Better told through pictures, it's been ages since all this happened :)
Better told through pictures, it's been ages since all this happened :)
Penang is an island off the north-west of the Malay peninsula, formerly an important port in the Straits Settlements - though this importance would later diminish in step with the rise of Melaka and Singapore. The main city is George Town, which has about 150,000 people and features a fairly typical spread of Malays, Chinese and Indians.
It's a bit sleepier and more chilled out than KL which is something I was looking forward to, and it has a bit of a reputation for having excellent food.
I found some guys playing draughts\checkers with beer caps, and instinctively took a few pics. It was only later when I realised that the guy had some fairly obvious male camel toe on display. Click through to the last photo below to see what I mean.
There's also a Leith Street in Georgetown, featuring funky lights, sleeping men and a (possibly rabid) dog
Across Malaysia there have been a fair amount of guys just asleep on the street in the shade, not homeless but just having a wee nap. Like this trishaw lad. I've got enough of these to make my own book, and I'm very tempted to do so.
At some point a number of Chinese immigrants erected wooden jetties reaching about 50m out into the sea by my estimate, and built wooden houses on them. To this day there are still people living in the houses, some of which looked pretty nice - certainly by Malaysian standards. They're not just for living in, there's a couple of wee stores too, and fisherman either cast off from the tip of the jetty or land their catch from their boats there - before selling them in markets a few minutes away.
Hostel again was pretty cool, the owner was around giving out free cocktails. Couldn't what or how many I had (or for that matter going to bed) but I found one receipt for a "Zombie" marked down from 16 Ringgit to 0 Ringgit. Anyway that night I caught a gecko, but only by the tail, which detached andwriggled on the table for about 5 minutes. I video'd, please pardon the drunken commentary "its ... just gonna be ... like ... this video with reggae and ... a tail"
Even though it's a pretty chilled place, I wanted to get out of the city so I took a bus to Air Itam and set out to climb a hill. I was aiming for Penang Hill, but after a policeman sent me the wrong way I figured any hill would do. En route I'd met a Canadian girl - Kate - so we set off together up a quiet looking road towards some hills.
A chinese man kindly directed us to a temple at the top and we blethered away for the duration of the climb. At one point he lectured us on alcohol, as I was complaining about my hangover, and proudly declared that he'd never touched the stuff. I suggested he might be missing out, but he was having none of it. The temple was lovely, as are all buddhist temples, but the view of Georgetown was obscured by trees.
We were given tea and crackers when we got there, and as our new friend went off to pray we spoke to a wee man who was missing a few teeth - he was eating his crackers by dipping them in the tea until they made a soggy tea-cracker soup which he'd then slurp down.
On my final night in Melaka I set out to have some frog, something I'd spotted in a Hawker centre a few nights previous. It was boney and just tasted like the chili soup it had been stewing in, but it was a very enjoyable meal all the same. I wish I'd ordered rice with it to soak up the soup, but I stupidly left my wallet and only had enough Ringgit for my frog and a beer. Whoops!
I was only staying there for 3 days, all I wanted to do was eat and drink - the rooftop bar had a nice view of the city - the KL tower and the Petronas Towers. I didn't actually go visit the Petronas Towers myself.
I did however check out the National Mosque and some giant flagpole (sadly my lens had fogged up due to the humidity difference between the cool air-conditioned hostel and the cosy KL climate). This was where I got my lovely, but confusing leaflet. When you show up to the mosque with shorts on you get given big purple robes, so it's easy to identify our group :)
A short drive north of the city are the Batu Caves, a Hindu holy site with a massive buddha ... and monkeys!
Next up, Penang!
note: Again I've fallen behind my posting, i'm not currently in KL :)
Melaka (or Malacca) is a former Portuguese, Dutch and British colonyin the southern part of the Malay peninsula, just a few hours by bus from Singapore. The bus journey wasn't particularly interesting, unless you were really into palm oil plantations. Like really into palm oil plantations. I had the bus to myself though, so I chilled out and caught up with some podcasts I'd been meaning to listen to.
Shortly after checking into my hostel, a group of us cycled along the Melaka River to a hawker centre where all manner of amazing Malaysian food could be had for around 5 Ringgits (I call them Ringos) - which is around £1. The paths that line the riverbanks are beautifully lit up at night, and it's so peaceful you forget you're in a bustling city of half a million people.
Next day, I woke up late and went out to do my usual wander. On my way out the Hostel owner told me to come back in a couple of hours for a book launch - "Free food" he said. Fair 'nuff. I went out to Kampung Morten and took some pics in the meantime.
The book launch was...weird. Apparently the local author Bonny Wee had penned "Melaka: A World Heritage City 2012" (apparently a sequel to "Melaka: A World Heritage Site 2009") and was keen to launch it with some fanfare so the courtyard where we were sat was bustling with press, locals in traditional dress, and confused foreign tourists who'd been ushered in by smiling Malays wearing "I love Melaka!" t-shirts and promising free food. Nothing, as we were to soon find out, is ever free.
The ceremony was long and protracted, the main speaker (some kind of government official for Melaka state) waffled on for a couple of hours about the area and really pushed the book like his life depended on it. At one point he was talking about how fat people in Malaysia are (note: people in Malaysia are not fat), and how he was slim to make an example for everyone else (note: he is not slim). He then talked about the Melakan food, and suggested that you really shouldn't need to buy the book as the author had already been bribed by local restauranteurs to big them up. I thought he might be drunk, or at the very least slightly mental.
At the end of the speech a big bang occurred (firework, perhaps?) and the Indiana Jones theme kicked in through the PA system. A guy in a cowboy hat emerged from a fake well carrying a box, inside the box were some faux antiques and the book. It was pretty surreal, but the press were lapping it up.
Still, I got a chicken thing shaped like a love heart which was nice - it being Valentine's Day and all.
Next day I went wandering again, down to where the Melaka River meets the sea. I saw a fisherman who managed to net a decent amount of mud but no fish. Right by where he was fishing was a shrine of some kind, flanked on either side by bottles of yellowing water.
Back in town there was a photography exhibition I checked out, which had a balcony with a nice view of the main square.
Outside there was a lady on a moped necking a bottle of Vodka.
In Chinatown I found a decaying house and had a wee nosey around. I've no idea what happened, it was far grander than any of the buildings around it.
That night I went to another Hawker Centre for dinner. They're basically just covered areas where a number of vendors sell different kinds of freshly made food and it's dirt cheap. Sometimes there's people on hand to bring you beer, too. I had Laksa Nyonya, a spicy noodle soup.
And on the way home some long exposures for fun
After a month and a half in Aus I fancied something a bit different, so I formulated a wee plan. I hopped on a jetstar flight to Singapore from Perth. My flight insomnia sadly continued so after I landed at 5am and checked in at 6am I was so close to collapsing on my bunk for a nap. Figuring that this would be a waste, I chugged a Red Bull and took the MRT into Chinatown.
Watching a city like Singapore gradually wake up over the course of a few hours is very cool. Hawkers putting tables and chairs out, merchants opening the shutters of their shops, hungover guys in suits nursing their hangover with a coffee. I watched some guys putting up wooden poles for scaffolding.
I danced around in the background of a Chinese lady's TV news report
I saw what is possibly the largest amount of air-con units in one place ever down a backalley
My wandering took me towards some cool temples, one of which had a sleepy guy outside taking a wee nap. In the middle of Singapore. At lunchtime.
One of the weird things about Singapore is how close the gleaming skyscrapers of the financial district are to some of the old merchants warehouses.
Little India, Arab Street and Chinatown
We went on a cycle tour of Singapore led by Tony (or "T-Bone" as I preferred to call him) from the hostel.
Singapore was another place I loved, even though it's only tiny there's so much to see and do. I was a little sad to see the back of it, which was a little unexpected - I had previously read William Gibson's article in Wired about Singapore titled "Disneyland With The Death Penalty" which painted Singapore as a fairly bland, soulless place. A lot has changed since that was written, as I found it to be vibrant, exciting and steeped in history.
Saw haydn for the first time in years!
And went to Rottnest Island with Heather
My visit to Melbourne was perfectly timed, as the Australian Open was on. I went to a few matches, firstly Lleyton Hewitt vs Cedric-Marcel Stebe at the Rod Laver Arena with Kara. The match finished at about 11.30pm, but they went ahead and played the next scheduled match anyway (Serena Williams vs .... someone).
I'd later go with the Snowman that I "won" in Ben's pub to watch Andy Murray taking Edouard Roger Vasselin to pieces.
One night Ant decided we should write about our adventures with beer, so we bought a bunch and wrote stupid stuff about it on another blog.
The laneways are plastered in Graffiti like this weird anatomical diagram of a 6 legged horse
Oh and I went on the great ocean road surfing for a couple days with some cool people
Lastly I went to St Kilda and saw penguins, found out that Kangaroos use hand dryers, went up Australia's tallest building, saw a redback spider and discovered how to correctly use the toilet.
I'm a little behind, so the next couple of posts will be in a slightly abbreviated form.
FNZ offices in Wellington have the FNZ turbine logo with post-its:
Wellington cable car!
We planned a trip to the South Island around an ultimately ill-fated swim with Dolphins in Kaikoura. On the way we'd go to Blenheim to do a Sauvignon Blanc wine blending at Wither Hills which was cool.
The lucky residents of this Blenheim motel will have internet for a whole night!
The weather was terrible in Kaikoura so the swim was sadly cancelled, though it cleared up quick enough that we were able to enjoy the beach before our train to Christchurch.
In the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch, Audrey enjoyed dressing up. There were also little disabled penguins with missing flippers and things.
Back in Wellington we went through the Mt Victoria tunnel a few times, people toot their car horns when they go through it. Apparently they do it just to get a wee response from other drivers.
I really loved being in NZ, and wished I had spent a little more time there. Maybe next time eh :)
Brisbane was a bit painful for the first couple days or so due to jetlag and the fact that I went without sleep for the previous 48 hours or so. I was close to sleeping on the Dubai-Singapore-Brisbane flight, but each time this Russian lady kept waking me up to speak to me in Russian. I had to fill in her landing card (it says something along the lines of "THIS IS A LEGAL DOCUMENT" - so I'm pretty much a fully qualified international lawyer now). I couldn't mime the word for "job" so in the "occupation" field I just put "Teacher" but I was very tempted to put "Terrorist" for the manner in which she terrorised my flight. Anyway when I got there for the most part I just slept, occasionally waking up to have a couple of beers on the roof with whoever was in my room.
I did manage to do a bit of wandering around Brisbane, the Gallery of Modern Art had a Matisse exhibition which was excellent and the QUT Art Museum had some interesting stuff. But I was still a bit unsettled so I was glad to meet up with Elizabeth and drive up to Nambour.
First thing we did was sit on the back porch, have a cold beer watch the Kookaburras. Turns out Australia has a few good beers.
On Christmas day Dave & Veronica (Ant's parents) were kind enough to have a present for me (beer :)), as did Ant + Kara (beer also), and I got them a Lemon tree which I thought to be quite fitting. I also fed a magpie.
We found some golf clubs and took aim at a gum tree in the garden. I hit a chicken.
The Cuskelly's garden has a little creek which had started flowing pretty heavily due to heavy rain over the last few days, so we made a little wooden boat. Sadly it failed to run the rapids which seemed to disappoint Anthony. Over christmas lunch we talked about boats and Anthony fancied that we could put together lego boats which would make it all the way along the creek. Sadly he were wrong, my crocodile-powered-catamaran effort was particularly dismal (Elizabeth also opted for croc-power, and hers was similarly ill fated).
On Boxing Day we had a BBQ with Ant's relatives, who were all very lovely and we rolled out a 50m sheet of plastic for a Slip 'n' Slide in the back garden:
Over the next few days we'd do a bunch of things on the Sunshine Coast, visit Kondalilla Falls, go swimming on the beach at Noosa, climb Mount Cooroora, go offroading on 40 mile beach, visit Brisbane and go ice skating!
When I left Nambour to go back to Brisbane I went to the Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary to go hug a koala. I met up with a wee Taiwanese girl while I was there and we wandered around together playing with the animals for the rest of the afternoon.
Audrey would go on to describe the pic of me and the Koala as "Gay". I also saw a kangaroo with a large joey in its pouch, reminded me of a scene from Family Guy:
Next up was New Zealand...
First up a self-portrait. I call this "'Sean McLemon' by Sean Mclemon" by Sean McLemon.
Dubai is quite confusing. Like the guy responsible for planning had watched a few too many american films and said "Hey, I want my city to be like that", so they came up with a bulleted list of things to add:
I guess the malls make sense (air-conditioned shopping to beat the desert heat) and the metro is pretty cool but from my brief sojourn the city itself feels a wee bit unconnected and walking around it just feels wrong.
It should be noted that the Burj Khalifa is insane and would be equally impressive and amazing in any city around the world. Just look at it:
Other must-see "I'm flying to Dubai" highlights:
Badass security guy in adorable wee three-wheel scooter
This dude snoring really loudly
I picked up a hitchhiker
UAE coins have no numbers on them of course use Arabic numerals so you tend to be unaware of whether you're a millionaire or whether you've just enough money for a can of coke. I'm going with "millionaire" as it allows me to continue shovelling kilos of caviar down my gullet and washing it down with Dom Perignon without all that pesky guilt. We'll see when this guy brings the bill over.
[update: he's not happy but I reckon I can outrun him so I fancy my chances].
[update 2: caviar + fizz = slow runnings. also you don't get a phone call in UAE jails but they let you update your blog WTF PEOPLE]
[update 3: ok none of that was actually true]