Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kuala Lumpur and Georgetown

Here is a map of where we have been so far. Click it to view it.

(By Mia)
We left Kuala Lumpur yesterday on a night train and woke up in Butterworth (sounds exotic, huh?) at 5:30am, stumbled bleary-eyed off the train and onto the jetty for the ferry, which whooshed us across the ocean to the island of Pulau Penang, the sun rising over the sleeping city behind us as we watched from the open air deck- fabulous!

Other than that, yesterday had two equally high points. After lunch at a delicious Chinese vegetarian buffet (they've got vegetarian galore here- really, more likely than not, that mutton's tofu, even if you can't tell, which I usually can't) with friends, Joe and I forwent "Sharks" at the IMAX Theatre, although it was enthusiastically endorsed by the Swedish divers with whom we'd been clubbin the night before, and hopped on the local city bus number 11 for Batu Caves, about a 30 min trip out of town. While the caves were quite amazing, I think I enjoyed the bus ride just as much- great music, great people watching, a perfect in-depth yet air conditioned tour of the city from downtown to the suburbs. We climbed 272 stairs to the cave's mouth, over which presides a 170ft golden statue of the god Muruga, along with countless chattering monkeys racing up and down the banisters and over the heads of the various deities. The inside of the cave is huge, with dangling black stalactites streaked with white mineral deposits, intricate exposed root structures that drip a steady stream of water, seemingly in slow motion droplets, and holes of various sizes through which you can see patches of blue sky. Joe wants to go back for a festival in January, during which 1 million Hindus arrive annually to pay penance for sins, piercing their bodies and making the climb with metal hooks dangling from their faces and backs! Then, highlight number two, we took the bus back to KL Central, and ate a delicious Chinese shaved ice, piled high in an elegant goblet, drizzled with condensed milk and fruity syrup, and set atop a bed of peanuts, red beans, yellow corn, and long brownish-purple tapioca noodles. Yum! I'll post a picture next time.

I had tea mamak this morning, as I do every morning, while we sat in the only cafe open at our ungodly hour of arrival and waited for the hotels to open up. Actually, one hotel was open- very dingy but very cheap- and we were about to accept it, putting down the backpacks on the bed and then heading downstairs to pay, when I happened to look down and notice a used condom on the floor, on the far side of the room, hidden from immediate sight by the stained mattress. We decided to hold out for somewhere that didn't charge by the hour and was more likely to clean the rooms between customers, even if that meant restricted front desk hours. So, for the first time in a long while, we're staying in a hotel, not a hostel or a homestay, with our own private room and even a private bathroom! (Generally, they're down the hall and co-ed. Very progressive over here.) Oh, how I love tea mamak! It's Malaysian tea with sweetened condensed milk, dark rich honey brown with about an inch of creamy beige on the bottom, always served in a clear glass mug so that you can see the colors mix as you stir in the milk.

I've become accustomed to inhaling cautiously, as the scent often changes drastically from one breath to the next. One second it's incense, and the next its an open sewage pipe emptying into the gutter; one breath of fresh salty ocean breeze, and the next a whiff of the unofficial, but every-growing, dump located upwind. But, at the moment, the smell is spicy curry from roadside vendors.


Marla said...

thank you for the map!! I've been hunting online for the perfect overview - it's perfect. I began years ago using cream in my coffee because I love how the colors mix and swirl. Last night I watch Anthony Bourdain's travel/foodie dvd on Viet Nam & Malaysia. He toured the Batu Caves, wow! But Mia's mini food tour was mouth-watering. Love, mom

Marla said...

is Butterworth near George Town?