Sunday, May 29, 2011

Malaysia.... truly Asia (as the advert goes)

 2 pot noodles later, we arrive in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur to be exact. Now, with us not being so into cities, we decided to hot foot it out of the metropolis and ride up the west coast to Pulau Pangkor. What we didnt really figure was that it was the very start of the oncoming monsoon season for this side of peninsular Malaysia and that led to the island being a ghost town. It didnt click on at first as we got the last boat of the night across and hunted down accomodation in the dark, but as the sun rose and we walked about, it soon dawned on us that we were the only tourists here! Nice, so we thought, until we had the good fortune of finding out that everything was closed and we had one restaurant to serve us a mediocre dish and a not medicore price and travelling to the harbour several times a day by public transport (read- expensive taxi bus!) was out of our budget, so we settled for more of Asia's finest, pot noodles, to keep us going as we made plans to move on out a bit sooner than we thought. However, we were in for a fantastic treat as our 'landlord' has a strange little free extra to go with his accomodation; He gives a whistle and a dozen or more Hornbills descend for a nicely prepared banana lunch! He has been calling them down for over 8 years and they are quite comfortable in the company of humans (and bananas) so we got to hand feed them and smile at their swift acrobatics in catching high flung fruit. Funny that we paid out so many times to see these creatures on our treks, yet we finally get to encounter them for free and as a total suprise!

From here, our journey took us across the country to the east coast as Yana was having some dive withdrawls. A brief stop in Kota Bhanu for the night and we set sail at sunrise for Pulau Perhentian Kecil. Note to anyone with spinal troubles or seasickness, the 93791825 mph journey over water may leave you a little less than happy! For us, it was smiles from ear to ear as the boat spent more time in the air than it did on the water!!! Kecil is a lovely little island, not yet overdone in the way of visitors or blocks to house them in and with the country's dissinterest in drinking, it felt a lot more chilled out and was what we felt Koh Tao in Thailand should have been like. With no electricity until 7pm and a simple bungalow, the island really keeps the tempo low and you find yourself in relax mode as you absorb a slice of island life. While trying to not get to close to the monitor lizards that dwarf children and the "it is poisonous/ it is harmless" snake issues, we located a fantastic dive shop called Maharati. They can fully take the blame for why a 3 day trip ended up being 10 days long and in fact stopped us timewise in seeing much else in perninsular Malaysia! We decided on taking our Advance Diving Certificate, in order to learn a few more skills and allow us to dive down deeper to experience more of the oceanlife. Dee, our instuctor, had us dropping weights, swimming upside down through hoops (for his own amusement) and re-enacting matrix style kung-fu moves inbetween diving deep to wrecked ships and underwater spires that lay home to some astounding aquatic life, including the local celebrity, Tripod, a 3 finned turtle. A night dive was also undertaken and it was our best dive to date, seeing large sleeping turtles, phosphorescents (glow in the dark algae) and corals and seacucumbers coming to life. A pure underwater relaxed delight. Yana took an underwater camera down to record some of the things we saw and realized how hard it is to get something remotely in focus... but fun it was all the same. 

Saying goodbye to Kecil was hard, but alas, we came here to see things! Seeing things on Yana's list included shopping for cheap goodies. So we decided to give Kuala Lumpur a chance and found it actually quite a nice place to be. Great Indian cuisine and smiles from everyone, suddenly we felt like we werent in a mega capital at all. The local market was put to the test and Yana was in heaven when she was face to face with more handbags than James had ever realised existed; A lady's dream, a tightfisted scrooge's nightmare!! Yana bargained like a trooper and somehow managed to come away with 3 handbags (you only have 2 arms?!) and a broad grin on her face, James with a broad hole in his wallet. We took in a few local sights, including a nice butterfly house, but mainly wasted away the days together and knocked about like we had a weekend off at home.

HOLD ON TO YOUR HEAD!!!!! Borneo was our next destination, home to the more historic tribal cultures of the Malay and a unforseen set of problems. 
We landed in Kuching, the extremely pleasant capital of Sarawak, Borneo. Amidst more wandering around and hanging out, we took a trip to the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitaion Centre and home to the rescued Orang-utans, living semi wild in a huge reservation and left to form there own bonds and groups, occasionaly heading back to the centre for some food. We got to see an abundance of ginger primates bearing little youngsters and snatching up fruits and milk from only a few metres away before embarking on a little jaunt through the forest to spot some of the inhabitants (BIG centipedes and sleepy bats). Taking a break from Yana perusing the many local cat souveniers (Kutching translates as cat) and the frankly quite wierd "cat museum" (a building that consists of anything cat related... some pretty strenuosly related!!!!), we headed to the Bako National Park for a bit of trekking. To our joy, one simple walk turned out to be a monkey adventure! While trying to keep out of site and wait for the rustling trees to reveal their suprise, we were invaded by a troop of Silverlip monkeys, babies in tow, grazing at our feet and allowing us an extrememly intimate hour, just us 2 and them. That wonderful experience was then added to by the appearance of the odd looking Proboscis monkeys (know for there dangling noses) hanging out in the trees and eventually having a bit of a ding-dong with a Macaque troop, which we ended up being penned in on a footbridge as the argument took place around us! Oh and seeing a Macaque bite through a coke can like it was tissue is certainly a sign you dont want to get too close. 

We headed off to Borneo's Sabah capital, Kota Kinabalu after we realized the problems in "just showing up" and trying to do things on the island. To keep numbers low for the environment's sake, all the places we wanted to see were booked up in advance and we found we were unable to do a lot of the things on our itinery, including diving at the world famous Sipidan island. We did take 3 dives at Mabul nearby and had some VERY close encounters with big Green and Hawksbill turtles and the colour changing cuttlefish. The rest of our time was finding out how much we enjoyed doing nothing for a few days and just eating dirt cheap sushi of a fantastic quality and catching up on the cinema's latest releases. Our last forray in Borneo was to visit a living museum of Monosopiad, direct decsendents of this once feared headhunter in a small slice of historical village life that is frozen in time to help preserve the culture of the Kadazandusun people. After learning all about the healing powers of the priestesses and the value locals still hold for their wisdom, we got to engage in games of bygone, including stilt walking, slingshot accuracy and a bit of blowpipe fun, before watching a series of dance performances to commemorate the harvest season.

Following on from Cambodia, Malaysia has been a fantastic month for us, again down to the pure hospitality and friendliness shown to us by everyone we have encountered and we vow to come back and actually complete the many natural wonders that this beautiful country has to offer.

                                                      James taking it easy on Palau Pangkor

                                                    Sunsets over the Straits Of Melaka
                       Mrs Miowgi aka Scruffy, our Perhentian island puss, came free with the bungalow
                                          Palau Perhentian Kencil, a view very much to admire!
                                                    Daisy, our adopted Monitor lizard
                                                Jane our adopted snake draught excluder
                                Cracked egg, 30m deep, good for pinpong, not so much for eating
                                                                 Blue Spotted Ray
                                                       Moray Eel hunting for dinner
                                Tripod, the famous turtle believed to have survived a shark attack
                                                    Anemones waving in the current
                                        Clownfish, aka Nemo himself (he is the one in the middle)
HOLY DIVER!!!!!!!!
                                    Kuala Lumpur's butterfly association's annual general meeting
                                                            Semenggoh Orang-utans
                                                     Wakey Wakey, eggs and..... bats?
                                              Yana couldnt dream of a museum so good.....
                                       Clearly having too much fun considering the content quality
                        Not joking about lack of quality, Asia hasn't quite perfected taxidermy yet
                                                                 Kuching by night
                                                     Snake fruit... not actually that tasty
                                         Hermin the Hermit, part of a huge hermit family at Bako
                                               Ooooooooooh hello there! Silverlip monkey
                                        Baby silverlip... might want a paternity test when he is older
                                         Up close and personal with the thumbsucking primates
                                                  "Where's your head at? at at at at at at....."
                                                             Proboscis monkeys
                                                              Bako National Park
                                                           Awaiting our night trek
                                                             A pretty deadly viper...
                                                                     Flying Squirrel
                                                   A pretty deadly and very BIG spider!
                                                Guess what, a pretty deadly stone frog!
                                                          A not very deadly James
                                          Doctor Fish training facility (free use of the apprentices)
                                  A pretty deadly Pitcher plant (if you are an insect, or very small)
                                          Yana NOT enjoying our 11km trek in 38deg weather
                                                I reckon this guy is deadly. And a bit spiritual

                                                                     Frog eggs
                                             "Sexy Lady" Orchid... we are not making this up
                         I wish we were making this up though! Parents of the aformentioned frog eggs
                                             Prized skulls claimed by the warrior Monosopiad
                                                        Asia's second attempt at flipflops....
                                                 ....a vast improvement of their first attempt!
                                            Yana doing the Eagle Dance to celebrate harvest

                This dance was a challenge of 'dont get your feet broken amongst the slapping bamboo sticks'

                                                 Yana's 25th birthday and cheap sushi ahoy!
                                                                   The darkside....
                                                           More harvest festival dancing

                                                          Sunsetting over Kota Kinabalu
                                    Our favourite game ever, Japan's cultural version of  'drum hero'