Friday, October 31, 2008

First Days in Malaysia

The Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Merdeka Square

Hour of Prayer


Malaysia has been a completely new and exciting experience. We arrived at the airport and boarded a taxi for the 73 km drive into the city of Kuala Lumpur. Driving on the left side of the crisp highly developed multi-lane highways was quite a culture shock from the kamakazi style driving and narrow pot-holed construction roads we had just done our motorbike trip on in North Vietnam. We settled into a hostel in Chinatown whose accommodations were not unlike that of a prison cell then headed out to gather information for adventures to come.

Kuala Lumpur is a city of dynamic structures from the very contemporary high rise towers to timeless mosques with their enigmatic domes and passageways. The people are a blend of colorful fabrics, striking eyes, varieties of dress, religions, and cultures. Walking the street you are bombarded with smatterings of aromas; the spices of Indian cuisine, the smoky street barbecues firing up skewers of satay, and here and there rancid odors you couldn't imagine what! Markets abound and Merdeka Square proudly displays the Malaysian flag first raised here in 1957 as a demonstration of their independence from the British union. Do I sound like a tourism brochure or what!?
Island Ferry

Kecil Island Pier

lonely boat

abandoned beach days before the islands close for monsoons

We had a run in with an ATM machine in KL and had to spend an extra night. Changing our bus tickets and pulling ourselves together we chose to treat ourselves to a nice hotel complete with pool deck, buffet breakfast, and the luxury of crisp white sheets. We never did get Julia's debit card returned, but we couldn't stay in the city forever. .. paradise awaits!

The overnight bus let us out at 5am in the small fishing village of Kuala Besut. We listened to the echoes of morning prayers from the mosque next door while we waited to board the ferry to the small Perhentian island of Kecil. We checked in to the Lily Chalet and promptly joined a snorkeling group heading out for a day in the sun. Such an amazing little excursion, our trip included swimming with enourmous sea turtles, black tipped reef sharks, countless fish, giant clams, and what remained of the dying coral reef. Despite attempts to lube up with sunblock Julia and I both came home backs burnt to a crisp without a lick of sun on our fronts!

unforeseen events

feeble efforts

no one was hurt, but some lost everything

Due to unforeseen events we spent the following night at Moonlight Chalet with some new friends we made in the days excitement, then headed back to shore to see what else Malaysia had to offer. A day's break in Kota Bharu before another night bus led us to a corner cafe where we were met by the overwhelming kindness and hospitality of local Malays. The gentlemen running the cafe fed us well and shared stories about life and family, and the kind regulars let us use their computer buying us a meal and spending the afternoon deep in conversation before giving us a ride to our evening bus.

We are now in Penang in the northwest of penninsular Malaysia. There is much to see here, but today we will relax since the wild bus ride resulted in a sleepless night!

1 comment:

alphonsus said...

Hi Laura,

I found your blog while doing a blog search on "Lily Chalet". Was that Lily Chalet being razed to the ground in your photos? We are hoping to stay there during our upcoming trip to Perhentian in early May 2009.