Thursday, December 12, 2013

Following the Gecko Trail (and other news)

Ah, gentle reader, if you thought that title portended some fascinating bit of travelogue or historical insight, you are sadly mistaken.  Alas, it is entirely literal, having to do with where geckos go, and I mean go.   OK, it is a small price to pay for mosquito free premises, and gosh they are kind of cute, and how DO they manage to cling to the wall completely horizontal??  But man do they produce poo. And it’s hard and sticky and requires a stiff brush to remove. They travel along walls and seem to favor corners and tight spots as places to leave their mark--no doubt more than you care to know.

The Ship to Nowhere
up close

Here is a photo of the Ship to Nowhere,  which parks most nights in the bay across from Miami Beach.
we see it from our window

People board it in nearby Georgetown for a one night “cruise” that  offers duty free shopping and an onboard casino.  Guess that’s what “offshore betting” really means.

Update in the fight against mildew

This week two leather items succumbed:   the checkbook cover and a watchband--you just can't leave anything alone unsupervised in a dark spot.

Small Triumphs
T and I climbed Penang Hill a few weeks ago.  There is a paved road (with thankfully little traffic) all the way--5 kilometers straight up.  The near constant 30 degree incline had us hobbling for days after.  
Smarter people go up by tram (see below)

view from the top

Tom is compared to Mark Spitz
 Occasionally he has the condo’s 27 meter  pool all to himself. Here he is from our balcony.

Tom grows a solidarity mustache for November  (and thankfully not a day more)
For a well-meaning international effort to raise awareness of men's health issues, many of the male teachers at the International School of Penang cultivate facial hair for the month of November. 

Field trip fun
T and K chaperoned a group of 10 year olds to Langkawi  Island-- gorgeous place. Four days with 37 kids--it was actually quite fun, jam packed with activities, including my favorite--the “6-D” ride.
on a boat tour

outside the "6-D"--where you get strapped into a seat and buffeted about

kids feeding white bread to an elephant--surely the owner could have found something more nutritious?

PHDs debut
K  has had a good time singing Christmas carols with the International Women's Association choir at various places around town. 

And, in the Incredibly Scary Venture department, she has joined with two other over the hill American ladies to form the Penang Harmony Divas. 

 Their second performance, at the IWA Christmas luncheon at the Eastern & Oriental hotel, included four numbers:  Bye Bye Love, Let it Shine* (think, Let it Snow; lyrics a joint venture by yours truly and Diva Marlene, below). In My Room, and Santa Baby. It is scary but fun.

*Oh the weather outside’s monsooning
Inside we’re happy spooning
There’s no dry place at all
To the mall- to the mall- to the mall

It doesn’t show sign of stopping
But the rain is good for shopping
So let’s go find some bling
Let us sing- let us sing- let us sing

When we finally have to go
How we’ll hate going out in the storm
since the AC is oh so cold
At least once were out we’ll be warm
Well it doesn’t show sign of stopping
And this mall is really hopping
But my cash -  is oh so low
I should go, I should go,  I should go.

The sun is slowly setting
And my dear I’m surely betting
That you’d like a nice glass of wine
when we dine, when we dine, when we dine

When we finally have to go
How we’ll hate going out in the storm
since the AC is oh so cold
At least once were out we’ll be warm

Monsoon’s a little frightful
We want our sun delightful
Penang is so divine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

The rain is slowly dying
And my dear we’re still good bye-ing
Tomorrow there will be sun
Think I’ll stay cause Penang’s so much fun.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Stopped over for a night on the way back from Melaka. On the outskirts of town, dramatic karst outcroppings, some harboring cave temples.  We made our way to one of them, called Kek Lok Tong. It took some doing to find it with only scanty directions (your faithful author has since posted directions on Trip Advisor) but was soooo worth the effort.

T outside the cave temple
Kek Lok Tong is a stunning place, both physically and spiritually.

at the back of the cave, which opens onto a garden
At a pond in front, visitors are discouraged from releasing animals in an effort to make merit

meritous koi?

Ipoh is a small city in central Malaysia, about 3 hours' drive to KL.  An area of downtown still has a colonial flavor.  There seemed to be zero tourists here, unlike Melaka.  It's got character but feels a bit gritty. To be fair, we only saw the downtown area and the outskirts, and nothing in between where most of the people probably live.

Ipoh has yummy street food, but of course.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Spore Wars!

Or, Attack of the Killer Mildew

It's an invasion, and we are learning to defend our home. Opened a closet and discovered all the black clothing was mottled with whitish-green and exuding a musty, yucky smell.
well, this was the worst one--stashed away in the happily forgotten bin of Winter Clothes

Gradually discovered it was invading on many fronts: drawers, storage bins, cupboards. Even, oh jeez:

It is rainy season, and the surge is on.  We seldom use the AC because temperatures are mild, but  now may have to put them on periodically to help dry the air.  And we are now heavy consumers of the mighty plastic-encased calcium chloride armament:
You lift the lid, peel off a seal, replace the lid and stick them in closets, drawers, etc.  Then you try to remember to keep the closet/drawers shut (Tom!!). They collect moisture, and in as fast as a couple of weeks are full of liquid and need to be replaced. Terrible for the landfill--must look into an electric version.


AKA Melacca, an important port city to traders, pirates, settlers and colonizers of many ethnicities for many centuries, now a UNESCO world heritage and popular tourist site.

At right, a water wheel replica of the type used in the 15th and 16th centuries.  It reminded me of those gorgeous, melodious ones in Hama, Syria :-(.

This one is just across the river from our hotel.

Here is T shortly after arrival, consulting the map. I plan the trip, he gets us there and everywhere.  This time, with help from Naza, our Malaysian car (pitcured).

First stop, the Menara Tamong Sari, a 250 foot tall revolving tower, which you can ride--whoooosh---up for a view of the city.

Views from above:
in the center,  a reconstructed ship in the maritime museum

We hit several museums.  We were interested to see the Maritime Museum, housed partly in a reconstruction of a Portuguese caravel ship that did the spice etc. run in the 1500s. But it was disappointing that the reconstruction showed nothing of how the interior was configured--no depiction of cargo, crew's quarters, location of the ship's wheel, etc.

More interesting was the museum on Cheng Ho (AKA Zheng He, Sam Poh), the previously mentioned Muslim Chinese admiral eunuch that T thinks I have a "thing" for.  Well, he certainly was an interesting person.  Selected by a Ming Dynasty Emperor to travel the world, giving people gifts and establishing good relations (what a concept !), he made seven voyages.  Reputedly (in this part of the world), he discovered the Americas 87 years before Christopher Columbus, among other feats.  He traveled in a fleet of 280 vessels (and crew of 27,000), which communicated with each other by flags, lights, carrier pigeons and, in time of war, drums.  Here is a representation of the fleet, and your intrepid travelers posing in front.

We learned that the Dutch taxed buildings in Melacca based on their width. Hence, a large number of narrow and very long buildings, including the one in which the Cheng Ho museum is housed. It is a beautiful, historic building, established by Zheng He as a place for some of his entourage to base themselves and stock his ships when he passed through.

On a visit to Africa he scored a giraffe which he brought back to China as a gift for the emperor...

Here he is, our 7 foot hero, in a diorama depicting him bringing gifts to some Melaccan prince.

And here, my other hero, enjoying a new love:  iced Milo

We pass on a favorite form of local transport:  the highly decorated trishaw.  Many of them have boomboxes and blare conflicting tunes as they wheel by each other.

A random temple entrance

 Every city needs an Old City Dumpling Shop and Coffin Shop, no?
 These dogs had to check us out

 Mr. Universe was here

 The other Mr. Universe!

Our hotel (and car) from across the river

At a wooden (no nails!) replica of a 1456 sultan's palace
Tom with other tourists
The Must-Have weapon

practical matters...

no comment

saw this guy as we walked around a Chines hill cemetery

ancient wonders:  Tom in front of the Portuguese fort