Thursday, 31 January 2008

Malaysian memoirs

6) Meeting Peyshan at Kuala Lumpur Airport (4th January). Ant and I landed at the airport late in the evening. Something had put us into a bit of a strange mood, possibly a combination of sleep deprivation (we stayed up late the night before playing guitar hero), food deprevation (it had been at least 6 hours since we'd eaten), and excitement at seeing Peyshan. As we sped back to her parents house in search of food she must have been wondering what she'd let herself in for. The six days in Malaysia were probably the most fun-packed and energetic of my entire trip...

7) Seeing a proper beach in Penang. Reading my Asia travel guides had left me with images of beautiful tropical beaches, with perfect white sand and lined with palm trees. Unfortunately my visits to the sea in Korea and Taiwan failed to provide such an environment -- through a combination of bad weather and poor beaches -- so it was a real relief to walk down to the seafront once we reached our apartment in Penang, and to swim in the warm sea (in spite of the jellyfish).

8) The first time Peyshan let me drive her car. Our trip to Malaysia involved a lot of travelling by car, so Peyshan had asked Ant to share some of the driving. However, for some inexplicable reason she was reluctant to let me drive her precious car -- even though I have a proper international driving licence, which Ant does not! After a lot of persuasion and sulking though she eventually agreed to let me have a go. I remember how tense she was as I got into the drivers seat, and seeing her arm trembling (especially after I tried to drive away with the handbrake on...). The first few minutes were a bit shady as I tried to remember what all the levers do and which side of the road to drive on, but I was soon in total control (really!). Peyshan was very good after that and allowed me to do a couple of hours drive on the way back to Kuala Lumpur as well (but thankfully not into the city).

9) Discovering the wonder of Chinese Tea houses in Penang (and then again in Kuala Lumpur and Krabi). Everyone knows what a great thing a cup of tea is, but the Chinese take it to a whole new level by shaping a whole environment and ceremony around the cup of tea. The process of making a good cup of chinese tea is multilayered and requires timing, patience and concentration. First water is heated to just below boiling (it's bad for it to actually reach boiling for some reason, so standard electric kettles are out), and then it is poured into a small clay pot containing the tea leaves. The first brew is only left for a few seconds (to 'wake up the leaves'), and is then used to warm up the drinking cups (which are small enough to only hold a mouthful of tea each). Subsequent brews are left for longer and are first poured into a second (usually open topped) receptical, which allows the tea to cool slightly before it is tasted. As each cup only holds a mouthful of tea, one can get through about a dozen brews in a single sitting, and the flavour and aroma of the tea change subtly with each brewing. The whole experience is very relaxing and rejouvenating. Now back in Korea I intend to buy myself a proper set as soon as possible.

10) Seeing the Twin Towers light up at night in Kuala Lumpur. This is best explained by a photo. The towers may not be as high as the Taipei 101, but they have done a really good job with the lighting!

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