28 September 2011

Tea, tourists and a dodgy fish curry....

Our latest Malaysian adventure was a trip to Cameron Highlands, an area high on some mountains in the middle of the country, famous for its tea, strawberries and other farm produce.  It is a popular destination because, being high up, the air is cooler and - allegedly - fresher.  I say allegedly because if you go on a public holiday weekend, like we did, you end up being caught in long traffic jams (caused largely by bad parking), and stuck behind buses giving out obnoxious exhaust fumes that would definitely earn them a black mark for pollution back in the UK.  Or, if you're really lucky, you could get stuck behind a dustbin lorry - very unpleasant in this heat....

It's fair to say that the weekend was, as my friend put it, a bit of a curate's egg.  The bad was the jams, the many, many tourists, and the somewhat tacky feel to some of the main areas.  (Anything that couldn't move fast enough had a strawberry motif on it!).  Plus the dodgy fish curry mentioned in the blog title, eaten by Alex in the hotel on the Saturday night.  It kept him up most of the night, and he was in bed all day Sunday and most of Monday :(  But obviously it's OK, and we won't let it put us off going back to that hotel, because we got the cost of the curry back..... hmmm - not sure whether to be pleased that I at least got something back, or insulted by the paltry compensation!

The good was the fantastic scenery that could be found once you left the main road - just look at this:

Rows and rows of verdant tea bushes, stretching out across rolling hills.

Here is Caitie, enjoying the novelty of cooler air, and being able to wear a fleece!

The tea and cake we had at a plantation was lovely, and very welcome given that by then it was very definitely cool and more than a little misty!  The strawberries we sampled were delicious too.

Would we go again?  Possibly, in another year or two - but not on a public holiday weekend, and not to the same hotel!

12 September 2011

Just a quickie.....

Just a quick post today to share a layout I did a couple of weeks ago.  The photo is of Will at Pangkor Laut last month.  It isn't easy to get a photo of him with a natural smile, he's usually too busy posing!  Love this one though :)  Stash info for my scrappy friends - the papers are from the My Mind's Eye Stomp! pad, stars are stamped with some ancient Autumn Leaves stamps, and I used a Becky Fleck sketch.

Thanks for looking.

5 September 2011

272 steps (phew!), brightly-coloured shrines and gigantic gold statues....

...sums up Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur in just a few words, but really doesn't do the famous site much justice.  Especially when you consider that it is one of the biggest Hindu shrines outside India, and attracts over a million people during the Hindu Thaipusam festival.
Yes, there are lots of steps - hard work in this heat, but it is quite humbling to watch older people determined to visit the shrines, even if they have to sit down at regular intervals to catch their breath before continuing their long climb to the caves at the top.  It is hard to imagine, too, what it must be like there during Thaipusam, when the pilgrims flock there and carry offerings of milk to Lord Muruga, each and every one of them climbing all the steps.  Apparently some of these offerings are in huge containers, some weighing as much as 100kg, set on frames with skewers which pierce the skin of the carrier.  That truly is a sign of devotion.

So, as we were walking up the 272 steps (or being dragged up by our teenage son in some cases!), it was good to stop every now and again with the excuse of photographing a macaque monkey or two.  There's no shortage of these - some enjoy chasing unsuspecting tourists who have made the mistake of having food with them - not that they get to keep the food for long in some cases!  Some are happy to just perch on the top of posts, looking for all the world like just one of the many carved decorations - until they move!

At the top of the steps are caves, huge limestone ones, with shrines dotted here and there, all lovingly carved and painted in gloriously bright (albeit sometimes faded) colours.  No doubt a better knowledge of Hinduism would help the appreciation of them, as apparently many tell the tale of Lord Murugan's victory over the demon Soorapadam.  The caves, as you may have guessed, are dedicated to Lord Murugan, God of War and Victory, and it is his likeness that towers over visitors to the caves, in the form of a 140-foot high golden statue by the entrance to the steps.

It wasn't a long visit by any means - in fact we popped in on our way back from the elephant sanctuary - but one that was definitely worth making.

Rather than upload loads of photos, I've uploaded the scrapbook layout I've done - I have to say, it was hard narrowing the hundred or so photos I took to just 14!  But it does at least give a flavour of the visual feast we enjoyed.

1 September 2011


This week, we finally got around to visiting Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre. It's been on our to-do list ever since we got here, but what with wanting to avoid the crowds there at weekends, and Alex being at work weekdays, it just hadn't happened. So Alex booked a day off work, and off we went!

We had a great time. We hand-fed some baby and injured elephants, kept in enclosures, with peanuts; and also fed some much bigger elephants with fruit - no space between us this time. Just look at this photo - no zoom lens needed, I really was that close!

We also got to ride on them:

And Will braved the muddy river to bathe with them!

We had a great time - we all love elephants, and it was wonderful to get the chance to be up close and personal with them.