Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Malaysian Adventure: A map!

I've put together a map of the general path Rose and I took on our tour of Malaysia, complete with geotagged pictures.
Click the map to explore.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Malaysian Adventure: Many Delights

As promised, I will tell you of the delights of our Malaysian vacation. I will do so by location, going in temporal order.

We ate a delicious dim sum breakfast! The tea was amazing. Om nom nom. Then, since it was so early, we enjoyed the lights on the river running through the town:

The view was stunning whether you looked to the left...
...or to the right.
There were so many birds in the trees, that when they flew away, their exodus seemed to go on forever! Much of Malacca is painted in brick red, including an excellent church and bell tower in the central square. We got to see a cool Chinese Temple, too. Later, we explored an informative museum about the history of Malaysia. We stayed at Emily’s, a hostel whose highlight was a sweet shower filled with plants.

Kuala Lumpur, or KL:
KL's skyline from near the end of one of the subway lines
One highlight of KL was that it was the only city at which we arrived at a reasonable hour without difficulty. Our first evening there, we explored the bustling Chinatown with all of its foods and merchandise.
The next day, we got to go to the marvelous Batu Caves, one of the highlights of the whole trip.

We climbed a lot of steps to get up there, but it was worth it! The cave housed Hindu shrines and lots of monkeys and pigeons. The monkeys were particularly great, as usual:

We took a few trains and ended up at an awesome vegan restaurant for lunch. Yeah, vegan Malaysian food.
this character was prominent on the storefront.
It was pretty good, and the restaurant had by far the best bathroom of the trip, with all the luxuries: Western-style seat, toilet paper, sink with soap. It even had a nice ambience. What an indulgence!
Finally, we explored the orchid and hibiscus gardens, as well as the park in that area.

It was here that I performed the amazing feat of getting bit by mosquitos shortly after applying bus spray. But the flowers were truly beautiful, and Jason had lots of fun taking pictures.
Our last day in KL was spent mostly in the mall. The mall, housed at the base of the Petronas Towers, was really lovely, and I enjoyed walking through it so much that I even volunteered to carry Jason’s heavier backpack for a bit of it. We saw two movies, as the movies were cheap cheap cheap, and we had lots of time to kill before our train. These movies were: Unknown and Merong Mahawangsa. The first was a Hollywood film that I enjoyed much more than Jason did, though we both liked the second, which was a Malaysian film telling the largely mythical history of one of the provinces of Malaysia.

It involved a Roman prince, Chinese Princess, and a protagonist who makes a funny mirror device to burn up enemy ships. Too bad for him one of his enemies was also a weather wizard, so the clouds came in and some hand-to-hand combat was necessary, such as that featured on the poster.

We took a night train to Penang, on which I got more mosquito bites despite the air conditioning. I also got some sleep, but not enough, so after a lovely ferry ride, we traveled around the island by bus.

Jason got to see the island and take pictures, and I got to do a little seeing and lots of sleeping. We saw the usual mix of temples, churches, and mosques on Penang, as well as a few Chinese clan houses. We stayed at a place called Stardust which the guidebook said was much cleaner than the other choices. If this was true, I am incredibly glad we did not stay at one of the other places :p
Penang offered us the best nature experiences of the trip, as we got to see some totally awesome bioluminescence as well as go to the world’s smallest national park. The park boasted some nice beach views as well as a very fun canopy walk. I almost bathed in bug spray while here, and am happy to say the mosquitos did not touch me.
I also got to try Georgetown’s “white coffee.” It was ok, but not what I was expecting. It looked like coffee with all the fixings- there was certainly plenty of cream and sugar in the cup. But somehow, it still tasted like rather strong, black coffee. I shudder to think what white coffee tastes like black!

Kota Bharu:
Getting to Kota Bharu was an adventure, but Jason’s writing about that, so I’ll just say that we arrived in the afternoon. We had an ice cream waffle and I had a root beer float shortly after we arrived, and these two items were delicious enough that I remember that afternoon with fondness. We stayed at a place called Zeck’s where the owners were very friendly.
I slept most of the afternoon.
We had tasty Indian food for dinner. We had lots of tasty Indian food on this trip. I neglected to mention it in its due time, but really the various breads, mango lassis, and curries were absolutely delicious.
We left Kota Bharu the following morning on the jungle train. Just 15 hours later, we arrived safely in Singapore. Upon arriving at my dorm, I took what may be the best shower of my life up to this point. This, too, I count as a highlight of my trip. Really a delightful finish.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Malaysian Adventure Week: the Forgotten Bus

They thought they were in for a comfortable night. Little did they know...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Malaysian Adventure: One Trouble

In this post, I will explain how Malaysia taught me to be thankful for my daily luxuries. In my next post, I will explain other reasons why Malaysia might be a good place to visit, especially if you have lower standards of personal hygiene than I, or if you are willing to spend more money per day than I.

Exploring Malaysia with a backpack and budget was not what you would call a relaxing experience for me. Not so surprising, right? New places, stress to get places on time, all the normal things that go along with going someplace new without a guide… that can be enough to make anyone a little concerned.
But those “normal” things really had very little to do with my stress. We had an amazing guide book that contained maps of all the places we visited. I cannot overstate the importance of a map in an unknown area. Maps are wonderful. I love them. If I have a map in my hands, I have almost absolute confidence that I will get where I am going. Maps dispel fears of being lost and give purpose to wanderings of a city. I never felt lost or overwhelmed by novelty during the trip.

But if not such common anxieties, what could betray my comfort? Well, we went to cities in Malaysia. These cities were not what you might call clean cities. We stayed at hostels in these cities. These hostels did not have what you might call clean facilities. In short, my nemesis this spring break was: Dirt.

You may think me a bit spoiled or too “dainty” or something like that, and I’m not going to argue with you. You can go on thinking that, and you are probably right. But I will qualify my enmity against dirt.
First of all, I did go into the trip expecting some uncleanness. Indeed, overnight train rides will certainly prevent showering within the normal maximum 24-hour time limit. Indeed, carrying only a day pack’s worth of clothing will certainly require the repeating of some outfits. These things I knew.

But I did expect that when I took a shower, I would be clean, and I would be able to go to sleep in a clean room on a very clean, made-up bed. But no. Hostels aren’t like that. The sheet, and yes, I meant that to be singular, is clean, but no promises about anything else. The shower will dispense water, yes, and after a day in the city, it will improve your cleanliness, but you will by no means feel like a clean, respectable lady. No. Not at all.

And, well, in much of Malaysia, they have squat-style toilets that do not contain toilet paper. And good for you if you find soap. If I could have used a good clean bathroom complete with clean showers a few times, and if I could have slept in a clean room, I think I would have been far less uncomfortable.
Luckily for me, the rosy tint of hindsight is already starting to color the trip more favorably, but I shall endeavor to remember my newfound appreciation for the little things. A clean bedroom. Clean bathroom. Toilet paper. I have access to these things once more, and I am incredibly happy for it!

Malaysian Adventure Week

Rose and I spent last week on a Malaysian adventure. We visited four cities across Malaysia and travelled through over 1500 kilometers (900 miles) of that lush land by train, bus, taxi and foot over 9 days.
It was an adventure of many ups and downs, ins and outs, and surprises.
like this kitty, pictured together with our trusty guidebook.
Over the next few days, now that we've settled back into Singapore life and our ideas have had a chance to marinate, Rose and I will do our best to relate some of the most important adventures and impressions to you.  If you're a facebook friend, you should definitely check out some photographic highlights here.
Stay tuned.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Aand it's off to adventure!

This fire tornado is unrelated to the post...
but it is cool and we did see it last weekend.

It's been over a week since my last post, and it'll be another week before I can post again. I'll be mostly out of internet range, for, over the upcoming recess break, Rose and I are heading to Malaysia to do some exploring and adventuring!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Islands make my heart sing

I think I'm in love. It was a whirlwind romance, but sometimes, that can't be helped. Besides, common knowledge dictates that it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. And with a weekend of loving and loosing under my belt, I feel more complex. Since I don't even have a picture to remember him by, I'll have to weep fondly over a picture of a different-but-similar-looking-fellow.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Quest: Kickapoo Joy Juice

I must confess that I have neglected to relate a very important quest in my time here in Singapore. The quest may not, at first glance, appear substantial. It may even appear a tad odd, or the slightest degree silly. But let me assure you, my friends, that with the correct mindset of whimsy, the quest is indeed most significant.

I speak of course of the quest for the Kickapoo Joy Juice. Long ago, Jason and I were breakfasting at my local canteen, taking in the sights of the Singaporean food court. We beheld a large sign depicting various delicious drinks, such as Passion Fruit Tea and 100 Isotonic Beverage. And including a green can labeled, “Kickapoo Joy Juice.” Delighted by the name, we searched the beverage refrigerators in hopes of trying this alliterative drink sure to bring delight. But alas, our search was in vain, as no joy juice was to be had that morning. But did we give up? No!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Now, I know what you think I'm going to say.

Some think I'm going to say the food. Or the proximity of Bali. Or the multicultural exposure and all that nonsense.

Some might be anticipating me and my trusty dry sense of humor to declare that it's really the cockroaches that give Singapore its heavenly glow. Or that getting a Merlion tattoo in Chinatown has all the makings for a jolly good time.

Not poor suppositions my friend, but erroneous nonetheless! Forsooth!

I now present my PartsofBeinganExchangeStudent list arranged from Best to AbsoluteBest:

1) Air conditioning.
2) Not belonging anywhere.*


That's it.

Have a lovely night.

*A brief note: By virtue of not belonging to any social, academic, or sports group, I sort of belong anywhere that I want. This is an excellent state of affairs. It allows me to plan trips to Thailand with German exchange students, tutor super-jock personal trainers, and wander into any activity I want to try. Everyone welcomes me because I'm just an exchange student. It's very liberating.