Friday, January 2, 2015

day 4 -- in which we almost have our kidneys stolen, and find a demon horse.

SO. Somewhat belatedly, here goes my description of Penang.

We woke up after the trip to KL feeling less than excited about another excursion.

Docking was again a high-light of my day, I loved watching our massive ship glide gently in and was super-impressed by the skills everyone displayed.

I had booked us (Fabio and myself) tickets on a bus tour of markets and things, but we didn't want to go so we cancelled it (didn't get our money back, either) and had a leisurely breakfast and relaxed a bit.
One of my sisters and her husband had booked some spa time, and my other sister asked us if we wanted to go for a walk off-ship.

Feeling brave, we decided to fore-go any kind of arrangement or organisation, and wing it! After KL, where there were about a million taxis waiting outside the terminal, we thought it was a pretty safe bet that Penang would be no different.

Well, it was different, in that there were so many of them, and they were so persistent, we nearly had to beat them off with a stick.
They tried desperately to convince us that there was nothing to see locally, and we should go for a nice, long drive into the city.

Once out of the terminal, we just started wandering. The architecture is GORGEOUS.

That little blue thing? I was very taken with that. It's TARDIS blue, and super-cute, so I was taken aback to discover it's a list of WANTED BY THE POLICE people!

An early attempt at an ATM? deposits only, I imagine.

We found a place for lunch, and the food was mostly good. My sister's toasted cheese sandwich was flat-out WEIRD -- bread like cake, thick and sweet -- she tasted it but couldn't get her head round it. I had chips. Yes, I am THAT tourist.

The girls needed a wee walk after lunch. There was a toilet sign on the wall at the back so we followed it through a door, down a long dark passage past - and through - the kitchen area and storage rooms, and some unidentifiable dark rooms full of busy people, and I started to make comments about having our kidneys stolen.

Eventually, though, we found ourselves in a sunny courtyard with a toilet block...

..... clearly denoted by this saucy looking lass....

and a wooden horse,

Not creepy at all. Chinese New Year decoration. Mmm hmmmm.

More walking.

We found ourselves in a very Indian area, with lots of SARI SHOPS!!

Our eyes lit up like pinball machines! (well, my sister's and mine, at least)

BIL headed back to the ship, leaving his wife, my sister, in my husband's charge. He was like a border collie trying to round up chooks, poor man. We dived in and out of shops, staffed by mysterious Indian gentlemen, and eventually found a nice sari for my sister. They altered it for her in about 15 minutes, on the spot, and we also got some gorgeous jewellery in a lovely shop run by a tiny Indian lady who reminded me of my nana, only abut half the height.

I, alas, couldn't find anything I liked. Too fat, too big in the boobs. I needed the looser style of sari, but it was so hot and getting later, and we decided to make our way back to the ship.

Once back on board, we had a shower, a few cool bevvies, and took a stroll round the ship.

 It was a tad breezy.


And, it has to be said, my sister looked amazing at dinner that night!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wobbly Wednesday -- Winter Warmer

Maybe it's not winter in YOUR neck of the woods, but it's been pretty chilly here, and I don't like the cold AT ALL.

So I devised a truly yummy Hot Chocolate for grown-ups, and am drinking one now (which accounts for the heavy demands on proof-reading and editing).

I call it Chocolate Temptation.

Make yourself a mug of hot chocolate --
(I use Cadburys Drinking Chocolate powder, made with hot water because I am lactose sensitive and can't have a lot of milk.)
I top up with almond milk -- partly because of the lactose thing, and partly because it's YUM.

Add a good belt of Frangelico, and stir.

Now if you're being VERY naughty, add whipped cream and some grated chocolate.

Sip and enjoy.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

day 3 -- in which we visit KL and are traumatised by plumbing

Our first shore day started bright and early.
We woke at something stupid like 4 in the morning, and were so excited we went for a walk around the ship. It was pitch-dark and there were crew everywhere, cleaning and getting ready for the day, and while they were a little surprised to see us, no-one wanted to know what we were up to or told us to go back to bed, so we had an almost empty ship to roam around in.

Then, while Fabio snoozed, I watched the ship come into the dock (fascinating!) and spent ages just watching the activity on-shore.

To get everyone OFF the ship and give them the maximum amount of time on-shore, you disembark before I would be dressed on any normal day at home.
So we clomped into the dining room very very early for brekkie, to be greeted by happy, smiling, friendly staff. Nothing was too much trouble for them and it was a perfect way to start the day. We got an extensive menu to choose from, and I had pancakes with bacon and sausage, every day.

I had booked a private tour through We Go With Anuar, rather than a ship-offered cruise, and I had no idea at all what to expect. Reviews on Trip Advisor had all spoken of him glowingly, so despite the slight difficulty in communication, and not having been able to re-arrange the itinerary, I thought it would be OK.

We trundled through all the Welcome To Malaysia stuff, and the inevitable photo-fest, and made our way through the cruise terminal.

{there are three sisters connected to this photo -- one in it, one taking it, and one photobombing it)

(goodbye, Ship! hope we see you again tonight!)

You don't take your passport, as that stays with the ship, so you must take your SeaPass (issued on-board and used for everything from purchases to unlocking your room) and the process of getting off the ship and into a foreign country is remarkably simple if you are doing the right thing.
We were. We'd been well-warned about the public canings and death penalty and were fully intending to make it home again.

Our driver, Zack, was waiting for us with a big sign in his hands, which was a welcome sight, and we hopped into his very clean and roomy van, where he promptly turned on the aircon and earned our undying love.
It was pretty warm and very very humid.
(Anuars' site says his van has aircondition and working seatbelt. Being the clowns we are, we joked about who would get that seatbelt. But in the end, Zack was such a careful driver, and the traffic was SO calm, I didn't even put mine on!)

Clean, cool, and comfy. What more could you want?


I love taking road pictures but they don't look the same if you're not in the front seat.

The port is quite a long way from KL (I think it was about an hour) and there was a lot of smoke haze, caused by massive fires elsewhere -- like another country -- blowing over Malaysia and Thailand. The drive was interesting though, but I found it really weird in some ways. There is a lot of rubbish blowing about, and the buildings were arranged in some random pattern of shabby hovels interspersed with huge, grandly built, derelict mansions. 

Our first stop was to be Batu Caves. I hadn't wanted to go there, because of the 272 steps leading up to the temple, but the difficulty of communicating this with Anuar had proven to be too much, so I gave up trying.
In retrospect, I wish I had persisted.

Keep in mind that my husband and MIL have travelled extensively in Asia, and they had warned me that the toilets could be really bad. I was prepared for that. I grew up with an outside dunny. I have used long-drops many times, I have peed in the bush, I am not particularly squeamish about toilets.
Keep that in mind.

I was BUSTING for a pee when we piled out of the van. There was a shabby looking arrangement of stairs with a broken and dirty pink building at the top which I realised was the toilet, and I climbed the stairs to be greeted by a table with two old crones sitting at it, collecting coins.
Oh, seriously?? I have to pay to use this? Riiiiiiiight.
First problem -- my husband had all the money, and I didn't know where he was, and of course, now that my bladder had literally seen it's salvation, it was ready to offload. I bolted back down the steps, and Zack noticed my distress and lent me a funny looking little coin that I assume was the right one, because the crones didn't give me any change.
By now hobbling with my knees locked together, I rounded the corner into the hideous broken pink building, and saw my sisters both looking shell-shocked and very clearly trying not to touch anything.
A split second later, the smell hit me like a brick wrapped in 3 week old garbage, and I registered the inch deep pool of .......... liquid ......... that covered the entire floor.
Then I noticed the sluicing arrangement, the squat (a hole in the floor), and the filth. Everywhere.

And I realised, with a sinking heart and a bursting bladder, that I was wearing 3/4 length pants.

So picture me, juggling my backpack with it's toilet wipes and ziplock bags, and trying to get my pants down far enough to not pee on them, while pulling the legs up high enough that they wouldn't dangle in whatever that liquid was. While squatting. And trying to miss my shoes. All the time holding my breath and hoping I didn't pass out from lack of oxygen.

Or, maybe, don't picture it. It wasn't a pretty sight.

But, I survived! YAY me. I have to tell you, though, I would have given a lot for a dip in Dettol right then.

Anyway, now we were finally ready to view the Buddha and the steps and the caves.

Here is Buddha in all his splendid Golden Glory. He is demonstrably the cleanest thing here, and is a truly beautiful sight. The workmanship is incredible.
You can see the infamous stairs on the left of the picture, which should also give you an idea of how big the statue is.

And here is the family, supporting one another in toilet shock recovery (the mens' was even worse, apparently) and deciding who was going up the stairs.

I figured my flabby legs would punish me the next day, and I had shopping planned, so I firmly indicated that I was not going near the stairs, and besides which, they were disgustingly filthy and I didn't want to touch the handrails, but everyone else elected to have a go, and off they set.

I occupied myself by keeping one eye fixed on the monkeys (we'd been warned again and again about the monkeys, known for stealing possessions and also for nasty bites), and the other eye wandering between people-watching and the carvings.

This tree had me fascinated, as it's growing on the ROOF of the building below.

A monkey. This is as close as I was willing to get. I have been pretty much off monkeys since one snatched a handful of hair out of my cousin Bruce's head when we were young kids.

And this is (I think, the ONLY one taken) a picture of some of the clan upstairs in the Putrid Stinking Monkey Temple.

Apparently, between the equally gross toilets up there as well, and the rotten fruit and monkey crap, in a confined space, it was NOT a heavenly experience, no matter how high the stairs went.

With a huge sense of relief, we all got back on the bus and headed for Royal Selangor Pewter.
I had thought this would be a kind of boring tour but it ended up being the highlight of the day. 

We got a fantastic guide, whose name utterly escapes me, and he gave us a really informative and very interesting tour. Being that our dad was a tin miner, and two of the husbands are in mining, we found the background story and photos fascinating. All six of us were wow-ed by the craftsmanship, and found the demonstrations amazing.


I THINK this is the companys' mark.


An actual money-tree. Instead of a wallet, you would carry one of these, and break the coins off as you needed them. Hence the saying, money doesn't grow on trees....


Happy husband.


This lady is making money-trees, by pouring molten pewter into a mould. She's clearly been at it a while, because each one takes her about a minute to produce. And not a drop spilled.


The polishing process. The shavings look like steel wool but are amazingly soft, and of course, they get gathered up and re-melted.


This lady is hammering dents into a cup; you can see a finished one in my sisters' hand. She didn't hit her thumb once.


Some of the coloured products available


I loved this training centre -- it's called the School Of Hard Knocks!


We girls were stunned by the tea-caddies. 

(this is a photo from the RSP web-site)

They have the coolest lids you've ever seen. They're so well-crafted that you just drop them lightly on, and they sink down and seal themselves, air-tight. It's astounding to watch. I am SO going to buy myself one when I'm rich.


Our next stop?  PETRONAS TOWERS. You recognise these Bad Boys,  doncha?

Have you seen the movie, 'Entrapment'?

Zack had allowed us some shopping time here, but to be honest we just had a quick look around and didn't buy anything. The towers themselves are cool but the shops didn't grab us.

They're pretty tall.

Two of the sisters concentrating on taking a selfie, then suddenly remembering you're supposed to smile.

Crazy-beautiful skyline.

And some stunning architecture


We hadn't had a scheduled lunch-break, as such, so if you're planning on touring with Anuar, take note of that. We grabbed a walk-around snack at a food-place at Petronas Towers, and were pretty hungry (and tired) by the day's end. 
All in all, I'm not sorry we did this tour (even the stinky monkey joint) but I wouldn't plan on visiting KL again. I'm sure if you were there for more than a day, you could discover some amazing places, but the distance from port makes it hard to see more than the standard tourist stops.
We also felt this is not a 'happy' city. None of us felt truly comfortable, and I've heard other tourists say the same thing. It's good to do once, but they wouldn't go back.


You would not believe how relieved I was to have a shower that night!! And look at the cute little guy waiting for us...

.... along with our copy of tomorrows' newsletter, our room service order forms, and our tickets for the next day's tour. All on a freshly-made bed! (with, incidentally, the same doona cover that I have at home. SEE the lengths they go to so you feel comfortable???)

Our next stop : Penang!