a chance of staying sober. The four of us were up dancing most of the night, with Tone and I cutting in with all the old biddies. We had so much fun that our heads definitely felt it the next day.
Had a few more days with James and Steph, then bid them farewell and caught the ferry to the neighbouring island of Langkawi. The entire three weeks was such a good break for Tone and I. It was so good to see family and recharge our travel batteries and now we were ready to start exploring again. 
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