Tag Archives: food

The Malaysia Report

masjid kapitan keling, Penang, mosque, MalaysiaSpending a little less than two weeks in Malaysia was a great little get away. We flew in and out of Penang International Airport and spent the next ten days in the nearby Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, and Taiping. It was a sweet tip, but we couldn’t have chosen a worse time. The end of Ramadan coincided with a two week school holiday and every Malay who had the opportunity to travel was on the road and in the hotels. This caused hotel prices to double and bus trips to be more than twice as long.

Malaysia, Penang, Indian, food,

Penang, Malaysia, archecture, colonial, The first couple of days in Penang, Laurel and I just tried to figure out what was going on in Malaysia. We were both here about ten years ago, but that didn’t really help with orienting ourselves. We stayed in a pretty fancy hotel in Georgetown and spent a lot of time at the Indian food restaurants which are far superior and cheaper than those in Thailand.


monkey, Penang, MalaysiaWe also got a chance to see Penang from above as we took the funicular tram up Penang Hill and walked down the long and step wooded hike back to a large botanical garden. We even saw a monkey in the wild. As far as we could tell, it was trying to destroy a roadside mirror. If you are thinking of walking down from Penang Hill, remember that it is a pretty far walk and can get incredibly slippery in the rain. Luckily we made it alright, although getting a cab home was pretty difficult (holidays and the buses were way off schedule).

Tanah Rata, Malaysia, tea, tealands, highlands, CameronFrom Penang we headed to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. This area is pretty much where they make all the tea Malaysia. Now, with the availability of hydroponics and electricity being cheap and widespread, strawberries also are taking over as the main tourist draw. Aside from tons of opportunities to see tea plants and drink pulled tea, there is really some amazing hiking.

Tanah Rata, Malaysia, highlands, Cameron, hike, hiking, trail



The trails are filled with butterflies, lizards, and flowers in a variety of shapes and colors. We saw wild orchids and giant squirrels. Also, when hiking, it seems like you have the whole place to yourself. Laurel and I spend two full eight hour Malaysia, Monkey Cup, Tanah Rata, Cameron, highlandsdays hiking and we never saw another person on the trails. Most hotels and guesthouse will have simply maps that show trail routes, though seemingly never to scale. Also, we drank a ton of water, so be careful to stay hydrated!




After having a great time in Tanah Rata, we bused back out of the mountains down to Ipoh. This city is a very funky place Ipoh, Malaysia, coffe houseto visit, but I am glad I did. There are some amazing Buddhist temples carved into old limestone caves that are really amazing. Also, like this whole area of Malaysia, there is a strange mix of old colonial architecture and 1960s square box buildings that seem to all be decaying at an equally alarming rate. Also most tourists who visit the caves do it as a stop on their way to somewhere else and do not stay in the city. Apparently this is why most people will stare at you if you are walking around in town. And I mean stare. Usually, if you smile at them, people will realize they are staring, smile, and look away. But, just as often people will continue to give you a deadpan stare as if you are from another world. That being said, we meet many friendly people and even got several dollars of free durian and great conversation with the owner of possible the best coffee shop in Malaysia.

Taiping, Malaysia, owl, night, safarii, zooAfter a couple days in Ipoh we left for Taiping. Only about an hour and fifteen minutes away by bus, this location felt totally different. Malaysian Chinese, and apparently the Chinese expat community in general, seem to flock to the city for retirement. This leads to a city that feels a lot like you are in Taiwan or southern China. The best part about Taiping by far was the Night Safari at the local zoo. They let you in to the zoo at night and you can walk around all by yourself looking at the animals and getting really up close and personal while they are all awake and active. Most Malays seem uninterested in walking around and take loud, fast-moving trams around the park. It is a little annoying and crazy because they don’t even really get to see anything. Walking however was fantastic.

After Taiping, we few back to Bangkok and now I am just getting back to work. National Archives here I come…

Tuesday 2nd July Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Cambodia, food, street, Phnom Penh My last full day in Cambodia already! Well, at least it was fun and I saw a bit more of the city. Jessica and I hit the markets in the afternoon and sort of ate our way across town. We tried some delicious street foods again. Yeah.

Russian Market, CAmbodia, Phnom PenhThen we spend quite a long time walking around in the covered market looking for cool clothes and collectables. We were also trying to avoid the torrential rain that was flooding the streets.




Vietnamese, coffe, Cambodia, Phnom PenhI also had a chance to once again drink a delicious set of iced coffee and tea, the best in the city according to a plaque signed by “three Danish coffee lovers.” The older man running the stand had been in business there since 1980 which is actually pretty amazing especially considering the history of the period.

Monday 1st July Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Spinach, Dosa, Cambodia, Phnom Penh

Pretty slow and easy day here. I got up a little late and walked around the corner to a great Indian food restaurant that I have been eating at a lot. It seems like many Indians from Tamil Nadu and Kerala live here, so the South Indian food is great. Wat, Buddha, cosmic, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After eating breakfast, I walked around the city for a while. I went to a big wat that way focused around Angkor stone monumentalism and the cosmic Buddha. I am not sure why the cosmic Buddha is so much more popular here than in other places, but it seems to be. Coffee, Cambodia, Phnom Penh

I went to an expat coffee shop that caters to the white, wealth, and sometimes snobbish coffee drinkers about town. I have to say it was good coffee though. I continued to get my caffeine on throughout the day as most small snack meals and street food come with unlimited tea if you go to the right spots. Cambodia, housing, old, Phnom Penh

After walking around for an hour or so I found myself in some of the older housing projects that are starting to disintegrate even as they continue to be inhabited my many many people. While in the area I picked up a bunch of sour cherries for a street vendor and proceeded to eat them all as I walked around.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Cherries

Perhaps it was not the best idea to eat a pound of unwashed super ripe sour fruit, but in the end (no pun intended), my stomach was only mildly distressed. Nerd, Night, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

In the evening I went to a local bar that was hosting “nerd night,” where many expats, young academics, and NGO workers meet to present on their topics of interest. I watched my friend Jessica give a great Pecha Kucha  talk about the golden age of Cambodian film. Pretty fun night out really.

Sunday 30th June Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Royal Palace, Cambodia, Phnom PenhAmazing day today! I started out early by heading off to the old Royal Palace. It was very cool and just as shiny and grand as I remember. Inside the compound there are several buildings and a few temples that were used by the royal family and in the affairs of court. There is also a wraparound mural that is several hundred feet long and, despite its state of decomposition, is actually really cool to walk along and look at. The Royal Palace seems to be a big hit on the tourist circuit. I looked back at my old photographs and memories from my visit about ten years ago and there was absolutely no other tourists around except for a few monks. This time there were hordes…wait is that offensive… of Chinese tour groups. It was almost as impressive a transformation as the palace itself.

National Museum, Cambodia, Phnom Penh


Next stop was the National Museum which has a number of great holdings from around Cambodia. It also does a great job displaying the contemporary nationalist narrative of the Cambodian nation through semi-outrageous maps and historical claims. I also found out that the museum building itself is a UN World Heritage Site. Pretty fancy, eh?



Cambodian Street FoodAfter my morning out, I met up with my friend Jessica from the University of Hawaii, Manoa. She is here studying Khmer and doing research for her M.A. thesis on Cambodian film in the 1950s and 1960s. She has been living here for several weeks, so I totally leaned on her local, and linguistic, knowledge. We walked around the city for several hours eating local street foods, finding a currency exchange, and generally having an awesome time.

One particular highlight was our visit to Olympic Stadium, a large public space created for sports and recreation in the 1950s (or 1960s maybe?). As we climbed to the top of the stadium, a massive rain and thunderstorm broke out and we had to run around to a covered food area with all the other locals. We spent about forty-five minutes under a concrete roof looking out at the city as rain poured around us. It was great fun and we used the time to eat ice cream, drink orange drink, and sample pressed sugarcane juice.Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Olympic Stadium After the rain stopped there was a great rainbow that stretched in a high arch above the stadium. It was pretty fantastic.

Indian, Food, South, Cambodia, Phnom PenhI finished the night off with some delicious and cheap southern Indian food. I find that tall food is often more delicious, and this dosa lived up to that claim! Yummm!

Sunday 9th June Chiang Mai, Thailand

Clouds, Chiang Mai, Thailand, PayapIt’s been a good few days here. One week of intensive Thai down! The weather is much nicer these days now that the rainy season is on. It does sometimes dump rain for ten to twenty minutes and going anywhere during this torrent is impossible. On the other hand, the weather has been cooler and there is often a layer of rolling clouds protecting my pasty white skin from the sun. It also makes for some good views. Sometimes it creeps me out a bit when it get super dark really quickly during the middle of the day from these thick clouds overhead. Are the deatheaters coming for me, or is it just about to rain?

There really is not much to do here at night. After dinner I usually head back to the room pretty early. I have made friends with some of the younger shopkeepers in the neighborhood, but we have only hung out a few times.Thailand, lizard, bug, Chiang Mai, Payap On the other hand I have been meeting up with some of these cute little ladies. Luckily I haven’t had any inside my room yet, but I know it is only a matter of time.

A few nights ago I went out with a new friend I met on campus. She took me to an all you can eat barbeque place. Pretty awesome really! You pick up raw meat, vegetables, and noodles and grill them on your table. Also, on the way home I discovered a little street cart that makes a dessert with a sort of super thin wafer wrapped around marshmallows and raisins. They are great!Chiang Mai, Thailand, food,

Tuesday 4th June Chiang Mai, Thailand

Payap, University, international, grad, graduate, Chiang Mai, ThailandSchool has started, class is great, and homework is happening. There are five students in the class, and everyone seems really nice. There is a young man from Vietnam, an older teacher from Wales who has been teaching at private schools around Asia for the last twenty years, a language expert from Singapore, a young women who I think may be in seminary and here on exchange, and myself. Also, because we are special students, our class is held in the international/graduate student building which is brand new and really nice. This means air conditioning and no bugs. Also, it is an inside/outside building so it is sort of like a touch of home (in this case home being Sakamaki Hall at the University of Hawaii).

And as always, the food is great. I have now entered the “hubris stage” and am trying to eat anything and everything edible. Will this come back to haunt me? Only time will tell. I took a picture of the menu at my favorite eatery so that I could come home, translate it, and figure out what the foods were. This has been great. It has allowed me to order foods that I know are loaded with vegetables, or on the other hand, to order deep-fried balls of pork stuffed with chilies! My favorite go to is a really simple and lean long roasted pork with a sort of thin peanut sauce. It is pretty delicious. Also, I have gained a reputation as one of the only foreigners that anyone on my street has met who likes fruit. Thus people now regularly bring me fruit to make sure that I experience the real variety. Not too bad a reputation I guess.food, Thai, Thailand, Chiang Mai

Friday 1st June Chiang Mai, Thailand

Despite a concern that my classes maybe canceled, it turns out that my classes are on, the tuition is all paid, and I start Monday. One month of intense Thai language training to go.

bird, nestI woke up pretty early this morning to the sound of chirping and flapping birdies. As it turns out, the mommy/daddy bird decided it was time to toss the baby birds out of the nest to make sure they learn to fly. I suppose it is vital that children are thrown out of the house to make sure they become adults, I mean you don’t want them living there forever, but man does it seem to make a lot of noise. Despite a couple of the birds hanging out on my balcony in the morning, I think they all made it through the ordeal.

spider, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Speaking of wildlife, I spotted my first one of these (not) so little cuties yesterday.  He ran away pretty quickly and I had no desire to chase after him. I mean, me and Hagrid our pretty tight, but still you never know how many friends he has.



Thai, Thailand, salad, yam muI also had my first meal this time around that was genuinely too spicy for me. I felt a little like I might be sick after finishing it. Although it doesn’t look too hot, I have found it is really the salads that get you. I guess the idea is to burn off any bacteria, germs, etc…


On the other hand, I had an extremely pleasant berries, mulberries, Thailandand super cheap bag filled with mulberries as a dessert. These are really a sort of byproduct of the silk production industry – you need mulberry leaves to feed to silkworms – but they are dried and sold in hippy food stores in the United States as a “super food” so they must be good for me.

Sunday 26th May 2013 Chiang Mai, Thailand

bed, sheetsMoved into my apartment today! I am officially living in Thailand now. Unfortunately my apartment came furnished, but with none of the personal utilities such as sheets, towels, etc… So, I walked down to a giant supermarket/outlet store called Big C. I bought some cool stuff to get ready for the school term and make the apartment livable. Also, apparently bed sheets in Thailand are really expensive.

tea, cup, angleI bought some of the cheaper ones and they were still comparable with, if not higher than what you would pay in the US. I guess the idea is that they are pretty nice and I should hang on to them for life. I also bought a cup that reminds me of Laurel. Not necessarily in appearance, but in loving willingness to provide me with tea.

I also now find myself with a lot of time on my hands. I live a few miles from the city center and there are no tourist sites o places to go out here. There are about ten family restaurants that I think I will become very familiar with. I had some of their food today and it was really good and cheap. Also, I think the portions were bigger than in the tourist areas which seems strange to me, but I enjoyed it anyway.food, Payap, Thailand, noodle, soup, pad ga prow

Saturday 5th May 2013 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sour, Sausage, Chiang Mai, ThailandToday was great. It was sort of my last day as a pure tourist before I have to move into my apartment and start thinking more about school, and books, and learning, and stuff. I started the day right with a huge plate of self-proclaimed “sour sausage” scrambled with eggs and tomatoes. It was pretty delicious. I only got a few bites that were genuinely sour.

The big thing today I guess was that I worked up the courage to go and get a Thai massage. Not only have I never gotten a massage in Thailand, I have never had a professional message at all. And before you worry I steered clear of any “massage” places. There is a huge spectrum here that ranges between massage parlors that advertise with scantily clad women at the tinted doors to old blind men who perform massage inside Buddhist temple compounds. In my case, I went to a fairly middle ground. It was pretty nice really. The woman who massaged me was in her late fifties, yet stronger than I am. They had me put on traditional thin Thai pants and shirt as the woman got ready to do her thing. Thai massage is a little different from the spa type American thing (at least the one I imagine and have seen pictures of). Thai, Massage, Thailand, Chiang Mai

Here they are really going after your tension and problems with gusto. I was literally folded into a number of possess to induce stretching, popping, and cracking. A few times I giggled thinking about how the woman could, if she were so inclined, potentially snap, crackle, and pop me to death. While there are no pictures of this event, these pictures from the door are actuate.

After the massage, the women realized I could speak Thai and this turned into about an hour-long Q and A session. It was pretty fun, and overall, a great day.

Friday 24th May 2013 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Managed to sleep in late today until the crack of 7:30. The first half of the day was pretty lazy answering e-mails, getting some books, and getting prepped up for school to start.

Chiang Mai Night BazaarThe real highlight was going to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Right around sun down I headed over to this giant and expansive bazaar where Chiang Mai Night Bazaar Streetshop owners line the streets in booths and whole blocks are sectioned of for food venders and street hawkers. It is really pretty amazing.



This area of Thailand was once a stop on the southern arm of the Silk Road and it shows in this giant marketplace.





Chiang Mai Night BazaarAlthough one might be able to find anything imaginable at this market, the majority of items are clothing and handicrafts made locally and in the surrounding areas. I bought two shirts, but I have to take one back and swap the size.

Also the food was pretty good. In particular there is a specialfried, chillies, Chiang Mai, Night Bazaar Halal Street that caters to the many Muslim residents of the city. These families have origins in southern China, Burma, and Malaysia and this incredible diversity is expressed in the many interesting and exciting food options.