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Published: April 10th 2013
Hello from Malaysia!
I hope you are all well and feeling revived after the Easter break.
We are now in Malaysia and have spent the last 3 weeks exploring this diverse country. Our trip began in Kuala Lumpar, the capital of Malaysia. We found a hostel in the area of the city called 'China Town'. The reason it is called this is becuase it was orignially the main area where the Chinese people settled. Nowadays it is not just Chinese people who live here, but it has still retained its Chinese roots, with the food stalls in the area all being Chinese and the shops selling Chinese gifts of paper lanterns and traditional gifts.
The main reason we visited Kuala Lumpar was so that I could go and watch the Formula 1 race. I have followed the sport for many years so to be able to watch a race was a real treat for me. The atmosphere was incredible and the noise of the cars was deafening. You had to wear ear plugs or ear phones so that you could listen to the radio commentry, to have nothing in your ears was just too loud! We watched practice, qualifying and the main race. Unfortunately my favourite driver, Jenson Button, had a few problems with his car so he didn't finish the race, but it was still great to be there and watch.
Whilst we were there, we made the most of visiting the city. We spent a day walking around the city centre. They have a huge shopping centre called 'The Petronas Towers'. This is 2 huge towers with a walkway joining the 2 towers 170 meters up! You are allowed to walk across to have a look at the view. There is also garden in front of the towers which has sculptures, water areas for children to play in and quiet areas to sit down. Its a very peaceful place in the middle of the city centre.
On another day, we visited Batu Caves. These are 3 large natural limestone caverns on top of a hill on the ourskirts of Kuala Lumpar. The caves get their name from the Batu river that runs at the bottom of the hill. The caves contain lots of shrines for different Hindu Gods, all the shrines are painted using bright colours. They were really detailed and very interesting to look at. At the bottom of the hill there is a huge golden statue, although it is only painted gold. The statue is of Murugan and is 42 meters tall! To get to the caves you have to climb 272 very steep steps. The steps had lots of monkeys on, including one Mummy monkey carrying her baby on her tummy. We watched the monkeys climbing around, jumping about and teying to break into a coconut to eat it.
We also visited an Aquarium which was good fun. It had a touch tank so we got to feel really slimy sea slugs and horseshoe crabs. Luckily we were there for feeding time so we got to watch Otters being fed. These animals are usually really shy so I was lovely to see them up close. They also had a range of fish, some local to the area but also fish local to other areas. We saw turtles, electric eels, sharks, seahorses and funny grass eels that bury their tails into the sand and bob their heads up and down whilst wiggling about in the water. They were really funny to watch. They even had a tank of Phryanas!!
After visitng Kuala Lumpar, we headed for Miami Beach in Penang, to stay with the McKinnen's cousins, Muzzammil and Za. We had a very kindly offer to stay in their house to enable us to spend some time in one area and explore it with 'local people'. It has been a fantastic experience and we have been so warmly welcomed by so many people. We have been able to experience things that without them, we just would not have had the oppurtuntiy to do.
One of these opportunties was to attend a traditional Malaysian Muslim Wedding. We felt very honoured to be invited to Amran and Ema's special day. Za dressed me in one of her Baju Kurung for the occasion. The wedding was very differnt to one I have been to before, the celebrations take place over 2 days so that both the Bride and Groom's family are able to attend. After the first day (Friday) the couple are offically married. We attended the Saturday where over 1500 people are invited, it is apparently normal to have from 1000- 1500 be invited. The wedding was from 12-6pm with people arriving and leaving at any time during this. Once we arrived we found a table and were fed a very yummy chicken curry, beef curry, sweet bean chutney, dhal and rice. There was so much food and they kept bringing out more!! We met more of Muzzamil's family as well as some of his friends, we were again made to feel very welcome. There was a bit of music playing in the background but whilst we were there, no one danced. We did, however, take some pictures of the happy couple.
Penang is made up of 3 main cultures, Malays, Indians and Chinese. Because of this it has a great range of food and is considered to be the food capital of Malaysia. Muz and Za have been taking us to lots of local food stalls in the evenings. They have been making sure we try all the dishes that Penang is known for, some I have liked other not so much, but it is good to try.We have tried Laksa which is a completely fish based soup with noodles. Its a mixture of fish and sweetness, this is one of the dishes I did not enjoy so much. Another dish was Nasi Lemak, a rice dish with fried anchovies, peanuts, chili sauce and egg, wrapped up in a pandan leaf. This dish I was a lot happier with. We have also tried a local desert called Cendol, which consists of crushed ice, brown sugar, green noodles and kidney beans. It sounds a strange combination but is actually really refreshing. Finally we have tried Durian, this is a fruit that look really spikey in the outside and is about the size of a big pineapple. We had been warned that you either love it or hate it, and we were definately haters. To us, it tasted like sick! Apparently though, some people absolutley love it, including Za!
One evening, Shaik, a friend of Muz took us out for the eveing to watch a local man play a gig. It was a great night. The musician was very talented, he played the guitar and sang beautifully. After the show we went to a street market at 11:30pm. Shake bought us another local food where you pile your plate with precooked food, then give it to the chef and he chops it up and covers it in a spicy tomato gravy. In was a mixture of tofu, eggs, potatoes and prawn fritters mixed together!
As well as being taken out for food, we have been showed areas of Penang. We have visted a little fishing village and watched the locals tend to their that were mored just in front of their houses, visited paddy fields (rice fields) and some local beauty spots.
We have visited Penang National Park 3 times. This park is beautiful. It is a tropical rainforest with beaches in it and many walking trails to different areas. We walked to a turtle hatchery and saw the turtles eggs buried and protected from predators, turtles that had just hatched (the turtles were 5 days old and the size of an egg) and a turtle that was a year old. They use the hatchery not only as a way of protecting the turtles but also as a reseach base. One a different day we had a walk over a canopy walkway and another day we had a walk to a beach and watched monkeys playing in the trees above. We were also lucky enough to see a monitor lizard. It was huge!!! About 1 and a half meters long.
Another place we have visited was a Butterfly farm. This was incredible. They have a large, natural area undercover that has over 7000 butterflies in. Everywhere you look you can see butterflies fluttering about. They also have a large section on climate change and the effect that humans impact if making on the world. It was really interesting and also pretty shocking. It was explaining how quickly we are running out of all our resources, so I am going to put my 'Eco Schools' hat on and say please try really hard to save water (things like turning off the tap when you are brushing your teeth and making sure all taps are turned off completley), use paper carefully and reuse paper for scrap paper as paper comes from trees. Trees are being cut down, which means that animals are loosing their homes but also we need trees to help us breath. One person needs 2 trees each to produce enough oxygen for them for one year. Thats a lot of trees when the are so many people in the world. See if you can work out how many trees are needed for just the people in our school. You would be surprised.
We have also visited other areas in Penang, one place is called Fort Cornwallis. This is a big stone fort that was built by an English man called Francis Light who was trying to protect Penang from being attacked. There are still cannons to look at and a room used to store gunpowder (although it is obviously empty), but the fort is no longer used as protection. Another place we visited was Penang Hill. This a hill that gives you a beauitful view over Penang, Penang Bridge and out to the mainland of Malaysia. To get to the top you take a steep cog train, the train has a beautiful view as it climbs us the hill. At the top we had walk and visited a Mosque and a Hindu Temple. The final thing we have done in Penang is walk an Art trail that is in different locations around the cente of Georgetown in Penang. Artisits have painted some life like pictures of people doing activites (riding bikes, sailing a boat, standing on a chair) but they have incorperated real object into the pictures, so the man on a bike has a real bike but the man is painted. They are brilliant pictures. What is really nice about it though is that it is really popular so lots of people visit all the diffent areas of George town. It has also encouraged other artists to do similar work and there are two new pieces on the trail that have been painted by a local dissabled artist - one of two children sitting on a swing and one of two children playing basketball.
The most special thing we have done though was to go on a family holiday. We felt so honored to be invited along to their family holdiay to Langkawi- an island in the North of Malaysia. There were 10 of us who went, Muzzammil and Za, Muzzammil's mum Bik Nah, his Auntie Bik Nun, his sister Muneerah, his niece Anis and two cousins Mali and Niar. We were greated with such warmth and made to feel so welcome, it was incredible. Everyone went out their way to make sure we enjoyed ourself. It was truely special. More than that though it was great to be with a family, doing normal things like watching tv with them, chatting, laughing and being included. We did so much sightseeing; we went to an aquarium, a crocodile farm, a museum all about a beautiful lady Muhsuri, who according to the story, sent 7 generations of bad luck on Langkawi because she was sentenced to death for something she didn't do. We also went on the worlds steepest cable car. We also went to see the Burnt Rice Field, which is where rice was burnt when Langkawi was invaded by the Siamese in 1821 to stop the enemy from getting food, even now you can see odd rains of blackened rice in the ground. As well as fitting all this in, we also ate lots of food!! We had so many big dishes, we would have Nasi Lamak or noodles for breakfast, at lunch we would have Nasi Campur for lunch (rice and then you help yourself to whatever curries or vegtables you want), then snack and another big rice dish for evening meal. Reubs and I couldn't keep up with all the eating!!!
The last thing we have managed to squeeze in with our time in Malaysia is to visit the Cameron Highlands. This is an area of mountains that are famous for growing tea. I LOVE tea, so I decided I had to see this area nd visit a tea plantation. We were really pleased we managed to squeeze this short trip in. We visited a tea plantation called 'Boh' and were able to go to the factory and watch how they made tea, from leaf to sorted tea grade. We watched the machines roll, grind and tear the leaves, saw the drying process and how they sort the leaves at the end, based on their size, to split it into to differnt grades of tea. We also managed to have a walk around the tea plantation and have a cup of tea in their tea room. It was a great experience, we leant lots as well as got to see a beautiful, peaceful area.
Although we haven't managed to get to Borneo (this was originally on our wish list), we felt now would not be the best time. The area if Sabah we wiuld like ot go to is not very safe at the momoment and it would have been really rushed, so we have decided to leave it and hope that one day we can come back and spend a good amount of time there.
Anyway, this is a huge blog. You can see that we have managed to fit lots in and have thoroughly enjoyed our time with Muzzammil and Za, their kindness has been staggering. We are flying back to Thailand in about 3 hours, so I must go, but I will hopefully update some pictures soon.
Have a fantastic term, take care,
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