Monday, 31 March 2008

Cartoonist Envy!

The Malaysian papers have more cartoons than ours back home.

And...and...they still have Blonde and Peanuts.

A quiet day in Malacca.

Margaret has come down with a cold of some sort so we have had a quiet sort of day.

Went out this morning and found a new back-pack for me and some peppermint tea for the ailing.

When we returned I left her sleeping and went to visit various museums that are nearby - the democracy museum, the kite museum, old Government House, an old church (St Pauls - something about the English building a light house beside it (above) appeal to my sense of humour.), a kite museum, the people's museum and a museum of enduring beauty.

When I returned Margaret was still sleeping so I got myself a drink and set about visiting some of my long neglected fellow bloggers. According to Google Reader I had 287 unread postings.

Tonight, cold permitting, we may wander off to the sound and light show that is nearby.

A CARE parcel

I mentioned that we were greeted with cool drinks and some lovely nibbles when we arrived.

I neglected to mention that we were given a lovely little bag filled with some more of these nibbles as well a bag of the rendang flavoured, flossed beef that Hliza's mother makes and sells.

All beautifully presented.

I am tempted to break them out on the next Malaysian Airlines flight, to show that they could do so much better than their in-flight 'Snackpac'.

Three Generations

Hliza, her mother and her two daughters.

It is hard to describe the feeling: you feel you know someone from blogging, from sharing their views of the world, and yet you have anxieties before you meet them in real life.

I can tell you that Hliza, her sister, Nani, and their friend, Aizan, were all as warm and as gentle as they appear on their blogs.

We had a truly lovely time. We were collected by Hliza's sister, Nani, her friend, Aizan, and Hliza's two older children. They took us on a tour of Malacca before going to Hliza's mother's house for a most delicious lunch. I am going to have to increase my Malaysian recipe repertoire! Before luch we were given some nibbles that were delicious but defy easy description. Lunch included a Malay 'birthday cake' (yellow sticky rice, prawns, quail eggs), chicken rendang curry, 'flossed' beef rendang, an assemble it yourself laksa, charming little rice parcels made of coconut palm leaves and a chicken korma curry. To finish the meal off was a dragon fruit; the red fleshed kind rather than the white fleshed version available in Australia.

After lunch we visited a mushroom farm being set up by Hliza's younger brother before the other brother took us on a river cruise. On the way home we stopped off for a local 'drink' (who's name escapes me) that consisted of grated ice, coconut milk, palm sugar, red beans, some green noodlely things and possibly a few other things. Cool and refreshing.

A truly delightful day and we give a big 'thank you' to Hliza for making this visit to Malacca so memorable.

The Bloggers Five.

Little Najla is perhaps a little young for a blog; give her time!

Bustle, bustle, bustle...

The evening Malacca bustle from our hotel.

A plumbing observation.

Now, I am not normally of a mind to photograph the toilets of the world but the one in our hotel here fascinated me.

The water comes in from the LHS cavity, swirls around and empties the bowl.

With almost no sound.

Ideal for a hotel.

A birthday takes the cake.

Cake one: a chocolate cake from the Equatorial Hotel repertoire.

Cake two: A Malay birthday cake from Hliza's repertoire.

Both delicious, in different ways.

Sunday, 30 March 2008


We arrived at the hotel in Malacca at about 9pm after 12 hrs travelling from Mulu in Sarawak.

We were tired.

We were hungry.

I was trying to find Hliza's phone number on the computer why at the same time trying to figure out how to text on a new, and unfamiliar, phone that we had bought at Miri airport.

The door bell rang....and in came two hotel staff with a chocolate cake, singing happy birthday.

Margaret was ducking and weaving around the place with the camera.

While all this was going on the phone rings...

It was Hliza.

I have no idea what I said to her, I do hope it made sense, but we will see her and her family today.

We are looking forward to it enormously.


Saturday, 29 March 2008

Sarawak Wrap

• At first glance, things in Sarawak look familiar, like home; it is only when you look closer that you see the differences. Could be Queensland.
• Very impressive modern architecture.
• Matang Park – sad animals in a ‘zoo’ where they can see the jungle.
• (Thinks) Am I allowed to talk about jungle or should it be a wilderness?
• Just the two of us with a guide in a car. A personalized tour by “Edward”.
• Lunch with our guide, local café. Fed fish-heads to the café cat.
• Sweet corn ice cream.
• Energy saving light-globes everywhere but freezing temperatures in cars, buses, hotels.
• Staying first couple of days at Crowne Plaza – five star, with all the fawning attention that I hate in such places.
• Security warning in the hotel about street robbery, pickpockets, conmen, tricksters, and general hotel security.
• Room has a floor to ceiling window with a sign saying ‘please do not open’. Outside the window is a 30cm ledge, nothing else. As we are on the 12th floor I will leave the window well closed.
• Expensive beers - $7 a can in the hotel, $1.50 locally.
• Do German tourists ever smile?
• Hotel staff seem genuinely pleased (and genuinely surprised) if we say “thank you” in Malay.
• Lots of new housing estates, lots of industrial estates. Many large, expensive looking houses.
• Margaret had “Ais Kacang”, a local dessert. We think it is a special one to confuse tourists – it contained green jelly cubes, Lychees, coconut seaweed stuff, green noodles (possibly made of sago), ice-cream, crushed ice, grenadine, a pineapple ring and sweet corn kernels.
• A boat trip to Boku National Park – Macaque monkeys, Proboscis monkeys, fiddler crabs, little sand crabs, little lizards, a monitor lizard. And a small crocodile.
• Different guide on day two. Odd walking through hot and humid jungle in Northern Borneo and your guide is talking to someone on his mobile (cell) phone.
• Visit to Long House – 75 joined houses with a common front community area.
• An unemptying rice wine glass while watching local dancers. Happily not a particularly strong wine.
• Memo to self: never leave your backpack anywhere, even in a locked van.
• Mulu caves – watching 3 million bats head out in search of mosquitoes – “Go bats, go!” A lot of them fly around the resort at night.
• Amazing caves (100m high, 100m wide) with constant waterfalls from the ceiling. Apparently one of the caves, the Sarawak Cavern, is big enough to hold 16 football pitches but is not open to the public.
• Native dancers at dinner time, looking a bit sheepish. (They doubled as hotels staff during the day.)
• Lots of frog noises at night – sounds like dinner time at the Lost Dogs Home.

24th Birthday.

Well, actually this photo was taken yesterday but it will have to do.

Twenty four? Well, yes, in base 25. (No-one said I had to count my birthdays in base 10...)

(Remember the old joke: There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary numbers. And those who don't.)


There were lots of butterflies near the Clearwater cave but most were elusive for the 'snap and shoot' photographer. This one was an exception, landing on Margaret's back.

The most beautiful ones were black and green.

Wash time at the river...

do Mulu!

Mulu is notes for its large caves.

This one is the Deer cave, 100m wide and 100m high, with water cascading from the ceiling.

At dusk, millions of bts stream out of the caves in search of insects.

No mosquitoes at Mulu!

River in the jungle.

There are those unkind folk who say that Melbourne's river, the Yarra, is upside down - all the mud is at the top.

They haven't been to Borneo.

Mind you, some rivers are crystal clear too.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Aw, rats!

Dropped in at the Miri Petroleum Museum today.

Only had water, bathers, towel, sunglasses and rain coat in the backpack so left it in the locked van.

Came out to find the van window kicked in and the backpack gone.


The sunglasses are prescription so I hope they get a headache wearing them.

Museum was interesting, by the way.

Hliza & C0: any shops for replacement items you would recommend in Malacca?

Sarawak Cultural Village - a selection

Embroidering silver thread into fabric.

One of seven different hut styles.

Part of a dance performance.

A bamboo bridge.

Some skulls, mostly monkey.

Old meets new.

It's Supermonkey!

"Look Mum, I can fly!" A young Macaque monkey takes a leap of faith.

Energy issues

Malaysia seems to have a very high uptake of energy saving globes, certainly in airports and hotels. Which is great.


And it is a big but...

But they seem to think that any enclosed space (car, bus, plane, hotel room, auditorium) needs to be refrigerated to single digit temperatures.

Perhaps they think we tourists are perishable goods?

Monday, 24 March 2008

The good, the bad...

Some things that you find on the beach are good.

Others are not so good.

Jungle Girl

The 'vine' is rattan, used to make furniture.


The fishermen sling nets between these structures and catch shrimp and prawns.

Whatever you do, don't smile.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Sad, so sad.

Found our selves at a zoo today. My assessment of most of the animals is advanced psychosis. Many pace up and down, many just rock from side to side, the rest stare listlessly off into the distance.

They can all see the tropical rainforest from their cages.



Civilization! Kuching has internet!

Some spectacular architecture here. The Civic Centre, above.

The South City Town Hall. A bit of a tropical storm passing in the background.

The North City Town Hall looks impressive too but have only seen it at a distance.

The new Assembly building will be impressive, too.


Sorry for the burst of posts but internet connections have been non-existent for the last week.

Tomorrow we head into Sarawak for a week and I expect more of the same.

Sabah Wrap

• Much more organized, more ‘finished’ than Thailand – more modern buildings, more infrastructure, more car accidents.
• Most places have a satellite dish.
• Very few street vendors
• No scooters
• Tropical storms – very heavy, start very quickly
• Hyatt Regency too smothering – people wanting to ‘help you’ at every turn.
• Lots of Germans at Hyatt Regency.
• Surprised to find UK style powerpoints.
• All the restaurants near Hyatt Regency were overpriced. Very hard to get Malaysian food – lots of Western restaurants plus fast food chains.
• Coffee & tea facilities in Hyatt Regency!! But leaving too early to use them. Rats!
• No mobile/cell phone signal in the Mount Kinabalu National Park. How uncivilized.
• Large stinky flower – Rafflesia sp.
• Pin-head orchid. (Yes, it is tiny).
• Visit to Poring Hot springs – guide’s accent made it sound like ‘boiling hot springs’.
• Miles and miles of palm oil plantations.
• Lots of road slippages, areas where the roads had disappeared down the hillside.
• Gomantong Caves – where they harvest bird’s nests for bird’s nest soup. Everything in the cave is covered in bird and bat droppings, including walkways and hand rails. Funny reddish cockroach critters feeding on all the guano.
• Kinabantangan River cruise – Macacque monkeys and Proboscis monkeys. Sundry birds and butterflies. Dodgey engine on the boat – no way we would ever sneak up on the animals.
• Riverside cabins – with mosquito nets.
• Didn’t see any pigmy elephants but saw where they had been.
• Borer eating our bedside lamp.
• Visited ghost resort next door. Too prone to flooding to survive. But growing beautiful gardenias. No wonder they don’t grow well at home.
• Most lodges require you to remove shoes before entering.
• Watched a Green Turtle lay 95 eggs, oblivious to the 52 people clustered around her.
• Great fun watching orang utans being fed; natural comedians. Had to compete with ‘pirate’ Macaque monkeys who raided the feeding table at times.
• Everyday is an early start – before 7am.
• You know you are in a different world when road kill includes crocodiles.
• Like Thailand, many of the women in ads are ‘western’.
• If Pepsi seems to have cornered the cola franchise, the catholic church seems to have the (visible) share of religion here but there are some beautiful mosques.
• Could see the Philippines from Turtle Island.
• Most travel companies refer to Borneo rather than Sabah or Malaysia. Sounds more exotic, I suspect.
• Happiness, and a certain amount of amazement, when you arrive at a far flung airport and find a guy standing in the arrivals lounge with a piece of paper with your name on it.

Orang utans feeding.

In the top photo, note the Macaque monkeys looking for the chance to grab and run.

River home.

One of the houses along the Kinabatangan River.

Proboscis Lodge - For sale...

Part of an abandoned lodge near ours. The jungle is slowly reclaiming it.

Beautiful buildings, beautiful outlook.

Just one small problem...

...prone to flooding. The grass was muddy when we walked there so it has been under water recently. Apparently there have been a few floods where all you could see was the roof.

You would have thought that they would have checked.


The jungle meets the river.

Thick jungle comes down to the riverside - it is like boating through a 20m high green canyon.

Makes you realise the difficulties that the soldiers had in WWII.

Dust to dust.

A pile of stuff accumulating as some critter eats our bedside table lamp.

Living in a jungle is a constant battle, it seems.

Bird's Nest Soup

This was a large cave where the nests of Swifts have been harvested for many centuries to make Bird's nest Soup.

Lot's of critters live on the accumulated guano that covers the cave floor, the boardwalk and the hand rails.

Sunrise at Mt Kinabalu.

Sabah, near Mt Kinabalu.

A local market, Sabah countryside.

Does the Queen really shop here?

There is a Harrod's Store at KL airport.

Margaret, of course, had some English Breakfast tea.

Passing storm

Rafflesia species...

Big smelly flower. Smells of rotting meat, attracts flies, not bees.

Fishing boats at Chumporn, Thailand.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Thailand Wrap – things that stand out:

• Met some friends who were on the end of their holiday in Bangkok for lunch - $11 for the four of us.
• Many signs about the King around the city. He is clearly well loved. At the airport all the walkways out to the planes have “Long live the king” on them.
• Elevated walkways, looking somewhat over-engineered, large concrete structures that look as if they came from some Star Wars wrecking yard. But so user friendly for getting around the city centre.
• The noise and chaos of the traffic, at times crossing the road can be classed as an extreme sport. At others, it is extremely civilized, the lights have a digital display informing drivers of how long before they will change. In Australia this would result in a Formula One grid start at every light change, but not here.
• Streets pretty clean even though it is sometimes difficult to find a rubbish bin.
• Very few flies.
• The Tuk-Tuks – little covered vehicles built around a motorbike and carry two passengers. Tall passengers have to adopt a position somewhat like a limbo dancer (but without the pole, of course) to see anything above the gutters.
• Every Tuk-Tuk driver wants to drop you at a tailor or a gem store – they get a commission.
• Our tour guide refers to toilets as the ‘happy house’. Also, if you ask him how long something will be he reduces it to nearest 59 seconds. Half an hour becomes twenty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds. Doesn’t seem quite so bad.
• Tour of the canals of Bangkok, I didn’t even realize that they had canals. The houses of the poor nestled with those of the rich. Letter boxes on the houses! So the mail must come by boat.
• An orchid farm – all the orchids growing soil-less, hanging in the air.
• My first taste of the traditional noodle dish, Pad Thai, in Thailand. It was not the first and not the best. But it was the first in Thailand.
• Feel guilty not eating the salads when the dishes are often so nicely presented but them’s the doctor’s order for a happy trip. Especially if you want a happy trekking experience!
• Get Tuk-Tuk who takes around some lovely temples. Then takes us to tailor’s shop. Refuse to let him take us to gem shop. Not happy.
• Train to Chaing Mai, in the north – seats turn into upper and lower bed.
• Carriage attendant appeared with tray of orange juice, thinking it was a bit like they do on planes everyone took one. He then asked for 40 baht payment.
• Same guy wandered the aisles most of the evening saying “Beer? Beer?”.
• Next morning his call changed to “Coffee? Tea?” Ordered a tea and a coffee, got two coffees.
• Silk Factory, Paper factory, Silver factory. Taken to see various crafts in action. Quite interesting but each stop came with us running the gauntlet of the sales staff at the shop on the way out. Resisted valiantly.
• Elephant training camp was fun but left doubts about the kindness of the whole thing.
• Temple at Doi Suthep. Very impressive. High up a hill. Blessed by the monk.
• Ate some crickets (3) at the lunch stop on the way to the hill trek. Tasted like pumpkin seeds – a bland nuttiness. Crunchy, though.
• Also ate some deep fried bamboo worms. Tasted like unsalted potato crisps.
• The bush in the hills changes dramatically as you go around (or over) the hills – different plants in different spots. Lots of bamboo in places – Sammy, one of the guides, cut us all bamboo walking sticks. A little teak about but not a lot where we were.
• Spent first night at Lisu tribe.
• Men were permitted to visit a sacred compound where a pig had recently been slaughtered and offered to the gods (They believe in a form of animalism). Once the Gods had eaten their fill the rest was distributed to the tribe. Had a small piece of boiled pork. Fatty.
• Everyone pitched in to help fill and roll spring-rolls for dinner.
• Dinner included frog curry. Too hot to taste much.
• Slept in a bamboo hut under mosquito nets.
• Scrambled eggs, toast and strawberry jam for breakfast.
• Four hour trek, lunch, then onto the elephants.
• Fed our bamboo walking sticks to our elephant.
• Glorious colours of sunrise as the train approached Bangkok – so much smoke in the air. Still not sure why – some stories are that they are burning rice stubble in preparation for the next crop but I would have thought it was good buffalo food. Maybe someone, somewhere (Indonesia?) is burning forests again.
• Visited Jim Thompson’s House in Bangkok – ten of us in three taxies – fabulous building (Traditional Thai but he bought a number of teak houses and relocated them side by side on a canal and then joined them into one house.) and lovely art work. Teak & antique. He was an American who developed the silk industry after the war, collecting antiques along the way. Disappeared on a holiday to Malaysia and no-one knows what happened to him. Shades of Ambrose Bierce.
• Visited Wat Po. The guide, Tong, kept referring to Thailand as Siam.
• Amanda, 25, went to Wat Po with us. Tong took us to be a family unit and kept wanting to use my camera to photograph us in front of various temples and buddhas.
• Visited the Grand Palace next door, seems to double as army base. Lots of armed personnel about. Saw the emerald Buddha (really jade), found a mango juice vendor and, hot and sweaty, headed home.
• Caught a water taxi – it started raining on the way home. No drizzle in the tropics. Poured down. Instantly the streets filled with umbrella vendors. Pretty wet by the time we found a tuk-tuk to complete the journey. Passport soggy - mildew seems to have improved my appearance.
• Overnight train to the south. Slept in top bunk. Didn’t fall out. Train 2hr late. Very narrow gauge. Numerous vendors within the train – beers, drinks, food, coffee.
• Song tau, a two bench covered utility, the most common form of transport in rural Thailand, to the rainforest resort. Showered, changed and off to a river for ‘tubing’ – drifting down a river on inner tubes. Managed to fall off backwards trying to do a half lotus on the inner tube. Happily my sunglasses stayed on. Stopped at temple on the way home to feed the monkeys.
• Learnt how to write my name in Thai. Blessed my parents for a simple, one syllable name.
• Travelled to some islands off the east coast of Thailand – Koh Samui was nice but very touristy. A one night stop en route to Koh Tao.
• Wireless internet was available in Koh Samui. Used Skype to talk to various folk.
• We have two Russian girls in the group – Niceta & Luba (spelling is uncertain). They don’t speak much English but are slowly warming to the group. It must be hard coming in from outside into an established group in the first place, doubly so if you are not good at the language.
• Waiting to catch the Koh Tao ferry Margaret spotted a lady nursing her baby and crying. She went and talked to her for a while. Seemed to help.
• Days in the south very hot and humid. Tend to start hazy and warm up from there. Not much in the way of sunrises but lovely sunsets.
• Kayaked a bit around the lagoon where the resort sits.
• Lovely snorkeling spots around Koh Tao.
• Pizza and Italian Chianti on last night at resort.
• Last Pad Thai (for Thailand) at the unlikely named town, Chumporn, en-route to the train.
• Melbourne Grand Prix on the TV in the resort restaurant. Is there no escaping it?
• The Thais have toothpicks on every table.
• The big four condiments are always present – fish sauce, chillies in vinegar, powdered chilli and sugar.

Wild man of Borneo...

Currently sitting on the sixth floor of the Hyatt Regency in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, Northern Borneo. A beer and a curry under the belt, getting ready for five night swing through the jungle in search of Orangutans and such like beasts. A bit of a change from sleeping on the floor in hills tribe huts in Northern Thailand.

Probably wont post again until March 22nd. Depends what services are available.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

A hard day snorkling...

Not long back from a hard day snorking around Ko Tao island.

This is a photo from our boat of one of the resorts we passed. Not a lot of sand about the place but spectacular.

Reminder: The photos enlarge if you click on them.

Sunset on Ko Tao.