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Published: August 20th 2018
Black clouds loomed but we only had 100 metres to go between the university and the hotel so we thought we’d make it easily. A bolt of lightning across the lake and a loud crack of thunder meant we sped up a bit across the open grass lawn. With only the road to cross there was a bright flash and a very loud BANG! The five of us didn’t move, frozen to the spot with our hair standing up and all feeling a bit tingly. The hotel guard was shouting at us to get inside. We started giggling nervously, “was that lightning?” The guard still shouting we ran inside unsure what had happened. Apparently, according to someone else watching, lightning had struck the road right by us. I expected to wake up the next morning with some kind of super powers – haven’t discovered what those powers might be yet.
I seem to be starting more and more blogs with lists of thank yous. That’s good for me as it means more of my trips must be being paid for by someone other than me, but bad for any reader who has to put up with an Oscars
Taman Pudu Ulu parkrun, Kuala Lumpur
It was very very humid, even at the 7:30am start. Still, 2nd place!
speech before reading any travelly stuff. It’s also bad for me in that I seem to be getting less and less choice of my destination. However, I expect little sympathy for a free trip to Malaysia just because I’ve been there before. So, thank you British Geological Survey for winning funding, organising, and accepting my application for a place at an urban groundwater workshop, and especial thanks for hosting it in Malaysia. Then thanks Aizat for putting me up and showing me around after the workshop.
My last visit to Malaysia was in 2002 a few months in to the 12-month post-university round the world trip. I remember liking it. As much as I like going to new places, surely 16 years is time enough to think about re-visiting a place. Still, I never went anywhere on this trip that I’d previously visited. Most of the week was spent in Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur, at a workshop at Heriot-Watt University’s Malaysia campus. Flights were covered by the workshop organisers and very generously they agreed to fly me out a few days early (which meant they actually saved money) – I couldn’t go that far and not have
a bit of a look around as well.
I have a few colleagues who work in Malaysia frequently and when asked where I should spend a spare few days they all told me to go to Penang. As did my Malaysian friends from elsewhere in the country. I’d missed out Penang when I first visited Malaysia as we crossed in from Thailand on the east coast so that we could go to the Perhentian islands. Another such diving trip would have been nice, but Penang can be reached much more quickly and easily from KL, which was important given my limited time.
The only highlight of Penang that I was aware of before arrival was the food. That’s all everybody talked about; street food, street food and more street food. Thus, on arrival at my guesthouse after a long flight from London with no working TV screens on the plane (therefore, the passengers actually had conversations; it was lovely), I suddenly wasn’t sure what to do or in which direction to go.
I departed armed with a guesthouse map into the thick grey heat. I didn’t get far before stopping for some sort of spicy
squid noodle thing and an unknown freshly squeezed fruit juice – all delicious. The plastic plate-full was quite cheap and quite small thus after another hour or so of wandering around I stopped for another spicy seafood surprise with another fluorescent juice. Essentially, this continued for the next 2.5 days interspersed with deep-fried durian ice cream. I loved every minute.
The few temples I visited were nice, the botanical gardens were pretty, the hike up Penang Hill was hot and sticky though nice to be in the jungle (despite the snake – see photos), the view from the top was minimal because of the murky heat, Chew jetty was interesting, but best of all was just wandering the streets, looking at the street art, stopping to eat, wandering some more, seeing some more street art, eat, wander, repeat.
Much of the street art was painted by a Lithuanian chap, Ernest Zacharevic, commissioned by the city council to bring a new lease of life into some rundown streets of Georgetown. I would say he was extremely successful. The art is quirky and fun, incorporating actual motorbikes, swings and other street paraphernalia. Though it is already fading in the sultry
Hard as nails old tai chi ladies
Part of a street festival in Penang celebrating 10 years since Georgetown was given UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
climate, the murals have inspired further street art by other artists. It seems loved by tourists and locals alike.
Regarding the workshop, we were conveniently put up in a 5-star hotel a hundred metres or so from the university; though not close enough during a lightning storm. The lakeside location was lovely but best of all, all I seem to talk about in Malaysia, was the food. I got up increasingly early everyday just so that I could have more time at breakfast. Nasi lemak is my new favourite way of starting the day. Rice cooked in coconut milk, very spicy sambal, roast peanuts, hard-boiled egg, and dried anchovies doesn’t sound like a great combination at 7:30am but I loved it. The workshop’s first coffee break everyday occurred at 10:30 where more nasi lemak was served; and more I ate.
I’d contacted a pal in KL about meeting for a coffee while I was there and maybe running the new Malaysia parkrun with him. However, he somehow managed to rope me into giving a seminar at his university. I was treated incredibly warmly with a hotel provided the night before, presentation of an engraved
parker pen, and lunch afterwards with the attendees of the seminar. Then I stayed at my pal Aizat’s house where his mum fed me any chance she could. The fresh durian and mangosteen were particularly good.
Malaysia parkrun was a moist affair. It begins at 07:30 rather than the usual 9am elsewhere in the world to avoid the heat. But it’s the humidity that gets you. Still, I somehow came second! Apparently, the usual quick people were elsewhere for a half-marathon, but I’ll take second place however it comes!
Tot: 1.87s; Tpl: 0.052s; cc: 38; qc: 166; dbt: 0.0828s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.8mb