Thursday, 10 January 2013

The traveller returned

My plane from KL to Singapore was delayed. Heavy rains in Singapore meant it left late to get to us. So by the time it landed back in Singapore my flight to Melbourne had been boarding for 15 minutes. Thankfully the plane landed in the same terminal but at one end and it took me almost 20 minutes power walking to get to the other departure gate. The consequence of the delay of the first flight was that baggage handlers didnt get my case onto the Australian flight and it flew on the new trip to Australia. So when I arrived and was waiting at the carousel in Melbourne with no case in sight, I was not unsurprised to hear a call for Dr Helen Tyzack to come to baggage services. Their promise was to deliver it to my door in Hobart later that Tuesday. So off I went to Virgin, and with the help of a marvellous staff member and with no extra cost, I was able to get my late Tuesday flight to Hobart changed to a midday one. Not leaving anything to chance I made a series of phone calls as the day progressed and by 9pm my case arrived in a white chauffeured limousine. And so the washing commenced. The holiday was slipping away. I was lucky as usual. On the 8 hr leg I had three seats to lie down and sleep across. Slept through breakfast and felt the better for it - and landed in Melbourne close to 8am (which was 5am from whence I had travelled). Glad to have tried Singapore Airlines. Found everything to be good except some customer service in Singapore. The thousands of people at Tullamarine on New Years Day confirmed in me a strong disinclination to travel around new year. Please may I not forget that. And people travel with so much. Attendants walk past and say you can only take 1 piece into the cabin, and people dont hear/choose not to hear/ cant hear and walk on with 6 packed bags.

Breakfast no 1 at the Emperor

Nasi lemak is a delicately flavoured rice boiled in coconut water and pandan leaves. Looks for all the world like steamed rice. Fried beehorn (see comments on other posting), bread and butter pudding which was soft and half cooked and actually very nice, sambal tumis, small peanuts, chopped cucumber, 1/2 boiled egg, tiny sausages, watermelon.

Fried Beehorn - breakfast on day 2 at the Emperor

Fried beehorn was a sort of fine noodle mixed with vegetables including corn, green leafs and stalks of some vegetable, something red as well. Lots of unknowns. PLus fried rice, small sausages, sracmbled eggs, mashed potato which I didnt try, Sambal Tumis, and watermelon. Founda cucumber lettuce and tomato next to the watermelon. Tiny little brown flies walking all over the half red tomatoes, Watched chef come along and check. He stirred the bowl with the tomatoes and I watched the flies lift and fall back as he walked away. Watched a Japanese tourist take a photo. As much as I like spicy food, think my digestive track needs a rest. Ulcer in mouth seems to be settling down. Face so puffy. Under eyes a disaster. All the fluids in the air and the fluids being drunk are all attracted to me.

Pineapple tarts

A speciality niche cake in Maleka. Not much bigger in diameter than our 50 cent coin. A base of short pastry that didnt crumble in your fingers but crumbled in your mouth (masterchef would have made this a winner) and was so light and airy and fabulous. In the centre on the top was a dollop about the size of our 10 cent pieces of the sticky pineapple whatever. And it wasnt that sweet. A mouthful and melted away in moments. Normally sold in bulk; in plastic containers with a dozen or more at once, I happened by a street shop where they were baking and selling as they went. And there was a tray just out of the oven waiting to be packaged. I asked and against their wishes was able to buy just one. They were so good I would have swallowed them all if I had bought a pack. But to get one so fresh is the way. I can only imagine after sitting in a pack for a while that crispness and freshness not to mention the afterglow of the oven, would all be gone. How lucky was I?

Nasi Goreng Kampung

Components of this Sunday night dinner at the hotel cafe 1 A mound of fried rice containing carrot, squid circles, and green maybe runner beans, and dried crispy fish about 1 1/2 inches long; plus chilli and spices. 2 A chicken wing roasted. Couldn't fault it. Maybe floured before roasting. Simple and straight forward. 3 Salad of carrots, red onion, chilli ++++, tomato, cucumber and lettuce All immensely edible.

Fried Kuay Teow and Kampung Fried Rice

Is it some sort of flat noodles that when cooked looks like floppy cabbage pieces. Taste of soy (and the noodle was stained with that colour) and sesame; plus bean shoots, shaved carrot, hint of chilli. I wonder what else? This was one of the dishes on offer for breakfast at the Emperor. Also Kampung Fried Rice was on offer. Rice of course, plus celery, small crisp dry fish, green something maybe chives, green beans and many other unidentified ingredients. Plus scrambled eggs and baked beans. The roti canai was tough as the sole of my shoe and I remembered watching roti makers keep squeezing the roti together on the hot plate in order for it to retain its elasticity and lightness. These roti were being kept warm in a deep heated and lidded bowl. Served with a pale brown yellow dahl - pretty lack lustre this pair.

I dont feel comfortable here

I wonder it if it only about the temperature and the humidity or whether there is something more fundamental making me uncomfortable. I find it interesting that normally I am very face focused (to an extent I hadnt previously recognised) but here for 50% of the female population I am fixated on seeing/looking at endlessly different colours and decorated examples of muslim headwear so that I seldom focus on the face. It is the detail of what is around the face that I am seeing. I feel there are holes in that connection experience and the shape of that hole is the oval of the face. That a little more english was spoken here than in Russia in some ways made it more difficult because I was never sure whether to start a conversation. But I realised shallow superficial conversations are so unfulfilling, so tedious and so distracting. Of course, most foreign tourists regardless of their nationality had some english. But seldom was the level adequate for even complex directions to another tourist site. At least in Russia I had no expectations very quickly. I feel there is little intellectual subtance to be gained here. Nothing uplifts me visually or spiritually. A couple of food moments are not enough. I feel a need to go somewhere whre I have cultural connections or a huge familiarity through education and understand in advance there will be potential to be excited. I feel deadened by this experience. Yes I have learnt about different cultures/peoples but nothing I have learnt has given me some sort of leap into a new way of seeing or understanding the world. It has helped me to understand my need for physical comfort, space, intellectual arousal, the world of ideas. But often I have thought a week in the garden would have made me happier. What I do with my life (married/not married; kids/no kids) is not of interest to me (but has been the topic of interest about me here in Malaysia) rather it is notions, beliefs, words, meanings that enthrall me.


The first day in KL threw up many new experiences. In particular as I walked back from KLCC to the Traders Hotel after my day with Maharani, the park and the outflowing doors of the KL Convention centre were flourishing with very colourful youth of malaysia. Hundreds if not thousands of them. It was a convention where everyone dressed up as their favourite contemporary Japanese cartoon characters. Very elaborate (expensively detailed) costumes and there seemed to be a job lot of long haired wigs that had a specific look to the fringe - and came in many colours - obviously to go with the costumes of the different male and female characters. The very high platform boots and shoes that matched. Many were staying at the Traders so the entry foyer was in party mode. It was truly fabulous to behold, and I felt their energy and excitement.

The celebrations of life

As I bussed into Maleka passed the St Francis Catholic Church - a funeral was in progress and typical hearse parked out front. A few days later walking into town and reached the church as a wedding was in progress. Went and sat in a back pew. terribly tedious after they said I do, the priest talked on and on and on and guests arrived late so they like me at the back of the church were going in and out of consciousness with the heat and the fact his microphoned voice didnt carry except intermittently. The bride and groom sat on chairs at centre front the whole time. I gave up and walked on into town. But not before enjoying the colourful floral garlands around the neck of the Jesus statue. Obviously all religions in harmony in Maleka.

Odds and sods - memories

Remembering the dating in the Islamic Arts Museum on exhibit labels - gave our year and the year in an alternative calendar. Not sure what calendar that was. But a nice reminder that history hasnt been organised in the world in the same way for everyone. Was pleased I had no after effects from the ice in Cendols. I had read that Malaysian water was chlorinated and safe to drink from the tap. The ice was as close as I came to the tap. Well no - I did brush my teeth with sink water even if I only sluiced and didnt swallow. Often wanted to get walking about 6amish but not light until 7.15am. So the coolest part of the day was inaccessible. Well rather I wasnt prepared to walk in the dark, even in the early mornings. But at 7.15 am in Maleka all sorts of locals were out doing powerwalks and weird stretches as they walked and stopped and walked again - following their own personal exercise regime. Up the little hill (say 50-100metres) at a fast walk, down and up again and down etc. No other hills around so that was the choice. Chooks at Batu Caves; way up high and internal. Must have been brought there. Weird because they had no straw to rest on and no food to peck at. Maharani (KL)had a grandfather who was an Imam; her parents were Muslim but she went to a Catholic school for her education. Each week she had a choice of Islamic studies or PE so she chose alternating each week with parents approval. M has three children only one teenager still at home. The river cruise in Maleka passed a swarm of thousands of small black birds. Couldnt hear ourselves talk leave alone think. As noisy as a thicket of cicadas. Fireworks from my Emperor window on the sat night before new years eve. Saw two lots in the distance in different places. No idea why. It was rather nice being at KL airport waiting for too long. You calm down. You get into a sort of trance state. When I came to my boarding area to learn the plane was delayed I was the only one there so did some yoag and felt really good as a result. Looking out my Emperor window I gradually realised what I was seeing below. One night noticed the lines of red lanterns, and realised they marked Jonker and other chinatown main streets. One day notice a curve in the brown dirty river was visible. In Malaysia, the company Cold Storage has the tag line 'the fresh food people'. Did they or our Woollies get there first? Concrete cancer all over the place. Tropical black mould everywhere on concrete.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Animals and birds

Surprised to see a brown squirrel one day in KL. Monkeys at Batu caves Cats everywhere and not frightened A few dogs lazing in dangerous places The equivalent of our crows were mostly black but had a dark charcoal grey colour Saw a largish small bird that was mucvh yellowed. Sparrows and pigeons galore


Delicious nonya desert unique to Maleka. Pronounced Chendoll. Shaved ice, coconut cream, palm sugar syrup, green noodles, red beans like kidney beans but straight. Exquisitely delicious. First one in a shopping mall the best. The second example layered the green noodles under the ice. But it wasnt sweet at the bottom so suspect too little palm sugar syrup added. However in this case the green noodles were coloured more jade like, and there were more of them. They were so cold they made my mouth ache.

Off to Maleka but still remembering KL

From KLCC to KL Sentral and then on another line to TBS the major bus terminal. Big new modern spacious high ceilinged cool light filled terminal. By now I was glad always to have the roll of toilet paper handy. The (wonderful) food which I enjoyed so much caused me some digestion problems from about day 3, and so I needed to make a rush sometimes. At TBS watched the process of roti canai being made and of course bought one. Yum oh! In KL no screaming matches between adults or children and all very quiet. Children just the opposite in Maleka. Liked the fact that people were either shorter or the same height as me. Marvellous to not have to look up all the time. Back in KL, on first night in the lake in the park outside KLCC, watched the amazing dancing water choreographed display with bopping music; with coloured lights and obviously computerised. Watched it again later in the week from the 34th floor of the hotel (as I sipped a refreshing campari and soda by the pool) - obviously without the sound. Maharani chose a milo drink when I had my first lemon tea. On bus to Maleka, rolling hill after rolling hill ofpalm oil tree plantations. Eventually identified rubber trees and the few small plantations. Tall spindly scrubby looking tree wasmy impression of the rubber tree. The Audy hotel in Maleka was hard to find so I saw some back streets early on as I lugged my suitcase in many peopled and trafficed areas with next to no foot paths and deadly edge of the road culverts in the midday sun, entrance was even more difficult to locate, reception area was tiny and stunningly humidly hot,a room wasnt available even though they advertised rooms would be ready after 2pm,in room had to jump onto bed to turn airconditioner on or change it, its a childrens playroom with a queen bed,wifi drops out on email and impossibly slow on blog,no bbq spa or open space on roof as promoted,no hot water in shower although it showed all the signs that it should have, only cold water in hand basin,wardrobe doors broken,old discoloured settee, big old fashioned deep tv that only had very bad static and black and white imagery that changed to deep static slightly coloured after a while, running toilet, pneumatic drills and loud music from outside, thin walls that were hot to the touch, and shelf in bathroom that was angled so everything falls off. Police station next door.

Other KL stories

As I read my pages and pages of notes they seem so everyday and ho hum to me and so reluctantly I am abbreviating them. I was in the happiness business -where was my husband -waiting for me. How many children - 3. What sort? Boys. Beams all round from the askers. A typical repetitive set of conversations. Return trip to little India in KL and took some photos. Used the Hop on Hop off bus in KL but it had over 40 stops and the traffic is so slow, and the driver stopped for 10 min rest breaks too frequently, I couldnt bear it after a while. But I did pass all sorts of places that I could have visited if I had more time The Muzium Negara, The Kings new palace, The theatre, the Visual arts gallery. Loved the multinationalism of the western visitors.Once I heard a man say thankyou and then spasiba - the russian word for thankyou. Good stuff. Regardless of the weather I plodded on and on until my hair was so wet from the humidity that I couldnt bear it any more. But I did see stacks of things.And the trip up into and looking out from the Petronas Towers was sensational.

The stories that werent told

On the Sunday night in KL, discovered Nasi Kunyit with green chicken curry (an authentic nonya food)in one of the big shopping centres. Chinese/Malay heritage woman from IPOH struck up conversation. Monday morning in KL I discovered the hotel courtesy buggy to KLCC - KL woman living in England now for 16 yrs. Then ran into her again in Maleka. Good fun. After Selangor visit later on Monday, couldn't get a taxi back to the railway station but spotted an Australian/ Singapore based couple getting on a mini bus. I hurried over. They accepted me. Turns out it was their hotel shuttle bus for them - but they instructed the driver to drop me at the Wangi Maju train station. That was fun. Was starving so looked around the streets near the station for brunch - unnamed chinese food. Plate of rice, lump of soft tofuin vinegar and red onion, green beans, soft mashy pumpkin, wilted asian greens. Very good. This was after a wonderful steaming bun up the street -had meat in sauce inside. No idea what I ate but the dumpling was fine and light, and tasty and wonderful. A little China and very little english spoken. That morning I had discovered the hotel courtesy buggy to KLCC - KL woman living in England now for 16 yrs. Then ran into her again in Maleka. Good fun. But both women urged me to be very careful and both had their stories. The Ipoh woman explained how the trick was for a motorcycle rider to come along and whisk your handbag off and ride away. This worried me because my bag is made of strong metal thread and wouldnt break easily and so I rather feared being dragged along.And since the bag is over my head and under the armpit getting it off in a hurry would be near impossible. So from then on I watched for motorcycles. The London based woman told me that typically snatchers used a machete to cut off any part of you if you didnt hand things over or things were difficult to get off. Shre reckoned that by moving around commonly frequented tourist destinations there would be no problem but if I was to seek that special meal down a side street in one of the non tourist areas, I would have to be very careful. I decided not to be that interested in those suburbs where tourist dont normally go. But this practice was mostly used on locals anyway. Good stuff. Thought I would write this after I returned so as not to worry you.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Well I had to eat in Business class didnt I?

First up was the entree of a vegetable encrusted cook salmon. This came with a delicate buttery vinagraitte - sparked up the taste buds with some witloff, and some red and green salad veg. Then my freshly sauteed prawns were personally cooked and presented in a tomato couli, with roasted veg (including a brilliant piece of roast garlic) and sauteed baby spinach. And a glass of Margaret River chardy as accompaniment. Everything is real. Everything is 'worth the money'. And then the christmas cake ('Xmas bavarois') for desert was a wonderful confection of a type of icecream which was finely nutty, cinnamon, candied peel, cherries finely chopped, hint of brandy, whitish in colour and tasty. Whoever invented this did a great service to mankind. And then there was the offer of real cheeses with real rinds, and varous fruits if you chose. There was more - a platter of handmade chocolates to choose from. I was already full as a goog. It goes without saying I didnt need dinner that night (in fact it was 1am Oz time when I was booking into the KL hotel and who needs to eat at that hour anyway). Cleansing hot towels through out the process kept me feeling very fresh. And ready for the specially brewed coffee. Others have guzzled their food and there cloth covered tables have been cleared. But I feel under no pressure to speed up. Out my window I am into hazy Australia - not sure if it is sand, smoke or fire. High clumps of shading clouds over WA. This all feels like a gift for living almost 61 years with such wonderful friends and rellies. This is marvellous. How fortunate after having been flying since a baby to finally have this luxurous opportunity. I lowered my seat into a full length recliner and slept for the rest of the flight. In great comfort.

Back at the beginning

I found that my trip away started with a domestic flight to Adelaide and from there the international flights would start. With help from a great Australian woman on a Singapore Airlines services counter Ay Adelaide I was checked into the first internationall eg to Singapore and then onwards to KL, without being shunted onto the long queues and missing the flight. At the gate I hung back to let almost everyone onto the Singapore Airlines plane. I knew I had an aisle seat so I was in no hurry to board. Also with an 8 hr flight ahead I wanted to keep walking up and down for exercise for as long as I could. I handwrote ... Ah. Right now my Singapore Sling (SS) has been delivered. I have never had one before. A large glass (not plastic) with a beautiful red pink liquid inside. And ahhh... I feel a wonderful warmth at the top of my mouth. How good is this! And I have no-one sitting next to me. I have already pulled on the airline's blue classy sock boots. This is bliss. Back at the service centre, the woman had been kind and perhaps she could see that I was relieved that all could be sorted. Customs was easy and lax.Simply gorgeous blus skies sunny day in Adelaide. Now the glamorous airlines attendant has removed my empty glass and trotted off to get me a refill. Then she (or was it someone else - there were so many that serviced me) poured a mix of nuts into a china bowl. The first drink is always the best but I persisted with a total of 3 SSs. And did I say there was an introductory sparkling wine to clean my palette before I settled into the SSs. The SS ingredients are dry gin, DOM Benecdictine, Cointreau, Cherry Brandy, Angostura Bitters, Grenadaine, mixed with lime and pineapple juice. (How big does one's cocktail cabinet have to be!) I have quite a bit of space where I sit. I have two windows of my own to look out from. I have so much leg room - its a shame not to be tall and willowy at this moment. So back to Gate 20. Mosgt passengers have filed through. Out of the blue appeared the woman who had organised my tickets. She called me over. She handed me a business class ticket and took my economy one away from me and urged me to enjoy the champers. Even as I write I feel all teary. What a wonderful gift. I didnt but almost hugged her. I was ushered on board and the service has started. In Business class there were only 5 rows of us with 6 seats in a row (eleven across down in cattle class - although that drawn curtain masks those rows). Every 3 or 4 minutes someone comes by to offer me something. I am surrounded by an assortment of fresh unused newspapers. I look at this as wonderful luck. I treasure and value it. In Business class there are many crevices and equipment and options on and around your wide seat.I dont think I discovered them all. Got too busy with those Slings.