Permanent Vacasian

The traveller sees what he sees; the tripper sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton

The Amazing Race

May 26, 2009
by Tina
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Somewhere Between Singapore and Malaysia – We decided to fly to Indonesia instead of taking a ferry as they have a tendency to be overcrowded and sink.  So we booked a flight to Bali from the Johor Bahru (JB) airport in Malaysia, just over the boarder from Singapore, because it was a quarter of the price.

On the morning of our flight we took a bus to the border, went through customs and immigration to exit Singapore then entered Malaysia. Then we took another bus to a bus terminal in JB where we could catch yet another bus to the airport.

Many hotels have an arrow on the celing pointing towards Mecca.

Many hotels have an arrow on the ceiling pointing towards Mecca.

While at the bus terminal I gave my money belt a superstitious pat to make sure my passport was still there; it wasn’t.  Neither was it in my pocket or my bag.  I realized with horror that I lost my passport.  As frantic tears welled up in my eyes I told Stuart that it was gone – I must have dropped it on the bus.

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Melaka It Alot

May 22, 2009
by Stuart
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A soulful tattoo parlor in Chinatown.

Melaka, Malaysia – All the things we loved about Georgetown were also found in Melaka’s old quarter, but on a much smaller scale – like a Snicker’s Mini’s. The neighborhoods were just as unique and the food was just as tasty – with chicken and rice balls and tandoori chicken sets served on banana leaves as some of the highlights.

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Cheng Hoon Teng Temple.

The Sungai Melaka river bisects the old quarter and creates a few distinctive sections. On the eastern side of the river is the colonial Dutch area centered around Town Square – shaped more like a triangle – where most of the major sights are. Little India is to the north and the newly developed sections are to the south. Somewhat partitioned on the western side is Chinatown. The river must be just wide enough that most tourists don’t venture over to the west. And if they do, it’s not for very long.

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In KL

May 21, 2009
by Tina
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – I admit that I didn’t know much about Kuala Lumpur, or KL, before visiting it.  I knew there were some tall buildings, the Petronas Towers, that everyone seems to bring up when you mention KL, which our friend Kris, having just visited KL, “the most boring building in the most boring city.” Needless to say we didn’t have high expectations for the city going in, but our time there was actually quite interesting and anything but boring.

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Masjid Negara (National Mosque) seen from the Islamic Arts Museum.

On our first day we explored the Islamic Arts museum, which is a well done museum featuring an extensive collection of decorative Islamic arts.  We enjoyed it despite some serious museum fatigue. We met a Kiwi couple and a kinda weird Aussie girl  at the museum and had lunch together at the Bird Park in the Lake Gardens district, where we got to see a couple of really cool birds while dining.

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Tina looking all righteous.

After a brief visit to the Orchid Gardens we then visited the National Mosque.  We gals had to wear long cloaks that covered our heads and arms and legs.  A guide explained a little bit about Islam and about the mosque itself and was intent on dispelling any misconceptions we had about Islam and Muslims.

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High Tea

May 20, 2009
by Tina
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Beginning the hike.

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia – The English and French colonialists built resort towns throughout their territories in SE Asia as escapes from the heat of the lowlands.  Our destination was the hill station of Cameron Highlands, once home to vacationing English and Chinese vegetable farmers and now a popular stop on the Malaysian tourist trail.

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This place really was the jungle.

The main street in the town of Tanah Rata is dominated by a Starbucks and littered with restaurants and souvenir shops, but the town still has a nice feel.  Laid back and charming, and plenty of places to pick up a delicious strawberry shake.

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Mischa making her way up the trail.

The main draw of the highlands, besides the cooler weather, is the hiking.  We set out one morning with Mischa and Ales, a couple from the Czech Republic that we met on the bus ride from Georgetown.  Our hike took us up a steep and muddy trail to the peak of Gunung Brinchang for great views of the surrounding highlands and back down through tea plantations, strawberry farms and butterfly gardens.

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More Than Just a Town

May 20, 2009
by Stuart
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Georgetown, Malaysia – The name Georgetown seems like it would be a smallish place, town-like even. But when the bus crossed the Penang Bridge and we could see the rows of high rises and hotel chains, it was much more city then we expected. A metropolis maybe. We joked that the name should be changed to something like Georgecity, or Georgetropolis. But then we decided people might confuse it with George Stephanopoulos.

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Looking down Lebuh Light.

In what was most likely billed as “progress”, the island on which Georgetown resides has been taken over by buildings. There is some green space in the middle and the more you head away from Georgetown the less crowded it gets. But for the most part, it’s pretty developed. But instead of developing over the historic parts – ala China – the new developments were built around the old neighborhoods, creating a cocoon of cement. Within this shell lies the magic Georgetown.

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More of Georgetown across the water; one of the many mosques.

This protection has allowed the neighborhoods of Little India and Chinatown to remain singular and authentic. Throw in a few mosques, temples and some British Colonial architecture, and you have a most spectacular place to wander – especially along the streets where they meet. On one side of the road you have Colonial buildings; little Chinese shop houses on the other. All the while you smell curries and hear the latest hit from India pop radio. Read the rest of this post »