Since my first update (here) we’ve left Borneo for mainland Malaysia. Our last days in Sandakan were fine, the highlight of the last day for me was dinner in the night market: tamales and grilled stingray! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but can highly recommend if you ever see it on a menu and are tempted. If you like steaky, meaty fish like swordfish think: just like that.
The next morning we were up early for a long day of traveling from Sandakan to Georgetown via Kota Kinabalu. All in all it took up the whole day, the most memorable part of which was our transfer between T1 and T2 in KK. There is no shuttle, only an absurdly expensive taxi service. We stubbornly decided we’d walk, but half-way around the airfield in the blazing midday sun we realized we really shoult get transport there, so flagged a rickety mini buses to take all of us except for the most stubborn: John. On the ride there we were absolutely staggered to see how much further we would have had to walk (more than 6K in total with our packs, no suncream and no water), but he did the whole thing! Trooper. The cost of the mini bus was about 50 p (50 cents) so we were having a great time laughing at him and asking him, “Tell us, John, how will you spend the money you saved?!”
Georgetown is an amazing city. Penang is not too far from Southern Thailand, so definitely worth an add-on if you’re ever in SE Asia. It’s a former colonial city which still has many of the old colonial buildings and generally feels like… Latin America-meets-Berlin. Arty cafes, brilliant colors, thrown-open shutters of every color, sun-bleached buildings, tons of street art including wrought iron sculptures with quotes that were like one-line drawings scattered all throughout the city, massive paintings and tons of ornate temples.
We had a terrific 3 nights in Georgetown, and so much great food. I am all about a fish curry. The one thing I couldn’t track down is Penang Laksa, which is a fish curry but the stew is made from fish stock, which means it’s super-de-duper fishy.
Oh lord, Kapitan! The best.
The other days we explored the temples – a Mosque, a few Hindu temples, and the largest Buddhist temple in all of Southeast Asia which was a major highlight of the trip so far.
To get there, we had to take a bus up to Penang Hill, and once we got there and climbed the hill, it was closing to visitors so we didn’t have the full experience. Nonetheless, it was off-the-scale ornate, and the general setting was unreal.
We got up early our last morning to have dim sum for breakfast, which I’d never realized is actually a breakfast thing to a lot for the Chinese, but so be it! Pork buns, swirly vegetable buns on top of fried rice, noodle and rice bitelets: so good.
Hana, one of Rachel’s medical friends from University, arrived our last afternoon. I’m not staying as long as the others, but they’ll eventually all head off to the Cameron Highlands where there are tea plantations, and then to Kuala Lumpur where they’ll go to Hana’s family house.