I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Malaysia (2)


Kota Kinabalu

Feeling like a bit of a change from all of these city tours we’ve been doing, we’d chosen to explore the Mount Kinabalu National Park today.  Well, the early start and the activity descriptions nearly put us off, but we realised that, unless the destinations staff make it quite clear that a particular group is going to be climbing steps, walking through uneven terrain and so on, then someone is going to overestimate their ability and spoil the whole shebang for everyone.

So, the warnings for this particular adventure were pretty serious.  Wear sensible shoes.  Expect to be climbing steep inclines and so on.  At times, I wondered if I was up to it!




We’d had another welcome party as we’d arrived and they were pretty scary.  Some wore skulls around their necks and one of the first things we learned was of the headhunters of Borneo.  Hmm. 




But out into the countryside, we soon reconsidered.  This was a lovely landscape.  I wanted to say “unspoiled” but actually, most of what we could see was overgrown, abandoned rubber plantations, let go after the price of runner plummeted when synthetic rubber was discovered.




Anyone of my generation attending a British school in the 1960s would surely have learned about Malaysia’s rubber industry and drawn pictures of the tapping process.  Seldom done now it seems, although the price of rubber has begun to improve once again and people are reconsidering.  Anyway another one of those geographical topics in the picture as well – these people practise slash and burn agriculture too.

We were heading for the National Park of Mount Kinabalu, up there in the clouds, where it remained all day.  4000+ m above sea level, we weren’t going to the top, we hoped – though all of those warnings had us all feeling pretty scared, I can tell you.




On the way, we passed frequent signs to Catholic churches such as this one.  Though Malaysia has a large Muslim population, here in the countryside, other religions are more prominent.




The journey was quite a long one - more than  two hours – and so we made a brief stop at a market along the way,   These bundles of pineapple plants were amongst the more interesting things for sale.




The rest was mostly tourist tat – T shirts and suchlike.




Though I did succumb to another longyi length – $6 for more than two metres of fabric unless I choose to wear it as intended.




Anyway, we were nearly there and all of us were wondering what on earth we’d let ourselves in for.




We needn’t have worried.  Our guide, Nelson, led us around the Botanic Garden at first: A kind of warm up perhaps?




Actually, this was a chance to spot particular things, to know where to look and what type of ting to keep an eye open for.  This is a small ginger flower.




Mostly, we were walking upon even surfaces and the going was perfectly fine.




There were interesting and unusual things to see, too.




So we were well entertained.




The plant life here ranged from the curious




To the slightly strange




to the important but totally insignificant (those two little patterned leaves towards the top fo the photograph are an important and endangered species, believe it or not)




and of course, the spectacular, carniverous plants too.




This was all our “training”, for the next step was to walk the trail through the forest, looking out for what we’d been taught to look out for.


Firstly, the going was a little rougher now.  Not only were we faced with an uphill struggle, the ground was uneven and most of us had our eyes down, concentrating on our feet.  Shame – I’m sure we missed lots, but in the circumstances, there wasn’t even much of a chance to take photos, so focused were we. 




I didn’t even take any photos!  OK, so it was more of the same rainforest landscape, but really, the fear of stumbling made me concentrate on my footing, and reaching the lunchtime buffet came as somewhat of a relief.  For all the dire warnings it hadn’t been bad at all.  Phew.

Nothing that a bowl of tapioca pudding with sweet palm sugar wouldn’t sort out, I’ll say.




After lunch, we had to make our way back down the rickety road, through some mist and rain which had come down in the hour or two we’d been up there




Past what looked like a Chinese cemetery on the main road going into Kota Kinabalu but which I hadn’t been able to take earlier because I was sitting on the wrong side of the bus!




arriving home to our lovely ship around 3pm.  It being Saturday, the traffic had been lighter than expected, not that we were complaining!   Once again, someone was painting.




What a contrast to this rustbucket that sailed past just as I was closing our balcony door.  I know which ship I’d rather sail on!




And that’s another day done.  We met our friends for drinks a little earlier than usual because we had a South East Asian dinner planned in the restaurant.  A group of six can preorder a regional menu and tonight we looked forward to something in keeping with the area in which we’ve been sailing.   It was delicious and beautifully served – once again, we were thoroughly spoiled.

Before we returned to our suite, we went to the theatre to watch one of the most popular shows – Cirque D’Amour.  Amazing costumes and breathtaking acrobatics, we decided to call it a day as soon as it finished.

Dare I say we have an early start tomorrow?!


Penang–it must be Friday




Overcast skies as we ate breakfast this morning overlooking the coast of Penang.  In spite of that, the heat was building as we set off in our independent ways this morning: I was heading to the Batik workshop, Mark to a fruit farm and a temple.




Sharing stories of our day later, we found we’d both travelled much the same path, just a half hour apart and had enjoyed similarly interesting days here.




The landscape we drove through was the coastal developments looking a great deal like many others – tall, high rise apartment blocks set in lush green gardens.  Quite a contrast to the little two storey shophouses downtown in the heritage area.




The Batik Workshop was set in similarly lush surroundings and the fifteen of us were curious as to what we might find here.  We didn’t have to look far, for there, right on the verandah was the first demonstration of block printing.




With remarkable speed and achieving a pretty high level of accuracy, the gentleman printing this pattern in a mix of beeswax and tree sap (for flexibility) was happy to have his skills admired by a succession of foreigners.




Of course, I’m finding that my eyes dart here and there, up onto the ceiling where many, many metal blocks are hanging!  There are more on the walls, in boxes under the table – all over the place.




Then, a young woman demonstrates the “free Tjanting” process and quickly draws several perfectly straight lines and an hibiscus flower.  I can sense several in the group getting nervous now, wondering if they are going to be asked to do this themselves in a minute!




But we can relax, because we are shown around the corner and each select a worktable where a design has already been drawn out in wax onto the cotton cloth and all we are asked to do is to write our names.




There are bottles of dye, each with its own brush made from a rough piece of wood, and bottles of water for diluting the colours.  A quick demonstration is offered and we’re set free…




Mine is taking shape nicely and I’m soon ready to work the leaves.




There are ooohs and aaaahs as the delights of working with colour are shared amongst us.  The glorious surroundings are enhanced by the birdsong and the sound of rain gently falling on the leaves just outside the workshop. 




Everyone created their own masterpiece, some with a little help from the young and extremely delightful Nepalese chap, who swiftly covered the background with colour to finish those who hadn’t quite made it this far in time.  These cloths will be finished by the ladies in the workshop here and sent to us at home.




This afternoon, we pottered about the old town, enjoying the atmosphere.  There were one or two relics of the old British influence to be seen




and some beautiful old buildings.




The predominant influence in this part of the city now is undoubtedly Chinese/Indian, evidenced by this beautiful doorway




and the brightly packaged goods in the supermarket we explored.




Wandering about the streets, it was good to see that we weren’t so far from home at any time.




We’d seen further evidence of that one the way to the Batik Workshop, too.




We didn’t spend all our Ringit so arriving back on board to find this gentleman sitting in the hall, we swapped a few of them for rupees, asking ourselves how many places in the world could one sit alone at a table with money laid out like that?




So, another great day.  We made the tie-break at Trivia this afternoon but sadly missed out on the points.  Tonight, we have plans for dinner with friends and we gain an hour thanks to Thailand’s time difference.

Phuket tomorrow, with a few last minute schedule changes as a result of industrial action by the port transport people.  Instead of berthing at the normal place, we’re going to drop anchor and be tendered ashore.  That’s always fun…