Friday, April 29, 2011

Kuala Lumpur? No, she walked into a door



I was a bit nervous about going to Kuala Lumpur, after other tropical capitals I've visited didn't exactly leave a great impression. I'm mainly talking about Cairo. Dirty, noisy, stinky, sexually harrassy Cairo, which I had nightmares about for a week after I finally got out of there.

It turns out KL isn't as bad as Cairo, but even with lots of green around and a cool sci-fi monorail zipping above the Frogger-style traffic, I still prefer smaller cities any day. Unless they're Kota Bharu, obviously.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ner ner ner ner, ner ner ner ner, Batu Caves



The Batu Caves just to the north of Kuala Lumpur combine two of my favourite Malaysian pastimes: exploring caves and hanging out with dangerous wild monkeys.


Disclaimer: Batman does not appear in this blog post.
(There is a dead bat skeleton though)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Malaysia's Got Singers



'What is there to do in Kota Bharu on a Saturday night?' you may find yourself furiously shrieking if you wind up in Malaysia's most conservative and tedious city.

Well calm down, unchain that brick from your ankle and step back from the disgusting river bank, the answer is simple: head to the Cultural Centre to see weird old guys and sweet girls singing the traditional Kelantan hits in a face-off that smacks of that well-known TV programme, Britain's Got Singers.

(That's what it's called, right? That's what you idiots watch, right?)

It's about time this blog went multimedia. Check 'em out!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

T.A.I. Friday



So far, the places I've stayed in Malaysia have been predominantly Malay or Chinese neighbourhoods, so I was looking forward to finding out more about Islamic-Malaysian culture at the various museums of Kota Bharu in Kelantan.

As if to demonstrate my Islamic ignorance (or forgetfulness - as I lived in Egypt and Israel for a couple of months last year and should have remembered stuff like this), I chose the worst timing for my visit by arriving on a Friday when everything's closed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Islander



I realise a fair few of my blogs over the last five weeks have been about my trips to beautiful tropical island paradises (that was only five weeks ago?), and that this may be getting a bit boring for readers. It's not like I've been to thirteen different places (cities, islands and Highlands) in three different countries during that time to mix things up a bit, right? (Cambodia still counts...)

Well, if you are sick of seeing me relaxing and enjoying myself in incredible surroundings, TOUGH NOOGIES! Here's some of the publishable stuff I got up to on Malaysia's most excellent Perhentian Islands. Featuring friendly sharks and massive lizards.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Malaynutrition



I like getting local insight into places I visit, and in Malaysia more than anywhere else, people have been pointing me towards the food I should be eating, rather than highlighting tourist attractions, activities or the best budget brothels (these placed further down the list).

I'm not exactly a food connoisseur, but I'm getting better at treating eating as an enjoyable activity rather than a biological necessity to be taken care of as cheaply and expediently as possible. While this means I probably miss out by not fully appreciating (or even noticing) some excellent cuisine when I chomp it down, it also luckily means I haven't developed any annoying preferences or eating habits that would restrict my options. I am truly game for anything, even if the results are sometimes bloody disgusting.

I should have paid more attention to the great local food I was eating in Taiwan, but this was tricky considering my substandard Mandarin meant I couldn't even read the menus, and I had to resort to pointing at walls and enjoying my mystery dinners. But since I've been in Malaysia (and evidently developing some form of obsessive compulsive disorder if you've seen my blogs lately), I thought I'd give this Malayzin' food the attention it deserves.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Highlander III: The Skunk Hunters of Gliese 581 g



Alright, so the Orang Asli tribe come from the Cameron Highlands, not some distant exoplanet. But I felt like I was walking in an alien landscape (again) as I squished my way through Malaysia's only mossy forest. It was ace.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Highlander II: Revenge of the Disgusting Bugs



The Cameron Highlands aren't only a place for weak British tourists to escape the oppressive Malaysian heat - people actually live and work here too. Imagine that!

I thought it would be a worthwhile and interesting activity to see how local produce like tea, honey and strawberries are cultivated. It wasn't. But at least there were some freakish bugs to keep me entertained - even if I disappointingly wasn't allowed to eat them this time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Highlander


Gunung Brinchang at 6666 feet
(The PIN Number of the Beast)


The Cameron Highlands are the cure for what ails me. I've been having a bit of trouble with the climate since I arrived in Malaysia - it started as soon as I landed in Thailand really, but the flooding that took place in parts of that country during my last couple of weeks there seemed to temper the weather somewhat, which was a nice relief (I just hope no one got caught up in the catastrophes).

But after a week of getting burned and dehydrated during the day threatened to turn me into a vampire who only sees Malaysia by moonlight, I realised that one way of combating the problem would be to head Up. And conveniently, the Cameron Highlands were nearby (perhaps a little toooo convenient? No, I don't know what I'm talking about either).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Curse of Kellie's Castle



I was pretty excited to find a genuine Scottish castle out here in Peninsular Malaysia. That's genuine Scottish insomuch as it's built in Indian design by Indian labourers, many of whom mysteriously DIED during its construction.

Could this be sensibly attributed to the outbreak of Spanish flu that spread from Europe to Asia after the First World War? Or could it be that Kellie's Castle... is CURSED? You know, the same way Egyptian tombs and Oliver aren't. This sounds like a job for an experienced paranormal investigator...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cavedave



I don't often get involved in activities that rhyme with my name, mainly because I'm not into raves and I'm not skilled enough to use a lathe (Mr Whitehurst gave me my first 'D' in metalwork, and my life was a downhill slope from there).

I like caves though. And graves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Royal pain in the Azlan



The self-styled Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar doesn't feature on many travel itineraries of Malaysia. You'd think I'd have learned by now - especially after such pointless places as Dulan - that this probably means it isn't massively worth spending my precious time visiting. But with my generous Malaysian visa putting me under less time pressure than I had in Thailand, I mistakenly thought this meant I could visit any old place and have a worthwhile day out.

However, that wasn't accounting for renovation work, reclusive sultans, dehydration and the leg anxieties of a non-existent god, which together meant I hardly got to see any of this place. I am perhaps slightly bitter. The fact that when you get down to it, most of these 'problems' can be blamed squarely on myself is of no consequence - Sultan Azlan Shah owes me my afternoon back! Even if he has an enviably cool name.

Still, the architecture's pretty impressive, right? Though it's not like I got to see inside any place.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Secret of Monkey Beach



So it turns out Penang is really nice once you get out of Georgetown, which means my new favourite hobby of visiting remote corners of tropical islands and hanging out with the local monkeys didn't have to stop when I crossed the Malaysian border. Not when the cheeky rascals have a whole beach dedicated to them in Penang National Park.

Those unfamiliar with LucasArts' classic 1990 adventure game The Secret of Monkey IslandTM may find that some of the more obscure references go over your heads. So much the same as usual then.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

By George! (Town)



This is what The Real Georgetown looks like: no pavements, typical Asian traffic and charming open-air sewers making their valuable contributions to the fascinating bouquet of disgusting smells. Welcome to Penang!

But it isn't all bad, especially when you head to the Historic City of George Town World Heritage Site (wow, UNESCO really hands these things out) where Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Indian and colonial influences mix on every street, and cultures from all over the world get together to celebrate their different, incorrect beliefs (don't you know Raëlism is the true faith? Stupid earthlings).

So plug up your nose, look upwards and share the wonders I've seen. (It's mainly old buildings and stuff). This is what happens when you give a detailed tourist map to a borderline obsessive person with an afternoon to fill.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You haven't seen the last of me, Thailand!


Things started off quite logically... but that didn't last very long


Thailand is probably my favourite country I've visited, and I probably had the best consistent six weeks of my life here. I'm a bit sad that it's over, really - if only there was some way I could go back...

What, like going back the same way I came out? Or getting a regularly scheduled cheap flight from anywhere in the world? Thanks to the dodgy and slightly annoying beauty of visa runs, I could have spent a lot longer in Thailand if I wanted to, but it feels like it's time to move on before I start to take it for granted. There's too much planet left to explore anyway, before I turn into my Nana and spend every summer holiday of my life in the same Devonshire harbour town without trying anything new.

I'm having too much fun here anyway - I miss the cynical bastard I used to know so well. Hopefully Malaysia will be a big pile of shit, but knowing my luck it'll end up being fantastic. Great.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Krabi?



Surprisingly not, considering how little sleep I'm surviving on at the moment. Between overnight bus journeys, early starts for day trips and late nights entertaining the ladies (and the ladyboys, and the ladybirds) I have every right to be a grouchy bastard, but somehow Thailand keeps exceeding my already sky-high standards and keeping me happy. How irritating!




Do you remember those ace rocks sticking out of the sea that I took thousands of photos of in Ang Thong? Well it turns out Krabi is where they live! Add monkeys and minus souvenir stands, and you've pretty much got paradise. I wish I could spend more time here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thailand typos



An overdue compendium of broken English, unintended entendres and things I just found funny in Thailand.

With a large tourism industry meaning more people are fluent in English, there was less here to choose from than in Taiwan, and to be honest the funniest things you'll hear tend to come from the mouths of tuk-tuk drivers. You're only getting part of the experience in the visual medium.

Friday, April 1, 2011

They love performing for your amusement



I was planning on visiting the Tiger Temple today, but as I already spend half my life on buses (18-hour trip to Krabi tomorrow - at least the scenery's nice), the six-hour round trip to Kanchanaburi wasn't an appealing prospect (especially when you add a couple more hours for Bangkok traffic).

Luckily, there are other places nearby where you can see distressed animals being mistreated and made to perform for the entertainment of braying crowds, like Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.

If you look at their little faces, it's almost as if they understand.