A Travellerspoint blog

malaysian peninsula

what the colonists built

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View se asia, beaches abound on ggithens's travel map.

a few weeks hitting the hotspots in the peninsula satisfied my palate for edible goodies as well as historical interests, but left me anticipating the other side of malaysia, the one without congested highways and kitsch town centers. i have arrived, but since the adventure in borneo is still ongoing, i'll focus on what happened just a few short weeks ago.

after basking in the sun of the gorgeous perhentian islands, i took a frigid overnight bus to penang. known in the states as the comfortable abode of fiery cuisine and in britain as a cultural melting pot created by the colonial forces, its' capital georgetown blends both details with a modern flair. the indian, chinese and malay food stalls were ubiquitous, cheap and served delicious meals. the mixture of mosques, buddhist and hindu temples and a few churches served as the architectural support for a culturally diverse city. after a few walks and countless conversations i found that the citizens still retain heritage from their native lands, and are even able to study chinese and tamil at government schools. the chinese restaurant menus offered me an opportunity to read a few characters i can recognize, and also learn a few new ones with the help of the gracious staff. the visual highlights were most certainly the religious buildings, as you can see below.

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a few kilometers outside of town, a massive, chinese-built buddhist temple dominates the landscape. eschewing tradition, its' maze of gift shops, restaurants and lifts do not bode well for anyone attempting to achieve spiritual peace. undoubtedly a tourist trap, the kek lok si temple is visited by those from far and wide, and for a large donation they will even write your name on a roof shingle.

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leaving georgetown, i was close to flipping a coin to determine my next destination. in the end, though, i took the next bus which departed to the cameron highlands. it turned out to be quite a fortunate event because the sweaty humidity from penang was leveled by a serious drop in temperature up in the highlands. the tea plantations spanning across rolling jungle proved to be wonderful scenery for my day walks. the locals were extremely friendly and a few rides were certainly hitched during my stay.

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my 48 hours in kuala lumpur was unfortunately uneventful, although a bunch of people tried to convince me to go gambling with them. that is usually a tell-tale sign that someone is offering to steal your money. if i was completely bored out of my skull i may have ventured with them, but i like my moola in my pocket. ascending to the 41st floor of the 2nd tallest building in the world was certainly the highlight, and surprisingly, it was free.

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i rounded out my tour of the peninsula with a grand stay in melaka. upon arrival at the hostel i was greeted by a lovely mother who saw my guitar and remarked that her son was a musician. within 6 hours i was sitting in his studio listening to his band jamming. my amateur guitar skills were displayed with much enthusiasm from the malays, and after smoking the shisha, everything sounded far-fucking out.

i also toured the portuguese and dutch settlements, which were well-preserved and thankfully free of vehicles. a night at the bowling alley finished my stay in melaka, but a return trip to the music casa may be in order.

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Posted by ggithens 06:58 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

back to the land of smiles

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View se asia, beaches abound on ggithens's travel map.

after enduring india's tough love for a few months a return to the friendly, cleanly thailand should have been a welcome treat. it was for a few shorts days, but then i realized how much i actually enjoyed india for its unhygienic bathrooms, filthy streets and insane street characters. the summation of these attributes, as well as a few others, have kept the majority of india off the high-roller and trendy backpacker vacation list. this fact i knew well before travelling to either india or thailand, but upon my return to bangkok, things seemed a little too orderly, a little too clean and altogether a bit tame. or maybe i was just looking in the wrong places.

after negotiating a cheap price for a used guitar, i boarded a bus to kanchanaburi, a green spot on the kwai river. known mostly for its "death railway", which was built during WWII by a myriad of prisoners "working" for the Imperial Japanese army, kanchanaburi was a pleasant way to spend a weekend. i guess that statement contains the same hidden meaning that "she's nice" does. to continue with the history lesson, the railway never made it to its intended destination of yangon, but it still runs from bangkok through kanchanaburi.

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after listening to floating river karaoke for a few nights, i realized that maybe kanchanaburi should be left to the tourists. not too much of a concession from the gritty backpacking contingent.

alas, i was off to an area more densely populated with wealthy scandinavian tourists than any other in SE asia. phuket. an infamous name since the tsunami, and a place that needs no introduction to anyone in thailand. the beaches are long, the waves are big and the views are awesome.

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sharing it with a few thousand people is a downer, but atleast budget accommodation still exists, barely. a few vendors also roamed the highway running by the beach. this guy sold fish balls that smelled like fish and tasted like rubber.

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i also spent a few nights on the "world-class" island of ko phi phi. to say i was unimpressed is an understatement. the beaches were covered with chairs and the water full of boats. maybe it was the wrong season to be there, but after 2 nights i was sick of being stuck on an island with too many people. the hike up to the viewpoint was perhaps its only highlight.

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i continued my beach theme after entering malaysia on the east side and taking an extremely fast and dangerous boat to the perhentian islands. powered by generators and lacking roads, cars and for the most part alcohol, the islands offer something thai beaches lacked - peace and quiet. it also had heaps of rain, but swimming with rainbow color fish is a fantastic way to spend a rainy day. the snorkelling 30m from the shore was absolutely sublime. i think scuba diving will have to happen somewhere in indonesia.

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Posted by ggithens 00:27 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

departing the subcontinent

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View ind!a on ggithens's travel map.

wishing india farewell was the task today. i roamed a few bazaars, haggled over goods i had no interest in buying, and devoured my fill of samosas and chai. arriving in new delhi this morning, my mind was buzzing with the many adventures that took place in three short months.

my desert experience began in rajasthan, and continued himalayan style in
zanskar and ladakh, the northeastern most section of the country. riddled with buddhist gompas and neverending smiles, the town of leh and its surrounds gave me a bit of hope for humanity. kind, genuine people do exist. now the mission is preventing tourists from ruining their culture. i tried to do my part by yelling at bengalis who carelessly threw rubbish on pristine ground. i also showed a little ladakhi girl that bags of empty chips reside in rubbish bins, not next to streams. i wonder where she got her idea from?

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LEH
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AH, NICE MARMOT
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through a great organization, i had the lovely opportunity to spend four days trekking through the ladakhi wilderness, while staying with ladakhi families in mud-and-wood homes. the food was hearty, and the families were so full of love the seams were cracking on the homes. the language barrier, once again, proved to be insignificant. it seems the linguistic differences between ladakhi and english washed away in the tide of warmth and kindness. a glance at a picture or a full-blown dance gesture - the means of communication are multiplying with every interaction.

LADHAKI MAN
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DONNIE DARKO?
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after 2 weeks soaking up the sun in the desert, i moved on to infamous kashimir. my experience there was distinctly different from leh, but the natural beauty never ceased to amaze. i spent a few days lounging around on a houseboat in srinagar. reading, jamming on guitar and finding lunch were the most pertinent tasks. a very similar situation also presented itself outside of dharamsala, the residence of the dalai lama in exile. an israeli village about 3km from the temple served as a wonderful place to relax, listen to drum circles and overhear yogaheads chatting about the day's positions.

SRINAGAR
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KASHMIR VALLEY
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DALAI LAMA'S PAD
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HINDU BATHING SPOT
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tomorrow ill be back in bangkok, ready for more SEAsian fun. a return trip to laos may be in order, but the southern swoop through thailand, malaysia and indonesia is certainly on the docket. nothing there, however, will compare to the absolute mayhem of new delhi streets; rocking with rickshaws, people, cars and cows, or the snow-capped himalayas; both the desert and green kind. india! a place that gets inside you and grows. hopefully the food finds its way out.

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Posted by ggithens 01:57 Archived in India Comments (0)

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