Part 12 - Malaysia
1 British Pound (GBP) = 6.3 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
Kuala Lumpar |
Thaipusam Festival |
Cameron Highlands |
Pulau Pangkor |
Melaka (Saturday 23rd January)
The bus trip to Melaka was far more comfortable than our journeys through Bali and Lombok. Air-conditioning, leg room and good roads ! It took around 5.5 hours and we arrived in Melaka (Melacca) at 3.30pm. The area around the bus station was pretty dirty, smelly and not so attractive, but once we got out of that area it became quite nice. We came to the old Chinatown and
crossed the bridge over the river into a big square, with lots of rickshaw drivers, a fort on a hill and Dutch buildings. We
were absolutely shattered when we finally arrived at the area where we wanted to stay. It only looked a short distance away
from the bus station, but took us about an hour, in the hot afternoon sun with our backpacks on. Gavin says he's never going to listen to anyone who says "It's not far" again. The first couple of guesthouses we came to were full, the next one was closed and then we found Sunny's Inn and decided to stay there.
The price was 24RM for a double fan cooled room. It was pretty
basic with shared bathroom and not as nice as some of the places we stayed in Bali, but it has a nice atmosphere and the guy Vinny,
who runs the place gave us lots of useful info about what to do in Melaka. There's a good sitting area downstairs with a TV, video, a noticeboard, books and a kitchen as well. We didn't get up to much for the rest of the day - just went a wandering. Melaka seems a nice place from what I've seen so far. There's even a big air conditioned shopping mall round the corner !
Sightseeing in Melaka (Sunday 24th - Tuesday 26th January)
So far I've liked Melaka, the only bad things are the traffic (crossing the
road can often be impossible, with no pedestrian crossings). In some
parts of the town the drains are very smelly and the part of the town
near the bus station isn't too attractive. Apart from that it's been
great. We've met lots of other travellers in the guest house. It's all
very sociable, everyone sits and chats at night, then there's a video
at 10pm from the guesthouse's extensive video collection. Nobody tries
to sell us anything apart from the taxi drivers and rickshaw drivers
offering transport and tours, which is a breath of fresh air after
being in Indonesia ! When we walk around Melaka, little kids shout
"hello" to us, we reply "hello" and they have a little giggle to
themselves, obviously practising their English. It's quite sweet.
We've done a bit of sightseeing, mainly wandering about, looking at
things and taking photos. There's a lot of Dutch buildings to see,
museums to visit and the Chinatown is colourful and interesting to
wander about in.
On Monday we visited the Museum of enduring beauty, which is definately
worth a visit. It's only 2RM to get in and consists mainly of photos,
paintings and stories of the rituals and endurance people have gone
through (and in some cases still go through) for the sake of beauty,
a place in society and attractiveness to the opposite sex. This includes
foot binding, neck rings, tattoos, piercing with heavy earrings and plugs
through the nose earlobes and lips, the use of corsets, tooth filing
and weightloss. Tiny pointed shoes once worn by women in China were on
display. Woman began foot binding from an early age causing deformation
of the bones, lots of pain and the toes to become disfigured, curving
underneath the feet. As it was painful to walk, they spent a lot of time
sitting down and as a consequence developed large thighs, which along
with their tiny feet were very attractive to the opposite sex.
Women who didn't bind their feet found it hard to find a husband or a
respective place in society. The woman who wore neckrings to elongate
their necks were punished for adultery by removal of the neck rings. As
their necks were so weak they had to support them with their hands to
hold their heads up. One story which tickled me was about men who bound
their waists. A small waist was a sign of a small appetite and this
was very appealing to women, as they wouldn't have to feed their
husbands much food - less slaving in the kitchen ! I could waffle on
about this museum for pages, but I'll stop there.
To completely change the subject Gav and I have decided to forego the
idea of eating only vegetarian food while we are here. Everything
seems very clean and hygenic and we don't want to miss out on all
the interesting cuisine while we're here - Nyonya, Chinese, Malay and
Indian. We've also found a good internet cafe here as well - in fact
the cheapest we've seen on our travels so far. It's 5RM an hour (3RM
from 11am-2pm) and has an ISDN line. We've been making the most of it
while we're here.
The last couple of nights we've gone out and sampled food from the
foodstalls on the street with a few others from the guesthouse - a
Canadian girl Jill and here boyfriend Kas from Japan, Luca from
England and Lisa from Australia. It's been good fun. We had a lovely
Chinese meal on Tuesday night from the foodstalls and shared lots of
different dishes, which was good apart from the very abrubt service.
Apparantly this is quite common at some of the Chinese places here.
The woman had an expression on her face as if to say "What are you
doing in my restaurant" and got annoyed at us when we asked her
about one of the dishes - Lovely !
Tomorrow we're off to Kuala Lumpar, the capital city of Malaysia.
There are buses every hour and lots of different companies, so it's
not necessary to book the day before. The ever helpful Vinny who
runs the guesthouse gave us lots of info about different places
to stay while we're there. I've really enjoyed Melaka and would
recommend it for a visit, along with Sunny's guesthouse if you're
on the budget.
If you are looking for a hotel in Melaka, visit this site for
traveller's reviews of hotels in Melaka
Kuala Lumpar (Wednesday 27th - Thursday 28th January)
Kuala Lumpar (KL) is no more or no less than I expected. It's a big city, hot and sweaty, lots of traffic noise and pollution, dirty
and smelly in some areas, but there's a mixture of old and new buildings, some fine architecture, a lively and bustling Chinatown, lots of modern shopping malls, high rise buildings in the financial district (The Golden Triangle), some British
influences in places and a cultural mix of Malays, Chinese and
Indians. We're staying at the Traveller's Lodge , right
in the heart of Chinatown. It's OK, but not great. According to
LP it's one of the better traveller's places in KL, but I can't
comment as I've not seen any others. The sheets are clean at least, but our room is only just a bit bigger than our bed and
very hot. The toilets are western style and the showers are cold,
which is actually a good thing after spending the day walking about in Kuala Lumpar ! There's a TV lounge which is very sparse
and nowhere near as nice as Sunny's, but we're in a big city and not expecting to get as much for our money, so it's OK.
On Wednesday we hit the shopping malls, looking for some trousers for me and insect repellent. We found the found the
trousers after a few hours of looking in lots of shops, but despite looking in around 10 chemists and supermarkets, we found
no insect repellent with DEET in it, only herbal repellents.
Understandable, since the locals would want to use herbal insect
repellent as DEET isn't recommended for long term use, but a bit annoying for us as we're running out of the stuff and I got
attacked by mossies in Melaka last night. I have seven bites
on my legs including a huge one nearlytwo inches in diameter.
The itchiness is driving me crazy ! On Wednesday night we ate from the food stalls in Chinatown Food Centre and had some tasty chicken satay with steamed rice and mixed veggies.
On Thursday we did a spot of sightseeing with Luca, the guy we
met in Melaka who's from England but has spent the last five
years working in Japan and travelling in Asia. First we went
up the Menara tower which is a huge (420m) concrete tower like
the skytower in Auckland. We had some great views of the city, although not quite as good as those in New York. Unfortunately
it's not possible to go up the Petronis Towers (the world's tallest buildings), but we had a good view of them anyway.
After that we walked around Merdaka Square and took some photos
of the Abdul Samed Building and the high court with their Moorish
architecture. The square itself consists of a cricket pitch,
interesting buildings and a huge flagpole rising 50m in the air
with the Malaysian flag flying at the top. Previously a Union
Jack was flown until 1957, when Malaysia became an independent nation. We also had a look at the Masjid Jame Mosque - KL's
oldest mosque, but never ventured inside as it was prayer time and visitors can only come in outside these times. There are also strict dress codes, especially for women who must cover their legs, head, shoulders and arms.
This evening we found another cheap internet cafe across the road - 6RM an hour and pretty fast access. It's on the top
floor of the Kota Raya mall in Chinatown and there's a good
kebab place on the bottom floor.
Thaipusam Festival (Friday 29th - Sunday 31st January)
The main reason for us staying in Kuala Lumpar until Sunday
is the Thaipusam Festival. This is a Hindu Festival (banned
in India !) and also held in Penang and Singapore, though
Kuala Lumpar has the biggest scale of celebration. During the
festival which lasts three days, Hindu people who have had their
prayers for healing, miracles, good luck, a child etc answered
will prepare themselves for the festival by going on a strict vegetarian diet for 16 days, abstaining from physical pleasure
and sleeping on a mat on the floor. They also fast for 24 hours
prior to the festival. On the Saturday morning at around 4am
they follow the silver chariot from the Sri Mahamariamman temple
in the centre of Kuala Lumpar, to the Batu Caves 12km away.
Over the weekend they walk up the 272 steps to the Batu caves.
Some carry churns of milk (paals), some pierce themselves through
the cheeks and/or tongues with skewers and tridents of varying
sizes, hang lots of little paals or fruits on their backs with
hooks or carry huge kavadis on their shoulders decorated with
peacock feathers and deities, sometimes attached to the skin
by spikes or hooks.
These acts of masochism are performed because their prayers
have been answered. Couples who have had their prayers for a
child answered carry their babies in a saffron coloured
cradle of cloth attached to a sugar cane stalk. Over a million
people gather at the Batu caves to watch and some of the
onlookers will shout "Vel Vel" to the devotees. Apparantly the
people who pierce themselves do not feel any pain or shed blood
as they are in a trance, or possessed by the spirits.
On Friday night we went over to the Rooftop Bar at the
Traveller's Inn (owned by the same guy as the Traveller's Lodge),
where a guy Stevie, the manager gave a talk on Thaipusam.
We decided to stay up until 3am with Luca, Becky and Kerry,
the people we'd met in Melaka, to see the chariot leave for
the caves. We spent a few hours drinking a bottle of dodgy Malay
vodka and playing card games, then went out to find a bar that
was open after 1am (hard task !). We ended up in an expensive
Karaoke bar which had private rooms for people to rent out by
the hour. We just sat in the main night club area which was deserted, making our 42RM jug of beer last as long as possible,
then made our way back outside to the temple. The streets were
packed with lots of Indian people and the odd tourist, and the
chariot was all lit up and ready to go. We waited for an hour
(until 4am), sweating like pigs and tired as bears, until the
chariot left. It was good to see this, but I was absolutely
shattered and trundled off to bed quite gladly.
On Saturday we lay about, ate and generally did nothing, then took a bus to the Batu Caves in the evening with Luca and Becky.
What an amazing night we had - it's hard to put what we saw and
heard and smelt into words. The place was packed with Indian
people (and not many tourists), music was blaring, curries were
cooking, incense, bananas and coconuts were burning and people
were chanting "Vel Vel" (pronounced "Well Well") to the beat
of drums. First we went down to the river to see the devotees
preparing themselves. In the past they would wash in the river,
but now it is so polluted they use showers instead. After this they are put into a trance and the piercing takes place. We were
told by Stevie that it's important not to take photos at this
stage (OK to do it later), as this will jeopordise their efforts
in piercing, causing them to come out of the trance. Unfortunately some tourists persistantly took photos and apparantly one was even attacked for this by the devotees family.
Becky and Luca so one guy getting his tongue pierced (without
flinching), but I'm quite glad I missed that ! We spent the
next couple of hours wandering about and up the 272 steps into
the huge Batu Caves. We saw lots of people taking part in the
festival, the women dressed in saffron coloured dresses, many carrying paals and the men wearing sarong type things. We saw
a couple of chinese guys with huge thick (and I mean really thick) spears through their cheeks (looked very painful). A few
of the woman were hysterical - flayling about and screaming like
they were possessed. We saw another woman touch the "possessed"
woman on the forehead, then she fainted, bit her tongue and blood
gushed everywhere. Pretty gruesome. The whole thing was amazing
though - like nothing I've ever seen before.
On Sunday Gav and I went back to the Batu Caves during the day
to get some photos of the festival. While we were there, Gav
and I got interviewed by Malaysia TV3 and asked what we thought
of the festival, what our names were, where we came from, what
we understood by the festival etc. I'm hoping that I don't
see myself on TV though - all sweaty and dirty ! We only spent
a couple of hours at the festival on Sunday as it was too hot,
but we saw quite a lot - men with their colourful kavadis on
their shoulders, a few people with milk paals or fruit (oranges
and limes) attached to the skin on their backs with hooks, parents carrying their babies with sugar cane stalks, woman and men with their tongues and cheeks pierced ( on man with a huge long trident through his mouth (see below). Quite unbelievable.
Despite being told that no blood is shed, I saw quite a few
people afterwards with blood stained hankerchiefs held up to
their mouths. The Red Cross and St John's ambulance were also
So that was the Thaipusam festival - a very interesting cultural
experience, I'm glad I don't have to do it !
The rest of the day was spent lazing around - had some food at
the food stalls, watched a video and chatted to some others in the guest house.
You can read reviews of all the hotels in Kuala Lumpur here.
The Cameron Highlands (Monday 1st - Tuesday 2nd February)
We arrived at the Cameron Highlands at around 3pm today after a four hour
bus journey along lots of winding roads, 4000 feet up into the hills.
(The bus cost 11RM each). It was great arriving in a cool climate
after the hot and sweatiness of KL. The weather was sunny and warm ,
but still cool, much like a summer's day in Scotland. We're staying at
Father's Guest House which is a great place. it's up on a hill
(a short walk up some steps) and set in a nice garden area. We got a
really comfy, nice (carpeted) room with clean sheets and a blanket
on the bed and a hot shower and toilet (shared with one other room)
for 25RM. There are also dorms for 6RM and other double rooms for 16,
18 and 20RM. the owners are really helpful and friendly and there's
free coffee and tea, a nice TV/video lounge, outside sitting area,
table tennis, volleyball and cheap Western style breakfasts in the
morning. On Monday and Tuesday we didn't really get up to much,
just chilled out, relaxed, read books, watched videos and wandered
about Tanah Rata (the area of the Cameron Highlands we are staying).
On Monday evening we had a lovely Chinese Banquet meal with 6 others
from the guest house - soup, spring rolls, eight different Chinese
dishes, followed by fruit for only 8RM each. Excellent value. After
the meal the others went off to drink Thai whiskey in the park, but
Gav and I decided to give it a miss for an early night. We had the best
sleep we've had since Singapore, all cool, but cozy underneath our
blankets - bliss.. I'm quite glad we didn't go out drinking, as we
bumped into Becky, Kerry and Luca (who are also staying here) and
they got to bed after 7am and were feeling very dodgy
Wednesday 3rd - Thursday 4th February
We planned on doing some of the walks this week, but to tell the
truth, we've been really lazy, having long lies and sitting around a
lot. We did a short tour of the Cameron Highlands and visited a
tea plantation which was interesting and very picturesque. We also
visited a strawberry farm, butterfly farm and Honey farm which were
nothing to write home about and a Chinese Buddhist temple which
was colourful and interesting. We've watched an awful lot of videos
over the past few days at the guesthouse and played lots of monopoly,
scrabble and table tennis, regressing back to childhood ! On
Wednesday Kerry , Becky and Luca left for Penang, along with Chris
another guy we met at Father's. It was nice meeting them - it's
been a good laugh and we've ended up in all the same hostels since
Melaka. We may meet up again in Georgetown in a few days time.
We had yet another lazy day on Thursday and spent over two hours
in the internet cafe, since it was cold and rainy outside. We had
another feast in the Chinese restaurant in the evening, making the
mistake of ordering a large portion of spring rolls for a starter
- a huge portion of around twelve of them arrived on a plate !
Tomorrow we're leaving this cool comfort and heading off to the
island of Pulau Pangkor.
You can read reviews of hotels in the Cameron Highlands here.
Pulau Pangkor (Friday 5th - Sunday 7th February)
After a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs and beans on toast we caught
a rusty old bus to Tapah - two hours of being thrown from side to side
as we descended down from the highlands, down the winding roads to a
warmer climate. It wasn't a comfortable journey, but the magnificent
scenery more than made up for it. We've really enjoyed the Cameron Highlands,
despite not doing much. The tranquility and beauty of the countryside
and the great little guesthouse we stayed at made it worthwhile.
From Tapah we took a bus to Lumut (10RM) which took around 2.5 hours.
This has to be the best bus I have been in (ever) - seats reclining to
almost full horizontal position, with leg and footrest as well as air
conditioning. In Lumut we took the ferry to Pangkor (3RM) which took
about 20 minutes. I was half expecting a boat like the ones we got in
Bali and Lombok (old and falling apart), but this one was new, air
conditioned with a TV and life jackets under all the seats. In Pangkor
we had to take a taxi to Teluk Nipah (on the other side of the island).
A taxi (or more accurately a pink minibus) is the only way of getting around
the island. The buses are only for locals. The price is 10RM for
two people, but we managed to get it for 18RM for six of us.
We're staying at Takanah Juo's (TJ's) in a wooden chalet with toilet
and shower for 25RM. They also have an excellent Malay restaurant
and the food is really tasty and cheap (3.50RM for most mains).
The last couple of days have been spent lazing on the beach for the
fisrt time in almost 4 weeks, having long lies and eating, not to
mention the odd beer. The beach is really pretty - long, curved and
wide yellowey white sand and the water is warm and an emerald green
colour. There's not a lot to do in Teluk Nipah and everyone seems to
flock to TJ's for food at night - the restaurant is full by 7.30pm
every evening. We've met an English couple called Simon and
Tracey, who we've spent the evenings with, eating drinking and
playing cards, which was good fun. Tomorrow we're off to Georgetown,
just for a one night stopover before heading to Langkawi to a
resort which I booked over the internet, for a special 3 night
birthday treat a la visa card.
Pangkor - very nice and relaxing for a few days on the beach, but
not for those in need of nightlife !
See this site for Reviews of hotels in Pangkor
One night in Georgetown (Monday 8th February)
We took the ferry back over to Lumut today then caught a bus to
Butterworth (10RM) which took around three hours. In Butterworth
we took one of the famous old yellow ferries to Georgetown for
60sen each (return) and checked into the Golden Plaza Hostel
for the night. It's an OK anough place, in Chinatown with a cafe, TV
room and all the usual stuff. It's 25RM for a double room with a
fan and a window. We're only staying one night here, just a stopover
on the way to Langkawi, then we'll be coming back for a few days
afterwards. We didn't do anything in the way of sightseeing today
since we'll be coming back in a few days, but we met up with Luca,
Becky and Kerry and went to the Green Planet, a place that
does decent Western food, along with a couple of Ozzie guys from the
Parartroups who Becky and Kerry had met. We had a good night and a few
beers were consumed, but not too much since we have to be at the
Jetty by 7.30am by tomorrow for our express boat to Langkawi.
I didn't get much sleep tonight as we were woken up by the loudest
thunder I've ever heard in my life along with lightning that lit up the
whole room and rain lashing through the open windows. Quite scary !
Langkawi (Tuesday 9th - Thursday 11th February)
Ask me about Langkawi and what could I tell you ? Not much ! We
stayed in Kuah, where the ferry jetty and the main town is, rather
than on an idyllic beach on another part of the island. I'd booked a
hotel called The Gates Langkawi through the internet for
a decent 90RM a night, complete with swimming pool, tennis courts, air
conditioned rooms with TV, hot water shower and fridge - Lovely !
After staying at all the basic budget places for the last couple of
weeks it was great - comfy bed, good night's sleep, swimming pool
to lounge around, cooked breakfast, not to mention duty free beer.
As Langkawi is a duty free island, the beer is very cheap compared to
the rest of Malaysia. A can of beer is RM1.20 compared to at least
RM5 in the supermarket elsewhere in Malaysia.
I'm not going to write
much about the three days we spent here because each day was pretty
similar - got up just before 10am, had breakfast at the hotel, lay
by the pool for a couple of hours, acted like small children in the
pool for another hour, had lunch in McDonalds, KFC or Kebab shop,
lay by the pool again, walked 2-3km into the centre of town, wandered
about, shopped, ate dinner, walked back again, drank beer, played cards
and watched TV. I think when you're travelling on a budget and staying in
all these grotty places it's really good to splash out now and then and
have a bit of luxury if you can afford it. It certainly did us some
good despite the fact that we drunk too much beer, ate to much
chocolate and lay about too much ! I have an excuse though - it's my
You can read reviews of all the Hotels and resorts in Langkawi here
Back to Georgetown (Friday 12th February)
It took us around 4 hours to get back to Georgetown - first the
ferry to Kuala Kedah (15RM), a taxi to Alor Setar, a bus to
Butterworth (4.70RM), then the ferry to Georgetown. Compared to
the two hour express ferry which we got from Penang to Langkawi
at 8am for 35RM it was a hassle, but we didn't want to take that
boat back to Penang as there is only one a day at 5.30pm and we
like to get there early to get accommodation.
Once in Penang, we ended up back at the Golden Plaza Hostel
again, this time in not such a nice room. In fact it feels like
a prison compared to the relative luxury of the past three days !
The Plaza's OK, but it's just the usual Malaysian city centre budget
hostel complete with grotty floors, grotty walls, hot rooms, cold
showers and shared toilets. It has a decent cafe and the sheets
are fresh and clean, so that's a bonus. Like many of the Malaysian
cities Georgetown has smelly drains, it's a bit dirty in places
and the traffic is a bit mad, but under the exterior it's a very
interesting and historical town. It's also a very Chinese town with
lots of authentic crumbling Chinese shophouses and restaurants.
Walking around is a bit like an obstacle course. Like all the
Chinatowns we've been to there are covered walkways beside all
the shops with open drains, rather like a continuous ditch
running parallel to the walkways. We continuously walk round
motorbikes, shop displays, trishaws, restaurant tables and various
animals while at the same time trying to avoid falling down a drain
or being hit by a motorbike speeding round the corner without
signalling ! We didn't get up to much today apart from
wandering around, eating and of course the internet cafe. I'm
a quarter of a century old today as well, so I'm starting to feel
old. Tomorrow is another day...
Doing the tourist bit in Georgetown (Saturday 13th -
Sunday 14th February)
On Saturday we had a look round the old Fort Cornwallis, built in 1804,
which was quite interesting. Old buildings aren't so much of a novelty
to us as there are plenty older buildings in Europe. We also took
a look at the British Colonial Buildings as well, all very lovely
and whitewashed. As there is a tall building in Georgetown we
had to go up it. It took us about an hour to find the entrance
to the Komtar Tower with its maze of shopping malls surrounding it,
but eventually we found it after asking a few people. We paid
the 5RM to get up to the 58th floor and the views were good. Most
of the observatory was covered with a giftshop and the viewing area itself wasn't that great. You can walk 360 degrees and have views of all directions, but the windows look like they haven't been cleaned in years !
On Sunday we decided to go up Penang Hill, 830 metres above sea level and 5 degrees centigrade cooler than the temperature below. We took the local bus there which was an interesting experience. When the bus stops and there's a crowd of people waiting, everyone seems to go mad, pushing and shoving there way onto the bus like their life depends on it ! I couldn't understand why since there were more than enough seats for everyone. We took the bus to a place called Ayer
Itam and visited the Kek Lok Si Temple before getting the bus to
Penang Hill. This is a Chinese Buddhist Temple on a hill with lots
of brightly coloured (and slightly garish) decorations and statues,
a very over populated turtle pond and a tower. It was interesting to
walk around, but very touristy, with about a quarter of a mile of
T-shirt and gift selling stalls on each side of the steps on the
way up (no exaggeration). Being in a Chinese Temple is very
different from a Hindu Temple or a Mosque. No dress restricions apart
from taking your shoes of in certain areas. Most of the people
worshipping were wearing shorts. There was even a huge tourist shop
inside the temple !
Back at the bus stop we waited a very hot and sweaty 45 minutes
for the driver to appear in the number 8 bus and it was a short
ride to the funicular railway station. As it was the weekend
there were huge queues of people, mainly locals and lots of mad pushing,
shoving and squeezing to get to the front as if there would be a prize for
the winner ! We got a train after around half an hour and I was surprised
at how small each carriage was. There were four "carriages" each seating 4-8
people, but with at least 20 people squashing into each carriage (yes I
counted). It was a gruelling 30 minute ride to the top with a change half
way up and cost 4RM return. Up the top, the view was great and the temperature
slightly cooler. There's a hotel, bird park, butterfly farm, walks,
tea kiosks, food stalls and a couple of temples at the top and we
spent a couple of hours just wandering about. There was a gruesome
poster outside the police station with photos of car crash victims,
including one of some unfortunate soul's head lying on the ground,
which we thought was a bit strange. Maybe this is to warn people
of the dangers of hazardous driving. In one of the Malaysian newspapers
there has been a daily report of road accident statistics. I saw this
a few days ago and noticed it was 567 accidents and 16 deaths on one
particular day. they must have a big problem with road accidents here.
I can't say I'm surprised after seeing the way some people drive here.
The invisible third lane in the middle of the road is a common one.
Anyway, back to the point - Penang Hill. It's a nice pleasant break
away from the city for a couple of hours, just a shame about all the
hassle with the queueing. Don't go on the weekend !
Killing Time (Monday 15th - Wednesday 17th February)
On Monday we rose around 8am to go to the Thai embassy. As we plan on
staying in Thailand for over 30 days we have to get a 60 day visa,
which costs 33RM (or 44 if you get someone else to do it for you). The
main reason for getting someone else to do it for you is the fact that
the Thai Embassy is on the outskirts of Georgetown. Usually you can
get the visa on the same day as you apply for it, but we found out
(after walking there which took an hour) that it is shut for Chinese
New Year tomorrow and Wednesday and we'd have to come back on Thursday
to collect it. This was a bit annoying, but there's not a lot we can
do about it, so we're stuck in Georgetown for 4 more days ! After
spending 3 whole days here I figured another day is just the right
time, any more and we'd be struggling for things to do. We could of
course go off to one of the beaches, but that doesn't seem a very
attractive option to me as the sea here is quite polluted and there's
not a lot of point sitting on a beach if you can't go swimming. I'm
sure we'll find something to do. The the fact that everything is closed
for Chinese New Year is a minus.
We spent most of Monday walking about and a few hours looking in all
the shops that were open in the Komtar centre. That was about it really,
apart from eating and sleeping, or trying to sleep. It was so hot on
Monday night that it took me hours to fall asleep. The windows were
wide open and the fan on full speed, but the room still felt like a
sauna. I'm also getting a little fed up with the room we're staying
in - apart from being hot, the floor is grotty and the mattress is
too soft and more or less on the floor, Aaaaah. Give me a four star
hotel please !!!
On Tuesday we did the Heritage trail starting from the fort and passing
various temples, mosques, houses and museums. It probably would
have been better if things were open, but it was interesting all the
same. There was a lot of activity going on at some of the Chinese
Temples for New Year, with mega sized Incense sticks burning outside
and lots of people everywhere.
Last night we had a lovely Indian
meal at a nice little restaurant in Little India. Little India starts
practically across the road from where we're staying and it's hard
to miss with all it's sash selling shops, curry restaurants and loud
indian pop music. The man in the restaurant was a friendly chap and
told us "Your people come here often", which he seemed quite pleased
about. After having Indian last night we didn't feel like it a second
night in a row (even though curry is the second national dish of
Scotland !), so we tried to find a Chinese, Malay or Western place
that was open. In the end it was McDonalds since we couldn't find
anywhere else that was open.
On Wednesday we took a bus to Batu Feringghi (meaning "Foreigner's
Rock"), which is a popular beach resort about half an hour away on
the number 93 bus from Georgetown. We spent a couple of hours sitting
on the beach (full of jet skiers, parasailers, speed boats etc) and
had some lunch and a wander about. It's not a very exciting place in
my opinion - just lots of huge hotels and a mediocre beach with brown
coloured sea. I think if I'd paid lots of money to come all the
way here for a two week package holiday I'd be very disappointed.
Last day in Malaysia (Thursday 18th February)
Our last day in every country we've been to seems to be spent sorting
things out. Today was no different. We colected our Thai visas with
no problems, changed some travellers cheques, bought some Thai Baht,
booked a mini bus to Hat Yai for tomorrow (30RM each), spent a
couple of hours in a modern fast 5RM an hour internet cafe and stopped
a Poste Restante to see if I had any mail. I got a card and a letter
from Kirsteen which was great - the fifth card and letter I've picked
up from here this week (something to do with it being my birthday last
week I think. Istill feel like I'm 24, but that'll change soon I'm
Tonight we had another lovely meal at our Indian friend round the corner
which was lovely and now we have our last sweaty night in this room.
Roll on tomorrow !
All in all I've found Malaysia very enjoyable, in fact more than I
imagined it would be. It's an interesting country with lots to see,
friendly locals (usually), lovely food, easy to travel around and cheap
to live in. We
spent a bit too long in Georgetown and only restricted ourselves
to the West of the peninsula, but it's been great and we've met lots
of travellers on the way. I'm really looking forward to Thailand now -
it's actually the place I've been looking forward to going the most,
so I hope it lives up to our expectations ! We now have exactly six
weeks left of our travels and our budget is on target (with a little
extra for a splurge). I'm enjoying myself, Gav and I are getting along
great although we've been a bit bored for the last two days in
with our overstay in Georgetown. There's no funny tummy problems to
report in Malaysia - you can eat what you like without worrying here,
even from street stalls. I still fantasize about going home
occasionally though - I guess I'm missing everyone ! Anyway, until tomorrow. A new day, a new country ...
You can read reviews of reviews of hotels in Georgetown, Penang here.
Round the World Journal Index |
USA (East) |
USA (West) |
New Zealand 1 |
New Zealand 2 |
Bali 2 |
Singapore | Malaysia |
Thailand 1 |