Malaysia Fantasia

A long lost world of old,
That is ancient and bold.
Palm tree lined beaches,
In South East Asia’s furthest reaches.
Lot’s of rain and lots of sun,
Many water sports and surfing fun.

Hatchlings of turtles swimming round in circles.
Clear water snorkkling, jungle treks for walking.
Hot stinking humid weather,
Sun soaking soilders on a mission who ain’t too clever.

Monitor lizards walk on the land,
Looking for an all over tan.
Black-tip sharks, no dogs, no barks,
Only cats on the streets, looking like they’ve had enough to eat.

Multicultural people prey in mosques with steeples,
all working together, to make things better.
Lots of nice new cars, drivers driving like they’re from Mars.
In and Out in and out, weaving, shaking it about.

Trade from India and china so we’ve been told,
A British colloney 200 years old.
Not many markets, hawkers or bizzares,
just shopping Malls and drive thru McDonalds for people who live inside their cars.

Overnight buses with reclining chairs,
V.I.P., Super V.I.P., or just cheap fares.
The food is tasty, fresh, delicious and nice,
Expensive alcohol but foods a fair price.
Island Monkey Juice is a specialty,
3 or more you’ll be lucky to still see.

Small people with skinny waists,
buying clothing labels stating ‘Bad taste’.
Pimped up cars from Honda’s to Protons,
Skreetching tyres then they’re gone.

Vegetation all green and lush,
At monsoon time the ground a slush.
Helpful people Malaysian’s are,
Some give you a free ride in their tiny cars.

S.E.A Food and Eat It

My mouth was watering before I had even left the UK thinking about South East Asian food (or S.E.A food…geddit!). I mean who doesn’t love the delicious spice of Thai food and who hasn’t almost been able to taste the Hairy Bikers’ offerings on their tour through the region (how wrong that sounds!). So expectations were running high… especially after 3 months in the culinary powerhouse of India.

Rex eating Hanoi Fish

Touchdown was in Hanoi, the loud and unapologetically crammed northern Vietnam centre. Here was the start of what was to become the Beef Noodle Soup trail (or Andy’s worse nightmare). Things started well with Foodie Father Bannister in tow. Night 1 saw us munching on local river fish steamed with coriander, celery and herbs and served with noodles, more fresh herbs and local beer… a great start indeed. Hanoi also had what we christened ‘Street Duck; which was hard to resist… crispy, golden and sliced straight into noodle soup again with lashings of cheap cheap beer. Sadly after our delicious Christmas Eve seafood fest on a junk boat on Halong Bay; things went downhill quickly. All the fish in Vietnam was delicious, especially Elephant Ear Fish with rice pancakes and fresh veggies, but otherwise Vietnam was noodle, noodle, noodle, noodle. So in the end, we resorted to Indian Food!

Street Duck

Next stop was Cambodia… ashamed but full and happy… our first meal in the capital of Phnom Penh was pie, mash and beans! Come on people, we’ve been away for over 4 months at this point! Quick cultural and gastronomic recovery came in the form of fabulous Fish Amok… a truly tasty, creamy, coconutty dish basked in banana leaves. We consumed alot of fresh spring rolls in Cambodia too and of course Angkor Beer!

Phnom Penh Pie

So it was now time for Laos PDR, reputed to be most peoples’ favourite place in S.E.A…. Laos was a lowpoint… Gastronimically speaking… not in travelling terms (remember I am focusing on food here!). The option was lazily put together bland dishes vs. omniverous terror in the form of full birds, rats or pigs innards on sticks.

When we say Omniverous... we mean Omniverous!

We landed again in Noodle Soup territory for safety and our favourite meals in Laos were decidedly un S.E.A… steak in a Belgian restaurant, Pizza in Luang Prabang… Indian (again!). Things were pulled back from the brink of taste terror by a fantastic experience.Wandering across an idyllic bridge in the Northern Laos hills; after 6 days on the road with fried rice and noodle soup, a scent wafted past me and I felt like Tom and Jerry being dragged by the scent by the nose under a roadside parasol. A Laos lady was pounding a pestle and mortar and producing seriously spicy smells. The giggly school girls waiting by beckoned us to join them and we had our first taste of Som Tam – unripe Papaya salad with palm sugar, chilli, mini shrimps. tomato and crushed nuts… bloody tasty stuff.

Tom Yam Yummy

By the time we reached Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, our tastebuds were tingling and we resolved to eat as much Thai curry as was humanly possible in 5 days. This was easy, fun, clean and satisfying – plus the spice levels shot up about seven notches which made Andy a happy boy… he just LOVES to burn off his tastebuds! I did my cooking class for a day on an organic farm, which was just an excuse to eat all day really … and we left rounded and happy for our final S.E.A stop.

Malaysia is reputed to be the culinary highlight of S.E.A and top on foodie holiday lists. Now this part of the trip is not quite over as we have 9 days left here, but so far Malaysia is perfectly positioned for our tummies. Chinese, Malay and Indian food fuses together and we have had spare ribs in Kuala Lumpur, freshly caught BBQ’ed fish in the Perhentians and Muhtarak pancakes in Kota Bharu. We are currently in Penang savouring the local delicacies. Arriving fresh off an 8 hour overnight coach, we plonked ourselves in Tai Tong… a famous DimSum restaurant in Chinatown. This place did not disappoint – as we sat on our Formica table, ladies marched past with trolleys full of steaming dimsums, savoury buns and sweet treats, whilst we guzzled down chinese tea… and the meal cost less than 4 squid… despite us eating enough to sink a ferry! We have of course been to Little India for some tandoori chicken and sampled the local specialties like fried oysters with egg.

With less than 2 months left on the trip and some decidedly un-exotic locations on the list, we at least know now what to do if we can’t find anything local that we fancy…. go Indian! So Bradford is really a good place to be returning to!

Super Duper Perhentians

The Perhentian Islands… how to describe them…. bliss!

After almost 6 months of travelling, we have only really chilled out 4 times … otherwise it has been nonstop; so we had prescribed ourselves a few days on the islands following numerous recommendations from various friends and travellers.

They didn’t dissapoint! Approaching the Perhentian Kecil (or small island) by speedboat from the mainland (after no sleep on a ahem ‘sleeper bus’ which dumped us in the dark at the jetty about 2 hours early), it looked like a haven for knackered travellers. A stretch of gorgeous beach and jungles in the background, plus the clearest ocean we have seen on the trip.

At the start of the season (you can only visit outside the monsoon), it was still pretty busy and we were lucky to get a bed. Our room was cheap by Malaysian standards at 35RM (7 pounds) but next to a generator and also a family of giant monitor lizards…. bloody huge they were! But once we put some fairy lights up it was transformed into our little home for 5 days.

There is not much to do on the island if you are not interested in snorkelling or diving, or doing nothing… lucky all of those things were on our ‘to do’ list. Once we caught some zzzz’s we headed down to our own private beach to laze on the white sand and have a little dip. Only 4 minutes in the water and I got bitten by a damsel fish… the little ba**ard drew blood and everything… and I was worried about sharks!

That evening we had fresh fish bbq’ed on the beach and watched the stars… very relaxing indeed and well earned we thought.

Day 2 was action day… or snorkelling day.. I will let Andy elaborate on that here ?????

You get on a boat with your flippers, your mask and your bent pipe and then you jump in the water at 6 different sights looking for crazy fishy things like 8 foot black tip sharks….. This perticular one swam almost through my legs. Luckily for me I’d just been to the toilet….

think were gonna need a bigger boat

 

 

 

 


 

then it’s off looking out for giant turtles. The key to this was to see the black spot on the bottom of the sea. I was the first to identify where they were which earnt me a turtle beer…. Woohoo…. They always strike me as being stoned, when you look at them but I never seen a pot-head move so fast when you try to shake their fin (hand). Lovely creatures…..

somebody want to hold my hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another sight was searching out stingrays. This time we kept our distance as the guide prodded with a stick under the mushroom shaped coral. They were only small, but yet also potential hard arses.

you can call me sting, as in the singer from the Police

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clown fish and parrot fish where common and also very interesting to see along with giant clams and colourful coral. An excellent trip.

clown fish protecting their land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

who's a pretty boy then?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that evening we headed to the other side of the island in search of ‘Monkey Juice’, the local liquor made from palm sugar. We found a little bar shack called Black Tip and met up with some seriously crazy blokes on a month long bender… the night descended into chaos with 3 buckets of the Monkey Juice and resulted in me going t-total and both Andy and I in pain until well into the afternoon of day 3!

 

To help burn off some of that Perhentian belly blub we went kayaking on the 4th day and then some more snorkelling of our own. The high light was clearly when we noticed we were right next to a giant turtle which was in about 5 foot of water near the shore. It let us swim with him before going out too deep for me to go. I wished I had an underwater camera at that point. However there are some pics that we’ve borrowed for the experience.

So rested and revived, we are now heading to Penang – fabled to have the best food in South East Asia… so all the weight I have lost will be going straight back on again then!

Chang Mai Trek

Although it was going to be a short trip to Thailand we tried to fit in as much whole goodness as possible in the 5 days available……so…..after a good nights sleep from downhill mountain biking and cooking it was time for us to set off on our 2 day/1 night trek into the high hill jungles of Chang Mai.

It was going to be very exciting….

The first part of the trip involved being picked up in an old pick-up van and taken to a crappy market to buy essential things like bottle water carriers and pig bums???(You’ll have to look at the pics later). The journey almost left a couple of the group behind after the hinge on the door mysteriously opened….

There was around 10 of us, some French, some Chilean and some English (i.e. us). It was probably the first time that we’ve been in the minority but made the best of the situation. It didn’t stop Rach from practicing her French which was quite enjoyable for me.

After an hours drive, we bailed out and boarded the Elephant river express. It was a very amusing experience…..we got to feed it bananas, and as we did it seemed to work much better. As soon as we ran out though, the elephant went on strike and stalled half way up a steep hill….causing total grid lock. It was a real tourist trap and we both felt a little guilty afterwards but saying that the elephants looked in good shape. We sat down for lunch which believe it or not was rice. The group all got on well and the ice had been broken. It was now time for the hard trek up hill to the hill village through the jungle. We were ready…….or so we thought.

Looking at the group, it became obvious that we were in the top 3 oldest and that the whipper snapper’s were leading the chase. The humidity was a real problem. Sweat was streaming and my pants were soggy too but we soldiered on and made it to the hill tribe village where we could shower and prepare for the evenings food and entertainment and watch the sun set with a cold beer. The villagers were very friendly and offered us massages at the price of about 3 pounds…..this however was only for 30 minutes but what the heck, it doesn’t get much better than this. The food was delicious and our guide who was called Nam, got on his guitar and played a traditional song called DA DA DA DA TA TUM which had us all singing along. A couple of us also chipped in with a few songs and that helped make the local whiskey go down a treat. The night sky was absolutely clear and the stars were like diamonds which made this a very special night. The bedroom was just a bamboo hut with mattresses but very comfy.

We arose early, had breakfast, and set of on our way down hill to where we would be doing rafting. The jungle trekking was interesting. The trees had vines hanging so I quickly did a Tarzan impression and collided with a tree, ouch….there were fallen tree trunks, slippery slopes, all which had to be combated…..tsome of the slopes I found easier sliding on my bum……his was not a trek for the beginner. Along the way we stopped off at a beautiful water fall. Rach and I decided it would be a good time to swim in the ice cold water…..it was very refreshing.

A few hours later and we arrived at the place where the rafting was going to happen. It as however out of season as the river was low but we tried our best. We kited up. 6 in a raft plus the skipper who shouted the orders….this was important because it took all our effort to get the thing to move over the first rock. But once we’d freed we went down the rapids at high velocity….or maybe it was at low velocity…….I know we’ll be doing this again in New Zealand and hopefully it will be more scary than the Teapot ride at Light Water valley. It was still good fun because we were racing the other raft with the young lads in it. We won, but for our victory we got thrown out at the end. To finish the day we did a slow cruise down the shallow part of the river on a bamboo raft with a pole…..Lunch was included and what??? RICE again.

If anyone wants to do the trekking I would definitely say do it….great value, about 25 pounds each and a good way to keep fit. Make sure you have good shoes though. Not like the guy who did it in flip-flops and mangled his toe….

Kuala Lumpur Life

4 days in the Capital of Malaysia and we are really enjoying some city living.  Its a real melting pot of culture; based on the Malay, Chinese and Indian population who co-exist in a very hectic metropolis indeed. The only problem is that it seems to be growing faster than it can cope with!

There are different transport networks owned by different companies and buildings shooting up all over the place… however it still seems to manage to feel very friendly and so long as you are fairly fit and can cope with the ridiculous heat… you can walk pretty much anywhere. Why bother though when you can travel 5 stops on the monorail for 50p (British Transport… take note) Day 1 was just an evening so we filled up on Chinatown dinner and then went to check out the Petronas Towers all lit up and sparkly.

Day 2, we headed to the Batu Caves, easily accessible by train. We were told is was one not to miss… not told that we were visiting this Hindu site on one of the Guru’s birthdays! It was crazy busy with worshippers, parades, food stalls and queues of Indians eating curry. We managed to bypass the queues to climb the 260 steps up to the giant caves, past the cheeky monkeys (it all felt very Indian) which houses various mini temples inside. The cave is a towering hollow with trees visible through the roof and it is a good sight cooler than the outside, so definitely worth the climb – plus admission is free (good for the dwindling budget!).

We then found a sign pointing to Ramayana Cave… not mentioned in the Lonely Planet… which someone pointed out probably means it is worth visiting (tee hee). The cave was 1 RM admission (about 20 pence) and it was like a wonderland of ‘tack’.. all colourful plaster models of Hindu religious stories, complete with a giant natural waterfall and a lot of twinkly rope lights!

Heading back into the city, we wandered around looking at the giant KL tower and the shopping area… so many malls… so much shopping… not for us though :)… just dinner and home!

Day 3 was a day of relaxation and planning, but we managed to fit in a trip to the lovely Lake Tittiwangsa. This is a great viewpoint and photography spot for the KL skyline, so we contemplated the view whilst eating ice cream. Suddenly, something surfaced in the lake… something rather large which looked like a giant snake. Amazingly turtles and huge lizards live in the lake, just swimming around, unbothered by the visitors… apart from Andy, who followed them getting lots of footage on the video camera!

The climate here is almost tropical… very hot and humid… so unsurprisingly, it pisses it down every afternoon… a fact that we had forgotten whilst caught on the other side of the city… we got so wet that it didn’t matter anymore… so headed walking in the rain to catch the monorail. The commuters were thrilled to see the puddles that we left on the seats – especially when the carriage was full of people.

Today, we may head for some green space at the KL bird garden and go and buy a pile of books, because this evening we head off to the beaches of the Perhenthian Islands, off the east coast… we have definitely earned some beach life… the last time we properly relaxed was  well over a month ago! Since then we have spent 12 days on a motorbike, covered serious ground by overnight bus, done 2 days trekking, ridden an elephant, gone whitewater rafting and been on a airplane… phew… ready to chill!

A poem about Chang Mai – Thailand

Come to Thailand and visit Chang Mai,
Eat lots of green Thai curry that might make you cry.
It’s spicy and tasty, they’ve got the lot,
So be a ‘man’ and ask for it hot hot hot.

Bottles and bottles of big beer Chang,
Dare to drink more than 4 if you can,
Cocktails at the roadside from the mobile bars,
Loads of late night shopping from the busy bizzar’s

Glampackers and bucketstackers in every guest house,
drinking and chatting about the price of an ‘Ounce.’

‘Special’ massage parlour,
On every street corner,
Selling happy endings including face, neck, shoulder, and back,
Finally finishing off with an and empty ‘sack’.

‘Old fat bald men’ and lady boys,
looking to use each other as toys.
There’s loads of sport bars and lots of slot machines,
Of a different variety if you know what I mean (wink, wink)

Sexy young girl, or could be a bloke???
Wearing a black mini dress and having a smoke.
Shopping for wallets, handbags, watches or tourist ‘tat’.
Terrible T-shirt ‘tag’ lines and ridiculous hats.

Street food is great and ‘Oh so’ cheap,
Suspicion arises about where they get their meat.
Tuc-tucs and scooters but only a few,
Some 2 wheel creations that look really cool.

Lots of wicked tours out up in the hills,
Including elephant jungle treks, swing like a ‘Gibbon’ to give you a thrill.

The sun is hot all day until dusk,
The Thai people very friendly and who you can trust.
It’s in their nature to have loads of fun,
With the tigers and elephants in Thailand Kingdom.

Extreme Mountain biking Chang Mai style verses cooking

Another day and it’s time to do some more crazy 2 wheel action, this time with no pillion. And no engine….

We arrived in Chang Mai Thailand from Laos after a somewhat enormous 23 hours of traveling on a collection of South East-Asia’s motorised transport systems. These consisted of tuc-tuc van, bus, boat, tuc-tuc bike, bus and finally foot and resulted in sweat and sticky pants….

Our time in Thailand was going to be brief so it was down to business and book some excursions asap….

I chose the mountain biking whereas Rachel chose the Thai cooking class.

Andy – Biking it up large!

All kitted up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day started well for us with a nice breakfast of tea and fruit musili and then I  got collected from the hotel to the bike hire shop for a briefing and bike/equipment collection. It was probably the first time in nearly 6 months that we’d both been away from each other for more that 10 hours….it was a nice but also a strange feeling……the biking tour ranged from different abilities and included a selection of different routes.  The route I chose was for the extreme!!! As it said in the leaflet.

A small group of 7 collected our gear, including knee and elbow pads as well as helmets and boarded the van which was going to carry us up to the summit of one of the local mountains 1600m meters above sea level up in the Thailand mountain range. The bikes were stacked on the roof. Once at the summit, we tried to make the strange safety pads fit our alien bodies and waited in anticipation to receive our 2 wheeled friends. As the tours in Thailand have a good safety record and high standard of equipment (nothing like India), an assessment of our ability on a mountain bike was carried out. This meant riding down a small slope and riding over a log without falling off…..I passed with flying colours…..however some didn’t and therefore advised on which route to go on.

My group of intrepid bikers

The groups were arranged and off we went. One guide at the front and one at the back making sure the fallen were not left behind. I tried to keep in the front so that the dust didn’t end up in my mouth or my eyes. The satisfaction gained from riding downhill on a good bike and controlling it ‘on the edge’ was awesome. The irony of the day was from one of the guides who happened to be from Wakefield in England. He gave a big speech about not backing off or slowing down for the bumps on this particular part of the track, he set off and I followed behind….during his steep decent he managed to crash into a small tree and I almost ran him over….

The only problem with the tour was that the guide at the front had to stop quite often so the group behind could catch up and also not get lost. This is why the tour took several hours instead of just 1 hour. The final location was down to a beautiful lake 400 meters above sea level where we ate delicious Thai chicken-rice.

When I get back home I’ll definitely make it a priority to get out into the Yorkshire Dales and do some Extreme Mountain Biking Northern style as well.

Rach – Cooking up a Storm

What can I say that cannot be said through the medium of pictures.

Nice outfit for cheffing

ingredients....

... become dishes

I came… I cooked… I ate…. I slept in a hammock… I will be cooking these dishes for a lucky few when we get home!
xx

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