Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Scooting Around

12/14/09: Penang, Malaysia

Periodically throughout this trip, I’ve had some brilliant ideas.

After I wrote that sentence, I tried to think of some examples to share with you but had trouble coming up with any except renting bikes in Taiwan. But you have to admit that idea was pretty brilliant.

Anyway, today I had another one of my brilliant ideas – renting a scooter to ride around Penang! And really, even when Kevin needed someone to show him how to turn the scooter on and even when he then wobbled unsteadily off into the alley by himself (“You go ahead and practice! I’ll get on in a few minutes…”), it was still a pretty great idea. Really.

Kevin got the hang of the scooter fairly quickly, and aside from a couple of helmet bumps, we scooted along pretty comfortably, Kevin driving 15 kilometers under the speed limit and me shouting directions from the back.

We scooted to the Kek Lok Si Temple, which is the biggest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. Kevin and I aren’t very good at visiting temples, since we usually don’t know anything about them except whatever they say in the brochure they hand out to visitors.

We're also not good at visiting temples because Kevin likes to pose in sacrilegious pictures.

Anyway, the temple seemed nice enough – it was really colorful, which made for some pretty pictures. We spent about half an hour there and were getting ready to leave when Kevin, who was at the front stairs, waved and motioned excitedly for me to come look. “It’s The Amazing Race! And sure enough, it was. Kevin offered up the idea of following the Amazing Race-rs around all day, which I promptly vetoed. I wasn’t going to let us spend our one day in Penang scooting around aimlessly looking for things we couldn’t find. (This is my employment of the literary device of foreshadowing: we will end up doing this anyway.)

Later that morning, we took the funicular train up to Penang Hill, which was a miserable half hour.

Z: What’s a funicular train?
K: I don’t know.
Ten minutes later, on the funicular train.
Z: At least I know what funicular means now.
K: What, an overcrowded, sweaty, smelly train that moves unbearably slowly up a hill at a 45 degree angle?
Z: Yep.
K: It’s funny they have a word for that.

I was hoping we would be rewarded with something at the top like, oh, I don’t know, a giant banner saying “YOU SURVIVED THE FUNICULAR TRAIN. HAVE SOME FREE ICE CREAM.” Instead, we ate an overpriced lunch and spent the entire time lamenting how we took the funicular train instead of scooting up on our beloved scooter. There wasn’t much to do at the top, so we took a few pictures and then took the long ride back down.

Disappointed by Penang Hill, we looked at our tourist map and decided that we would circle the island on our scooter, stopping by the Snake Temple and a few other places. This was another brilliant idea. At least in theory. The problem was, we soon discovered the roads that were on our very vague map were in fact highways. And also that we didn’t have a very specific idea of where anything was. So we scooted in the direction we thought the Snake Temple would be in. After about 15 minutes of driving, we realized the island might have been bigger than we originally thought (tourist maps are horrible with scale) and decided to just turn around. We were scooting back on the left side of the highway, when I spotted something that looked like a temple on the side of the road. “I think I see it! Get off here!” Unfortunately Kevin didn’t hear me until it was too late, but he was determined to go back to the thing I had seen. I tried to dissuade him – what if what I had seen wasn’t the Snake Temple? But he was driving, and I was only riding, so I had to follow him as we went back. This required a bunch of turning around, scooting down a one-way street in the wrong direction, and 10 minutes of frustrated arm waving. But we did finally get to the temple. And guess what?

It was the Snake Temple.

Thank goodness. Otherwise we really should have followed those Amazing Race-rs around. Maybe we would have gotten to see Phil Keoghan!

Thought of the Day: I hate when they put actors on the front of books-turned-movies. You shouldn’t need a movie to sell a book.

Picture of the Day:


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12/12/09 – 12/13/09: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Wait, did we ever actually leave the States? After talking to my parents on Skype yesterday morning, we caught the second half of another Cavs victory on ESPN. We then walked around a park where we enjoyed a Coke and saw a bunch of deer.

Two games of bowling were next on the schedule, of which Zhou and I each won one.

We followed this snacks at Auntie Anne’s and Krispy Kreme, dinner at Papa John’s, then drinks at 7/11 before using the computer and heading to bed.

Looking back on the day, I found only three clues that led me to believe we weren’t back home in America:

  1. We watched the Cavs in the morning. I’m pretty sure Lebron is not a morning person.
  2. The waiters at Papa John’s were nicer and more attentive than those at a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
  3. It felt like it was 90 degrees out. Fortunately the thermometer here said 32, so it must be home.

Oh, we’re actually in Malaysia. Today we got dressed in our backpacker’s best to watch the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

We bought tickets two days ago at the deeply discounted student price of 15 ringgit apiece (~$5), but we used up our 40 ringgit savings by purchasing fancy shoes and a collared shirt. You see, as aficionados of both harmonics and people named Phil, we knew we needed to look good at such an event. (Either that or we were forced to dress up or be kicked out.) I bought a red collared shirt (it was only coincidence that it happened to be Sunday), and also a pair of the shiniest black tuxedo shoes I could find for under $7. Zhou picked out some stringy heel things that were two sizes too big. Everyone check out how good we looked:

The show featured two famous Malaysian pop singers as well as the Malaysian Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and it cultured us deeply. (It was the first time I’ve ever watched something in a foreign language without the help of subtitles.) I can safely say that Zhou and I are both much better people for having seen it.

Thought of the Day: I usually like my Neutrogena face soap because it keeps me clean and clear like Jessica Simpson, but when the weather’s cold it becomes this flubbery gelatinous goop whose only goal is to escape my hands before I wash my face.

Picture of the Day: The Petronas Towers look pretty cool all lit up at night. They helped guide us home from some mysterious spot that definitely wasn’t the park we were searching for.

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12/11/09: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When you think of Kuala Lumpur, what do you picture? Before yesterday I pictured a city full of koalas. I suppose this was by default, as I really had no idea what to expect upon coming here. Let’s just say the city has shattered my non-existent expectations.

KL, as the lazy people call it, stretches as far as the eye can see, and from the Sky Bridge spanning the 41st floors of the Petronas Towers the eye can see quite a ways. We have stuck mostly to the high-end metropolitan areas, most notably the Berjaya Times Square shopping mall. Zhou and I have both deemed this mall as unfit for America, as no one would ever leave it if American architects were savvy enough to build such a monstrosity. It was hard enough prying us away from the 48-lane bowling alley, the massive cineplex, the unlimited fast food options, the eleven stories of shops, the 350,000 foot indoor theme park complete with what looked to be an exhilarating roller coaster – the list goes on and on.

Through all of the glitz and glam though, it is the little things that we’ll remember most about KL. So sit back, relax and enjoy a short story from today (one that I will turn into a long story because that’s what I do).

This morning’s excursion was to Batu Caves, just a half hour’s bus ride outside the city. First let me explain that the bus system here is a bit over our heads. There are no maps or signs or indicators of any sort at the bus stations. You simply have to be a good guesser or know a local to wind up at the correct destination. In this instance, our hostel gave us the directions.

Once we apparently reached Batu Caves, the ticket guy on the bus began yelling frantically at everyone, “Bah 2K! Bah 2K!” (Side note: This harkened me back a little to the conspiracy theorists in late December 1999.) We all hurried out the doors before they slammed shut, leaving us in the middle of a busy intersection sort of close to the caves. The main problem though was that in the melee Zhou left her 750 rupee polarized Puma sunglasses on the bus. After a failed attempt to chase down the bus a la any number of good action heroes, I sulked over to the caves knowing that a good pair of sunglasses had met their early end.

The giant golden Lord Murugan statue in front of Batu Caves

After finishing our sightseeing (a worthwhile stop if you’re ever in KL, especially since there is no entrance fee), we headed back to the bus stop. Along the way Zhou asked me what I thought the odds of getting on the same bus were. I thought to myself that the odds were pretty similar to the odds Mary Swanson gave Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber, but simply replied “not good,” knowing that Zhou would not have appreciated the reference.

As luck would have it, sure enough we wound up on the exact same bus we had arrived on (there is a chance, Lloyd!). Zhou sat in one of the last empty seats, directly behind the one we had sat on earlier, and the guy next to her moved over a stray pair of sunglasses so she wouldn’t sit on them. Wait, were those Zhou’s sunglasses? It was almost too good to be true, then it was too good to be true, as they weren’t hers. I wasn’t about to give up hope though.

I sat down in the last available seat, right next to the driver, and began scanning the area. A pair of old flip flops, some trash, a Coke, some cigarettes, nothing useful. Then, out of the corner of my eye, and on the corner of the driver’s eye, I spotted a familiar Puma logo. I ironically took off my own sunglasses to get a better look. That was Zhou’s Puma! Those were Zhou’s sunglasses!

The second-to-last thing you want to do on a crowded bus in a crowded street in a crowded city is distract the bus driver. But the last thing you want to do is let the bus driver take your wife’s sunglasses. So I took my chances. I don’t believe he spoke English so while he was weaving in and out of traffic I explained the situation through some sort of faux sign language. He finally understood and gave me Zhou’s glasses back. I’m guessing it wound up being an expensive day for him, because anyone who wears polarized glasses knows that once you go polarized you can’t go back.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make with this story is how it’s the little things that make our world trip what it is. It’s easy to get caught up in the “big ticket” tourist sites like the Nile and Serengeti, but the small daily interactions with locals can sometimes be even more memorable.

Puzzles for Postcards

Rhyme Time! (Solve two of these three triple rhymes)

The area (perhaps #7G) where Steven Spielberg’s guard works
A slow drip coming from an unpredictable, erratic cucumber after being put into the brine
What the religious man does when he offers grain to the gods on two different occasions

Thought of the Day: Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest must have dictated that all claustrophobic Asians died out when claustrophobia was invented.

Picture of the Day: Pigeons (and consequently running at pigeons) are surprisingly not all located in New York City.

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