Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thailand to Singapore, and the inbetween

After leaving Thailand, knowing the next time I return will be mid June for my flight home, I venture on. Country #3 (I know, it feels like much more), MALAYSIA.
There were things that were shaping up to make this experience great;
- Number 3 of anything is usually lucky
- It was my first Muslim country to visit ever
- Malaysia is known for it's cultural crossroads, which should provide interesting sightseeing, good eats, and an understanding environment
- Malaysia was enroute to Singapore, where I was ready to meet some new family!
- Malaysia's interior contains the Cameron Highlands, supposed to have a cool climate, and if I sweat one more day in my clothes I think they'll fall apart.

So...with my spirits high, I cross over into Malaysia and head to Penang. I only had a limited amount of time allotted for Malaysia and Singapore because I had booked a flight May 19th from Kuala Lumpur to Phonm Penh, Cambodia. So I had to be picky, and narrowed my choices for Malaysia down to two. The first stop Penang. I chose this place for own reason and one reason alone, to eat. Penang is an island, and was a great port town when the British were colonizing and pushing their culture on everybody. That means that many different cultures migrated here, the three main cultures being Indian, Chinese, and Malay. These cultures which are very different in their customs have been able to live peacefully on this island while still prospering with their business and maintaining their culture. The peace was evident when I started walking down one of the main roads known as Harmony Rd. In a matter of a half a mile, maybe less, I first passed an Indian temple, followed shortly by a Chinese shrine and shop house, which was right next to a Christian church. All three full of people. It may not sound like much, but to me it seemed like Tolerance. This history of the island and in particular the main town of Georgetown is complex and I won't pretend to write like I know all about it because I don't and I only spent a couple of days there. What I did start to understand in that couple of days was one of the best parts of traveling, food.

Ask any traveler and they know, food is wonderful. Food gives pleasure but also gives gas. It brings people together to talk and share and laugh, and also brings diarrhea. It can be comforting and it can be intimidating. And it comes in all shapes and forms.

Some of the possibilities of things to eat in Georgetown included; Koi thiaw (Chinese dish) a dish based around a large flat noodle and turns into a soup like consistency or can be served regular. 3 out of 5 stars. Laksa (Malay dish) based around some shredded meat and is mostly a soup and contains noodles. It also has a really potent taste, I didn't enjoy it that much. 2 out of 5 stars. Naci Lemak (Malay dish) I didn't get to try this one, but heard it was good. Quie (Malay) Malay word for sweets, and it contains a whole variety from Jellies to pastries. 4 out of 5 stars. Roti Chani (Indian) not usually sweet and typically served with a dipping sauce. It is a flat bread. 4 out of 5 stars. Banana leaf meals (Indian) usually in the afternoons the Indian restaurants offer a compilation meal served on a banana leaf. You can sometimes choose what main things you get on the leaf (i.e. which meat) but it usually contains about 7-10 items and is a great way to try many different things, plus your eating off a leaf! 5 out of 5 stars. Tea Tarik (Indian) a drink, tea with milk, but something about the way they prepare it, they pour it in and out of a glass like 5 times. I got it every time! These are just the food items I can remember, and unfortunately I could only eat so much, but I enjoyed all of it- Thank you Georgetown!

From Penang, I headed to my second destination in Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands. This is high up in the interior of Malaysia and has one of the coolest climates around.   I want to be cold!!! I headed to the small town (really small) of Tanah Rata, tucked away in the mountains. I stayed at a really cool guesthouse/lodge and met quite a few people that I really enjoyed, which led me to stay here longer than intended. This region is known for two things, strawberries and tea. Yes and Yes. We all went for a hike one of the days to a nearby mountain of 6,666 ft ( :-/ ) that you hiked through moss forests to reach. It was a nice couple of hours hiking through the jungle, and although the top was covered with clouds it was still really nice. On the way down, we first stopped at a strawberry farm and met the farmers, held a baby goat and had amazing strawberry popsicles. It was really cool to see rows and rows of strawberries, which I've loved ever since I was a little girl, just ask my Nana- I'll take all the strawberries. These ones in the mountains were also the most fresh and delicious tasting strawberries I've ever had. We continued on down the mountain and walked through a tea plantation. Although I didn't learn what the process of making tea is, it was a beautiful sight, all the young tea plants, bright green and rolling all the way into the distance. After admiring the fields we hitched a ride on the back of a recycle truck and went back into town.

But my time was up and I booked a bus ticket to Kuala Lumpur and then transferred on the bus to Singapore, headed to see family....

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