Thursday, 9 December 2010

Malaysia - the first apam balik

Hello everyone!

So after another attempt of trying durian - and again failing to like it one little bit - it was time to say 'sayonara' to Singapore. Onto a new country, and one I know very little about. Many people who travel in this part of the world travel to four countries - Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Many people, like me, will also have been to Singapore. But many people miss out the country in the middle - Malaysia. So I thought I would be different and check it out.

My initial research about the place brought a bit of a shock to me. Malaysia is TWO islands. There is peninsular Malaysia, and also Malaysian Borneo to the east. The latter was our first destination for five days, before flying over to the mainland for another five. Jason was joining me a day later - he is lazy and the flight I was on sold out - so I flew solo to the big city, Kota Kinabalu (KK), on Saturday night.

Another thing I didn't realise was that Malaysia - well Borneo from my experience thus far - has been significantly influenced by Islam. Lots of headscarves, not much skin exposed, and no need to put a halal sign in a restaurant.

KK is a lot more developed than I anticipated it to be. Worryingly, Borneo as whole seems a lot more developed than I would have ever imagined. Lots of construction site, lots of modern roads, and copious numbers of diggers. It's to do with the palm oil business, apparently.

I witnessed this whilst travelling inland to witness a bamboo river race. Transport is different here. Not the actual method - you still use a bus - but the schedule. In that there is none. You wait until the bus is full before you leave. If there is one seat free, the bus will not budge. Thus I waited over an hour in a bus chatting to a Malaysian guy before we got moving, and then discovered upon arriving at my destination that the races were a further 20km bus ride away. I wasn't waiting.

Though I did spend my afternoon waiting - waiting for lazy Jason to arrive. I had checked out the port area - complete with nearby Korean restaurant (I can't escape!) - and luckily returned just before the rain started to lash down. The rain is predictable, yet also very unpredictable. The predictable part is to get out of harm's way as soon as you feel a single droplet. Often it has dispersed within 20 minutes. But what a 20 minutes. People who complain about rain in Manchester - come to Southeast Asia in monsoon season.

We hit up the main night market after dusk. We walked through the mass of fruit and vegetables to get to the meaty section. Smoke billows out of the numerous barbecues, all cooking food that delights your senses. You grab a seat and then go to each stall to tell them what you desire. Our meal was pure gluttony. Snapper. Crayfish. King prawns. Satay. Chicken wings. We were glad they had forgotten the rice.

Jason then suggested we get dessert (!), as he had a few ideas. Unlike many Asian countries, the assortment of Malay desserts seems to be very good – mainly because they don’t commonly use rice, and they commonly use sugar. Jason’s favourite is called goreng pisang, which is a banana in batter. We also had cendol, which contains random foodstuffs such as crushed ice, coconut cream, red beans and green stuff which is the actual cendol. I, however, hit gold with a different dessert. The name of it is apam balik. It is two thick pancakes with a sweet, nutty paste smothered inbetween. You can buy three – THREE – for one ringgit. That’s 20p. It tastes delicious.

Everything thus far has been delicious. The volume of food allowed us to fall asleep very early, which was a good thing – we had a big trek to undertake the next day.

Love you all


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