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Malaysian Road Trip

Heading out of the big city

sunny 95 °F

Having an extended stay in Malaysia with the fam enabled us to take a road trip outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Malacca is just 2 hours south of KL along the coast. It’s is old settlement that was conquered multiple times due to its location on the spice route so it is full of history. Malacca is beautiful by night with lots of lights, especially along Jonker Street which was prettied up for the Lunar New Year. Our only complaint in Malacca was that we were served pints of Guinness in very small glasses. When we told the waitress that we had ordered pints, she replied “our pints are served in half-pint glasses.” Needless to say, we did not order another round. Aside from stumbling on a chocolate confectioners shop blasting the A/C, the best part (and must see if you ever get to Malacca) was walking through and up the hills of Bukit Cina, the largest Chinese cemetery outside of China.

We drove north of KL into the cool dry air of the Cameron Highlands and felt like we were living the life of luxury; enjoying a G&T outside in the Casa De La Rosa’s garden without the need for air conditioning. The highlands are rolling in jungle but it’s slowly being replaced with fruit and leafy green crops due to the cool arid climate.

There is only one road through the towns and its spilling over with markets and tea shops. Navigating through these windy overcrowded roads was a feat within itself. The hills are full of trails and although they are poorly marked and difficult to find, we managed to trek one morning from Gunung Perdah peak to Gunung Jasar peak and were rewarded with an awesome view of the valley.

One of the major crops being grown in the mountains is tea. We took a tour of the Boh Tea factory and had a go with some of the local tea picker’s gear.

We packed up and headed East to Taman Negara, which boasts being the oldest tropical rain forest on Earth. We stayed inside the national park near Kuala Tahan, which was pretty sweet b/c there isn’t a clear cut road into the forest… instead we had to cross the river via boat and hoof it to our lodging. Being inside the park, it was not uncommon to see monkeys, deer, peasants, wild boars, and a tapir right from the doorstep of our bungalow.

The park was filled with adventures; on our way to hiking up Bukit Teresek, we walked 40m high within the canopy on 530 meters of the longest canopy walk in the world. We also took a boat up the river to a swimming hole called Lata Berkoh where we swam the rapids with beautiful Kingfisher birds.

On our way back from the road trip we explored a 10k hash through a durian infested bamboo forest near Genting Highlands, and just when we thought we were worn out, we got up early the next day for a Skytrex tree top adventure which is similar to a ropes course in the United States with flying foxes, only less protective gear :-)

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 22:40 Archived in Malaysia Tagged road trip course rope Comments (1)

Hashing in Malaysia

Drinkers with a running problem (hash house harriers)

sunny 90 °F

Robin’s uncle, Charles, has long been a dedicated member of a few Hash House Harrier chapters and he didn’t hesitate to immerse us into the culture by planning our stay around hashes :-) Hashing originated in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 and is home of the Mother Hash. There are 2-3 Hash chapters running per day in KL but so far we have attended only the Harriettes, Petaling, and the Full Moon Hashes (chapters vary in size from 20 to 200 participating hashers). A hash run is a secret route that is set by a Hare, who makes check points in the trail so the front runners are slowed down (while they figure out which way the route continues) enough to regroup with the rest of the hashers. These runs are typically set in the middle of palm plantations, bamboo forests or unmarked jungles and it is not uncommon to have to bushwhack. A good hash is set in such a way to keep runners of all speeds together in a pack and still be able to keep a good clip. This requires the Hare to make many planning trips with a gps at the run site for some reconnaissance they call a recce (pronounced recky) We went with Charles on a recce and blazed our way through rubber, palm and jungle, but the most fun was all of the many hash tales (some of which contained machetes and pythons).

While running with the hash chapter, there is specific terminology that is used to find your way, or to let others know where to go:

On-On! --> I am on the defined route and can visibly see the Hare’s route markings.
Checking! --> The route markings have ended at a checkpoint and I am searching for the next set of markings.
Are You? --> Where are you? Used to vocally find the front runners who could be spread out searching for the next set of markings.
On-Check! --> I am at the checkpoint.
Back-Check! --> I am requesting help checking backwards on the trail to see if the next set of markings are actually behind us.
On-Call! --> I am following someone who found the next set of markings and has called ‘On-On’ somewhere in front of me
On paper! --> I am now following the markings, and am confirming the previous ‘On-On’

Some of the hash runs we did were on trails through parks, and others were more of a bushwack through the jungle on steep trail-less terrain with thorny branches, stream crossings, leaches, monkeys, giant monitor lizards, and wild boars. On our first run, we showed up in the typical city running gear, and were definitely underdressed... but we quickly got the hang of hash style:
Most hashers wore long soccer like socks to avoid the jungle plants scratching up your shins and 80’s style headbands to keep the sweat out of their eyes. By the end of the hash we had completely drenched our clothes with sweat (dom arroyo style) and were fairly muddy. Uncle Charles had quite the setup for rinsing off; he rigged up a ten gallon jug of water with a mini pump + shower head that he had powered via the DC outlet.

The run culminates at a beer van containing plenty of hydration options including Tiger beer, Anchor beer and 6.8% export strength Guinness (we think there were also sodas and water available).

The hashes are fairly well organized; after the run, shower, and copious beer, the runners get into a circle and start “charging” people for any silly actions that they might have done before, during, or after the run (typically they are humorous things like getting lost, forgetting shoes or wearing new clothes). A charge consists of the charged person standing on a box or chair in the middle of the circle with a ¼ pint of beer. The charger then tells a tale of why this person deserves the public ridicule and then the entire circle sings an appropriate drinking song which concludes with “drink it down down down down…” at which point the charged person in the middle downs the beer.

After the circle, there is feast, which is called the On-On, and is either at the run site with a caterer, or at a local restaurant. We were very lucky to be able to attend so many hashes while in KL, something that we hope to find in other countries while we continue our travels.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:19 Archived in Malaysia Tagged run hash hasing Comments (0)

Authentic Malaysian

Spending some time with the fam

semi-overcast 90 °F

Auntie Soo grew up in Malaysia and Uncle Charles has lived in Kuala Lumpur for the past 12 years, so while staying with them in KL we’ve been able to get the inside scoop and juicy gossip on the locals. They have also been extremely gracious hosts, giving us the royal treatment by chauffeuring us around town, taking us on road trips and giving us help with planning the next phase of our trip through SE Asia.

KL used to be entirely jungle, but is now overrun with palm oil plantations and large apartment complexes. We are taken back with how many high buildings and apartment complexes there are here, but with speculation and investments going sour we were told that the vacancy rate is about 50% with some apartment buildings obviously vacated. There is a stark contrast between vacated buildings and the tallest twin structures in the world (The Petronas Towers).

Malaysia is a melting pot of Chinese, Indian and Malay. With the Muslim Malay in control of government, there is an eerie call to prayer broadcasted 5 times a day throughout the city. We learned to avoid the Malay restaurants if we wanted a beer with dinner and were impressed to see prayer rooms available at gas stations and in the middle of jungles. We spent some time visiting a Hindu Temple in Batu Caves, the Jamek Islamic Mosque and a Chinese Tao Buddhist temple to get a closer look at the local religions.

In order to reach the Temple in Batu Caves, visitors must climb 227 stairs that are guarded by cheeky monkeys that attack tourists for food. We of course came in appropriate running attire and ran multiple sets past the ‘normal’ tourists still trying to get up for the first time.

We also ran through the KL Lake Gardens, and visited the butterfly and deer parks, which were okay for a run but glad we didn’t go there for a tourist walk since they weren’t of much interest. As with many places in Malaysia there is a huge problem with littering and the overcast sticky heat makes all the buildings look old and weathered, but not in an interesting/historic sort of way. We took a short trip out of town to the FRIM (Forest Reserve Institute Malaysia) where they built a jungle canopy walk where you could see the contrast between the untouched beauty of the jungle and the sky scraping city in the distance.

For Robin’s birthday, we went up to the revolving restaurant at the top of the KL tower for afternoon tea. Although it started to piss with rain right when we got there, we still managed to get some great views and took this panorama to point out where we were staying with Uncle Charles and Auntie Soo.

In addition to tea at the top of the KL Tower, Kevin surprised Robin with an Authentic Malay Cooking Class that was taught out of a home in KL. In the class we made prawn fritters, beef randang, spicy cucumber salad, and XXXX. It was our first cooking class and we had a blast with the mini woks and personal sized stoves.

This Lunar New Year has been a special one with the turn to the year of the dragon b/c it’s the only mythical creature in the zodiac. The Lunar New Year decorations have been quite spectacular with all the towns dressed in red lanterns, dragons and slews of special tidbits (cookies, snacks and soft jerky) being sold. The hashers lit off books of fire crackers to start their runs and hosted gigantic feasts afterwards. All the shops offer free ‘gung hay fat choi’ oranges and the malls are done up with extravagant details with special performances of traditional drums and dragon dances. The amount of decoration, folklore and tradition is equivalent/comparable to the Christmas efforts we are used to in the U.S. and spending time with family is a big part. We were fortunate enough to attend a New Year dinner with Soo’s entire family who were all in town for the holiday.

The Malaysian Chinese have a fun confetti like way to kick off the meal; it’s a dish called Yee Sang (which translates to Raw Fish) that was an exciting treat for us. It is a raw fish salad with colorful sweet noodles that is tossed on the table by everyone using their chopsticks. We were told that the higher you can drop the food onto the plate, the better fortune you will have in the new year (+1 for being tall with long arms).

We are now headed out for a road trip to the highlands and are looking forward to some low humidity mountain fresh air :-)

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:04 Archived in Malaysia Tagged tower kuala new year cooking chinese lumpur kl sang yee Comments (1)

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