Malaysia, a great start to S.E.A.

Trip Start Feb 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of Malaysia  , Pahang,
Friday, June 4, 2010

Tue 8th June

What an amazing two weeks we've had. Complete renewed vigour for touring 'round Asia upon arriving in Malaysia. Shopping in Kuala Lumpur like a teenager with their first pay packet, chilling in Melaka and antique hunting like David Dickinson and most recently scuba diving with all the elegance of a sunken toilet bowl. We're seeing things that are on par with our wildest pre-trip dreams such as 6ft monitor lizards blocking our dreary late night path back to the bungalow, cuisine so unique that our well travelled palettes get queasy at a virgin flavour and an island airport positioned such that quad prop craft have to fly such that they look like they're going to crash then bank so sharp to the right they're almost upside down before skilfully touching down like a feather.

Talking of skilful pilots, our flight from India to Malay was one hell of a bugger!! We we're chilling all fine, enjoyed the food etc then, CABIN CREW TAKE SEATBELT POSITIONS or something equally as subtle rudely interrupted our polite conversation to mask the turbulent ride. The next 4 minutes or so were one of the most gut wrenchingly terrifying of my life. I should take a moment to note that in our last weeks in India we closely missed a hurricane, land mines under commercial buses, terrorist attacks and also witnessed foiled plane bombs and plane crashes via the news. We were not confident travellers to say the least but all things assessed it was the best option to take the flight. Back to the flight containing Hindu devotees, a group of Muslim holy men and us typical Brits there was a mass of sound in many languages and scriptures from four letter words to very vocal prayers to every deity going. Talk about hedging your bets, we had Jesus, Allah, Ganesh, Sai Baba and anyone else you can think of all banging about in heaven for us. 30 seconds after a mostly horizontal fall later the prayers started to subside and the prayers were answered. The turbulence subsided and later we learned from quizzing the cabin crew that a real emergency would involve a descent much more perpendicular to God's green earth. Small comfort but it felt strangely disappointing to learn that our life changing event was fairly common place. BOOOO! Take me back and do it again properly, please...

Kuala Lumpur is a fruitful mismatch of Chinese, Indian, Malay and God knows what else. You can get any famous brand at suspiciously low prices yet suspiciously authentic (factory over-run or exceptionally good fake? You decide. Over-run is a trade we have learnt to be very profitable but violently hard for westerners to penetrate) . We visited the National Mosque, climbed at 5m/s half way up the Petronas Towers and the largest walk-in aviary in the world. The latter was really fun, it was basically a huge park with an even bigger net over it to stop all the wild birds escaping. So, zero Ralph Lauren shirts in hand we set off to Melaka. It's a very small port town with little to offer except antique shops selling goods which are way overpriced. English cinema, very fishy food, beautiful but overly quiet port kind of sums up our time here.

After a relatively (after India) short bus ride of 5 hours (5 hours now feels like a 30minute commute to work, no joke this is relaxing), we arrived in Mersing and booked a ferry to Pulao Tioman. It is quite a large island probably シ the size of Leeds which is where I am now, sat watching a cat fetch repeated dead frogs for its kittens. It is chucking it down and I'm doing everything I can to stop the rain hitting my laptop but it is brilliant. The eco system will love it, the trees will be so much greener and ra, ra, ra. When we got here we signed up for our PADI Open Water Diver course. We got placed with Jenny, a young snip of a thing who loves removing the items which support life underwater, underwater. Stupid cow! Only kidding, she was a true hero for us and our antiquated old age reservation but still forced us both to follow her passion, we paid handsomely for this? After kneeling in two meter water and doing skill tests we were well and truly p'd off with the whole thing. My lungs turned out to be so big that one deep breath can lift me 5 meters and Kal is so light that one wave easily knocks her ten meters back to shore. Removing and replacing items under these circumstances is FAR FAR FAR harder than doing it at twenty meters deep. For one there is less current, less temptation to stand up and give up, %ge wise a meter makes less difference etc. So anyway we continue at 2m deep, absolutely terrified but adamant that we will not be defeated by something so small as the ocean (only kidding, I aint tempting fate with Mother Nature.).

Long story short we eventually did it, all thanks to the lovely Jenny. We had two AMAZING open water dives. We saw hundreds of scholes of the most beautiful fish of every shape and colour, 'walls of fish' as Kal calls them but it is quite appropriate as you feel like you're breaking through a wall when you swim through it. Huge turtles with shells as big as the trunk of my body if not larger were quite prevalent but most notably Black Tip Ref Sharks were cruising about, not so big or close to be a threat but at 5ft or more, pretty darned scary. Kal was so brilliant in the water. We had to repeat the tests done earlier and whereas before we could simply stand up after each exercise to satisfy our spoilt reality on life, at 15m you have 2 other people to consider and it forces you to do whatever you can to stay down. You may need to burp, get phlegm out of your throat, trump, or blow snotballs through your mask. There are techniques for all and when you've made the effort to get down you really really want to employ them so you don't let the team down. We have completed all our paper tests now and have just one more dive to do before we are qualified. During the test we have to dive to 18m and remove our masks then hover at a stable height using 'neutral bouyancy'. (update:we did the final test but I failed the first time to clear my mask at depth and my lungs brought both me and the instructor to the surface. This knocked my confidence and had to complete a fifth dive. Kal completed all her tests first time completely showing me up but I finally did it. We have booked 2 further dives, as qualified divers - one to some ship wrecks and one to an artificial reef that supposedly looks like some funky geometric modern art.)

People say that there are only a ridiculously small %ge of the people in the world that will ever experience the greatest sights of Earth. Some of them are hundreds of meters above sea and some are ridiculously small distances below sea level. We're only half way through our trip and we have seen a sample of both. We feel really lucky to be here.
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