Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Real Live Pirates

28 September 07

I missed International Talk Like a Pirate Day. And I’m really sad about that. The DH will tell you it is for the better, because he has heard me try to talk like a pirate.

Despite not honoring their special day, I am actually fascinated by pirates. Who isn’t after Mr. Depp brought his special touch to the genre. (I read somewhere that the Chinese government was not pleased with the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie and actually cut some scenes out because they thought that Chow Yun-Fat played up Chinese stereotypes that they would rather the world forget about. No clue where I read this, though.)

Pirates are on my mind because I’ve been reading National Geographic online again. This month they are featuring an article on the modern pirates of the straits of Malacca, the narrow shipping channel between Malaysia and Indonesia where millions of dollars worth of cargo travels each day. Great reading.

I’m infinitely tickled at saying “Malacca” ever since I visited the city last year and later found out malaka is a nasty word in Greek.


Malaysia, Truly Asia

22 May 06

In Malaysia’s tourism advertisements, the country is touted as being “truly Asia,” representing various cultures of Asia within one country. I’ve already mentioned the diversity and multi-culturalism that makes Malaysia so interesting. Unfortunately, as I browsed through my holiday photos, I realize that they do not really give a good overview of the people or the architecture that I liked so much. I think I was too busy melting in the heat to take pictures. Or it could have been the torrential downpours that left me doing this:
KL Downpour
instead of taking photos!

Anyway, here are the photos I like the best of the ones I took:

The beautiful Petronas Towers, no longer the tallest buildings in the world, but still very interesting architecture. They form a 5 point star, representing the 5 pillars of Islam.
Petronas Towers

One line of the Kuala Lumpur transit system. A way to avoid the rain and heat! These stations may look familiar if you have seen the movie “Entrapment.”
Kuala Lumpur Monorail

In KL we meant to explore Chinatown, looking for shopping bargains. Instead, we sat in this food court, drank Tiger beers and waited for a break in the rain.

KL Chinatown Petaling Street KL Chinatown Food Court

After KL, we visited Langkawi Island. The first night we stayed in a nice beach chalet, the second in a more economical hostel. One of the places we visited is 7 Wells, natural pools formed by a river.

Langkawi Beach Hut Seven Wells

Here is a photo of some interesting architecture found around Melaka, in the Southwest of Malaysia.

Melaka House

Our last destination was Tioman Island – a practically deserted island dream!

Nipah Left View Tioman Dream Nipah Right View Nipah Beach
Nipah Village is only accessible via the water, there are no roads. It was quiet, peaceful and relaxing. There is excellent snorkeling off in both directions, as well as great food. More of a shack than a resort, but what more do you need when you are already in a natural paradise? I wish I had photos of the underwater life. Snorkeling there is like jumping into the aquariums at Seaworld. Utterly incredible. The seabed is alive with all kinds of coral, thousands of colorful tropical fish and even reef sharks. Nemo? Found him, and all of his brothers and sisters, too. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The hammock where I spent most of my time – occupied by DH, and the view upwards that lulled me to sleep many an afternoon! (Falling coconuts the only danger!)
Lazy Hammock Hammock View
If you ever find yourself in want of a holiday in an interesting and exotic locale, why not choose Malaysia? It is, as they say, Truly Asia.
(Corny enough for ya?)

Vacation Travel Recovery

16 May 06

After a journey home, over 24 hours, and a few days back here in Shijiazhuang, I am finally recovered from travel. This is why I think it is better to just terminally stay on vacation – because then you never have to recover from your transit travel.

My last post said that I was in Mersing, waiting for a bus to Kuala Lumpur. Let me tell you about my 24 hour journey home. It started earlier that day on the island of Tioman – at 5PM we took a speed boat to Mersing, one hour. From Mersing, we took a bus to Kuala Lumpur – 6 hours. At 5AM we arrived in KL and then took a one hour taxi ride to the airport. At 8AM we flew from KL to Shenzhen, China, which was 4 hours. Then we took a 3 hour plane ride to Beijing. Then an hour and a half across Beijing rush hour traffic in a taxi to the train station. Then a 3 hour train ride to Shijiazhuang. Then a 45 minute taxi ride to the airport hotel, where we live.

We left Tioman at 5PM on Saturday. We arrived home at 11PM on Sunday night. Phewwww.

I’d go back tomorrow!

Photos coming soon…

Escape From Paradise

13 May 06

Just a quick update from Mersing, a small city on the Southeast coast of Malaysia. We’ve just arrived here after 4 days on “Bali Hai” aka Tioman, and all I have to say is that it was paradise. I will fill you in all the details upon my return to SJZ.

We’ve got a 6 hour bus ride ahead of us to Kuala Lumpur and then a train ride to the airport. (And it is 8 PM, so it will be an all nighter.)

Unlike Dorothy, I do not want to go home! Smiley

Now From Melaka

9 May 06

Hello from Melaka! Right now I am in the bus station, waiting a few hours for my bus ride to the East coast.

So, Melaka…
Melaka is hot, but amazingly, it hasn’t yet rained. The city is fairly small and full of colonial architecture that is very interesting. There are a lot of Chinese here, and so it is slightly comforting to be able to understand a few words here and there spoken by the locals. Not to worry about communication, though because just about everyone here speaks English. Regularly you will hear Mandarin Chinese, English, Malay, Punjabi and probably a couple more languages, too.

I know I already said it, but I am so impressed with the cultural diversity here. Of course I stick out like a sore thumb with my pale skin, freckles and red hair, but I get stared at much less here than in China. I am so oblivious to it by now, though, that I may not realize whether people are staring or not.

Sunday evening in Langkawi I was talked into renting a moto and going for a tour of the island. It turned out to be a lot of fun because we got to see quite a lot of the island. It is no Koh Chang (Thailand), but it certainly has some amazing tropical rain forests. The beaches are okay, but nothing like I expected. (We were there during the off season, though, so it may be much better in the coming months.) There are many resorts all along the coast, which are very nice looking and probably have better beaches, but as resorts usually are, these are off-limits unless you are staying there. So, I would recommend the place if you are the all-inclusive resort type. Unfortunately, we are not.

On our bike ride, we stopped off at a place called “7 Wells” where there are 7 natural pools formed by a small river flowing down off a mountain. Eventually, the water plunges over a marble cliff and forms a huge waterfall. I am sure years ago it was amazing, but one of the resorts set up a huge water pipe to drain some of the water off the river and now it is much smaller than it was before. The highlight of the trip was observing a family of monkeys. (Seeing monkeys always makes me happy!) Unfortunately, they were monkeying around in the trash dump of a nearby resort. I guess you can tell what I think of resorts.

I also read that Langkawi was hit by the boxing day tsunami of 2004, but was very fortunate to escape serious damage and death. In fact, only one person was killed. Much of the Western part of the island suffered water damage and flooding, but since the waves had already hit Indonesia and had to curve around a bit to hit Langkawi, they were travelling at only 160 km/hr. Honestly, the only evidence we could see was a memorial set up at one of the hotels, made up of a bent, twisted beach chair mounted on a granite base. There was also a hotel complex that seemed to be abandoned, perhaps from water damage. Malaysia’s death toll from the tsunami reached only 68. Very fortunate, indeed.

Now that we are heading to a small island, I may not be updating this blog again until I return to SJZ on the 14th. The internet connection on Langkawi was painfully slow, so if there is internet on Tioman, I expect it to be practically prehistoric!

I’m Melting

7 May 06

No,  I’m not turning into the Wicked Witch…not yet anyway. Instead, I am in the hot and humid country of Malaysia. I don’t think that I was built for this kind of heat, but I am enjoying it anyway.

What can I say about Malaysia? So far we have spent two days in Kuala Lumpur and two on the island of Langkawi, on the West coast very near the Thai border. It has rained everyday, and when not raining, it might as well be.

My impression of KL? I am so enchanted by it. I love the colors, the humidity (it does amazing things for the skin), the architecture and all the tropical decay. Also, the fact that it is a city, but it is so full of palms and trees and flowers and green everywhere. The food is incredibly fresh and varied. It is like being in China, India, and tropical Asia all at once, with its different cultural groups, the Chinese, Indians, Malays and Indigenous tribes, all living in seeming harmony. There are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Indigenous Animinsts all living side by side.  What is so spectacular is seeing their temples side by side, too. I love that you can see a hejabi (a muslim girl/woman who wears a headscarf) walking down the street beside a girl in a mini-skirt. I am sure that racism and religious intolerance exist here, as they do everywhere, but it was less evident to me.

My love affair with KL waned only slightly after observing two healthy-looking rats chasing each other down an alleyway. This is the tropics after all.

We went to the mall next door to the Petronas Towers (beautiful, btw) and I just stood there in total awe. A mall may not be an exciting thing to those Americans, Canadians and Europeans out there, but for a girl who just spent the last eight months in rural China, there is nothing more exciting than an enormous bookstore with a zillion English books, and shops full of the latest fashions. This feeling reminded me so much of being in Kuwait, and how thrilled we all were by the thought of the coming summer and the trips to the US with its mega malls or to Europe with its cute boutiques. (Now that Kuwait has malls and all kinds of shops, I don’t know if that feeling would still be relevant.)

Anyway, now we are on a sleepy island where there is not too much to do and it is so hot that I just had to escape to this internet cafe to enjoy the A/C. Tomorrow we are heading down the West coast to the town of Melaka, which was a Portuguese colonial village. From there we will head to the East coast and the island of Tioman, where “South Pacific” was filmed…Bali Hai….

Awwwwww. Life is good…. More to come, hopefully with pics!

It’s Time Again for a Vacation from our Vacation

1 May 06

Yes, that’s right, we will soon be on the road again (technically in the air) on our way to our quarterly vacation. This time we are headed to Malaysia! We will be leaving May 4th and returning May 14th. I will try to blog some updates along the way, but in case I can’t, I just wanted to let you know ahead of time.

Once again we are doing this is in a semi-spur of the moment kind of way, seeing as how we leave in a few days and I just started to look at hotels and bus schedules and of course we have no guide book. Okay, I am probably freaking my parent’s out now so don’t worry, I do have a plan. (And we have several friends and friends of friends in Kuala Lumpur.)

So far our itinerary is to show up in KL, spend a few days, head south to a charming Portuguese city called Melaka, and then who knows? The good news is that Malaysia is a friendly country with very little in the way of troubles, unlike nearby Indonesia. We have considered making the jump over to Malaysian Borneo to see some serious rain forest and the orangutans, but I’m not sure we’ll have time this trip. I am dying to hold a baby orangutan. (If my family were here right now at least one sibling and possibly a parent would make some wise-crack about me returning to my roots or finding my long last family… Speaking of said sibling, didn’t you just get older?)

Anyway, for the geographically challenged, this is where we are going:

Malaysia is made up of two parts – a penninsula bordering with Thailand, and an island to the east, two thirds of which belong to Indonesia. You can see Malaysia above in light green.

Above is a closer look at the two parts of Malaysia.

And finally, above is a close up of the penninsula, where we will be spending our time.
Well, I’m off to plan this new adventure!