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Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia

MALAYSIA | Friday, 16 January 2015 | Views [386]

We had a bowl of chendul in Penang

We had a bowl of chendul in Penang

Langkawi is a cluster of islands belonging to Malaysia, off the northwest coast near the Thai border. 

Instead of doing the standard bus tour, we did something with a little more outdoor flavor.  We got on a small motor boat (only 6 pax) and cruised down a river past lots of mangroves.  The dense mangroves were instrumental in saving Langkawi from much of the tsunami devastation in recent years past.  Then our boat driver threw bits of chicken out onto the water, and we watched two species of eagles dive for them and carry them off.

Next stop was debarkation to walk through some bat caves, not as big as what we’ve got in the western hemisphere, but quite nice anyway.  Then on to a floating fish farm in brackish water on the river, where we saw horseshoe crabs, moray eels, grouper, and a host of other fish.  After that, back to the ship for dinner and Anita’s favorite—an evening show featuring a man and his banjo!

Next day in Penang, we got our own guide to take us around and show us the city.  (We’ve had a bellyful of the ship’s buses, and our annoying fellow passengers.  Anita actually had to tell a man on the bus the other day “Let’s use our manners today, shall we?”   But that’s another story.)  Our guide took us up onto a hill outside the city for yet another Buddhist temple, but we were very pleasantly surprised—this was the most beautiful and pristine temple we have seen so far on this trip.  We are still in the land of the skinny Buddha with headdress, in the Thai style:  the fat Buddha is more the Chinese style, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of him later on.  For 123 years, this temple has been growing up the mountainside, with lots of stairs between buildings, shrines, grottos, and gardens—it covers lots of area, encompasses lots of rooftops, and probably contains several thousand Buddha images.  Stone carvings in and around the buildings and shrines are exquisite, with dragons, fish, monks, Buddha, monkeys, lotus flowers, and all sorts of images everywhere you look.

Our guide then took us deep into the city for Chinese paper lanterns and joss sticks (special shopping request).  We now own eight beachball-sized lanterns, which, even collapsed, will be a challenge to get packed.   Then he pulled over to the side of a busy street and told us to go buy a bowl of chendul—he pointed out that the particular roadside stand that he wanted us to go to was “famous”, that is, was used by lots of people so it much be good.  The young man in the cart took about 15 seconds to fill each plastic bowl with sweet beans, green gelatin noodles like soft gummi bears, sweet rice pudding, coconut milk, and chocolate sauce.  It wasn’t a great dessert, sort of bland, but I could see how it could grow on you.

Next he drove around the city a bit—we saw Little India, and Chinatown.  There’s a large ethnic Chinese population in Penang, and its reflected in the appearance of many citizens, Chinese writing on lots of store signs, and several long historical jetties, which were originally Chinese laborer homes and fishing launch points.  Over time, these have become rather fixed structures, completely built over, water is only visible if you peer intently down through the planks.  There are now stores, restaurants, the occasional Buddhist shrine, and plenty of residences jammed onto these jetties.  We walked the length of the most famous, Chow Jetty.

Next day the ship docked at Port Klang, the harbor city for the capital Kuala Lumpur.  We opted not to take the one-hour bus ride into the city for a tour.  Instead, we caught up on laundry and relaxation, since we basically had the ship to ourselves.


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