Pulau Penang & Kuala Lumpar
05.01.2010 - 10.01.2010
So from the border of Laos we catch an overnight train to Bangkok, spend a night there and then catch another overnight train to Hat Yai, close to the Malaysian border. Overnight trains are certainly preferable to overnight buses, with proper beds you can get a decent nights sleep on them! Once in Hat Yai we get a bus to Pulau Penang.
Penang is an island off the West Coast of Malaysia. We get a boat from Butterworth to Georgetown on the island and find ourselves a guesthouse on Love Lane. Anyone would think we were ambling about Devon with names like that! It's an ex British colony country though, so yet another left hand drive place (fourth of the trip... and people say it's only the UK and OZ they drive on the left) and they even use British plugs. Our guesthouse is the oddest yet, with terrapins under the stairs and a cage of hamsters by the basin!
Malaysia is a Muslim country, but has a multicultural feel, with large Indian and Chinese communities. Again, because of the British colonising, who brought them over. They all seem happy to live amongst each other with Buddhist and Hindu temples a common sight alongside the mosques. And the multiculturalism has left them with a fantastic cuisine. The language is interesting, a lot of the words seem to be like phonetic English. Taxi is Teksi, Pharmacy is Farmasi, Police is Polis. Perhaps the influence of the British, or maybe the Dutch, who colonised earlier.
While in Penang we meet a German ex-pat who lives there with her 45 rescued dogs. She very kindly drives us about for an afternoon, showing us a huge Buddhist statue on a hill and leaving us at the vernacular railway which we take up to the peak of island, where a Hindu Temple sits right next to a Muslim mosque. Here, I watch two monks taking photos of each other with them as a backdrop. What a lovely show of faiths interacting. Let's not mention the attacks on churches in KL that hit the news while we were here mind...
After Penang we head south to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. The city is full of sky scrapers and has a very modern feel to it. We whizz about on monorails to plush shopping centres and landscaped parks. They have carefully kept the colonial architecture though, including a mock tudor cricket clubhouse.
The Petronas Towers are indeed tall and impressive, in a bling sort of way. At night they light up every inch of them, adding to the glamourous look. We got a great view of them while stuck waiting under a covered walkway while it poured with rain in only the way it can in the tropics.
On our last day in KL we get a bus to the Batu Caves which are a series of caves important to Hindus. Every year around January, February time there is a pilgrimage to them and a huge celebration. Unfortunately we're a few weeks early for that, but they are impressive nonetheless. Another giant statue greets us outside them. We find the animals that make it their home most interesting. There are plenty of monkeys ready to grab an ice cream out of your hands and the pigeons are in abundance. But there's also a handful of cockerels clucking about. We've seen (and heard) them pretty much everywhere on our trip, but in a cave seems odd. What's odder is the 3 men who are trying to catch them. We watch them chase the cockerels for around 20 minutes with almost no luck. They finally mange to get one in a box, no idea why. We didn't hang around to see if they got the other five.
From KL, we get a bus down to Singapore for our flight to Brisbane, Australia, arriving this morning.