Overland Out

Accommodation location

We set out to travel from England to Asia without flying. A slower, more sedate approach, in a time when time flies and life is gone in a flash, we wanted to slow time and see things properly. We also wanted to see how we would cope with life on the road. So after 190 days rocking and rolling the final transport count from Kenilworth to Kuala Lumpur is:-

Trains – 30
Buses – 25
Tube/metro – 20
Taxis – 14
Tuk Tuks/Songthaews – 8
Minivans – 8
Ferries/Speedboats/dinghies – 11

If anyone is considering doing it, do it.

Is there anything I would do differently? At my age, I’d bring nasal hair trimmers.

Have we learnt anything? Well, we already suspected but now we know that your average person is kind and helpful and stereotypes are not always true. Russian and Chinese train conductors, grannies, shopkeepers, dinnerladies, waiters, hoteliers, policemen, security guards and people on the street have all helped us when we have been lost or in need of something. We thank them all.

11-14.3.17 Kuala Lumpur

Even by our own standards we have done little in KL.

Our hotel is comfy, with a gym and pool which we tried to use most days.

We explored Chinatown and ate there.

We explored little India and ate there.

We explored the expat bar area and drank there.

Each afternoon the clouds would gather, the skies darken, thunder would rumble, lighting would pierce the humid air and a rainstorm would unleash its fury onto the city.

22nd floor view during rainstorm
22nd floor view after rainstorm

It was dramatic and we loved to watch it from our comfy room.

10.3.17 Penang to Kuala Lumpur

You maybe wondering where the 9th is?

Food.Blog.Food.Pack.Food.Bed. There you go. Just like most days.

Our expanding waistlines tell us its time to leave.

The bus is the most comfortable one yet. Three large seats wide and a good reclining level.

About an hour into the journey we pull into a garage. This isn’t expected. The driver tells us we need to change a tyre and we’ll be 20 minutes. We take the opportunity to buy crisps and nuts and pastry products from the garage next door for a healthy buffet breakfast.

An hour later and we’re back off. We listen to music and I’m so comfy and the ride is so smooth I fall asleep. Later, I come round from my slumber and watch Malaysia zoom past the window.

The aircon stops and we start to warm up. We pull over to the hard shoulder. The driver tells us the fan belt has gone and he needs to fix it. He takes his toolkit and goes outside. We start sweating as the temperature in the bus soars. We wait. The bus rocks from side to side as trucks speed past us. A bus pulls up in front. We are told to change and luckily there are exactly the right number of seats free. Another hour and we are in KL. 

A helpful ticketbooth lady explains our tube options and after two short rides we walk to our apartment hotel. This is our last Asian destination and sadly for us our last overland destination so we decided to up our flashpacker credentials and go out in style. We have a double bed, ensuite, fridge, kettle, pool and gym! 

Oh Yes! 

An ensuite!

We head to the local, huge temple of consumerism, Times Square, for food, where an ordinary chicken and chips and noodle dish fills us. Friday night essentials of red wine and chocolate are bought and we luxuriate in our 22nd floor room enjoying the view across KL.

Stadium Negara

8.3.17 Georgetown Dr and Dr Dolittle

The day started with a rat scuttling across our path, but with the open sewers its not suprising. We crossed the road to eat at a food stall our hostel recommended. Wanton mee for me and curry mee for her. Both good.

Delicious iced coffee
Wan Ton Mee

We walked to the bus station at Komtar and caught the number 10 to the botanical gardens. Al saw a cockroach on the bus.

We had chosen a bad day to visit the Botanical gardens as the specialist plant houses were closed. We were able to wander round the outside though to see cacti and bromeliads but sadly the fern house was huge so we couldn’t see everything.

We did see Lizards though, wandering around.

A troup of monkeys too.

It wasn’t top of our botanical gardens list but it was very tranquil to visit after the noise of Georgetown and is a beautiful green space.

Back in the old town I finally get to try Assam laksa, a local sour soup of tamarind, chili, sardine, pineapple and mint. It sounds like fridge leftovers but it works and I really enjoyed it.

Al had kaka on white toast at a street cafe which every morning had a long queue down the pavement. It was white bread, toasted, with coconut jam on. I’m pondering importing toasters to Penang.

Another Rat scuttled across our path.

Then it was Laundry Time! The glamour of travel is endless. Our hostel guy was complaining about the heat and I thought about his words as I sat sweating in the launderette. I melted. It was running down my head. I love the heat and humidity and its great for my psoriasis and sitting in the launderette was possibly the hottest moment of the trip so far. As a puddle of sweat formed under my chair, the lady in charge turned the fans on and the hot, humid air was moved about. I continued to sweat. A lot.

Back in the hostel, our friendly host clearly recognises my Dr Dolittle powers and hands me his pet python.

Another restaurant which always had a queue down the street was the 110 year old Hameediya. We had tried to go twice before but decided not to bother after seeing the queue and being spoilt for choice but as we leave the hostel our host tells us to go now as it will be quiet. We walk straight in. Chicken murtabak, tandori chicken and naan and biriyani rice with beef rendang, curried cabbage and pickled chilli. Each component was of high quality with strong flavours, delicious.

We were stuffed so we had a walk round the block and stopped for a cup of tea. On the way back a cockroach crossed our path and then a rat scuttled past.

Georgetown Part 2 – Architecture and Street Art

Georgetown isn’t easy to walk around. There are few pavements, so you walk in the road and trust the judgment of the speeding scooter drivers who are used to dodging tourists by a hairs breadth.

On top of this, you face the assault course of uneven surfaces, potholes, open sewers, gas meters, raised manholes, lowered manholes and the ends of sawn off street notices which all test your awareness, especially in flip flops. Despite the fear of raising my vision from the ground, I can’t stop staring at Georgetown. It is a film set of quirky detail. A beautiful, visual assault. Its worth the fear and I love the buildings here.

Bin and Door

In the old town, 19th century Straits Chinese architecture  dominates the residential and commercial property. Colonnades shade the main front doors which are flanked by a window on either side. The upstairs floor is a row of wooden shutters. Peranakan (meaning mixed – from Chinese immigrants marrying local Malay) floor tiles create beautiful facades. Muntri street is one of the best places to see examples of this style.

Since Georgetown had UNESCO heritage listing in 2008, some of the buildings have been bought up and carefully redeveloped into boutique cafes and hotels. They retain their original features but now proudly display a bright, clean exterior. For me though, the dilapidated, old exteriors are the most beautiful. Faded glamour is far more romantic than fresh paint.

One of the buildings we were able to enter and look around is China House, a narrow building of over a hundred metres long which stretches between two roads. The interior has had minimal renovation and houses cafe/bar/restaurant/music venue/shops in a retro, vintage Chinese bohemian space. There is a lot of art and I don’t like to use the ‘C’ word but it’s beyond cool. Plus their cakes were the best we’ve  eaten and the house Red was the best we’ve drunk but this post isn’t about food.

Robot Rabbit Waiter

Cake O’clock

Besides the Straits Chinese architecture, there are also fabulous colonial and art deco buildings.

We have been to Georgetown twice before, most recently in 2014 and I can’t remember much street art then but now I see it everywhere (having a map also helps). One of the tourist things to do now is tour the streets snapping art which I’m more than happy to do. Below is a selection of some of the many pictures I took but I don’t want to litter the internet too much.

Penang may not be to everyone’s taste, but with beautiful architecture, varied street art, stylish cafes, fabulous Malay, Chinese and Indian food, WE LOVE IT!

4.3.2017 Langkawi Hangover Part 2

OMG. Did we really drink all that?

Got up and decided we should leave, neither of us can act, so pretending we are too ill to get on the Penang ferry is out. Sad is not the word, we were hungover, emotional and it was a real wrench to go.

Hugs were given, tears were shed as we drove down the long, long drive from The Crowded House.

We got to the port early and with hungover stomachs proceeded to devour a KFC. Yes, we felt that bad…..

The ferry crossing was as flat as the proverbial pancake, thank goodness, we felt queasy enough without any more speedboat antics.

A long, long 3 hours later we got to Penang, got a cab to our hostel and laid on the bed.

Hunger set in and the excitement of being in a foodie paradise got us going. We had curry for lunch at the same place we went to last time for our first meal, it wasn’t intentional, but once we saw it we couldn’t resist. It wasn’t as good as before, but it gave us energy for the rest of the day.

Roti canai, possibly the best breakfast in the world
Tandoori chicken and fresh naan

It was hot, humid and sweaty, we slowly walked around and reacquainted ourselves with Penang. There are some changes since our last trip, notably street art everywhere (more on that later), more cafes and fancy restaurants. 

A Penang couple we met said that more and more local businesses are being forced out due to high rents, which is a shame as the most interesting parts are the mechanic shops or hardware stores run by Chinese for years with their grubby, worn interiors and faded exteriors. There is beauty in old things (as Guy is finding out!!!).

For dinner we went to Bite and Eat Dindigal restaurant for dosa masala, prawn chettanad, paneer butter masala, fresh chapati, rice. The waiter suggested we needed one more dish so we ordered spicy potatoes. It was too much, but Guy manfully finished it all. We loved it, all of it, in all its spicy, juicy, tasty glory.

Lots of delicous curries
Walked home avoiding any trip, drip or overhead hazards that were put in our way. 

Overall a successful day!

3.3.2017 Langkawi Hangover Part 1

Soooo, long story short. Curry for breakfast.

Walk down the beach with blazing sun on us.

Met Abba and had a tower on beach. 

Repeated this action more times than we care to admit.

Lots of funny stories were told, of which none are suitable for the blog, but may appear in a pub, near us, after a few light ales.

Dogge, Guy and Jonas acted out a vanilla sandwich.

We ate food.

Went back to Crowded House, drank more than we did last night…..signed leaving t shirts, because that is normal!

Decide we can’t leave the next day, however it is past 10pm. I try and ring the travel agency to change our ticket, no answer, I try other numbers, no answer. Probably just as well as I am sure I would have been incoherant.

Got to bed, very late.

If that (Swedish!!) beer carlsberg did Fridays……

2.3.2017 Langkawi is like the 60’s……

….if you remember it, you weren’t there….

Have to admit that writing up yesterday, today and tomorrow has been a challenge. Photos were required to jog memories whilst we desperately tried to remember what exactly did go on in Langkawi!

Suffice to say we made some wonderful friends at Crowded House, and, as is usual with our friends most of them drank, some a lot, so we were happy to have a few days of hedonistic fun and let our hair down…. apologies Guy.

Today was BBQ day, our hosts, Tommy and Lisa, with help from Kevin, had promised a Crowded House BBQ, starting at 8pm. We only needed to provide booze which isn’t a problem on a duty free island.

It was really exciting to have that expectation of a night out (even if it was technically a night in), we get so used to having no plans at all that knowing you have a night with friends ahead of you is a feeling I have missed.

Breakfast was Nasi Landor, curry and rice. We chose as many different dishes as we could to fit on our plates. They were all delicious. I have lost the memory of what they were individually.

Then onto duty free, we wanted to do cocktails, so decided on Bacardi, pineapple juice and mango with Sprite (bought coconut milk but it curdled unattractively). Guy carried the beer home and got a few looks…..!

We needed to get back to the hostel to get maximum time for chilling the beer after warming it up to 35 degrees. Also fridge space was at a premium so we needed to fill it before the Swedish did 😁.

We saw a token toucan on the way home. They do not look real. We wanted a Guinness.

So we had time before the party and decided to go to the pool in the next hotel which we had free use of. Already in the sun loungers and with a beer/cider/coke zero in hand are our new Swedish friends Dogge, Cecelia, Jonas and Helen. We named them Abba, it was easier.

The next few hours were spent relaxing by the pool, maybe having a beer, and watching 2 people have their Padi diving lesson in the pool. 

As today was my Dad’s birthday we were booked in for a birthday call, so had to make sure we hadn’t drunk too much before we were due to call at 5.30. We managed to pull it off, we thought, although when he reads this he will know!!!

The rest of the night was a haze of beer, cocktails, wonderful foods – fish, kebabs, prawns, chips, dips and sauces which Lisa and Tommy had spent ages preparing, and brought out one after the other. 

Before long the table was strewn with empty bottles, cans and skewers. It was a fabulous, entertaining evening that went well into the night.

Music was provided, which we all sang along to enthusiastically. Many stories were told, most forgotten.

If any of our new friends are reading, it is the best night out we have had in the past 6 months of travelling, we love you all!!!!

1.3.2017 Langkawi – Meet the Swedes

After last night’s expensive meal we needed to save some money so had a laksa and mee from a street stall, this is one of the few times I haven’t really liked the food but as it cost less than 80p for the soup I wasn’t too upset. The laksa was really fishy, too much for me. 

Luckily round the corner was an Indian place selling fried snacks which were delicious.

We just finish them before we spotted a French cake shop so stopped there as well. 3 meals and barely a vegetable to be seen!!!!! They were exceedingly good almandine and mine was a liqueur soaked mocha cake. Best ever.

Not much got done today, heat and humidity are tiring, we chatted to more people at the hostel and polished up our conversational skills.

Dinner was at another street stall, our German hostel neighbours sat at the next table……What a coincidence! It was cheap and cheerful food, noodles and vegetables (at last).

We completed our tour of an Irish bar in each country we have visited by visiting Debbie’s Place (John, is Debbie moonlighting???). Can of tiger isn’t quite the same as a Guinness from the tap, but we coped.

Got back to ours and the party was in full swing, we met the Swedish contingent, along with the French owners. Other nations arrived later. We sat down and carried on practising our conversational skills, mine ran out much earlier than Guys!

28.2.2017 Langkawi

This is our first day exploring the large Malaysian holiday island of Langkawi, it has been a tourist destination for many years now so we had high expectations.

First though, breakfast. At a really good restaurant around the corner from our hostel, Fat Cupid, we only went in to check the menu but ended up staying as it looked so good. It was relaxed, with white decor and had a pool, very us!

Guy had nasi lemak, classic Malay dish of rice, curry and bits, bits included peanuts, smoked dried fish and a fermented fish and chilli paste.

I had kaya (Malay coconut jam) on toast with boiled eggs. The kaya was bright green and tasted like a sweet curd.

We then inspected the local beaches, they were as stunning as the brochures claimed, clear blue water and white sands.

A sweaty walk into town and we saw the next beach and checked out that one as well. Pristine. 

It is a weird set up here in that the beach is away from the street, encouraging you to shop rather than admire the view, which considering this is a duty-free island, could be the point.

We admired the view of the main street more.

Back at Crowded House hostel, we have a balcony for each section of the hostel, meaning you get to share it with whoever is close by. This means you actually get to meet people and talk to them, something which hasn’t happened much on this trip – in this age of smart phones and kindles.

The balconies look across a field, watching the cows grazing, herons grooming them and our fellow travellers return from their day. We have a beer or two and chat to a Swedish guy, Jonas. 

For evening food we walk to Jasmin restaurant, a Syrian food place. The food is western prices and not amazing, but it is nice to have lamb, hummous and fresh nan bread.

It is 10.30 and Jonas has met other Swedes and they have a great time chatting til the early hours, we retire early making the most of some sleep…..

You never know when you will sleep again in Langkawi…..