Romance. That’s what I’d hoped for from Melaka, and under different circumstances, it may well have delivered.
South of Kuala Lumpur and sat on the coast, Melaka was once a prosperous trading town with a long history of colonial influence. Now, it’s a quaint little place that’s clearly pushing its tourism potential, with tonnes of museums, tours and guesthouses springing up. You can ascertain the sentiment of the place by its garish tuk-tuks. Continue reading Knackered in Melaka→
We descended from the highlands refreshed and reinvigorated, and reluctantly acclimatising to the renewed heat and humidity of the lowlands. Props to Mr Cameron, and that glorious quasi-English climate he discovered.
First impressions of Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is commonly known) included: Ooh, look at all the tall buildings; Aah, what a lovely clean monorail; Hey, look, Petronas!; and, finally, Titty wangs are great!
The bus up to the Cameron Highlands is as gorgeous as it is exciting. Winding up the mountains, the road teeters perilously on the edge of cliffs, or meanders meekly through the jungle. The views are remarkable, which is just as well, as the bus shunts from side to side as it corners each bend, rendering a book about as enjoyable as a migraine (which is what you’ll get if you try to read).
Getting to Ipoh is a doddle. It’s about a tenner on the bus from Georgetown, including the transfer to Butterworth, which is the town on the mainland facing Penang. The roads are well maintained, and the view of lush rainforest-covered hills gives you something pretty to look at for the majority of the journey.
Yes, the bus terminates at a terminal about 45 minutes from the centre, but friendly staff there will stick you on a public bus that’s going the right way – and which are blessedly air-conditioned. And making your way around the city is easy too, with proper road signs at each junction and a river to keep your bearings. Continue reading Getting deep in Ipoh→
He certainly has an imagination, does Mr Miéville. And no more evident and unworldly is it than here, in Perdido Street Station. This bonkers fantasy science fiction is the first of a trilogy set in the world of Bas-Lag, a planet home to a vast array of sentient races, from proud, dangerous cactus folk, to the aquatic, water-sculpting frog people.
The reader is not led gently into this other world. Far from it. We are welcomed initially with the illicit inter-species love affair between fat, eccentric scientist human Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin and his Khepri lover, Lin. The Khepri, we learn promptly, are a sub-species of human-to-the-neck, scarab-for-a-head people. Continue reading Perdido Street Station – China Miéville – [Book Review]→
After a month of island-hopping, we felt the need for something a bit different, and Georgetown promised to be exactly that.
Those of you with some knowledge of Malaysia will balk at my error: “But Georgetown IS on an island, you fool!” Yes, yes, I know, but it’s connected to the mainland by a big fat bridge, so it doesn’t count. Continue reading Spicy variety in Georgetown→
Our first border crossing – from Thailand to Malaysia – was impressively painless, apart from carrying around a rucksack on my freshly scalded back. Flesh-grating torture aside, the visas were free, the immigration officers unquestioning, and the boat was quick and comfortable.
Our first port of call – Pulau Langkawi – was made a duty-free zone in 1987 to boost tourism and improve the livelihoods of the island’s inhabitants. We celebrated this economic liberation with a glass of Prosecco as soon as we arrived, toasting the island’s effervescent relationship with alcohol, before heading out for a booze-free meal. Continue reading Langkawi – Malaysia’s malaise→
We left Koh Libong the way we had come, on a longtail with the locals, one of whom was having her scooter shipped over with us. It wobbled precariously on the deck in front of us, threatening to crash into my knees as the boat’s hull was thumped by each wave, in what might have been the world’s oddest traffic accident.
Thankfully, my shins remained unscathed and, with a belly-full of Imodium leading some guttural rebellion in my intestines, I was semi-confident our trip to Koh Lipe would be squit-free. Continue reading Quantum Lipe→
We left Krabi with high hopes for Trang, the next province to the south. Research told us of quieter islands, yet to be overcome by the behemoth of tourism, and a more authentic Thai way of life.
Trang Town for its part is devoid of tourism. There’s the odd hotel for people who don’t make it through to the pier in time, and a spattering of western bars and restaurants by the train station, but otherwise it’s Thai through and through. Continue reading Going lokoh on Libong→