Hello from Penang, Malaysia

Hello from Penang, Malaysia
 
Penang is an island off the main peninsula, it was known as the pearl of the orient, but over time has perhaps become over developed.  We stayed in one of the tourist beach areas. I had read that the beaches weren’t that great, and they’re not if you are spoilt with Australian beaches.  To be honest, apart from some the pacific islands I’ve visited you can’t beat the beaches back home.  
 
We spent most of our time relaxing by the pool. We did go into Georgetown on one of the days. I really enjoyed this, as it has that great Asian feel to it, with street markets and food on every corner.  Because of the British influence it also had some colonial buildings as well.  There was a Little India section and a a Chinese market area.  Penang is known for it’s food and it didn’t disappoint.  We had one of our best meals of this trip here.
 
Janice and I are still getting along. Although we did have a major spat in Georgetown.  Ironically my stars in the local paper had said I needed some “me time”, and I think I did. Janice decided she couldn’t cope with me anymore, I told her I wasn’t leaving her. There was a stand-off before we decided that we (or should I say Janice decided we needed a break). We went our own way for the day, but promptly ran into each other at the next tourist site. After the 30 minute break from each other we we right to keep traveling together, so we once again set off exploring Georgetown together. We can fight, but usually the arguments don’t last for long.
 
Unfortunately we didn’t spend as much time as we wanted in Georgetown because Janice was suffering from the heat, and we had to return to the hotel. (The sun only has to smile at Janice and she gets heat stroke.) Coming back to the hotel wasn’t too bad though, because it made Penang the most relaxing part of our trip.  
 
Our afternoons would be spent by the pool, then we would have dinner, explore a bit and the place we were staying had a pool table, so we would have a couple of games of that before heading to bed.  Penang is definitely a lot more touristy than Kuching.  There are night markets in the beach resort area, that are just full of junk – cheap watches, clothes, bags, sunglasses, etc.  I’ve never seen so much junk in my life, but the tourists must buy it when there are so many stalls everywhere.  I was ready to belt the next bloke who tried to sell me boxer shorts for my husband/boyfriend.
 
It was also fascinating to “people watch” in Penang. There were the ocker Aussie tourists, the Aussie families, Europeans, and also lots of Muslims, with the women wearing the full covering.  These Muslim must be from a foreign country, because the Malaysian female population we’ve seen so far doesn’t completely cover-up.  
 
It’s  easy to forget that we are traveling around a Muslim country.  The main reminders are the arrows in the ceilings of our hotel rooms, telling us which way Mecca is, and also the no pork.  Janice is missing bacon.  She tried something looking like bacon this morning, but it ended up being chicken bacon, which she said was just wrong.  Our hotel here in Penang is near a mosque and it’s absolutely beautiful hearing the call to prayer.
 
Funny self reflections:
 
– I must be the funniest public sleeper ever. I am always falling asleep on the plane with my head on my chest. (I’m not sure if that’s worst than the little snort that Janice gives when she wakes up on the plane. Perhaps they are equally embarrassing.)
 
– I’ve put on back fat while on this holiday. Janice confirmed this for me when she kept poking my new back boob. (Leanne, ready for a fitness kick when I return?) Janice has had me working hard at weights over here. I was so sore from this mornings work-out that I couldn’t get my hands behind my back to undo my sports bra. Embarrassingly I had to ask Janice for assistance.
 
Before I travel to Asia I really must reacquaint myself with the squat. It’s been a while since I’ve had to use a squat toilet, and it’s fair to say I was a bit rusty. Picture this… We had just got off the plane from KL in Penang.  Janice and I were both busting. Usually there are western toilets with a few squat cubicles thrown in. The only choice we had this particular time, was the squat, so in we charged.  Now I was a little bit worried about getting my jeans wet, so I took precautions and rolled them up a little. Good news, my jeans stayed dry, but boy did I get the angle and aiming wrong, and instead of weeing in the hole I somehow managed to get my shoes – and they were my cute little red shoes…  How you ask?  Buggered if I know.  Janice knew something was amiss by the giggling from my cubicle. I managed to poise midstream (let’s face it, not always possible in our older age) and repositioned for another try. I still missed the bloody hole, and got the tiles and my shoes.  I tried again to reposition, by this time I was getting to hysterical giggle stage. In the end I just had to accept that my pretty red shoes were going to be covered in wee.  Sorry I know all of that’s probably too much information, but hey, what’s a series of travel emails without a toilet story?
 
We’ve now made our way to KL. My next update will involve political rallies and bows and arrows.
 
Until then, lots of love

Hello from Sarawak, Malaysia‏

Hello from Sarawak, Malaysia

As most of you know I am breaking a big rule in the sisterhood. We have two keys rules between the sisters.  We don’t live together and we don’t travel together. Leanne and I have occasionally broken the living together rule, (with what is fair to say have been mixed results)  and Janice and I are currently breaking the no traveling together rule.  It is currently day 3. The good news is we are yet to kill each other, but there is still plenty of time.

I am gate crashing Janice’s holiday to Malaysia – destination chosen for food reasons.  We are visiting Kuching on the Borneo island, and then Penang, and KL.  Janice will then go to a beach resort and I’ll come home and return to work.  We decided for a week we should be able to cope with each other. For those that don’t know, Janice is the boss of the family, so as long as you do what you’re told everything is hunky dory.

Now as you know I love a plan. I can’t start a day without having it all planned out. I don’t do free time. I like to have something organized for every hour. I won’t keep to the schedule at all, and I’m always open to other options, but at least I have a plan.  Oh my God, Janice takes this to a whole new level!  She should have been in the military. Every minute is scheduled. She is ordering me around like an army sergeant. I just follow orders, “yes sir, thank-you sir, three bags full sir”. We start the day with an alarm at 5.52am. By 0600 hours we are at the gym. At 0730 we leave the gym. Then we shower. Breakfast is at 0800 hours, at 8.35 I must leave breakfast to return the iPad to the hotel room before we depart at 0900 hours.  And so the day goes on.

There are 2 slight issues between us. The thing that is annoying me about Janice is her map reading ability. Now as you know Janice is never wrong.  But navigation is MY speciality. I’m known for it in our family. Janice strides off into the distance and takes me on these wild walks and I’m like “stop you’re going the wrong way”.  When she misses a street she pretends that it was something else she wanted to see. Today I had enough, and I stood my ground and said no this other way is the right way back to the hotel. I was so confident that I bet her $100,000 dollars that I was right and she was wrong. So we decided the only way to settle it was to spilt up and race back to the hotel. Unfortunately it was wet and I was slipping all over the place in thongs, and she was striding off into the distance in her runners.  I still maintain that my road would have also got us to the hotel, but I turned around and followed her when I heard her yell out “Alison I can see the hotel”. Annoying – the one time I question her she was bloody right!

The one thing that annoys Janice about me is perhaps something that is a fair enough complaint.  After living by myself for so long I never close the toilet door. As you can imagine Janice isn’t so fond of this habit and yells at me on a regular basis. I’m getting better at remembering…

Kuching, “Cat City” is the capital of Sarawak. Most people come to the island of Borneo to visit Orangutans. I don’t like monkeys so we’re not going near wildlife. There’s a zoo in Melbourne for that sort of thing. I was more interested in the cultural side of things, and to find out about the long houses., which is what we’ve been doing while we’ve been here.

Kuching is a very easy city to get around, and we’ve been doing a lot of walking around, which is an adventure in itself. The footpaths near the waterfront are fine, but beyond that it’s fun and games. You can’t look at the streets around you – you have to focus solely on where your feet are going. There are unexpected steps, holes, open drains etc.  Some holes are so big you could lose a person in them (maybe not me, but I’m sure small Asian kids would get swallowed up).

Yesterday with our guide Kenny, we visited a long house, and the Orchid Garden. Today we went to the Sarawak cultural village and then we had this amazing seafood lunch. (Loving the food, and currently averaging 2 ice-creams a day.) This afternoon we visited the museum, where we made some very special friends. Everyone is so friendly and wants to talk to you. The guy who made friends with Janice at the museum talked politics and religion.  The guy who made friends with me talked fruit and taxidermistry. He was a third generation taxidermist at the museum. But alas he had no children to pass on the tradition.  Not sure what we wanted me to do about that…

Oh and I must tell you about the special scales in the bathroom. I jumped on them when I arrived and I was like “wow – check this out Janice – I’ve lost 10kg over Christmas”. Obviously not true, from the number of clothes that don’t fit, but hey it gave me hope that I was perhaps moving in the right direction. Janice burst my bubble when she pointed out that if you leaned back on the scales you lost 20kg, if you stood in the middle you only lost 10kg, but if you leaned forward you were the correct weight. Bugger… I consoled myself with an ice-cream.

Loving everything so far (except maybe the super cold air con). Everyone we meet talks heat wave and bush fires to us. The Australian fires and heat wave have been on the news quite a bit here. Although I laughed the other day when I saw the newspaper, with a heading of Sydney and then news of the Tasmanian fires (this was before there were any fires in NSW).

Off to Penang tomorrow.