Category Archives: Malaysia

PB Travels… Georgetown

Hello Georgetown! We left Kota Aur and it was only a short drive to Georgetown. Once again, like in Melaka, I knew I would like this place. Georgetown is a very walkable place – and the taxis were pretty reasonable too. 

Where am I staying?

Red Rock Hotel is a 10 minute cab ride from the heart of the action, or a 20 minute walk. The hotel was equipped with a pool and the rooms were pretty basic. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: low, but the room had a ‘threadbare’ quality about it – like everything was falling apart 
  • Bed: 6/10. Bed was comfy, however the air conditioning was exceptionally loud – and it needed to stay on as Georgetown is a hot and humid place. It was like being on a plane.  
  • Shower: 8/10. Nice and powerful. 

What did I eat?

Breakfasts were essentially more fruit and these cereal bars I picked up from the supermarket  whooo! No fried rice!! No pic either.  As it was so hot I couldn’t do lunch – I would have a cereal bar and just drink loads of water.  I also had another cendol for ‘lunch’ which to be honest wasn’t as nice as the first one.

Dinner one night was at Red Garden, essentially a food court specialising in seafood.  Everyone was in ‘food paradise’ as expected apart from me. There wasn’t much for me to eat. I had a seaweed salad (out of a packet methinks) and some spring rolls. I was still so hungry that I ordered a mango sticky rice. It was all ok,  nothing special to be honest. 

But all was not lost! What did I find? By accident? A WESTERN VEGAN RESTAURANT!!! Wholey Wonder. Now you know me – food wise I try and go local but a month of non stop veggies and rice and tofu just left me craving something completely different – or stuff I have back home. So I popped in to check out the menu and ordered a smoothie. Cacao, almond milk, blueberries, chia seeds!!! The manager was this lovely bloke who gave me then heads up on where to buy stuff I was craving – like the aforementioned chia seeds – I was a happy banana. 

So while the gang went to another food court for dinner (I wasn’t going to join them again to eat, well, nothing), I went back to Wholey Wonder. Another smoothie (green this time), a roasted vegetable pizza (with this amazing nut/nutritional yeast Parmesan) and dessert too! This stunning berry cheesecake slice, followed by an almond milk cappuccino. Oh Mama! All this food was so so so full of flavour, so tasty and so so nourishing. I loved this place. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. 

What did I do?

We drove around Georgetown, checking out the buildings and listening to our lovely tour guide about how Georgetown has changed over the years. We also checked out a few temples, the most notable being the temple of the Goddess of Mercy, or Kuan Yin. I loved this place. Very impressive and blingy, but very calming and sedate. There was a prayer tree where you could get ribbons with pre printed messages for virtually anything – love, money, power.. you basically write your name (or the person you’re dedicating the wish to), pray, make a donation and hang it on the wooden ‘wishing tree’. Aaah. The things we do! 

There are a number of jetties by the sea, they were built by the Chinese when they first came here, and most of the jetties at named after prominent Chinese families – whose descendants still live there. I went to the Chew Jetty – and loved it.  Full of character, you could look into people’s houses, chat to the locals, buy souvenirs, food, everything and anything. It was lovely just to walk up and down and watch the world go by – and the view at the end was lovely – with a cool breeze too. Bonus!  There are also Tao temples dotted around, on and at the start of the jerry. These photos are of temple at the start. It was also so cool – you can go there and get your fate predicted (think Tarot sticks), and apparently there is a resident shaman/sorcerer to sort out everyone’s problems – he wasn’t there when we visited. 😦 


I also spent a lot of time walking around, checking out the malls (meh), walking around Little (South) India, and the amazing street art. There were also quirky little shops, selling souvenirs (the only interesting thing that wasn’t same same but different were these notebooks with pics of the street art – I bought a few). Every local I came across – Malay, Chinese or Indian was super friendly and always up for a conversation. I spent half my time chatting there – and I loved it! 

Finally – I went to the local Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) on Jalan Gurdwara. This was a tip from one of the locals I meet along my way. I was expecting a tiny little temple but when I got there, it was lovely and big. I really really loved going there – I had the place all to myself and I spent enough time giving thanks for all the amazing experiences I am going through and wonderful people I am meeting through my travels. Simple, humble Gratitude. Thank you!!! And thank you for Wholey Wonder – I stumbled across it on the way back from the temple. Whoo! 


Georgetown, I have enjoyed you and your people. This is a place I’ll definitely come back to. 

PB Travels… Kota Aur, Penang

Next stop? One of my favourite holiday experiences – a homestay…. in Penang! So we left the islands the same way we came, ferry and bus. We stopped in a small town called Kota Bharu for a pit stop, and then continued to a town called Kota Aur for 2 nights. This was the most organised homestay I’ve ever been on. The whole town is in on the stay experience – government approved and brochured. 

Not a bad experience, but a bit too manufactured. For example, we couldn’t be left on our own to chill for too long as the day had to be filled with activities – such as pandan leaf rose making and leaf weaving 😏. The scenery around was stunning – this is a proper village slap bang in the middle of coconut palm trees and rice fields. 

Where am I staying?

So I was staying in one of the biggest houses involved in the homestay – it housed 3 other travellers, we all had our own rooms and shared bathrooms. All modern, clean, but a bit to pink for my taste, but hey ho, I enjoyed it 🙂 Once again, I don’t think it is right to rate somebody’s house, but I will say it was pristine and clean and very nice. 


What did I eat?

What did I eat? Fruit!! Finally!!! I went out to a local market and bought mangoes, dragonfruit, rambutans and had that for breakfast one morning, supplemented with some watermelon and oranges. What a lovely change!! I had them with all my breakfasts for the next few days.  Breakfast at the homestay was essentially fried rice and kuih – this time steamed rice buns topped with fresh coconut. Essentially an idli. Very delicious and I was glad I was eating new (albeit familiar) food. The other notable breakfast when we were out and about was a roti canai – flaky, crispy flatbread/paronta (thankfully made with coconut oil and not butter) with some dhal and a cup of lemon tea. Super tasty and so many layers  – I had to have 2. We watched the guys make it too – so talented! 


Lunches were excellent too. For me – mainly a mixture of vegetables and rice. I also had an excellent plate of noodles while out and about sightseeing. I say excellent because it tasted TOO tasty which probably meant it was loaded with MSG so left most of it alone. Thankfully the homestay food was sans MSG. 


Dinners were epic. I should mention that for all meals I had my own dishes made especially for me, which I was very touched by. On the first night we sat down to a table full with chicken stew, fish, mixed vegetables, a tray full of raw veggies. I was happy with rice (well, I saw happy but I am getting riced out) and the veggies, but I had two more dishes – just for me. Tofu in this killer tamarind sauce and potatoes with chillies. This meal was amazing. So so so tasty, the tofu with rice was excellent. And there were some bitter tasting leaves in the raw veggie pile which were so moreish – unfortunately nobody knew the name in English. The next night the food was just as good. But by this time I was starting to get riced out, so I had this stunning soup with fresh veggies and bean curd sheets – so clean tasting and full of goodness. OMG. The tofu was also exceptional – I had it with a spoonful of rice.  BTW – the omnis enjoyed their food but not the bones in the fish and meat – the traditional way of cooking that stuff.   We did eat a few meals with our hands (loved it, not a problem for me) but the ones who were not used to it were really struggling. LOL. 

The food here was really good and I doubt I overdosed – but this is the first time on my travels that I thought I need a break from rice. I have started craving avocado and boring stuff like cereal!  Aaah – almost  forgot to mention the meal I had on the way to the homestay – a dosa! Or a thosai as it is known here. Oh mama. So tasty – including the chutneys. Heavenly! 

What did I do? 

We were pretty busy in the homestay. All the women in the village got together to entertain us and to be entertained.  But first, a bike ride through the paddy fields, well, alongside. We basically cycled around the village, stopping by at the house on the water, a traditional timber house (another homestay house, where we were fed fresh mangoes of the tree – thank you!), and to get coconuts for the juice – once again, fresh off the tree. Watching this nimble man gracefully almost glide up the tree was a sight to behold!  So blessed, so grateful! 

And then we indulged in a lot of activities with the local ladies. We learnt how to play Congkak (pls google) – so much fun and I was on a roll – never played it before and I beat everyone, muhahahhhaha. We learnt how to make pandan roses and rice bags (not as good with these things 😉 and my favourite – making kuih. We made 2 different kinds – pancakes and ‘sticks’. Freshly shredded coconut (which we shredded ourselves), flour (plain for pancakes, glutinous rice for the sticks) water and salt. Oh my. So tasty and thankfully repeatable. I’ll be making the pancakes at home for sure. 

Finally, a few more activities away from the homestay. We started off with a visit to a palm tree plantation – a locally managed, sustainable plantation.  The palms were of a different variety than the oil bearing – these ones were for extracting sap. The products produced were sap – essentially the juice – vinegar and jelly. I didn’t try the jelly (assume it was thickened with gelatin), but I had the juice. It tasted nothing like I’ve had before – a slightly pungent but sweet aftertaste – I quite liked it. There was stuff for sale too but I didn’t bother buying anything – I’ve still got over a month of travelling! 

Next stop – a whispering wet market. It was actually very horrible to see all these beautiful dead fish and crustaceans and even baby rays. WHY!!! The reason why we went here is because this is the only market in Malaysia where buyers whisper their offer price to the sellers – and the seller decides on who to sell to. Very interesting to watch, but sad to see all these beautiful dead fish.  We were the only tourists there so we received a lot of attention. 

Final stop was very sad – the Tsumani museum. Although Malaysia had the least number of fatalities, the area was still affected. One of the families in the area gave up their house and turned it into a museum.  It was a very humbling experience, being made aware of the power of nature – and more importantly – the power of people and how everyone came together to help. 

On a happier note, here are some lovely kittens at my homestay – I loved playing with them and I’m a dog person! Sooo tiny and cute! 

Final mention – we stopped at a lovely Chinese temple on the way to Kota Aur – really bright and beautiful with a massive standing Buddha. 

I loved this part of my trip. The journey, food as stops before getting to Kota Aur, and once I was there for the homestay. Although ‘commercialised’ the people were so amazingly nice and I thoroughly enjoyed observing and experiencing proper village life. 

PB Travels… Perihentian Island

Leaving Taman Negara behind, the next stop was to the islands for some (more) R&R and snorkelling. A short journey by bus and a 40 minute ferry ride was all it took. Once again, the roads were filled with trucks carrying giant logs :(. The scenery (when it wasn’t Palm trees) was stunning though – giant limestone mountains that reminded me of the floating mountains in the movie Avatar. Stunning. The Perihentian islands are made ofislands including the aptly named big island and the small island. We were going to be staying on the big island.

Where am I staying?

We got picked up from the ferry by the hotel shuttle boat. The hotel, Arwana Beach Resort, is literally on the seafront, and first impressions were very good. Beautiful lobby, beautiful pool (but why would you want a pool when the sea is a minute away!). The state of the rooms however was very very disappointing. And the ones I saw were all the same. The rooms were cleanish, very tired, with torn sheets, springy mattresses and lumpy pillows. The bathroom was horrible. Everything was worn out and tired and grubby.  I found out that the owners decided the lobby needed renovating before the rooms – can’t understand why. DO NOT STAY HERE. HORRIBLE. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: high. I shudder when I think about the room. Thankfully I only used it for sleeping. Vile.
  • Bed: 2/10. Viler
  • Shower: 1/10. Vilest. 

A big shout out to the shoddy housekeeping. They totally didn’t clean my room one day and the next, they made the bed and did nothing else. Do not stay here. Disgusting. 

What did I eat?

Breakfasts in the hotel were as expected – limited options again, and another recurring theme – the only fruit available is watermelon. Seriously? I need a market stop soon. Breakfasts were coffee (not bad) and either beans on toast or PB and jam on toast. 

Lunches? I had an epic veggie lunch at a roadside restaurant on the way to the island. Buffet again, but this time enough for me to eat. Green beans, turmeric cabbage, masala potatoes, pickled veggies and rice. So much variety, very very tasty – I could have eaten it again and again. 

Other lunches were at the most amazing restaurant on the big island – B’first cafe. Virtually everyone I met (locals and tourists alike) recommended this place. So I had this stunning stunning veggie mango curry. Whoa!! Stunning curry sauce, crunchy vegetables and big chunks of mango. Perfectly balanced flavours, and a very generous portion. Super delicious. I had that a few times. And their fresh juices were stunningly amazing. Fresh fruit, no sugar – I couldn’t get enough! 

Another lunch? I decided to go to a restaurant next door for a pizza. Deep crust, nice tomato sauce, sad selection of vegetables, included canned mushrooms. Eugh.  I only had half. Their juices were great, especially a cucumber and lime juice. Yum yum.  


Dinners were ALL at B’first. Mango Curry, sweet and sour vegetables, vegetable Tom yum soup. I cannot tell you how consistently good all these meals were. Not just mine, but everyone else’s. Perfectly balanced, everything was just right. I kid you not. Other than the snorkelling, this was the highlight for me. There is also a little bar next to the restaurant owned by Jim called, well, Jim’s Bar, and they made really good cocktails – the pina colada was particularly good. 

What did I do?

Snorkelled. Shark Point, Rawa Island, and a few other stops that I have forgotten the names of. The weather was great, blue skies and fluffy clouds and the sea perfectly warm. The visibility was slightly hazy, but I still got to see so much – coral, clams, lists of sea cucumbers, tropical fish, turtles, sharks.  I need to invest in a GoPro but for how you’ll just have to take my word for it. Some of the points were pretty shallow and some in deep open water. All stunningly beautiful. Our guide was also an underwater highlight – he could make bubbles, rings and shapes (think smoke rings) underwater, he was like a dolphin….amazing to see. 

The rest of the time I would just chill on the seafront and read and relax. The views were lovely and I enjoyed people watching. There were chances to take take water taxis to other parts or other islands, but to be honest I was quite happy where I was and didn’t feel the need to explore. I also had massages every day. There was a decent spa in the hotel (thankfully – less time to spend in the room) so I took full advantage of that too. 

Other than the grubby hotel, I loved the islands, snorkelling and food. I was also there over the weekend and it was nice to see the locals coming out to the island for the weekend. Fun for all!

PB Travels…Taman Negara

We left Melaka nice and early for a 6 hour drive to Taman Negara, one of the biggest national parks in Malaysia. I was very excited, hoping to see lots of birds and wildlife.   The drive was decidedly depressing. The scenery was nothing but palm palm palm. 6 hours worth. The road? Trucks of logged trees. I know needs must and all that, but it was sad to see it. 

Where am I staying?

Xcape resort is fully equipped with basic and clean cabins, a lovely swimming pool and beautiful grounds. The plan was to spend 3 nights here, so I’m glad to say the hotel wasn’t bad. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor – non existent. Sheets, towels, bathroom – everything nice and clean. 
  • Bed: 9/10, comfortable, and even more so seeing that I spent a whole day ill in bed. 
  • Shower: 6/10. Functional and clean.

What did I eat?

I’m beginning to realise that breakfasts in Malaysia, however extensive, do not cater for the likes of me – it would be hard even if you’re vegetarian. BUT (and a big one at that), baked beans are prevalent (whoo!) and so is peanut butter.  Sadly the peanut butter is just OK – full of sugar, salt and oils (yes, palm). So I’m trying to stay away from it, and I tried one brand for breakfast – one bite and I was done. Thankfully the beans saved the day. Non Brits can’t understand the appeal, but beans on toast for breakfast? YUMMO. 

Lunches were varied. On the drive down we stopped at a roadside Malay restaurant where they had at least 16 dishes – ALL with meat or fish. My lunch was a cup of lemon tea. Appropriate since I was coming down with a cold. NOOOO!  Other lunches? Once in the Seri Mutiara Taman Negara resort – mainly because it was closest to the park entrance. I had a stir fry vermicelli noodle dish – alright but too many noodles. What went down well was the fresh, unsweetened celery, apple and cucumber juice. BLISS. Another simple lunch was at our stop on the river ride. Simple lunch of baby bananas and Nasi Goreing – fried rice hit the spot. Delicious – and even more so because of the surroundings with all the drangonflies and butterflies flitting about. 

Dinners? There are lots of floating restaurants on the river front, and the Family Floating restaurant was the venue for the night. I had a carrot juice – lol – watered down and super sweet, and an excellent veggie stir fry with oodles of fresh ginger. Spicy, peppery and crunchy this was exactly what my system needed. We went back to the Mutiara resort for dinner and all I wanted was a salad – no rice, no curry, no spices. And I got it (along with another fresh juice). Lettuce, apple, peppers, olives and and and – Avocado with sunflower seeds and lime. Oh salads, I have missed you so much. This was sublime – nothing fancy, but flavours i hadn’t had for a while. I hoovered the whole thing. I also ordered a watermelon and gin – nice and refreshing. A perfect meal. This place is more expensive than the local places – but worth it as it reflected in quality and portion size. Final Dinner – the plan was to find another local restaurant but the rain started again and it was torrential – to the point that you could not see anything a few feet ahead of you. So we stayed in the hotel. I had a vegetarian mee (noodle) goreing. Very moreish, very delicious and very edible. 


Snack update. Well well well. In terms of savoury snacks, Malaysia is full of funky flavoured crisps – some with quirky names – but why why why do they have to contain so much crap and MSG? I’ve been having Lays plain crisps when I can find them – which is rare. My other staple are nuts. I do try and get local snacks when I can – like when I found these savoury pastries (that look identical to a sweet Indian pastry) stuffed with potato. Like a samosa – crispy, soft and super tasty. And kuih – traditional Malaysian sweeties. These ones were made with pandan, coconut milk and rice flour. Pretty chewy – which I don’t mind as I like mochi.. Delicious and not to sweet. And less than a ringgit each! Whoo! 

What did I do?

In terms of the town, there wasn’t much of it, or much to do, the main action and attraction was the park on the other side of the river (yep, I was on the wrong side). But not to worry, it was easy to get across via water boat for a ringgit. 

In terms of the park, there was a lot to do. Unfortunately, on the first night that we were there, it rained. And rained. And rained. So not normal for this time of the year, but it basically rained so much that the canopy walk was closed, we couldn’t do the river rapids (too much water, no rapids) the next day. Fortunately for me, that meant spending a much needed day in bed as I had got a bit of a cold and was quite congested (I think it was down to all the street food I had in Melaka) and I needed a rest. 

So the next day, feeling a bit better,  I went for a canopy walk in the national park. This was so much fun – more rustic and a lot more wobbly than the bridges in Costa Rica. We didn’t see many animals or even birds for that matter, but just walking around was good enough for me. Thankfully the place wasn’t too busy, adding to the magic of the place. It was stunning. 


A river ride on a dug out boat was also extremely enjoyable. We did see a majestic hornbill and a couple of monitor lizards, but once again, that was it. I have to say I’m really surprised at the obvious lack of wildlife here. I’m also realising how much I’m missing the wildlife element of my travels – can’t wait to get to Borneo! We stopped for lunch in a very scenic spot, surrounded by butterflies, dragonflies and water sliders. Very nice and scenic, and a really good place to skim rocks (one of mine bounced 6 times!!!). 

On our way back, we stopped to get off the boat and visit the Old Man of the Forest – the biggest tree in the national park. So the guide suggested to go into the forest barefoot as the path from the riverside to the tree was very muddy. Very good idea -it was a surreal experience walking in squelchy mud and in the forest barefoot. It was also grounding, humbling and very appropriate seeing that I was visiting such an amazing tree. And even more so that I was visiting the Old Man of the forest on what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday. On the way back we eased back to the boat, after wading through some water on the makeshift jetty,  jumped in the boat, looked at my feet and, hello leeches! I had about 6 leeches all trying to get comfortable. Eugh. They were promptly taken off before they suctioned on – apparently once they start sucking you should let them carry on and let them fall off on their own – or the would will go on bleeding. Saying that, one macho boy decided to keep a leech on his leg – and we watched it grow fat – and even he was squirming but once it’s on it’s on. Eugh eugh eugh. 


I also went on a night walk in the national park – but was warned due to the wet weather we are likely to see very little. It didn’t matter – it was excellent. Why? Never have I heard such a deafening sound of cicadas and frogs in a jungle. So musical and loud and the sounds! Absolutely amazing. We did see quite a few stick insects, grasshoppers, beetles and scorpions – but no bigger animals. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I never miss the opportunity to go on a night walk! Spot the frog, snake, grasshopper and stick insect.  How these guides spot these tiny things with nothing but a torch is beyond me. 


Taman Negara national park is a beautiful place. I think I saw and did a decent amount, even with all that rainfall. I loved loved loved this place. Slap bang in the middle of nature – where I am most happiest 😊. 

PB Travels… Melaka

Hello Malaysia! The flight from Yangon to KL was short and sweet. There was a lounge in Yangon airport (yay) and I actually got a really decent meal (rice, dal, tofu – looks grim but tasted amazing) on the flight. I’ve always liked Malaysia Airlines – another airline I’ve never been disappointed with. 


So after a short overnight stop in KL, the first proper stop on my Malaysian adventure in Melaka. It was quite easy to get to, a metro ride to the main bus station and then a two hour ride on a local bus. The bus station was massive and air conditioned, very well organised and oh my word. What a change! I was cool! I was relaxed! I wasn’t fanning at a feverish pace (don’t even know where it is!). A Malaysian local bus has seats and leg room and air conditioning – wider, longer and cooler than any other bus I’ve been on.  Very nice change from the boiling tin can in Burma. 

I warmed to Melaka the minute I got there. Quirky, full of character and small enough to walk around. My kind of place. 

Where am I staying? 

Hotel Mimosa, a 10 minute walk from all the action. Perfectly alright for the time I was there. 

Ratings?

  • Grubbiness factor: low. Nice and clean with crisp sheets 
  • Bed: 8/10. Hard bed with pillows of the right height. Yay!
  • Shower: 6/10. I need more power!! 

What did I eat? 

Breakfasts in the hotel – a decent enough spread. I went for the usual – banana on toast SANS PB. I have finished my lovely unadulterated PB, and it is very very hard to find one here that doesn’t have any hydrogenated oils. Why!!! Peanuts are oily enough!! And why add extra sugar and salt and other cr*p?! Aargh! 

Dinner? Street food! And enough options for me! Lime soda was the default drink. I tell you, it is made for the heat :). What did I have? Mushroom galore – barbecued and sprinkled with this spicy mix and Laksa! Vegetarian! Spicy, hot killer broth, tofu pieces, veggies – seriously delicious. Similar to but nothing like a tom yum. Same same but definitely different. I also had another go at durian (topped with coconut milk) and managed to have a mouthful, but I’m sorry. It is not a fruit for me. Gotta love you and leave you durian. 

One of the best snacks I had was cendol. Pronounced chendol, this was a serious pleasure to eat – and ‘Me friendly’ without having to modify it! Shaved ice, brown sugar, pandan worms (what else are they made of?!) and coconut milk. Yummy. Perfect dish for the heat – cooling, icy, textured. This was an excellent eat.


What did I do?

I did the typical tourist things and loved it. The only thing I didn’t do is the river cruise, as I practically walked up and down it. Lots of beautifully maintained houses, cafes, hideaways – very picturesque. 

What was very impressive and a definite don’t miss was the Baba Nyonya museum. Baba Nyonya is the name given to the people who have Malay/Chinese heritage – who created their own culture and food. The museum was and still owned by a prominent local Baba Nyonya family. We paid 16 ringgit and got an hour long fascinating tour – you can’t take pics inside unfortunately but it was still excellent. Loved it.  

We sat on pimped trishaws and got cycled around. We went to the Dutch square, a stunning place with maroon/red buildings in a Dutch colonial style, and a stunning Chinese temple. We also went to the A Fomosa fort, with very scenic views of Melaka. 



Jonker Walk was also very interesting. It starts off with a food market, morphs into a street market that sells everything and anything and then into a street food market. Full of character, chock full with locals and tourists and a brilliant place if you wanted to buy junk or eat amazing food. 


I also had an amazing reflexology massage. My masseuse was so amazing, she pinpointed what was physically bugging me – she was spot on – and also what I should or shouldn’t do. Go here! 

I loved loved loved Melaka. So much to do and so much to see and eat. I can see why it is one of the highlights of Malaysia!