Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Brief Moment in Time - Malaysia Part 2

Cameron Highlands
The bus ride to the Cameron Highlands was long but nice. Well, nice if you like roller coasters, which I do so I was fine with it. The last hour or so of the bus ride consisted of us going up this very windy and thin road up a very lush mountain to our destination, Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. We arrive at the bus station and as soon as we stepped outside I felt something that I had not felt in a very long time, cool weather. It had to be at least 60 degrees and I was loving it!!! After being in the hot sweltering heat for the past few days, the Cameron Highlands was the break I needed. We arrived there with not knowing where we were going to stay and hoping we would find a place, and lucky for us as soon as we got off the bus a guy asked us if we needed a place to stay and had a van to take us to the hostel (it was actually the same hostel we were looking at before and wanted to stay at but thought they were full). We get there to check in and they were full. BUT lucky for us and the 3 others travelers who came with us, they said they would rent out the movie room for us for 10 ringets a night (like $5). They would place mattresses, sheets, pillows, and blankets for us. I was perfectly fine with and Jay was too, so we dropped our bags down and made the movie room our new home for the next 2 days!

We headed down for dinner and ate at this Malaysian place, which was okay. They served chicken in my fried rice and vegetables and Jay was more than happy to eat the meat for me. It is actually nice have a meat eater along with me because he tastes the food that I am skeptical of and lets me know if its meat or not. Thanks Jay! After dinner we went back to this street vendor that had some homemade fried ice cream. This thing was literally the best thing ever! It looked so easy to make too! Basically what they did was roll out 2 or 3 pieces of white bread, placed a scoop of ice cream in it, sprinkles some water on it, rolled it in some nuts or something, fried it, and then cut it into 4 pieces. Sooooo gooooood!!! We went back for another one later that night.

We hit the bed early after dinner because we signed up for this all day tour for the next day that started at 8:30am. The tour included a tour of a local village, a blow dart demonstration, 2.5 hour trekking through the jungle to see the largest flower in the world, a tour of the tea plantation and strawberry farm. The Cameron Highlands are known for their tea and strawberries as there are farms and plantations everywhere around here! Which unfortunately made it a bit of a tourist place which has it pros and cons. Its good because we can expect that people will know English and will be able to get around, but bad because it can get cheap and tacky and isn't always the real deal of what we are looking for. The Cameron Highlands, although beautiful was sadly too touristy and you could tell by the negligence of some of the locals and the tourist towards the environment. We would be in beautiful pristine jungle and out of the corner of my eye I will see a candy bar wrapper or a bottle left behind from the previous tourist. There are also parts of the mountain where the streets are lined with locals selling fruits, vegetables, and their crafts. But if you look beyond the roadside stand you will see a mountain full of trash in which they threw their spoiled goods into.This has been some of the most disheartening sights to see, and unfortunately it has not ended there and something tells me it will only get worse in our travels.

We wake up nice and early and get into this all terrain vehicle with huge tires and a big long horns on the front. There were 6 of us in the van with another 10 following in another vehicle. We drove for about an hour to the village site and was shown the blow dart demonstration at the local village. The villagers still use the blow dart to hunt and was actually a lot easier to shoot than I expected. Only a handful of people wanted to try and of course Jay and I jumped at the chance. Jay was actually the only way to get a bulls eye too! I was personally just happy that I got it on the target. We walked around the village for a bit and came across a cute little baby monkey in a cage. The sad part is that they villagers often eat monkey so most likely we were looking at dinner.

After the village we drive around the corner and went off roading and mudding up this crazy hill for like 10-15 minutes to get to where we wold begin our trekking through the jungle to see the flower. I was absolutely loving the hike. It was just what I needed since I have been unable to run here. It was hot, sweaty, and muddy. Jay and I both praised our Keen shoes as they were the best shoes for the job. After an hour or so hike through the jungle and around some small waterfalls, we finally reach the flower. It really is BIG. It is about .8 meters in diameter and sits on the jungle floor. It only stays bloomed for about 8 days and we caught it in full bloom.  It doesn't have too great of a smell but it had a nice red color with lighter dots around it. The name of the flower is rafflesia, if you google it you can see its images. After everyone rested and viewed the flower we headed back for another hour or so hike to the truck where we went down the muddy road again. 

The next stop was to the tea plantation, which honestly all we really cared about was getting some food. We were not there too long but the tea plantation was absolutely beautiful. The hills surrounding us were filled with tea bushes and it seemed as if it went on for miles and miles. As we were leaving we pulled off the side of the road and one of the guides gave us a brief lesson on the tea in the area, but the coolest part was at the end when we told us how sturdy the bushes were and just fell back onto it. So of course we all followed suite and layed back on the bushes and just gazed up in the the rolling hills of the plantation. It was comical for some, relaxing for others, and for me a bit of both. I enjoyed laid in the tea bush just gazing up at the rollings hills around me full of these green plant. Jay did the same and you can tell he was enjoying it just as much. I truly think he could have laid there all day.

After the tea plantation we went to this butterfly/inscet place, which was kinda cool cause we got to touch the bugs and stuff, but nothing I have not seen or done before. The last stop was the strawberry farm, which was actually boring. You could not do much, so we all got some strawberry like food, very delicious, and then headed back. We got back a lot later than expected because of traffic, but we found out that apparently in Malaysia traffic rules do not matter. Our driver literally started driving on the other side of the road bypassing the cars in traffic making the 2-lane road a 3-lane road for his personal use; and for a vehicle as big as his people were not slow to move out of the way. 

We finally make it back around 7:30pm and I take my first (and last even till now) hot shower. We book our bus ticket with the hostel to our next destination, Penang, and then headed out for dinner. We went for some Chinese food, but we chose the worst place to eat ever. It literally took them over an hour to serve us our food and nothing was right. Jay walked out before the food got there and after I got my meal and say raw egg running through it (not what I ordered) I threw some money down and peaced out and got a sandwich down the street. We didn't have to leave until 3:30pm the next day so we all stayed up late that night, and even though I shared a room with 5 other people with mattresses laid on the floor I got some of the best sleep ever there because I was not sweating through the night for the first time. 

Our next destination was to the island of Penang, Malaysia. We were ready for an island, hopefully a beach, but we should of guessed, just like in Melaka, just because something has water around it does not mean there are beaches.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Brief Moment in Time - Malaysia

 ***Jay has finally been able to upload some of his video blogs on YouTube. Check them out by typing in TheFurthestCorners into YouTube. More to come soon!***

It has been a while since I have last updated the blog due to the fact that I refused to go to an internet cafe. Well, I had to give in and here I am in Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand sitting at an internet cafe. Due to the fact that I have a lot to update everyone on and that I am paying 2 BAHT per minute, I will be writing an abridged version of our times in Malaysia and will probably be doing it in parts. I will say though that our 4 days here in Thailand have already been better and more exciting than our week and a half in Malaysia. Now let the stories begin...

After we left Singapore we headed to our first stop in Malaysia which was Melaka. We had high hopes for this town as it was on the coast, but we learned fast that just because a town is on the coast does not mean it is also a beach town. In general, Melaka was not our favorite place, but there are definitely some deep rooted memories there, and the first reason is because the bus station in Melaka was Jay's and mine first introduction to a squat toilet. Now for those of you not very familiar with a squat toilet I recommend you googling it  because it is in no way at all easy to use and very smelly. Well, honestly, all of the bathrooms or tandas as they are called here, are extremely smelly. The way a squat toilet works (and some differ we found depending on how remote of a location you are at) and I am by far not a expert on this as I am still trying to figure out how some of these work, is that basically it is a porcelain hole in the ground with a spray hose on the right side of you, a bucket of water on the left with a cup to pour water, no toilet paper, and sometimes there is a flusher and sometimes there is not. I am not going to explain how this works for fear that I may be doing it wrong, but Jay and I have several funny experiences relating to these that I will not be sharing via this blog.

So after the squat toilet experience we hop on the town bus to take us who knows where, basically wherever we felt like getting off at. We navigated ourselves to the one hostel that was highly recommended and come to find that it was closed. So we searched through our guide book and found a guest house right around the corner. We walk up the stairs and the owner said that he had two rooms left. The place was very dodgy, our room smelled like a mix of cat pee and cat litter, no AC just a ceiling fan, we would be sharing the room with an older French/Dutch man, and there was urine all around the toilet, but there was a roof top chill area, and I was excited that I saw a regular toilet and toilet paper so the place was good enough for me! We carefully placed our bags down in our room and both decided that today would be the perfect place to test out our cocoons (sheets meant for hostel beds for purposes such as this).

We walked around the town for some food as Jay was about to perish because he was so hungry (I wasn't that hungry because I still had a pound of Cliff Bars in my bag that I have been snacking on in fear that I would never find food I could eat). We contemplated on several places and after about 30 minutes or so of walking we decided to splurge on a nicer restaurant because of how cheap and gross the place we were staying at is so we felt the need to pamper ourselves a little. The food at the place was okay but what makes this place so great, and the decision to eat there so amazing, is that this is the place where we discovered a Shandy. Now when we first asked the waiter about it we were hesitant, but after the first sip of the cold refreshing drink we were hooked.  A Shandy is part beer, part lemonade, and a splash or two of Sprite. Very very delicious especially on a hot day. So we ate our food and drink some more Shandys and headed out to the night. We walked around for a bit to discover that there really is not that much to discover in Melaka, so we opted instead to head to the 7-11 (which by the way we have concluded that there are more 7-11s in Asia than there are Starbucks in NYC) to pick up some drinks and drink on our rooftop.

Once in 7-11 there were some different options to choose from, but my eye caught one beer, and this one beer will now be infamously known between Jay and I. The beer is called Bear Beer (with a picture of a bear on it of course) and is tall boy with 10% alch. SOLD! I honestly could not get over the name Bear Beer, you say it so many times and it becomes a tongue twister! So we take our drinks, a deck of cards, and some bug spray and head to the rooftop where there also laid a dirty mattress and clothes hanging out to dry (classy place you can tell). We opened our drinks and cheered to something and took our first sip. It really was not that bad. I really liked it. It had a bit of cider feel to it. Well anyway, it gets you pretty drunk especially when you are playing the drinking game of Fuck the Dealer with only two people. We were hoping to get drunk though because we figured that was the only way we could fall asleep in that place.

We woke up the next morning ready to leave, one day was good enough for us! We left our bags behind for a bit and headed out for a last walk of the town. We walked the same path as the night before and wandered up to this old church on a hill, which is also a tourist site. We got to the top and this guy offered to take our picture and after that he told Jay that he looked like Jesus (his scruffy beard, basic color of clothing, and Jesus like sandals definitely played a role into this). Now what makes that comment even better is that this guy was leading a church group tour and was with the church, so you could say that him and Jesus were pretty tight and him telling Jay that he looked like Jesus, well, what a compliment! But it does not end there. A few minutes later some Japanese guys ask to take a picture with Jay (a popular man indeed). So all in all Melaka came to be known as the town that we drank a beer with a bear and walked with Jesus. 

Kuala Lumpur (KL)
After our stop in Melaka we grabbed a bus to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and also known as KL by the locals there, where we arrived several hours later. We get to Chinatown to where the cheap hostels are and find a pretty decent place, the Grocer's Inn. No AC, but a ceiling fan will do I guess. They have a rooftop place as well but this one is wayyyyyy bigger and much nicer. Oh and they have regular toilets too! No TP though, we learned to always carry around a roll. We drop our stuff off and go wonder around to find some food. We actually ended up walking the same two blocks like four times because of how much is going on there. Well more like "in" there. In between the allies of the streets is this HUGE Chinese market where they sell everything that you can ever ever thing of (expect drugs because its the death penalty for selling or possession or something like that). We probably walked back and forth through that place a couple of times before we found some food and ate. The food was not so great, we we went to a 7-11 to pick up some drinks and guess what we found. A Shandy in a can!! SOLD! We bought some, headed to the roof to watch Chinatown from above and then headed to bed.

We wake up the next morning with not a thought in our mind on what to do so we walk around to some destinations that our guide book says to go and then decide to hit up the botanical gardens, which was a nice refresher from the heat and the crazy crazy city. I swear KL has more people walking on their streets that NYC does. After some walking around in the gardens and some lunch there, we headed back to plan our next destination to the Cameron Highlands. Tonight was the eve of the two week long celebration of the Chinese New Year so we were hoping that because we were staying in Chinatown that it might get crazy, but I will spare your the suspense and let you know that it was a let down because all of the shops closed early so that they could go be with their family, lame.

We did dinner at a street vendor where Jay and I were introduced to Roti, which is the most amazing thing we have had. It is like a pancake with stuff in the middle. You can get bananas in the middle, or vegetables, or egg and cheese, or banana and chocolate, just lots of fun stuff and basically it was only $1. After our delicious cheap dinner Jay headed to the supermarket next door to get some drinks for the evening, to only find something better than Bear Beer 10%, Bear Beer 12%!! WOW, 12%! We were very intrigued and could not wait to open them up. We took them and a deck of cards to the rooftop to play some drinking games and watch the rain fall. We opted for Crazy Eights, but for every two cards you had to pick up you had to drink. First off, Bear Beer 12% is nothing like its younger brother 10%. I cannot really describe the taste other than bad. We drank it though, and we got drunk (well I did, not crazy drunk but it made the heat not so bad). We are not sure if it was a crazy long game due to the fact that it was a long game or due to the fact that we were drinking Bear Beer 12%, but I swear to you that one game of Crazy Eights lasted like 45 minutes.

After the game I started to teach Jay a new card game, Egyptian Rat Screw, very fun and entertaining for those of you who know how to play. We started to play when these two guys that we met briefly earlier who are also staying there came up. We invited them to play, so I ended up teaching them all how to play and somehow didn't even win. Oh well! But the two guys were pretty cool, well one was. The one guy from Canada who was now teaching English in Korea was definitely tweaking out on something (we believe that were both high on something but the Canada guy couldn't take it like the other guy) and was quite and shaky. The other guy, Nick, was really cool though. A true hippy indeed but was from the DC area and actually went to school at South Carolina! It was nice being able to share stories of home with someone! Anyway, what is so awesome about Nick is that he is now a manger at a eco-hotel in Thailand at one of the last undeveloped islands in Thailand. He gave us his contact info and said we could probably stay at the hotel for free/cheap if there were rooms available or if not crash on his couch, but sadly we may not be able to make it depending on where we go next in Thailand. After some late night chats with them we headed to bed so that we could wake up early to head to the bus station to catch a bus to Cameron Highlands.