Leaving Malaysia...in a minivan
Trip Start Aug 25, 2003
38Trip End Jul 23, 2004
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There are two main towns in the Cameron Highlands: Tanah Rata, and Brinchang, 4 km farther up the hill. We stayed, as most people do, in Tanah Rata. It's a big "backpacker hub"; this means, basically, that most restaurants have pancakes on the menu. Father's Guesthouse is a little ways out of town, near the local convent. The rooms are in World War II barracks of unsure origin; it gave the sleeping experience some atmosphere. They reminded me of metal soup cans, half buried. We spent a day exploring town, and another day hiking in the surrounding jungle with a fantastic Vancouverian, Sarah; I thought she was great even before she forgave me for not knowing north from south, but that really earned my eternal admiration
How was that for compelling drama? Ipoh the town wasn't so bad, but we had a mosquito-and-bedbug tagteam infestation in our flophouse room that night, and they only ever bite me, which they did quite a lot, and this made me very very crabby. But we had had a good day before that, with successful (meaning right bus on the first try, with no embarrassing ticket-buying faux pas) local bus rides to Kellie's Castle (big house only partially finished because of the untimely death of the ownerand now you can wander around the ruins and climb up to the roof, where there aren't any silly guardrails; I love societies free of litigation-crazy people) and back towards Ipoh. Well, almost to Ipoh. We had gotten off the bus to explore one of the cave temples south of Ipoh; it was closed, so we headed back to the road to catch a bus, except none would stop (still have not figured out why; perhaps word spread about Phil's sandals smelling like burnt popcorn)
The next morning, after the Sarah Buffet for Nasty Bity Things, we took a local bus to Kuala Kangsar, and saw the coolest mosque in Malaysia, the Ubidiah Mosque. The color scheme is gold onion domes and black and white striped spires; it is just a very photogenic mosque. A few minutes walk past the mosque is the sultan's palace, which is surrounded by a high wall, but otherwise, is pretty settled in suburbia, surrounded by normal Malaysian houses. We don't have any royalty in the States, but imagine if the White House was kind of plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood in, say, Ferndale, Michigan, and you can get the idea.
From Kuala Kangsar, we took a bus to Butterworth, and then the ferry to Penang Island. I remarked to Phil, "It feels cooler, and the sky is pretty cloudy. I wonder if we'll get any rain?" And then it poured for four days, and the water drains flooded, and the streets flooded, and we discovered that rats can swim. Judging from their general attitude, I'm pretty sure they don't enjoy it, but they possess the skills. We waded around Georgetown, saw "2 Fast 2 Furious" (wow...it's really bad), and ate four times a day in Little India, hoping the rain would let up so we could...take some pictures or something. Today, it only sprinkled so we went to Kok Lok Si temple and I took 50 pictures of the turtle pond, to make up for the previous four days. Five days was too long for us here; Georgetown is a really easy city to get around (when it isn't flooded), but it's still the small towns we've been in that I like best.
Tomorrow we are headed to Hat Yai, in Thailand, in a minivan. Sometimes, it does seem too easy.