Month: August 2014

My favourite trips in Malaysia (from Penang)

Sitting here right now gazing out at the grey skies and the drizzle, I am thinking of my favourite trips in Malaysia. And of what I have yet to do and see. I won’t bother with more photos as there are plenty in the links. After six years here this is what I think.

the beach

the beach

By far and away my favourite place is the Perhentian Islands.  The beaches are lovely, the sunsets can be stunning, and the snorkelling great.

Then comes Sabah – particularly a jungle tour to cruise the river and see proboscis monkeys.

After this, Langkawi, which we have visited many times.

Next would be a couple of nights in Malacca.  I don’t think there is so much to do or see, but the very centre is nice, and staying near the river is pleasant.

Then, a train trip – the quality of the rolling stock and service is very low, but it’s still fun, especially if it is the first time.  It could be the jungle line up to Khota Bharu from Gemas by day, or simply Penang to KL.

The next would probably be a few nights in KL – staying in a first class hotel.  First Class hotels in KL used to be very good value, but perhaps less so now.  Still, as long as you don’t really intend to get around by car much, as the traffic is terrible, based in a nice hotel near the monorail allows you see to a few fun things and eat some nice food.

Then the Bird Park in Butterworthor in KL, which is bigger but I don’t like as much – to see hornbills.

I also quite like a couple of nights in Ipoh. There are a few things to see nearby,

And an early start from Ipoh to Pangkor Island allows you to spend the day there without spending a night – seeing as the hotels there are pretty bad.

Then there is Penang itself – Little India in George Town, Penang Hill – walking up is better than the funicular if you have the energy and start at dawn – before the heat, Spice Gardens…

A nice drive is also from Penang over to Kota Baru. I’ve done this by car and by bus.

And what I have yet to do – while I have circled Malaysia by train I haven’t by car – I want to see more of the east coast beaches.  Then there are a few east coast islands to see – Tioman Island etc.

What I had expected to be able to do, and can’t is to spend time in the jungle and to camp. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are the main problem, with heat and humidity secondary.  Locals think you are crazy if you want to camp, and they are right.  It is unlikely you’ll get malaria or dengue, but the more mosquito bites you get, the greater the chance.  So stay in hotels, wear long sleeves and trousers at dawn/dusk and where mosquitoes are – but generally, stay away from places where mosquitoes are.

I’ll report back when there is something to add to the list.


Perhaps the simplest meal I ever made – stew

I hadn’t had stew for a while, and I wanted it to be easy, so rather than thinking, checking recipes etc., I just did this:

Put a big pot next to my chopping board and cut up vegetables until the pot was three-quarters full.

These were the vegetables I had on hand that I put in:

  • carrot
  • potato
  • garlic
  • cauliflower
  • pumpkin
  • onion
  • tomato
  • cabbage

I put in chopped up soup meat, salt, black pepper, parsley, and basil – which I happened to have.

Then I just filled the pot with water to the top of the vegetables, then heated until boiled, and then simmered on low heat for a couple of hours.

And it turned out delicious.

Dessert at Hui Lau Shan in Gurney Plaza, Penang

In Malaysia you find quite a few dessert restaurants – dessert restaurants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea…

Mrs Tropical Expat wanted to try one in Gurney Plaza, and so we entered Hui Lau Shan a little after lunch.


Hui Lau Shan

There was only one other table occupied at this time, but the atmosphere was very relaxed and pleasant. On the menu there are also dishes other than desserts, and also drinks, but what attracted our attention was the mango desserts.





So Mrs TE ordered Mango Romance, and I ordered Margo Feast.  Now, I bought one kilo of mangoes at Tesco the other day for RM7.90, and with cream and a homegrown passion fruit they are delicious.  But a new interpretation is always interesting.

mango romance

mango romance

Mango Romance was quickly delivered.  And then we waited, and waited for mine.  We were now the only customers.  The two waitresses were playing games on their mobile phones.  And the three kitchen staff did not seem to be doing anything at all.  None of these five staff seemed to be particularly conscious of the fact we were not eating, but waiting, or that there were two orders written on their order form, and the fact they had only delivered one.  In the end I asked where my order was, which galvanised them into action.  While waiting I tried to connect to WiFi, but there was none.

mango mania

mango feast

With Mango Romance the mochi was the most interesting – but kind of strange.  And with Mango feast I liked the kind of nougatish icecream shown above on the left.  It was all quite nice, but I prefer my desserts at home.

Of course, I should have contested the Service Charge, considering the blatant lack of service, but I didn’t bother.



If you want to visit, the details are in the photo above.  There is no WiFi, which is surprising.  If you want a quiet spot where you won’t be bothered by staff, this could fit the bill.