Although I had read a lot about its religious diversity, Malaysia, especially Kota Bharu, is a predominantly Islamic country
. This has been a welcome change because Buddhism and monks were really getting on my nerves. Monks kept approaching us in the street, giving us a pendent and saying, "you special, this lucky Buddha for you," then demanding money, "you pay you pay, many people pay, you pay for Buddha." I should be careful with what I write because the last time it happened I went to run away and my flip flop had mysteriously broke. Cheeky sod -thats George Bush tactics - scaring people into conforming to their ideas. I much prefer how Muslims keep their religion to themselves here. Rather than making religious buildings tourist attractions, the Mosques are strictly a place of worship where tourists aren't allowed to go.
The Indian/Pakistani/Malay food here is like nothing I've ever had before. Each morning we eat Tosai, a Roti style pancake served with cold curry sauce and mint chutney; and every evening rice and hot beef masala served on a banana leaf and eaten with fingers. This suits people like me with limited table manners - the only etiquette appears to be try and get at least half of the food in your mouth. As well as the food, highlight of the past 10 days was camping deep inside the rainforest at Taman Negara national park. Although we didn't see many animals, the sounds that echoed through the trees were absolutely stunning.
As we approached the national park we drove through mile and mile of palm tree plantations that had replaced rainforest
. It really annoys me when people bang on about saving the rainforest and how terrible it is that bio-diversity has been killed by countries that produce palm oil. Who are we to tell a developing country how to use their natural resources? Their producing palm oil which we
consume from pretty much every packaged good we buy and then we
for ruining the world. We bomb half the world, spend billions on producing arms, but apparently, their screwing up the delicate balance of planet Earth by chopping down the forest. Imagine a Malaysian/Cambodian company approaching Gordon Brown - "could you convert the lake district into rice fields because there's a shortage over here. And make sure those badgers and red squirrels don't become extinct, we hate how you lot are ruining the natural habitat of the Earth. One more thing, we will be drilling for oil, hope you don't mind." Unthinkable.
Kuala Lumpur is a funny city. Its developing at a rapid speed and juxtaposition of old and new is strangely bizarre. The gleaming Petronas twin towers, until 5 years ago the tallest building in the world, overlook narrow streets of dilapidated housing. You can buy mashed potato from vending machines yet every public toilet has instructions on how to use the toilet seat. Huge skyscrapers stand next to colonial Tudor buildings and a cricket pitch in the middle of the city center. I like how its gone about modernisation by throwing the Americanised model out of the window and doing things its own way. Out of all the big Asian cities we have been to, Kuala Lumpur is definitely the most livable - it seems to relaxed and quiet to be a city of 7million people.
No people to avoid while traveling this week. it was going to be save the tree people but I can't slag them off just because their narrow-minded.
You know the feeling when its been sunny all week so you organise a big BBQ and then the weather pulls a nutmeg on you. Laughs behind your back. Pisses on your chips. After 2 weeks absorbing 38degree heat the last thing I had anticipated was crossing the ocean to the Perhentian Islands in the middle of a tropical storm. We would have been drier swimming. The 40minute ride on the speedboat was exhilarating but everything we owned was drenched and for a week we smelt like the damp basement room of a student house. A travel brochure would make the Perhentian Islands look like a dream destination: some mindless dribble like "virgin-white sand and crystal clear waters make this a beach lovers paradise" accompanying a photograph of palm trees and empty beach. When it rains though, this sort of place is incredibly boring. Apart from a bit of diving there was nothing for us to do apart from chase away spiders the size of rabbits.