A glimpse of Malaysia
It has taken me three months to get down to writing this. At last I have time to review, reflect and relive my travels; the time lapse makes this an adventure to be savoured anew. I had planned this mother-daughter trip to Malaysia as a celebration of my daughter successfully navigating 6 years of med school, of her stepping over one more threshold of her life. Here then is account of our travels..
The thought of the long flight is unattractive indeed; I have yet to recover from my voyage from Switzerland to Australia but one week ago. This flight to KL is worse than I fear. With thoughts of economising, I have chosen to fly Air Asia. I regret it the entire 8 hrs in the cramped, hard, cold seat. Never again.
We take an airport bus to the city and then a taxi to the hotel. After a shower and breakfast, a glimmer of interest in life re-emerges. With the disgusting vitality of youth, my super child is impatient to be out and about. I collect my shattered body and put it together into a semblance of a human being and we set out to explore KL. The subway is easy to figure out and we do a little walking tour, starting at Masjid Jamek, exploring Central Market, visiting the Maha Mariamman temple and finishing up at Petaling street. Petaling street is alive with locals and tourists, strange foods and smells, noise and laughter. It all has a strange familiarity, echoes of India, perhaps? But the heat tires me quickly and we head back to the hotel for a meal and an afternoon nap. Revived, we go for a very long walk in the evening but our hotel is in not well placed and the walk amongst hurtling traffic leaves me petrified. We pass a market where every other stall is selling Durian but I do not have the courage to try it.
After a satisfying breakfast where I feast on a great fruit spread, we head out to the Batu caves. A subway to Sentur Limor and a taxi from there gets us to our destination within an hour. A Tamil marriage is in progress in the temple below, I gawk along with other tourists, the rites echoing memories from far back. We climb 272 steps to get to the huge cavern above, avoiding monkeys which seem to have no fear of humans. The cave is huge and impressive, the shrine for Lord Murugan is dwarfed inside. How do people get a sense of sanctity in a site teeming with tourists and cameras? I don’t…I prefer my temples to be just that, places of worship and nothing more.
After an afternoon nap (my age tells!!) we head to the see the famous Petronas towers. We are too late to get tickets to go up but instead we wander through the luxurious shopping mall below. All the designer brands are represented but this is not the kind of marketplace I enjoy. All too artificial for my taste.
We then head to see the Chinese temple which we missed yesterday and then to the lights of Bukit Bintang. I love the glitter and dazzle of this place, the shops all lit up, the young ones promenading in their finery (or not!), even the locals are tourists here. My little doc wants to shop but we decide to leave it for the end of the trip. I find an organic vegetarian place for a very satisfying dinner.
We take a taxi to the central train station and then an airport bus to catch our flight to Penang. The flight is delayed. When we finally take a taxi to our hotel in Penang, its 2pm. We unpack quickly and then walk to little India in Georgetown. I thankfully spot a vegetarian restaurant and we have a satisfying meal. We both feel the need for a long walk to blow away the cobwebs. Tourism can wait. We wander through narrow streets towards the jetty but walking here is not easy as there are no pavements and the traffic is too close for comfort. When we reach the jetty a tropical downpour catches us out and we sit it out at a restaurant, watching the boats come in. I savour these quiet moments listening to the rain. This is beauty.
We continue our walk to the Esplanade. I am tired by this time (my easy transition to tiredness is worrying me now!!) and I sit watching the sea, listing to Lalgudi Jayaraman on my mp3 player while my young one walkes on to get rid of her excess energy. I watch the tourists and the locals promenade by the sea, wondering about their lives and stories. I watch the ice cream man sell his wares, the children balancing on their bikes, the old ones leaning on their canes. Life is good when a breeze blows the cobwebs away.
Armed with a walking tour I have downloaded from the web, we head back to the lighthouse and I read out aloud the history of the various buildings of note. The sun is hot and the going slow. I like Georgetown and its mish-mash of cultural heritages.
There are quite a few Chinese temples in Georgetown which fascinate us. They are colourful and decorated like wedding cakes 🙂 We are both taken with the colours and shapes and the sheer exuberance of the decor!
In the evening, we take a bus to the Batu Ferringhi beach. Why does sand through ones toes feel so good? Why is sunset on a beach more beautiful than elsewhere? I love to walk at the edge of sand and water, with water washing away my footsteps as I make them. My little ball of energy surges on ahead, impatient with my slow steps which want to savour each wave. I walk alone as the sun sets.
We explore the night market but its mostly tourist trash. We still fall for a few ‘bargains’. We dine in a restaurant close to the beach and then take a bus back to our hotel.
After a rather late start and leisurely breakfast, we take a bus to the Kek Lok Si temple. What a magnificent temple complex !! We both love it and spend a few hours exploring the many shrines. Back in Georgetown, we visit a couple of temples we had missed and that’s the end of the day.
We start the day with a visit to the art gallery, something I enjoy very much. There is an excellent exhibition of a local artist. Then we go for a tour of the Fat Tze mansion, a heavily advertised tour. A restored mansion now run as an up-market bed and breakfast, it gives an interesting glimpse at a way of living which does not exist any more. However, we both feel that it is a bit hyped.
After the tour, we take a bus to find the Sleeping Buddha Temple (Thai) and the Burmese Buddha temple opposite, which I like much better. We take the opportunity to be blessed by two young monks in the Burmese temple. As we walk from the temple to Gurney Plaza, I ponder about the life of monks, about youth and wisdom, about wisdom and truth, and so many other thoughts which spring up when one views a life so different from ours.
Gurney Plaza is another sparkling shopping mall, all gleaming and western, not the kind of thing either of us find interesting. We stay just for a short while and then find our way back to the hotel.
Another flight this morning, a short one to Langkawi. Taking recommendations from the travel forums, I have booked a more up-market place than I would normally do and I am expecting a treat. It is…and it isn’t. The hotel complex is made of many lovingly restored buildings, each in a different style. There are Colonial homes, Malay homes and Chinese homes. Its beautiful and serene.
However it is a couple of kilometres from the beach and there are no cruising taxis. We have lunch at the hotel and then head out to the beach for a walk. Neither of us are keen on taking a dip, given the hotel is so far away. Another sunset, another beach, another walk, one foot in water, one foot on sand. I am content to meander along slowly, enjoying the moment.
We have a slow start to our morning and it is quite hot by the time we set off towards the beach. My little doc goes paragliding and I watch anxiously while she lands back safe and sound. I am too hot to walk; instead I am content to sit under an umbrella and read my book while she goes off for a long walk. We walk back to the hotel where a taxi picks us up to take us on a Rainforest Walking Tour. It is very interesting and informative. We see a Great Hornbill, some flying Lemurs, a huge Monitor Lizard, a couple of kinds of monkeys, some flying Squirrels and a number of birds. I am very happy to have done this.
A flight back to KL. This time our hotel in KL is much better situated. We spend the later afternoon and evening shopping. After all, a mother-daughter trip isn’t done until the suitcases are bursting at the seams 🙂 Happy with our retail therapy and a nice dinner to round it all off, we return to the hotel to pack for the flight back tomorrow.
A horrid flight of 8 hrs, and phew, we are home!!