Sunday, May 24, 2009

Malaysia Trip

A few weeks ago, Veronica, our friend Kim and I went on a trip to a few places in Malaysia and to Bali in Indonesia. I'm going to include some pictures and stories here. It was a great time. I highly recommend it. As it turns out, Indonesia (and to a lesser degree Malaysia) are the Caribbean for Oceania, but probably cheaper and more fun!

First things first. If you haven't heard of AirAsia, look it up. AirAsia is up there with RyanAir and Southwest as one of the best low cost air carriers in the world. We took eight one way flights and I think we spent less than 500 dollars a person. If you are considering visiting south east asia and have limited time or just don't want to ride buses for 24 hours a stretch - take AirAsia. But be prepared to pay for your entertainment monitor, your blankets, your drinks and your meal (3 dollars for a great meal - not a big expense).

petronas towers kuala lumpurI'm starting with Malaysia and will post about Bali later.

We planned on meeting up with Kim on the island of Penang, reknowned for its food and beaches. To do this, we took a high-speed train from Beijing to Tianjin (a massive city in its own right). This train did the 131 Km trip in under 30 minutes and cost $10. For comparison, Tianjin is a LITTLE closer to Beijing than NYC is to Philly. $10 for a clean, comfortable 30 minute trip. Unreal. Beat that Chinatown bus.

We hopped on a plane to Kuala Lumpur, where we'd crash and spend a day before heading to Penang the next day. We got in relatively late and, for future reference, the KL airport is NOWHERE near KL. The bus ride into town took over two hours. We learned a lot about the public transit system, which is currently a bunch of interlinking and independent systems, which got to be quite annoying. We also learned the Lonely Planet isn't a bible, in spite of its claims. We had some good local meals and we explored Chinatown and saw the Petronas towers before heading back to the airport to catch our flight and meet up with Kim in Penang.

I highly recommend Penang. Indian, Malay, Chinese and miscellaneous cultures have been living in this former British colony for a long time and the food selection was truly incredible. Public transportation made it very easy to get around the island and affordable and quaint homestays inches from beachfront bars and restaurants made every day a dream.

We explored the city (Georgetown), stayed at a beach (Batu Ferrenghi) and hiked a rainforest.

The rainforest hike was probably a highlight of our stay on the Island. We encountered very few other people during our day hiking, but we did run into a troupe of wild monkeys (not the ones that hang out for tourists to give food to). The troupe was very stereotypical to a nature program. It had a clear alpha male, an older, potentially former alpha male that has since taken a back seat, a mother with child and a few young playful monkeys. We gave them bananas and realized quickly that these guys were more likely to bite your hand off than eat out of it. Either way, VERY cute. That is, when the alpha wasn't attacking us.

We also spent a chunk of time at a meromictic lake. This was particularly cool -partially because there are only a dozen or two lakes like it in the world and this was the only one in Asia and partially because there was a bridge that we could jump off of into it. If you are too lazy to read the wikipedia article I linked to, a meromictic lake is a lake that is fed by both freshwater streams and by the tide of the ocean. The result is a dual layered lake, with the top being cold fresh water and the bottom being warmer, but denser, saltwater. We arrived when the lake was mainly freshwater and then the tide came in and filled it up. We swam in the rushing currents and jumped off the bridge into them as well.

We only spent a few days here before heading on to Indonesia. That post will be up soon.