A Travellerspoint blog


Anyone for Tiffin?

semi-overcast 29 °C

Here we are celebrating the halfway point in our adventure by being terribly British and taking "Tiffin" in the renowned Eastern and Oriental Hotel, Georgetown, Malaysia. Ex-pats have been fed and watered in this bastion of colonialism since the days when the sun shone continuously on the Empire in 1885.
Tiffin, (lunch), today consisted of a fabulous assortment of local seafood with exotic sauces and salads. Grilled lamb, duck and chicken to follow, together with such British rareties as braised oxtails and fish pie. The deserts were simply divine.
And to make lunch just perfect we bumped into Kate and Mark from the English Midlands - new found friends from Langkawi Island - with whom we shared adventurers tales.
Here is Jim's fish plate starter!

But we don't usually eat like this. Last evening we ate at the Night Market - spring rolls, chicken biriyani and roast duck with rice for just six dollars for us both, and that included a can of Sprite each.
In each country we've tried most of the local delicacies, (although we steered clear of the Vietnamese poodle soup). We've had Pad Thai and Som Yam soup in Thailand, Cao Lao in Vietnam, while in Laos we had traditional barbecue - a large clay pot filled with burning charcoal is dropped into a hole in the centre of the table and a specially made lid is placed over it. The metal lid is a shallow dome with perforations in the highest part and a deep rim around the edge. Stock is poured into the rim and quickly boils, while the dome part gets red hot. It's a do-it-yourself dinner. As soon as the barbecue is hot the waitress brings heaps of fish, meat vegetables and noodles and you just boil or barbecue whatever you want on your own personal stove.
Each country has its own eating culture. Sometimes we are given knives and forks, sometimes just spoons and sometimes chopsticks, while at other times the food is plopped straight onto a banana leaf on the table and we eat with our fingers - that certainly saves on the washing up.
We've eaten Thai, Laotian, Vetnamese, Malay, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Italian, (Great pizzas in Hue, Vietnam).
We've had Luxembourg baquettes, French croissants, British fish and chips, American hamburgers and Norwegian salmon. We've even had pancakes with maple syrup - very Canadian eh!
Jim's breakfast this morning was Sang Me (fried noodles) with dried anchovies, roast seaweed and fried dace with black beans, followed by a quintessentially British bread and butter pudding.
At a rough estimate we've eaten in two-hundred restaurants and now we're off to Bali for a plate or two of Indonesian Nasi Goreng, (fried rice to you).
And in Vietnam we both took a cooking course so that we can entertain you all when we get home. Bon appetite!

Posted by Hawkson 18:16 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Malaysian Monkeys

sunny 33 °C

After a week on Langkawi Island Jim decided that the local tourist brochure needed a reprint.
Here is his suggestion:

Langkawi - Close to Paradise

Miles of sun-drenched white sand beaches.

Float above the tropical jungle on one of the world's steepest and highest cable cars.

See exotic wildlife up close - sometimes too close.

Pick your way across litter strewn beaches to swim in ...... Whoa! Wait up a minute. You can't say that. You can't mention all the litter on the beaches. What about our man Fred?

We've seen Fred. (Not his real name. We changed his name to protect his identity). We saw him every morning at 7.30.am. as we headed across the wide sand beach towards the turquoise sea and threaded our way past yesterday's detritus of beer bottles, cans, bags and plastic of all kinds. Fred would be there with his trusty tractor towing a giant, shiny machine full of cogs, conveyor belts, sieves and rakes. It is called a beach-cleaner. And if Fred pulls the right lever he can lower this giant machine onto the beach where it will scoop up the sand and shake it and sift it until all the garbage is heaped into its giant hopper and all the lovely clean sand is back on the beach.
But, every morning after our swim, and after Fred had driven his giant,shiny machine up and down the beach a few times, we would thread our way back through all of yesterday's garbage - all the bottles cans, bags and plastic - still on the beach .... just re-arranged a little.
Why? Because Fred, (not his real name), discovered he can drive his tractor much faster along the beach if he doesn't use the giant, shiny machine. And, if he doesn't use the machine he doesn't have to drive all the way to the dump will all the garbage he collects, so he can go home for breakfast with his wife, Jane. (Not her real name either).

So - what to do? Finally, on Friday, Inspector Bliss could stand it no longer. So he put on his policeman's voice and had a few friendly words with Fred.
Fred was "Velly, velly solly" and he quickly lowered his giant, shiny machine to the beach and began picking up the litter.
"Thank You," said Inspector Bliss. But as Inspector Bliss and his lovely wife strode off across the beach, Fred quickly picked up his machine and raced off.
We were hoping to take a photo of Fred but he didn't come back with his tractor again. What a shame.
But then we looked through our album and realized we did have a good likeness of Fred. He's the one peering through our car's windshield in the third picture above.

Posted by Hawkson 18:35 Archived in Malaysia Comments (5)

A Tropical Oasis

sunny 34 °C


It is never easy to paint a vivid picture of an idyllic setting; to capture the sights, sounds and scents of a truly exotic location; to put into words the awe and excitement of a really magical place.
Naturalist David Attenburgh probably does it better than anyone else and this is how he might describe our current situation.
"In the heart of the Malaysian jungle, under a relentlessly burning sun, we trek into a coconut fringed oasis. An emerald watering-hole fed by a fifty-foot high cascade of cool clear spring water is home to a myriad of lizards, toads and other aquatic life. Troupes of mischievous macaque monkeys are never far away, and the fern covered trees are alive with the alarm calls of mynahs and other exotic birds. A couple of clumsy toucans clatter overhead in the canopy. A tiny weaver bird is painstakingly weaving an intricate nest in the palm fronds above us in hopes of attracting a mate. Sea eagles circle effortlessly overhead; kept aloft by thermals of dense humid air rising from the perpetually moist jungle. Fluffy cumulus clouds form rapidly in the heat of the day then evaporate into thin air before our eyes. Banyans, bamboos and a dozen varieties of palm trees circle the pool, while lengthy liana vines snake down the rocky surface of a cliff that rises like an ancient fortress from the jungle floor and blocks our path. What mysteries lie beyond? Has mankind ever walked this path? Will Tarzan swing out of the jungle and dive into the depths? Will we fight off the fear of leaches and pirahnas and swin in this liquid Nirvana?"
Probably - Because this is actually our hotel's swimming pool.
There are no leaches or pirahnas here and the only Tarzan is the Bangladeshi pool boy who is about to swing by with a couple of icy beers and a plate of sandwiches. And when we have tired of the pool we will walk along the white sand beach to another oasis. There we will stop for a drink as the sun sets at the end of another perfect day. This is life on Langkawi - a small forested island just like Gabriola. Same - Same, but oh so very different.

Posted by Hawkson 23:51 Archived in Malaysia Tagged postcards Comments (1)

In Memory of Dennis

sunny 34 °C

We are now on the tropical island of Langkawi, 30 kms off the northwest coast of Malaysia in the infamous Andaman Sea. We are catching our breath on the spectacular soft sand beach for a week while we plan the rest of our trip.
Being on an island reminds us of Gabriola, and since we learned of the death of our dear friend's husband on January 1st. our thoughts have often turned to home.
We can't be there to support and help Ruth at this time, but in memory of Dennis we would like to share some of the
pictures of beautiful flowers we have taken on our journey. With love to Ruth. Sheila and Jim

Posted by Hawkson 00:55 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Our Polar Bear Swim

rain 26 °C

We have always felt a certain shame in not having the courage to participate in the New Year's Day plunge, so this year we decided to break the ice and throw caution to the wind. Let it be recorded that at 7.30 am on January 1st. 2009, we left our waterfront cabin and dived into the ocean off Cherating Beach, Malaysia.
Imagine our dismay when we discovered that the water was a tepid 30 degrees C. (even warmer than the bath water in the Grand Continental Hotel, Terengganu). Undaunted, we swam around for half-an-hour seeking a chilly patch. We gave up eventually, telling ourselves that we had tried and that it's the thought that counts.

We have now returned to the west coast of Malaysia - a day's drive through plantations of every kind. On Gabriola we brake for the deer and raccoons. Here we brake for monkeys, goats, water buffalo and the road-kill remains of a six-foot python. Same, same but very different.

The tropical flora is stunning with flowers and fruit of every kind. The regulars are everwhere - oranges, coconuts, pineapples, bananas and papaya - but so are exotics like star fruit, tapioca, pomelos, cashews, tea and rubber.
Now we are in Malacca - the Dutch/British trading port of southern Malaysia - with its narrow streets of colonial houses and a museum which houses the largest collection of empty display cases we have ever seen. We found room after room of empty glass cases - no exhibits and no attendants of any kind in the entire place. We still don't know if someone broke in during the night and nicked the lot, or if the curator bought a job lot of display cases and is still hunting for Malay artifacts.
Malacca, (also spelled Melaka), is a fascinating town with Portugese, Dutch and British architecture housing hundreds of Chinese and Indian stores. The only thing missing - in fact the one thing that seems to be missing throughout Malaysia - is anything Malay. We have been here for nearly two weeks and have yet to encounter Malay culture.

Tomorrow we return to Kuala Lumpur and then fly to the island of Langkawi in the extreme north. Maybe the sea will be colder there? Maybe we'll discover the true Malaysia.

Happy New Year to you all.

Posted by Hawkson 19:40 Archived in Malaysia Comments (5)

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