Sunday, February 24, 2008

More travel with Marla

This is what Joe looks like when he is about to see a shark. Sexy.

Does life get any better than this?

Mia prepares to eat the tastiest, most tenderest, least rubberiest squid the world has ever seen. And it is slathered in a Garlic butter reduction sauce that still makes my mouth water.

Mia on her daily run on the beach.

This gentleman does not have a building permit or a liquor licence. He simply builds his little bar on the beach with scrap wood illegally and then he rebuilds it every few years when the government shows up and demolishes it.

This is Trigger. He could sure talk a big game about whooping up on Joe and Mia in some 2 on 2 volleyball, but he couldn't back it up. We beat him at least twice. I can't remember if there was a third game because at no point was I even paying attention. So easy. He builds underwater sculpture galleries in his spare time to raise money for coral rehabilitation.

Joe poses in front of a giant squid and shrimp sculpture in a town square Mia referred to as 'Bland'.

Mia looks up from her lounging spot on the surface of the sun.

Joe leisurely serves a volleyball over to a Swedish girl who has hiked her suit up too high.

Mia climbs over some of the most spectacular rocks Joe has ever seen. The island of Pulau Kapas is covered in all different types of sedimentary rocks.

Joe and Mia learn about a snail.


Mia and Marla on the far side of the island on Pulau Kapas.

This is what Joe looks like in action. 1 second later he was completely soaked.

Mia and Marla trek through a crazy mix of huge succulents and tropical jungle.

This guy rode his horse into the ocean and then just made it stand there. It seems really romantic when you hear about it in a novel, but in real life it looks lonely and dumb.

Two showoffs.

Kuala Lumpur and on to the Beach

Mia strains against some serious G forces as she teeter totters with Joe at one of Kuala Lumpur's incredible playgrounds.

Mia jumps from stone to stone in one of Kuala Lumpur's beautiful inner city parks.

The view from the balcony of our couch surfing hosts home. Kuala Lumpur is like a modern fairytale. It's theme music is Panic at the Disco because that's what I listen to when I run there.

Joe and Mr S. get comfortable. Much of the comfort comes from the knowledge that the sarong has been tied correctly and will not fall to the floor with the slightest breeze.

The master planned community of Putra Jaya just outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Mr S. and his family taking us on a tour of the city. Great people.

Mia reads a book in our up stairs bedroom in 'Serendah'. Serendaaaaahhh... 4 stylish retreat homes nestled in the jungle an hour outside of KL. It's soooo relaxing until the sun sets and the house fills with...

...GIANT ANTS! ROOOAAAAAAAAA!!! Also GIGANTIC GECKOS the size of your ARM that fight at the foot of your bed and up and down the walls in the middle of the night, spattering the room with terror and blood as they chew each others heads with razor sharp reptilian teeth! RAAAAAAAA!

A frothy waterfall adds oxygen to the water for fish just a five minute stroll from Serendah.

Marla pauses for a breath of crisp mountain air outside the 'Tin Shed' retreat home. Also Serendah.

Marla sneaks a peek at Mia's trashy romance novel during a very fancy bus ride. We had to pay an extra gas tax for this bus because it consumes so much extra fuel hauling around all those curtains. It was worth every penny.

Farid the fish gave his life so that you could have a very nice desktop background. Click for a larger image and then right click to download.

Mia and Marla in a Khota Baru market.

Marla settles for nothing but the finest textiles. (Textiles means fabrics)

This snake "charmer" put a really sleazy 2008 spin on the whole tradition by pretending to be a DJ and wearing his pants too tight while he smooth talked the snake. Then he tried to sell us snake oil. That is a live cobra he is carelessly blabbering at. I bought some oil and rubbed it on my legs. It made me potent in bed.

The view from our chalet in Pulau Perhentian Besar.

Mia prepares for a dip in the ocean. She would have looked more serious if she knew she was about to see a SHARK and a GIANT RAY and a TITAN TRIGGER FISH! Or maybe she wouldn't. She is pretty level headed.

Photos from Kapas

Photos from Besar

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pulua Kapas

After 7 days on Pulua Besar, we bussed south about 75 miles and ferried out to Pulua Kapas. Much smaller than the Perhentian Islands, with no local population, except the resort workers in season, P. Kapas is different and still so very beautiful. With jungle growing right down to the sea and clear clear water, the smooth sand beach walks deep into the sea and the reef breaks far out, if at all. The rocks along the western shore, outcrops between beaches - traversed by elaborate concrete stairs and walkways - are multicolored, pressed layer upon layer, composites of bands and clumps of many types of rock, reminding me of the Grand Canyon. The eastern cliffs are high, jagged, black, and lava-like, with waves from the open sea pounding hard and turbulent. We hiked a rugged jungle trak from west to east, over the top of the island pulling up on vines and saplings and climbing steps formed by huge tree roots, then steeply down again, along a muddy stream bed leading out to the sea, between high cliffs. Climbing the cliff rocks (Joe climbed the highest) we watched, mesmerized, waves pounding, splashing, crashing, pounding again.

Our 2 huts at Kapas Beach Chalets (KBC) were primitive but all we needed, with very welcoming hosts, and right on the beach. Each place we've been, even the bigger towns, create such a sense of welcome, never pushiness or hard-sell. The chalet and guesthouse owners share their customers, showing us rooms and facilities, knowing we'll look at several, and maybe come back or not. In the markets too, the stall owners and shopkeepers are unhurried, confident that customers are plentiful for all.

Everyone smiles! P. Kapas is very laid back: beach volleyball each afternoon, helping ourselves to the KBC kitchen - jam and peanut butter, making our own big salads, tuna spread, coffee, Nescafe (Joe's favorite). The scheduled American in me (Marla) was initially unsettled by a "lack of service" feeling. But after just a few hours, the welcome overtook me again. The business and home lines are blurred; it's a country of small home-run businesses and if the shop's not busy then volleyball games, or heading down the beach to help unload a boat, fills in the time.

Our typical formation, whether tramping through towns and bus stations or through the jungle is Joe in the lead, then Mia, and I follow. Joe's height gives him visual advantage when looking for land marks or bus stops. On a jungle trak he drags the path ahead, turning leaves and under brush, checking for snakes with a big stick. The elaborate and numerous jungle spiders spin their webs across the trail hitting Joe at chest or neck, so Mia and I can easily duck under. I tend to keep my eyes on my feet, watching for big roots, or my hands, pulling upon on vines or saplings - being certain to miss termite nests, bugs, snakes, lizards, or anything gooey. Curiously, in the cities, Joe gets us to the general area of the market, guesthouse, or festival, then Mia's keen eye for detail finds the particular street name or fountain or food stall. They are an amazing team and each day I'm blessed to be following along, their wide-eyed duckling.

Khota Bahru

(guest spot by Marla)
After a night back in KL, we took a 9 hour bus ride (a luxury "tourist" bus, no hogs tied to the bumpers or bags of rice in the aisles) to the far north, staying over in Kota Bahru one night. The bus ride was filled with sights as we travelled throught hills and jungle. To say that everything is lush and green is a total understatement: a whole range of greens, plantations of palm trees, banana trees, and pure thick waves of ferns up and down the hill sides. Trees seem to struggle up toward the sunshine breaking free of the thick foliage below, but other plants, vines, ferns, grown right up the tall trees, actually rooted in the trunks. I was glued to the window the whole 9 hours. In contrast to the greens, most of the houses are bright colors - pinks, and yellows, with red and blue tile roofs. Even the average, low-scale areas are so colorful.
One night only in Kota Bahru, but we packed in a festival, an elaborate parade, and dinner at the night market. Before leaving on Saturday we shopped at the central market - an amazing 4-story complex in the round. Open in the middle, the produce sellers on the ground floor. The other 4 stories held everything imaginable from textiles to hardware, dried fish, baskets, all the essentials for life. From the upper floors we could look down through the center to the produce market below - everything fresh, colorful, and delicious looking. Mia and I bought some batik pieces of cloth to use as sarongs alternating as beach mats.
The photo does not do the parade justice.