Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bali and Malaysia, part 4

Day 11: Durians

Tired from last night, we wander about the world's largest bird park in KL's Lake Gardens and later the Museum of Islamic Arts. Although the Lebanese lunch buffet is clearly the highlight of the museum, the exhibition is quite impressive and interesting. I was especially impressed by the collection of Arabian calligraphy in different styles and from different times and places.

We go back to the same place for dinner where I am offered a piece of disgusting Durian. I can no longer contain my curiosity, so against better knowledge I try it. It is quite an interesting taste sensation. I would say that the base taste is very close to onions that have spent about a year rotting in the bottom of a much too humid fridge, but there are other elements in there too. It also tastes of honey, almonds and cream. It would taste quite nice if it wasn't for the overpoweringly disgusting taste of rotten onions. I think you have to be insane to enjoy this horrible fruit. That almost the entire Malaysian population seem to not only enjoy it, but to love it, and to eat kilos of it every day during the season, makes me feel a little uneasy about being in this country. Apart from obviously being complete maniacs, the people are really friendly and relaxed here though.

Day 12: KL to Perhentian Kecil

I get up very early and spend the day flying to Kota Bharu in the North East of the Malaysian penninsula and then moving on to the small island (Kecil) of the Perhentians. It's a small tropical island without cars or big hotels, that reminds me of the way Gili Trawangan was ten years ago.

Day 13: Temple of the Sea

I join the morning dive for the famous dive spot Temple of the Sea, which is a big coral boomie. We don't get to see the whale shark that was spotted outside the Perhentians just a day ago, but it is a fantastic dive nonetheless. The visibility is possibly the best I have ever seen. We could easily see the bottom 20 metres below where the boat stopped for us to jump in. There's lots of fish and stuff to, like black anemone fish, boxfish, angelfish, groupers, batfish, squid, huge pufferfish and a very well camouflaged scorpion fish.

In the afternoon I walk to the wind- and solar powerplant that lies on top of a hill in the North of the island. From the powerplant, where the view of the island is great, there is a huge staircase zig-zagging down to a jetty next below so I walk down and dive in for a nice swim. I meet a French guy there who is staying at the hostel D'lagoon that lies nearby, totally isolated from the rest of the island. It seems like a really good place and if I ever come back that is where I will stay.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bali and Malaysia, part 3

Day 6: Surfing and fever

Klaus leaves for Sydney and I head down to the beach and rent a surfboard. The surf is quite bad, probably no more than 3 ft, but I have some fun. In the evening I don't have so much I am attacked by some kind of evil mix of fever and sunstroke. Later, I realise that I have caught some stomach bug and I spend the next two days being sick.

Day 9: KL

I wake up feeling hungry. What a great feeling! The rest of the day is pretty much spent booking, taking and leaving our flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, where we arrive sometime after 10 pm. Lucky for us, this is surely not too late for a meal, but the middle of prime time of KL's brilliant night markets. One of the biggest turn out to be only a few hundred metres from our hostel. Our hostel, called "Classic Inn Budget Hotel" or some generic name like that, turns out to be a brilliant place as well; really friendly staff and a great place to meet fellow travellers. Anyway, the night market is a fantastic and chaotic sight. A thick swarm of people are walking around or stitting down eating at simple plastic tables covering most of a wide street lined with a swarm of open air restaurants where another swarm of people are frying crabs, frogs, chickens and noodles and about a hundred other things. All of this exists in a beautiful and chaotic mess. As for the smells, the mix is even more beautifully messy, if possible. The smell of roast chicken, fish and fried spices is mixed with that of exhaust fumes and the rotten smell of those disgusting durian fruits.

Day 10: Drifting around in KL

During the impressive hostel breakfast I make aquaintances with Alberto the Mexican and Scottish Chris. This duo, who are in fact having their last couple of beers as I eat my breakfast, is quite entertaining and we have a long talk about diving, Scottish rock groups and whether it is a good idea to sneak into Petronas Twin Towers impersonating a mysterious Mr. White and his photographer, as Alberto suggests. The reson for this idea is that we are much too late to grab one of the few daily tickets to go up to the viewing deck of the towers' bridge, issued at 8.30 each morning. Me and Ali decide against it, in favour of just heading up the KL Tower.

Having consumed the view of the city from the KL Tower, we drift around Little India, the Colonial Quarters and Chinatown. However, we move at a snail pace and have to stop several times to cool down from the tormential sun. The first stop is in great Indian vegetarian restaurant where we are served way too much food on pieces of banana leaf, to be eaten with the right hand. The second stop is in some famous mosque, the third is the most desperate one where we run straing in to the first open building nearby that turns out to be a library, and the fourth is in the not-so-special Central Market.

A strange event occurs to us on our way home. A woman of heavy stature, possibly transvestite, stops her car and offers a ride, wavinve wildly and tells us to get in. We decline and walk on. When we over an hour later get out of the monorail station and cross the street heading for ou hostel, the very same woman drives by and honks her horn desperately, but this time she cannot stop. This mildly mysterious event was never explained, but it scared Ali frightfully for reasons that I do not fully understand. He tells me that he still has reoccuring nightmares about it, but hopefully he will recover one day and look back at this day as a happy one.

Anyway, in the evening we head back to the same night market for dinner, together with Alberto and Scott the Aussie. After feasting on crab, chicken fish and different stir fries, washed down with generous amounts of Tiger beer and coconuts with rum, we hit the town, or more precisely some place called the Beach Bar, where Jack Sparrow works as a bartender. By this I mean the actual Jack Sparrow and not just some guy dressed up like him.