22 Nov 2007
Nipah Bay
Pangkor Island, Malaysia
4°13'55.66"N 100°32'43.74"E


We've had a busy couple of weeks, covering quite a bit of distance. From KL, we double back on ourselves, returning to Seremban. Praba had invited us to spend Deepavali with him and we were really looking forward to it. Deepavali is the Hindu festival of light, where good triumphs over evil. Everyone cleans their house in preparation and fills up with all sorts of sweet nibbles for the expected visitors. There is an Open House policy, where people go from one house to another, spending time with family and friends and being welcomed by lots of food - full meals as wells as the sweet treats. I only managed two as I had a bit of a cold and went back to the hotel, but Peter had 3 or 4 meals. And a lot of beer.

We started off at Praba's house, where his mother and sisters had made the most amazing meal. His brothers, sisters, their children and a few of his friends came, and we found out more about the real Malaysian way of life than we have in all the time we've been here. It's was great to hear the sentiments behind political events we've been reading about.

Next, we went to Praba's sister, Indra, and her husband who everyone called Texan's house. I really hadn't been expecting another meal - I would have held back a bit on the first one if I had. Their house had an amazing garden, full of tropical greenery and even a pond with a little bridge. There were heaps of people coming and going and the food was non-stop. So was the beer - I had a drink, and on top of the cold and flu tablets it just about finished me off for the day. I was really pleased to see that the people arriving weren't all of Indian origin - there were just as many Chinese, which indicated that the racial groups get on really well here. Peter went on to another couple of houses where he ate and drank and ate and drank. The hospitality shown to us by people we didn't know was fantastic - we were really blown away by it and felt honoured that Praba had wanted us (and that his family allowed us) to share their special day with them.

The next stop on our Very Big Adventure was Ipoh (pronounced E-Po). Another of those don't-know-why-we're-going-there kind of places, but I'm glad we did. Our first impression of the city wasn't good. I was expecting a small friendly town like Seremban, but Ipoh is the 3rd largest city in Malaysia. It would also have claim at being one of the dirtiest. It seemed everywhere we looked there were piles of garbage. Stinking piles of garbage. Still, it was an interesting place - some of the old colonial buildings were magnificent. We found them even though the tourist map we picked up at the hotel had everything in the wrong place, including some roads. At first I thought it was just me, but once, when we were trying to figure out where the railway station was a local stopped to help. He looked at the map for ages with a really confused look on his face, then asked us where we got it from. He said he'd lived in Ipoh all his life, but there was no way he would find his way around with the map we had. Major landmarks - buildings, markets and even parks were in the wrong place.

The only good thing about that map was the advert for the Ritz Garden Hotel. Once again, the offer of free internet access sparked our interest, and on checking it out we stayed for almost a week. We only did one day trip, to Kuala Kangsar which was about an hour and a half on a local bus. The main reason I wanted to go was the museum - it was a wooden building which had been built without any written plans and with no nails used in the construction. Also looked like it had some interesting things inside, and the State Tourism Office told us we shouldn't miss it, so off we went. One and a half hours on a suspension free bone shaker of a bus, followed by a 45 minute walk in the midday heat was pretty hard going, but it was going to be worth it. It probably would have been if it weren't for a little sign on the gate. "Closed for Renovation". D' oh! You'd really expect the government tourism office to know a minor detail like this.

So, a week in Ipoh gave us as much city life as we wanted for a while and we headed for Pangkor Island. Pangkor is legendary amongst serious travelers - we were really looking forward to it. We arrived at the bus office at a minute past nine - there was no sign of the bus and some people waiting, so we thought we wouldn't have a wait, but the lady selling tickets said 9.30. 9.30 came and went, and finally just before 10 o'clock the bus rolled in. Seems that we got the 9 o'clock bus at 10. Not even a comfortable seat to sit on whilst we were waiting, just some ramshackle wooden benches outside the office. We had a driver in training for the grand prix, or maybe he was just trying to make up for the lost hour, and there were cockroaches on the bus - yuck! . It only took about 2 hours to get to Lumut and there was a fair bit of roadwork delay. The bus terminal there was literally a minute walk from the ferry terminal, and in a piece of (rare) perfect timing, a ferry was just about to leave for the 15 minute journey.

Straight off the ferry and into a fixed price taxi, and within 30 minutes of arriving in Lumut, Peter was in the swimming pool. Later, playing in the sea at sunset, Peter started digging about in the sand under the water looking for bits of coral. I didn't think it was very wise, but he wanted to find something he could sell on Ebay. He found pieces which made for a fairly good lion, the Loch Ness monster and Elvis. Then he found a crab. He didn't know it was a crab of course. He started shaking his hand about under the water and I wondered what he was doing until he pulled it out. The crab had gotten hold of two of his fingers and wasn't inclined to let go. Of course, I couldn't do anything to help - I was too busy laughing. When he finally got it off, I got the "it's not funny", "could have took my fingers off", "could have killed me" and "could have poisoned me" routine. He didn't learn though - a couple of nights later he started digging again when he found a coral elephant, but gave up when something ran over his hand.

The accommodation at the first place we stayed at was basic, but the view was fantastic.

We were going to move on until we found Nipah Bay and decided to stay another few nights. I'm really glad we did. Being back from the beach there were no sand flies and, for reasons I don't understand, no mozzies. Plenty of monkeys though. Noisy little buggers. The"resort" we stayed in was as basic as we've experienced so far but it was so casual and relaxed we really didn't mind. The food in Nipah Bay was, if anything, worse but we didn't starve. Let's hope that our next port of call, Penang, lives up to it's reputation for good food.