21.03.2012 - 04.04.2012 37 °C
For some reason our photos from Malaysia uploaded in reverse order and we can't seem to correct the problem. It might be helpful to read the blog to understand the photos. However, if you'd prefer to just view them, click here.
ALL THINGS MALAYSIA...
Malaysia was a somewhat interesting developing country, though it had very little to offer in terms of natural or cultural stimulation, and in hindsight, we should've booked our trip for one, not two weeks. Though the countryside was beautiful, it had nothing on Indonesia (or for that matter, Korea), and most of the sightseeing was very kitschy and touristy. Our largest enjoyment, therefore, was our interactions with the people, who were for the most part very kind and accommodating. We even saved ourselves a few bucks by hitchhiking a lot of places since we were always guaranteed to be picked up.
Malaysians consist of the native Malay people, as well as Indians and Chinese, who were brought by the British when they colonized the country. The cities and towns were largely segregated with obvious districts such as Chinatown and Little India; however, we did observe some cross-cultural interactions. As usual, it was the game of football (soccer, for our American readers) that inspired the largest mix of races, and Colin had the experience of enjoying a game with several locals in a small town restaurant.
We also really enjoyed the food, indulging daily on curries and samosas and tandoori mutton. The alcohol was really expensive, averaging about $9 for a bottle of beer, so we washed down our grub with 50 cent freshly-squeezed fruit juices from street vendor stalls. (On a side note, while we happily refrained from drinking for several weeks in Indonesia and Malaysia, we are now in Vietnam where 50 cents is the price of a beer, so we're likewise happily indulging again.)
With two weeks to wander the country, we managed to find several things to do. Some were more interesting than others and most were a bit anti-climactic, but we had fun nevertheless.
We began our trip in Penang, which is a small island off the coast of peninsular Malaysia; we flew there from Sumatra. We spent a day wandering the main city of Georgetown, which promised to charm us with its old colonial buildings and ornate Chinese temples. Though we weren't wowed by anything in particular, we enjoyed the walk. The highlight was seeing a temple bustling with religious observers, praying and chanting, and lighting bundles of incense. There were several sticks of massive fiery incense outside that were 8 feet or more tall.
The next day we crossed the 13 km stretch of sea by ferry to a town called Buttersworth, where we went to a bird park. Although this qualifies as one of those kitschy and touristy things I mentioned, we actually found it really exciting. There were so many beautiful tropical birds we've never seen before and will likely never see again, and many of them were roaming freely throughout the park. (Leah especially loved the birds, so be forewarned that they dominate the photos.)
When we returned to Penang, we packed up our bags and took the bus to Teluk Bahang, which was meant to be a quaint, charming fishing village. This turned out not to be the case, as the town was actually just a rundown, dirtier extension of the larger Georgetown. (This was the last time we followed Internet leads to places which promised to be "charming.") Regardless, we had a nice two-day visit. We went to a tropical spice garden, and learned about all the medicinal and culinary uses for various herbs and spices. We also went on a nice hike through the tropical Penang National Park, which led to a small, quiet strip of beach where we saw two women in full burka on a jet ski. This was the highlight of the trip for Leah, who had never seen a Muslim beach bunny before.
When we finally left Penang, we traveled across peninsular Malaysia to the Cameron Highlands, where we stayed in a nice mountain village surrounded by jungles and gorgeous tea fields. We visited the Boh tea plantation while we were there, which was the highlight of our travels in Malaysia. It was stunning. We also went to a butterfly farm, which was more of a break from the heat of the afternoon sun than an enticing tourist experience. Regardless, we saw some interesting butterflies and other species of insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Our final experience in the Highlands was a jungle trek to see the "world's largest flower." We had been looking forward to this, but had to travel to see it as a part of a tour, which made the experience slightly less enjoyable. We also found out after the fact that it was not the world's largest flower, but the world's third largest mushroom; we were more amused than disappointed by this deception.
The rest of our time in Malaysia was divided between Kuala Lampur and a small town, Selangor, nearby. Selangor is famous for its mangrove trees that attract a species of fireflies. We took a boat tour at dusk to watch as the fireflies lit up strangely in unison creating the illusion of Christmas lights on the trees (Leah was convinced they were) along the river. We had planned to camp in the Selangor National Park, but the campsite was under renovation and we were rained out anyway. Regardless, we had a nice walk through the park, which is a famous bird-watching site. We saw many interesting animals there. Back in Kuala Lampur, we killed the remaining days walking through the city, though sites of interest were limited. We also met up with a friend of ours from Korea, who made the bustling city a more enjoyable place to pass the time. Overall, Malaysia was worth the stopover on our around-the-world trek, but would probably not be our first recommendation for a half-month holiday.
To view all the photos, click here.