Tuesday, August 21, 2012


While KS and I were in KK, we got a missed call from home on Saturday night. Sensing something amiss, I called back and was told by Grace that my parents place was just burgled. Needless to say, that ended our holiday and we were anxiously trying to help in any way we could from so far away.

Thank God my whole family had gone out for dinner when the burglars struck. My family could have been watched to know our patterns but the burglary was timed. My younger nephew had insisted on staying home as he wasn't feeling well but my sister made him come along. I shudder to think of what might have happened if he had been home alone.

They ransacked the place and made away with cash, my dad's tennis shoes and my nephews DS, amongst other things. These things can be replaced in time but what cannot be replaced is the feeling of security in one's own home.

I made it a point to come back every night for that entire week and stayed as long as I could, if only to provide some form of additional presence. Grace's friends helped out by trying to get the door fixed, contact person for an alarm system etc providing comfort to our family for which I am thankful for.

Most of all, after Grace posted this incident up on Facebook, my parents friends from Alor Setar called one by one. They are truly one of a kind and my mum is especially touched by this gesture.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Kinabalu Park & Poring Hot Springs

We visited yet another part of Malaysia which we went 5 years ago, Kota Kinabalu. As mentioned in my previous post, we regretted not going to see Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Springs the last time we went.

So when I won the 3 days 2 nights stay at Hyatt Regency, KK and a full day tour at Kinabalu Park and Poring, KS and I decided, why not.

The room at the Hyatt Regency Kota Kinabalu
The open concept of the bathroom area
The gorgeous sea view from our window. Love the shades of blue .

We arrived in the afternoon and just walked around the town a little. Nothing much has changed so we just chilled. Found this abandoned place with quite eye-catching graffiti though.

The next day, we met up with our tour guide, who turned out to be a most entertaining guy. The stories that he told! I must say I don't know whether to take his stories with a pinch of salt. For example, he told us an incident that happened to his teenage cousin sister. Her stomach started swelling and her parents thought she was pregnant and gave her a good scolding, as you can imagine. So they brought her to see a gynae to check up. However, the doctor was puzzled and confirmed that she wasn't pregnant.

After careful cross-examination, they found out she had bathed in the river several weeks before. Suspecting something, the family then got her a big tub, half filled it with fresh cow's blood and made her sit in it naked. Sure enough, a whole bunch of leeches came out of her, enough to fill a bucket. Apparently the leech went into her and made a home (and nest) inside her and were then attracted to the fresh cow's blood and came out. Our guide said when he saw the mass of squirming leeches, he also felt like vomiting. He then warned us never to simply go into the rivers.

Anyway, I digress but it's such a fascinating story I had to retell it. Along our two hour over journey, we passed by the following places:

The floating mosque in Kota Kinabalu
We passed many churches along the way with signages such as this.

Along the way, we were also stopped by a village to see the Rafflesia flower. Finally! I get to see the largest flower in the world! However, it didn't stink at all as it is famously known. So much so that I was wondering if I was seeing a real flower because it looks like it's made of plastic. The bud (seen on the right in the picture below, the dark red round thing) takes 12-15 months to bloom and when it flowers, it only lasts for about 7 days. Flower below is about 80cm in diameter.

Upon reaching Poring, we took a short hike up to the suspension bridge. This is quite an amazing suspension bridge because there are 5 bridges in total and the drop is very very significant (eek! I can't remember what height! 40 meters?). Our guide assured us that if we fell, it would be almost impossible for them to come pick up our pieces. Thanks.

At the start, before KS turned green.
Long way to fall

After the trek, we then headed down to the hot springs.

Open pools
Separate individual tubs. Taps with the hot water fills the tubs and you're supposed to drain the tub after use. I didn't want to soak my whole body so just soaked my aching feet. 

For lunch, we went to Kinabalu Pine Resort. The place is full of, well, pine trees. Very, very nice. Felt like we were in a different country.

Lunch surrounded by pine trees

Then we went to the foot of the mountain where there was this museum which explained about Mount KK. Found out the highest peak is called Low (after Hugh Low who claimed to be the first to conquer the mount). Apparently the natives believed there were spirits on the mount and did not dare to climb it.

Saw this big moth resting on the outside of the glass panel at the museum

By the time we left, it was pouring hard. So this was the only shot of the majestic mountain through the mist and clouds, framed by the pine trees. Flat jagged peaks.

On the way down, I had to keep up a bizarre conversation because our guide was falling asleep at the wheels. Asked him about the beliefs in spirits and black magic in the villages there, what animals he has encountered on his trips into the jungles (wild boar, and he and the team he was looking after had to quickly climb trees)... so it was quite an interesting conversation coming back.

If we were to go back to KK, it would be to stay at the Kinabalu Pine Resort. Really felt like we were in another country with the cool weather, majestic views and foreign trees.

Flight cost = less than RM1,000. For everything else, thanks MasterCard. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Penang After So Long

The last time I went to Penang was 7 years ago for my best high school friend's wedding. Again, another wedding brought us to Penang so we seized the opportunity to extend our weekend stay to a little longer and invited the whole family along.

We rented a condo for 3 nights in Tanjung Tokong which turned out to be the most strategic location for our activities as the wedding was held in Straits Quay, we also ended up going to the National Park (yes, Penang has one of the tiniest National Parks in this region), Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Temple, nearby malls where we met our old friends and a spot of shopping at good ol' Gama.

My dad has always taken us on tours whenever we travelled since we were young so going to all these touristy places for my nephews was nothing unusual. In fact, it was the first time for us to visit the National Park and for KS visiting Penang Hill.

So while I was hoping for a makan-non-stop trip, it turned out to be more of a touristy trip. Not that I minded but I missed out on my laksa in Lorong Selamat which I had 7 years ago. But oh, we still ate and ate! We found this corner coffee shop at Pulau Tikus (which isn't an island but an area along Jalan Burmah) which had fantastic char kuey tiow, java mee, wantan mee and appam. One of the mornings I actually had the ckt, java mee and appam all in one sitting. Yums...

Anyway, I forgot to bring my SD card so I couldn't take much photos. Had to borrow from KS so he couldn't take photos after that. So I don't have any photos of the National Park and anyway, we were supposed to go there to walk on the suspension bridge but it was closed due to some rat virus found along the river near it. We walked a short way along the beach and saw, well, the beach. 

We initially told KS there wasn't much to do up in Penang Hill and I went along merely to accompany my family. But we were pleasantly surprised when we did a short walk and discovered lovely Tudor houses along the way and felt like we were in another country altogether! We ended up rushing for time and not even seeing other parts of Penang Hill so at least there's a reason to go back there again next time. Here are some shots from our Penang Hill trip:

Beneath the train tracks
Huge millipede. Wanted to touch it to make it curl up but was told one can get pretty itchy after that.
I don't know if they're mating but thought this looked pretty painful.
Found this HUGE spider!
Another angle of the spider to show the colourful underside of it. Beautiful!
I never knew there were so many lovely Tudor styled houses on Penang Hill! Well, this wasn't very Tudor-ish but didn't manage to get a nice shot of the others.

We were supposed to cover Penang Hill and Kek Lok Si temple in the same afternoon but since Penang Hill took up a bit more time than we expected, we went to the temple the next day instead. The ascending pathway which has shops after shops usually crammed with people was eerily empty. Perhaps being a weekday, there was hardly anyone there. Some shops didn't even open but I guess since they ALL were selling the same things, it didn't really matter.

Empty streets going up Kek Lok Si temple. I remembered it to be a bustling place but now... But this was on a Tuesday so maybe the weekends are busier.

Actually, I really wonder why they all sell the same things. If it's some gaudy sarong material made into a dress, at least 5 shops would be selling the exact same item. And they've been selling the same things for decades. Well, I guess since they're obviously surviving, there must be a market there for such items.

All in all, we had a good time visiting Penang again. Next time, there will be laksa at Lorong Selamat.