Hello from Penang International Airport on our last day in Malaysia. I would have written sooner, but it's been such an awesome and full week that I couldn't find the time!
Last Sunday we flew from Delhi to Kuala Lumpur. In KL, we stayed in a small, quiet hostel run by a very sweet and helpful woman named Suzy. We'd read that Malaysians were famous for their hospitality, and Suzy did not let us down. Over the next four days, we had a great time exploring Kuala Lumpur. Here are some of the highlights.
First, seeing some awesome buildings, including the Petronas Towers (the tallest twin towers in the world, although we chose not to go to the viewing deck because it cost over $30 each!) and the Kuala Lumpur Tower (this has another, technical name, but this is what it was called on our map, so this is what sticks in my head). We did go to the top of the tower, and they were running a special that if you paid an extra dollar you could have tea in the fancy revolving restaurant at the top (the tower is similar to the Space Needle in Seattle, although KL's is taller). So we did that and then went to the observation deck and looked out over the city. KL is also famous for their shopping--there are malls everywhere--and we did some of that too, since lucky for us, July is a month-long sale in all the stores across Malaysia. Since I was very excited to be able to wear shorts and tank tops again with the less conservative dress standards in Malaysia, I hit a giant H&M and stocked up. And don't feel sorry for Ian--he was upstairs in the men's section. We also had fun walking through some of KL's many neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little India. On Wednesday, as we were walking through a market in Chinatown, a man stopped Ian and introduced himself as the head coach of the Malaysian national men's basketball team. They talked basketball for a few minutes and then Paul, the coach, asked if we'd want to come to practice that evening. The stadium was just a few blocks away so he gave us directions and we agreed to go. We showed up at 6:00 that evening and watched part of their practice and Ian talked to Paul and to the secretary general of the league, who was also at the practice. It was pretty cool, and random things like that are one of my favorite parts of traveling.
On Friday we took a train up the western coast of Malaysia to Butterworth and then a ferry across Malacca Strait to Penang, an island off the coast. The main city on the island is Georgetown, where we stayed. Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the island is known for its rich mix of cultures (Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European, among others) and, we found, its food. On our first full day, we hit the Botanical Garden and took a very long, hot 3 1/2 hour hike through the rainforest to the top of Penang Hill, which overlooks much of the island. The view was great, although the hike made me a tiny bit cranky. But luckily, there was a tram at the top to take us down. The rest of our time in Georgetown, we mainly wandered around the streets, took in all the culture, and ate a lot of fantastic food.
Now here we are at the airport, ready to fly to Thailand. I didn't expect to love Malaysia so much and feel somewhat sad to be leaving, but am also looking forward to Thailand, especially because my friend Annie happens to be on her way back to the states from volunteering in northern Thailand and we'll be crossing paths with her in Bangkok tonight!
Our flight leaves soon, so I probably won't post any pics now, but hopefully will be able to get some up from Malaysia soon!