Mention “Phuket” and eyes light up at the thought of shimmering beaches and aquamarine sea waters. The island has been immortalised in movies and regarded as the perfect destination for an “exotic” beach getaway. Google images depicting day cruises, sunbathers and picnics on the beach convince you that yes, this is paradise on earth.
The allure is slightly diminished with the volume of tourists in Phuket during busy seasons, but with the right tour company, you can still have a sandy-beach perfect vacation. I was struck when I came across rave review after rave review for this tour company called Simba Sea Trips, when scouting for a good tour of Phang Nga Bay. So I booked, with confidence, albeit with a tiny sliver of too-good-to-be-true doubt at the back of my mind. Plonking down mucho money for two (4,200 Baht per person) via PayPal can make you a bit nervous.
Work took me to Langkawi this past weekend, so alright, not exactly a beach holiday, but parts of it did feel like one! A group of us were at Berjaya Resort, taking part in their mangrove conservation initiative. Instead of me doing the writing, I’ll let pictures — with rather long captions — show you how my weekend went:
With the world’s largest pewter tankard, as certified by the Guinness Book of Records.
Life is often unpredictable, often throwing curveballs and surprises at us out of thin air, but amidst the uncertainty, there’s one thing that Malaysians can count on: at some point in their lives, someone will present them with a pewter gift.
It may be in the form of a tankard, a photo frame or a tea sets. It might even be a souvenir plate with a retirement message on it, and you’ll proudly put it in your display cabinet as a talking point for when guests come to the house.
The metal alloy primarily made up of tin — known as pewter — means something to Malaysians, thanks to the popularity of Royal Selangor, a global, household Malaysian company renowned for its fine craftsmanship of pewter products.
The massive volume of swirling, gushing water at Niagara Falls will immediately captivate any onlooker’s attention.
It sure captured the imagination of Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old American schoolteacher and, of all things, an amateur daredevil stunter who became inspired to secure her notoriety by being the first person to ever go over the Falls. As if that wasn’t enough, she was to do it riding inside a wooden barrel.
Racing towards the cliffs at high speed, water exiting the Niagara River tumbles off the crestline, covering 10 metres in a second and creates a heavy mist towards the end of its’ downward trip into the gorge. Niagara Falls, a series of three waterfalls (Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil) that sit between the border of New York, United States and Ontario, Canada, is approximately 50 meters in height, allowing the water just about five seconds to hit the bottom. Continue reading
You would think that ordering a coffee, tea or juice would be just that simple. It is, at a modern eatery or cafe, but in a traditional coffeeshop, also known as kopitiam in Malaysia, a novice will almost certainly need time to get used to the terms. If Starbucks wasn’t established thousands of miles away in Seattle about 40 years ago, I’d have thought they took the idea of custom-made drinks from our kopitiams, which have been around for almost twice as long as Starbucks. (You know how they are with their drinks. Care for a tall, iced, no whip cream, no sugar, half soy milk, half low-fat milk, green tea frappuccino, anyone?) Continue reading
Bank Negara rolled out design changes to the ringgit bills back in 2012, but to me they are brand new, and I’m finding it hard not to miss the mid-nineties design.
The Agong’s bust has been reduced by a third on all new notes, which seems to diminish his royal stature. A new 20 ringgit note has been introduced, but the orange-red colour can be mistaken for the red 10 ringgit note. Three shiny, rectangular shapes have been added to the left half of both 10 and 20 notes, a feature that is inconsistent and quite frankly, looks like a misprint. On the 100 note, there are not three, but four rectangles. On the 50 note, they show up on the back, not on the front like the others! It’s because of these new features that I keep flipping the note over, thinking that I’m looking at the back of the note when it’s really the front. Continue reading
Morning wet markets start early and get very crowded by about 10:00 a.m., especially on Sunday mornings.
Kuala Lumpur has seen plenty of new additions to its grocery scene in recent years, and it’s wonderful to have so many overseas-style supermarkets like Jaya Grocer’s and B.I.G Ben’s Food Market cater to customers who’d like a clean and modern food shopping experience. Prices may at times be a little steep, but that’s a given if you want imported groceries and the convenience of easy access to fresh food, anytime during business hours.
Yet, it’s hard to beat the charm of early morning, outdoor produce markets known in Malaysia as pasar pagi, where you’ll find local veggies, fruits, seafood and poultry at its’ freshest. Continue reading
A decade of driving on the right side of the road had my parents worried about me getting behind the wheel in Malaysia. Here, we drive on the left.
“Can still remember the roads ah? Will you be disoriented or not? Later drive on the wrong side then kena accident, then how? And do you know how to drive Dad’s old Volvo?”
Valid questions. But my pride wouldn’t let them know that. I’m a grown woman now, for goodness sake.
“I’ll be fine, I learned how to drive here in Malaysia,” I said with a tone of exasperation. “Of course I know how to handle a car, been driving for over ten years. I’ve even driven a full-size SUV in America, something none of you have ever done.”
Batu Caves. Lord Murugan, in all his golden splendour, stands watch as visitors flock to pay their respects. Or to use that flight of stairs as a free stair stepper…
A myriad of bright colours await those who go to Batu Caves in Gombak, the country’s most well-known Hindu worship site that’s nestled within 400 million year-old limestone caves. In order to pay to your respects to supreme Hindu god Lord Murugan — whose towering, 140-feet tall gold statue greets visitors as they approach the entrance — you’ll have to brave a steep ascent of 272 steps. But it’s well worth the trouble.
In addition to the robust workout you get from climbing the stairs, you’ll be accompanied and entertained by a fair number of macaques who’ve long made their home at Batu Caves. Ambling about nimbly on all fours, the monkeys seem like they’re constantly on a mission.
Heading up to the U.S. Capitol Building
***Just today, it’s been announced that the dome of the United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C. will undergo very intensive repairs to fix over 1000 cracks, leaks and corrosions that have occurred over the decades. The current dome is almost 150 years old and is a gorgeous piece of architecture. Touring the Capitol Building should be on your must-do list when you visit D.C. Here is a repost of the tour I took last year, from my old blog, dcexpat.com.***
I love the architecture of the Capitol Building, inside and out. If you love it as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can tour the Capitol Building for free, provided they aren’t closed for special events. During off-peak season, it’s easy to just walk in and join a tour slot. I suggest advance online booking if you’re visiting in the summer. Continue reading