Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Homeland Revisited

It seems like forever ago when Tarak and I were attacked the tailors in Hoi Ann because the next 12 days were a whirlwind trip. So there we were in Vietnam, somewhat reflecting over our world trip and going over some of the highlights..and naturally, we started talking about India. Of course, this was instigated by an e-mail from my cousin telling us that his wedding was April 17th and they wanted to let us know and understood that it would be difficult for us to come back. So there we began, first discussing the food we missed (this was ALWAYS the first thing that came up....I mean, when you're vegetarian and in a country where dead dogs are hanging from a string ready to be purchased to be eaten....selection matters). So, we first started with the fruits...chikoo, custard apple, mango, guava, lichi..and then we went for the main curry dishes..and then by the time we had hit the street vendor Indian Chinese food...one of us had already typed in on orbitz to see what a round trip ticket from Hanoi to Mumbai would cost. Now, beyond just the food...we began thinking of our families there and how so very much this would mean to them. I think if we had to pick one thing that we took away from this trip the most, it would be the importance of the people in our lives and maintaining our relationships with them. With that being said, we started thinking about the fact that realistically, if we were back home, immersed in work..we were doubtful that this impromptu trip would ever materialize....so, armed with that..we purchased 2 tickets, completely depleted our bank account, and started making lists of every food item we needed to hit in the next 11 days.
Our flight there wasn't bad, and the awesome thing was that we kept a ton of luggage at the hotel we stayed at in Hanoi..we traveled light (1 backpack). So, we landed in Mumbai, where immediately the sights, smells and the actions that only Indians take, welcomed us wholeheartedly. Let me know explain this actions comment...so, here we are in the plane that is basically just starting to land...and I emphasize "starting to land"....literally 1 wheel is about to hit the runaway...everything is still shaking and moving..I'm still nauseous.the whole bit....ONLY in a plane full of Indians, do 80% of them just start unbuckling their belts and leaping out of their seats to the overhead bins. Mind you, everywhere else (and we can attest to this) everyone just sits frozen until the little "ting" sound of the seatbelt sign goes off. Oh no..but not with a bunch of Indians who love to "hurry, hurry" only to have to "wait, wait"...anyway, the best part of the story is that, of course, the freaked out head steward quickly comes on overhead and tells everyone sternly to sit down..but 1 dude, just didn't want to listen...so, they must have sent the junior stewardess in the aisle to come and regulate. Well, basically there was a showdown between the 2 right there in front of us..and as in any "shoving" show-down, it's a no-brainer..the Indian guy took the little steward dude DOWN and ran up to the front.
Okay..so we landed safely and we were sentimental. We met up our friends Sreedevi,Vishal and Anar in Mumbai and had an amazing dinner at a Punjabi dhaba restaurant and flew out the next morning to Ahemdabad, Gujarat. As we were experts in local transportation...we busted into a rickshaw (that we got of course by walking outside of the terminal, as any local can tell you is much cheaper) and went to the central bus station where we caught an intercity bus to Vadodara (where my aunt and everybody was). Now, our trip was a complete surprise (I'm very big on these..and Tarak let's just say tolerates them)..so, we took a rickshaw and just showed up at my aunt's (masi's) house. Now, not to sound like a cheezy mastercard commercial, but that moment when we walked in, all of the women were having their henna done, and the look on my cousins, aunt and especially my 84 year old grandmother's face was worth every penny of that ticket. The wedding festivities were a blast, and our surprise arrival apparently inspired my parents to come back from the states for the wedding. So, we had 15 people in the house, great food, lots of laughing/talking and just good quality time with family. After the mehindi, there was a garba, the ganesh puja, the wedding and finally the reception. Our 11 days flew by too quickly, but of course, long enough to get sick from eating yummy but sketchy roadside food. And we flew back to Hanoi, where we experienced a little glitch. So, initially as we had not planned for India, we had gotten a single entry visa for Vietnam. Now before leaving Hanoi, as we had left nearly 80% of our stuff outside the airport, in the city, we "thought" we had gotten some type of clearance for a 1 day pass to come back in the city. Now apparently at immigrations..they didn't know anything about any sort of pass and they just put the smack down, and announced that our butts weren't going anywhere except the transit terminal for the next 12 hours...we later found out that it was election time and lucky for us, they were "cracking down" (damn communists-j/k). So, yes a little stressful...but luckily we made a friend in immigrations, who helped us call the hotel and got them to bring all 50kg of our baggage to the airport where he went with Tarak to get and clear for us. So, yet another small adventure survived..but we were banking on that 12 hour break since our journey continued for about the next 2 days...as we then flew to Soeul..to Beijing...to San Francisco..to finally....Houston. Our trip was over...we were finally (sadly) home.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Same Same But Different

Well, our final adventure in Vietnam started off with a night train to the southern city of Hue. I have to say, whether we’ve just ridden too many trains in the homeland or we are just jaded, but this was one nice sleeper train. Upon arriving in Hue, we didn’t waste much time since we only had a day…we threw our stuff in our hotel and headed to the water for an afternoon boat ride down the Perfume River. Along the river, we stopped to visit some pagodas and went to 2 of the coolest royal tombs.

Apparently, back in the reign of the Nguyen emperors (ranging from 1200 to 1800),each emperor built these huge totally elaborate tomb for the emperor they succeeded. It was more than just a tomb. It usually first had a steel pavilion, that listed all of the accomplishments of the emperor, then a temple-dedicated to the emperor and emperoress, a courtyard and occasionally a lotus pond. Well, in the courtyard were these amazing sculptures of foot soldiers ready for battle in gear along with elephants and the whole ordeal. Afterwards, we got back in our boat and enjoyed the sunset along the Perfume River.
The next day we set out for Hoi An…now, this is the place I was waiting for…for the historical significance, or unique culture you might ask…hell no…it was to get a ton of cheap clothes made. As we were taking a bus in from Hue to Hoi Ann, Tarak had to literally calm Anar and I down, as we went from simply admiring the rows of tailors and fun clothes..to pretty much ugly yelps of “oooohhh, I want those pants”…anyway, we settled in our hotel and then quickly set to start the clothes rampage. The best way to describe it is that it is basically this whole area with TONS, and I literally mean tons of tailors with sort of boutiques where they display all kinds of cute clothes. So, basically you can walk up to any tailor and say “hmmm, I like that shirt, but I want it with ¾ sleeves, change the color to red and black and put slits on the side” and it will literally be custom fit to your size and ready in (sometimes) 1 day. You come back for a first, and sometimes a second fitting. Well, Tarak had actually kept one of the cards of the tailors he had used 4 years ago, and we found her. Probably not surprising, we had a LOT of stuff made…we even discovered, you could get custom made shoes..that’s right..they measure both your feet, even taking multiple width measurements (so, if one’s a little bigger than the other, so will be your shoe) and then you pick the heel, the strap and whatever color you want….crazy, huh?? Needless to say, I think Tarak and I had about, oh 15 kg of stuff when we left. And we got some pretty good stuff…obviously, we couldn’t expect super high quality…but we got work shirts/slacks, silk PJ’s (don’t worry, just me), swimsuits (me again), wool coats and Tarak even got an entire suit made. The funny thing was that everywhere we went, when you asked someone, if they could make those same pants or if they had the same shirt we had seen, they wouldn’t immediately say yes, but rather what seemed like the universal response “Same, Same but different”. Well let me just say, that things were more likely to be different than “same same”…but all the sellers use that line so much, that they actually have shirts that say “same, same but different”. We almost bought one, but I think, by that time, we were big time shirted out. Tarak’s tailor, I think, was so touched that he came back and found her (and she sure as heck didn’t mind our business either)…that she treated us to dinner which we had in her boutique. She had ordered all of these amazing local Vietnamese dishes, that we definitely couldn’t find anywhere along the tourist strip. It was nice to get a chance to talk to her and learn about her life and her perspective on life in communist Vietnam.
Besides being knee-deep in getting clothes, we happened to come across some pretty cool galleries and once again enjoyed more Vietnamese coffee with French pastries. ☺

We also visited this place called My Son, which was about 25 km from the city and was yet another site of ancient Hindu ruins from the Champa Dynasty. Now, since we had already been to Ankgor Wat, it was hard to even compare, but it was yet again amazing to see the reign of Hindu influence so widely spread in the 12th century.

Our last day in Hoi An, Anar had gone back, and so Tarak and I had decided to take a cooking class. It was a definite must do experience. We first took a trip to the market, which was overwhelming with sights, foods and smells (very pungent). We then took a boat ride out to the Red River Bridge Cooking school, where we first got a tour of the amazing herb garden…I mean, superb Vietnamese cilantro and Thai basil..along with this disgusting sweet potato herb that reeked of fish. Anyway, in class, we learned to make eggplant in a claypot, stir fry tofu in pineapple, rice paper and then we actually made spring rolls. We then got to enjoy the fruits of our labor and had a great dinner before our boatride back to the mainland.
Well, our initial itinerary was to go down further south to see the DMZ (demilitarized zone) and the Mekong Delta, but we literally made this crazy spontaneous change in our plans. Even though we would have loved to see more of Vietnam, our hearts were longing to go back to India before coming back home. Since we knew my cousin was getting married and we did keep talking a lot about how much we missed the India, we literally within 2 days had bought 2 round trip tickets from Hanoi to Mumbai. We decided to surprise my family and just show up at the door right before the wedding festivities started…so, just like that, we were heading back to India for a quick 10 days….

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Baguettes and chocolate

From the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, we flew into Hanoi, the capital city of communist Vietnam. This was one of the places that Tarak had already been and I KEPT hearing about...you know things like "When we were in Vietnam....", or "Well, in Vietnam..."...or his favorite line "Like the shirt?...Vietnam..2 dollars"....anyway, it was easy to see why people fall in love with this country. A little similar to Cambodia, in that, there was a definite blend of Asian and French taste but it has its own unique and incredible presence. Just at a glance, we admired the tree-lined boulevards, lakes, parks, an amazing Old Quarter, museums, tons of food stalls serving "pho" and cycle rickshaws as the tourist mode of transport...all in the pace and background of a traditional Asian city. It was crazy to think that this place had been seriously attacked and bombed (thanks to our US of A), and apparently had been dead after the partition of Vietnam in '54. A little known fact, the government was quite reluctant to tourism and the doors opened only in '99..since which, tons of people have been flooding this country. There is an amazing presence of Hoi Chi Minh, and a great respect for him that is publicly displayed throughout the country. It's funny because we grow up thinking and learning the evils of communism, but then you see people living it, who all for the most part, are quite content and always smiling, and it makes you re-evaluate our Western notions.
Well, enough of politics...our first day, after checking into probably one of our favorite hostels of the entire trip, Hanoi Guest House (just to put in a little plug), we headed out via cycle rickshaw to check out the sites. We visited the Temple of Literaure (dedicated to Confucius), One Pillar Pagoda, the Hoan Kiem Lake and wandered around the Old Quarters. The abundance of fresh, warm baguettes and chocolate croissants along with amazing strong Vietnamese coffee was much appreciated after our not so hot meal choices elsewhere in Southeast Asia. We then had dinner on the waterfront (yes, another waterfront) and watched a water puppet show. It was pretty neat...all the puppets had these little tricks they did in the water, and they even had dragons that shot off fireworks. I was fine watching the show, however if there was an English translation, I think maybe Tarak and Anar, wouldn't have been dozing or doing the countdown of how many items were still left. I should share our only negative experience...it was during shopping..now Tarak and I shop the Indian bargaining way...where we look at items casually (the more we like them, the more casually we look at them...very noncommital...this, FYI, is KEY)..then ask the price...then offer half (no more, no less)....and walk away without looking, and then let the people come after us. Well, dear god, Tarak was looking at this belt and then after trying it on, he decided he genuinely didn't want it...Anar and I walked away and the lady kept trying to get him to buy this cheap belt....he, being so nice, kept standing there, politely saying no...well, then the freak lady actually STRUCK my husband with the belt..and not even the strap, but the buckle....so, after I found out what happened...I marched up to her (note, her entire English vocab was probably generously around 20 words)...and I yelled at her like she was 2 "why did you hit my husband?? That was rude and not nice". So, then her posse of friends, who I'm sure were worried about a potential showdown between this girl (who was probably 17, and 80 pounds dripping wet) and the angry foreign girl...well, they came and pushed me away....so, I did what I do best...I gave her a REALLY mean glare and walked away.
Well, the next day, we set made a day trip to visit the Perfume Pagoda. It is basically a bunch of pagodas and Buddhist shrines built into the limestone cliffs of the surrounding moutain. The name of the mountain is "Mountain of the Fragrant Traces"..hence, the name. But the best part was probably the 1 1/2 hour scenic boat ride through rice paddies and the local village to get to the pagodas.

We then set out for a 2 day, 1 night trip to visit the world heritage site, Halong Bay. It definitely was one of the most incredible sites we saw in Vietnam...it consists of nearly 3,000 islands that jet out from the beautiful waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

If that name rings a bell, it should, because it's where America initially got involved in the war in Vietnam (I'll just leave it at that). Along with the islands, there are small beaches and caves that make for some amazing views. Halong, which means where the dragon descends, according to legend, was created by the flailing tail of a great dragon that was running down the coast.

Well, after visiting a massive limestone cave we sailed off to the Halong Bay, where we soaked in the great scenery and had a huge feast on our boat. The next morning, we kayaked to this enchanting secluded lagoon admist the Bay.

Then after lunch on the boat, we headed back to Hanoi and as we rested up for our trip to South Vietnam.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Kingdom of Cambodia

So our next stop through southeast Asia was the incredible country of Cambodia. Now, I gotta be honest...before this trip, all I knew about Cambodia was a vague (and I mean vague) recollection of some cruel genocide at some point in time. And even though our stay was quite short, it was an action packed trip with a ton of culture, history and as always, shopping in the agenda.

We flew into the capital of Phnom Penh, which sits at the union of 3 rivers and is an extremely charming French-influenced Indochinese city. So, time for a few facts..early Cambodia (super early, 100 A.D) was heavily influenced by India (love it!). In fact, the religion, art and even language took deep root in this period, known as "Funan" era which lasted well into the 6th century. Besides Indian influenced rule, Cambodia was ruled by leaders from Thailand, Vietnam and Mongols before the French just basically took over in the late 1800's. The reason for all of these fun facts..besides the fact that they are of course fun, is that it sets the scene for this city. There is a cool blend of these different cultures and ideas. We didn't have much time but we were able to see the ancient Silver Pagoda, the Buddist temple-monasteries known as Wats, what remains of the French colonial architecture and enjoy a fabulous Italian dinner along the serene riverfront.

We actually met up our friends Seema and Anar who were part of our Cambodian adventure tour...and after a nice happy lunch, we were in for a brutally eye opening look at this country's bloody history. So, as I was eluding to, Cambodia's history is not only violent but actually scary recent. The rule of the Khmer Rouge (which began in the early 1970's), started initially as an offshoot from a revolutionary movement against the widespread corruption that was destroying the country.


The initial intention of this regime was to turn Cambodia into a Maoist, peasant dominated farming cooperative, however the way this was gone about was completely appalling in that it was executed as a "cleansing" mission. A couple of the places we visited were S21, which was a high school turned into a torture and dentention center and then the Killing Fields, where in the span of 3 years, 17,000 innocent people were basically taken to be killed and buried in mass graves. An extremely disturbing fact that we learned was that in the 3 year period of Khmer Rouge (1975-1978), approximately 2 million people were killed. It was extremely depressing and quite surreal being there, in those fields, seeing and stepping on the skulls and bones of the victims that still lie embedded in the ground and to know that there were numerous mass graves yet to be unearthed, made us shudder and think that was some type of ancient cruelty from centuries ago rather than just 30 years....it was devastating to see how much evil there is despite how far we've come.
On a lighter note (I'm sorry..there is NO good transition from that..I tried to think of soemething witty but I thought it would just come out tacky) after we drank ourselves to numb those disturbing sights, we headed out to the city of Siem Reap.

Here lies the absolutely breathing temples of Angkor, the ancient capital of the Cambodian empire from the 9th to 14th century. We got a 3 day pass to try to see as many of the more than hundreds of temples that were built that basically represented the political, social and religious epicenter of a civilization that had a population of 1 million people (that's a lot of people in the 10th century)!! As I mentioned earlier, this period was heavily influenced by India and therefore in these temples, reside a large number of Hindu sculptures and dieties. The most famous temple is Angkor Wat, which we visited at sunrise and was awe-inspiring in its magnitude and beauty. Some of our favorite temples were the Banteay Srei, Ta Prohm and the Bayon. It was indescribeable walking around and immersing ourselves in these beautifully sculpted relics for 3 entire days.

Not to put a damper on things, but of course, these structures were also all heavily bombed and damaged during the Khmer Rounge, but thankfully are undergoing serious rennovation. All in all, it was definitely one of the most spectacular sights on our entire trip and it is amazing that these ancient ruins were just recently discovered in the 1800's.
Next, we went back to Phnom Penh, and relaxed for an evening before we headed out for our last world trip destination: Vietnam!!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dragon Tales

After our paradise in Ubud, we explored the island of Lombok and visited the highly touristed Gili Islands...we definitely had some amazing snorkeling and diving experiences....you know...more sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, beautiful coral...same old, same old..:) But then we were off to a much awaited destination.
Besides the Galapagos, the only other place Tarak has been talking my ear off about, is Komodo Island…why you ask….well the Komodo dragon of course…so, we set off from the island of Lombok on a painful nearly 24 hour bus journey to the port city of Sape, off the coast of Sumbawa. Once we arrived we had a SLIGHT problem. The next ferry, which was supposed to leave daily was “scheduled” to leave three days later. We knew if we wanted to see the dragons and some of the countryside of Flores this called for desperate measures. We chartered our own private boat….and let me tell you that this ain’t no love boat...it was a dingy, musty, tiny and overall quite sketchy fishing..yes fishing boat, to take us around the islands for a couple of days. So, anyway, after avoiding eye contact with all of the freaks in the harbor who had some strange fascination with India, particularly Bollywood...and who kept asking us whether we were in the industry or then proceeded to list the names of all 20 actors/actresses they knew…we made some shady deal with the only dude that could speak English. We awoke at 3am and boarded the tiny boat in the pouring rain to join our whopping 2 man crew, neither of whom spoke English, to make the almost 6 hour journey to the islands. Man, we kept wondering if we were crazy..let’s see…small fishing boat…Indian Ocean…no lifejackets….no radio or any form of communication…rough seas, pouring rain……hmmm..yes, we pretty much had lost our minds.

It didn’t help that passages from the book Life of Pi kept whizzing through our heads. But, we made it and spent a night on Komodo island. Was it worth it?? I gotta admit that the dragons were pretty cool. Let me explain that they aren’t exactly “dragons”, but in the family of what is called, monitor lizards. How to describe them?? Well they are massive, weighing up to a 100kg, with powerful bodies that can attack and kill larger opponents like freakin’ wild buffalo or horses and apparently can swallow a goal WHOLE (that's just sick). Not to mention their saliva harbors bacteria which can be as deadly as poison. This of course, was exceedingly cool to Tarak…and the fact that there had also been some tourist fatalities, just added to his excitement. Regardless it was pretty amazing to be standing just a few feet from them watching them in awe (and terror quite frankly). We also went snorkeling in Red Beach and saw some incredibly preserved colorful coral and tons of fish but we got attacked by a freakin’ army of crazy jellyfish.

After 2 days of sea adventure, we made it to the island of Flores on the coastal city of Labuanbajo and enjoyed a beautiful sunset and the famous local avocado milkshake (sounds gross huh? But very good). Well, we then set off for a 5 day trip deeper into the island to get a glimpse and a feel of the traditional villages and culture. We went through the cities of Rutung, Bajawa and Moni. Here we got to see the local processing of “arak” (palm) wine, the traditional Ngada people and their customs, and some beautiful lush scenery. We got a chance to walk into these traditional villages where although the religion is primarily Christianity, there is more of a fusion of animism and Christianity which includes many symbolic structures and sacrificial ceremonies. Deep in the island of Flores, lies the spectacular Kelimutu lakes..which are these 3 lakes admist volcanic craters and are believed by the locals to be inhabited by spirits of those who die. The crazy thing is that they are 3 different colors and they keep changing with time. We saw the lakes at sunrise and it was definitely a stunning sight.

Finally, after more near misses, and flight cancellations, we somehow made it back to Bali to spend 1 final night in Ubud before we set off for Bangkok.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Island of the Gods

So if Malaysia was difficult to grasp geographically, Indonesia is a crazy massive collection of 5000km of islands, rising and dipping across the equator. The instant we landed in Bali, we knew we wouldn't want to leave. We decided to focus our time in Ubud-which has a ton of Balinese Hindu temples, ancient sites, awesome art and handiwork and not to mention, great cuisine. We had decided to splurge (60 bucks a night) and we stayed in this awesome resort called Tjampuhan Hotel and Spa. We were greeted with a glass of rice wine, escorted to our room which was a beautiful bungalow overlooking lush vegetation with a natural hot springs pool. The next morning, we checked out the Monkey Forest Sanctuary (yes, more vicious moneys) where we saw the high temple of the dead. We then strolled around, and immersed ourselves (literally because it's all around you) in Balinese culture and the people.

We also checked out some of the cool temples around Ubud, the Elephant Caves, the Moon temple, Lake Batur and Gunung Kawai, which houses one of Bali’s oldest and largest monuments. One of the coolest shrines was made from carvings in a rock 7meters high, which in order to get to, we had to trek through a field of beautiful rice paddies. I think one of the reasons why we loved Bali so much is the richness of the culture and its people. As Hindus, it was fascinating for us to learn about the Balinese Hinduism, which is actually quite different from that of in India. Originating from the Majapahits who ruled Bali in the 13th century, it became a mix of the already existing Balinese beliefs and customs, which were that of animism and always present spirits. The Balinese still worship the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, but they also have a supreme god, Sanghyang Widi. And interestingly, unlike in India, where deities are freely displaced in temples, the temples in Bali consist more of intricate carvings rather than any particular diety.

We also had a chance to see traditional Balinese dancing…Kecak, Barong and Legong. Through these dances, with the accompaniment of a chanting choir, they frequently tell the story of the Ramayan and Mahabharat. The next day we went nuts at the market and the art galleries…we found some amazing paintings and handicrafts. After 3 days, we were sad to end our paradise in Ubud..but we were off to adenture by sea to the island of Lombok.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sweet and sour pork, anyone??

The capital of any country is always a great way to learn about its history, culture and the people. On the other hand, capital cities also tend to be overpopulated, over polluted, traffic jammed and crime ridden. However, as far as capitals go, Kuala Lumpur, KL (as it’s commonly called) is pretty cool. We stayed in the heart of Chinatown, and walked around the many food hawkers’ stalls, enjoyed fresh tropical chickoo and parisiman (this awesomely sweet orange looking fruit) and I ate chicken and pork!! Don’t freak out, it was mock chicken and mock sweet and sour pork…we found some pretty cool Buddhist vegetarian restaurants. KL is also home to the Petronas Towers, which rise up 452m, and as the world’s tallest building completed in 1998, its floor plan was based on an 8-sided star that is influenced by the arabesque patterns of Islamic art.

We then took a day trip to Batu Caves to see the well known Hindu temple that has been built actually inside the caves.
After KL, we flew north to Kota Bharu and then took a ferry to the Perhentian Islands.

Talk about complete serenity and beauty…we were lucky to take advantage of the low season (no tourists..cheap rooms) and enjoy secluded white sand beaches and clear blue waters. We just relaxed in our beach front bungalow for about $10 a day; Tarak went diving as I was forbidden in the water with my barely healing hand wound. As if to add salt to my poor wound, Tarak went snorkeling and instead of reassuring me that I wasn’t missing anything…he of course saw a huge 5+foot black tipped shark(which was a little freaky considering he was alone snorkeling in the area), blue spotted sting rays and fish like Nemo..and he told me all about them. Anyway, it was much needed R&R after all of our running around, hiking, and jungle trekking. So after 3 days of lounging around, we flew back to Kota Bahru, had another great mock meat meal and headed to the coastal city of Penang. Penang has a lot of character and spunk…to quote Lonely Planet, it was acquired by Captain Francis Light on behalf of the East Indian Company and was renamed Prince of Wales Island. Afterwards, the city of Georgetown was established which not only has an old colonial district but also a traditional Chinatown, tons of great shopping and of course great food. At Tarak’s insistence we trudged out on a bus ride to visit the “Snake Temple”.

It houses several pit vipers (poisonous of course) and tree snakes; however they are supposedly “fixed and slightly doped” by the incense smoke drifting in the temple…yeah right..anyway, we also had a chance to see Penang Hill where we finally saw the Rhinoceros Hornbill and the Kek Lok Si Temple. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, which was founded in 1890 and is quite impressive with a 3 tiered design…Burmese at the top, Chinese at the bottom and Thai in between.

The next day we left Penang and finished our action packed 3 week Malaysian travels and returned to Singapore to rest for a night before we head out to explore Indonesia.