Penang and things

11 Aug

Well, I’m not doing too well at this blogging thing but here’s my delayed thoughts on Penang and Malaysian things in general, plus the bonus of pictures!

With a main city called Georgetown, I had to visit Penang, an island in northwestern peninsular Malaysia. It’s known for its food, which was an added bonus. I got to have some tasty homemade noodles, delicious chicken-rice, a simple staple of eateries in Malaysia, and some fantastic fruits.

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Penang also had a fair number of beaches and a nice colonial historic district in Georgetown that attracted quite a few vacationing Malaysians and travellers from elsewhere in Asia, particularly because of the long weekend for Eid al Fitr while I was there. I spent a day wandering in Georgetown with some Taiwanese women, letting me put my Chinese to good use! An interesting point they mentioned was that since most of the local Chinese population had immigrated from Fuzhou, like much of Taiwan’s population, the local dialect of Chinese was essentially Taiwanese (Minnan) with some Malay words thrown in.

Overall I’d say it was a good bit more enjoyable than Kuala Lumpur, which seemed fairly decentralized and soulless…a bit like a slightly more run-down version of Singapore.

I’m currently in Bangkok, which I’ll try to more about tomorrow in my effort to get caught up!

Not especially relevant to this post, but the Straits of Malacca are pretty cool! Who doesn't enjoy a strategic shipping lane?

Not especially relevant to this post, but the Straits of Malacca are pretty cool! Who doesn’t enjoy a strategic shipping lane?

A last thought: a lot of places seem to be rocking my mid-2000s hip-hop/R&B Pandora station…so much Beyonce!

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Singapore + on to Kuala Lumpur!

4 Aug

Hi all! I made it to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon after a nice ride through southern Malaysia, so on to the next stage of things!  Singapore was quite lovely overall but very expensive.  It’s really an international city, which has its positives and its drawbacks.  You can find food from anywhere and places catering to anyone, so it really was globalization personified.  But it was a bit tricky to get  sense of what Singapore’s all about for that reason.  Singapore’s national holiday is this Friday so there where plenty of signs promoting celebrations, but it would be interesting to learn more about what national identity means in a country that is so diverse and has such a large expat population. So now for the list!

  1. Little India: I’ve been lucky enough to spend a good bit of time in east Asia, so I felt like a lot of parts of Singapore were pretty familiar. Not the case in little India! Different shops, different food, different smell, different feel!
  2. I checked out the view to the south of Singapore, which was fantastic because of all the giant tankers and cargo ships lined up everywhere. A very impressive sight!
  3. Hainanese chicken rice: it’s basically just roasted chicken and rice, but it was everywhere in Singapore and it was damn tasty!
  4. Like Hong Kong, you can fairly easily get around downtown Singapore without actually spending much time outside. There’s a very impressive network of malls under the buildings allowing you to avoid much of the worst of the heat. Handy!
  5. There were several fighter jet fly-overs yesterday…maybe preparations for national day? Cool to see.
  6. Loads of Palm oil plantations on the way to Kuala Lumpur.  Interesting because much of the land is used for agriculture but it still looks forested from a distance. Everything on the way here was super green and pretty.
  7. Creeper bus attendant: Dumbass. In what way do guys think harassment is either acceptable or in any way effective toward their goals? Fortunately there is much less street harassment in all the parts of east Asia I’ve been to than elsewhere. But it’s still disturbing and pisses me off that in a lot of areas of the world it is socially acceptable and even normal not to treat woman with the dignity and respect that humans ought to be accorded. End rant.
  8. From what I’ve seen, prices here in Malaysia are about same as in Singapore despite the ringgit being wort around half a Singapore dollar. Handy that way!
  9. Public transportation and street layout here is a bit tricky.  There’s nothing particularly close to a grid and quite a few hills. It’s interesting but not as easy to figure out.
  10. Durians: I’ve finally seen (smelled) them if not eaten one yet. Is it worth it or like chou doufu and, to put it mildly, an acquired taste?

Until next time, with more thoughts on lovely KL!

a blog! from steamy Singapore! (and eventually elsewhere)

2 Aug

Hi all!

So I decided to start doing this blogging thing to share my earth-shattering earth shattering revelations with the world and make myself feel like an at least somewhat productive individual.

Right now I’m in the lovely city of Singapore, and I’ll be making my way north to Beijing over the next few weeks.  Along the way I’ll try to share my observations and encounters, and post photos as soon as I can figure out modern technology.

  1. A few early observations:It’s smaller than I expected. It’s pretty easy to walk nearly everywhere in the city.
  2. It’s less hot and humid than I expected. That’s not saying a lot, I was expecting it to be like Taiwan (95 and hellishly humid) instead it’s only around 90 and humid!
  3. As expected, everything is quite clean and orderly in a country known for banning chewing gum.
  4. It’s expensive.  Prices are close to US price, and because the Singapore dollar is worth about 80 US cents, everything seems even more expensive. It’s also banker land here so there’s plenty of opportunities to check out the lives of the rich and fabulous wandering around the bay downtown. I’ve only seen one Ferrari so far.
  5. This is the only country I’ve been where I’ve seen US-style slick army recruitment advertising. One of the MRT stations here was full of action movie-style posters. Evidence of Singapore’s status as the best-equipped military in the region, I guess!
  6. Air quality is quite good here, at least at the moment (there was historically bad smog about a month ago from the burning of forests in Indonesia–an international sticking point) I’ll enjoy while I can before heading to China!
  7. Everyone speaks very good English, and a good number of Singaporeans use English with each other but with Chinese words or grammar thrown in. For example, I heard a girl saying someone was trying to “find dao work.” Apparently this is known as “singlish.” Fun.
  8. Food is tasty. I’ve had some delicious steam buns and Hainanese chicken (strips of roasted chicken over rice).
  9. The Gardens by the Bay are great! Very nice park space where people braver than I were running and cool buildings and fun tree structures.
  10. I flew here on the new Boeing 787 dreamliner. It was a good bit quieter than other planes and shiny and new and no parts of it caught fire! I give it an A.

I’ll be sticking around here til Sunday, and try to get photos sorted and postable.