Europe, Asia · 77 Days · 54 Moments · June 2016

2016: Jeff's and Kalle's journi to Malaysia

6 September 2016

It's time to say goodbye to Malaysia for this time, and head towards home. It's been a fantastic holiday! Every time I wonder if I would be able to live here, and I am not sure. Perhaps it is too far from the things I am used to, and perhaps the magic lies in visiting?

26 August 2016

The immigration at KLIA is so slow, even in the middle of the night when there are not so many passengers coming! But, after about one hour of queuing I'm finally out of there and we head to a bus to take us to downtown KL. except that it doesn't, and in the middle of the trip we're ushered into smaller minivans and taken to lots of hotels before we arrive to where we were supposed to! Then we ward off some taxi drivers who desperately want to take us home, and catch Uber. Brilliant way to travel!

25 August 2016

I can't believe it's the 9th day since we came to Indonesia! We've seen much in Jogja and now in Bali, but there is plenty more to warrant another "exploration" trip here. Now it's time to have a shower, dress the wounds, pack, and go exploring what we can before its time to go to the airport. We get to loan a moped from the receptionist (how nice of her!) and head to Erlangga 2, a shopping centre or something like that. I remain seated for the most of the time as my leg is painful as what (thanks to that moped accident earlier) whilst Jeff goes and does all the shopping. Meanwhile, I sit around and enjoy some ice tea. The shopping centre is a nice and cheap place to make your purchases. Most of the items are mass produced, of course, but the quality of the batik and the paintings, and other things as well, is good and they look nice. We also had a 5% discount coupon from our hotel (which we forgot to use and it couldn't be redeemed afterwards), so remember those! I can recommend!

24 August 2016

Tickets for the dance cost 100.000 IDR / person, which is 20.000 IDR more than we saw online... No surprise there. But I am so glad that we didn't let that deter us from going to see the dance! The show is spectacular! I can hardly describe it with words, as words are not enough to describe the whole thing! The music, for a westerner, was something completely different that what I am used to, but at the same time, from the first hit of the hammer to the keys, it was amazing! The costumes worn by the dancers were fabulous and clearly made to impress the viewers with all the details. To top this all off were the movements of the dancers; they made it look so easy to move from fingertips to mouth to eyes... Awesome!! Worth every penny!
Whilst in Malaysia I have seen the rice paddy fields, but according to Jeff, there isn't any terraced paddy fields in Malaysia, only the flat ones. Here in Bali, they actually have the terraced ones, and as Ubud is near these, we made a detour to see them as I have not seen anything like them before! According to a legend, the irrigation system was a gift from a wandering holy man in the 800's and has been used ever since to irrigate the terraces. Looking at the fields, it is easy to believe that the system is age old. Somehow, I have no idea how, the water is hauled up from the river below, and then it flows freely downwards, through holes (that probably have bamboo tubes inside) to lower terraces until finally the excess water reaches the river below again. Of course the terraced area is greatly visited by tourists, which means that the prices in the cafe are high and there is a multitude of souvenirs on sale around the area.
Time to head to Ubud for some culture. Today is time for traditional Legong and Barong Dance! What we have heard of Ubud this far has been promising - apparently it is a smaller town in the inland of Bali, and there should be cultural activities readily available. So we take our moped and head there. And get a bit lost, check offline map, and go back to the road again. Arrival to Ubud is clear when we start to pass art shop after art shop after art shop. And a monkey forest. We park in the middle of the town (and I am surprised to see that it's almost impossible to find a parking spot for a moped!). After getting the tickets for the show, it's time to have some Balinese coffee (my new favourite!) and drive to see traditional rice fields!

23 August 2016

If you are young and looking for party lifestyle with intentions to start surfing, or if you are gay and want to see a drag show and party with hot guys, Seminyak is a place for you. If you are looking for culture and quieter pace, Seminyak is not for you. What I can see from the place, there is hardly anything authentic left in there; lots of posh looking stores, western restaurants, and locals who say "hello, mate". When we talked to a guy in a massage parlour we had a good 1,5 hour massage and body scrub, he said: "if you want culture go to Ubud, this is too touristy now". And I agree. We have made some comparisons with Kuta and Seminyak to Phuket in Thailand, but it is not the same. Bali is still more exotic and much cleaner, and the people here are simply fantastic. The beach itself looks nice, the sand is clearly volcanic, and there doesn't seem to be glass or anything to ruin the beach. People take their doggies for walkies there and there is good music jazz, on the bars.

22 August 2016

Tari Kecak dance @ the #Uluwatu Temple! What I can say after the show... It was definitely worth a small fall with the moped, and the queuing of the tickets! The show is simply spectacular; not because there is lots of props, but because of the subtle movements of the dancers, the multitude of the human voices, the sunset into the sea, whilst the rhythm of the music seems to speak to you... I am only annoyed with my fellow spectators who apparently didn't appreciate the privilege that we all have been given; the show is inside the temple grounds, and they don't need to have all the visitors there. We are _allowed_ there. So it would show some respect to be at the seat on time not 20-30 minutes after the show starts, and when the last ones come in, first ones want to leave. There was a constant traffic of people going in and out from the place, and that was disturbing. Otherwise, it was magical!
today we are off to Uluwatu Temple which is located almost at the southernmost tip of the whole island, conveniently facing west. Apparently this is the place to see the sunset if you are not interested in the other, even more touristy place of Tanah Lot. And as Google Maps has decided that there are better roads to Uluwatu than to Tanah Lot, so there we go! With the moped. After one fall, pit stop to a pharmacy, lots of stinging desinfectant and plaster we make it to the temple area! Parking is only 1000 IDR (for a moped!), entrance to the temple area is 30.000 IDR/person and we're in! There are lots of monkeys so it's time to hide sunglasses, clinking things, shiny things, hats, scarves, and cameras. And to hope that they don't find anything that they can steal and then return for fruits. As we want to see Tari Kecak -dance, we have to wait until they start to see the tickets for that at 5pm. And they cost 100.000 IDR/person.
We have a moped. We actually rented a moped for 60.000 IDR / day for three days. Which means that we're not going to be stuck to the kura-kura bus timetables or paying a million for a car and a chauffeur! And Jeff will be driving.

21 August 2016

After a short flight from Jogja we arrive to Bali airport at Denpasar, which is much, much bigger than the one we just left from. And strangely enough, in Bali the metered taxis are not allowed to pick customers up from airport area, so we have to walk to outside the area to be able to get a cab. It's not a long walk, but still... Also, we later find out, kura-kura bus (turtle bus) is not allowed to stop at the airport as well, so only mode of transport is a fixed price taxi. Denpasar is a big city, lots of tourists and lots of cars and mopeds. After getting our room at the hotel, we go for walk (even though the receptionist would love to order is a taxi) and first stop is a shopping mall because we need some food. Expensive food! Tourist prices! But food is ok. After that we decide to walk to Kuta beach, which is only 2 km away, and there we find a turtle society and watch if some of the turtle eggs would hatch. They don't.

20 August 2016

Prambanan temple complex consists of at least four major temples with Prambanan being the most famous. As the restoration of the temples is an ongoing process, there is constant work going on in each area. If you are in a rush, you can book a ride around the whole area, or just take a leisured walk. Prambanan itself is a fantastic sight from afar (we went to see the Ramayana ballet the other night with Prambanan in the background) and even more majestic from nearby. The temple consists of many smaller temples where you can actually take a peek inside. The intricate stonework is visible everywhere and in my opinion this Hindu temple is even more intricate than Borobudur, or perhaps this is more preserved? We take our time in Prambanan and then decide to see another, smaller temple nearby before our time is up. Next time, listen to people in #Tripadvisor - don't do both places at the same day. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME! These two temples require time to explore thoroughly.
The stairs to the top of the temple are steep and high, perhaps to remind us how difficult it is to strive towards perfection, or perhaps because the modern people have difficulties to raise their feet, heheh. And the views from the top are stunning! On one side you can see hills, and on the other you can see Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu standing proud. Plus Merapi's top, at 2930 meters, is smoking, as if to remind people that the volcano is far from dead. Last time it erupted was in 2014. Other peculiar aspect of the top are the stupas. Every of he stupa have a statue of Buddha inside, for reasons I do not know. Of course I could google it up, but I think I will ask it from someone some day. As we only had two hours at the temple, we had to make our way down and to the meeting point. As the exit was appointed on the opposite side of our meeting point, it took us roughly 20 minutes of brisk walking to reach the visitor centre. The whole place would have warranted more time.
We walked through the gardens towards the temple itself and when we turned from the corner of the path we saw the temple on top of the hill. From afar it looked quite small, but realising that the hill itself was high and how small the people were when climbing up the hill... And then we had to stop, take some photos and wear sarong. After the climb to the temple "yard" we were astonished by the size of the structure. There were even instructions how to climb up to the top of the temple. Each of the tiers, or "pradaksina" should be visited as they contain stone carvings of how people are and how they should be. It is fantastic to see how well the principles of goodness and kindness have remained the same at least for the past 1300 years (and as these same things are mentioned in the Abrahamic religions, we can suspect that it's been over 2000 years) and how much we still should do to attain those ideals.
After seeing the sunrise from the Setumbu Hill, it as time to hop back to the minibus and go to Borobudur Temple. Our guide collected the entrance fees (nice to have a student card, by the way) and paid all the tickets at one go at the ticketing desk, whilst we were offered a complimentary cup of coffee or tea. Nice service had it not been chaotic. Personally, I would have appreciated the chance of buying my own ticket and enter at my own pace, because now our tickets were purchased as a group and we had to go through the security checkpoint as a group, which caused a bit of confusion as we were not nearly the only group of people doing the same thing at the same time... But the confusion was swiped away as soon as we entered the temple area. The area itself is so serene and beautiful! The gardens are vast and well kept, and the early morning (it was around 7am at the time) sunshine and he remaining mist made it even more magical.
If you are on a holiday, is there anything better than waking up to Adele's song at 3.00 am? No. By four you're already sitting and yawning in a minibus, heading out of the city, that is still asleep. On the way there you see reckless driving, old men carrying something that looks like a huge tank, a street market selling vegetables in candle light (and buyers seem to be vendors and old women). We ended up in Borobudur information centre, where we got our tickets and changed minibuses to head to a nearby hill. After entrance fee, we climbed up a hill in the light of oil lamps by the path (as it was pitch black), and ended up standing in a viewing point with the very early glow of the sunrise, feeling the dew on our feet and hair. As the light increased, bit by bit, we could see the jungle below clad in mists, and soon afterwards the silhouettes on Mounts Merapi and Merbabu could be seen. Almost an hour later the sun finally made an appearance from behind the Mount Merapi.

19 August 2016

Many Europeans don't dare to eat the street food in foreign places, but in my personal opinion, one has to look at the place and decide if it is clean enough to eat in. We didn't do as the locals do, which is sitting on the ground and eat there and then by the roadside. We preferred places where there are tables. And the little warong near our guest house was the best - the owner sat with us on the table and we were talking about many things. She told us about her experience with hearing horses hooves when she moved to Jogja herself (apparently that means that she moves there permanently) after learning that I dreamt about Merapi volcano erupting. According to her that dream means that I shall be returning to Jogja. She might be right. Food itself is quite much like in Malaysia, which is not a bad thing at all. Plus there is tempeh, fermented soya beans, my personal favourite! And from one place we found rice with tempeh! Happy times!
We stopped on Malioboro street for a moment, and were approached by a local man, who didn't try to sell us anything. He simply wanted to know if we were interested in batik as there was a batik exhibition nearby that was open for the last day. He kindly pointed us to right direction, and also told us of a good massage place (Ka Ki Ku) nearby before stopping the traffic and assisting us across the street. Next person we met, whilst walking towards the batik exhibition, was a local lady, who told us to follow her (after learning where we were heading) as she lived in a house just across from the gallery. She also told us about a good place to eat. The people in the batik gallery were keen on selling the artwork they had produced. The whole gallery was filled with batik art from masters, artists, and apprentices and the house was up kept by an artist commune. Prices started from 100.000 IDR but as we had just arrived, we didn't buy anything. That I do regret!
So, how would I describe Jogja? Our guest house was located near a major road, Jl. Urip Sumoharjo, which made it easy for us to grab a local bus to the city centre (route 1A, ticket 7000 IDR / person). There were small warongs (food places for us English speakers) around where a dish cost barely 10.000 IDR. Even after dark, the small alley where our guest house was located didn't feel unwelcoming and dangerous. Only danger came from the mopeds, if you were wearing dark clothes without reflectors. City centre, around Jl. Malioboro, was packed with small stalls selling shirts, batik, souvenirs, and food. And the funny this was that it wasn't tourists (only!) that were buying the wares; the locals and local tourists were there also! And the prices weren't sky high as you would expect to see in areas where you see lots of tourists hanging around.

18 August 2016

If you go and watch one performance in Yogyakarta, make sure it is the Ramayana ballet at Borobudur temple. The ballet is shown in an amphitheater which has been built just for this purpose, and the backdrop of the show is the magnificient Prambanan! The story of the Ramayana ballet is actually an ancient Hindu story of a prince who wins the hand of an princess in an archery competition and an evil king of an another realm is not happy and kidnaps the princess. After a search and rescue mission the lovers are finally back together. And there was much rejoicing. The music is Javanese and suits the story fantastically. It also helps to create that mystical atmosphere, which in our case was enhanced by a full moon. Tickets cost 275.000 IDR / person, because we wanted to make sure we saw everything! As the public transport in Jogja ends at around 9 pm, we decided to book a transport back to our guest house. It cost 40.000 IDR / person, which was by far cheaper than taking a taxi.

17 August 2016

So, I have never been to Indonesia and Jeff has never been to Yogyakarta so that is an obvious choice to head to! The Yogyakarta airport is a very small one, I would love to compare it to Tampere airport with more flights. There are two terminals, and obviously the low-cost carriers use the cheaper looking one... Best thing is that there is a train station and a bus stop nearby! So if you don't want to get a taxi (the airport service desk offers fixed price ones, depending on destination), you might want to ask for directions to the local bus stop. Line is 1A and it will go to the mid town after making a stop at Prambanan temple. We decide to have a bit of CFC (fried chicken), and then manage to hail a metered taxi that takes us to our guest house. The weather at the airport area is nice. It's warm but not as overpoweringly hot as KL is. Nice! The Indonesian currency is Rupiah, and as our CFC meals cost closer to 30.000 IDR... expensive?

6 August 2016

After stopping for some strawberries and souvenirs it was time to be heading to Brinchang and the night market there. Having just previously been disappointed with the touristy Night Market in Melaka, I didn't expect much more, especially with long traffic jam all the way there (roughly 2 km) from the strawberry farm, but I was totally wrong! Apparently Brinchang Night Market is the place to go if you are local or a tourist, because of he fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and dried fruits that people were carrying back to their cars bag after bag! Plus there were local delicacies such as strawberries in chocolate (bye diet), and strawberry sambal. We planned to spend only few ringgit there but ended up buying lots and lots of food to take home... Speak of the lack of self control...
Also, if you are travelling with your own vehicle, it's a good idea to stop at the small kiosks on the way, the locals (Orang Asli) sell durians, other fruits, and also jungle honey (Madu Hutan Orang Asli), which is by far the tastiest and sweetest honey I have had the opportunity to taste! If you see them selling something that looks like huge roots, it's actually bamboo shoots - the same thing that you find in many Asian dishes. Anyway, we stopped for tea (and would have had some freshly baked scones as well but we were on a strict diet, boohoo) at the Bharat Tea Plantation. I've never seen how tea is actually grown before and we had the opportunity to taste quite fresh tea there! Definitely a place to stop and have a break! After the tea break (how British!) we just had to stop at one of the strawberry farms where they grow organic strawberries to bring home!
If you want to know where the Malaysian tea is grown at, it's a trip to Cameron Highlands. It's an area, where the weather is significantly cooler (down to low to mid 20's), so apparently it's optimal for tea plantations and other vegetables, and strawberries. Earlier on, during the colonial times, the Highlands acted as a base for the British rulers, possibly because of the weather conditions, and as a reminder to that, there are mock Tudor style buildings to be seen in the area, and also large mansion buildings. Drive from KL to Cameron Highlands takes around three hours, and it is advisable to take a motion sickness pill before the trip if you are prone to car sickness - the road is winding and quite narrow. Good thing about that is that you don't really notice the elevation to the highlands, but occasionally I found my ears popping.

3 August 2016

Jeff took me on an evening cruise along the river Selangor in a firefly sanctuary. But as the fireflies can only be seen in the dark we had to reach there after sunset. The boats accept only four people, and if you are less than four you either wait for others who will share your boat or pay for the whole boat (RM 53). We opted to wait and it was good thing to do; we got a nice Chinese couple to share the cost and the boat, and the lady managed to hold one firefly on her hands! It was miraculous! The sight of the fireflies was something that needs to be seen! Closest I can describe it is like Christmas lights in the tree, but still it is more like small twinkling stars... Apparently this place, this sanctuary is the only place in Malaysia where you can see these pretty little things. They require certain type of trees to live near (as they eat the leaves) and those mangrove trees require fresh river water to live.

30 July 2016

We stayed at the Lemongrass chalets, which was quite conveniently located at the root of the hill where another hostel, the Rock Garden, was located. Our chalet was adequate with latched door and windows, a bed with mosquito net, and a fan. The hostel doesn't receive electricity for the full 24 hours per day, but it didn't bother us. The showers and toilets are outside, as a separate shack, but somehow it just added to the charm of the place! The owner of the place was also fantastic - no wonder his place was full! We booked our snorkelling trip through him and got the snorkel and flippers from him (cheaper than buying your own). He also guaranteed that we would see sharks during the day - a promise that he kept himself as we didn't see any during the trip. A basic place, convenient location by the beach, and definitely recommendable place!

29 July 2016

What would be better than a day spent swimming and snorkelling and watching underwater life. Five locations, lunch break, and boating included. Everything was fine but on the last stop, after lunch, we overestimated our abilities a bit and end up swimming far too much (as the boat person drops us off about 600 m from the beach and we had to swim there) and get scratched by corals on the way. But the trip itself was fantastic! Turtle (which farted), small sharks, Nemo fish, some other fishes, corals.... I have never seen such wonders and now I can understand why people make a big deal about diving and snorkelling! I wish I was about 10-15 years younger and I could take diving up.

28 July 2016

After arriving to the beach and hopping from the big boat to a small boat and then to the water and to the beach, we walk around with our bags trying to find a suitable accommodation. For you kids out there, don't take the first offer as it might be cheap and you'd end up in a "chalet" that has no light, a cheap fan, and a hole in the floor. We didn't take it either. Besides it was in a middle of a jungle. With a rusty lock. Rock Garden seemed good, but as they were building an extension we didn't want to take it because of the noise. Plus there was plenty of climbing up and down a hill and as it was very warm (or hot as Jeff says), we decided to stay at the bottom of the hill, just nicely next to the beach in a place called "Lemongrass". After throwing out luggage to the chalet (light, windows, mosquito net, fan, proper bed) we quickly change to our swim wear and into the sea we go! Perfect, relaxing day!
At about 5:40am we arrive to Kuala Besut jetty, the end of our bus drive, and the start of our next leg of this adventure! We end up buying return tickets to the Perhentian Island and our boat departs at 7am. Meanwhile, there really isn't that much to do except following three little cats, listening to VERY LOUD crickets, and watching small bats fly around. The wind is cooling and the weather isn't too hot. Main concern now is that the sea might be choppy, but I am sure I can stomach that. Especially because I haven't eaten since 2am. I've survived worse. The ride was surprisingly smooth, and quite quick! In the end I forgot to see how long it actually is, but I'd say closer to 20 minutes than 30 minutes. At least to the Small Perhentian. The fun thing is that there isn't a proper internet connection, so we will see when I can upload these to the net. Perhaps it is also good to be able to be "out from the grid" for a while!

27 July 2016

Again, like seems to be the case in buses in Malaysia, there are multiple notices for "no smoking" inside the bus, but they don't seem to concern the driver, who happily puffs away many times during the drive. And best is when there is a short stop where some of the passengers go out to smoke, the driver doesn't - and instead lights up his own after the doors close and the journey continues! Go figure! Anyhow, we have a lunch(?) break at 2am and it lasts about 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, because Jeff's and mine estimation of our arrival time differs by that 15 mins. We just have some local hot dog style things (actually a chicken sausage wrapped in roti canai) and off we go! Whilst the bus speeds through the night, we pass many sleeping villages and the driver overtakes many cars. And we see (and hear) bats flying between trees, over the road. This, of course, results in our vehicle hitting some of them.
It is 22:17 (or 10:17pm) and we are sitting in a posh bus and are going to enjoy roughly 8 hours of bus ride on our way to Kuala Besut in Terengganu. And as that is not enough, it is followed by a boat trip to the islands! And I haven't been in a small boat crossing a stretch of sea in over two decades. It's going to be fun... But, being #TwoQueensOnATropicalAdventure it wouldn't be anything without a few hiccups. Hiccups like commuter train cancelling one train (taking the next one at 21:44 would have meant that we automatically miss our bus), and subsequently taking a taxi that makes a wrong turn and ends up reversing back to the highway. Without things like this life and plans would be boring!

23 July 2016

I wasn't sure should I mark this as "worth seeing" or "food"... I chose food as it was clearly the best thing about the Night Market! Night markets are something to experience - but not necessarily in Melaka. The famous Jonker Street is packed with people looking at the stalls which mostly are filled up with overpriced tourist crap. There isn't that much of originality feeling in this, which totally vexes me. I understand if you want to promote your town or locality, but if 13 out of 12 stalls offer the same identical "handmade local shirt" that you can also buy from the nearest three shops... The GOOD things are the foods! Food in Malaysia and night markets is definitely something that should be tried and tasted! We ended up in a pop-up place serving Laksa Nyonyah, and I ended up sounding like food programmes, where the chefs try to convey how the food tastes like. Lots of "oohs" and "aahs" later I simply give up and am in the foodie heaven. I think I have found my favourite dish!
NB! This restaurant has since sadly closed! :( One of the best things about travelling with a car and with local contacts is to find the local places to eat. Today it happens to be outside of the touristy areas of Melaka city, in a quite rural area of Masjid Tanaka. The owner is Muz's friend from Cape Town who moved back to Malaysia and set up a restaurant with his family. The food is from mid-Pahang, district of Temerloh, so it is something that I haven't eaten before. We end up having fried tilapia with vegetables and Masak Lemak Tempoyak Ikan Patin (patin fish cooked with fermented durians and fresh turmeric). Being European, I am a bit suspicious about this... But end up so positively surprised!! The food is delicious! And filling!

22 July 2016

As the sky is overcast, we decide to head towards the St. Paul's hill (Bukit St. Paul) to see the remnants of an old church and of course the views from the top. The walk there takes us past the Stadtshyus square, where, it seems, all the tourists have stopped to take photos, and then carried on with the Hello Kitty trishaws. We don't take a trishaw but find the path to the hill! The path is hidden next to a graveyard, which some people seem to use as parking place for their scooters. The climb to the hill is quite tiring in the hot weather but we manage! We even get extra spring to our steps when we see that there are old tombs being restored just off the path. The views from the top are quite nice, and would be nicer if it didn't start to rain as soon as we arrive. So, instead of being proper tourists and photographing everything we see, we end up standing under the old bell tower waiting for the rain to ease up.
After parking, the jam mystically seems to disappear but for that there is a reason - there will be a night market and no parking is allowed along the Jonker Street! We get to our room, which obviously is a quickly built room inside a 1st floor shop lot, and decide to cool down a moment before heading out to see the sights! Our pad in right smack at the beginning of the famous Jonker Street and this means that we can easily reach touristy places, like any proper tourists from Finland, South Africa, and Petaling Jaya should visit!
The drive is quite uneventful, we pass plenty of oil palm plantations, mostly owned by one company, which in my opinion makes it quite clear that smaller, or independent operators have no say on the big business nowadays. But the most quirky thing or things, or animals are the cows and the goats we see by the roadside! They seem to be a normal occurrence to the local people, maybe it is a custom from the Indian subcontinent, arrived here with the settlers who then became Malaysians. Should probably ask from someone who knows more about this than me. All I know they could also have escaped a nearby farm. We arrive Melaka (or Malacca) during the afternoon hours, just before the traffic starts to jam. Our hostel is located on Jonker Street, so finding a parking spot for the Kangaroo takes a moment and suddenly the whole area is packed with cars!
It's time to head south to Melaka, historic city with lots of Baba/Nyonya heritage. We pack our things to Kangoo (or Kangaroo?) car and off we go. At first we go with the motorway, but when it seems to take its toll on our car we switch to smaller roads - and again, like we have seen before, it's the right decision! Not only are the roads smaller, and FAR LESS CONGESTED, but there is also so much more to see! Also, the engine of our Kangaroo seems to like smaller roads better, at least it doesn't threaten to overheat. Unlike in Europe, the architecture here is completely different and the village life seems so much more down to earth. It reminds me of my childhood when we went to our summer cabin. The village there, near Orivesi, was not unlike these that I see here in Malaysia, obviously the buildings and materials are not the same, nor the temperature and the flora and fauna, but the idea and atmosphere.

14 July 2016

So it's time to head back to "home base" in Kuala Lumpur. The bus takes us straight to Bandar Utama, which is conveniently near to Jeff's sister's house. Only hiccup is that the driver isn't familiar with the area at all and Jeff has to guide him the last few kilometres. He tells us that he is a substitute driver for the line and wasn't given any extra information about the bus terminal. The ride is uneventful, and like usual I keep sleeping for the most of the trip. I like that about buses, they are really good places to sleep. Only bad thing is that you tend to miss everything that is happening around you! Nearing KL it surprises me that I have actually forgotten how crazy the traffic is here; the cars are trying desperately to cut into the lane, causing traffic jams due to their actions, and lorry drivers are no better. Add buses to the equation with their timetables and you have a mess.
We stayed in a hostel, named Kimberley House. The house was definitely already a sight to see and our room was inside the house, with no windows. Room was clean, with towels, and had an air conditioning. Sad thing was that the air conditioning wasn't powerful enough to keep the room cold and as there wasn't any windows to open to ventilate the room... well, it was warm at times. Showers were communal, which didn't bother me as the shower and toilet area was kept neat and clean. Staff was very helpful and it was easy to get an extension to our stay. I have to say that I know where I'll book my room for the next trip in George Town!

13 July 2016

At 7pm we have a booked time for massage at the Lucky Blind foot massage parlour. The masseurs were blind and I prefer to go there as these people really make their living after training in the profession. Not to say that the masseurs and masseuses who can see don't do the same, but I just think that I can make a bit more difference when I give money to those who cannot see, as (especially in this side of the world) their opportunities are quite limited. Having said that both, those who see and who don't, do their jobs well, I find it strange that the visually impaired masseurs usually find the muscle knots much better. Maybe it's because they rely on other senses than vision? But this place I can recommend! Remember to book a time!
The weather forecast has decided to move the rain forward and it's raining cats and dogs! So instead of beach we head to bus terminal to get the bus tickets for tomorrow. The quality of air becomes somehow better with the rain, but it doesn't really cool the air down. Instead of the beach we head back towards the town and enter the small streets and markets looking for things. Jeff finds sunglasses and a hat, and I find a shirt and lots of things that would be nice to get if they had elephant sizes.
We decide to eat at KOMTAR's food court. Sometimes these food courts are filled with touristy food that really doesn't have a taste at all, but being a bit adventurous (and as I like colours on my plate) I opt for Nasi Kerabu as it seems to have loads of vegetables and herbs. The taste is so good! And the vegetables! Their taste is so different from the vegetables that I have eaten before. The dish perhaps isn't for everyone, but it definitely was something that I'd eat again!
Journi really should have a category "Do Not Do This" or something similar... We were supposed to head back to Kuala Lumpur today, but as we still have lots of places to see and experience, we decided to extend our stay by one night. Our plan is to head to the beach today, after returning the pair of shorts I purchased from Parkson department store. Off we go, first stop Parkson at KOMTAR. And things don't go smoothly. The receipt clearly states "return or exchange" but apparently there is a problem. You can return the shorts, but they are not willing to give the money back. After 30 minutes of different phone calls and me actually stating that I will go to the police station with this, we finally get the money back. Coming from Europe this seems highly strange. But as we have our money returned, we head for breakfast. One thing though - I will not buy anything from Parkson ever again.

12 July 2016

Surprisingly enough, our early dinner means something like 8pm and by the time we arrive to our Kimberley House, it's already almost ten. We decide to have a shower, and head to the nearby massage parlour, but they are full for the evening. Instead, we go for walkies around the area, and end up having Nasi Kandar, a local rice dish in a place where people actually queue up for it! Again, TripAdvisor reviewers say that it's not worth it, but I disagree. Having queued for nearly half an hour, chosen lots of different things on our plates we have a full stomach, and a nice midnight stroll across empty streets, it's good to head to bed and sleep.
During our luncheon, we wonder if we should actually take the opportunity to walk down, at least to the next vernacular station but as the time is moving on really fast, we decide not to and rush to the train from the top. If we dilly-dallied here for too long, we might miss he last hop-on hop-off bus (as they seem to lack proper timetables) so better be safe than sorry! Our plan is to make it to Gurney Drive and change to another route for sunset on the beach moment, but we then notice that the last beach route bus departs at 7pm and we reach Gurney Drive 7.05pm - and see the last bus going into the sunset. So no beach, but instead we head for early dinner, and then back towards the hostel.
Enjoying the air conditioned bus we tour around, snapping photos of this, that, and the other, and seeing two cute monkeys doing things that might make some people blush and cover their children's eyes. And then we are already arriving to our next alighting stop - Penang Hill. There we hop off from the bus, and head to the vernacular. The tickets are again discounted (and I wonder who actually pays the full price?) and the ride makes my ears pop. The views from the top (roughly 720 meters above the sea level) are fabulous! One can see George Town, the neighbouring islands, mainland and Butterworth. Luckily the weather is clear, so that we can make good use of the different viewing points around the area! Like in any proper tourist area, the small booths line the walkways where they either sell something or want to take your photos with extravagant prices. But surprisingly the price of food is the same as it is in town, which is definitely not a bad thing at all!
Our alarm clock goes off early in the morning and it's time to go shower and get ready. Before that the receptionist comes to tell us that we have a visitor downstairs, at the lobby. Muz. He had to spend the whole day yesterday to get his passport renewed, and today we are just going to walk (again, walk, hot) to the office and get the Malaysian ID card for him. After that we will go for the hop-on, hop-off tour. Well, we walk, and walk, and walk. Then we ask directions and realise that we have walked to wrong direction from one crossing. Desperation hits and we take a taxi to the office building. Even I felt like my sweat was running like from a faucet! Anyhow, from the office we head towards KOMTAR building, which is the tallest in George Town, and 6th tallest in Malaysia, making it a really good landmark. From there we take the tourist bus, where I get a student discount, Jeff gets a student discount and Malaysian discount! Very discounted!

11 July 2016

50 minute walk is like a walk in the park, right? Especially when there is seaside walk involved. No. In a city where you eventually have to walk on the road side, or grass, as there are not many walkways, and when the afternoon temperature is humid and above 30°C... Well, it's an experience. But the old buildings are packed with character! Simply anywhere you look there is a combination of old, ramshackle, newer or renovated, and completely new builds, usually tall glass buildings. Seaside boulevard walk is quite nice with the warm breeze from the sea, and the setting sun. We stop at Khaleel's, a local restaurant, for drinks, which they seem to have a big shortage of, before continuing to the famous food stall area on Gurney drive. Reviews on TripAdvisor told us that the place is overpriced, and the food is mediocre at best, but when we reached the place, it was packed with locals and the prices were less or the same as in KL. And the taste of the food was nice!
Nice Executive coach my foot! It's a normal bus with little added leg space, and a personal monitor that jams. But inclusive of the ticket price is a portion of fried rice and water, which is ok, if you like cold fried rice. But the ride itself is comfortable enough and the trip is cheaper than flight tickets, so shouldn't really complain. Besides I can see more from the bus than from an airplane. After this bus journey we arrive to Sungai Nibong Express Bus Terminal in Penang, where we wait for the local bus for local people to take us to George Town. Local bus tickets cost RM2 per person for trips over 7km. So it is quite affordable. We travel to the city centre, and walk to our hostel, Kimberley House to find a beautifully decorated place, with bad air con. We take a breather and a quick shower, before heading towards Persiaran Gurney, and the food market there.
Wake up at 5:00 and heading out towards Kuala Lumpur by 6:20. Why did we decide to leave so early when our bus is departing 8:20 and the trip from Taman Tun to KL isn't really that long? Because today is the first proper working day after Eid holidays here in Malaysia and that means traffic jams, which are even worse than on a normal Monday. Except that we don't see a single traffic jam. The whole trip from the house to the station takes roughly 20 minutes, and we are left with plenty of time before our bus departure - which actually is not 8:20... It's 9:20. It's time to have some breakfast (costing less than 2€ for both of us) and then spending time in Nice Executive Lounge - that really isn't that much of an executive lounge as I would have imagined; the air con isn't working (it's rather blowing warm air, like in the buses in Finland), and the toilet isn't flushing. But at least there are proper sofas to sit on.

23 June 2016

At about 13:40 LT on Thursday the 23rd of June we landed to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, having travelled for over 24 hours, feeling tired but happy. Our luggage arrived, safe and sound, we saw Fazer chocolates sold on the tax-free shop, and had our chauffeur come fetch us to take us to Jeff's sister's place. And it's hot! Not just warm but hot! And humid! No haze though. Arriving to Shen's place unannounced required some work. Our driver, Shasha, went in first, leaving the gate unlocked and the front door ajar. And we sneaked in shortly afterwards, saying "surpriiiiiiise!" Shen, who was in the kitchen, was totally unaware of us, and came out as Shasha went to say that the parcel had arrived. She was, for the first time for me to see, speechless. And very pleasantly surprised!

22 June 2016

We were supposed to have a 6 hour stop at Abu Dhabi, but because of the delay in Berlin, we only had time to rush through the crowded airport to our next departure gate. It is surprising, at least for a Finn, to see an airport where flights arrive and depart all around the clock! It was over midnight (local time) and the place was packed! Something that you don't see in Helsinki airport.. Anyhow, whilst we were waiting for our Etihad operated flight to start boarding, Jeff got a message from Daniel, his nephew, asking about the Eid gift parcel and its arrival. Perhaps it would be good to clarify, that this far only one person in Malaysia knows of our arrival. To everyone else, on need to know basis, we had told that we sent a gift parcel with DHL and it was supposed to arrive on 23rd of June in the afternoon. It will be a surprise...
Well then. Grüße aus Berlin! We were supposed to stay here for a bit over 3 hours, basically the perfect time to have a cup of coffee and a pretzel before heading across the quite small airport to the next gate. No. Air Berlin had had to put our A330-200 to an unscheduled maintenance, delaying our flight by 3h 55", why just 5 minutes under 4 hours? To avoid paying compensation to customers, of course. Well, we had then plenty of time at the airport in Berlin, as we were strongly advised not to leave the airport as the new departure time might be rescheduled to be earlier! It wasn't. And we ended up spending lots of €€ on coffee and snacks as everything was sold at airport prices. P.S. If you have a stop at Berlin, bring your own chair or be prepared to sit on the floor. There aren't many seats around the place.
This trip happened with quite quick timetable, and this time I decided not to write something about every day as most of the days would be quite ordinary living in Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur area. Instead, this time, I will concentrate on the "miniature trips" inside this bigger trip. Let's see how it works... Like before, it's not easy being us and going for a trip somewhere. We booked out tickets through Etihad, wanting to try their service this time (last time, from Dublin to KL, we tried Emirates and that was mediocre at best) and the booking through a travel agency went well. Next day, I realised that Etihad doesn't allow us to book Muslim meals for the flights as their food is always halal. Good thing, isn't it? Well not if your flights are operated by Air Berlin. Luckily we managed to get hold of a really nice Etihad lady who called Air Berlin and managed to get the whole thing sorted out! So off we go!