Saturday 8 September – Kuala Lumpur
I arrived in Kuala Lumpur (KL for short) a bit after the scheduled flight arrival time of 00:20. I had met a great guy, Satri on the flight who works with Air Asia. He ended up giving me a lot of tips and helping me when we got to Malaysia. My Telekomsel SIM card synced up to DIGI as soon as I got to Malaysia, notifying me that I could use DIGI in Malaysia easily. Before I knew it I had bought a new SIM card for Malaysia from the DIGI counter and had another SIM card to add to the collection. Note: I had tried to use a "global" SIM card at the beginning of my journey but had not been able to call or receive calls and it was really expensive. Annoying to buy a new SIM card in each country, and not good for the environment or humans but it’s the safest thing for me to do.
I also got some money out of an ATM in the Malaysian currency, Riggit RM. I didn’t need to get a visa in Malaysia as long as I was staying under three months and had a return flight home. I just had to scan both my index fingers at the customs counter. Very easy process, especially after midnight.
I had been advised to only go in a taxi if I had bought a voucher at the taxi stand. So, with the help of Satri, I bought a taxi voucher to go to my hotel that was 50% extra due to being after midnight! RM 78.30 (approximately AU$26 – divide RM by 3). I arrived at Langit-Langi Hotel safely, text my Mum, heard from Vick - one of Dad’s work mates who is visiting his Mum in Malaysia at present - and went to bed.
Slept in and got a bit of computer work done. Checked out at 14:00 and walked around for a bit before Vick, his Mum Gnanma (pronounced “Yanum”), and family friend Sundrum picked me up. Vick was leaving to go back to his hometown Cairns via Singapore and wanted to meet me before he left. As my hotel was close to the airport, it was great that they could pick me up before Vick left. Here a photo (from Vick's camera on his phone) of Vick and I at the airport:
Vic will be back mid October so I may get to see him then if coming back to Malaysia around that time is in the cards/stars. On the car ride Vick was telling me about the Air Asia success story for budget flights. The fleet had been a government-run company and wasn’t going anywhere. The CEO, Tony Fernandes bought Air Asia from the government for $2 and has grown the company from strength to strength. The Malaysian airport is even divided up between the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and the Air Asia (cheaper flights) at LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). There are regular buses and trains to get to both airports and even a discount hotel chain.
Another of Malaysia’s success stories is their Palm Oil production. This makes the companies and the country a huge amount of money. Malaysia & Indonesia produce 85% of the world’s Palm Oil. From an environmental perspective it’s not good and not to mention that a large number of animals including orang-utans are displaced from their homes due to the plantations. There are palm oil plantations as far as the eye can see which is a sad story indeed.
After dropping Vick off at the airport, Gnanma, Sundrum and I went to eat lunch at his son’s Indian restaurant, Abiramei (used to be called Sri Devi). Sundrum owns quite a few Indian stores and is even planning on opening one in Perth, Australia soon. His son has just taken over this restaurant from him.
We had various dishes served on banana leaf. One cabbage, capsicum and mango, another was a okra (lady fingers) one and then a red curry:
A dosa was also served with a coconut and red sauce. For dessert I had a green pancake with coconut and palm sugar – similar to Klepon I had in Java and the Balinese cake in Bali, but pancake form:
We all had some ginger chai tea and hot water. I was hungry before I started. Now I was definitely full.
Sundrum dropped me at EV World Hotel in Puduraya, more a backpackers than a hotel, not that nice but it would be fine for a few nights. Gnanma walked up the three flights of stairs with me to check out the place - she wasn’t impressed. I walked around the area a bit to find my bearings and found Woods Bio Marche an organic, vegan, macrobiotic restaurant that my friend, Ben from the Gold Coast had suggested to me. There’s also a shop plus they stock nutritional yeast flakes, which has been a bit hard to find over here. As I’d had a late and big lunch I wasn’t too hungry so ordered the vegan chocolate brownie and a lime grass juice both for RM 5.50:
I also found some Beryl’s dark chocolate almonds for a bit less than RM20
Sunday 9 September – Blue Boy & Woods Bio Marche
Slept in today which was just what I needed. There was a vegetarian place mentioned in Lonely Planet and Happy Cow that I wanted to check out so I wandered around a bit until I found it - only about a two-minute walk from where I’m staying! This is what it looks like:
I had actually walked over the other side last night trying a short cut home. Blue Boy Vegetarian Food Centre is a big Chinese-style eatery with various food carts selling different foods and there’s also a shop.
It was very busy.
I had a chat with Chung whose family owns the place. I thought the food carts were all separately run and they maybe just hired the space. Chung said that they own the area and each cart is fun by people from his staff. I love this idea of cheap, easy to prepare food.
I ordered a plate of rice, toppings and a spring roll (RM 5) from the main stall:
and stuffed okra, chilli, eggplant and tofu (RM 4.40) at another along with an iced tea (RM 1.50):
I then walked to Masjid Jamek where I could catch a train to KL Sentral. I passed Chatime, a jelly place on the way so I ordered QQ Jelly: Passionfruit juice with pearls and coconut jelly for RM 5.90 I much prefer my soy milk bubble tea, but they don’t have soy milk!
Then I walked to Central Market – a place that used to be the main market where all the locals went to buy their fresh produce. It’s now a big shopping centre created for tourists I think. I payed RM 100 to get a 15 minute (!) reading with Master Chin a well-known Palm, Tarot and Face Reader. Then I went back to do some computer work for a few hours. When I arrived there was a bit of flooding so I changed rooms to the one next door. The new room didn’t have a window, but other than that it was a bit better than the first one.
I walked to Woods Bio Marche again for dinner where I ordered the special: Nori Roll with whole wheat somon served with mustard greens, red cabbage, carrot, miso sauce and organic tea RM 13.80 + 5% service fee.
Monday 10 September – Volunteering at General Hospital Kuala Lumpur
I walked to Masjid Jamek where I got a train to KL Sentral for RM 2.80 to meet Gnanma. I bought some noodles at a street vendor at KL Sentral train station for breakfast:
We then caught the Monorail (RM 2.80) to General Hospital Kuala Lumpur at Jalan Pahang where we met Indian-born Banu and Chinese-born Mai to do some volunteer work. We spent a few hours stacking a trolley with various books and magazines to then take to various wards in the hospital so that the patients could borrow the books until a couple of weeks later. Gnanma and Banu do this most Mondays with various other people.
Gnanma caught the bus home and Banu and I caught a bus back into KL where we had lunch at Yin Futt Kuok Vegetarian Restaurant on Jalan Tun Perak for RM 6:
I then went home for a rest and computer work. Woods Bio Marche again for dinner where I ordered tonight’s special Tofu Chips: pesto sauce with whole wheat somen, Bolognese sauce with tofu, served with salad and organic tea Rm 13.80 + 5% service fee:
I stayed up too late trying to sort out a few graphic issues I’m having with the digital version of my What Do Vegans Eat? book. I will be tired in the morning…
Tuesday 11 September - Gnanma & Sathya’s places
Today I woke up early to meet Gnanma and Banu at the temple near Maybank. I had breakfast of rice noodles at Sri Ganesa RM 2.50:
Banu and I then walked to the Maybank canteen and I had a mango juice for RM 2.50:
Here’s a photo of a Naga flower, which is named after a sacred serpent:
The Naga tree only grows in Malaysia and India. The interesting thing about this tree is that the flowers only grow on the stem of the tree and not from the branches.
I checked out of the hotel at 12:00 and took the bus to Gnanma’s Universiti Towers opposite Universiti Hospital, where I would be staying for a few days before I travelled to Penang. Gnanma didn’t have WIFI at her place so I went to her sister, Sathya’s place to use hers. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the password. Fortunately her maid, Lila made a great lunch for us: Okra curry, green beans and vegetable pasta.
Lila also makes sweets and sells them to various businesses. She had some Murukku (rolled biscuits) and green pea balls (deep fried green pea flour.)
Lila then drove Sathya and myself to the local Amcorp Mall to use the WIFI at a café. The café ended up having closed before but I had seen a mobile/cell/hand phone shop so bought a USB modem there for RM 120. All was good again, I could do my computer work and even Skyped my family that night which was lovely after over a month of being away from home.
That night, Gnanma made putu (rice flour steamed in cylinders) with mushroom curry, bitter gourd curry, and a ginger sambal (spicy) chutney.
Due to being Hindu, Gnanma is a vegetarian. Most of the Indian or Sri Lankan Hindus I have met have never heard of a vegan. Gnanma is glad to have someone around who eats like she does. I caught up on computer work then went to bed.
Wednesday 12 September – Twin Towers, Conferences & KLCC
Gnanma had warned me that she gets up early – 04:00 every morning to be exact – to do her exercise and prayers. After 05:00 she was ringing the bells in the prayer room (where I’m sleeping) to wake up God. I had got up at 05:00 to go to the bathroom and put my earplugs in then. When my alarm went off all the candles were on in the prayer room. Gnanma's son, Vick and others say she is an extremely religious Hindu.
I caught the Metrobus to Chinatown for RM 1.90 and walked to Maybank to meet Banu. First I had some breakfast at the Maybank cafeteria at one of the food stalls. I had a plate of tempeh, potatoes, rice, rice noodles etc for RM 2.50:
I followed that up with a really great carrot juice – freshly made in a blender with water, the pulp drained out and ice added – for RM 1.70 while I waited for Banu. We took the train to Cheras where Banu lives and she made me a dosa
that I had with jam:
Here's the view from Banu's.We'll be busing it over to the Twin Towers next:
The towers opened in 1999 and are two pinnacles made of structural steel 73.5 metres high.
My Dad would be impressed with the structural information: the foundations are 150 metres below ground, this was the first use of grade 80 super strength structural concrete in Malaysia.
We wandered around the Twin Towers and then went to see the shopping centre that is underneath there are a lot of high end and well-known designer shops here. The food is much more expensive that in KLCC as well. Banu regularly comes to the Convention Centre, attends conferences for free, has lunch on her way and heads home. Today there were a few conferences on so we attended the ITX Asia conference where Banu excels at getting all the free giveaways including multiple pens, books, notepads, diaries and even a few toys for her nephews and nieces.
After the conference we took the GOKL free city bus line on the green route from KLCC into Bukit Bintang. It poured. We had lunch at and Indian place, Kadir restauran (Leboh Ampang) where we had beetroot, dhal and green bean curries with chapattis RM 4.60:
I then bought some fruit from a fruit stall for RM 35 including mangosteen, mangoes, guava (to make fresh guava juice!), grapes and nectarines. It was still raining. Found some Klepon, known here at Kuah Kochi (coconut cake) at a food vendor and caught the number 12 bus back to Mid Valley. Gnanma arrived back at the condo from the hospital just when I did. I caught up on some computer work before dinner.
Gnanma showed me how to make chapattis. Dinner was chapattis with beans and another curry:
We then had a plate of mixed fruit each with the fruit I had bought today and one of Gnanma’s apples – that she has every night.
I stayed up late working on my blog.
Thursday 13 September – Pradosham at Shiva Temple
Slept in amidst the prayers and cleaner. Worked on my blog for most of the day. For lunch we had curries made by Gnanma, cabbage and soy meat served with pappadums and meal maker (Indian crisps) and rice.
I got to wear my green kaftan today for the Pradosham (prayer day for Lord Shiva) at the temple. Omana picked Gnanma and I up, then Gnanma’s sister Sathya and took us to Shiva temple up the mountain where the view is great:
We washed our feet and walked in. Everyone brought offerings to give for the ceremony. There were food, candles, and flowers galore. You could buy cows' milk for RM2 at the entry as one of the gods, Ganesha likes milk. There were about 25 people before the ceremony started but many more came by the time it was finished. We waited around with others for the ceremony to start. At about 16:30 the loud music started and the ceremony began. There was a lot of water being poured over all of the statues of the gods, then an excessive amount of cows’ milk. A flame was waved over everything before more water, then coconut milk, then fire and more water. Then coconut juice from fresh coconuts, more fire, more water and rosewater. Yellow clay was pressed onto the statues, then red. This all took about 30 minutes.
After that, the flowers were all offered. This also took a long time, as there were a lot of flowers and a lot of offerings. The bare statues were in the end covered completely with flowers of all colours. Then the loud bell was constantly rung while fire and smoke was waved over all the statues. The congregation (is that what you call a group of Hindus gathering to worship?) sang out of tune and I sang a mass of words I couldn’t pronounce properly – Sathya said it was English. It wasn’t. I think it was Sanskrit. We did this for 30 minutes.
Then there were offerings to Ganesha and family including Shiva (father), Parvati (mother) and Kartikeya (brother). There was a lot of chanting, more singing and the constant loud bell ringing. The priest finished this off with ash, water and the coloured clay.
After the ceremony people were buying candles for RM2 that I had seen the security guard who was helping the priest out make beforehand. There was a massive tub of yellow that was being used for this, the cow on the side made me think it was ghee. Afterwards this was confirmed. People also could pay for a blue or yellow piece of paper, give it to the priest and he would give a blessing.
Sometime throughout this process a fumigation car came by into the temple area and started spraying – where everyone was! The security guard moved them to another area after awhile, but I thought this was most unusual. Maybe they were spraying for mosquitoes.
This whole ceremony was about 2 hours in total. I think I’m all templed-out now!
Dinner tonight was left overs from lunch.
One of Gnanma’s other sisters (she has 7), Parady came down from her unit in the same complex and chatted for a few hours.
Friday 14 September - Batu Caves, Swami Aippah, Education convention & Prime Minister
Today I caught the number 12 bus (RM1.90) to KL Sentral to meet Banu. Then we took the KTM Komuter train (RM1) to go to Batu Caves. This train and many in KL have a few women’s-only carriages. No men are allowed whatsoever and it’s much safer for the women who take the train.
The train stops just at Batu Caves.
We had breakfast at Restoran Rani where Banu and I had roti canai RM3.40 for both.
I also tried vadai – deep fried dhal RM1.50
Then Banu and I went to a few of the temples in the area.
There are 272 stairs at Batu Caves. Here’s how it looks:
There are also a lot of mischievous monkeys!
Banu with a monkey friend:
When we got to the top of the cave, Banu was getting her flower and candle offering ready for the temple, but not for long – a monkey stole her container of ghee!
More monkey photos:
Then we walked
to Swami Ayyappan another limestone cave:
Here's the dress code - valid for most temples:
The elephant made from the limestone walls:
More photos from inside:
There are 18 sacred steps. The first five steps symbolise the five human senses i.e. visual (vision), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste) and tactile (touch). These signify the mortal nature of one’s body. The next eight steps symbolise the eight Ashtaragas viz, Love, Anger, Avarice, Lust, Pride, Unhealthy Competition, Jealousy and Boastfulness) The next three steps stand for three Gunas or Thrigunas (nature-born qualities) i.e. Satva, (perspicuity, discernment) , Rajas (activity, enjoyment) and Thamas (inactivity, stupor). The last two steps represent Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (Ignorance) Source.
We spoke to one of the priests, Sundrum about the temple and he let me take some photos – normally not allowed. Especially of the golden stairs. Here's Banu and I:
Then we took the train to Putra where Banu and I walked to Putra Global Trade Centre. We registered at an Education Convention so we could get free lunch consisting of stir fried vegetables and white rice. I was very concerned about the amount of waste this event created. There would have been over 500 people eating, with each table of 8 serving massive amounts of food. We sat with four different professors: one in psychology, one on tourism, one in law, the other I forget.
There was some great artwork lining the walls including:
We walked around for a while as we were waiting for the Ahari Open House to meet the Prime Minister, Mohd Najib Abdul Razak. This was a get together for the people to celebrate Idul Fitri. At the event there was also someone from the Youth Parliament and Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the Minister of Women. I met her and she is lovely.
There was a massive amount of free food being served to the people - each table was meant to be different styles of food from each of the states in Malaysia. A lot of the food was the same or similar. There were a lot of people as well as various performances. We waited around to meet the Prime Minister. I got to also meet him but unfortunately my camera battery ran out and I don’t actually have any of the photos of us. Here's the venue:
Banu and I took the bus back to Brickfields and I got some Putu dessert for RM2.40 at a stall near Central Market. Dinner that night was chapattis with okra curry, tempeh curry and a stir fry with bok choy, mushrooms
that Gnanma was inspired to make after looking through my What Do Vegans Eat? book. Gnanma tells everyone about my book – she’s a great PR/manager! It’s also amusing to hear her speak about me on the phone to her friends: “She doesn’t eat fish”, “she doesn’t even take honey”, “she looks at all the ingredients”, “she’s travelling by herself” and my favourite – everyone is obsessed with this – “she’s 32 and still single!” I actually really appreciate and love the fact that I’m staying with Gnanma, we’re teaching each other a lot, I’m sure.
Saturday 15 September – Brickfields, Lunch at Sundram’s & Chinatown
Today was an early rise for the temple. Gnanma and I took the bus RM1.90 and were greeted with drums and a trumpet-type instrument at the temple. Gnanma meditated for a while and I people-watched. I can’t believe Gnanma and Banu go to at least one temple every day! I personally don’t agree with religions and I see everywhere we go how much money is being handed over. But it’s great to be doing what the local people do and I am open to experiencing new things all the time.
We caught the bus to Brickfields and went to two other temples.
One was for the monkey god, Ganesha. Two candles were left as an offering and one ticket RM2 plus donation to bless Gnanma’s family: the priest says names and date of birth.
Then we walked through the wet market where unfortunately there were a lot of dead fishes on display for people to buy and eat. Urgh. Fortunately at the end I got to try Appam RM1 made from rice flour, fermented coconut water. Cooked like a dosa. It looks like this:
Then we took the bus to the central Indian area
and went to a ceremony at Sri Baba’s temple. We lined up so we got to move a candle around three times, get hit on the head with peacock’s feathers (meant to be lucky – not for the peacock!), then white ash, water and clay put upon the brow by the priest. There is also free food after most of the ceremonies at most of the temples. If you are so inclined you can donate money for the breakfast RM200 or lunch/dinner RM300. At the Baba temple there are many things you can purchase: milk, oil, rosewater, sweets and much, much more.
Gnanma and I then headed to the store to get a new remote for the cable TV channel. Gnanma is obsessed with a couple of cable TV soap operas. One being Selama that is a lot of fast-talking, fast pan in and outs. I know the theme song quite well, even if I don’t know the lyrics. After the store we went to visit Gnanma’s niece, Jaya (Sathya’s daughter) who is a dentist.
Gnanma and I then caught one bus to the University Hospital RM1 and another bus home to the condo RM1. This was all before 11:00. Gnanma had a nap and I caught up on computer work while we waited for Sundrum to pick us up for lunch at his place.
Sundrum and his daughter, Parames picked us up and we headed to Selangor where his wife, Parvathi and son Neva (who runs the restaurant I had lunch at the day I arrived) joined us. Parvathi made a great meal - served on banana leaf of course – of mango chutney, mint chutney, dhal with okra and beans, beetroot, okra and mushroom curry:
After lunch I hung out with their dog friends, Rickie and Jackie and even got to Skype with Sundrum’s son, Kesava who is studying in Melbourne. Here’s a photo of us all (L-R) Para, Sundrum, Parvathi, LC & Gnanma:
Sundrum and Parames drove Gnanma and I back home in the afternoon where I did more computer work before meeting up with Sathya’s other daughter, Malar, who also lives in the same condo. Malar and I drove to Sathya’s house where Lila drove us to the train station. Malar and I walked through Chinatown where I had walked through one of the first days in KL. At night it’s even busier. If you’re into shopping for cheap stuff and bargaining this is the place to be. Not my scene at all, but good to observe. Malar and I had a drink with Longan fruit RM2.
Dinner was at Restoran Vegetable Wan Fo Yuan on Jalan Panggong. We ordered Pot Bean Curd Kecil RM12 (approximately AU$4 – divide RM by 3):
Fried Rice Kecil RM12:
Kang Kong (water spinach) Belecan (fake fish chilli paste) RM6:
We then caught the bus back to the condo and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to be an early day.
Sunday 16 September – Glass Temple & Arthi Sivasakthi Kanthareesar temple, Johor
Today I woke up at 05:45. Ridiculous. To begin the travels to Johor Bahru with a group of 9 ladies. 8 of us met at the temple at 07:00 and picked Banu up around 08:00. We stopped at Ayerkeroh R&R stop where I had Pau Kelapa (coconut bun) RM1.20
and Kuah Gulong (rolled coconut) RM1 for two
I just love anything sweet with coconut.
We arrived at Glass Temple, Johur Baru - South Malaysia. Glass Temple is made up of 300,000 pieces of finely cut coloured glass carefully placed together to create intricate designs.
which cost me RM10 for entry and to use my camera. We were about 5km away from the Singapore border. The temple was stunning.
Say, Hear & See No Evil:
Here's a photo of me in my pink kaftan:
Here's the nine of us:
We had lunch for RM5 consisting of rice, pappadums, water spinach and fried snake gourd:
Even more photos of Glass Temple:
Ohm symbol outside on the wall:
After we left the temple, we drove past the causeway to Singapore – you can swim over if you’re so inclined!
Then we started the drive to the Sivasakthi Kanthareesar temple at Jalan Station Myorvik Kluang, Jahor.
When we arrived there wasn’t that many people. We began our ceremonies starting with pouring clay onto 108 lingands
to give us energy and power. 1+0+8= 9 and 9 is a holy number for Hindus.
Then we had fruit and rice on plates:
a family blessing and put the rice into a big urn:
This would feed people afterwards. The next offering was chilli, cow dung and camphor, which was burned to get rid of bad energies.
About this time 2 big busloads of people came in and the small, hot temple was packed!
These offerings cost me RM11 to do/give. The others paid RM26 for the same plus two other steps that I didn’t want to partake in: ghee candle offering and cows milk offering over statues (I used water)
Outside was filling up urns with “holy” water.
It just looked green to me. The ladies then sat down for tea. Just as we were leaving I saw a goat playing with some children and went up to meet him. Here’s a cute photo I took:
It’s been a few months since I’ve hung out with a goat. I think they are just gorgeous!
Then we drove to Air Itan (Black Water) to go to a Malay wedding and décor shop. This is what it looked like – oh my!
A few of us not too impressed went to the fruit store. I bought 4 bags of snacks for RM10. We then got back in the mini van and drove until 18:30 when we reached the Pagoh R&R stop where I had dinner at Mohd Bin Jambar Sizziling Corner. I had warung-type food for RM2.40 - beans, tempeh, tempeh and tofu and sprouts:
We were dropped off at the condo at 21:00. Great day, but ever so exhausting. I’m sure I slept well. Good to have a weekend away from the computer.
Monday 17 September – Brickfields, MegaMall, Buddhist Maha Vihara
Slept in until 07:30 and caught up on all the computer work that was waiting for me. At 09:00 Gnanma and I caught a bus into Brickfields and went to the Baba temple. We were right on time for prayers and singing. Breakfast was free and Banu was also here. Banu and I then caught a bus to Mookambika temple that is actually the only temple part of a shopping centre:
It’s at the bottom of MegaMall in Mid Valley. A but blasphemous really.
Then we went to Megamall and wandered around for a bit. Just like any other shopping centre in any other place. However, there was something new I hadn’t tried as yet: Popiah at Sisters Crispy Popiah.
I ordered the popiah without egg – rolled pancake with chilli and sweet sauce, fried wheat flour, peanuts, cucumber, turnip:
We went into the temple and received blessings where we all held an orange string that was linked to the person before and after us. A chrysanthemum with water was shaken over us and you could also get string bracelets.
Then we went to the main area where food was about to be served. All the monks came to have their lunch, so a group of about 6 of us served them first. They gave us blessings. Then we ate the food: rice, donated food and fruit.
I was surprised to see that a few dishes had eggs and fish as well as yoghurt. The monks ate some of this. I thought Buddhists were vegan or vegetarian… This was a bit disappointing to me as Buddhism seems to have respect for all living beings and it’s not a religion, which can only be a good thing.
This was my last outing with Banu. Here’s a photo of the two of us in front of the lotus fountain:
We caught the bus back to Brickfields RM1 where we walked past various Indian shops including the flower sellers:
Then I caught the bus home to Gnanma’s RM1.90. I helped Gnanma clear a lot of her emails and change a few of her privacy settings on FaceBook. For the last dinner with Gnanma we had chapattis with vegetable curry, tempeh curry and okra curry:
There were a lot of calls tonight because I was leaving. We also had a visit from Satya and Lila to say goodbye. Satya’s daughter Malar was heading back to Butterworth where she works, so the two of us caught a cab into KL Sentral for RM20 and waited for our sleeper train that was leaving at 23:00. I was in the cabin next to Malar, M6 coach. I bought a ticket for the ADNS – Superior Night Class sleeper train online for RM46 (approximately AU$15.30 – divide RM by 3). We were on train 22 - Senandung Mutiara number 34.
This was the first time I had been on a sleeper train so I was a bit excited. I got the girl opposite me to take a photo of my sleeping area:
Tuesday 18 September – KL to Butterworth, Ferry to Georgetown, Kek Lok Si Temple
Surprisingly, I slept quite well on the train. We arrived around 06:45 at Butterworth where Malar left for work and I walked on the overpass to the ferry. You need RM1.20 in coins to get on the ferry and there’s no payment when you come back.
The ferry took about 20 minutes.
When I arrived I caught a cab to my hotel for RM12. I was staying at Cozy Home Inn that I had originally booked for two nights but was now going to stay for only one night and then other night in Butterworth with Malar. I arrived quite early and the owner showed me to my room.
Whenever I book somewhere online I like to be about 5-15 minutes walk away from the “main” areas of that place. My main requirement is free WIFI and under AU$25 per night. A lot of places give free breakfast, though sometimes you won’t get vegan meals. I also like when there’s a water dispenser in the hotel as I can fill up my stainless steel water bottle and not have to buy water in plastic bottles. I bought all my own vegan toiletries with me overseas including soap and bicarb soda (to wash my hair) as not all places will have basic toiletries. I also have a towel and two small quick-dry towels if needed. If there’s no sheet I use my Batik sarong, if there’s not enough blankets I use my black wrap.
A lot of the bathrooms in Indonesia and Malaysia share the same space and the water from the showerhead goes everywhere. Some places you have to ask for toilet paper/tissue as it’s not used much by the locals. They have a water hose to clean themselves near the toilet. Some places also will not have toilets that flush – and may even have a traditional Indonesian toilet. You have to actually flush the toilet yourself with buckets of water. A lot to learn over here if you’re willing!
So, I showered and did a bit of research to work out the places that I wanted to see when I was in Penang. I had read about a vegetarian place in my Lonely Planet book but when speaking to the owner he let me know that it was closed and told me about another one.
I went for an early lunch at EE Beng Vegetarian Food Centre - about a 15-minute walk from Cozy Home Inn and opposite the police station on Lebuh Dickens (off the main road, Jl Panang). I paid RM5 for a place of vegetables and fake meat. This is a Chinese buffet-style place with EE Beng Vegetarian Food restaurant right next door. I believe the same owners run both. This restaurant is open later on in the day so I will probably come back here for lunch. When I went to take a photo of my meal I realised I’d left my camera back at the Inn so walked back to get my camera... Take two.
I walked to the hotel and back to Jl Panang, which is the main street in Panang. There’s a free bus service that runs most of the day and loops around the touristy areas. I would go on this later. First I took the 502 bus RM2 to Kek Lok Si temple. On the bus, I spoke to a retired tour guide who gave me a few tips. It’s great to meet all the locals wherever you go. The people who can speak even basic English love to chat with you and practice their English. I had to walk a few blocks to find the temple:
There were a heap of stairs to climb up to get to the main temple area with many a person trying to sell their wares along the way. When I got to the top I almost walked right past the pagoda with a lot of turtles
I overheard a guide saying they were actually tortoises and there was over 1000 in this area.
Not much of a life for them. You could buy green leaves and feed the tortoise if you wanted. I just watched. There were so many!
About this time it started to rain.
Some of the views:
I paid RM2 to see the pagoda when I thought I was paying for the incline lift.
Then I found out where that was and paid RM4 return to go up on the lift:
to the bronze statue of Adolokiteshvara (Kuan Yin):
walk around for a while and then back down.
These dog and cat benches are cute:
It was pouring now. My plans to go to Penang Hill where you can overlook Penang had quite literally been rained out:
Hopefully tomorrow would be clearer.
There were some more animal statues:
I walked back to the bus in the rain and caught the bus RM2 that got me pretty close to where I was staying. Had a snooze for a few hours. I walked to EE Beng Vegetarian Food restaurant for dinner. They have a good selection of East and West food. I ordered Fried Spicy Noodles RM5.90 and Carrot juice RM3.90:
Then I walked around a bit before heading home and catching up on computer work.
Wednesday 19 September – Komtar, Pinang Perahakan Mansion, Ferry to Butterworth
Today I decided to buy some postcards to send home to a few friends and family. I walked to a shopping centre called Komtar to get some photos printed to send to Gnanma and Banu. I then went to the Post Office outside the complex to send a few things home and send the postcards. To send envelopes to Australia it cost RM1.40 and RM1 per postcard.
He first took me to Fort Cornwallis that didn’t look that interesting so I just took a few photos around the area:
Here's a couple of the city sights:
Then we went to Pinang Peranakan Mansion where I paid RM10 to stay for about 20 minutes and take a heap of photos:
Love this seat:
My sort of bed:
Photos from inside the bedrooms:
Some musical instruments:
Then we drove down the streets of Little India. Here's a photo of a great art piece near Penang Ta Kam Hong temple:
My drive then dropped me off at EE Beng Vegetarian Food Centre for a late lunch where I paid RM6 for a plate full of beans, eggplant, greens, okra, pumpkin, tofu, mushrooms and fake meat:
I went back to Cozy Home Inn around 15:00, packed my stuff and got a taxi for RM12 to the ferry. As you don’t have to pay to go back over to Butterworth I just walked right into the waiting area. After a 20-minute trip, I arrived and called Malar to let her know I had arrived. Malar picked me up and drove me to her place. Somewhere in the afternoon I realised that I actually had to post the postcards that I had bought in Malaysia so I worked on addressing all the postcards, I had 20 and aimed to write on them tomorrow on the train back to Kuala Lumpur.
Malar and I had dinner at Rern Thai restaurant, which is underneath the apartment she says at for work. We ordered Pineapple Fried Rice RM8:
Chinese Tau-Kua in 3 Taste RM6:
Fried Kang-Kong with Sambai RM6:
Chicken with Cashews without the chicken RM6:
I also had Chrysanthemum tea.
Thursday 20 September – Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur & LCCT
I woke early. This is the view of Butterworth from Malar's place:
Malar drove me to the train station for my 08:00 departure - she even came onto the train with me to make sure I was okay. Malar also organised a packed lunch for me when I was on the train with utensils even though I always carry my own bamboo utensils. I started with a juice then had Poha, a Maharastran, North Indian snack made from oil fried with mustard seeds, onions, chillies, curry leaves, tomatoes; plus pre-soaked rice flakes, turmeric, desiccated coconut, coriander and lime juice:
Plus some sweets: the white one is Mohthagam and the brown one is Peddi (grip) Kollukattai as you grip it in your fist to shape. Containing rice flour dough, filled with pre-cooked green peas, brown sugar, coconut and cardamom:
I also had a few of my own sweets that I had bought at EE Beng Vegetarian Food Centre yesterday for my train trip. I bought six sweets for RM5. I had a peanut one:
A lotus one:
And a coconut one:
I took the Ekspres Rakyat AFC Premier Class where I had my own chair to myself and could put my backpack above me – similar to the train I caught from Yogyakarta to Surabaya and similar to the US Amtrak trains. I was in the Coach R1 Seat 7A and it cost RM67 (approximately AU$22.30 – divide RM by 3). I wrote 20 postcards to my friends back home in Australia. I hope they can read them this time. Last year when I wrote postcards on a train in America to Seattle, WA in pink pen (!) most of the postcards took awhile to get to the people due to the address and then when they arrived most people couldn’t read them - I hope they can this time.
This train that I am on was the one I was going to originally take from Singapore to Bangkok before I had a deadline to meet Vick and his family in KL. Maybe later on I will still do it as my preferred method of transport is trains. There’s this great train website that I use to get information on train travel. They have information on how to travel around the world by train – I REALLY want to do this one-day!
I worked on my blog (in a Word document, no WIFI on the train) and had a bit of a rest. We arrived at KL Sentral at 14:15 ish. I put my backpack in a locker for RM10 and walked around a block or so to find the Post Office to post my postcards and buy some more stamps. I then took the red Sky bus RM10 from KL Sentral to LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal – where all the Air Asia flights leave.) It took about an hour to get there. I was staying at the Air Asia hotel, Tune. For a budget airline, I was shocked that the price to stay at their hotel was double what I normally spend on accommodation. I weighed this up with the fact that the hotel website said it was a 7 minute walk from there to the airport, so I would not have to pay taxi, bus or train fares in the morning.
When I had arrived in KL a couple of weeks ago I had seen a vegetarian restaurant, Passage Thru India at the airport. I went here for an early dinner, ended up talking to the manager for an hour. He informed me that their restaurant was the only vegetarian place at LCCT and the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport.) I ate a Roti Canai set for RM12 and a mango juice for RM6 and forgot to take a photo as I was hungry and, you know, talking. I then headed back to the hotel for a bit of computer work and to try to get an early night as tomorrow was a mighty early start.
Friday 21 September – KL to Yogyakarta, Java
I woke up at 04:20, which is just ridiculous. It took me exactly 10 minutes to walk from the hotel to the baggage area at the LCCT airport - pretty close to what the hotel said online. Luckily I had allowed a bit of extra time, as I was lined up in one area for ages before being told to line up in another (Indonesian) area. My flight was at 07:00. I ate a coconut pao at one of the food vendors at the airport. I slept most of the flight, which I’m thankful that I can do. The pilot let us know when we were close to Yogyakarta that there were some flight students and some extra air traffic so we wouldn’t be able to land for another 15-20 minutes.
The Yogyakarta airport is quite small and the visa area is one tiny window where you have to have US$25 or the Rupiah (Indonesian) equivalent. Unfortunately, I hadn’t changed my Malaysian Ringgit so I had to leave my passport with the girls, go (way) outside to an ATM to get money out, come back in and get my visa. A bit of a muck around but no problem really. I am now back in Indonesia and ready to start my veg events tour!
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