(Hey! We're in Bangkok! First Thailand post coming soon...first, last post from Malaysia!)
(Also-please forgive if this reads like a guide book, I've been reading alot of the Thailand one lately!)
We had very little idea what to expect of Georgetown, arriving in thick midday traffic. The guidebook describes it as a "big bustling town without a beach in sight", but then vaguely says that it "retains more cultural history than anywhere else in the country".
In the end the not knowing was what we enjoyed most about Georgetown. In this way, we made our own discoveries of temples and old buildings, fancy hotels, secret tea houses and funky young cafes; turning a corner and finding ourselves smack in the middle of little India, or walking into the eclectic Red Garden night food market and ordering giant juices and delicious dahl. It is here that I finally bemoaned my lack of a really good camera, for Georgetown is a photographer's paradise. From ornate temples to ramschackle row houses with faded green shutters, everything wants to be photographed. And although the IPod has come in very handy for posting directly to our blog, it is very limited in low light conditions. Given a good camera, I could have probably walked the streets for days.
Anyway, we were perfectly happy exploring alleyways and sitting in cafes to escape the heat. We tried to find a swimming pool for Abbey, but there were no public ones. For some unfathomable reason, Georgetownians don't have the same desperate need to immerse their bodies in cold water in 35 degree heat.
In the end, we only really targeted one destination to visit in Georgetown, and that was the Kek Lok Si temple ('Temple of Supreme Bliss') located in the middle of the island. This, as boasted in a local review, was "one of the best examples of the largest Buddhist temples in Malaysia" (whatever that means!) It was truly fascinating to explore, as everywhere you turned you came across enormous powerful statues or quiet secret shrines. Abbey's patience for it was rather thin, due to the heat, but this turned around when she discovered she could feed fish food to the giant koi. At one point, a man showed up and flung a whole loaf of bread at the fish. He then reached in and grabbed a koi, laughed, and then tossed it back. Apparently they do this for luck. Even more lucky is to kiss one, which he also did! Catch and release is a common theme in Buddhist temples. At the Guan Yin temple, we saw people paying to release small birds. Unexpectedly, the Kek Lok Si temple also houses four large gift shops with hefty surveillance cameras. Curious, in a place that renounces all possessions. Of course, the gift shops presented us with the new important challenge of finding the most unusual souvenir in a Buddhist temple. Hard call between the plastic skull keychain with bloody head-rag, glass lettuce trophy, and nunchucks!
Our last morning in Malaysia was spent packing and walking along the waterfront. Here we discovered a plaque that told of ancient courtship. Apparently the men would line the roads and wait for the one day a year when the parade of young girls, that were otherwise cloistered in houses and schools, would march down the street. The men would then have their chance to pick the girl they wished to court by throwing her an orange. I'm sure the story wouldn't have been nearly as romantic if they had thrown cucumbers. Just a thought.
So that's it for Malaysia!
On to Thailand! Hooray! So much still to look forward to.