Monday, July 17, 2006

Malaysia Travelogue

My first updates from Malaysia will arrive soon. I'm going to make a short post for each day, because there's lots to tell and see. So far, I've been here 9 days and the photo count is up to 910.

This is what's happening; while Jason is at work, I go exploring during the day. Night-time is food city, and at the weekends we're going on road/air trips. First weekend to Cherating, second to Penang, third to Singapore...

Check below for updates!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chinatown Chopstick Canai



Chinatown: home of Lewey Veeton, Ralf Lorren, and all things pirated! This is a pic from Petaling Street, where Westerners are constantly pestered to buy DVDs and fake belts. I soon got tired of this and headed off to a hawker court for teh tarik and some mushroom noodles... mmm.

My 3rd full day in Malaysia, and I found myself getting frustrated with the public transport system. The "LRT" system (a poorly integrated version of the Underground, including monorail as well as underground tracks) particularly annoyed me, when in trying to change from one line to another I was told that my ticket was only valid for travel on the line I had come in at. The different lines are run and owned by different companies, so you have to buy a seperate ticket for each. However, the trains themselves are pretty nice and well air-conditioned so offer a welcome break from the humidity. The buses are mad - I asked for a bus map at the Tourist Centre and they looked at me blankly. I tried to look for information at the bus stop, and at the bus information office, but nothing. There's no way of telling which buses stop at which stations, or where they are going to be heading until the bus arrives which makes planning journeys pretty impossible... Makes me miss the super-efficient service in Linz!

Also went to Central Market today, and enjoyed getting into the the habit of bargaining for goods - although inevitably tourists are always subject to "tourist-tax", it's fun trying to get them as low as possible. Ended up buying various presents for Kat and Mum (really pleased with the gift for K!).

I spent an hour or so writing postcards underneath the towers, watching couples wander the banks of the lake. A romantic setting, but overwhelmingly man-made. Thought about holding hands with Kat, and missed having her here to banter with.

I walked around the city a lot today, and got a good feel for the layout. I hate getting public transport everywhere - you don't get to see how everything joins together. Walking through the scruffy parts is just as rewarding as walking through the beautiful areas. More pictures on flickr when I post them up...

Monday, July 10, 2006

First Glimpse


My first foray into KL proper, including a glimpse of those towers...

I met an odd chap called Azli while drinking coffee by the side of the KLCC Gardens (which are overlooked by the towers and surroud an artificial lake). He's a highly enthusiastic photographer, and after half an hour of telling me all about his hobby, he gave me his card with a link to his photo blog. He also showed me some of the photos on his camera - mostly of children, and mostly boys. Hmm. Then I saw the tagline on his photo blog - "Touching lives through photography"... I'd heard enough! I ran away and hid in a shop opposite Starbucks.

Off on a tangent here; for the price of a Starbucks coffee, you could buy 5 main meals at a mamak, or stay in a local hostel for 2 nights (yet it's still half the price of a coffee in London)...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Madness Of King Zizou



Madness, utter madness.




My day started with a trek through the jungle just outside KL, including a walk across a canopy bridge whose entire integrity seemed to rest on the shoulders of a screw no bigger than my little finger. The walk was really good - it was nice to get a chance to catch up with Jason and to get to know Kat a little better. They're a really lovely couple, always smiling and chatting.

Other highlights included eating roti canai again, and seeing some keep-fit enthusiasts thrusting their hips in the direction of a waterfall. Only in Asia...

Lunch was at a collection of hawker stalls nearby Jason's house - these places have an amazing atmosphere, really family orientated and bustling. The food is great too - Malay cuisine is a unique mix of Chinese and Indian cooking, but undoubtably with its own distinct style and taste.

The tagline "Football Mad Nation" is dotted around the city, advertising a Malaysian phone company. This is certainly apt - the party for the World Cup Final in the centre of town was incredible. In the absence of a Malaysia national team in the finals, everyone chooses a team to support which adds to the carnival feel. It's certainly a spectacle - this year only Flipsyde (or however you spell his misspelled name) and a live Crazy Frog performance spoiled what was otherwise a superb festival atmosphere.

We moved onto the "football district" to watch the game, and Zidane's inexplicable moment of madness. I feel pretty sorry for the old chap, but it was moment of utter stupidity from a player we all once revered. Rather than spoil our memory of him, this incident will ensure that one of the world's greatest players is always remembered, but as a human being with faults like Maradona, rather than the god-like genius that was Pele.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Arrival

Having arrived at KL International and pushed through a barricade of over-zealous taxi touters, Jason picked me up and took me out for dinner with his ever-so-lovely parents and girlfriend Kat.

We went to a live seafood restaurant where I tried the odd texture of eel for the first time, as well as devouring an enormous crab, washed down with a drink from a coconut. Amazingly, my stomach held up pretty well.

We went out for a drink afterwards at an open air bar, and followed it up with roti cania and mango juice at a late-night mamak. Great stuff. Malaysians never like to leave it too long between eating...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Muscat Love

En route to Kuala Lumpur, I stopped for a few hours in Oman's capital Muscat. It was 54 degrees when we landed, and although I was only outside for 30 seconds after disembarking, I was drenched by the time we got into the airport. My first taste of how good air conditioning really feels...

As well as some rubbish gift shops and an utterly confusing currency (how many biasas in a rial?), Oman also demonstrated globalisation's reach with the presence of a Costa Coffee offering stale croissants for a sixth of the price in the UK (see above).

We departed for KL at 2am Omani time on the 8th.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hum-Along

We've had foxes, squirrels, badgers, snowmen, drunken idiots, deer, and even peacocks in our back garden, but nothing quite as surprising as this...


Hummingbirds are only supposed to populate the Americas (yep, climate change certainly isn't happening, Exxon...)

It's wings go like the clappers, up to 80 beats per second!

Keep your eyes peeled for further updates, I'm off to Kuala Lumpur on Friday...