A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

A VIEW FROM THE TOP

EXPERIENCING LOCAL TASTES WITH LOCALS

sunny 41 °C
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Today, I took my time heading out because I realize I can’t manage a full day in the heat. On the recommendation of the hotel staff, I decided to visit Keh Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the country. Unlike my other two stops where 80 % of the population is Muslim, in Penang it is more even with about 40% of each Buddhist and Muslims. Although the town has a good mix of churches, mosques, and Hindu and Buddhist temples, this one is massive and is located high above the city. A $5 Grab (Asian uber) took me 40 minutes to the temple where I spent a couple hours exploring. I climbed, dripping, to the top of the Pagoda which gave great views of the city and took a funicular to the giant statue even higher up. Beautiful gardens as well.

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It was a beautiful temple but honestly, on every corner someone was looking for donations, selling wish ribbons, or candles and there had to be at least 12 gift shops selling the same junk.

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From there I went to Penang Hill. Also, a recommendation but not my favorite. First, I hated the 2 km funicular ride to the top because they kept stopping and I felt we might pluge to our death. But that’s me, everyone else seemed to be loving it. I had no idea it would be so long. At the top was mostly amusement park type activities, museums and nature walks.

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Around 6pm, I headed out to one of the more popular Hawker Stall Centers. I really haven’t eaten many meals because it has been too hot but tonight I was determined to have some of the local specialties. Although people rave about the food, it isn’t really spectacular but the vive and the style of ordering from these little food trollies and having it delivered is really fun. Of course, you can only sit if you a drink. A water is only about 50 cents.

I enjoyed trying three of the local specialities. First Curry Mee. Curry mee or curry laksa, is a Malaysian noodles dish well-known for its spicy curry soup enriched with chili, sambal and coconut milk, and accompanied with seafood such as prawns, cuttlefish, cockles; beansprouts and dried tofu.

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Second, the very popular, Char Koay Teow. A comfort food that is well-loved by both locals and tourists. It’s also one of Penang’s most famous street food. The ingredients are pretty standard: it’s either chicken or duck egg, flat noodles, soy sauce, bean sprouts, chives, cockles and prawns. But what makes Penang char kuey teow such a beloved favourite is the way the dish being stir-fried in a wok over a high heat. It’s commonly served over a slice of banana leaf to seizure the desired wok. Here is mine being made to order and the line up when I left. Most popular spot in the area.

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Lastly, because this guy was making it look so good, and because everyone was eating it, I decided to try the famous dessert, Ice Kacang. Also known as Ais Kacang or ABC (Air Batu Campur), ice kacang is a popular local dessert consisting of shaved ice topped with Gula Melaka syrup or coloured syrup, toasted peanuts and evaporated milk. The colourful ingredients that are placed into a bowl are typically cendol, red beans, creamed corns and grass jelly with a scoop of ice cream is on top. It is a little odd for sure. Not sure the beans of corned adding anything but it was refreshing.

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I enjoyed the evening and was surprised that it was feeling cooler to me. I checked the temperature and it had cooled to a mere, feels like 38. Acclimatization is starting.

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If you don’t know this fruit it is durian which is a popular Asian fruit known for its “stink”. All my hotel have had signs saying it is not allowed in the hotel. Yup, that bad. Even walking by, reeked. I have tried it before, no need to try again.

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few more shots

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Posted by curlygirl 19:01 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

GEORGETOWN IN PENANG, MALYASIA

CUTE, QUIRKY, MULTICULTURAL AND VERY ARTISTIC

sunny 41 °C
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George Town is the colorful, multicultural capital of the Malaysian island of Penang. It once was a key trading site on the Straits of Malacca so it has attracted many cultures. It is full of British colonial buildings, Chinese shophouses and mosques and there is a large China town and a Little India that blasts Indian music and smells like incense.

The art scene is incredible and I spent most of my first 24 hours beating the streets in this horrible humidity tracking them all down. The creativity is endless.

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I eventually hired a trishaw driver to show me those I missed.

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I did rise early for a local market that was just ok.

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I also managed to visit the Blue Mansion, which ironically, was built around the same time as my place in Ottawa and restored around the same time. Of course, a different style but a similar story…narrowly saved from demolition. This was a really interesting rags to riches story of a Chinese man named, Cheong Fatt Tze. It is worth reading about him and his 8 wives and the way he kept control until long after his death.

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When you tell anyone who has been here that you are coming to Malaysia, especially Penang, the first response is …oh the food. This place is known to be one of the top places in the world for food variety and excellence. Honestly, I have almost been too hot to eat a meal. But today, I tried my first Laska, a traditional fish soup. I had one slightly less spicy and made with coconut milk. It was delicious.

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I visited the famous Jetties where Chinese families have lived and worked for over 200 years. Now mostly shops filled with tourist junk.

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Tonight, I went out exploring after dark and went to some of the famous Hawker stalls. They are everywhere and they are where to eat. I actually had an Asian western fusion pulled pork and ribs. Amazing! She told me the spicy bbq sauce takes 12 hours to make and includes fire roasting the peppers and tomatoes.

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I also tried teh tadek which I loved. This is a strong black tea mixed with fresh milk (can be condensed but mine wasn’t) and it can be served hot or over ice.

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An interesting day for sure, in a very pretty city. I can actually get around without my map now.

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Posted by curlygirl 06:37 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malaysia penang georgetown Comments (1)

LANGKAWI MANGROVES

FISH FEEDING, EAGLE FEEING, SWIMMING MONKIES ,BAT CAVES AND AN AWESOME BOAT RIDE

sunny 31 °C
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This morning I opted to do a tour of the mangroves. A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water and although, I have seen many of these ecosystems, I thought it would be a treat to get out on the water and see some nature. To be honest, the stops are just tourist traps. The fish farms are tiny and I am sure it is not good for the fish. I don't like that they feed the eagles or the monkeys. I am not convinced that is good for them but all the same it was a gorgeous boat ride in glorious sunshine and breathtaking scenery, At one point my cell service switched to Thailand because we were less than an hour from shore.

I was joined by my Dutch neighbours from my resort who I have seen every day on the adjacent patio. It was just us 3. Our driver tells us in the winter, people have to book days ahead and there were at least a hundred boats unused today.

We did have a beautiful lunch at a floating restaurant and for all the moments I was moving in the boat, I was less disgusting. But at every stop, the water started running down my face again. I am not as bothered at least. Acclimating perhaps?

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And finally a couple of humans to snap....thanks boys

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Posted by curlygirl 07:37 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

SOMETIMES A LITTLE LANGKAWI IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED

EVEN IF YOU HAD NO IDEA

all seasons in one day 34 °C
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Langkawi, you have been a pleasant surprise. Since I don’t particularly like relaxing, beaches, tourists, touristy places, I was a little reluctant to come to Langkawi Island. But my colleague from Singapore seemed convinced that I should come, so I listened. Besides, I needed to do a little work and life has been so crazy busy, I figured some forced relaxation would probably be good for me.

I accidently booked a resort a little away from the tourist area. I thought I should stay there for ease of restaurants and getting around. Best mistake ever. I am totally loving the peace, the private beach and the amazing restaurant across the street. I love that the laundry lady is right next door and for $3 my laundry is clean, dry and folded. Another one of my guilty Asian pleasures.

I began my day early at the beach, enjoying the little breeze and in disbelief that I am totally alone. Apparently, Langkawi is overrun with tourists from Asia and Europe all winter long but come our spring, it gets quiet. So even where I am, a little out of the tourist trap, the beach is apparently full sometimes. Of course it is Ramadan and since Malaysia is 80% Muslim, many others are home resting during the heat of the day. And so, the hotel’s private beach is almost my private beach.

Looking into the resort from the ocean

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Shortly after breakfast, it began to pour. I sat on my patio, working and couldn’t have cared less. Lunch time, I hired my cabbie from yesterday to take me around the island for the slow-paced enjoyable afternoon. A 4.5 hour ride cost me $30. I returned home and went to fetch my laundry, ate the most amazing crispy duck, walked in the ocean til sunset and raced to my room to shower before my Balinese massage that came with a sauna and hot and cold shower. Today, I have truly mastered relaxation, beaches and being a tourist.

Batik making
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Buddist Temple with the statue carved right out of the marble mountain.

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I like the long happy life Buddha best.

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Not sure how this guy made it to the offerings

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Sunset

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Posted by curlygirl 07:42 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malaysia langkawi Comments (1)

MELAKA

OR MALACCA AS ITS KNOWN IN ENGLISH

sunny 32 °C
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I am not quite sure how to describe Melaka but certainly the cliché of a “melting pot” seems accurate. I arrived by bus from Singapore, a pleasant 4 hours journey only interrupted by the quick Singapore check point and 10 minutes later the Malaysian immigration. The dense palm jungles didn’t get monotonous, as our on-board guide suggested they would. She obviously hasn’t driven across Newfoundland, but I guess palm trees to her are like evergreens to me.

My first impression was that it was like Indonesia and as we hit town, I recognized some Indonesia words. Of course, that makes sense since one of the earliest settlers was a Hindu prince from Sumatra. The shops are filled with Batik, although not all as lovely or cheap as I remember in Java.

He eventually converted to Islam as the city became a hub for trading with many Indians, Arabs and Chinese who all settled here. The influence of the Chinese is prominent with Chinatown being the most active area of the city. Their culture, as they inter married with the locals became known as the Peranakan culture.

The influence of the Portuguese, who won the city in the 1500s and were the first to colonize, is less prevalent. Unless you count the Portuguese egg tarts that are available on every corner. The Dutch, who overthrew the Portuguese, have more of a presence with many of their buildings still standing and street names like the infamous Jonker Street.

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The Dutch stood strong until the Malay made a deal with the British and their East India Company to get in on the booming spice market and then the British were here. Like seriously….who knew? Even the Japanese took over at the end of the second world war but that is a brutal history that no one wants to remember.

All this to say, there is a bit of everything here. I am staying on a street know as one of two, little India.

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I have been able to see pretty much all the highlights in 24 hours so I spent the afternoon of day two hanging at the pool….with not another soul. It is incredibly hot and seriously humid. Apparently, Malaysia and Singapore enjoy the same 30ish temp with high humidity year-round. I am simply a gross human here. And I had forgotten that when it is this humid and you step inside to cool off in air conditioning….you simply start to perspire. My clothes are constantly wet. But I am terribly content and relaxed. I am enjoying all the good things about Asia including cheap massages, and interesting eats.

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The highlights of this surprisingly modern city have been the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum which tells the story of a wealthy Peranakan family, and my visit to the Wah Aik shoemaker. This shop is a family owned business for the past 3 generations. They specialise in bound feet shoes (also known as lotus feet shoes) as well as bead and leather shoes hand crafted and sewn by the owner, Raymond Yeo and his family. I spent at least 30 minutes talking to this man who told me of the rich ladies who would come from China to buy the tiny shoes from his grandfather. The tradition of binding feet has been banded since 1911 but he tells me they still had customers who had been bound into the late 1920s. Tiny feet were a sign of status and beauty but it was painful and the woman suffered for life. He has no traditional customers now, the last having died in recent years but he still makes the shoes for tourists. I asked him to choose mine, and he picked his favorite, the most auspicious, the golden lotus. I felt for him because his trade is gone, and although he never approved, it was his livelihood. He claims to be the only one in the world still making these shoes and his sister promised that mine will be worth something someday.

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A day could have been enough here because it is touristy (although few white tourists) but the second night allowed me to experience the famous weekend night market because the first night, after 8 hours walking in the heat, I collapsed into bed at 8pm.

So, after an afternoon by the pool,, completely alone, I headed out for dinner and to peruse the night market.

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Night market with the guys who toss the coconut balls and make the coconut shakes...of course I had one.

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And a foot massage.

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And on the way home, the entire city was in the streets for what I could only understand to be a procession for Saturday for the Chinese, whatever that means. It went on forever.

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Posted by curlygirl 07:26 Archived in Malaysia Tagged malacca malaysia melaka Comments (1)

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