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Part 12 - Malaysia

1 British Pound (GBP) = 6.3 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

Melaka | Kuala Lumpar | Thaipusam Festival | Cameron Highlands | Pulau Pangkor | Georgetown | Langkawi | Penang (Georgetown)

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 there !

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 (especially Becky).

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 birthday tomorrow.

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 sure !

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 | Pre-Trip | USA (East) | USA (West) | Fiji | New Zealand 1 | New Zealand 2 | Australia | Bali | Lombok | Bali 2 | Singapore | Malaysia | Thailand 1 | Thailand 2

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