Market Day in Penang

After living in the Malaysian Highlands of Cameron for a month, we trundled down to the island of Penang, about a 30 minute ferry ride from the mainland. Our trip had a slight detour due to Covid. We expected to cross one of the bridges to the island. As cases are increasing in Malaysia and especially one hotspot in the Southwest of the island, government Conditional Movement Control Order closed both bridges. We were wondering if the ferry would run. Only half the ferries were running but that was enough to get us over and find a taxi to our place. The CMCO limits the range of our activities. Basically, we can go for groceries or takeaway along with daily walks for exercise. A few restaurants offer socially distanced seating. Mostly we try to stay out of harms way. Sometimes, adventure just waits around the corner.

We are staying north of the main city of Georgetown. Our place is near the Erskine Hill market so Saturday we headed there to stock up for the next few days. Afterward, we took a local street back by the fire station that lead to an interesting encounter.

The pride of Mount Erskine Firefighters, Notice the implement in his hand.
What is in this yellow container. It is hissing and not happy.
Just a 120 cm (4 ft) Cobra found in a house near here. Don’t forget to close the windows.
Guess what he had in the back. A knot (I counted 4) of pythons waiting to be returned to the hills.

The cobra will be taken to a veterinarian for health and safety check. Our man with the snakes said after being resettled up in the hills, they’ve had no repeat offenders.

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Escape to the Highlands

We escaped from our exile in Spain when the state of emergency was lifted. We found a circuitous route to Malaysia. After quarantine and four covid tests, we had a short stay in Kuala Lumpur. Then, we fled the heat of the city for the slower rhythms of Cameron Highlands arriving the first week of October. This is just a few hours bus ride north of KL, but contrasts with a cool wet climate. Highs around 23º C (75ºF) with mist and rain everyday. After sweltering in the Spanish summer and then in Kuala Lumpur, it took a little time to acclimate.

Our place is halfway between the two main cities of Tanah Rata and Brinchang. What is unique about our month stay is that we have no car. We actually thought we were booking a place near the center of Tanah Rata. As it turned out, this location we have is ideal for walking as we are just 2 km from each city, about 30 minutes walk along paths through villages, beside the Bertam river, along the golf course, by All Souls Church. Wife grew up just 65 km (less than 50 miles) from here. Although the schedule is curtailed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Regal bus still runs from Tanah Rata up 20 km to Kampung Raja.

We are near to several jungle trails that lead up to the mountain peaks around the area. Historically, this is the area where Jim Thompson disappeared in 1967. Some of the trails (specifically the one to Parit Falls) are closed due to maintenance and Covid concerns for the wardens. We were able to follow trail 9 to Robinson falls which was quite impressive. Our journey on trail 3 became an adventure when we chose the 1 km trail 2 back to Brinchang. It was 90% vertical climbs through fallen trees and thick brush, real jungle trekking. Thoughts of Jim Thompson crossed our minds.

The Rose Valley Garden provided a nice surprise on one of our outings. We expected to see a few rows of cultivated flowers with a gift shop and then move on. Instead, we spent most of our morning there following trails up the hillside, visiting several different flower displays including cacti, and comparing notes with staff about the tulips in the Netherlands.

Here is the gallery of photos that capture some of our sojourn. Click thumbnail to see full size.

Here are some places we liked with a link to Google Maps (no particular order).

  • Restaurants (with the Covid-19, schedules of many establishments are flexible)
    • Tong Yeng Cafe – Interesting and organized Food Stand, Unique ordering and lunch experience in Tanah Rata
    • Bliss Coffee – Oat Toast with Kaya jam in Kampung Raja
    • Sri Brinchang Curry House for breakfast and Banana Leaf Rice in Tanah Rata, even had vegetarian chicken curry
    • Lord’s Cafe – Scones, small place in the back, upstairs. Friendly and well organized in Tanah Rata
    • Cottage Delight – Our go to place for breakfast noodles before shopping at Brinchang Wet Market.
    • Warung Ikat Tepi – A simple little Malay eatery with delicious real food beside the touristy alleys of Kampung Taman Sedia village.
  • Experiences
    • Rose Valley Garden – Trail and an international mix of flora near Tringkap village
    • Brinchang Wet Market – Our weekly trip to stock up on fresh local produce
    • Bus Station Tanah Rata – Regal bus departs after 8:30 10:30 1:30 4:30 7:30 (Times are for boarding, actual departure is usually 5 – 15 minutes later.
    • Note on trails below: check reviews and online guides for the suitability of hiking. Trail 2 was hard to follow and quite arduous.
    • Trail 3 entrance on left before Arcadia Bungalow. Beyond the junction with Trail 2, it gets rugged.
    • Trail 9 to Robinson Falls, enter through Rainbow Garden Center
  • Touristic
    • Smokehouse Restaurant – British Colonial Experience and Garden
    • 200 Seeds Restaurant (Abang Strawberry) – Nasi Lemak with Strawberry Sambal. This is in the heart of Kampung Taman Sedia, a touristy village with many homestays, restaurants, strawberry themed experiences. There is a shortcut from the Desa Anthurium Apartments beside Building B.
    • Golden Hills Weekend Night Market – Very popular for strawberries and white corn but not that unique experience. Out of the way for us so we only visited once.

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The last days in Spain

It ended up that we spent several months in exile in Spain. The last part resolved itself into waiting in Madrid for a chance to avoid travel restrictions. Many borders closed to our passports so we had to negotiate the changing regulations in several countries. Here are a few of the photos I like from our walks. It seems my favorites are plazas, street art, and oddball galleries.

This last one shows reflections in the Tavern Viva Madrid. José Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, lived next door and drank his coffee here in 1891.

Sorry about all the WordPress advertising when clicking fotos. I’m experimenting with different ways to use WordPress new block editor. The exercise is a bit frustrating as they have decided to hide information that I thought was useful. Stay tuned.

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Cordoba, final city before leaving Andalusia.

Staying in Sevilla, it was just a one hour trip on the high speed train to visit Cordoba for a day. The old city keeps the feel of a medieval village with its winding streets and historical references to the Jewish quarter. The Mosque-Cathedral (Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba) is the center point for tourist visits. Underneath the foundations, researchers have found remnants of possible Visigoth Christian temples. We wandered around a number of different streets before heading back to Sevilla. Here are some views around and in the Mosque-Cathedral. I captured some of the intricate patterns that I found mesmerizing.

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Seeing Sevilla

There is the famous gothic cathedral along with the Basilica of the Macarena, but I was not so interested in churches. We wandered around interesting neighborhoods, and the usual markets and shops. For us, three things summarize Seville: Las Setas de Sevilla (a wooden like structure reminiscent of a Science Museum Store), Plaza España – location of the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition, and curious streets and street corners. There are some descriptions on the photos but I’m not sure how the new WordPress editor displays them. Leave a comment for further explanations.

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Lost in the history and streets of Granada

Continuing our exploration of Andalucia under the easing of our exile, we spent a week in Granada. As of July 1, travel within the EU has for the most part opened for residents. For us, we are confined to Spain, and wait out the changing climate remaining in Andalucia.

Even though Malaga has been inhabited longer, the history of Granada is as convoluted as the streets. We enjoyed living right on the edge of what was Jewish quarter until 1492. The Alhambra palace was just a 15 minute walk away. A longer walk took us to the Monastery of the Cartuja. This is one of the finest Baroque churches with incredible detail. I was re-introduced to the American writer, Washington Irving, and his wanderings and writings in Spain 200 years ago. I also remembered my modern theater class working through Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca. Here are some memories we carry.

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Leaving Malaga

In the last six years, Malaga now holds the record for the city where we stayed the longest. Our ten week stay in the last apartment is also a record for us. Now that the realm has eased our exile, we are off discovering other parts of Andalusia, Spain. Here are some of the memories we carry with us: Streets for discovery, fresh tastes, views across the Mediterranean, tranquil museums to contemplate one culture building on another.

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Museums in Malaga

Although we continue exiled for the good of the realm, the kind and noble government has allowed us to visit some museums. All museums were closed during the State of Alarm in Spain since March 12. Under restrictions of mandatory facemasks, social distancing, and limited numbers, several museums opened in Malaga on May 26. Many of the exhibitions have been curtailed but as the museums experimented, they waived entrance fees. After walking around outside of these museums for a month, it was nice to see the interiors.

Here’s some of the photos of what we saw:

Our wandering the first day did not go unnoticed by the Euronews channel (after the first minute, skip to 2:20 for a nice cameo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV6YGENykHM&list=WL&index=16&t=0s

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Journeys of a Young Traveler

Over the past month, I have enjoyed scrolling through photos of our journeys. This brings me back to the original idea of Misplaced Map Case, comprehending the memories of travel. One thought comes to mind is our conscious decision to provide our daughter with experiences more than things. Nothing so original about that idea, but here are a few photos that brought back fond memories of the results. Most of our photos include her but I only post a few of those here.

Monaco 1997

At 6 months old, we went to Malaysia to visit pillion rider’s family. After that we continued on to Europe for three weeks visiting London, Paris, San Sebastian and Valencia Spain, Lisbon, Montpelier France, and Monaco. Today, her memory of these experiences has completely faded. Here’s one showing the November weather a little milder on the Mediterranean.

Monte Carlo_Nov 21-22, 1997

Iceland 2000 / 2002

With a 3 month contract in Germany that lasted almost five years, we crisscrossed the Atlantic a number of times. Twice we stopped in Iceland, once in winter, once in Summer.

Aruba 2006

In the summer of 2006, we needed a break and booked a trip to Aruba. On very short notice, it was easier to choose an all inclusive resort. On arriving with just two small bags, the receptionist queried, “Is that all you have?” 

“We just need swimming suits, right?” She agreed. We drove around the island one day. Another we rented bicycles. We splurged on a submarine ride for a unique experience.

Ecuador 2007

In 2007, I had a few extra days of vacation and decided crossing the equator would be a good experience. We traveled to Ecuador so we could do it on foot. We stayed in Quito and then at an Eco Resort in the mountains.

 

Wales 2009

We traveled around the world with her several times when she was quite young. In 2009, we decided to book Round-The-World Tickets to give her memories to remember. We started in Minneapolis and visited: London, Zurich, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Tokyo, Honolulu, and finally back to Minneapolis. Besides side trips to Oxford, Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and the Southern Jurassic Coast, we headed up to Cardiff Wales.

Puerto Rico 2010

In 2010 we made a research trip investigating whether to relocate to Puerto Rico. I would be able to work remotely, but still be in the United States. Along with this, we checked out a couple of high schools. High priority on our list was the access to fresh roasted coffee. Here are beans collected at a co-operative ready for processing.

 

Some observations about traveling with children

  • We kept the focus on experiences and sights interesting for her age.
  • Priority was on activities more than seeing. Parks and playgrounds took priority over museums and buildings.
  • The pillion rider always had creative toys, books, and art materials whenever we went out. One flight of 13 hours (Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt), she brought PlayDoh type clay. At three years old, she played with this until she slept, then played some more.
  • Adjusting schedules for meals and activities according to her internal clock.
  • We let her help out with packing, pulling luggage, carrying groceries. We let her choose a few things to pack in her bag, a few things to buy when we were out

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Neighborhood Walk

De-escalation of Coronavirus State of Emergency starts today in Spain. Between 10 AM and noon, seniors and their companions can go for a walk staying within 1 km of home. First time we really have been out since Gibraltar. Here’s what we saw with a few translations.

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Vamos chicos, es primavera (C’mon kids, its Spring)

Malaga is on the Spanish Costa del Sol (Sunny Coast). Our plan was to have a warm Spring. For the first five weeks since arriving in March, the high temperature every day has been below average of 20ºC (68ºF) with rain every other day. Only last week did we manage to break into the twenties.

img_2548    img_2584

This week finally looks like some nice spring weather with sunny days. Just in time. The kids have been inside for six weeks during the Covid-19 State of Emergency. Starting yesterday, they can go out for an hour a day with a parent. Parks and Playgrounds are still closed but their voices enliven the street as they make their way to Plaza de la Constitucion. Here are some I captured from our window. The pillion rider took the lower right one from the street showing the convenience store clerk making a delivery and children farther down the street.

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For us, every 2 or 3 days, we take a walk to the convenience store or the covered market with an occasional detour to a bakery or a pharmacy. A tea shop was open on the corner so I treated myself to a pack of Lapsong Souchong Tea. It brings back memories of afternoon tea with my mother during my college breaks. My WordPress posts are up to date and so are my photo albums. Every evening at 8 PM we gather at our window to applaud the health care workers, the police, the street cleaners.

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A Month in Malaga (Coronavirus Version)

We continue exiled in Malaga, Spain for the good of the realm. As we are mostly confined to the apartment, we have found daily excursions rewarding. Here are the photos of Balcony Beach, Mount Escalera, The Warped Woods trail. Translations are in the captions.

Traversing the Warped Woods Trail without making a sound requires some bouldering skills that I picked up when Daughter was doing rock climbing.

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Staying home in Malaga

I prefer #yomequedoencasa / “I stay home” to the imperative form #quedateencasa / “Stay home.” Everything is closed except grocery stores and pharmacies. Take away restaurants and hair salons were allowed to continue but none in our area open their doors. We schedule our outings with care trying to limit our time out and avoid lines as the number of shoppers per store is limited.

It was a little exciting getting from Algeciras to Malaga. We had previously purchased bus tickets but there were regulations prohibiting travel for most citizens over 60 on public transport. To avoid questions, I shaved my beard and wore a cap to cover all my grey hair.

Our little outings to different mini markets take us through the streets of the old town. Photos of the empty streets of Lagunillas and Ejido neighborhoods are taken quickly. Picasso was born up the street from us. With the museums closed, we are happy with the street art.

 

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Connecting Points on the Map

We have been exiled for the good of the realm in Malaga, Spain. Our journey of exile began in Ceuta on the continent of Africa. Then, by ferry, to Gibraltar, a territory of the British Empire. Finally, to Algeciras, Spain before arriving in Malaga. This is not chronological, but it makes a better story.

Ceuta is a city on a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The western border of the city is the country of Morocco. It is part of Spain and uses the Euro. The famous rock of Gibraltar still belongs to the United Kingdom  as a British Overseas Territory. Algeciras is the main city near the southern most point of the Iberian Peninsula. It is the birth place of the famous guitarist, Paco de Lucia.

These photos capture some impressions as the Convid-19 epidemic began to take hold.

 

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Our Journey to Torremolinos

This is an odd post for me to get right. We were planning an adventure to southern Spain when my dear sister-in-law, Elizabeth Ruenitz, passed away unexpectedly. In my heart, I carry many memories of her on this trip. No pictures, just some memories: her subtle sense of humor, how she and my daughter shared their favorite Tom Lehrer songs, the care she gave the cats and my brother, and the tributes from her co-workers at the FDA. It worked out to add a week in Atlanta to our plans to celebrate Elizabeth’s life with my brothers and other family members.


Sometime in the 1980’s I read Michener’s fantasy novel, The Drifters, that relates the lives of a group of youngsters that intersect in Torremolinos in the 1960s. When we decided to look for Spring in Europe, I wondered what might remain of the young free life. Our final destination would be Malaga on the Costa del Sol of Spain. First, we would explore Torremolinos and some southern points.

Here are some images to carry with me from Kuala Lumpur to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Atlanta. Then, a week later, Atlanta back to Amsterdam. After a day in Sloterdijk neighborhood of Amsterdam, we flew down to Malaga Airport, heading 10 km south to Torremolinos.

Our take on Torremolinos. The youngsters left and came back when they retired, like us. Many retired British and German expats here along with Spanish jubilados who find the weather less harsh in the winter.

Covid-19 concerns. Before leaving Malaysia, we were already limiting our social engagements. Getting together with my family, Wife and I used the Indian bow and greeting of Namaste, and did not touch or hug. No reason for us to take chances as we are all on in years except for my grand nephew who has just turned one. So far, so good.
We are staying indoors in Malaga Spain now during the State of Emergency. Its rainy and cold on the Costa del Sol so no big deal. We have an apartment for 4-6 weeks with several small grocery shops just up the street. Out of the little kitchen come Soups Stews, Salads, and Olive oil with fresh “pan integral”, whole wheat bread baked locally.

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Taman Negara (Malaysia’s National Park)

We are locked down in Malaga Spain now. No worries, we can shop for food every day and connect via the internet. Six weeks ago we spent five days in Taman Negara, a five to six hour drive northeast from Kuala Lumpur. We stayed at the National Park Resort, Mutiara Taman Negara and booked their shuttle service with part of the trip taken by boat along the Tembeling River.

Having more days than most visitors, we could take one or two arduous walks followed by a day of taking it easy, including one day just watching the rain fall. My photos are mostly tall trees and monkeys, but our experiences were wonderful feelings of untouched nature, beautiful birdsongs, and silent contemplation.

Here are some details about our stay.

One advice to keep in mind. Visiting Taman Negara is going to involve a lot of step climbing. On arriving at the jetty, there are several flights up to the hotel and national park office.  Although the popular trails have some boardwalks for conservation and ease, there is a lot of up and down.

Website for Resort Mutiara Taman Negara: https://www.mutiaratamannegara.com

It was easier to book through their website to get three days full board (breakfast buffet, lunch special, dinner buffet) and two days just breakfast.  This allowed us to try ala carte entrees and local food in the village across the river. The buffets were quite tasty with some Malaysia cuisine and some western versions. There were some Malaysian foods we had never tried before (and we have a lot of experience seeking out different Malaysian dishes).

The Mutiara offers a shuttle service to and from the Kuala Lumpur Istana Hotel for 90 Ringgit (21 U$S) per person each way. There are two options: Direct all the way by van/bus, or with a 1.5-2 hours boat ride to/from the resort jetty. Depending on the number of passengers, the shuttle is usually a 10 passenger van, but they do have full scale buses available.

National Park office is next to the Resort so it was easy to get our passes. We purchased two entries, one camera pass (the pillion rider’s camera is much better than my iPhone 5s). We did not know we needed to have a ticket to take the canopy walkway.  Luckily, we had exact change when we went there.  Better to buy all at once.

There are cheaper options for both lodging and transportation. There are nice hotels and interesting guest houses in the village of Kuala Tahun. Public transport typically will include a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Jerantut, and then catch local transport up to Kuala Tahun. The cross river ferry is 1 Ringgit per person (0.25 U$S). Organizing a guide from Kuala Tahun is probably cheaper than from the resort.

 

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Chinese New Year in Bukit Tinggi (catching up)

Two months ago, we were in Malaysia for Chinese New Year.  With our outings curtailed by Covid-19, it is time to catch up on adventures.

A lot of family stuff with Chinese New Year.  We stayed near Taman Bukit Tinggi near Sister-in-Law’s place up in the foothills of Bentong district of Pahang State.  It’s about an hour drive to the center of Kuala Lumpur.  There is a local bus that I took from Pekeliling Bus Station across from the Titiwangsa Light Rail and Monorail stations. The area is famous for its ginger and we enjoyed passion fruit season. We stuffed ourselves on fruits and vegetables we bought fresh at the markets and cooked up that day.

The photos show a lot of the tropical forest. Besides lizards and usual dogs and cats, there were water buffalo along with monkeys. I occasionally surprised a troop and they would head off swinging from tree to tree.

 

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Kuala Lumpur, Down by the river

Starting the new year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve been here a few weeks since leaving Manila. As we have stopped here a number of times in the last five years, I’m looking for some different aspects of the city.

Here is one: Klang River flows through the city. These days it is channeled via concrete levees.  The Kelana Jaya Light Rail Line (LRT) follows near the River from KL Central north east to Jelatek.  There are a number of accesses large enough for motorcycles and small cars to drive to the concrete edges.  Here are some photos of my stroll. It started with the GoKL free bus Turquoise Line to LRT Station Dato’ Keramat. Just west of the station there is a path down to the edge. There is also a foot bridge that crosses to a path that winds over to the street Jalan Ampang. The concrete banks of the river can be followed for quite a distance among graffiti and occasional squatter shacks up at street level.

 

 

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Ducking a Hurricane in Manila

We booked the first week of December for adventure in Manila. For me at my age this means the excitement of discovering how to get around on public transport, where do the alleys in the old city lead, what can I still eat.

Manila provided an additional experience of watching a hurricane on weather maps of the islands. Hurricane Kammuri (locally called Tisoy), a category three with winds of 150 kph (95 mph) had Manila in its sights. Luckily for us and the rest of Manila, landfall was out in the east in the province of Sorsogon. We just stayed in on a rainy windy day.

Both Wife and I had been here before and remembered nothing. We spent a day wandering through Intramuros, the historical part. Another day we wandered around Binondo, the oldest Chinatown, looking at the old buildings and finding vegetarian restaurants. We took a day to wander through the Greenbelt complex with the flashy shopping centers. A real treat was meeting up with our friend, Cristina, for a lovely afternoon in Quezon City. She had extended her stay visiting her father so our trips overlapped. Our friendship goes back to Frankfurt Germany in 1999 when our children played in Grüneburgpark.

Here are some cityscapes that I captured.

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Port Moresby Trepidation

After the Solomons, we headed for Papua, New Guinea. I have researched the principal city, Port Moresby, over the years. There are a lot of admonitions, warnings on safety, and sensational headlines about public safety. On the other hand, it offers a gateway to some very interesting highland experiences.  Air Niugini had the most reasonable flights so we stopped for four days to explore the city. We booked the Holiday Inn Express which is about equidistant from the airport, the city center at the port, and the Nature Park. It was a pretty amazing trip. Port Moresby is a spread out city so nothing is really close. We practiced the usual drill when we went out: Valuables in the safe, small cash and passport copy in the pocket, a credit card and big bills on the body, no wedding ring or watch, and home before night fall.  We met the most kind and friendly people on the streets and in the PMVs (Public Motor Vehicles – basically your minibus van – they are all marshrutka to me). The PMV conductors made sure they understood where we were going, indicated where to get out, and sometimes asked a passenger to get us on the next bus. As I kept my phone out of sight, most of my pictures come from the port and the nature park.  Walking around a number of local neighborhoods was interesting but not photogenic. For now, here are some impressions.

We got our chance to try local food in the parking lot behind the downtown shopping center. Many local women set out homemade food that they sell to the office workers. Wife tried the local fried fish,  and helped me with cassava boiled with coconut, and vegetarian stew.

I’m thinking we need to head up to the highlands for our next trip.

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