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Sunday, September 13, 2009

From the "Fish Spa" of Melaka to the Jungle of Taman Negara

When last I left you, I was primarily concerned about obtaining mosquito repellent.  I managed right before we left KL.  20 Ringgit for OFF!  I am reluctant to check the spray can and discover that it's imported from the US.  All the good chemical poisons are...

Anyway before I did that I had a lovely walk in the morning (the only time it's not unbearably hot) around the Chinatown/Jalan Petaling area.  I got to see all the winos and drug addicts waking up on their park benches, and then finished it off with buying some Chinese dan taat which was quite yummy.

We took a very nice bus from KL to Melaka, about 2 hours, and then checked into the "Baba Hotel".  Situated in a very good part of Melaka near Jonkers St.  The architecture is all these lovely old Chinese shophouses.  But there are also remnants of the Portuguese and Dutch each of whom colonized the city after its start in the 1600s, looking for decent spices no doubt to supplement their own cuisine.  We walked around an old church and saw the sights, including the shopping mall (again, A/C figures prominently here).  Then a bunch of us decided to go on a river cruise on the Melaka River that was actually very very nice.  I loved our captain -- a very funky young woman in full headscarf playing Lady Gaga as the musical accompaniment!  She even agreed to pose for a photo with me (which I would upload right here if I were not paranoid about viruses implanting themselves on my memory card -- anyone got advice?).


Well, after that we were in the mood for a little luxury, so we decided to go to the fish spa.  You might wonder what that is.  Well, it's a spa where there are a whole bunch of fishtanks with these little black fish in them.  You dangle your feet over the edge into the fishtanks and hordes of fish come and nibble at your not-yet-exfoliated-but-need-to-be skin.  I can't even quite describe the sensation, but it's neat!  The massages will have to wait for Indonesia, the fish spa was weird enough that I had to try it here.  Plus, it was a low risk investment, only about US $3 for 20 minutes.  Any of my infectious disease friends, please feel free to comment on what I must have already contracted!

That night we went on a becak tour with these little pedicabs for two ferried by a guy on a motorcycle.  They have spectacularly done up their vehicles with such amazing kitsch that it heavily resembled the "art cars" of Berkeley.  One even had a bizarre collection of Barbie dolls!

Also in Melaka I finally found a single box of tissues.  Those of you who followed my trip to Peru will recall what difficulty I have finding good paper products worldwide ... well apparently in Malaysia you have to buy a 4-pack, they will NOT sell you less.  I finally came across a one-pack of Kleenex, albeit with Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the outside of the box, but hey, a tissue's a tissue when you desperately need one :)

We left Melaka yesterday morning and spent the entire day travelling.  First by comfortable minivan for 2 hours or so to a town called Gemas, in order to get on the Jungle Railway.  That is literally what it's called and it goes straight through the jungle.  First we found a nice Indian restaurant (one has to look long and hard to find restaurants open during the day here during Ramadan and so they are invariably Chinese or Indian, the other two major populations who live here).  We got a nice masala dosa and Sabrina (a British tripmate) was finally happy for the first time with her meal.

Then we waited and waited for the train, which apparently was operating on "Jam Karet" (translation: "rubber time" -- appropriate for the jungle).  Another 3 hours in an unbearably hot car with no A/C watching the jungle pass by.  The first 5 minutes was fascinating.  For the rest of the time I just wanted to die of the heat.  After we got out we had another hour or so drive to the entrance of the national park at Kuala Tahan and our very hippy dippy guesthouse.  The group has finally deemed me well enough to share a room with someone...



It's a lovely area and this morning we did a hike and then a canopy walk, 10 meters above the jungle floor on these swinging bridges up in the trees, very cool, but very similar to one I did in Borneo and that one may have been a bit better because it was even longer and perhaps higher up, not sure.


This afternoon we are doing something involving tubing and water and swimming, which will be a very welcome respite from the heat heat heat and humidity.  Tonight, a night safari of sorts by 4WD.

Tomorrow, we'll see.  This is a teeny tiny town, but lots of fun and it's apparently the oldest rainforest in the world.

Have a nice day! :)