Penang to Melaka 5 - 11 March 2008

 Having waited so long for the car we delayed getting going for a couple of days cleaning and repacking the vehicle- until finally we were ready to leave by Saturday . We were awoken that morning at some ungodly hour by banging on our door. Wondering where the fire was we struggled down blearily to find 2 armed policemen waiting for us which was a bit alarming! It was election day in Malaysia and we had parked our car across the local school which was the designated voting station. We swiftly re-parked and all was well!

The election was interesting there was only one major contender and a couple of minorities. There were millions of flags/banners everywhere the vast majority for the same party. Apparently the result was a bit of a foregone conclusion ..the ruling party had been in power over 60 years and was a definite to get in again, though this was not the whole story. The regulars at our local (yes we have been hanging around Penang long enough to have one!) told us that there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the Government, particularly from the Chinese and Indians who feel that their interests are often overlooked and that the Malays are given better treatment. This was reflected by the fact that whilst the ruling party was re-elected they lost majority in 5 of the 13 states one of which was Penang. This is the biggest loss suffered by   the ruling party in over 60 years and has really shaken them up. We have never picked up on any of this inter- racial tension and at "ground level" all Malaysians seem to get on very harmoniously, hopefully this shock will prompt the Government to lift its game where necessary, and this will continue.   

So, it's great to be on the road again!!  As I said we are heading down to Malacca but will take the scenic route. We have to be back in KL on 21 March as we have bought tickets for the Formula 1 racing. The plan thus, is to journey on down to south Malaysia and head back to KL on the day before the race starts. Thankfully the distances here aren't too great, so we will go as the crow flies from wherever we happen to be. We set off in the early afternoon having spent the morning completing  some maintenance on the car, and having lunch at one of our favourite haunts (Kapitans a brilliant Indian restaurant in little India- best tandoori chicken ever!) we also  had a last look around the markets.

  We drove a few hours and spent the night at another old haunt KL- another great food place, so we visited our favourite chicken rice man. Next morning we drove first to Shah Alam the capital of Selangor. This is a new town with very wide streets lots of parks and an artificial lake reminding us both a bit of Canberra. It boasts the largest mosque in Asia which is immense and can accommodate 24, 000 people. An amazing building as was  the museum alongside it.    It was a very clean city with good facilities but somehow a   bit soulless, the curse of the new town!

We drove on down the coast to Taman Alam a nature park in the state of Selangor. This is an 800 acre wildlife reserve, renowned for being a bird watcher's paradise. We went for a walk and were lucky enough to see a few birds but the real thrill was seeing an otter, only very briefly as he scurried into the water and swam away but a thrill anyway. You could walk up near Bukit (or hill) Melawati to see the monkeys who were amazingly tame climbing on everyone.  This was a fort with old cannons, and they were all over them. I am a bit nervous around them so kept my distance!!

That evening we went to Kuala Kuantan to see the fireflies. These tiny insects live in the banks of the Selangor river in berembang trees and put on a truly dazzling display. They flash on and off in co-ordination like a huge Christmas tree display, this being done to attract a mate. You go out for an hour after dark in traditional wooden boats and can go right up to them. Amazingly  they float onto your hand like tiny specks of  fire. All in all one of the most incredible things we've  ever seen. Sadly you can't take photos as this disturbs them but we will try and take a picture of the postcard we bought.

The next day we headed on down the coast, stopping at Cape Ricardo or Tanjong Tuan lighthouse 16 km south of Port Dickson. This Portuguese lighthouse dating from the 16th century is 38 km across from Sumatra, and you can just about make out that coast line.  It is a major focus for bird watchers and there were many there that day. At this time of year 1,000s of birds for some reason repeatedly use this point to  dis-embark from to colder climes having spent the winter here, the sky is full of them.  The wet season is here in force, though it should be over by now and it regularly pours down most afternoons, and in the middle of one such downpour we pulled up as darkness fell to Banting. This is   a little beach resort where we stopped at a Chinese restaurant to enjoy the sunset and a delicious meal of chilli crab and prawns, and they also let us camp the night so we had a true ocean view to wake up to.


So, on Tuesday 11 March  we finally hit Malacca or Melaka both seem to be in use!