Exploring Malaysia by Luxury Buses

Trip Start Oct 20, 2010
Trip End Feb 07, 2011

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Where I stayed
Sentral Hotel, KL

Flag of Malaysia  , Melaka State,
Thursday, December 2, 2010

I had two speaking engagements on diabetes testing – one in Jakarta and one in Singapore. I had visited Singapore many times before but never in December.  We stayed in the Hilton on Orchid Road which sparkled with the full glory of Christmas lights.  Singapore is always a nice place to stop over when we travel in Asia.  Ray calls it the vacation away from our vacation.  It is a very clean city and the whole place is one meticulously kept tropical garden. Everything works, no surprises.  We spent an afternoon at the Singapore zoo where animals roam free (at least they appear to) in a tropical jungle setting.   We saw our friendly Prebascous monkeys again and this time I got a good picture of one who really looks like Jimmy Durante. 
We took our first luxury bus from Singapore to Melaka,  the distance is about 300 km but it took us over 4 hours because we had to go through two customs.  The bus was very comfortable but they played Jackie Chan and some strange Malay movie (some actors speak Cantonese, some Taiwanese, mixed  in with  Mandarin and English) the whole way.  Malaysia has great highways and some of the routes were lined with palm tree farms.  They look nice but palm farming probably is also destroying some of the native habitat. 
We stayed at Puri House in the China town section of Melaka.  It was once belong to a rich Chinese family so it has lots of old Chinese paintings and furniture.  It also has a nice court yard and garden.  There is a Swallow Welcoming Hall with real swallows living in it.  Many streets were lined with buildings that had Chinese tablets on their doors. Chinese had very deep roots in Melaka beginning with the Ming Dynasty. Admiral Cheng He established Melaka as a supply base for his 7 exploratory oceanic trips 600 years ago.   He went as far as Africa. Melaka male Chinese decedents are called Baba and females Nyonya.  Many Chinese  families were incorporated into the Malay society, but  nevertheless kept Chinese traditions and customs.  After Indonesia, we found Malaysia’s diversity of foods delightful. We tasted local Laksa (rice noodles with spicy sauce) and all kinds of fried fish meals.  We also had shaved ice with coconut milk for dessert. We had dinner at Satay Celup, a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet for dinner.  It was like Chinese hotpot but the soup base is made of 26 different kind of spices (a lot of peanut paste).   We selected fish meals, shrimps, mushrooms, vegetables, meats that were skewed on bamboo sticks and dipped them  in the pot.  At the end we ate 74 sticks of foods and it only cost us about $20.  We took a boat ride on the Melaka river.  The river bank lined with wide board walks and café shops.  Many buildings facing the river had art murals painted on their surfaces. We also visited the Marine museum. It has a replica of a Portuguese war ship.  When Cheng He visited Melaka 600 years ago it was a busy trading port with over 80 languages spoken at that time.  An old Malay gentleman – who calls himself a living museum met us at Villa Sentosa.  He gave us a very interesting history of Melaka and treated us like his guests  rather than tourists.  He said that tourist only come once but friends come back many times.   
Our bus from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur (the Capital of Malaysia and is shorten to KL) was not a luxury one but with only 6 passengers the 2 hour ride to KL was still very conformable.  We stayed at the Sentral Hotel which was in the Little India area and within walking distance of the KL Rail Station.  This station is huge (3 stories high) and has bus, metro, monorail, local commuter plus a bustling market area.  From this station, we can get to anywhere in KL.  Lonely Planet advices anyone who is interested in visiting the Twin Tower KLCC   need to stand in line early because they only gave out 950 tickets a day.  The Twin Tower  was the world’s tallest building until Taipei’s 101 surpass it. We arrived there at 8:30 am and the a long line had already formed.  Ray went to the end of the line and waited for 1 ˝ hours to secure 4 tickets to the top of KLCC at 6 pm.   We bought tickets to the “hop on hop off” touring bus to go around KL.  We stopped at our first stop of the Culture Center where they have many special Malaysia craft and art works.  We luck out because we got to tasted many special Malays foods at a food demonstration.  However, we missed our tour bus and spent next hour trying to catch up with it. We eventually  caught  up with the tour bus. Our 2nd stop was at the National Muslim Center.  It is  immense and at special events can pack in 10,000 people.  All women visit the mosque are required to wear a long robe and a head scarf.  We thought that we looked pretty good in this outfit except it is hot and hard to walk dressed in long robes.  We made it back to the Twin Tower right around sun set and got a good view of the city of KL in the day light as well as when it lights up at night.  It is a very beautiful building. 
I remember climbing the 270 steps to the top of Batu Cave (13 km from KL) to see one of the oldest Hindu god statues several years ago.  We took a commuter train and paid the equivalent of  75 cents for a round trip ticket.  How cheap can you get?  Ray and I decided to stay below and visit the Hindu temples at the base while Shiqiu and Xiaoqiu took the challenge climbing the steps.  This area has developed quite a bit since my last visit.  There were a lot of devoted Hindu followers making offerings and getting blessed by the priests.  I like Hindu gods and mythical creatures – they are always brightly colored.  There are so many of the sculptures, I wish I know more of the stories behind those interesting figures.  Most of the restaurants near the temples are vegetarians but we didn’t realized that there was such variety of India breads so we tried some of them.  Our favorite is the flaky and light Roti.  Ray and I took a tour to see a very rare breed of firefly who blink together in synchronization.  A local fisherman  took us by boat to a river where all the fireflies blink in unison like Christmas tree lights.  Mother Nature sure know how to create the most beautiful light show in the world. 
Another 4 hours luxury bus ride from KL to Penang.  We even had an attendant who served us lunch and coffee.  Have you ever had this kind of service on a bus? The Old Penang Guest House where we stayed is located in the center of the historical Georgetown district.  It is  a hostel for backpackers and the rooms are clean but the service are minimum, no TV , no refrigerator and no amenities.  The price is pretty cheap at $25 a night We took a “luxury” room so we at least have  a private bathroom.  The breakfast was coffee, toast and jams – you washed your own dishes afterwards.  .  I was surprised to see how many European elderly tourists are in these type of hostels in Penang.  Penang is famous for hawker (vendor) foods so we went to the Red Garden where food stalls line the perimeter of the food court.  The tables and seating are in the open center and the vendor stalls are all around.  We walked around and picked a few famous Penang Foods including the famous fruit salad with dark brown dressing, stirred fried wide noodles,  tofu soup and  a grilled fish and eggplant.  They were delicious.  We visited a tropical fruit farm and a butterfly farm.  We got to taste fresh fruits at the farm but we spent almost 2 hours at the butterfly house.  There were some large moths and beautiful butterflies.  I couldn’t snap the pictures fast enough but  I did get some decent pictures.  We stopped by Penang’s beach area, Batu Feringgi, where the night market with was in high gear with hundreds of stalls filled with all kinds of cheap stuff that rich tourists can’t do without. 
We woke up one morning to the sound of torrential rain  pounding the roof.  I have not heard  this kind of sound since we lived in Taiwan and Brazil.  This rain made the air cool and refreshing.  We found Da Dong restaurant on 45 Lebuh Cintra which is a Dim Sum restaurant and it was  full of Chinese customers.   We though this breakfast would be good and we were not disappointed.  We had our fill of delicious dishes served us from various push carts.  We especially enjoyed Malay cake – after all this is where it was  originated.   After some serious shopping in Sam’s Batik India clothing stores, we were ready for a farewell dinner.   Some local Chinese recommended Town Steamboat Restaurant located at 63 Macalister Road, Pulau Pinang.  It is a buffet or as they call it “Eat Unlimited”.  The price is $7 for people 140 cm or taller (I guess they assumed that tall people eat more) and senior over 55 get a discount at $5.  Two huge tables were lined with fresh fish, shellfish, all kinds of meats and vegetables.  They have a dual hot pot system – a pot with broth in the center and a round grill around the pot.  All drinks and dessert are included.  What a great deal!
Malaysia turned out to be one of the easiest place to travel, the infra structure is excellent, buses are easy and reasonably priced.  Most people speaks either English or Chinese or both.  Shiqiu and Xiaoqiu found that they can get around with Chinese without any problem.  They have already planned to come back and bring their family and friends to Malaysia soon.  
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