Melaka: The Last Stop of Our Malaysian Adventure

Mr Melaka

Our introduction to Melaka (also known as Malacca) is an early one. Our night bus from Penang arrives about 6am. After a McDonald’s breakfast, surrounded by many travellers heading by bus to Singapore, we jump on a local bus in the direction of our hotel. Chosen by Ben as it was in the ‘centre of everything’ it was apparent that we were walking ‘through everything’ to get to it 😀 . Poetic licence on the hotel’s part I feel! Early am, with cooler weather and Ben taking the brunt of the baggage weight we walked to our hotel. No way we would have managed this at any other time of day! Taking some respite at a street food cafe, we had some kind of sweet delight that was truly not delightful! Decidedly rotten egg like! Definitely not one of the nicer things we tried!

Rotten egg Street food!

Melaka a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are many museums with many stories. Continue reading

A Wee Malaysian Adventure

I was keen to scratch a bit more of Asia off my scratchy map… Vietnam and Cambodia first choice, their monsoon season in August led us to decide upon Malaysia for this year’s explorings instead. With an itinerary of 2 and a half days in Kuala Lumpur, 7 days in Langkawi, 2 days in Penang then 3 days in Melaka we had half of this booked before we left and booked the rest as we travelled. Finding other’s blogs the most helpful in planning our journey, it has inspired to rework those blogging fingers that have been resting for far too long…

Our journey begins in Kuala Lumpur. We choose to stay in Chinatown guided by a blog describing different areas to stay in Kuala Lumpur. Our Malaysia book suggests we head to the nearby Merdeka Square. Overseen by the Pitcher Plant fountain and the gaze of officials, the grassy square is surrounded by important buildings. We spent a little time there and then choose to cool down on the hop-on, hop-off bus service which was 45 ringgit. Approx £9. Taking around 2 and a half to three hours to complete the whole route we stayed on until the Petronas Towers stop. It takes a long time to travel through busy city life. Past the National Palace, skyscrapers, parks and peaceful lakes, we climbed the KL Tower to cast our view over the city. Over 100 ringgit, we found this expensive for a tourist attraction (approx £20!). A pretty good view though! A wander round Chinatown found us dinner that night.

Merdeka Square

The fountain at Merdeka Square

If you've ever seen Entrapment...

If you’ve ever seen Entrapment…

View of Kuala Lumpur

Guided by blogs, our next day’s explorings were the Batu Caves. Easily reached by the KTM Kommuter Train, ferried through a narrow walkway filled with locals selling goods to tourists (they are very good at making use of small spaces to sell items!) we were met by a large green God guarding a temple. Many monkeys! The reviews I had read made the stairs sound quite an effort but it wasn’t as bad as I expected! It was a bit overcast when we were there which probably helped and was very welcome :-). Much to wander around for free we also chose to explore the priced ‘dark cave’. It was cool to see the cave but the ongoing stops to look at insects and cave life got a little annoying. Individual preference though… Great to explore, with the many colourful carvings everywhere, these caves should definitely be added to your KL itinerary. Back by lunchtime, it takes approximately half a day to explore.

Sri Maha Mariamman Temple and Sze Ya Temple squeezed in, we explored the butterfly garden in the afternoon (good to make some cool macro pictures), we had a peaceful walk through the Botanics, chose dinner in Little India then headed to the towers via the train to catch the last light show. Choosing to sit so I could see the towers in the background, most people were in front of them, with the building’s height behind them. Nice colours, interesting music – it was a great way to end our time in KL.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

KL pointers:

  • Allow enough time to clear immigration on leaving. It took us an hour.
  • The train is inexpensive and easy to travel via. Avoids the taxi meter challenge!
  • The gardens beside the Petronas Towers shut at 10pm. If you are watching the light show position yourself somewhere not in it to avoid being hassled!
  • There are two Little India’s! We only managed one but there is definite confusion on tripadvisor and guide books!

We stayed:

Geo Hotel
Pretty good location, good A/C and wifi, but same limited choices for breakfast every day!

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Scottish Mining Museum

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater…!’ Do you know the origins of this phrase? I learnt the answer to this on our recent trip to the Scottish Mining Museum. The museum on my list for a while, we finally made it there last Sunday. Our second attempt, the first we were too late for a tour. This time, forewarned we arrived in good time to look round the museum prior to the second (and last) tour of the day at 2pm. Possibly something that should be better advertised on their website to facilitate better chosen arrival times, it would also enable tours to be fuller (it was just the two of us). A definite worthwile part of the experience, I’m sure a guide rather than your own feet carrying you makes this a richer experience.

The museum set across two floors, it tells the story of colliers, coal and mining; reminds of the many uses of coal (tar, soap, antiseptics, plastic and many more); paints a picture of gases that can be dangerous; tells of the many stories of accidents and deaths and also of how mining has been modernised and changed throughout the years. Some, of course, through the result of changes to legislation.

With a mix of sounds, text boards, interactive displays and videos, it seemed to just know when the interface needed to be changed to keep you interested. I read a lot, particularly of the story of women in the mines. Reading and watching, reminded of the hard graft, it definitely felt like something children who think they are worked hard should be made to be absorbed in.

A little bit more of the wise and having been told why not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (typically washed last in a very very very dirty bathtub after the older to younger generations of their mining families preceding them), our guide Andrew, a retired miner showed us round Lady Victoria pithead. Past trainlines, coal trucks, tunnels and machines, he informed of the site’s history and so absorbed me in his tales I felt it rude to take any pictures during this time. Very very cold though, I advise you to wrap up warm!

Obtaining admission cheaper through using a groupon, this is a definite worthwhile few hours visit. Especially so to serve as a reminder if you’re feeling hard done by!

Wonderful Wanderings

That need to explore hasn’t left me… I am still shocked by how much of my own country I haven’t seen…! Since returning, I have been doing my best to rectify that… As far north as Dundee, to Blackpool and Croome in the South, to trying to cover a bit more of Edinburgh’s bounds… A weekend feels wasted if I haven’t explored a new place :-).

Top of my list, of course, was the new addition to the Scottish landscape since I’ve been away of the ‘kelpies’. Two 30m high horse head sculptures in Falkirk. Personifying local and national equine history, they also represent the lost industries of Scotland. Not quite as tall as anticipated, there is something very quite cool about them. They have been very popular since their creation, so much so they are soon to be getting their own visitor centre where you can learn more of their story.

Looking for places for a weekend visit, I didn’t realise how near to Edinburgh Dundee was. Of course anywhere feels near after time spent in Australia ;-). Off on our way, crossing the Tay Bridge, taking in the view from Dundee Law and walking the sands of Broughty ferry, I was interested to learn of the tales of the Antarctic in the Discovery museum. I didn’t realise Captain Scott had spent two years there… Tales of eating turtles and penguins, they apparently didn’t find them too tasty!

Also learning of jute (the raw material for making potato sacks) in Dundee’s Verdant Works, I hadn’t even heard of it, never mind know that Dundee had depended on it for its industry. A really well told story of the history, I will now appreciate the effort that goes into making a jute bag. Do consider buying a joint pass if you’re planning on visiting both, it is slightly cheaper. Returning via the Fife coast, the towns of St Andrews, Crail, Elie and Anstruther held our attention, as well as trying out the once famous best UK fish and chips.

Having never been before, on the return journey from visiting my sister, we had a lovely afternoon in Blackpool. For sure caught in a bit of a time warp and in need of investment, that is perhaps all part of its charm. I absolutely loved the beach and of looking to the pier; reading the comedy carpet’s words and checking out the view from the tower. Very clever glass surrounded corners allowing views from multiple angles. Their 4D experience showing the illuminations at night, I would quite like to return to see them some point.

Within Edinburgh’s bounds, I have been working my way through a ‘To do’ list of places to see. Showing Ben Calton Hill (somehow I have never ever been up it?!), Edinburgh blew me away with its views! Lovely lovely spot. Loved the national monument too. Again not having been before, we popped along to Rosslyn Chapel. Propelled to fame and now doing a roaring trade thanks to Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’, it is a really really interesting building to wander around. Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside to show you, there are lots of carvings to hold your attention. Then venturing on a Firth of Forth ‘cruise’ to Inchcolm Island, it wasn’t the best weather Edinburgh has delivered (I in fact needed to wear my gloves. In June… In supposibly the height of summer 😉 ). It was genuinely though the beginnings of the ‘Birds 2’, with some territorial nesting seagulls. A word to the wise, avoid June if you can, the seagulls prevent you from exploring the entire island. Nice to return though after having not been there since I was a child :-).

However, one of the favourite ‘Edinburgh’ things I’ve done was exploring Jupiter Artland. An outdoor sculpture garden found in a book of ‘100 places to visit in Scotland’, I thought it was really really cool. A beautiful day and provided with an electronic tour guide through their app, between the life mounds and the smaller pieces of art, it is a really interesting wander. Definitely better appreciated in the sunshine than on a rainy day though!

Spending time in Bo’Ness motor museum, Glasgow’s transport museum and Kelvingrove Art gallery, we also found some cool street art outside of Tennents brewery :-).

We’ve done very well but still so much to see! Please do let me know of any suggestions :-).

Australia I Miss You…

Australia I miss you…

Birthday pondering

It’s been 5 months and 3 days since we last met. A family Christmas and a different country’s new year; exploring near and exploring far you still seem to have quite an effect on me. Without a doubt I think about you everyday.

I’ve eaten the timtams I brought home. They’re not quite the same when you’re not in Australia ;-). The TV has reminded. ‘Outback Truckers’, ‘Jimmy’s Australian food adventure’, Chris Tarrant’s ‘train journeys’ or ‘Nothing to declare’ all remind of a time that brings a smile to my face. The memories so clear, in my head it’s like I’m still there… Katherine’s stars, snakes and spiders, beautiful outback, driving tractors, ‘no worries’, to the awesomeness of Tasmania; changing hostel room companions; the variety of people, the so many awesome conversations that still make me smile.

Turns out that being home is really just not the same. Needs must but work is really just not as fun when your time off can’t be spent exploring far flung off lands. Getting used to the climate again the sun doesn’t seem to shine in quite the same way. Missing the warming tones of the sun helping your day as you head on your way. My ‘thongs’ on my feet as I walked to work in Broome, glorious sunshine overhead, music’s headphones in my ears… To wrapping up warm, staring out of the window, imagining far off warmer lands.

I suppose though perhaps what I miss more is that ‘travelling’ feeling I of course associate with your bounds. That newness of being in a new place. Of finding your own way around. Finding your favourite spot in a city, spending time there and finding your place. The peace that it brings and the contentedness of happiness of where you are or the clarity in how this might be found. The certainty of mind. The interactions with complete strangers, to friendships and connections found and of course of the association of these people with a place.

It certainly is a difficult thing coming home. They really are world’s apart. Only someone who has done it knows exactly how you feel. I understand why people don’t stay. I’m now not so sure if Edinburgh is even for me. My welcome perhaps overstayed. It certainly feels like the world is waiting for me… Stomping firmly on its feet. Saying hurry things up but yet patiently waiting for just the right time. These feet of mine are becoming ever so itchy. Where next? I suppose the big question, I’m looking forward to answering that soon.

A Last Word on Australia…

The plane climbs through the sky… The last of nine plane journeys  in the last month… Out of my window I see a full moon in the sky. Watch the meandering route of lights below. Veering to the right, the plane turns, Scotland bound… Finally heading home after a very busy six weeks, granted a minute all to myself, I reflected on my travels since leaving Georgetown and following Australia’s eastern bounds.

First Townsville with its beautiful coast, funky chairs, foaming fountains, turtles and Reef HQ, learning about coral spawning, clownfish sex changes and being back in the big city after two months of outback Queensland. The slightly disappointing Magnetic Island. Though perhaps a hire car would have been more efficient than our choice of the public bus service for exploration of this island… Stumbling across the big mango ;-). For if it’s big, one has to stop and a picture has to be made :-). Sailing around the beautiful whitsunday islands. Circumnavigating the biggest of the 72 islands that comprise the whitsunday archipelago, we saw the only two that Captain Cook decided to name. With jellyfish in season, stinger suits were an addition to our swim to the shore of Whitehaven beach! Very colourful ;-). Relaxing in the beautiful Airlie Beach lagoon; exploring the quirky Mackay, we enjoyed a very tasty breakfast in a café belonging to ‘Oscar’.

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To then driving the beautiful Capricorn Coast. Horses and dogs enjoying the water, I stood on the beach and got sandy feet :-). The town of Yepoon’s quirky shops and sandy edges drew us in for lunch and a wander. Very nice spot :-). On through Rockhampton, we diverged from the plan to see Agnes Water and the town of 1770, the second mainland point of Australia Captain Cook found. Beautiful sunset it was. Onto Bundaberg, the beautiful Botanical gardens were where we found turtles and dragons :-). Its rum distillery our next stop, a little more of the wise of the process, some tastings were enjoyed. A bottle of Royal Liquer rum may have left with me as well ;-).

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Hervey Bay keeping us only for one night, there was not much time to explore… Over 40 degrees in the tent at 7am, it was one of the earliest rises of the road trip! Then with a change of height, it was onto Rainbow Beach for a bit of skydiving! 😉 Absolutely amazing. A beautiful return from 14,000ft :-). One of my favourite days in Australia without a doubt :-). To then day tripping the beautiful world heritage listed Fraser Island. A very tasty rainbow breakfast, a few hours stop in Noosa, then Cotton Tree caravan park hosting us for the last night of the road trip. Right by the beach, loved this camping spot. One of my favourites. A great last night of the roadtrip though my last time on a beach in Australia was a little bit emotional… I will really really miss my happy place. Onward bound, the road finding us Nambour’s big pineapple, the pretty glasshouse mountains (also named by Captain Cook) took us to our journey’s end in Brisbane, before heading onto Thailand for two weeks.

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It has been an absolutely unbelievable adventure in Australia :-). The so many different experiences that I was able to learn from. The diversity of places and scenery I was able to appreciate. The amazingly diverse collection of people I met. How so many of them opened my eyes or helped me let go. Each helping on various stages of the journey. The travel bug it has now infected me with and this new longing to see a new place placed inside of me. An embracing of having choices and being able to make changes and of how to create your own happiness. It is so cliché but it’s true. I am so thankful that I decided to go. Even more so for all the help I had from many in making choices along the way. A few that led to amazing times after the not so good times… Contributing to an awesome journey full of life lessons and so many happy memories. Blogging for sure a big part of this, at times a very tumultuous task and not always so easy, it has been quite a journey in itself. One I’m glad I persisted with and am sure I will look back on with fondness. The support and continued readership much appreciated, I have loved sharing my thoughts and journey with you and hopefully shown you a little bit of Australia ;-).

Now back in Scotland with the weather making me miss Australia a lot, a globe that I bought spins on its base and makes a comforting, noise as it does. It reassuringly feels like it is ticking down to my next adventure… Back to another juncture in life, I am going to take a little bit of time to plan the next steps and make sure it is what is right. Perhaps bloggable, perhaps not, I may not post for quite a while. Perhaps the next will have a new tab on the page next to ‘Australia’. Can’t wait 😉 xx

For now, some pictures from adventuring in Thailand:

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