Malaysia and the miracle of Germolene

Trip Start Jul 2003
Trip End May 2005

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Saturday, December 4, 2004

Number 27 (3rd December 2004 - 6th December 2004): Malaysia and the miracle of Germolene

Picking up the non-stop express to Butterworth we sped down south. The first sign we were approaching Malaysia were the large groups of young women, all wearing jeans and headscarves. We tore on through scenery of coconut and rubber plantations, flat farmland and industry; with mountains in the distance to the west and serious jungle supposedly somewhere to the east, we were clearly missing out on something.

The island of Penang was the safe-haven base of the British in the region, and the oldest in Malaysia. With them came the Indians, closely followed by the Chinese. The resultant architecture in Georgetown is an aesthetic blend of decaying streets of wooden Chinese shop fronts, Indian traders and smoking temples. The Eastern & Oriental hotel is a magnificently opulent 19th century luxury built by another nationality not encountered since Dhaka, the Armenians. A Chinese construction company had recently taken over the decaying cathedral of a hotel, apparently the 'finest east of the Suez'. Having now restored it to its former glory, important travellers from all over the globe are once able to make that arduous journey to the distant reaches of the Empire and stay in rooms with hot water, bone china, Egyptian cotton and Afghan carpet. Admittedly, most now arrive by first class flight but stepping into the huge, amplifying dome of the entrance hall and having your bags taken by a young man in safari suit (the shorts model) does make you feel like you've travelled half way round the world by boat and train to be there. It was impossible to stem the imagination by this point. Taking advantage of the shirt pressing on arrival (our other clothes would have fallen apart), we made our date in Farquar's Bar with Bertie H Moore and Miss Joey Wooster. And they gave us the one thing we had been missing for so long (apart from cheese): Germolene.

Three days were lost in smoked salmon buffets, before we sadly bade farewell to our teak filled sitting room, bedroom, study and huge bathroom. Then we hopped back on the train, heading back to the west coast of Thailand to look for Phuket and the beaches, with Debbie on one of them.

Governor Will and Lady Emma (again)

ps not enough Malaysian food sampled to comment. The laksa assam (a kind of sour fish soup with noodles) was a bit strange but mighty spicy. With such a blend of immigrants, it's quite difficult to tell just where local dishes start. Fresh fish, crabs (soft shelled ones), prawns and curries are everywhere. The smoked salmon was superb but we think it had been brought by camel from Norway.
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