Trip Report by Brookesy June 2001

 

About Penang ....the trip continues.. . . It was with much excitement and anticipation that we departed the Federal Hotel for the KLIA. So after a last minute swim and shop, we packed ourselves into the minibus for the trip. Along the way I was amazed at the extent of palm oil plantations. It would appear that every spare acre has been planted. It was quite a spectacular sight.. . lines of palms as far as the eye can see. Anyway, we arrived at the airport in plenty of time, so we sat around for a while, checked out the shops and waited. We flew on a little Boeing 737, with David and Jan down the back .. wanted to die last etc.. and we, the other 6 sitting together. The flight was short, about 45 minutes and it was with pleasure that I welcomed the others to Penang, as Wendy and I had been on two other occasions. I should have filmed the goings on at the taxi rank outside the terminal building. Those who wish to die last are forever trying to save a buck or two and were desperately trying to get the eight of us AND the luggage into two cabs. David even had a go at squeezing the bags into the boot. Jo had had enough, so went back inside and arranged/paid for another cab to take us to the Bayview. I really should have been filming.. . talk about Australia's Funniest Home Videos.. . I'd have been a finalist for sure. So, three separate cabs set off for Batu Ferringhi. Would have been better in a minibus but we all arrived at about the same time.

We were extremely impressed with the 'looks' of the hotel. Great foyer. . all open right up to the 10th (our) floor and two bubbles for elevators. Lots of overhead fans as it needs a bit of ventilation, a nice looking bar (never got there), comfortable chairs and tables set around central plant stands (for want of a better word) and an interesting group of shops (in a separate area). We had requested 'Sea-Facing Rooms' but the request fell on deaf ears, but it was suggested that we enquire in two or three days. (Those sea-facing rooms did not appear to be very occupied, but more of that later). We ended up on the 10th floor with 'Hill-Facing' rooms that were nice anyway. We adjoined Stew and Jo's (1042 and 1041) whilst C&C and D&J also adjoined (1024 and 1025).

The first thing we did, of course, was empty the minibar.. . literally that is.. in readiness for refilling from the local minimarts. I must own up in that I did demolish a can or three whilst emptying said minibar. We all got changed and had already made plans for a meeting around the pool, which was great. Very impressed with the entire hotel. Great pool with a large turbojet area.. . now I know how an egg feels when it's being boiled. The jets were so strong that it was hard to stay put as there was actually a current. Swim up bar was used regularly as was the facility to order snacks. Enjoyed many a plate of hot chips ('French Fries' to some), sates, hamburgers (don't bother!!) and club sandwiches. I don't know what went wrong with the hamburger, but it wasn't up to the normal standard of their food. We seemed to have had a claim staked on a couple of the tables and chairs around the pool, as nearly every time we arrived at the pool, either Wendy or I would grab one of the tables or the others were already there. Most mornings we'd all wander off somewhere only to gravitate back to the pool area around midday. Christine became very burned.. as only a fair-skinned Pommie can. We others gradually tanned, much to her chagrin. Yes, many a fine hour was spent just relaxing around the pool that was soooo different to the time in K/L, during which we hardly ever slowed.

We had planned a series of tours whilst at the hotel, the Langkawi trip and transfers, a trip to the Penang Hill Railway and the return to the airport for our (YUK!) trip home. I have wonderful footage of 'the girls' discussing the plans with the hotel tour manager. Us guys were sitting in the foyer and I was filming as the girls were negotiating. We joked that the fellas would have the whole thing sorted out in 10 minutes.. . it took the girls over an hour, but as it turned out, everything went off without a hitch. As we spent 10 nights here, I won't bore you all with a day-by-day expose of our exploits. What I will do, is much the same as the K/L report: that is, I'll summarize and certainly in no particular order:.. .

THE DAILY MARKET @ PENANG STADIUM: We were told about this as being a great place to pick up collectibles and other 'good stuff'. So off D&J and we two went one morning, arriving at what we were told was the 'opening' time (7am). Yes, it was, for the gates. A few stalls were opening and I picked up some useful bits and pieces. The others just sat around waiting. I strolled around and was quite happy. When the place was in full swing, so were we. Spent lots of money on some fabulous pieces (a lot of which have been sold here for nice little profits). The market opens daily and provides for just about everything.. . fruit and vegies, stationery, herbs and spices, Stuffed Horse's Heads and Hooves (yes!! that's correct), watches, clothing (second hand and new), pens, potions to cure everything, pet's requirements, you name it. Great place to go just for the ambience, but we bought very well there and will go back again in a year or so.

PENANG HILL: The bus picked us up at 8:15am, nice and early as we were told not to arrive too late as the crowds will be horrendous. We were among about thirty other people waiting for the train, so we had done the right thing. This train is very similar to the 'Peak Train' in Hong Kong.. . SCARY. Only Joking!!. It is very steep and it's better to be at the 'bottom' of the train as one can see where it's been. There are two stages (which I didn't know) to get to the top. There's a landing about half way, where you leave one train and wait for the other to continue the trip up. It is MUCH cooler up there and the view would most probably be fantastic if it weren't for the clouds. It did clear up a bit later, but we were a bit disappointed at first. We wandered around the ubiquitous stalls. I picked up a RM10 note and promptly gave it to Wendy as she was bargaining hard for 'Three T-Shirt.. . Ten Ringgit' so the sign stated. (She paid a lot more in the end, but I suppose the 10 helped a bit). Found a nice older style hotel (name evades me, unfortunately) and went in for a snack. Great view out the back, over which I suppose would have been a Croquet pitch in earlier days. Wendy and I decided to have an Iced Coffee!! One glass of tepid black nescafe, a glass half full of dissolved sugar and a metal jug of condensed milk was presented to us. These ingredients one mixed to create a not-so-nice Iced coffee. . and the sandwiches weren't much better either. Actually, it's probably better that I can't remember the name.. . it doesn't sound too crash hot, does it? Anyway, after about three hours, we wandered back to the station for the scramble to get back onto the train.. . which it was. At the bottom, we asked and were shown onto a bus that was to take us to....

KEK LOK SI TEMPLE: Boy, has this place become commercialized. I couldn't believe all the stalls that have appeared since our last visit (Ok, it was 17 years ago, but hey!!) Talk about running the gauntlet to arrive at the temple! Once inside and away from the commercialism, it was wonderful. The others, some of whom are not exactly culture-seekers, were very impressed. It is still a hard, hot walk to see around the complex. I'm sure that when last here, Wendy and I weren't allowed to ascend the Pagoda, but this time we were and took full advantage of it. We didn't get to the top (level seven) as the access door was closed, but we did get up to level 5 where the view is quite spectacular. Yes, you can even see good ol' Komtar. Some of the miniaturized trees (I wouldn't call them Bonsai) were brilliant. It would be very easy to get lost in this temple.. as some of the group did. I had to walk back, through the gauntlet of stalls, to find the stragglers. As it turned out, Wendy and I were the stragglers as the others had already decided it was too hot and needed a swim, so had vacated the area without letting us know. Before my frantic re-entry into the complex I was starting to cool off a bit. When David eventually found me, I was both hot and annoyed. We tripped back to Komtar to grab either a number 83 (?) or 202 bus back to the Bayview (for a swim).

THE BUTTERFLY FARM: As a young lad, I collected butterflies and moths (among other things) so I was really looking forward to the trip. Fortunately, there is a bus stop straight across the road from the front of the hotel.. as well as a taxi rank. So, you walk across the road to catch a bus and are confronted by every cab driver in Batu Ferringhi attempting to attract your custom. We mentioned that we were off to the Butterfly farm and that we were walking from the roundabout (where we leave the bus) to the farm. 'Oh!!' he said, 'Is long walk!! You take taxi. Is like walk from here to Rasa Sayang Hotel!!'. 'Oh .. is long way!' We didn't get in the cab. We waited for and caught the number 202 bus. At the roundabout is a sign saying that it's 1km to our destination.. not the 5km to which the cabbie alluded. Great walk, past the Orchid Farm that we decided we wouldn't enter. Saw the odd escapee from the butterfly farm on the way to the park. RM10 each to get in, plus 3 for the camera (it's a worry!), but well worth it for me. Saw many species that I recognized (the following is only for those who have an interest. To the others, please ignore the next few lines: look for the '**' Rajah Brook's Birdwing, Malaysian Birdwings, Tree Nymphs, assorted swallowtails and whites plus a batch of newly-emerged Atlas Moths.. . real big mothers. Interesting to see the hatchery: lots of pupae suspended in a special cage with some new arrivals pumping up their wings. It was great to see hibiscus flowers spread out on mats, all laced with a honey/sugar nectar and the dozens of feeding adults. '**' Others, now read on. Once through the butterfly house, the exit passes through a shop where one can buy any number of mounted and framed specimens for outrageous prices. Not only butterflies but scorpions, cicadas, horned/stag beetles and other assorted insects. One then passes into a sort of display house where you try to 'spot the bug'. Amazing camouflage. They are there, hidden and in some instances, it's very difficult to find them. The stick insects were extraordinary. If anyone dislikes large spiders.. don't go to the butterfly farm. The Guatemalan Tarantula was a monster.. real big AND hairy to boot. You are now led into a room full of Asian artifacts, some of which would scare the living daylights out of many a poor soul. We did do some purchasing in this area as the pieces were quite interesting although somewhat pricey. The last room contains the usual souvenirs, full of t-shirts, coasters, pens, tea towels, fridge magnets and postcards. There was a fabulous library of books, mainly dealing with insects, but as can be imagined for publications with such small readerships, the prices were way up there. All in all, we had a good time at the farm, but we were all glad to get out as the heat and humidity was overpowering. We walked back along the road to the roundabout, caught a number 202 back to the hotel and within minutes we were all back at the pool, armed with many a cold beer and wine cooler. Was a good trip, well worth the effort.

THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE WORLD: Caught a number 202 bus to the end of the line to go to the Restaurant at the End of the World. Fortunately, there is a bus stop right across the road from the hotel so it's easy to get to various places. Got off the bus and started walking down to the restaurant. We stopped half way down to watch a couple of young geese do their thing.. . nibble at legs and sneakers. I have some great footage, filming straight down at my feet whilst these two guys were checking out my legs. We were told that the restaurant was not so special to look at but the food was great. As soon as we arrived, Wendy and David went for a walk along the pier (for want of a better word; she said it was tethered together by bits of wire, string and chewing gum). The Meals were ordered and Wendy said she had the best prawns in the WORRRLLL DDDDD, but my meal was very ordinary. I have to admit that others in and around our group ordered meals that did look delicious. In fact, one plate looked so err umm .. interesting, that I asked for, and was presented with, a meal of umm err ahhh things that looked just like 4 cm long light beige slaters. I can only assume that they were some kind of crustacean. Perhaps there are those out there who may know what it was that both Wendy and I ate. If every other meal was about RM20-30, these little critters were RM5 for a whole plate full!! Towards the end of the night, it started to rain, heavily. In fact it was a deluge. Kind of cozy sitting in the restaurant with all the tempest going on outside. Of course, the sides are open so the splashing of rain onto me from the handrail was quite refreshing. Meal over and paid for, we strolled down the road to catch the good ol' number 202 back to the hotel. At first we were a bit worried that we may have missed the last bus (it was after 10pm), but when some 'locals' arrived, we were assured that a bus would be along at any time. It did, it stopped, we climbed on board, strange sounds coming from the locals. We got back ok but found out later that we'd hailed a factory bus which shouldn't take domestic passengers. Nice day but wouldn't go back again.

LANGKAWI: As mentioned earlier, this trip was organized through the hotel. Went without any trouble. Bus was there to take us to Sweetenham Pier for our trip to Langkawi. Was a good trip to the port as he went along Gurney drive and past the Eastern and Oriental Hotel (which looks wonderful). The driver was very precise in explaining where he wanted us to be upon our return etc. The ferry was not exactly a cruise liner. It did not have a bar, arcade of shops or even a casino, but it did have seats and it did get us to our destination. It is quite fast and quite loud and shook a lot. We organized a van and a driver with absolutely no hassles as soon as we got out of the terminal building. As is the norm when I'm overseas, I had contracted a head cold (in and out of the air-conditioning, I suppose), so first stop was at a 'farmasi' to get some cold tablets. To cut what would be a long story short, we went to the Black Sand Beach, the Langkawi Crystal factory, a very impressive craft centre, the Snake farm (where most of us opted out) and to the Undersea World Aquarium. As we didn't have too much time, we didn't see as much of the island as we would have liked, and we tended to rush in here and rush over there without really seeing much. The driver dropped us all off at a shopping complex, which was a 200 metre walk to the terminal. Checked out a few shops and stalls, bought some duty free beer and Bailey's but not enough, as it turned out. We were feeling a trifle jaded after a very hectic day so we were pleased to get back to the terminal. As it is here where one can be checked for excess duty free, and we had done the 'right thing' and not over dutyfree'd ourselves, we were shattered when we were just waved through. Should have bought LOTS more. The sunset on the way back was spectacular, as was the cruise liner that had docked during the day. Our driver, who had been ever so pragmatic in determining that we knew exactly where to meet him upon our return, was waiting for us in the terminal building, grinning from ear to ear. So, it was with great ease that we returned, once again along a now lively, Gurney Drive, to our hotel and a good night's sleep.

THE GARAGE: This is an antique centre that is across the road from the E&O Hotel. We decided after one of our jaunts to the daily market at Penang Stadium, to catch a bus back to Komtar and walk from there, up Penang Road, to the Garage. It was a really nice, if very hot, walk up Penang Road. David, an avid fisherman, found to his absolute delight, a shop along the way that would to him have been an entrance to Heaven. Reels, rods, tackle, knives, camping gear, GPS gear, you name it, and they'd have it. I did not note the name, but can tell you that it's probably just past half way from Komtar to the E&O and it is on the left hand side as you walk north. A very modern shop and cool inside and I'd say that the prices were very reasonable. The Garage itself.. well, very pricey, not many of the shops were open and we didn't buy anything anyway (but I did take notes). There are many shops in the area.. all dark and dingy, selling some fabulous antiques at equally fabulous prices. One incident springs to mind: one of these shops had a display cabinet full of colorful snuff bottles, shaped like old men among others, and with a marked price of RM195. I did a terrible thing in that I haggled hard to buy three of them at RM150.. RM450 for the three. The woman said that her family would starve, the bank would foreclose on the mortgage and the hounds would snap at her heels, BUT as I was walking out she, reluctantly, agreed. RM450 would be better than nothing etc. As she was wiping the tears from her eyes, I informed her that I would 'think about it' as I had a 'feeling' about them. It was wrong of me to have my price agreed to and then renege, but I was vindicated at the Butterfly Farm. The same pieces, identical, were there with a 'marked price' (ie BH: before haggling) of RM58!! I had inadvertently saved myself about RM400. I didn't buy any there either: mass-produced and made to look old. Lucky Me!!

THE BATU FERRINGHI BEACH AREA: Where all the hotels are and 'where it all happens'. Found some great restaurants, and the one we all preferred was Jasmine's with Fantasy coming in a close second. The food at both these establishments was excellent with attentive waiters/waitresses (no sexism here, please) and only a short walk to the hotels, one way, and the night markets, the other way. There were a couple of Minimarts between the Casuarina and Jasmine's where we all stocked up our fridges, bought chips, lollies, milk and other necessary items. Both were on the beach side of the road and their prices were as cheap as anywhere. We tried out the restaurants along the beach behind the Parkroyal Hotel. The Blue Bayou comes to mind. I have had better squid (calamari) and the others were equally unimpressed. We had been told that the food here was the best in the WOOORRRRLLLL DDD. It must have been an off day. Also the service was just adequate. I would go there again and try the grilled fish that did look great. The cost of the meal was pretty good. (Don't ask me to quote figures as it was too long ago, and I don't really take much notice anyway). If you like horse riding, we noticed two on the beach along that strip near the Blue Bayou. They were for hire and I must say that they looked to be in pretty good condition, unlike some riding 'hacks' that one normally sees for hire. Their coats were glowing, both beautiful chestnuts.

PARASAILING: Both Jo and Stewart were mad enough to have a go at parasailing. This can be organized at the beach activities booth at the western end of the Bayview Beach hotel property and can be charged to the room. Jo went first and screamed with delight the entire time, I have wonderful footage of her being prepared for the flight with one of the attendants giving her last-minute instructions in what the various hand signals mean upon the landing approach. She wasn't listening!! I can still see Jo frantically pulling on the cords to send her up the beach while the guy on the beach had both arms outstretched, which means 'Don't do anything, all is fine, you are going to land perfectly on the beach'. That's what the outstretched arms mean, but not to our Josephine. The poor guy nearly swallowed his whistle, trying to stop her from landing on the roof of the hotel. Her touchdown wasn't attractive: three forward somersaults with pike, which was scored at 7.985. The landing was on the beach, thanks to the driver who dragged her away from the Casuarina trees at full throttle. Stewart was up next, and his instructions were something like 'Don't do anything that your wife just did!!'. His takeoff was as noisy as Jo's .. lots of shrieks of delight, but his landing was one out of the book. Touched down like a feather he did and scored a perfect 10. Having been to Bali on numerous occasions and watched many an adventurous soul being whisked off the beach, attached to a parachute, I can state categorically that these 'flights' last three times longer than those on Bali.

THE NIGHT MARKETS: Further along, past Jasmines, is where the night markets really get going. There is a couple of individual stalls close to the Casuarina, but these appear to be outcasts as they are far from where it is really happening. Things for sale are not as cheap as Bali, by a long way, but I think that the quality is far better. We didn't do the usual thing: buy 265 t-shirts and 3 wooden carvings, but we did buy a good selection of CDs. Steps, Olivia Newton-John, Mark Knoffler, Abba, Sarah Brightman, Eagles, Rod Stewart, Faith Hill and Andreas Bocelli to name but a few. Most are OK, but don't play them at elevated volumes, as they tend to skip tracks here and there. Also, here's one for you experts out there, I play music on my PC whilst working (Steps is on at the moment), but four or five of these CDs aren't recognized by my CD player. I cannot get them to play. I've even tried RUNing them from windows, but my D: drive is apparently not ready. I've got automatic detect set on. Quite odd! Anyway, back to the Night Market. Well worth the long walk, probably 2km from Jasmines to the traffic lights (where it peters out). Lots of restaurants along the way as well.

OTHER RESTAURANTS: Not many others as we liked both Jasmines and Fantasy, but mention must be made of the 'Hot Wok', both of them. The first one we tried was that along the way the Georgetown, in a group of shops on the left hand side. Very attentive service, great food, fabulous antiques on display AND for sale and reasonable prices. But, them there's the OTHER one, in the 'Garage' along Penang Road in Georgetown. When we first walked in we thought that we were going to get the same service as the other place: table prepared, sat down, menus provided, then NOTHING. We waited and waited. Waitresses walked past and ignored us (we had folded and placed our menus on the table!). Eventually, after waiting for 20 minutes and in sheer desperation, we ambushed one of the girls who said she would send someone to look after us. This did happen, but only after a further 5-minute wait. The food was as good as the other, but I couldn't explain the delay in providing service. It was lunchtime but the place was quarter full. That;s about all I can think of for now. If anyone has any queries after this, please don't hesitate to ask. You have probably noticed by now that I'm quite happy to waffle on, and I'm only too happy to be of service. Thank you for reading this, and if you've come this far AND have also read the tome regarding Kuala Lumpur, then you must be a sucker for punishment.. that's all I can say. Regards and Happy Travels Brookesy

And about Kuala Lumpur As promised, herewith one 'Just Back' report. A little late as we've been back now since the 3rd June, but work as well as the market has occupied most of my time since.. . but here goes: The itinerary was 6 nights in Kuala Lumpur (henceforth known as K/L) at the Federal Hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang and 10 nights in Penang (henceforth known as Penang) at the Bayview Beach Hotel in Batu Ferringhi. We also planned a day trip from Penang to Langkawi, but more of that later. The group consisted of 8 people: Christopher and Christine (Chris & Chris), David and Janice (Dave & Jan), Stewart and Josephine (Stew & Jo) and ourselves: Grant (moi) and Wendy (Grant & Wenners). We all met up at Tullamarine Airport, here in Melbourne, around 9pm on Wednesday 16th May. The flight, on a new Boeing 777, was due to depart at around 11:50. Seat allocation went as expected. Jan and David always wanting to sit at the back. Their theory being that it's less turbulent etc there, but I believe that they just want to die last if the plane plummets from the sky (which, fortunately for us, it didn't). We went through those doors then immigration into no-man's land. Most of us had a quick look at the duty free shops, but seeing as we were already loaded down with previously acquired goodies, we really didn't need any. (coming back.. . totally different situation!!) . We sat around in the departure lounge with a snack and beer waiting for the boarding call. The excitement was growing! As usual, Wendy and I had taken a cold bottle of champagne and two flutes on board to enjoy on the trip over. I had lashed out and bought a bottle of French bubbly (the name of which I cannot recall). We had a light meal before the films were screened. These new planes have individual screens and hand controls to manage the system. You have access to about 6 films, all sorts of games, music and if required, a card-swipe telephone. The films couldn't have been all that memorable as I only remember that which Wendy watched: Miss Congeniality. Thanks to a paper, which rates movies, I can now remember that Billy Elliot, Chocolat and the Wedding Planner (I think) were a few of the others. The first sip of the (quietly-opened) champagne was not that special, but by the time we had wrung the last remnants from it's bottle, we were sorry it was finished. We didn't sleep very well on the plane, but who does?

I was VERY impressed with the new KL airport (KLIA). What a fabulous place. The atrium with the magnificent garden was breathtaking. Would be very easy to get lost within the precincts, as there seems to be 'arms' branching off everywhere, but, when in doubt, follow the signs.. . which we did. But, when we came to the little, unmanned train we weren't sure what to do, but a helpful staff member informed us that we must catch the train to the immigration. So. on we all crowded just as it was becoming light (about 6:30am). Immigration and baggage collection went without a hitch. But, as we expected, we were in trouble trying to get the eight of us to the Federal in less than four cabs (others in the party don't know how to travel light. Eh!? C & C). Somehow, after much gesturing and haggling we were all loaded into a minibus and we were off to the hotel. I thought the RM170 was a reasonable charge. More of that later. We were afraid that being so early in the morning, we wouldn't be able to acquire 4 cleaned rooms, let alone four adjacent ones. But no problem It was lovely being able to clean up a bit, change into something a wee bit cooler (KL is still stinkin' hot and humid!!) and enjoy my first Tiger (It must have been 11 o'clock somewhere!). Wendy, mumbling something like 'desperate' or 'Pisspot' or whatever, grabbed hold of the minibar charge sheet to see how much it was costing. RM11, as it turned out. This hotel makes it hard for you to drink the minibar empty, then go out to the supermarkets to replenish the supplies as they put little, adhesive stickers across the pulltab. With a little dexterity it was possible to carefully remove them and restick them to the replacement cans. I mean, like how cheap is this!!?? I wasn't charged anything from the bar. Just a thought.. . would anyone out there use the mini bar more regularly if the prices for the items weren't so exorbitant? I certainly would, even if the cost was twice the market price, but three to four times is a bit rich. The rest of the day was spent orienting ourselves and becoming acquainted with the pool and the pool area. The other males, who have only ever indulged in Australian beer or Bintang were exposed, for the first time to the wonderful taste of Tiger. We all unloaded our fridges and then went out on a shopping spree, mainly to restock the said fridges. The girls were very impressed with the shopping complexes: Lot 10, Low Yat Plaza, BB Plaza and finally to Bintang Walk (a series of shops and boutique restaurants sited on the very broad paths all selling exotic foods at equally exotic prices). I won't bore you further with a second-by-second rundown on our exploits in KL, but I'll summarize where we went and the impressions gained.

The Menara aka KL Tower. An hourŐs stroll from the Federal, past the other hotel we had short-listed: the Istana. What a magic place, 421 metres at its highest point, but the observation deck at about 180 metres. The view is fantastic. The elevator ride to the top/bottom is quick, if daunting; knowing of the void that is just beneath your feet. The mirrored domes, of which you see the inside, are magnificent.

The Twin Towers. An hours stroll from the Menara (same day). Very impressive from any angle (we get a great view from the Federal). We arrived too late to be part of the 800 or so that can buy tickets on any given day to ascend to the bridge between the two towers. I cannot believe that the powers-that-be that planned these superb buildings did not have the foresight to provide a viewing level at or around the top of one of the towers (menara). Charge people RM10 to go up. Thousands per day.. . would surely pay for an awful lot of building maintenance. (IMHO). I have never seen so much stainless steel and glass. Beautiful buildings at which to look!

The Palace of the Golden Horses: A 6-star hotel about 1/3 way to the airport. Had to go have a look. We were really trying to find the 'wave pool' which we all thought was in the vicinity. So there we were, standing in the foyer of this 'palace', wearing shorts, sandals, T-shirts and everything else that the signs around the ground floor were stating we weren't allowed to wear.. . 'to maintain the ambience' etc, Towels literally draped over our shoulders, we strolled around the grounds, filming and photographing this magical place. Never did find the wave pool, though!!

The Craft Centre: I only went there because Wendy told me to. As far as I'm concerned, once you've seen one ceramic pot, you've seen them all. But, I was pleasantly surprised as the grounds around the main buildings have a scattering of huts in which the artists, present at the time, were plying their trade. There was even a 'stall' where young kids, who aspire to become Batik artists one day, can have a play. There was weaving, pottery, painting/batik, arts & crafts as well as shops selling, among other things, Royal Selangor, potions that are guaranteed to cure everything from chilblains to pregnancy and a huge variety of small ceramic things.

Melaka aka Malacca: One of our favorite places. Been there many times before, but it really is changing with all the land reclamation. Condos everywhere. We had hired a driver to take us there, tour us around, then hopefully, bring us back in one, well eight, pieces. This guy NEVER stopped talking. An Indian, he was particularly proud of Malaysia. 'Malaysia has the WORLD'S BIGGEST/HIGHEST/ROUNDEST/ TALLEST/OLDEST etc (insert item here) IN THE WORRRLLLDDD!!!Ó. He took us to a Chinese Temple, the Portuguese settlement, a Palm Oil plantation (I noticed that the Rubber plantations were being replaced by Palm Oil) and eventually he let us off at the Fort. We checked out the old church with its Swastika-embellished tombstones. We had seen it all before but the others were very impressed. We walked around to Christ Church, went inside for a bit of a cool-off. Decided it was time for a feed, so crossed the bridge to head towards Jalan Hang Jebat (formerly Jln Jonker.. . 'Antiques Street'). Just over the bridge and to the left we found a great restaurant called 'Harpers'. The best calamari IN THE WORRRLLLDDD!! As well as beautifully cold beers. Great ambience, overlooking the Melaka river, watching big water-monitors scouring the banks after a feed. After a good feed and paying the very reasonable bill, we headed down Hang Jebat. Wendy and I buy/sell antiques and collectibles, so we were in heaven, although I didn't think it cost that much to get there. The goods were great but the prices were much more than in the past. We did buy well though. We had to meet the talkative one for our drive back to KL so we dragged ourselves out of the shops, back across the bridge to the fountain, into the van for the 2-hour return drive.

The Batu Caves: We told the others of these caves and the 272 steps to conquer, in the heat, to arrive at the mouth of the cave. Fortunately, we decided to head off early so it wasn't really hot or humid when we arrived. There were squillions of adult monkeys and young monkeys, and more adult monkeys making more young monkeys all the way up the stairs. Once again, changes have been made to the caves since last I went AND I don't think these changes have been for the better. It is as HUGE as I remember and the look from the far side back towards the entrance is still unforgettable. Quite frankly, it's nearly as hard clambering down as it is climbing up. The steps aren't very wide, and with feet like mine (I can very nearly walk across rivers) it's difficult finding the step with any confidence. Anyway, we all made it back down. Still one of the highlights IMHO.

We were going to head off one day to the Genting Highlands, but never got round to it. Wendy and I, as well as Christine, would love to have had a wee flutter at the Casino Apart from a lot of shopping and a little bit more shopping and then walking into shops to buy something and something else on the way out, we didn't do much else in KL apart from those listed above, shopping, walking into stores to purchase a few items and a bit more shopping. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the shopping is pretty good in KL. I didn't have the heart to let the others know that Penang would be better for, yes, you guessed it, Shopping. This covers only the first 6 nights of the journey. I can't begin to imagine how much waffling is going to occur in the next installment. So, for those of you who are still awake, I will continue this in another couple of days and will cover the 10 nights in Penang. Thank you for reading this far. Regards and Happy Travels Brookesy

 

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