Malaysia was our next destination after Nepal. After almost two months in Nepal, it was interesting to see the contrast between Kathmandu and Kuala Lumpur (KL). KL is a big city like Kathmandu, but it was quite different in many respects. The roads in Nepal are extremely busy and can be in rough shape. For example, we had just finished the 200 km bus ride from Pokhara to Kathmandu that took eight hours. In KL, the taxi ride from the airport to downtown is approximately 50 km, and it only took about 40 minutes. It felt strange to be driving fast on smooth roads again. KL is a very modern city with excellent infrastructure, including a very good subway system. Furthermore, we were shocked to see that there are malls everywhere. There seems to be as many malls in KL as Starbucks in an American city. We also realized that people in Malaysia tend to drive everywhere and they go to the mall a fair bit. I'm sure this has a lot to do with the weather. It is very hot and humid in Malaysia, so any time spent outside or walking leaves you sweating in minutes. The malls can be a nice air conditioned oasis.
We only spent a few days in KL, and this was mainly to see some old friends. I had gone to medical school with some Malaysian students, and we had a good time catching up with Su San and CW. The last time we saw them was about 14 years ago, and they look very much the same. While in KL, we were able to take in some of the sights including the Petronas Towers, one of the worlds largest outdoor aviaries, and of course a few malls. KL was also a great introduction to Malaysian food. The kids were very excited to be back in southeast Asia as this is probably their favourite type of food. However, Malaysian food can be very spicy...so if we weren't sweating due to the heat, we were sweating due to the spice!
After KL, we flew over to the island of Borneo to visit Bako National Park. We spent three days in this jungle park that is home to some interesting animals. In particular, it is an area where you are able to see the unusual proboscis monkeys, which are only found on Borneo. They are known for their very large noses, and the males tend to have very large bellies as well. If you read Milo’s blog, you will also know that the boys found it very funny that these monkey’s have red penises and blue balls. There were many other animals that we could see around the camp including bearded pigs, monitor lizards, green pit vipers, and flying lemurs. The boys really enjoyed the wildlife except for the long tail macaques. There are quite a few of these monkeys in Bako and they have learned how to target and steal from the tourists. We had to be very careful when eating our meals because they could ambush us out of nowhere, jump on our table, and steal food. Unfortunately, our kids have become very fearful of these monkeys.
The rest of our time in Borneo was spent in the city of Kuching, which is a great city to relax in. It has a beautiful waterfront and the food was amazing. We had the chance to head out and see the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, which helps rehabilitate semi-wild orangutans. These orangutans live in the wild but the centre does provide them with food if they need it. Unfortunately for us, it was the fruit season in Borneo, so there was plenty of food available in the jungle for the orangutans. Therefore, only one orangutan came to the centre to eat on the day that we visited. It was still very impressive to see an orangutan up close, and then watch her head off into the jungle.
We were starting to feel that we needed to just relax and not travel so much, so we decided to find a place to settle down for a couple of weeks. We ended up renting a nice apartment on the island of Penang to spend the Christmas holidays. Mary's parents joined us in Penang as well. Penang is a great place to relax, as it is fairly laid-back despite the crazy traffic. It is also well-known as a foodie’s paradise (I’m starting to sense food was a common theme for us in Malaysia). It is almost too easy to get your fill of laksa, char kway teow, chicken-rice, nasi lemak, deserts, etc. We were hoping that Penang would have some good beaches to check out, but the ones we saw were a little underwhelming. We weren’t really in the mood to travel to beaches, so we probably didn’t get to see the best ones. Luckily, we had probably the most amazing pool we have ever seen an apartment building. The pool was large, about 35 m long, and was never busy. Needless to say, we had a great two weeks of sampling the food in Penang and lots of pool time. The worst part of our time in Penang was that poor Milo developed a skin infection on his side, abdomen, and finger. So he had to endure painful dressing changes twice a day. However, in true Milo form, he was a trooper and the infection eventually cleared up. Overall, Penang was a great way to finish off our time in Malaysia.