Driving & Dinner

Today is “D-Day” – Driving Day.  This is when I hit the roads in Melaka behind the wheel.  We will see how I do driving on the wrong side of the road (to me that is).  

First off, some observations about driving in Malaysia in general and Melaka specifically.  Some of these observations had been made prior to my first day driving, others are the result of experience and observation (more of the latter than the former) in the days since then, not only in Melaka, but in Johor Barhu and even in Singapore.

Berhenti (Stop) signs and speed limit signs are merely suggestions, usually not to be take seriously.  Speed limit signs do not seem to be all that prevalent, other than on the primary highways, which also tend to be toll roads.  Berhenti signs, on the other hand, are all over the place, and appear to have a number of meanings.  On rare occasions they mean stop, usually they are treated as we would a Yield sign (to hopefully exhibit caution), and the rest of the time they don’t seem to mean a damn thing.

Now traffic lights, they are a different story entirely.  For the most part they appear to be quite strictly adhered to, with only a very occasional vehicle driver not obeying one.  A large number of the traffic lights have a very interesting feature as well.  If you look over the vehicle to the right, you will see a red light with the number 109 beside it.  That is telling everyone that it will be 109 seconds until the light turns green.  When green, there are green numbers that count down the number of seconds until it turns red.  Also, the lights are set in such a way that it is very rare anyone would have to make a right turn across traffic (readers remember, here they drive on the left side of the road).  Although the wait at lights may be longer than those in North America are used to, it seems that the traffic light system here works extremely well, likely why there seems to be no great impatience at the lights (especially when compared to the rest of the time).  Another aspect that one can find at traffic light intersections (and to a lesser degree at other intersections) is a built-in, fully configured U-turn.  Quite a number of the roads here are at least partially divided and the structured U-turns make getting somewhere somewhat simpler.

In Malaysia they do have legislation about what you can, or can’t, do while driving.  Back in Canada it is commonly called “distracted driving” legislation.  For instance, here one is not allowed to use a cellphone while driving, for talking or texting.  However, distracted driving laws also seems to be more of a suggestion than anything else, as demonstrated by the photo on the right (and yes, that is the driver).

Now I’ll say a few words about traffic lanes.  Once again these seem to function, to a great extent, as suggestions.  As I believe I mentioned, the vast majority of cars here are small, of the sub-compact to mini-sub-compact variety (and I don’t mean the Mini Cooper or Smart Car, as these are both very expensive here).  I have found it amazing the number of cars that seem to fit into one lane side by side on a great many occasions.  The expression “if my car had been dirty there would have been contact” springs to mind.

Now you will note that I have not said a word about motorbikes.  The reason being, the actual rules pertaining to motorbikes seems to be completely unknown, particularly to motorbike riders.  I actually believe that the number one rule is that there are no rules.  Therefore when driving a car it is wise to expect absolutely anything.  Not only do car drivers appear to utilize all of their mirrors (shoulder checks are pretty much unknown), they actually put little convex mirrors on their mirrors (both sides) to increase their field of vision.  You have probably noticed the photo of the mother and daughter on the motorbike.  This is a very usual happening.  I have seen a family of five on a motorbike and seeing a parent (or older sibling) with one or two children is commonplace.  Another thing, helmets are required by riders on motorbikes, by law.  The majority of riders wear them, although it seems many do not fasten the chinstrap.  Others carry them (go figure) and quite a number just ignore the whole concept.

Now I know all my readers will like and appreciate this (said in words dripping with sarcasm).  Malaysia is the land of speed bumps, sleeping policemen, traffic calming devices, whatever you want to call them.  When driving in any area near (notice I said near, not only in) residential areas there are at least one or two speed bumps every (I will say that again – every) block.  At least one or two.  I think you get the idea.  It is the land of speed bumps, some of them moderate, some of them pretty darn big.  Everyone really slows down when going over the bumps, however not everyone drives slowly between the bumps, making for some interesting traffic at times.

So, how did my first driving day go.  Well I did much better than I had anticipated.  The one thing that I try to keep in mind is that the driver sits on the side of the car closest to the centre line.  That seems to work quite well.  By the way, I was driving an automatic, the challenge of a standard is still to come.  Interestingly, some of the cars have the turn signal stalk on the right of the steering wheel and some on the left.  The can result in un-necessary windshield wiper activity when changing cars.

I likely will have more to say about drivers and traffic in different cities in a later post as there are some distinct difference between Melaka, Johor Bahru and Singapore.  A trip to Kuala Lumpur is in the works.

After the excitement of driving in Melaka for the first time, there was a need for a nice relaxing dinner.  Henry and Cynthia had just the location in mind.  They took us to a lovely place called the Sunset Bistro, with a beautiful ocean beach, just on the outskirts of Melaka.

We got to enjoy our dinner as we watched the sun go down, wrapping up a good day.  Good food, good company, good view, what more could one ask. 

So long until my next blog post.  Still trying to do a couple a day to catch up before we leave.  Once again, I hope you enjoy reading.  As always, comments are welcome.

Remembering and Night Market

The morning started as many a morning could start.  Doing laundry and some cleaning around the house, although not quite in the way as would be done in Edmonton.  Where we are staying has an old washing machine but we usually only have a few clothes (from the day before), so we do them by hand.  Then is the cleaning of the area around the doorway so as to deter ants and other critters from hanging around.

Then it was off for breakfast with Stephanie to another coffee shop.  During our trip we seldom make return visits to any fooderies, not because they are bad, but because there are so many good places to try.  We have developed a couple of personal favourites however, which we will keep to ourselves so as not to influence any other visitors.  Of course, no surprise, Kim ran into a lady that she had known for years.  The photos here are of the coffee shop and then a look down the street, to give you a flavour of the area.

After breakfast Stephanie took us to pay respects to her sister, and our niece, Ah Yong who passed away in the Spring of this year at age 42 after having polio since she was age 2.  Her older sister Ah Kim still lives with her polio, since she was age 1.  In addition to the three girls, there are also three brothers, two living in Melaka and one in Johor Bahru.  Both Ah Yong and her father, who passed away in 2004, were cremated.  This is an indication of the change from the age old Chinese tradition of burying the deceased.  In a later post I will be visiting a three cemetaries, two Chinese and one Malay.  

These facilities are quite an efficient use of land, while at the same time are fully equipped so as to provide for the traditional ways of praying and respecting the deceased, including many aspects of the tradition of the Ching Ming Festival (also known as Grave Sweeping Day, among others) every Spring.  This is an event that Kim and I participate in every year in Edmonton (regardless of the weather) as it is considered to be an important family and cultural event.

Now it was back to the home front as Stephanie headed to work.  Off to lunch with sister Hong for a delicious plate of Ho Feng (noodles, vegetables, pork & prawns in a flour and egg sauce).  At this point I find it reasonable to remind my readers that seem to be always eating, we actually eat quite reasonable portions and there is no snacking along the way, well maybe the odd mango or coconut or some such item.

From lunch Hong took us to a real supermarket.  Wholly mackerel, what an interesting place.  When one hears a person use the expression “soup to nuts” this would very well apply here, and it is not restricted to foods, but includes clothing, household and cooking items, and so on.  A great selection of fresh vegetables, fruit, fish & other seafood, chicken, pork and so on.  And then, wouldn’t you know it, Kim bumped into another old friend who works there.  Sometimes I think she knows half the city, but then again she did grow up here and live in Melaka until we met so it really is not all that surprising.

Later on, in the evening we went with Henry and Cynthia to the night market.  This is the largest night market in Melaka and stretches for what I estimate as close to a kilometre.  Want to buy food, fruit, vegetables, household products, clothing, watches, jewelry, DVDs still in the theatre, and oh, did I mention food.

I could include dozens of photos here, however I am only posting a few.  Many more will be available when I get my photos up (should be sometime in the next 57.35 years).  You will notice in the photo on the left, this hawker has his cooking stove firmly fastened to his motorbike.  This was by no means the only example of this sort of mobile kitchen that was on site.  On the right, “wanna buy a watch”.

Overall, the night market is a fascinating place to go, and we will return at least once more while we are in Melaka.

As you can tell, once again the day has been very busy.  As we move further into our trip some of our days are much more laid back.  And then again, there will be a few jam-packed ones.

I hope you are enjoying these blog posts.  Feel free to give me any feedback if you like.

River Walk – Wildlife Walk

Most of today was Henry and I.  In the morning Kim had some personal business that she had to take care of, and in the afternoon, well I will explain later.

We dropped Kim off in downtown Melaka and then went to find a parking spot on the edge of Old Melaka.  I should note that there are no parking meters in Melaka.  Other than many areas which have free parking (or should I say a parking free-for-all) there appears to be three methods of pay parking.  For malls, there is usually a push button, get a card, and pay at the machine when leaving the store type of parking.  In government controlled lots there is a swipe card system, where one places funds on the card, swipes upon entering the lot and the appropriate amounts are deducted when swiping upon departure.  The same card is used for paying road tolls on the highways between cities.  For on-street parking the motorist purchases books of tickets (in various denominations), which look similar to lottery tickets.  When parking an unused ticket is selected, the driver scratches the appropriate areas for the date, time, and length of parking time anticipated and then places the ticket on the car dash.  An interesting system which seems to work quite well.  No meters, no maintenance.  The parking patrol serves the same function as the meter readers in Canada.

The car now parked, Henry and I set off on a walk along the river.  The plan was to walk a good distance down one side of the river, cross over a bridge at some point, and walk back.  There are river walks on both banks for the full stretch of the river in Melaka, making for quite pleasant strolls.  However, our plan did not quite work out the way we had anticipated.

As Kim and I did a river cruise a week or so later I will use some of my river descriptions here and some when I get to the post about the cruise.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, Melaka can be considered a study in contrasts.  At one point on our walk we went by brand new housing in a Malay housing development.  We also went past dilapidated buildings that are surely empty and abandoned, except they have people living in them, quite often older Chinese.  We passed one such place which must be the home of a hawker as we could see them preparing chickens in the entrance way and loading them into his car.

We reached our turn-around point, and as we crossed the bridge we noticed a number of folks sitting along the edge of the river walk drawing or painting the scenery.  I stopped and chatted with one, learning that they were a group of art teachers from Singapore on a professional development field trip.  They, and their artwork, were quite interesting.  I know that because we stopped and chatted with every one of them.  It was so interesting.

Off we went, down the boardwalk along the river.  On the way, we discovered that we were not alone.  There is lots of life along the river, including the fellow to the right here, who hardly batted an eye as we stopped to observe him.  I am sure that he finds folks like us kind of a boring diversion from watching the construction immediately on the other side of the boardwalk.  Unfortunately, along with the life along the river, there is much garbage along the river as well.

As mentioned, there was construction right beside the boardwalk, in the form a tall building, which could be a hotel or an office tower.  I suspect the former.  As a result of the construction we found that the boardwalk had come to an unscheduled end, quite literally,  about 3 metres past the metal wall.  As there had been no signage indicating we had been traveling down a dead end, we got to subject dead end only to find out that we “couldn’t get there from here”.

So, we had to walk pretty much all the way back to where we had chatted with the Singapore artists, and then work our way around to our destination by determining the correct streets to follow.  Not a wasted trip by any means however.  When walking up the boardwalk we had passed what looked like an old abandoned industrial type building.  On the way back we chose to follow the metal fencing around the construction, which had us pass in front of this building.  I was quite surprised to see that it was actually the temple shown on the left.

The building remnants shown in this photo have been identified as the ruins of Rosary Chapel which was built in the year 1700.  This Catholic Chapel was built as a substitute to St Lawrence’s Chapel which was constructed in the 16th century.  The Saint Lawrence’s Chapel is an epitome of Portuguese chapels that were build outside the Malacca Fort.  All told, it was a very interesting walk.

In the afternoon was something completely different.  We went to visit the Melaka Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary.  Once again, it was just Henry and myself.  You see, Kim has an extreme aversion to snakes, so much so she doesn’t even like to say the word, referring instead to the “S’s”, accompanied usually by a wiggly motion with her hand.  So, it was Henry and I.

When we entered, I noticed that the skies were getting a little dark, but really paid little attention, we were going into a building, if it rains there will be no issue.  We entered, going past some beautiful, and interesting birds, and came to a room with some lizards in it.  Of course I had my camera and was taking lots of photos, when a young lady came up and explained to Henry that there was a fee for taking photos in this area.  He passed that on to me, and apologized to her and stopped taking photos, heading out of the room.  When outside, sure enough there was a sign that I had missed indicating there was a fee for photos.  I am not really sure why, as that was the only room in the entire facility where that rule applied.  Next stop, the butterfly area.  By this time it was raining, actually not raining, it was pouring.  Lo and behold, the butterfly area is open to the elements.  As a result, the butterflies were scarce as they were sensible and in shelter.  I, on the other hand, was not in shelter, but rather was looking for butterflies.  Moving forward, it turns out that considerable amount of the sanctuary was open to the elements.  Got lots of photos, managed to keep my camera relatively dry.  Myself, not so much.  Soaked through, top to bottom.  Sensible Henry, not having this desire to take good photos (or any photos actually) remained pretty dry by staying in the sheltered areas.

It really was a fascinating place, and I got a good number of really decent photos.  I have two that I wanted to share here.  The first is of a snake, the way it loops over the branch and looks out, being aware of all that is going on.  The second is a pair of Lovebirds which were preening each other.

All in all, it was quite a day.  Stay tuned for some of our other adventures.

The Future & The Past

Today started as Kim and I took a walk around the neighbourhood.  In Malaysia all the

surface water goes into open drains which are ever present wherever you go.  Here these drains are taken as a matter of course, however in Canada they would be a source of great consternation, mainly from a safety standpoint.  I do not deny that there is a definite safety aspect, especially since just a couple of months ago Cynthia fell into one and we were quite concerned about her possible head injuries (she is fine, with no problems other than a minor scar).  After observing the way that they handle surface water here I am of the opinion that they have done an outstanding job.  I am not an engineer but when I see how their system is designed, both in the cities and in the rural areas, I believe that a tremendous amount of water can be handled with little or no erosion.  When I post my photos you will be able to see what I mean.  As a note, when in Johor Bahru recently there were a few o-my-gosh rain storms, and the water just went away.

Off we went for breakfast with sister Hong, niece Stephanie  and her daughter  Eunice.  Right on schedule we ran into another person that Kim knows at the coffee shop.  Yesterday we ran into one of Kim’s friends at the supermarket.  After a fine feed, we were leaving the area of the coffee shop and going past an Indian temple when we heard music and saw a crowd of people.  Upon stopping to investigate we learned there was a wedding happening.  We found a parking spot and joined the festivities for a while, taking a few photos and a bit of video.  It is quite a long ceremony and we quietly moved along.

Later in the day Stephanie took us to see a special person.  We visited Leong Ho Ming, the youngest sister of Kim’s mother.  Auntie Ming lives on the banks of the river in Old Melaka where she has been more than forty years.  It is a dilapidated area surrounded by new construction, including huge luxury hotels.  The area is indicative of the nature of Old Melaka.  A large number of buildings in disrepair, often vacant, and brand new construction, most seemingly directed to the tourism industry.  And what do the tourists come to see?  The ancient city of Melaka; the narrow streets are filled with tour buses. Seems a bit at cross purposes to me.  Auntie Ming looked after Kim a great deal when she was young and there is a strong bond between them.  This was very evident from the moment we walked into the house where she lives with her dependent 41 year old son, who has Down’s Syndrome.

When we arrived Auntie Ming had been sorting rice.  After greetings were done, Kim sat down and sorted with her.  For those who might ask, “Why are they sorting rice?”, when sold sticky rice is mixed with regular rice to make it last longer, then it is separated when it comes time to make sticky dumplings.  It could be considered painstaking, however it becomes a social activity and a time of great conversations.  And that is exactly what Kim and her Auntie were doing, having a great conversation while they happened to be sorting rice.

That evening, joined by Stephanie and her daughter, Cynthia and Henry, we were off to Jonker Walk, an area of Old Melaka famed for both its history and for its night market.  We stopped at the Aik Cheong Coffee Company store.  This very well known company was started by a cousin of Kim’s mother and is still family owned.  It is one of the largest coffee companies in Malaysia and ship product around the world, including Canada  There was of course introductions and greetings all round and a short but good visit.

Then off to explore Jonker Walk and the night market.  It is hard to describe what a night market is like.  There is all varieties of hawkers, with multiple selections of food, and there seems to be most anything for purchase from jewelry, to clothing, to cameras, to art work, to trinkets, to fruit & vegetables, to… well it just keeps on going.  On Jonker Walk, some of the stores and galleries are open and have booths at their front entrance as well.  There is also a karaoke stage with some darn good talent and always a crowd.  On the whole it is a great time.  There is a larger night market we will visit in a later post.

Yep, it was a busy day, I got tired just writing about it.  Thanks for reading.  More later.

Introduction To Melaka

After breakfast we headed back to our home base and visited a bit until Cynthia and Henry arrived.  Then it was off to explore Melaka a bit.

First came a stop at a shopping mall.  Strangely enough, other than some products and store names, it could have been any one of several malls in Edmonton.  And even some of the store names were the same.  One thing though, the entire retail presentation in Malaysia is considerably different than in Canada.  Advertising boards (I hesitate to call them billboards as we know them) can be huge.  Several stories high lining highways and on the front of buildings along the streets.  In the malls, store signage can also be huge.

In the malls, there are food courts, quite similar to those in Canada, however the foods offered can be vastly different.  There are exceptions though.  All malls have KFC, Pizza Hut and Kenny Roger’s Roasters, usually placed together.  And of course, the ubiquitous McDonalds is just that, pretty much everywhere it seems.  It appears that the majority of malls that we have been to are anchored by a huge store going by the name of Aeon.  Each Aeon is a department store and includes its own food court and a huge grocery.  I must say the grocery has a very large selection of fresh fish (but a much different feel than a market, which we visit later).

Leaving the mall, it was into old Melaka we went.  Much more interesting than any mall as far as I’m concerned.  Here we found narrow streets, old buildings, new buildings, a variety of temples, colourful rickshaws, and many interesting characters… er, people.

We dropped into one of the many interesting fooderies (don’t think that’s a word, but it works for me) for lunch.  One of the things that I love to do is observe people and events around me.  I had an opportunity to do both during lunch.  Across the street was parked a large and expensive auto.  Now this stands out in Melaka on both counts.  And the fact that the vehicle was rather rudely parked (although this is in no way stands out in Melaka) contributes to this story.  As we lunched we observed a policeman stop his motorbike and proceed to give this vehicle a parking ticket.  Nothing special here right?  Then a time later we observed the street parking official stop by and proceed to give this vehicle a second ticket.  I have to be honest.  We all thought this was just hilarious.

Also while lunching, up to the foodery (I am liking this word I invented) came a newlywed couple with friends, coming in to take some photos.  I was struck by a generous thought and asked the foodery owner if he had any red packets (this is a red envelope which is used to give a gift, usually money).  I was quite pleased that he did and was kind enough to give me one.  Now for Chinese, the number 8 is considered very lucky, and what I did was to place RM 8 (that’s 8 Malaysian Ringgits) into the red packet and presented it to the newlyweds, wishing them a happy life.  They had absolutely no idea who I was and will never see me again.  That was the beauty of the whole thing.  We then left the foodery feeling very good.

Following lunch, we headed over to St Paul’s Hill, both for a history lesson and a wee bit of exercise (after all, it is a hill, ascended by many stairs).  I would love to include some detailed history here, however that would make this post extremely long.  So the condensed version.

Melaka was taken by the Portuguese who defeated the Melaka Sultanate in 1510 and built a fort in 1511, only a portion of which remains.  During their rule they used forced labour to construct St Paul’s Catholic Church (hence the name of the hill).  The Portuguese ruled for 130 years until they were defeated by the Dutch in 1641.  The Dutch converted St Paul’s Church from catholic to protestant, then later used it as a mausoleum for Dutch dignitaries.  Around 1790, due to war in Europe, the Dutch temporarily ceded Melaka to the British who returned it, in ruins, in 1819.  The Dutch then lost interest in Melaka and it was transferred to British rule in 1824, where it stayed until Malaysia became independent in 1957.  With this post is a photo of the only remaining part of the fort built in 1511 and a couple photos of St Paul’s itself.

So far on this trip I have taken hundreds of photos, and many of them will be shared with you, either on Flickr or via my Google+ account, where these posts are available, so stay tuned.

As you can tell, this was a very full day in Melaka, and rest assured, it really doesn’t slow down, so I still have lots of catch-up to do.

Learning The Land – Meeting The Family

The first full day in Malaysia begins, as it should, with breakfast.

Kim’s sister Hong takes us to a coffee shop near her home.

Now this coffee shop is much different from the way I understood a coffee shop to be.  Here, a coffee shop is a place owned by someone who provides things like coffee and tea (in many different variations), as well as juices and other such beverages.  They also rent out space within their coffee shop to hawkers, who have their carts and offer different foods.  As well, you will note from the photo on the right, this place, like most we will go to, is open to the street.  No air conditioning here, however ceiling fans and wall mounted fans are in great abundance.

So in we go, order and pay for our drinks (I quite like Malaysian milk tea), and then make the rounds of the hawkers selecting what we would like to eat,  We order something from one, something else from another, indicating what table we are at.  When the food is ready the hawker will bring it over to the table, we pay them, and proceed to enjoy our meal.  Certainly a different type of process from what I was used to, but I like it.  Along with the food we get from the hawkers we also get great chats and friendly exchanges as we order our food and then when they bring it to the table.  A very relaxed atmosphere, even when the shop is busy.

During our breakfast I am also getting to know Hong, my sister-in-law.  Although neither of us is particularly good in the other’s language (her English is miles better than my Mandarin), we are still learning about each other and getting along famously.  She is eager to teach me about her neighbourhood, as well as the local day to day lifestyle, and I am looking forward to learning, so it is an excellent opportunity for each of us.

Keeping in mind that I am writing about the early days of our Malaysian Adventure after being here for more than two weeks I think I can perhaps, at times, better describe my thoughts and feelings as I have had some reflection on events.  Regardless, I hope that I can impart to my readers a feel of this adventure, because it still is.  As we proceed, you will as well have an opportunity to meet the Malaysian members of our family and learn more about them.

Although breakfast may seem like a small event, it was a significant beginning of the learning process.

We will continue our day in the next post.

We Have Arrived!

Before continuing with our Malaysian Adventure there is something that I would like to explain.  There is a term that Chinese often use to describe a foreign man, particularly a Caucasian from Europe or North America.  The term is Qwai Lo (or Qui Lo), meaning variously “ghost person” or “white devil”, but referring to the pale complexion, sometimes blond or red hair and blue or green eyes of Caucasians.  The term is utilized in similar forms in both Mandarin and Cantonese (Mandarin is the primary Chinese language in Malaysia and Singapore).  Sometimes it is spoken in a derogatory form, however more often is it more a description than anything else.  I was introduced to the term when I first met Kim in 1997 and I often use the term when referring to myself as do my friends and family.

In the last posting we traveled by car from KL to Melaka (also spelt Malacca).  Now, as a Qwai Lo, I tend to be larger than most Chinese and therefore all insist that I sit in the front passenger seat of the vehicle whenever we go anywhere.  One of the things that I did not mention was that the front passenger seat in Cynthia’s car is defective, the seat back is permanently at about a 45 degree angle, which makes for a rather unique seating position.  The solution is that as I enter the vehicle, two pillows are placed behind my back by the driver and then I am able to sit reasonably vertical and put on my seat belt.  Of course this took a while to figure out so the initial travel (the trip to Melaka) was a bit interesting to say the least.

Once we arrived in Melaka we picked Cynthia up from work (and yes, don’t know how we did it, but we got another person in the car with all the luggage), swung by their apartment so that she could shower and change and then headed over to our place of residence in Melaka.  Kim’s brother Ming has a house in Melaka where he stays when visiting and that’s where we stay as well.  Right next door is Kim’s sister Hong and her daughter Ah Kim as well as her son and his family.  To my great relief, Cynthia greeted me almost as a long lost father and Hong greeted me as a long lost brother.  It was quite a feeling.

We had no sooner done some serious greeting, and gotten our bags into the house, when we were off to our first night market.  Well, not really.  We were off to where a night market was getting set up so that we could have some food.  In the photos you can see the night market getting set up, a couple of food vendors (called hawkers), Kim and Cynthia picking out some food for us to eat and Kim, Cynthia and Henry getting ready to eat.  As is the case with most of the photos you will see in these blog posts I am behind the camera, however I do sneak around in front from time to time.


After dinner we returned to the house and continued with some serious visiting finally getting to bed on our first night in Malaysia around 11 pm.  I figure that was pretty darn good seeing as how we landed in Hong Kong around 6 am after a 13 hour flight from Vancouver and then landed in KL around 12:30 pm and arriving in Melaka about 4 pm.  One might say it was a longish day.

Stay tuned, there will be more to come as we get caught up on our Malaysian Adventure.

Touch Down In Malaysia

Finally we touch down in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  Kim is excited and frankly, I am really not sure what to expect.  She is going into familiar territory, I am not.  How will I be accepted by her family.  I am sure that I felt pretty much the same way as Kim did when she was about to meet my mother for the first time, although she had a bit of a head start as she had already met my kids, sister and brother.

We deplane, following the signs going up ramps, down stairs, finding and taking a train, then up stairs, down hallways until we reach immigration control.  We provide our passports, stand quietly as they are scrutinized, then stamped and returned.  Now off down the hallway and, lo & behold, we have arrived at the luggage carousel (along with all three hundred and some from our aircraft).  Seems our baggage took a much more circuitous route than we as it was a good long wait before the first bag from the plane made its appearance.  And wouldn’t you know it, the chap standing beside me was happy as it was his bag, and he was gone.  We waited, and waited, and waited.  More bags appeared.  Finally we saw the first of our bags, all of which I had specially marked with duct tape, as per “Red Green” (sorry, not all my friends will understand this reference but you can Google it).  The second bag made its appearance after some time and then, wowzers, along came bag number three.  Not only had Kim and I arrived, but all our luggage had as well.  A celebratory moment indeed!

Now off to customs where we, and all other passengers, were waved through the area without even slowing down.

Now came our next challenge.  Kim’s daughter Cynthia had sent her boyfriend Henry to Kuala Lumpur (from this point on referred to as KL) to pick us up.  The challenge, not having met we only had photos to go by, and one knows how accurate they can be at times.  There were not a lot of Chinese ladies with western husbands however so Henry spotted us before we spotted him.  After greetings came another challenge (sorry is this is sounding like Amazing Race).  Cars in Malaysia generally are considerably smaller than cars in Canada.  For example, a Toyota Corolla would be considered fairly large, a Prius about average (although I don’t think either one is really sold here under those names).  So now it is time to show some real imagination and shoehorn our three checked luggage, two carry-ons, a computer bag and a purse into Henry’s Proton Saga.  Good thing there were only three passengers.  Whew!

Prior to getting all the baggage in the car one of my immediate actions was to unpack my trusty Nikon from my carry-on bag so that I could be ready to put it to work.

Now it was off on a drive of about an hour and a half to the city of Melaka, our final destination.  I am including a few shots taken on the trip from KL to Melaka.

Upon our arrival there we completed a journey spanning approximately 13,800 km and 28.5 hours since we left our home in Edmonton.

Next – we have arrived.

Arrival In Asia

First stop outside of Canada on our trip was Hong Kong, where we would connect with our flight to Kuala Lumpur.

As we deplaned it was only the second time that I had set foot outside of Canada or the United States going to a foreign destination.  The first was in 2011 when I went to Geneva, Switzerland for a Kiwanis International convention.  After leaving the plane we followed the instructions and found that we had to leave the secure area so that we could go through security again to make our connection.  Not exactly sure how that works, however it does benefit the beverage industry as we had to divest ourselves of any bottles prior to re-entry.

After re-entry we then checked where we should go for our connection and discovered there was a considerable distance from where we were located to our departure gate.  Thankfully, a Cathay Pacific golf cart driver picked us up, along with an elderly Chinese lady travelling to Viet Nam, and drove us, seemingly forever, to our gate.   As our connecting flight was only two hours after arrival it would have been a grueling trek on foot methinks.

As it was quite early in the morning there were few stores open in the airport, which for the most part was good as buying things at the beginning of an adventure is something to be avoided.  There was, however, a Chinese restaurant open and we were able to have a light dim sum as we waited.

Soon it was time to board and we settled into our seats for the 4 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur.  Once again, we were flying Cathay Pacific, and they did not disappoint.

Next we touch down in Malaysia.

Departure From Canada

As many people know, a trip does not start when one checks in at the airport, or drives away from the house.  It begins, quite often, months in advance as plans are made, tickets are purchased (in February for us), when holidays are booked at work.

Then, in the days prior to departure, the house is a flurry of activity, the living room looks like a bargain bin (after the shoppers have departed), as suitcases are packed, not so much with clothes for the trip, but with gifts and items not available in Malaysia for the family.  Each bag must be carefully packed, then weighed so as not to be over the 50 pound limit for the airline.

Finally the day arrives.  My daughter and her husband had volunteered to drive us to the airport.  It took a bit of work but we managed to get the two of them, the two of us, three checked luggage, two carry-on bags, a computer bag (for where would I be without my technology) and a purse into their vehicle and off we went.

At the airport we checked in (all three bags almost exactly 50 pounds), breezed through security, found the proper gate and sat down to await our WestJet flight to Vancouver.

Upon arriving in Vancouver we had four hours between flights.  Not an issue.  I prefer a longer time between flights as it cuts down on connection issues.  Besides, after twenty years in the military I was quite familiar with the “hurry up and wait” mentality and have no issue with waiting.

On schedule, we boarded our Cathay Pacific flight and took off for a 13 hour trip across the Pacific.  I have to say that although long, this was the best flight I have ever experienced.  The cabin crew were exemplary, always there to ensure that we were comfortable and seemingly psychic, knowing when we would like a drink or a snack.

Next, we arrive in Asia.