|Tasty food by the sea.|
After a flight to Kuala Lumpur from Chengdu, we realised why we enjoyed rail travel so much. What seems like a short journey can be significantly extended when you have to take a bus from the airport to the train, a train into the city, and finally a metro to get to the hostel. At least generally when you get somewhere by rail you're actually in the city centre. Basically what would have been a 4 hour flight ends up taking twice that. Also despite travelling cattle class on most of our rail journeys, it somehow isn't quite as bad as cattle class on a plane. At least you can have a wander on a train, maybe grab a drink or bite to eat in the restaurant car, stretch your legs at a station etc. So despite endless, occasionally hellish journeys by train it's still our favourite mode of travel.
So to KL - a bit of a summary I guess is appropriate. People had warned us of it being 'another commercial Asian city - busy etc', but it actually seemed pretty tame coming from China. The lack of beeping horns and crazy drivers took us off guard and made the whole place feel a little sleepy in comparison. We only had a couple of days there so did the usual; exploring Chinatown (nothing like China - except for some interesting temples which have long since been destroyed in China), looking round the Indian and Malay quarters, and walking to the Lake Gardens (is unworthwhile a word?). We did a trip out to the Batu Caves, which apart from the impressive Hindu God towering at the entrance, and the cute monkeys scampering up and down the steps, was really just a fairly unimpressive cave with a couple of statues. And the beer is expensive. And usually Carlsberg. The less said the better.
Ok so you're probably thinking we spent the whole time slagging the city off, so this is to counteract the above!
We had some awesome food. Really good, cheap Indian and Malay grub, with lots of tasty side dishes. It felt refreshingly healthy after China. Having said that a deep fried mars bar probably would too..
On two consectutive days we went to see 'Dr Fish', as in the paddling pools full of fish which nibble the dead skin from your feet. The fish were a hell of a lot bigger than what we had seen back home in Meadowhell etc and they really went for our feet. Fairly embarassing as passers by stopped to watch and question why they were swarming round us so much, seemed to do the trick though!
We visited the National Mosque, where Charlotte got to dress up as a Jedi - not just a distasteful joke, look at the photos and you'll see what we mean! We also wandered up to a pretty cool Butterfly Park and saw some huge colourful butterflies. And the Petronas Twin Towers, all lit up at night, were very impressive.
From KL we travelled up to Penang, where the British first landed in Malaysia back in the day. The best thing to be said about Penang is that it is really awesome for food. Big food halls next to the sea serving up a tasty mix of different cuisines, nice and cheap. Awesome deep fried banana bread, chicken satay and curried stingray. Can you really justify visiting a place just for its food? Arguably yes, especially for us! Apart from that Georgetown didn't leave much of an impression. There are some interesting old colonial streets but apart from that it is very grey and commercial.
We started our trip there with checking into our pre-booked hostel in Georgetown. It was a brand new hostel, looked pretty swanky on the website (aimed at 'flashpackers', alarm bells should have been ringing from the start!), and we booked in haste as we were worried that nowhere else seemed to have availability or weren't getting back to us. What an error. The photos on the website were obviously an artist's impression of how it might look in the future, the whole place had been decorated with grey paint making it feel like a prison, our bathroom hadn't been cleaned and the cleaner proudly told us he'd "changed the sheets just for us". Erm, damn well hope so mate. So basically we logged onto the internet (incidently, checked BBC News and read about Bin Ladens demise), realised that one of the places we'd emailed had finally got back to us with availability, drew ourselves a rudimentary map from the current hostel to the new hostel via Googlemaps, and checked out 30 mins after checking in. The receptionist didn't seem in the least bit surprised.
The new place was much better, in an old colonial mansion, and they sorted out our Thai through them, as we would only have been issued 15 day visas travelling over the border by land. We visited Fort Cornwallis (an old fort built by the English, not much left of it though) and some temples around Georgetown, including an interesting Hindu temple where we peeked in on part of a service, all waving insence sticks and beating drums. For the next two days we stayed further along the coast at Tanjung Tokong in a nice little guesthouse where we could use the pool at a nearby hotel, which was lovely, especially since it's not advised to swim in the sea due to the amount of jellyfish. The area itself was mainly hotels and apartment blocks so we can't say it changed our minds about the feel of Penang itself, but we did find a great Indian place that served dishes on banana leafs, and an outdoor food court serving all sorts of Asian food. We visited the impressive Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in South East Asia, where we nearly roasted to death climbing the million buddha pagoda (most of them pictures on tiles rather than actual statues) and took the funicular railway up to see a giant golden Buddha.
In true laid-back style we headed out in the morning to catch the bus across to the east coast town of Kota Bahru, and having got stuck in the rush hour traffic on the bus and in the taxi, arrived with 2 minutes to spare, to run up to the office to get our tickets and thankfully board the bus which kindly waited for us! We enjoyed some good food at a bus stop on the way (no non-descript "haven't we been here already?" service stations like back home, just roadside cafes with squat toilets and tasty food, with the added thrill of Russian Roulette food poisoning to keep things interesting). And so we were on our way for a 'week off' (tongue firmly in cheek), to spend relaxing by the beach!
|Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|