Hanging Out Like a Local in Hat Yai

The Kuan Yin shrine overlooking the Hat Yai metropolis
The Kuan Yin shrine overlooks the Hat Yai metropolis

Why Hat Yai? Is Hat Yai in Thailand’s Songkla province near the Malaysian border on anyone’s bucket list?

The 2006, 2007 and 2014 bombings are still evident in the strict security measures as you go into places like the Central Festival shopping centre. A shopping mecca and tourist magnet for Malaysians and Singaporeans, Hat Yai was at the end of our train trip from Bangkok. You can continue on the train south to Butterworth in Malaysia, but we had other plans.

Is Hat Yai in Thailand’s Songkla province on anyone's bucket list? Click To Tweet

Early morning arrival in Hat Yai

After the 16 hour overnight train trip from Bangkok we finally arrived in Hat Yai at 6 am. The tuk tuk drivers outside the train station were vying for our trade, offering ridiculously outrageous prices for the 20 minute ride to our hotel. We walked away after some good natured bargaining.

Then the tuk tuk drivers had a chat among themselves and decided on a designated driver to offer the ride for about a third of their original offer.

Would we be allowed to check in early? We weren’t ready to wander the streets, we were ready for some chill time in our rooms. The Smart Hotel had just opened and the front office people were still trying to figure out how everything worked. The upside was the hotel was almost empty and they were happy for us to move in early.

All the staff were very friendly and accommodating. Especially at first when we had to ask them for the kettle and coffee making stuff. Which I swear they collected from the other just-vacated rooms. I guess they were still deciding how many kettles they needed to buy.

After catching our breath with that welcome chill time in our lovely clean rooms, we were ready to tackle Hat Yai.

How to act like a local in Hat Yai

The Hat Yai Municipal Park is a kind of a playground for the locals. The swimming pools near the entrance were packed. We watched kids cavorting around in the water while we at ate pad thai from the food stalls.

After that we spent quality time at the top of the hill, exploring the two temples and riding the cable car.

Kuan Yin Shrine

There’s a bus to take you from the foot of the hill to the Kuan Yin Shrine with the tallest standing Buddha in southern Thailand overlooking the Hat Yai metropolis and surrounding area.

Lifelike wax monk
He looks real to me

Realistic wax likenesses sit casually in the foyer. At first I mistook the statues for real meditating monks, the wax figures are so lifelike.

 

Small cable car, huge views at the Hat Yai Municipal Park
Small cable car, huge views

 

 

I mistook the statues for real meditating monks, the wax figures are so lifelike. Click To Tweet

Cable car

The itty bitty cable car takes just two and a half minutes to cover the 525 meters from the Kuan Yin Shrine to the Elephant Temple or Four-Faced Brahma Shrine. But the views are spectacular all the way.

Elephants galore at the Four Faced Buddha Shrine, Hat Yai Municipal Park
Elephants galore

Four-Faced Brahma Shrine

There are golden elephants galore around this shrine. The Four-Faced Buddha simultaneously faces north, east, south and west. Surrounded by elephants of course.

We took the bus back down the hill, but kind of regretted we didn’t walk. By then we’d run out of time to check out the Science and Astronomy Centre about halfway down the hill.

Top Tips for Travellers

 

  1. Local buses are cheap saving you long walks and expensive taxi fares. There’s a regular local bus running along the main drag leading to the Municipal Park. Just hang with the locals at the bus stop, get on and off anywhere and pay the driver what the locals are paying. It felt like a donation system, sort of. Once we didn’t have any small notes but the driver smiled happily when we piled out all our pocket change into his hand.
  2. Choose the most recently opened hotels for your stay. You’ll get a clean room with a modern TV, aircon that works and toilets that flush reliably (you hope). For the same price the older hotels can be dirty and smelly, with last century televisions and equipment that doesn’t work as well as it did in the eighties.
  3. The locals are infamous for their habit of hiking prices up for tourists. Take note of what the locals pay for their bowl of tom yum while you’re savouring yours, then simply offer the same amount when you go to pay. This worked for us some of the time. But keep your first world wallet in perspective: the difference is probably petty cash in your currency.

 

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Slow Train from the City of Angels to the Southern Border

Eat, Shop, Play Pool

 

 

 

Slow Train from the City of Angels to the Southern Border

Our train ready to leave Bangkok Train Station
Getting ready to leave Hua Lamphon (Bangkok Train Station)

Bangkok Train Station to Hat Yai

After our stay in HCMC we flew to Bangkok. The other captain and I hadn’t been to Thailand in a while. I’d forgotten how exotic and friendly the Thais are. And how much I love their green curries. The other captain’s brother, an overseas travel virgin, was beginning to get the hang of SE Asian travel.

The plan was to check out the great city then take the overnight train from Bangkok to the southern border town of Hat Yai.

The city of angels

Bangkok is just the name people who don’t come from Thailand call this gritty city. Bangkok translates as “village of wild plums”. Not exactly sexy. Whereas Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ), as the Thais call it, means “city of angels”. The full name translates as:

The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

I didn’t see any angels in the happy city. But I had fun chatting with some beautiful girls on Soi Cowboy when the other captain’s brother asked us to show him the bright lights.

Waterfront homes with gardens floating past
Waterfront homes with gardens floating past

River Cruise

One of the highlights of our stay was a river cruise. With a 150 baht ticket (about six Aussie dollars) you can get off and on Chao Phraya Tourist Boat  as often as you like at the eight piers along the route. You can stop to check out cathedrals, temples, museums, markets and the Grand Palace.

z-bangkok-temple

Along the river five star hotels stand next to falling apart local dwellings. Longtail boats fly past. Barges laden down to their water level lumber by. Islands of plants float past.

Along Bangkok's Chao Phraya River five star hotels stand next to falling apart local dwellings. Click To Tweet

Skytrain

We stayed in Sukhumvit, right on the Skytrain (Bangkok Mass Transit System or BTS) route, making it easy (and cheap) to get around. Our stop was On Nut, which was simple enough to remember. Our first destination was often Asok, which sounds like asshole when announced over the train PA system. Just so you know.

Slow train from Bangkok to Hat Yai

The slow train from Bangkok central to Hat Yai is a 16 hour trip, leaving at around 2pm.  A sleeper ticket is 1300 baht (1100 for the top bunk). It’s no secret I love train travel. We had no trouble getting our ticket at Bangkok Train Station for the next day. In fact our train was about 70% empty. Our party of three had a pair of two-berth cabins with a connecting door, and one empty berth.

The cabins are clean, simple and comfortable. You can have a delicious dinner set for 170 baht. I had the green chicken curry with jasmine rice, tom yum soup, fruit juice and fresh fruit platter. Yum!

I took this trip by myself when we first bought Yana de Lys.  I’d been to Pattaya to meet the previous owners and collect some boat stuff they were storing. I shared my cabin with a mountain of gear, including a brand new sail belonging to Yana.

Before the train even left Bangkok Train Station the steward had asked me if I fancy a beer for the trip. At the time I thought, “Sure a couple of cans of Chang might be nice for sunset”. Next thing I knew my basin was filled with ice and two king browns. Did I look like I was dying of thirst?

Bangkok Train Station encourages you to leave you booze here.
Bangkok Train Station encourages you to leave you booze here. So why are the bottles empty?

Well it’s different now. Technically you’re not supposed to drink on the train, but we were subtle about it and the staff didn’t seem to care anyway. (There are no smoking signs but the conductors have a puff at the end of the train.)

So if you fancy a beer for the journey it’s a good idea to stock up before you leave. And if you like em cold you can buy some ice from the convenience store at the train station.

Hat Yai

Around 6:00 the next morning we arrived in the… er exciting town of Hat Yai. I’ll tell you about it in my next blog. When I get around to it. (Slow travel = slow blog writing.)

Top Tips for Travellers

  1. Taxis can be very exxy in Bangkok, especially if you get stuck in the endless and frequent traffic jams. Take the Skytrain if you can.
  2. You can only buy alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores from 1100-1400 and 1700-2400. It seems like a weird law, and some smaller shops may not enforce the rules. Try just acting like a dumb farang if you get the times wrong and you might be okay.
  3. If you’re planning on visiting any temples make sure you wear (or bring) clothes that cover your shoulders and knees and ideally your ankles too.

Related

35 Hours on a Train

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Exploring the Funny Side of Angkor Wat

Temple Tourism 101

I know I know. Everyone takes Angkor Wat seriously seriously. And rightly so.

Cambodia holidays: Angkor Wat

Our guide showing us how big his new backpack needs to be. Read on. I’ll explain later…

We’re talking about the mother of all temples. 900 years old. The largest religious site in the world.

Angkor Wat is the mother of all temples. 900 years old. The largest religious site in the world. Click To Tweet

All self-respecting Cambodia holidays should include at least a look at Angkor Wat, shouldn’t they?

You can’t come home from your Cambodia holidays and say you didn’t visit any temples. Can you?

Well you can cheat. If you’re like the other captain and have a low threshold for temple tourism you can play Temple Golf instead of visiting the archaeological sites.

Cambodia holidays highlights: Mini golf
Playing mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt is a kind of religious experience

 

Angkor Wat Putt is a miniature golf course with nine crumbling, accurate scale miniatures of the famous Angkor Temples. A bizarre spiritual experience.

Hey and by the end of the nine holes you can say you’ve visited nine of the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park temples. Bargain.

A tour guide with a sense of humour

If being loose with the truth doesn’t work for you I recommend choosing a guide with a sense of humour.  We got lucky. Our guide, Kim, was both a funny guy and a gold mine of information.

After watching sunrise at Angkor Wat, then checking out the Tomb Raider temple we tuktukked our way to Phnon Bok.

During the half hour ride, Kim pointed out the skinny cows,  explaining they look anorexic because they were fed on noodles.

And talked about his vision for buying his own tuk tuk and starting an independent tour guide business.

Dreaming of a dwarf wife in a backpack

Over the next bumping half hour, we discussed his business plan, adding helpful suggestions, as you do.

My chef brother in law suggested catering would work as a value add. My archaeologist sister wondered if our guide had family, maybe some kids, who could help out with the barbecue planned for the roof of the tuk tuk?

Well no, Kim said, he was still single. But looking. And came up with the idea of marrying a dwarf so he could carry her in a backpack in the tuk tuk.

Our guide came up with the idea of marrying a dwarf so he could carry her in a backpack. Click To Tweet

The idea was for Kim to drive the tuk tuk and do the tour guiding, while his mini wife cooked the satays on the barby on the tuk tuk roof. From within Kim’s backpack.

An innovative twist for solving the space constrictions involved in turning a tuk tuk into a part time food truck.

Do you think it will take off on Shark Tank?

Graffiti or religious recycling?

Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a Hindu shrine, then transformed into a Buddhist temple, spawning some interesting artistic repurposing.

Hundreds of images of Vishnu had beards drawn on them (well, carved into the sandstone). And his crown had been given a makeover to turn it into Buddha’s crowning glory curls.

Cambodia holidays: beautiful ruins
What are they going to do with all these spare parts? My nine year old niece contemplating the ruins.

Beautiful ruins

Of the three temples we visited one, Angkor Wat has been restored. Another, Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple) is being refurbished. Although it looks like the trees, not the reconstruction teams, are winning.

And the third, Phnon Bok is still in a beautiful ruin.

Or, according to Tourism Cambodia Phnom Bok is

“a state of ruin, a state of beauty, which is investigated with delight and left with regret”

Part of our regret on leaving was having to face the 635 steps back down the hill with jelly legs (from the 635 steps climb up) in the dusty heat.

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5 Days in Siem Reap

Revealing a hidden temple in the jungle

Temple Golf

I loved exploring Angkor Wat, it was one of the highlights of my recent Cambodia holidays. It was a barrel of laughs despite the dust and heat and 635 steps.

Have you ever been to Angkor Wat, or on holiday to Cambodia? What were your impressions? Did you love it or laugh about it or take it all deadly seriously?

5 Days in Siem Reap

Remember the Dead Kennedy’s song Holiday in Cambodia?
When I was a teenager, the idea of taking holidays in Cambodia was a joke. Back then, under Pol Pot’s regime, the combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population.

Holidays in Cambodia are full of surprises

Now it’s totally different.
Siem Reap is gritty, it’s dusty, it’s charismatic, it’s cosmopolitan. It’s dirt cheap. It’s hedonistic, spiritual and surprising.
As the other captain remarked,

“This town’s got grit.”

True. I even had to wipe the dust off the bank machine screen so I could see how many $US I was withdrawing.

The hotel we’d paid for was a construction site

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: Fancy Boutique Hotel construction site
We had paid for our stay at the Fancy Boutique Hotel, but it was still being built

Day 1. We arrived at Siem Reap around 8 am after an obscenely early start. Our hotel transfer driver was at the airport holding up a card with my name. Yay, great start to my holiday in Cambodia!
The confusion began when our tuk tuk stopped outside a hotel we’d never heard of and the driver proceeded to unload our bags.
When we pointed to the name of the Fancy Boutique Hotel on the printed booking voucher, our driver said the Fancy was all booked out so we’d been moved and asked if we’d like to see for ourselves.
Hey why not? Sure enough. The Fancy Hotel was under construction. So we stayed at the Dinata Angkor instead. Nothing wrong with the Dinata. Once the dust had settled on our confusion. It was comfortable, clean and the staff were fantastically friendly and helpful.

Temple Golf

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt
Mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt

Day 2. If you’re looking for a kooky spiritual experience check out Angkor Wat Putt, a miniature golf course with nine crumbling, accurate scale miniatures of the famous Angkor Temples.
We hired bicycles and rode the dusty hot roads past it in convoy. It was easy enough to miss.
How much fun can you have in the heat? Beers are a buck (US$1). There’s even a butler button so you don’t have to interrupt your game if you get thirsty. And a cool soundtrack. Early eighties Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Doors.

You get a free beer for a hole in one. What’s not to love?

You get a free beer for a hole in one. What’s not to love? Click To Tweet

Angkor Wat

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: Phnom Bok temple
We climbed 635 steps to the crumbling, peaceful Phnom Bok temple. The panoramic views were spectacular

Day 3. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is awesome and sublime. Even if it was another obscenely early morning.
The Angkor Wat Archaeological Park covers 400 square kms. I’m going to dedicate a separate blog to our visit. Suffice to say it was worth climbing the 635 steps to see the spectacular crumbling ruins of Phnon Bok. Without the crowds.

Electric bike tour of the back streets

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: electric bike tour of the back street burbs of Siem Reap
We stopped for a (warm) beer during our electric bike tour of the back street burbs of Siem Reap

Day 4. I’d never been on an electric bike before. So quiet, so cool.
Our convoy of E-bikes followed the river, further and further out of town to the burbs where the locals live.
Kids were having fun swimming in the river.
We slowed down to let a grubby, naked toddler carrying a mobile phone get off the road.
Chickens and roosters crossed our path.
We finished the day eating tapas at Bugs Cafe… My brother in law and I were violently ill that night.

A night at the circus

I spent Day 5 recovering and regretting eating that tarantula.

Okay. I wasn’t feeling 100%. But I wouldn’t have missed our night at the Cambodian circus for the world. My brother in law wasn’t up to it so we offered his ticket to our tuk tuk driver. You should have seen the surprise and happiness on the tuk tuk driver’s face.

“Oh my God? Really?”

He obviously loved the circus as much as we did, jokingly pretending to be my missing brother in law throughout the evening.
The circus is run by Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS). PPS provides arts education for young people from the streets and orphanages who come to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.
“Influence”, the show we saw, mixes drama and circus to explore struggles for power and survival. Impressive, moving and powerful. Some of the mime reminded me of the live video of the Dead Kennedys Holiday in Cambodia on Rage…

I’d love to spend more time visiting Cambodia. If I won lotto I’d be planning lots more holidays in Cambodia. In fact I’d like to sail there sometime…

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Exploring the Funny Side of Angkor Wat

Good morning Vietnam (Holidays in Vietnam Part 1)

Revealing a hidden temple in the jungle

36 Hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Urban Legends from the Aussie Outback

 

Man and dog canoeing on Lake Serene at Boshack in the Australian outback, sort of
Man and dog canoeing on Lake Serene

I did some reverse travel a while ago.  Back in Australia visiting family and friends.

One family member works at Boshack Outback, ninety minutes from Perth, Western Australia.  A fascinating and hauntingly beautiful spot near Toodyay. People come from all over the world to experience the Australian outback, just 100 kms from Perth.

Kitchen makeover in the Australian outback

We visited the Boshack Outback farm for business and pleasure.  There was a kitchen makeover involved, as well as a barbecue and lots of witty chat.

The new ceiling going up for the Australian outback kitchen makeover
The new ceiling going up
The other captain was there to help his brother with a small construction project.  While the boys and resident backpackers built the ceiling, my sister and I wandered around the lake, soaking up the serene scenery.  After lunch the owner Deryck, gave us an express tour of the highlights.

Meditation Centre

The paperbark trees are said to be 200 years old. They've been meditating in the Australian outback for a while.
The paperbark trees are said to be 200 years old. They’ve been meditating a while.

The path through huge wise old paperbark trees is soggy and silent.  Until you get to the itty bitty waterfall.  Then the ground is soggy with a gentle falling water soundtrack.

My brother in law refers to this sublime spot as the Meditation Centre.  Deryck, calls it the Reflection Area.

It’s peaceful alright.  Even groups of schoolkids can stay still and quiet here for a minute and twenty seconds, according to Deryck.

Chasing sheep is the number one most popular activity

Who would have thought chasing sheep would be such a hit?   I’m guessing that statistic is from the children’s feedback.   My sister and I decided to give this exciting activity a miss.  We got enough of it when we were kids.
I understand eating live, raw witchety grubs comes a close second in popularity.

It’s a small world…

… when you can visit the Australian outback an hour and a half drive from Perth. I used to think of the outback as the remote, arid interior of Australia.

But the people who come from Singapore or England or wherever probably think they’re in the Never Never already when they get off the Great Eastern Highway.

The air is soooo clean compared to Senibong Cove back in Malaysia.  And the silence is almost deafening.  You can’t get phone or Internet connections.  I guess that’s why the Boshack website invites you to Rid Yourself of Nature Deficit disorder.

Nothing wrong with the nature cure I say.

A sneak peak inside the Australian outback tent accommodation
A sneak peak inside the tent accommodation

Where do you think the Australian outback is?

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Revealing a Hidden Temple in the Jungle

 

Ganesh, dressed to thrill, in the hidden temple.
Ganesh, dressed to thrill, in the hidden temple.

 

I could smell incense. I thought I could see a hidden temple. So I parked my motorbike on the side of the road. And carefully threaded my way down the treacherous slope.
I crossed the dodgy bridge to where I glimpsed some buildings in the jungle.

It’s a Hindu hidden temple

Aah I thought so.  A Hindu temple.  Run down.  With empty Tiger beer cans, crushed cigarette packs and other rubbish lying around.  I like the lack of reverence.  Opposite to my strict Catholic upbringing.

“Sshhh don’t talk during mass or you won’t get an ice cream after”.

In Hindu tradition, there is no dividing line between the secular and the sacred.

Ganesh on my radar

 

As I wandered around the hidden temple I recognised Ganesh, the elephant-headed god.  He is the god of wisdom and learning.
I keep a small statue of him on top of our radar on Yana de Lys.  His job description is “remover of obstacles”.  I’m not sure if I have our relationship right though because I can’t get my radar to work.
This week I had a local Moslem guy helping me with the trouble shooting.  When he saw Ganesh there he said “That’s why it cannot on”.    (“Cannot on” is the technical term in SE Asia for anything that won’t work).
I have an email pen friend at the Furuno office in Singapore.  He’s been giving me troubleshooting ideas.   His latest advice is to bring the unit in for his people to check out.  Looks like another trip to Singapore coming up.  Any suggestions for art galleries to visit?

Going green

I drive past the temple entrance on my way home from Permas Jaya town to Senibong Cove Marina nearly every day.
Recently I was intrigued to see a frenzy of motorbikes and cars parked there as I rode past. This went on for some weeks.  A work party.  They’ve chopped down the jungle which gave it atmosphere.  It’s not a hidden temple anymore.  Everything is in plain view.  And painted a nauseous shade of green!  Oh dear.

Hidden temple in the jungle before..
Hidden temple in the jungle before…

Hidden temple in the jungle after...
…and after

 Moving right along…or not

While I was meditating at the no longer hidden temple in the jungle, I started thinking about my blog.  (I have to admit I didn’t meditate long.  I was attacked by a swarm of non vegetarian mosquitoes.)
Are my readers disappointed that my adventures are all “Land trips on the side” lately?  Rather than sailing on Yana de Lys?  I’m still living on Yana de Lys.   Still living the dream, still loving living in Malaysia.
But the reason we’re not moving on just yet is that old chestnut: money.  I used to have a virtual job in the Australian mining media, but the downturn has put the kibosh on that one.
The other captain is working in Australia.  And I’m try to figure out how to reinvent my career as an online writer.  So if you happen to share my blog there’s more chance we can go sailing again sometime soon.  Just saying…

Ganesh on my radar, not in the hidden temple
Ganesh on my radar which cannot on

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Road Trip to Malacca: Flat Tyres, Food and Fun.

Our first delay on the way to the city of Malacca, Malaysia
Our first delay on the way to the city of Malacca, Malaysia

 

Malacca, Malaysia is charming, fun and delicious.

When we sailed past last year, we didn’t stop because there were no good anchorages.  It’s been burning a hole in our bucket list since then.

So we decided to ride the Yarley there.

Flat tyres

I guess 125cc Yamaha scooters aren’t made for 300+ km road trips for driver, pillion passenger, two wine bottles of spare fuel and two backpacks.

Why?  Because we had our first flat tyre about 50km down the road.   We had to roll our bike 5km, hot and sweaty and constantly asking myself “are we nearly there yet?” to have the tyre replaced.

(It was trashed.)  Later we learnt you can use the help phones on the side of the motorway.  Don’t you love hindsight?

We had the second flat tyre on our way home.  Apparently the new tyre was made in Malaysia, not destined to last.

I tried using the motorway help phone.  I was wondering what to do next after five minutes of listening to “Please hold the line” when a kind truck driver stopped.  He offered to take us and our moto to the next town to have the tyre replaced.  With a tyre made in Vietnam.  RM5 cheaper but better quality, so we’re told.

Eat, drink, pray and visit museums in Malacca, Malaysia

Tandoori ovens in Malacca Malaysia
The tandoori ovens running hot

Naan makers in Malacca Malaysia
Naan makers are kept busy

The food in Malacca is fabulous.  The tandoori chicken and naan bread at Pak Putra is sensational.

The Portuguese chicken dish at Eleven Bistro was delicious.

Also I discovered why everyone raves about Malacca’s famous chicken rice balls and steamed chicken. Yum.

Buying wine was a bit tricky, but we managed.  On the first night we found a supermarket selling reasonably priced red wine as we headed out to dinner.  It was okay so on our way back to our hotel we decided to get a second bottle.  The checkout chick in headscarf, asked me if I had finished the first bottle already.  “No no this one is for tomorrow” I said.  Headscarf smiled.

Malacca’s long history is visible in the variety of places of worship from a Catholic church to a temple sponsored by Guinness and Tiger beer.  Well that’s what it looked like anyway.  The columns featured advertising for both beverages.

Maritime Museum, Malacca Malaysia
Maritime Museum

There are more museums than you can poke a stick at.  Wikipedia lists 38.  We visited two.  The Maritime Museum, housed in a replica of the Portugues Flor de la Mar, a 400 ton nau or carrack (sailing vessel) from the 16th century.

And St Paul’s Hill.  A ruined church with a spectacular view.  Famous for being the temporary resting place for St Francis Xavier’s body enroute to India.

There are churches, mosques and temples everywhere.

A trifecta of temples

Jalan Tokong, AKA Harmony Street, features three temples and a mosque.  You can get your multicultural spiritual fix in one short walk.

The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Malacca Malaysia
The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple,

The Cheng Hoon Teng Temple is the oldest functioning temple in Malaysia. Another trifecta here: It’s for devotees of the Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
Sri Poyyatha Vinayagar Moorthi Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Malaysia.

The architecture of the Kampung Kling Mosque is a combination of Sumatran, Chinese, Hindu and Malay styles.

I lit incense in the Xiang Lin Si Temple which is run by Buddhist nuns.

The river at night, Malacca Malaysia
The river at night. Guess what? There’s a church in the background.

On the Sunday I had planned to go to mass at the historic St. Francis Xavier Church.  I have very catholic spiritual tastes and admit I am more lapsed than Catholic.

 

Wet wet wet: flooding in Malacca Malaysia
Wet wet wet
 It was bucketing rain.  The streets were flooded.  So I borrowed an umbrella from the hotel and had a cappuccino and croissant just round the corner instead.  Divine.  So good it was almost a religious  experience.

 

It was lucky the deluge ended before we headed home.  Another flat tyre in the pouring rain might not have been much fun.

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Have you visited Malacca Malaysia?  What were your impressions?  Or maybe you have suggestions for other places worth visiting?  And BTW if you enjoy reading my travel stories I would love you to share my blog!

Johor Who? Three Things I love About This Dirty Old Town

Johor Bahru, the capital city of the state of Johor Malaysia isn’t exactly a popular tourist mecca.  Most travelers pass through on their way from Singapore, just over the causeway (more on that later), to Kuala Lumpur and beyond.

Tourist attractions in Johor Malaysia?

There aren’t many tourist attractions.  In fact sometimes I feel like the tourist attraction, riding around three on my motorbike with my sister and eight year old niece.

A lot of money changes hands on horse racing nights in Jalan Meldrum in Johor Malaysia
A lot of money changes hands

Three things I love about Johor Bahru

Here are just three things I love about JB in the state of Johor Malaysia:

  1. Race nights in Jalan Meldrum.  We refer to this street fondly as Jalan Molly Meldrum.  If you are mystified by this reference do yourself a favour and Google this much loved Aussie icon.

When the horse races are on in KL and Singapore the street is alive with bookies, gamblers, runners and onlookers.  No-one gets to see the races but a lot of money changes hands.

The locals are incredibly welcoming and friendly. When one of the punters was talking to me I mentioned the other captain used to be a jockey.  Somehow this has become legend and he is known as a world famous jockey there.

Better still, since he won a couple of bets one evening they figure he’s an internationally successful gambler and ask him for his tips.

The bling is almost blinding in the glass temple, in Johor Malaysia
The bling is almost blinding in the glass temple

2. The Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple.  All Bollywood bling.

One evening I attended a puja (prayer ritual) involving countless trays of chopped vegetables and stuff being thrown into a ceremonial fire, interspersed with bundles of wood and oil poured onto the fire to the soundtrack of chanting and drum beating.

At one point the priest’s pyromaniac skills slipped and the whole temple was engulfed in smoke.  I could hardly breathe but it was incredibly atmospheric.

We call this restaurant in Little India in Johor Malaysia the Giant Duck.
We call this restaurant in Little India the Giant Duck.

 3. Food glorious food.  There is endless variety, and the local food is not expensive. My absolute favourites include roast duck, and crispy pork and Sup Kambing (conveniently supplied with straws to suck out the marrow).

Bone sucking. The food in Johor Malaysia is sensational.
Bone sucking

Since the Danga Bay Marina was closing we have moved our yacht Yana de Lys to the Senibong Cove Marina near Permas Jaya.

A causeway is a road not a bridge

I’d done a quick Navionics electronic navigation calculation on my phone while I was eating lunch one day.

Despite not having signed up to be a solo sailor, I figured I could sail the ten or twelve miles on my own.  I know I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last person to make this dumb mistake.  I wondered why there was no Air Height shown on the chart for the bridge to Singapore.  Doh!  That’s why its called a causeway – it’s basically a road not a bridge.

I called the other captain back from Australia for the 90 mile circumnavigation of Singapore. Meanwhile I get to enjoy eating and exploring this dirty old town of Johor Malaysia.

Related

A snake in the sink and other fun at Danga Bay

The Pogues – Dirty Old Town

I Heart Georgetown

Visit Penang to discover the funky art and beer joints.
Georgetown is full of funky art and beer joints.

Who needs a reason to visit Penang?

Living in Phuket, we often heard the expats talking about visa runs. Because typically you only get a 30 day visa on arrival in Thailand. We stayed two years (mainly fixing Yana de Lys). Which meant we decided to visit Penang in Malaysia a few times so we could sort out extended visas with the embassy there.
I fell in love with Georgetown, the main city. I’d never miss an opportunity to go back. Click To Tweet

Two days in Georgetown

Our last visit to Penang was just a two day visa run.  But it was sublime, totally reaffirming my love of Georgetown.  We stayed at the Chulia Heritage on (duh!) Chulia Street.  And yes we ate at the Red Garden Food Paradise.  But shock horror tears we found the Famous Crispy Duck stall closed!  For Ramadan?  No doubt it was the quietest we had ever seen Georgetown.  It was kinda weird the way the chaos level of the traffic was so subdued…

Tickets to the Blue Mansion

I decided we would take a look at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion  after walking past it so many times on our visits to the Red Garden.   I’d heard you have to book in advance so headed off on our first morning to organise tickets while the other captain did some serious TV time in the room.  As it happened we didn’t need to book ahead.  I ended up with some time up my sleeve before our lunch date so wandered around Muntri Street and Love Lane checking out some of the cool art galleries and old buildings.

Check out the Hainan Temple when you visit Penang.
Are they dragons on the roof ? Or is it the patron saint of sailors at the Hainan Temple?

Spiritual leanings

I also snuck in a temple visit, spending some velvet devotional time in the Hainan Temple.  (The other captain runs a mile when I mention temples.) The building just looked so exquisite from the outside I had to go in.

The Hainan Temple looked so exquisite from the outside I had to go inside. Click To Tweet

I lit a candle for my beautiful lost wild child – a Catholic ritual in a Chinese temple.  (I definitely have catholic tastes when it comes to spirituality and religion.)  Later I read in the Lonely Planet the temple’s patron saint is the patron saint of seafarers.  No wonder I felt drawn.

Our first guided tour. Ever.

Anyway for the first time in our travelling careers, we took a guided tour.  Well, it is the only way to see inside the Cheong Fatt Tze AKA the Blue Mansion.

Our tour guide was excellent, an expert at engaging her audience of some 37 people.  She told great stories about the family who built and lived in the mansion, including the original owner’s (favourite) wife number seven.  Our guide’s depth of understanding of Chinese culture as well as the architecture, intrinsically linked with Feng Shui, was fascinating.

Visit Penang to see how the Kongsi Clan Temple is as georgeous on the inside as out.
More dragons. Maybe the next Game of Thrones will be filmed here? The Kongsi Clan Temple is as georgeous on the inside as out.

Kongsi Clan Temple

The next morning I felt inspired to continue the theme with a visit to the Cheah Kongsi Clan Temple. The other captain was out buying electrical wire for Yana de Lys God bless him.
I was amazed at how the stuff I learnt in the Blue Mansion tour helped me understand and interpret what was going on with the design and history of this gorgeous building.   Without a tour guide heh heh.

Found in translation

By the end of our Penang visit I had almost been able to dredge up and appropriately use the Malaysian language I’d learned in my on and off two years in Langkawi.  It’s all about the menus.  Roti Canai.  Yes! Mango Lassi.  Yes!  (I hadn’t found my Malaysian breakfast favourites in Phuket.  Well not in the English alphabet or picture menus anyway.)
Then we were back in Phuket International Airport with our three month- convertible into six-month visas. (I know it’s complicated. Let’s not go there.) I had to switch back to my basic basic basic Thai.

How do people know how to speak multiple languages without getting confused?

Related

Road Trip to Malacca

Travelling backwards in time to Myanmar

Georgetown Attractions