We are having a lot of trouble uploading pictures on this connection. It tells us that some are uploaded but doesn’t include them. I’ve given up! I’ll fix it another time.
Malaysia was originally just an obstacle between Singapore and Thailand, we didn’t even know if we were going to go over it by land or just fly over it. We ended up going slowly through the country, taking well over a week to get from one side to the other.
Driving from Singapore to our first stop, Malacca, was pretty uneventful. There was no stark contrast between the two sides of the border like in other countries (see Bolivia vs Chile!). What we did see were massive drainage systems all along the highway to deal with the huge monsoons they get here. They even had drains cut into any hills meeting the road to help control the flow of water. There were groups of those big grey bearded monkeys just minding their own business on the side of the road at points and otherwise it was just an expanse of jungle in every direction. Every few minutes we would pass a crew of workers with strimmers (weed whackers for you Americans?) cutting the grass along the highway. It seemed like a very inefficient way to deal with the grass but there were enough toll bridges to cover those costs. There seems to be an unbreakable rule that if you’re on a good road in a poor country, you will hit too many toll bridges to count. And the tolls usually aren’t cheap either!
I can’t really describe what the city of Malacca was like, because despite spending 3 days there, we didn’t walk more than 15 minutes from the hostel. We stayed in the ‘old town’ which housed both Chinatown and Little India. Through both Singapore and Malaysia every town and city has a Chinatown and a Little India.
This is where we discovered real Indian food. Omgggggggg so good. We really just ate our way through Malaysia. The indians make tea that is really sweet and mixed with sweetened condensed milk instead of regular milk. It’s so sweet it is almost syrupy. So amazing (this is coming from someone who drinks his tea with 2 sugars anyway).
They make Roti, which is like a crepe but much less healthy, and is fried in butter and also really sweet. And they also have loads of types of naan bread (including one called Kashmiri, destroyed in sugar with raisins and honey) and chicken briyani which is like curry and rice.
After trying to force the savoury food in Bali and Singapore down my throat this was a welcome change. Kasey forgot to mention in the last post but they were selling fish head soup in Singapore – I’ve a picture of one menu actually!
That was the whole menu, and as willing as I am to try new things, I think that is where I draw the line!
We stayed in a hostel that had a canal outside its back door. Venice style, but sadly no gondolas. Walking along the canal was the quickest way to get to the cheap Indian restaurant so we made good use of it. We ate breakfast every day at a cafe on the canal too.
I should just throw the rest of the Malacca pics here too, we really didn’t do anything worth mentioning! The famous attraction was some red buildings nearby, I think they were Buddhist temples? Or churches? I didn’t even notice them being red when I was walking past them and was wondering what all the Chinese tourists were taking photos of. Colourblindness strikes yet again.
We had a big issue with getting our laundry done. Between power outages (surprisingly common on this side of the world!) and closing times (everyone disappears around midday and i don’t think it is for a siesta) and just not being able to find anyone to do them (guest houses required you to be a guest and our guesthouse didn’t provide the service – typical!). We are trying our best to avoid being the stereotypical smelly travellers but people just make it so difficult sometimes!!
Ok next stop was Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is known to the locals). It was only like 4 hours in a bus (pfft, down the road!) which was really nice. Sadly that’s not the trend!
My sandals were coming apart again; the superglue we used to keep them together in South America was wearing out. They fit really nicely so we weren’t prepared to fork out money for new ones when we could get these ones fixed. We hunted down a cobbler – it turns out there were a few sitting outside of a major train station near our hostel. It seemed dodgy but from experience it seems like the most dirty or badly set up places are the most legit.
The first guy we went up to had some broken English and took my sandals from me. I sat on a box for the next twenty minutes while he finished off another mans shoes, then glued and stitched mine. He charged the other man 10 ringgit and charged me twice as much for the same thing. I wasn’t upset at all (it’s the gringo tax), it worked out at about €5 for a good as new pair of shoes.
Here he is, he was kind enough to let us take a picture!
We had Japanese food – I discovered ramen and got more chopstick practice. Kasey bought this stuff, it is a coconut snack thing cooked in bamboo sticks. It was… Different. Eating from stalls on the street is definitely a great way to go though. Half the time it is just impossible to know what you are eating until you try it.
Well we obviously went sightseeing, here are some Petronas twin tower pics!
And we went to a big shopping area because the bus stopped there… It was very upmarket, if you wanted to go to the toilet on the same floor as the entrance you had to pay for the ‘VIP’ toilet, otherwise you could just go up or downstairs. Here’s the fancy fountain outside.
We took a trip out to the Batu caves. They are a Hindu holy site, the main cave was covered in Hindu altars and had a huge cemented floor. To me it seemed really desecrated from its original state but I was probably just being cynical. It was hard to get any pictures with the lighting but we have some of the walk up to get to the cave entrance, a couple inside and some monkey pictures too! There were signs saying not to feed the monkeys and then people selling food with which to feed the monkeys. Talk about getting mixed messages! Oh that gold statue is the largest in the world of whatever god it depicts. I think they said it was 160 feet tall.
More important here was the neighbouring Dark Caves. It is a research site and we couldn’t get any pictures but it was pitch black, covered in millions of bats and had a lot of tiny animals living in and on the guano (bat shit). Lots of weird cockroaches and tiny other insects. Some insects are only found in this cave, including the rarest spider in the world. There were plenty of other spiders in there though and they were really scary looking.
We crossed paths with a massive snake too. The snake eats the bats and uses the tour walkway as his own little road to easily get around the cave. He was wild and was not impressed that we were using ‘his’ road so we had to pass him very carefully.
Oh, there were a lot of pigeons on the roof of a cafe outside the cave.
We shopped a little bit too, Kasey bought a skirt and we were about to both get a fish bath but when Kasey saw my facial expression when I stepped in she absolutely refused to try and got her money back. It was a weird sensation and VERY ticklish but I got used to it after a while and it was nice. Also, my feet felt really nice and soft for the next day.
Next stop: Georgetown aka Penang. Georgetown is actually a heritage area within the island city of Penang. We had to cross the longest bridge ever to get to the island, it seemed to just go on and on for miles!
We had great intentions with Georgetown. We meant to go to a night market a little outside the city but ended up being too tired. We meant to go to monkey beach, which came complete with its own monkeys, but the 2 hour trek in 35+ degree heat (that’s 100 Fahrenheit to you imperialists) was too daunting. So we explored the immediate area and actually had a really good time doing just that.
Across the road was a great Indian restaurant, we ate there at least twice a day. The good places don’t have walls or doors, just pillars and crappy benches. The cockroaches and the mice in the restaurant and rats and the half dead kittens on the street didn’t turn us off (well maybe the rats did a little bit) and being ok with with all those things must mean we are really desensitised to the bad hygiene.
There was a 60ft tower (see picture) dedicated to queen Victoria, each foot of the tower symbolising a year of her reign. I looked at the tower and couldn’t see any feet, then asked the inevitably stupid question “where are the feet?”. Kasey thought it was very important to show my stupidity to everyone by including it in the blog.
Oh in case anyone here somehow didn’t know – there is an election campaign ongoing in Malaysia. If you didn’t spot the first flag on each street corner the other 99 are sure to catch your attention.
Kasey got henna done on her arm and foot, it is an Indian thing usually done by a bridal party the night before a wedding. It is temporary tattoo using a type of paint. It lasts up to 4 weeks but with all the salt water and towel drying we put Kasey’s through, it hardly lasted a week. It looked very cool while it lasted though! All the Indian women commented on it (and the Thai ladyboys)!
We went on to Thailand from here, a 12 hour journey complete with 3 ladyboys in the minivan! Exciting stuff to come!