Friday, March 26, 2010


The speed boat to Koh Lipe from Langkawi is fast… 4 x 225 horsepower engines.. It’s an hour earlier in Thailand and the trip is an hour long, so for the 25-30 passengers the trip is over in about a minute and a half.

Immigration in Malaysia was a breeze, people there are so relaxed, smiling and yet efficient. I guess that’s what English schools and Cadbury will do to you after a few generations. The Thais are relaxed too, so much so that it takes over an hour for 25 passports to be processed…

We had booked in at the Sanom Beach Resort, now remember the word resort… what does it conjure up in your mind? Koh Lipe is fully booked for Chinese New Year weekend and it’s getting very popular now late into the season. We had friends who helped us. Their friends run Sanom Beach Resort. Boy and Jeng are the friends. We looked down the beach, it didn’t seem too far. Now Rangerette had a backpack so big and heavy that we could have had the entire crew from Avatar in it. Why don’t they just fly us over? She’s muttering at the bag, never again, never again…

It’s hot and we finally get to the other end of the beach and find the bamboo walkway around the rocky shoreline. Now I’m big and heavy and I’m carrying two bags. The sweat is pouring down and we start over the rocks with pounding surf beneath them. Now Indiana Jones would have thought twice about the cracking and moaning bamboo slats we had to maneuver. Lara Croft would have run in terror and hid in a temple. But no, Ranger Bob and Rangerette move on and just before Ranger Bob passes out, we make it to the other side. We are at a small secluded beach totally isolated, yet so close to the most popular beach on Koh Lipe. A beautiful sandy cove, ringed with trees for shade. I start looking around for Leonard Di Caprio, where’s the camera ? We find Jeng, he tells us Boy is outside our bungalow up on the mountain… Argh! I had just caught my breath, and now we have to hike up the hillside to the top and meet smiling Boy who shows us our bungalow. Now remember the word Resort. After leaving the beautiful Temple Tree Resort not more that 4 hours ago, this was a big change! Woven bamboo mat walls that you can see light through, a bed as hard as Devil’s Island. And, dah da! There’s no sink, only a toilet and a shower hose. Going out the door to talk about our circumstances with Rangerette on the terrace, I step out and go crashing through the floorboards.. Now we are in a pole house on the side of a mountain, the drop is steep and ends in those big rocks with the bamboo walkway below. Rangerette says, the view is great, we have a deal. Boy is smiling, and promises to fix the terrace immediately, which he does. I promise to lose about 20 kilos within the next few hours, which I don’t. We also find out that there are steps going down just in back of our bungalow, Dah!. Leaving our very humble abode, we throw our things in our room, change to swim modus and are down the hill in a flash, where we find cold beer, shade and a beach… All is forgiven …

That evening, we dined at our favorite fish restaurant Daya. Tiger prawns, the size of the adults on District 9, shells to delight the Queen of the Netherlands, and squid to tickle the fancy of Captain Nemo…afterward wander down the beach to watch the fire show and drink some cold beers on

Monday, March 22, 2010


It’s a short flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi. We flew Air Asia, the Ryan Air of the Ricelands… we used them several times and thought they were very good, friendly and service minded. We even had excess baggage with us on the way home( a 12 meter long   reclining Buddha), no problem...
We stayed at the Temple Tree Resort, as I had been ogling their website for ages and couldn’t wait. We arrived at the reception, which is an old merchant's villa with a covered verandah. We had a cold drink and were told about both Temple Tree and Bon Ton -- the more established sister resort next door. After a friendly chat, we were taken to our room or rather rooms. Though we booked a regular room, there is an entrance, a lounge, our room, a huge bathroom with water fall shower and our own walled in courtyard with a wooden tub and shower and sun loungers. I’m sure our mouths were open…We were not disapointed… We stayed in Colonial 2

The Temple Tree and Bon Ton Resort are the well-managed children of an Australian named Narelle McMurtrie. She started Bon Ton about 11 years ago and Temple Tree only three years ago. She collected old houses from all over Malaysia. The villas at Temple Tree are between 70-110 years old. But the reconstruction is superb. The ventilation carvings, the colors, the high peaked ceilings are gorgeously restored, but never to the point of overindulgence. There are paddle fans on the ceiling, but all are also cleverly air conditioned. It was more than 40 degrees when we were there in Febuary, and we appreciated this nod to modernity and comfort.

That evening we enjoyed cocktails at the Bon Ton with tapas appetizers, to die for rock lobster satays with peanut sauce and a crisp glass of Riesling.Watching the sunset over the rice paddies with the surprising appearance of dozens of lotus flowers, we felt pampered and privileged. A fantastic three course diner followed, mmmm…. Oh,the pleasure…the pleasure.

Now T.T and B.T. have three wonderful pools. Both resorts are inland and about 10-15 minutes from the beach. The kind staff will take you there, and you can take a taxi back for 8-10 MR($2). This is where the shopping is, but also a decent beach and beach clubs to hang out in. Pssst! Langkawi is duty free, so beer is cheaper than coca-cola. But back to that gorgeous sunset over the rice paddies....

The B.T. treats its wine with respect: It has an enormous wine room -- both air conditioned and with wine refrigerators showing proper temperature and humidity. I was impressed at the selection. It was a little Australian top heavy, but otherwise some very good wines at affordable prices. After not having decent wine in Melaka ,

Ranger Bob kicked off his snake boots and enjoyed the pleasure of Bon Ton's bountiful grapes with the Rangerette that evening.
Oh, the horror… the horror… thinking about the cold and snow we have to face when we go home …
It's taken me two years to put on the weight to play the sequel, Kurtz didn't die and it's based in Afghanistan, they rebuild the Bamiyan Buddhas........ Blah! Blah!

Late to bed, early to rise. Speedboat to Thailand was scheduled for the very next morning....

Thursday, March 11, 2010


It is the year of the Tiger, and the eponymous beer company seems to be the major sponsor. We hung out in a place called Geographers Café on Jin Hang Jebat, a corner location with outside seating and icy cold Tiger drafts. The food, the service, everything seems to work at this place. We especially liked the Nasi Lemak here, which is the national dish of Malaysia.
Rangerette had her fortune told by a parrot. The guy lets it out of the cage, and he has a stack of cards, he says her name, and the bird picks a card, he keeps this up until the parrot doesn’t pick anymore. He thereafter reads the message on the card, which luckily for us was one of good fortune and some money coming in!
The Karabau Rock bar was our alternative late night bar, very local and friendly place. They have live music on the weekends.
Every Friday and Saturday the Jonker Street Night Market is held. Early in the afternoon they start setting up the stalls, and by the time evening falls you can hardly walk down the streets of China Town. They have everything from soup to nuts, sewing needles to deserts that glow in the dark. They have creams and ointments, that will either make your skin soft or you can wake up in the morning looking like the Elefant Man. We liked the Hawker food stalls. We started at one end and ate our way up and down the streets. From Dim Sum to deep fried eggs in batter, we ate dried meat that was grilled(rougan), baby squid grilled on a charcoal grill, Mmmm! My favorite are Pao(steamed pork buns), giant dim sum. Rangerette's favorite was a concoction called Cendol, made of of shaved ice, with green day glow jellies, syrups and coconut milk, looks digusting but tastes, well, less disgusting. By this time, Rangerette started, she said “Ranger Bob you keep grazing like this, and they’re going to start Homesteading on your butt”…“Hate to plow that lower 40” I retorted…
Sitting in an outdoor café, we watched the colorful trishaws decorated with plastic flowers and blinking lights. Some even had disco music. The people go by on motorbikes with their jackets on backwards as protection from the cool night air and insects, it’s quite quiet, laid back and calm for a major Malaysian town…Life is good, but where am I going…Guess I’ll take another Tiger by the tale

Chinese New Year was packed everywhere, but I thought we would see dragon dancing and firecrackers exploding all over the place, but alas not one… Apparently, the way to celebrate is to eat a giant meal with your extended family. Every restaurant in Melaka was booked by out of town Chinese from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The young people go out and drink in cafés and bars afterwards. We sat at the Geographers Café and made friends with an Australian couple. Both taught at universities. Her hobby was singing, and she sang with the one-man house band and belted out incredibly good renditions of many, especially Tina Turner.
They have these beer girls, from the different beer companies. They go around to the tables at the cafés and try to get you to order their kind of beer; they keep pouring the beer as fast as you as you can drink it. In Malaysia, they are very discreet, but in Vietnam, they are a nuisance, too pushy. We ate dinner at the new boutique hotel called courtyard@heeren I had earlier in the day checked out their rooms which were fantastic. The suite especially, with an inside/outside bathroom with Balinese shower at 300 MR was a bargain. The restaurant, on the other hand, was a great disappointment. The food was less than mediocre. My chicken was dry and Rangerette had a pasta that was so small it wouldn’t fill a dwarf in a Fellini Film! My advice: Book the room and eat elsewhere until they get it together in the kitchen…
We stayed out until the wee hours, but knew we couldn’t let completely go, because we were taking an early taxi the next day back to Kuala Lumpur, or KL as the natives call it. We were flying to the island of Langkawi on the Northwest coast of Malaysia. Rangerette and I retired, after two New Year parties within 5 weeks. We were ready to move on and start the Year of the Tiger.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Waking up in the Puri Hotel, Melaka, Malaysia at 5 a.m., I can hear the sound of the mosque. The first thing I see looking up at the ceiling is the brass arrow that points east towards Mecca so you know which way to pray. We are in the middle of Chinatown, and yet the sound travels across the river to our hotel. I’m sooo jet-lagged, feeling like I woke up inside a plastic dry cleaning bag with a mouth that is so dry, and tastes like horse blanket puree. As I stumble to the bathroom to wash my face I look in the mirror and I have a red circle on my forehead telling me“ You are Here”, just like you see on the maps in shopping Malls, but my mind is saying no, I’m not… I’m not here…it’s just a misplaced security baggage marker from the airport.
As it turns out, I am here, and enjoying every minute of it. There’s a heat wave on, over 40 degrees, so we have coffee and get an early start.

This very quiet Malay sultanate was invaded, bought , sold and traded many times over by invading foreign powers. The first was Chinese Muslim Admiral Cheng Ho, known as the “three jewelled eunuch prince”, castrated when he was 13, he wasn’t about to start a dynasty... After him came the Portuguese, Dutch and the British.
We decide to climb to the top of the city hill to St. Paul’s Church-- a long sweaty climb to the top. Built by the Portuguese in 1521,the church is a ruin, only the walls remain, filled with very large grave stones with Latin, Portuguese and English script., Some have whole families on them, mother, father and all the children who died from the fever. There’s a very calm and peaceful feeling standing up here on this hill, a nice breeze with a 360 degree view of the city and harbor below, hornbills, myna and parrots in the trees provide the background.

We then go to Muzium Rakyat “The People’s Museum”. The first floor is a top museum, and lengthy descriptions of the local sport of gasing uri (top spinning). The second floor is devoted to kites, mostly Malaysian. The third is the reason to come, known as “The Museum of Enduring Beauty”, here are displays and photographs of every type of mutilation that humans do in order to look good. From tattooing, brass neck rings, scarification, lip plugs, corsets to make wasp- waisted women and of course bound feet .

By this time, it’s so hot already that the trishaw drivers try not to make eye contact,. Instead we have a cold drink, I recommend the chilled coconuts, very refreshing. There was a picture in The Strait Times, of the Orangutans in Melaka zoo getting 5 showers a day instead of their normal 3, it was so hot I wish I could join them. One banana, two bananas, three bananas… bunch!

We return across the river to Chinatown, the World Heritage part of town is compact and walkable. On our way back Rangerette stops in her tracks, sputtering “There a crocodile in the drainage sewer”, turns out to be a rather large Monitor Lizard ( 1.5 m), just keeps walking unperturbed by us. At the Puri Hotel, Rangerette has booked into the Spa for her Valentine's Day gift. She’s about to get a full body scrub with sea salts and wrapped in seaweed and God knows what else, maybe tickled by Capt. Nemo and a Humboldt Squid…. She returns flushed and refreshed, a new woman, well almost. In the meantime, I go wandering off in the heat of the day. Being neither mad nor English, I seek a cool place to wait out Rangerette’s Herbal Makeover( Buy the way quite a bargain by European prices) I find my oasis, it’s a Café that has ponds under the tables filled with fish about an inch long and they nibble the feet and toes, their mouths are like small fingernail files and exfoliate the skin. I drink cold Tiger draft beer and let the fish do their pedicure work. I now know why there were so many people without feet in front of all the pubs in Melaka, you don’t want to stay too long. It's like a fishy opium den.