Friday 31 January 2014

Kuala Lumpur apartment

We are settling down for a while - four weeks in an apartment in the centre of Kuala Lumpur.
We have a lovely modern apartment with great views of the downtown area.  We can just see the top of the Petronas Towers, which peep out around the shiny blue building opposite - pic 3.
I am spending a lot of my time sitting on the wide window sill trying to improve my French language skills, drinking coffee and looking at the view.
Today, and tomorrow, are national holidays to celebrate Chinese new year. The park around the Petronas Towers is filled with people having a good time in the beautiful weather.
There are lots of brightly coloured outfits on display, and this group of young men wouldn't look out of place in a Bollywood movie.

Thursday 30 January 2014

Sunny Genting

Woke up on our last morning in Genting to see that the sky was clear and we could at last find out what the area was like.
I was keen to rush outside in case the weather closed back in, and we saw that our hotel really was painted in rainbow colour, just like the scale model.
Genting is a big casino resort, the Malaysian equivalent of Las Vegas or Macau. It is also marketed in Malaysia as a cool retreat from the hot weather, and it has been fun seeing people dressed in gloves and woolly hats, as this is only place that they ever get to wear them.
We had a great time in the indoor theme park.
I enjoyed a slow ride around the park in my flowery carriage, but we also went on the roller coaster at least five times. On a couple of runs we were joined by a group of about 20 over excited middle aged Indian men, they spent the whole time yelling to each other and then screamed louder than me on all of the scary bits.
Also had a great time on the dodgems where I tended to stay around the sides but Daz bumped everyone out of his way.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Chin Swee Caves Temple

The Genting Highlands are still completely covered in cloud so we are still not able to see anything outside.
Fortunately, there is a shuttle bus to Chin Swee Caves Temple which is part way down the mountain. When we arrived it was right on the edge of the clouds, sometimes it was sunny, sometimes the clouds came across and hid the top of the pagoda.
It is a very interesting place and is tucked in amongst the jungle on the sides of the steep slope.
We walked around it in the wrong direction and followed a little path past some very graphic sculptures. It showed scenes from the ten chambers of hell and we saw number ten first, working backwards to number one. They all had names, eg, number six was the Great Howling Hell, and all sorts of gruesome acts were shown in detail.
When we got to the end we found the entrance and it was called 'The path to Enlightenment'.
Maybe it would have made more sense if we had gone in the right direction, but one thing is clear - make sure that you behave well or face the consequences.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Sky diving in a wind tunnel

We are still inside today, this time in the indoor theme park that is attached to our hotel.
They have a sky diving wind tunnel and for £7 each we got the chance to 'fly' for two minutes.
I went first and was in a group of two with a Chinese guy. We got a five minute lesson from the instructor on what position to adopt and then the instructor stepped into the tunnel.
I stood at the door, made a star shape and fell forward. I immediately floated straight up in to the air and it was incredible. The tiniest movement made me either rise higher or drop lower, or forwards or backwards and I kept trying to follow the instructors orders.
After a while he caught hold of me and helped me out through the door and I was relieved and elated, as I had enjoyed it but it was pretty scary and I thought it was over.
My mistake, as I watched as the instructor motioned to the other person in my group. I watched in terror as he grabbed hold of his wrist and ankle and they started spinning rapidly, and then shooting to the top of the tunnel and then back almost to the ground before racing up again.
All too soon it was my turn. I thought maybe he wouldn't do that with me, but no, we did the same thing!
It was amazing, but two minutes was absolutely plenty and when Daz asked if I wanted another go when it was his turn I quickly declined.

Monday 27 January 2014

Genting Highlands

Another journey today, this time from Putrajaya to the Genting Highlands - for less than £3 each.
We caught two buses, one train and then an endless cable car that whisked us up to the biggest hotel in the world - First World Resort - part of Genting Casinos, sponsors of Manchester City football club.
We were then swallowed up inside a cavernous building and walked for about 15 minutes until we got to the check in area.
Our room is on the 25th floor, number 25908,and the view from our window is of an identical room about ten feet away from ours, but with a huge drop between us.
It is impossible to work out where we are, as we are lost somewhere inside an enormous hotel that is trapped under a cloud on the top of a mountain.
There is a scale model of the whole area in reception and we are somewhere in the multi coloured building on the top right, but that is all we know so far.
To add to the weirdness, we have just been to see a Cirque du Solail style show where the performers walked upside down on the ceiling

Sunday 26 January 2014


We are staying by the lake in Putrajaya in a fairytale castle type hotel - see pic 3. It is full of twisty turny corridors and tower staircases and at first it was almost impossible to find our room. We have just got the hang of it now, but are leaving in the morning.
The whole city is completely modern and full of government buildings. They seemed to have spared no expense and the architects imaginations have run amok.
The best thing about today was walking around the lake watching as lots of brides and grooms came to the lake to pose for their wedding shots.
My favourite was this lady in a neon lime green gown, but there was also a Muslim lady in a beautiful silver outfit and with a sparkling tiara on top of her headscarf.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Epic voyages

Today we made a pretty short journey - 130 kilometres from Melaka to Putrajaya. We caught three buses and one train, it was easy and pleasant and it cost a total of £3.50 each.
Yesterday we spent a couple of hours in the Zheng He museum in Melaka. He was a famous Chinese Admiral, explorer, diplomat and palace eunuch. He lived from 1371 to 1433 and made seven epic voyages.  Each one took about two years and he had an enormous fleet of ships, crewed by 28,000 men.
He used Melaka as a supply point and stopped for a while there on most of his voyages.
The museum was really interesting and was full of items that would have been found on his ships. On one of his voyages he brought back a giraffe from Africa to present to the Empower, as he thought that it looked like a mythical creature from Chinese legends.

Friday 24 January 2014

Jonkers Street, Melaka

Melaka is such a lovely place and the old town is full of heritage buildings.
The best known street is Jonkers and tonight it was closed to traffic for a market all of the way down the middle of it.
There was the usual mix of stalls, but then right in front of a Chinese temple was a stall selling enormous - literally three feet long - knives, wooden guns, nun chakas and karate throwing stars.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Menara Taming Sari

We are now in Melaka, or as it used to be known, Malacca - as in the Straits of Malacca. We visited here last year and returned as it is a very relaxing place, quite small, pretty and fortunately for us, nice and cheap.
We are staying in one of the original Chinese shop houses that backs on to river, and has a lovely communal balcony where Daz is posing.
It has a few issues, such as the fact that there are two shared bathrooms upstairs but only one toilet roll. The lively lady who looks after the place puts it on a little table and I think the idea is that you take the correct number of sheets on the way in. There is also a hosepipe that are often found next to the toilets out here, but I have never worked out what you are supposed to do with them.
There is also a beautiful water garden complete with fountain and koi carp in an internal area on the floor below our room. The drawback for us is that we can't see it, but the fountain tinkles away very loudly, particularly all night.
The Chinese lady who looks after the hotel is hyperactive and speaks very little English. She showed us around at the speed of light, shouting lots of instructions that we couldn't really understand. She dragged me along the corridor saying what I thought was 'monkey', so I was a bit reluctant to follow her, but it turns out she was showing me the bathrooms.
She is also not posing in this picture, but waving frantically at me to make sure I know how to get back in. She is very nice though and has just made us a coffee each. At £15 per night it's brilliant.
The Menara Taming Sari is such a great name. It is actually a viewing platform that starts off at ground level, shoots to the top of its pole, whirls round a few times to show the 360 degree views of Melaka, and then lands back on the ground again - all in seven minutes.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Chinatown, Singapore

We stayed a couple of streets away from Chinatown and we saw all of the preparations for Chinese New Year.
The streets were packed and we could hardly walk through the crowds. There were stalls along the roads in front of all the buildings and they were selling many things that we could not identify, but also nuts, dried meat slices, loads of different fruits and horse shaped souvenirs.
Next year will be the year of the horse and we were surprised to see that most of the horses looked rather cute, more like 'my little pony' than a prancing stallion.
On the move now and due to arrive in Melaka, Malaysia.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Last day in Singapore

We really pushed the boat out on our last day in Singapore and did a double header - the Waterpark and Aquarium.
I have never been to a Waterpark before and did not know what to expect. We arrived just as it opened and raced to the first ride.
We got straight on and both sat in the yellow dingy that Daz is modelling. It trundled slowly up a slope - apparently the underside is magnetised. Once at the top we shot down a pitch black tube and then it turned into a roller coaster, as we whizzed up steep slopes and careered down the other side. I screamed all the way, then suddenly we went through a tube again and out into the splash pool at the bottom.
It was so amazing we did it again and then tried all of the other rides at least once. There was also a lazy river to float around on rubber rings, and an adventure area. We jumped off the wall, tight rope walked across the water (I fell in both times) and tried to climb a rope to ring a bell (I didn't manage it).
There was also a massive tank where you snorkelled amongst thousands of beautiful fish.
After the mornings excitement we spent the afternoon in the biggest Aquarium in the world.
The displays were incredible and we eventually sat down for a rest in front of the Ocean Gallery.
We watched gigantic manta rays and thousands of fish swimming about. A couple of divers appeared and suddenly it was feeding time. One diver swam with a ray and fed a fish to him right in front of my nose.

Monday 20 January 2014

Botanic Gardens, Singapore

This is third time lucky in our attempts to visit a Botanic Garden recently.  We spent ages searching in Labuan and Sandakan, but we had to give up without finding either Garden, even though they were clearly mentioned in the guidebooks.
This time it was easy as there was train station called Botanic Garden so we couldn't miss it. .
As we have come to expect in Singapore, the place was absolutely beautiful and immaculate.
We had a lovely time wandering around and the Orchid Garden has the largest display of tropical orchids in the world.
My favourites were the orchids and the enormous water lilies with leaves that were almost a metre across.
Got a bit carried away posing at the entrance - sorry.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Southern ridge walk, Singapore

I can't believe how clean, tidy and well organised it is here in Singapore. I haven't seen a single piece of litter, and the streets and pavements are immaculate.
We caught the MRT train to HarbourFront and set off on a well marked trail. We climbed a steep hill to the top, and joined other tourists who had come up on the cable car.
Our walk was mainly through beautiful jungle paths, with lots of signs warning about monkeys. After a few minutes we reached the Henderson Wave. It is a pedestrian bridge that is 36 metres high and crosses a major road. It is a beautiful structure that curves and waves across the gap.
We carried on walking and came to a raised canopy that must have been over a kilometre long. It was really busy on a Sunday morning and it was lovely to see lots of people out enjoying the scenery.
In total we walked about 10 k and we ended up at another MRT station so we hopped on a train and headed back to put our feet up.

Saturday 18 January 2014

A life in the jungle - the ballet

Last night we put on our poshest clothes and headed off for a night at the ballet.
As the crow flew it was only about a kilometre to the theatre from our hotel, but it was across a river and the bridge was nowhere nearby, so a taxi would be very expensive.
We decided to cross the river on a sampan and then walk, although the road took a very indirect route. We ended up marching along the side of a dual carriageway, and the lovely local people kept shouting 'hello' and waving at us from their cars and mopeds.
It gave the walk a festive feel and we were in a cheerful mood when we arrived.
We were lucky to get the chance to see the ballet as it is only on for three days and was last  staged 30 years ago.
It was called 'A life in the jungle' and featured over 100 dancers and a further 100 in the orchestra and choir.
The storyline had an amazing and totally impractical twist. It is based on a local legend featuring a family of pong kapong birds who forgot that they had laid an egg and left it on the top of Mount Kinabalu. I won't give away the ending in case you ever see it.
It was a great end to our month in Borneo and we have just arrived in Singapore for our next adventure.

Friday 17 January 2014

Semenggoh nature reserve

Caught an early bus to Semenggoh nature reserve as it is home to 27 orangutans, and breakfast is served at 9am.
For over 20 years the reserve was home to a rehabilitation centre where orphaned or young orangutans who had been rescued from captivity, were taught how to survive in the wild.
The programme has now been transferred to another centre but Semenggoh is still home to its graduates - semi wild orangutans and their babies.
It is fruiting time in the forest at the moment and the orangutans have lots of wild food to eat, so we were warned that non might turn up at feeding time.
We were lucky though and Seduku, a 43 year old female turned up with her six year old son. She has two other children, is already also a grandma and is known as the grand old lady of the park.
She came down to the platform more often than her son and at one stage she took two enormous bunches of bananas - one in her mouth and one in a foot - and carried one up the rope to him.
They both came down later and were given a coconut each that they carried high up into the trees. Seduku hit hers really hard against the tree trunk to crack it open and the young one went to do the same, but dropped it.
Instead of picking it up, he went over to his mum and I am sure ended up eating most of hers.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Bako National Park

Caught a bus this morning to Bako National Park. Whilst waiting at the bus stop we met a lovely couple, Mr and Mrs Du Lac from Spain/Greece and we stayed together for the whole day.
Once we arrived at the Park entrance we had to take a boat for the next step. Unfortunately, the tide was out so we had to wait at least an hour before we could set off.  Once aboard we shot along at high speed until we came to a sudden stop. The water was too shallow so the captain had to punt us along the coast until we landed at a beach and then splashed ashore.
The captain explained that as the tide was coming in and the sea would get very rough, then we could only stay for three hours.
There was a little settlement by the beach and we picked up a map. We trekked along a tiny path - up and down rickety ladders, and over huge roots and rocks - until we got to a deserted beach. Well, deserted apart from a bearded pig wandering around, and two proboscis monkeys in the trees.
On the path back we walked right past another pig and I was mindful of the signs saying 'beware of wild animal attacks'.
We then had to find our way over another jungly hill and through a mangrove forest to a tiny gap in the trees where our little boat was waiting.
The journey home was dramatic as the waves were about two metres high. Our driver had a clever technique and surfed us home on the back of the waves. along the coast.
It was really exciting, but I was pleased to be wearing a life jacket.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

River cruise

We got discounted tickets for a sunset river cruise tonight. Unfortunately, it is monsoon season and the sun didn't put in an appearance, but at least it didn't rain.
We set off from Kuching city centre and although the scenery was interesting, I can't honestly say it was very photogenic.
On our return journey we were treated to some traditional dancing and it did cheer up the whole event.
Afterwards we had our photos taken with dancers, and I apologise for the wardrobe malfunction, as I am wearing the same clothes as yesterday.