After living nearly 3 years in London, its time to go home. But before we do the grown up thing & settle down, we are packing a big bag, flying to Finland & working our way through 9 countries to Singapore over three months without getting on a plane
  • Day95

    Sweat and Sugar in KL

    December 16, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    To welcome in our first morning in KL, I did what I do best and hit the gym for a workout in the hotels version of a glasshouse to cook people. I ran about 45 minutes at which I called it quits before I died of heatstroke. All I can say is, training in this heat better make me faster once I am home, I feel like a turtle right now.

    After a quick shower, we headed down to breakfast, which I have to say is one of the better buffet breakfasts we have had so far. Feeling full, we grabbed our stuff and headed out the door to walk towards the National Heritage Centre and the Botantical Gardens.

    We walked about 30 minutes so until we came across the outskirts of Chinatown, which is very similar to all the other Chinatowns we have come across throughout the world. We headed in to have a quick look at the Central Market, an enclave of tourist and art outlets. There was some beautiful artifacts however, as we have been travelling for three months, there is barely any space in our bags to pick up souveniers.

    We made our way to Merdeka Square where Malaysia's independence was proclaimed on 31 August 1957. The square is surrounded by some pretty impressive and beautiful buildings with the Sultan Abdul Samad Building being a particular stand out. Apparently it is the first example of Moghul architecture in Malaysia and was used to house the Federated Malay States administration. Across from this building is the Royal Selangor Club which apparently only admits men. BOO 👎. This made me want to go put on a suit, cut my hair and pretend I was a man to get in. This type of stuff really pisses me off.

    After I finished cursing the Royal Selangor Club, we headed towards the National Mosque, which being a weekend was inundated with locals heading to prayers. To ensure the locals had enough food and drink, a local market was set up directly outside which sold all sorts of amazing Malaysian Delicacies. The problem with having a massive breakfast, is that we aren't really hungry until dinner so can't even contemplate eating lunch. Such a shame because it all looked delicious.

    We kept walking towards the Observatory which looked like a dump on the outside, so we kept going until we came across the KL Bird Park. Both Jamie and I are not really 'zoo' type people, but seeing exotic birds seemed like a good idea, so we headed in. I have to say, I was pretty blown away by the beauty of these birds and enjoyed myself throughly. My favourite was an owl that looks like a Gremlin (see below) and some bird that made a weird grunting noise everytime it bowed to the ground (which it often did in successions of 4 or 5 bows). We spent a good hour and a half here and then made our way across to the orchid and hibiscus gardens, which I suppose is pretty important considering that Hibiscus is the Malaysian national flower.

    My camera died towards the end of our visit and so did my hydration. With that, our day in the sun concluded and we walked about 3km back to the nearest train station and headed back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped at our local shopping mall and picked up tickets to see "Office Christmas Party" in the evening, based on Jon's recommendation. After a spot of window shopping and a smoothie to get a sugar kick, we went back to the hotel for a quick rest before heading back out for dinner and the movie.
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  • Day94

    Moving South to KL

    December 15, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Travel day today. Not a long one by our standards, but a travel day nonetheless.

    After a middling to mediocre breakfast at the hotel, we jumped into a cab at 9:00am before the school holiday traffic choked the road down to Tanah Rata, and the local bus station.

    Given that our bus has at 11:00, we were pretty early, but given the awful traffic that we had seen, the last thing we wanted was to get caught in it, and miss our bus.

    We wasted away the time at the local starbucks, the only place in town with wifi available to the public. This was principally spent researching the latest developments in Brexit, and NZ politics., as well as the odd things about KL, especially how to get to the hotel.

    The bus ride itself was fairly uneventful. The initial section was pretty rough, as we descended the Cameroon Highlands, back onto the western coastal plain fo the Malay peninsula. As much as the number of people living and visiting the Cameron Highlands has increased substantially since the road was built many decades ago, there was been no further development of the road itself, and it is not wide enough for a bus. This made life interesting when another bus, or truck was met coming the other way on blind corners. More than once the driver slammed on the brakes and we came to an abrupt stop.

    Back on the plain though, we were on a motorway and the remainder of the trip was silky smooth, all the way into KL Sentral, the central travel hub. From there we transferred to the monorail to get to our hotel. This took a bit longer than expected, owing to a lack of signage, which meant we went the long way round. Actually it was the loooong way round.

    Arriving at the hotel, a bit hot and bothered after our trek through KL, laden with bags, we discovered that the hotel had managed to lose our booking. This wouldn't have been that much of an issue if it didn't take the reception 25 minutes to workout what had happened and give us a room. In the interim, we were just stuck in the lobby, waiting for the hotel to get themselves sorted. This was a rather large black mark against the service of the hotel, and we still don't know what happened.

    After checking into our room, it was time to go for a wander. We set out for one of the local malls to see about getting my phone fixed. Having dropped it many months ago in China, the wifi and bluetooth hasn't functioned, and I hoped that KL's premier technology mall would be able to fix it.

    As it turns out no, they can't. Because my was bought in the UK, it has to be fixed with UK parts which are slightly different from Malaysian parts, and can't be sold to Malaysian operaters so they can fix my phone. Market segmentation at its best, and to my cost sadly.

    We then found ourselves in another mall - KL is a city of malls. This one was identical to any other mall you have seen, with the same stores, and the same food court, so don't feel like you missed out. However, we did spot a cinema, and had a look to see what a movie might cost. At its cheapest, the answer is 12MYR - peanuts.

    Growing tired of the mall within 20 mins, but still enjoying the coolness of the AC, we decided to risk the heat, and head back towards the hotel to find some dinner. On the way we passed a street food street, mainly populated by Chinese and Thai restaurant, specialising in seafood. This wasn't going to work for Courtney so we kept looking, and eventually arrived at a street full of westernised bars, clubs and restauarants. Being hungry at this point we settled on a restaurant that did Indian, Mexican and Western food. We had the Indian, along with a few cocktails, and it was all pretty damn good.

    On the way back, we passed even more restaurants, many of which were Arabic. As it happens our hotel is next to Arab Town - the slightly less catchy, and ethnically different version of Chinatown. This means that there are a lot of restaurants to go to, with food that looks authentic, and staff that look like they have actually lived in the Middle East at some point in their lives. If we can try one, I will be mightily happy.

    Arriving back at the hotel, a bit drunk from the cocktails, and a bit sweaty from the heat, it was time for a quick shower, and a good night's sleep.
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  • Day93

    Trekking to Brinchang Mountain

    December 14, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    I woke up this morning to a post on my facebook page from my dear friend Maeve telling me it is only 9 days to go until we are home. 9 days! Man this trip has gone super fast.

    This morning we decided to trek up Brinchang Mountain, the tallest mountain in the Cameron Highlands. After my wee misadventure on Ben Nevis, I decided to wear my hiking sandals complete with socks, instead of my sneakers which apparently have no tread. Jamie told me I looked like a German, I think Germans are cool, so whatever.

    We had a super early breakfast, which by our holiday standards was 7.30am and then headed off on our merry way towards Brinchang. The first few km of the walk was relatively uneventful, and was spent taking in the breathtaking views of the tea plantations across the area. At the 3km mark, we turned up a road and started the steep climb towards the top. About 5 min later a truck driven by a local and carrying two Australian guys came barrelling down the mountain coming to an abrupt stop beside us where we were told that the mountain was closed today.

    Feeling a wee bit gutted that I wasn't going to see the peak or the Mossy Forest, we decided to walk on another 2km up the mountain to yet another strawberry farm, where we met some goats and a Bangladeshie worker who proceeded to take strawberry themed photos of Jamie and I, before Jamie went and picked another 1/2 kilo of strawberries for him and him alone to consume on our walk back down the mountain.

    We headed back down the mountain where we were passed by numerous tour companies heading in the direction of Brinchang. We could only assume that the tour companies had special admisson and if we were travelling on our own we wouldn't be allowed in, which strikes me as odd for a natural attraction.

    As our walk up the mountain had been cut short, we decided to walk to the BOH tea plantation for a spot of local tea. On the way we observed the local workers picking tea across the vast and picturesque tea plantations. Some tea was being picked by hand, but the majority of it was being extracted using what can only be described as electronic shears come vacumn cleaner. When we arrived at the actual factory, it seems like the whole of Malaysia also decided that it was a good idea to visit today, and the place was completely mobbed. Turns out that BOH is the most consumed tea brand in Malaysia, so is very popular with all of the local tourists, which there are many as it is now the school holidays. The BOH tea factory was set up by a British man in the late 19th century and has continued to grow in popularity ever since.

    With not that much left to do, we decided to head back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon where I did some yoga and Jamie had a bath. By the late afternoon, I was starting to feel unwell again after not drinking a huge amount of water during the day, so it was an early dinner and bedtime to ensure I was able to starve off any inkling of a repeat of the heat stroke.
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  • Day92

    Where walking is faster than a car

    December 13, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    This morning was our first in the Cameron Highlands, and oh how pleasant the temperature was. It was 18C, and absolutely beautiful.

    After months of hot and humid conditions, where the coolest day was in the low 30's, having a temperature in the teens was amazing. There would be no sweating brought on just from being outside. There would be no need to constantly rehydrate with gallons of liquid to compensate for the sweating. For the locals it was cold though, and while we had on shorts and t-shirts, many other were there in down jackets, with gloves on, especially the children.

    Setting out from the hotel, we thought that we would head to Tanah Rata, the biggest town in the Highlands, and about 8km away by car. But first, we had to go strawberry picking.

    We went to a place reasonably close to our hotel, and signed on to pick 0.5kg of strawberries. As it turned out, when we went to pay, we had picked exactly 0.5kg of strawberries. The owner was so impressed with us that he gave us another handful of strawberries for the hell of it. In terms of prices, they were some pretty expensive strawberries, but they aren't exactly common in this part of the world, because they are definitely not a tropic fruit. They might like the rain, but they are not great in the heat. It takes the 1.5km separation between sea level and the Cameron Highlands to make it possible.

    Walking towards Tanah Rata with our strawberries in hand, we couldn't help but be amazed by the traffic. It was near stationary, and there was plenty of it. We would later discover that we had arrived in the school holidays, hence all the traffic.

    As the walk from the hotel to Tanah Rata was all downhill, it wasn't a major that we walked. There wasn't a pavement, which is pretty common in this part of the world, but as the traffic was so slow, there was no danger to us walking along beside the cars.

    The walk to Tanah Rata took about two hours, with stops. On arrival though, we discovered that there really wasn't that much there. Nothing that tickled our fancy for lunch. Nothing to see. Nothing to do. So we went to Starbucks for a coffee. Not my idea of wonderful coffee by any means, but around here it is the best we can do.

    Once there we also had to deal with our current situation, and the long 8km walk up hill, back to our hotel. As it turned out, there were no buses, and because of the traffic, the local taxis were not going to take us back either. Out options was to walk back, or wait until the middle of the night for the traffic to disappear.

    We settled on a long walk back up the hill. If nothing else it was going to be good exercise. And as it turned out, walking was faster. We walked 8km faster than the cars did. We started off behind a big lorry, and after 8km, we finished about 300m ahead of it. It couldn't imagine sitting in a car for that long, to go such a small distance. We did stop to eat our strawberries, but the truck stopped to offload cargo for the same amount of time, so we won the race, fair and square.

    And that's if your car made it. There were many cars that littered the hard shoulder on our walk back up that hadn't survived the constant hill starts, and heat. In fact the whole walk up the hill, the smell of the forest was interrupted regularly by the smell of an overtaxed clutch.

    Getting back to the hotel and four, we peruse the options available to us for dinner, and quickly discovers that we had very few. Sad at the lack of culinary options for the night, Courtney had a foot massage to ease the pain, before we dined at our best available option, the hotel restaurant.

    The food, was okay, but not as good as we had had in Penang. That was a shame.
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  • Day91

    I have a very strong dislike of buses

    December 12, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Another travel day, but this time it is only apparently 4 hours on a bus to get us to the Cameron Highlands. As our bus didn't leave until 2pm, we were able to have a nice casual morning before we maximised the check out time of 12pm.

    We caught a taxi to our drop off point and waited an hour or so before we were whisked off to another bus terminal in Southern Penang. When we arrived it was 1.45pm, so didn't have to wait long for the actual bus to arrive, or so we thought. 1 hour later, our bus finally turned up and we jumped on, ready and eager to hit the road.

    We spent the first couple of hours driving through the towering karst mountains, similar to the ones we had left behind in Krabi and worked our way inland to a small city called Ipoh, approximately 90km away from the Cameron Highlands. The bus stopped here to allow locals to exit the bus and this is when our bus driver announced that we had another 4 hours to go until we reached the highlands. To me this just didn't add up. Google said that the bus ride would take 4 hours, and at this stage of the journey we had already spent 3 hours on the bus and I knew the Cameron Highlands by distance was only 90km away. However, as today was a public holiday, the traffic was heavier than usual and the roads were pretty windy the further up we went. Still, 4 hours seemed excessive.

    After grabbing some food for dinner from the bus terminal, we left and winded our way through Malaysian Countryside where we witnessed some very unsafe driving practices by the locals. At about 8.30pm, we reached the outskirts of the Highlands and were greeted with the most beautiful aura of lights I think I have ever seen. The crops in the greenhouses are covered with grow lights which makes the whole valley look like it is covered in fairy lights. I decided to listen to some coldplay and mellow out while taking in the prettiness. It wasn't long before we were pulling up alongside our hotel at about 9pm, 6 hours after we had left Penang but fortunately not the predicted time of 10.30pm by the bus driver.
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  • Day90

    Musuems and Cycling

    December 11, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Today was our last full day on Penang, so we had to make sure we had done everything that we wanted to do. Unfortunately, after the night before, where we had had torrential rain, there was still a lot of cloud cover over the island, and that meant there was no point going up Penang Hill. There would be nothing to see once we got there.

    In its place, we decided to go to a few of the many museums that are to be found all across Penang. First stop was the Peranakans Museum. This museum is setup in the former home of the head of the Chinese Triads, built in the late 1800's. But the Peranakans are not related to the Triads - it is the name given to people that are half Chinese, half Malay. They were once a very important and wealthy group on Penang in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

    As a result of multiculturalism, the group has been breed out of existence within five generations. The last of the Peranakans are now in their 80's and 90's. The reason is that to be considered Peranakan, you have to be exactly half Chinese and half Malay, and be descended from the population of the 1800's. Nowadays if you are mixed race Chinese and Malay, in Malaysia, you're just considered Malaysian.

    Aside from the history of the Peranakans, the museum was also full of artefacts from the period. There were clothes (mostly silk), there were shoes (mostly tiny, esp. the women's as they bound their feet), there was also all the furniture from the period. Some of this was fairly ordinary, like beds and dining tables, some of it was decidedly more risqué, like the siege d'amour. That's a sex chair for those that didn't use google translate like I did, to find a more classy way to describe the chairs.

    Following on from our visit to the former house of the Chinese Triad boss in Penang, we headed to another museums. This one was much less history based, and all about 3D painting, and perspective trickery, to make art. Some of it was really good. Some of it was clearly made for teenage girls to take photos in front of.

    Next we rented ourselves a four wheeled bike, and headed out on a tiki tour of downtown Georgetown, visiting the street art, and otherwise making a nuisance of ourselves in and amongst the traffic, which was nearly stationary owing to the day being a public holiday.

    When the cycling was over, we headed back to the hotel to make ourselves a bit more presentable, ahead of dinner. This was absolutely necessary, as in spite of the fact that we had cycled for an hour on dead flat ground, we had sweated like Tour de France riders on a hill stage.

    We had dinner at the same Indian restaurtant we had been to two nights ago. The food was delicious and affordable. Courtney made a half hearted attempt at eating the food like a local, but couldn't get her he'd around not using cutlery. It was an authentic restaurant for sure.

    And that was the day.
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  • Day89

    Prancing around Penang

    December 10, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Our day started like most days on this holiday, I visited the gym and I even managed to convince Jamie to join me as it was air conditioned.

    After the quick workout, it was time for breakfast, where roti and curry was eaten in large portions. It is hard to stop yourself from eating too much because the food is so super delicious. Its going to be salads for me when I get back to New Zealand.

    Anywho, we left the hotel for a day exploring the old town and were greeted with bellowing dark smoke coming from the nearby district 'Little India'. Jamie was alarmed that this fire might have been coming from the greatest curry house we had found to date but as we found out later on and much to Jamie's delight, the curry place remained intact. We left the scene as firetrucks roared past us to deal with the crisis.

    We decided to head to Fort Cornwallis, a fort built to defend the British interests in Penang. We paid our 20 ringgit (under £4 pounds) entry fee and embarked on a very short tour around the premises. My synposis - if you ever make your way to Penang, don't waste your time coming here. It has a few cannons, a wall, some shitty building replicas the size of a dolls house, and a chapel playing annoying inspirational and uplifting music, where you could pretend to fire toy rifles and play with plastic swords. It was basic and relatively expensive by Malaysian standards to enter.

    After that disappointment, we walked around admiring various religious buildings. The great thing about Penang and probably Malaysia on a whole, is that it is so culturally diverse and there are temples and buildings which represent the vast range of the religions. On a particular street alone we walked past Buddhist and Hindu temples, a mosque and an Anglican church, all beautiful in their own ways.

    At the hottest part of the day, we decided to hit the mall to take advantage of the beautiful air conditioning. On the way, we passed the ''Kapitan Keling" mosque and decided to go for a look inside. This wasn't my first time in a mosque, as I had the priviledge of going to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul a few years back with my friend Victoria, but this was the first time I had been into one with Jamie. As Jamie had grown up in the Middle East, he was much more aware of mosque protocol and explained to me the ways it worked and what I would have to do as a woman if I was Muslim and attended the mosque. I struggle to understand how woman in this section of society do not have the same privledges as their male counterparts. It makes me feel all sorts of anger and yet as Jamie points out, it isn't going to change anytime soon.

    After we had spent a bit of time at the mall, we headed back into town for a light late lunch before heading back to the hotel for a swim and a G&T. After this amount of time travelling, we are both starting to feel more and more fatigued, and as a consequence the hours of sightseeing have been reduced from 10 or so hours to about 5 or 6. Definetely not complaining by any means, but I am starting to want my own bed, cook my own food and be able to wash my own clothes more with every day that passes.
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  • Day88

    Im on a boat, aaand, Im going fast and

    December 9, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Today was a travel day, though a relatively short one. After having our fill at the pretty disappointing hotel breakfast buffet in Langkawi, we jumped in a taxi, and headed to the ferry central ferry terminal.

    Having bought our tickets online, we had to trade an electronic reference number for a paper ticket, but had no ideas how to do it. Fortunately, one of the baggage handlers in the airport saw us looking helpless, and quickly directed us to the ferry company's ticket office. The directions were simple - behind the KFC.

    Having got out paper tickets, we headed to departure hall, and checked-in. Five minutes later, we were walking down a gangway to get onto our ferry to Penang. As it turned out, the ferry was the same design as the ferry we had taken between Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe.

    The ferry ride itself, was pretty relaxing, and we spent it catching up on a few TV shows, downloaded onto the tablet the night before. On the way, we also passed a few fishing vessels, a few research vessels, and a three-masted tall ships. We had no idea what the tall ships might have been doing in the area, as they were anchored miles from each other, and miles from the nearest landmass, which was an island nature reserve.

    Bobbing along, we eventually saw the mountains of Penang come into view, but because of how high they were, it would be another hour before we actually arrived at Penang's ferry port.

    The walk from the ferry terminal to the hotel was brief, but because of the heat, left us both drowned in sweat within five minutes. Along the way we passed a clock tower built for a diamond jubilee, not for Elizabeth II, but for Victoria, many years ago, when Malaya was one of the British Empires many possessions,

    Once checked in, we dumped our bags in the room, quickly worked out where we wanted to go, and then headed out into the Penang afternoon to find some lunch. We headed to the area around Armenian Street, which would be the yuppiest street in the Penang - just about. There we had a nice lunch, befiore heading out to explore further.

    The remainder of our explorations were confined to the UNESCO Hertiage area. It is an incredible place, with many different architectural styles, many different spoken languages, and many different religions. On the one street, you might pass a Malay style building, with signage in Chinese and English; a Chinese style building with signage in Malay and English; a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, a mosque, and a church. It is an incredibly cosmopolitan place. It has the feel of London, in terms of its demographics and mix of people from around the world, with an obvious focus on people from South-East Asia.

    On the way back to the hotel, we headed to the Clan Jetties. This is an area on the waterfront between Penang island and the Malay peninsula, where Chinese communities have built their homes and business on plies in the sea. There were once seven communities, but one was lost to fire, and each is over a century old. Wandering along, it was like any other community on land, with grocery stores, bars and restaurants. We had a couple of fruit juices, and commented on the rather flimsy nature of the piles that held up this floating village. And yet in spite of its perceived flimsiness, they have endured many hardships, including a Japanese occupation, storms, and fires (except that one jetty that burnt down, in spite of being built above water - you can't win them all).

    Our next stop was the hotel, to make ourselves a bit more presentable for a drink and dinner. We then headed to Love Lane, in the Backpacker district of town. This was to take advantage of the place in town with the cheapest cocktails. We can report that they were also probably the strongest cocktails in town.

    Courtney had one too many, being two and by the time it came to having some dinner, she was in another world. That made it slightly easier to find somewhere for dinner, as in that state, Courtney would not be as fussy as she might otherwise be.

    We ended up at a local indian restaurant, which was always going to be a good choice, because we were the only non-Indians there, and everyone was eating with their hands, rather than with cutlery. The food was indeed incredibly delicious, and incredibly cheap too. The bread was especially good, and did a good job of sobering Courtney up for the short walk back to the hotel.

    Nothing eventful happened on that walk back to the hotel, and the night ended pretty casually, with an isotonic drink for Courtney, to save any pain the next morning.
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  • Day87

    Lounging around in Langkawi

    December 8, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    We didn't really have much planned today, which was great because I was feeling a bit dehydrated from the day before and there is no way in hell I am getting heat stroke again. We had to take our car back to the airport, so decided to go the long way and check out the tourist area we walked along last night, but this time in the daylight.

    When we arrived, we quickly discovered that the tourist street looked better in the dark, as the street seemed cobbled together and was filled with crappy tourist shops. We did a drive by as it wasnt worth the energy to leave the comfort of the air conditioned car, and proceeded in the direction of the airport in search for a petrol station. This exercise turned out a lot more difficult than was anticipated, as no petrol station could be found. Our car was due back at 11am, and it was now 10.45 and we had to drive back 15 minutes towards our hotel where we knew we could find a station. This resulted in stressed driver (me) questioning Jamie on why he couldn't read a map or why he couldnt make a petrol station magically appear.

    When we finally found a station, it was 11am and I was not happy. There is one thing I hate more than anything in this world and it is being late. To me, making people wait for me is so rude, so, as a consequence, I was super stressed. As a result, Jamie dealt with all the petrol transactions before we took off in the direction of the airport.

    When we arrived, 20 minutes late, it was absolutely no issue, but I still felt so bad about these guys waiting for me to arrive (there is no rental car centre, so the staff know what time you are coming and wait for you outside the terminal). I had an espresso frappe to calm me down, before we took a taxi back to our hotel. Our taxi driver was super nice and told us some interesting facts about Langkawi including:

    1. The island is duty free
    2. The population prior to 1978 was around 30,000, however, when a doctor became prime minister, he decided that Langkawi had great tourism potential and ensured it was allowed development. The population now stands at about 150,000.
    3. No factories are allowed to be built on the island, the only exception being the one cement factory on the opposite side of the island that existed prior to this law being implemented.
    4. There are strict rules around deforestation on the island.

    When we got back to our hotel, I felt suitably more informed and went to the pool to digest the information and work on my tan a bit more.

    It wasn't long until we started to feel hungry and decided to hit up the local Langkawi Food Festival, where Roti, Fried Chicken, Seafood and Mango related goodies were in high supply. We grabbed some honey glazed bbq chicken and a massive Mango juice and sat down with the locals. We decided it was so good, that we would return for dinner this evening.

    We treked back to our hotel and filled in some time playing pool and hitting the gym before we headed back to the market for round 2 which included coconut ice cream in a coconut shell. Delicious!
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  • Day86

    A trip to the Langkawi Sky

    December 7, 2016 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Our first full day in Langkawi, so it was time to see the island. And to do this, we had rented a car. We have to think all the way back to Finland, for the last time we got to drive ourselves anywhere, and it was great.

    First thing, was the taxi to the airport. Our driver along the way was incredibly chatty and friendly, as we talked about the weather, and what New Zealand was like. He had been to Australia, but not New Zealand, and wanted to know if it was worth the visit. There have been so many people that we have met along the way like that. And we have always told them all that we know, and encouraged them to make the trip. Tourism New Zealand should be paying us is what I am saying.

    Arriving at the airport, we had to find the rental counter. There was just one problem - it was airside, in the baggage collection hall, so how the hell were we supposed to get there. After looking around trying to find another way in, and failing, we spoke to the information desk who told us that if we asked the security guard nicely, he would let us go the wrong way through the system, to get to the rental car counter. The security guard was very friendly, but would only let one of through with just their wallet and passport, everything else had to stay. As Courtney was the lead driver on the rental agreement, she got to go the wrong way through the aiport system.

    Five minutes later, Courtney was back, coming through the arrivals hall with her arms stretched out pretending that she hadn't seen me in years. More importantly she had the keys to our chariot for the next 24 hours. It was a Proton, a car made locally in Malaysia. I wouldn't call it the most luxurious of cars, but it was more than sufficient for our needs. And with that, we headed to the Langkawi cable car. The drive there only took about twenty minutes, but the queue to get to the top of the hill would take about three hours - unless we bought the express ticket for double the price. Being trapped by the need to avoid a long queue, we buckled and bought the express ticket, and two minutes later, we were on the cable car heading up the mountain.

    The cable car was a long way above the ground, and would do absolutely nothing for anyone with a fear of heights, but once right at the top, the views were pretty spectacular, in spite of the slight haze on the day. We could see Ko Lipe, where we had come from the day before, the Malay peninsula, and we had a great view over the vast majority of Langkawi too. As the park was a geological park, Courtney was well as truely in her element, and enjoyed all the geological information provided to all and sundry, critiquing everything as she went.

    After one day in Malaysia, it is quickly becoming clear that this is an incredibly friendly and inviting place. It is such a multicultural place, that most signage is in two or three languages, and most people are so bilingual, they can switch between languages within a single sentence, and speak both with what I imagine is exacting apptitude. They are like all those Europeans we've met, that speak multiple languages. Yet more people in the world to put our linguistic inability to shame.

    Anyway, after the cable car, we came back down the mountain, and set about circumnavigating the island. Along the way we stopped for lunch, at a roadside stall, and walked to the largest waterfall on Langkawi, along a path surrounded by hundreds of monkeys. Most were pretty scared of humans, though there were a few that were much more brave. This lead to the locals carrying big sticks to beat away any monkeys that might get too close, as well as chucking a few stones in their direction for good measure.

    We also stopped at a nice white sand beach, which as it would turn out, was to be the sight of the Langkawi Half Ironman in two days time. They were setting up all the floating pontoons and transition area as we sat on the beach, and watched the world go by, including someone para-sailing behind one of the many boats on the beach, available for activities.

    After the beach, we completed our tour of the island, and headed back to the hotel for a rest, before heading out again for dinner. As we had the car, we wanted to drive to another part of the island in the hope of finding a better meal than the one we had had the night before. The traffic was awful, but we got there eventually, and after a twenty minute wander along the streetm settled on an Indian restaurant for dinner. The food was pretty decent, though not amazing.

    After that, Courtney was feeling a bit under the weather, so we beat a hasty retreat to the hotel, for some well earned rest.
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