“Wonder what to wish for this time”

Penang State MuseumDelicious Indian Food in Little IndiaPenang JettyPenang JettyLanterns at Kek Lok Si TempleKek Lok Si Temple

PENANG, DAY 2 – The Tune Hotel turned out to be a good hotel, despite its strange setup. the view over down town Penang was appealing. The location was excellent, the room was a decent size, with a lovely rain shower in the bathroom and a comfortable bed. In fact, for the second day in Penang I had a hard time waking myself up and dragging myself out of the very large, comfortable bed. I’m sure there was a part of me eager to continue to explore Penang, but I was also pretty exhausted. It goes without saying that my friend and I left out hotel at a later time than we had planned, although thankfully still with enough time to get everything done before flying back to KL in the evening.

We started this day by looking for the Burmese temple and unfortunately not finding it. We traipsed the length of the road it was on, peering down every side street but alas, it was not to be found, not without much more time than we had. We had to return to the hotel, to pack up the last of our things and check out. Then we walked to the Penang State Museum. It was a very hot, uncomfortable journey, especially carrying a backpack. We passed a few interesting buildings though. That was actually a theme for this weekend-passing by a lot of things, taking a quick look then walking onto the things we wished to do. In that way, we managed to see a decent amount of Penang without actually putting in any effort or time to see it, which is good. The Museum itself was in a very gorgeous building and contained a lot of information about Penang’s history and all the cultures that live there. It was very interesting and a good size- large enough to be informational, but not too large to get boring or confusing. Afterwards we headed on to Little India for lunch, going to a restaurant my friend had been to before and liked. I could definitely understand why she loved the place. The food was gorgeous. In the UK we get Indian food about once a month and I didn’t realize how much I miss it until I was eating it. I adore Indian food. This was Indian food both familiar and unfamiliar. The curry was delicious, but much the same as the ones we once got from our brilliant local Indian, but the naan bread was nothing like I’ve every tasted. It was so sweet and delicious. When the food came out I panicked at the large portion size, but I pretty much devoured all of it in the end. I’m definitely gonna be going to Little India in KL sometime, to source out food that good.

Feeling very sated, we walked to the Penang Jetty. It was very pretty and definitely unique. Afterwards we bought some violently colored ice lollies to eat at one of the small stores on the jetty. I bought a blueberry one, of course. I love all the fake blueberry goods here- blueberry fanta, blueberry cream biscuits, blueberry ice, even blueberry cream oreos. Actually, I love all the artifical, E number filled junk here. I hate how in the UK they try and make everything healthy. Sorry, but in my opinion some things are supposed to be bad for you. That’s why you eat them every now and then as a delicious, overly sweet, artificial treat! (Or not at all, if you want to be truly healthy.) My favourite is the taste of artificial orange, although artificial blueberry is becoming a close second favourite now. Well, nonetheless, my tongue now stained an attractive blue, it was time to go to the Kek Lok Si temple. Got to the bus terminal and there was some confusion over which bus to take, but thankfully we found someone to ask who directed us to the right bus. Of course, we then had to figure when to get off the bus. The whole journey was not overall relaxing, as I was fairly tense about keeping an eye out and making sure we didn’t miss our stop and end up in some random part of nowhere. Thankfully, we did manage to get off at the right stop (with the help of a very nice bus driver) and the entrance to the temple was also very obvious. We began the ascent to the temple, which was crowded, with markets either side selling all manner of random junk, and sellers eagerly calling out to try and sucker you in. It was nothing you don’t see anywhere else though- clothes, jewelery, touristy items- so my friend and I didn’t linger and kept on going up until we reached the temple.

The temple was beautiful. It was very busy and in a way, I was glad I did not go during the peak time during the Chinese New years. The crowds would have been unbearable then. As it was, we actually did get to see all the lanterns that were hung up- hundreds and hundreds of them. Just not lit up. It was still gorgeous. We went right to the top and sat there for a while, taking in the view of the town and what could be seen of the temple below us as we contemplated our plans for the rest of the day. We left the temple soon after that, going back down through the crowded markets to the town. We stopped at a Chinese Traditional Biscuit Place there and I bought these lovely Pandan Cake Biscuits. Pandan is another thing I am obsessed with here, Pandan Kaya too. I have no idea what either is but they taste heavenly as say, biscuits, cake or waffles! Then we had the challenge of finding a bus to get back. It was not very clear where to go at all, so we eventually asked someone who directed us to a stop we would have never have found ourselves. There was no sign of a bus though, nor any real way of knowing when it would come. Typical Malaysian transport, really.

I nibbled on a few of my new pandan cakes whilst waiting for the bus. They were odd but strangely addictive. It seems to be a Thing here to have cake wrapped in pastry, and this was pretty much based on that idea. The dry, bland taste of the pastry in contrast to the moist , sweet cake had its own appeal. The bus came after a long, anxious wait in the sticky heat and we boarded, heading straight back to Komtar where we would be catching a bus to go to the airport. We had a bit of time so we looked round the shops a little before catching the bus. There were some nice stores but I had no money so could not buy anything. A pity, as I saw some really nice shoes. (I reassure myself that they would likely not have come in my size, anyway.) And that was pretty much it for the weekend.

This trip to Penang was a whirlwind affair but it was great fun to see another part of Malaysia and to spend some time with my friend. I am so glad that I’ve seen some of the scenery that Malaysia has to offer now too- such as the forest and gorgeous stretches of white sand.

“I try so hard not to become weak”

I am a bit stressed right now, and grouchy because of it. It’s a bit ridiculous to be stressed as I have a lot of free time, but this is the sort of stress that’s more like anxiety, that comes from worrying over many things. One of my main worries right now is of course university. In particular, my first presentation for my professional skills module. I have been counting down the days and there aren’t many left now. It’s should be on Wednesday. So soon!

I finally had an attempt at a proper rehearsal earlier, to my teddy bears and the however many so walls of my room. Not quite an audience but they are all I have. I also finally sat down and edited out numerous errors in my slides, and completed my cue cards. Completing my cue cards involved…well. I wanted to time my presentation but I could not find a stop watch on my phone so I decided instead to use the voice recording function. I saved a few of my test presentations and went over them earlier to see how I managed earlier run throughs, and it was enough to put me off presenting for life. There is something about hearing your own voice that is so very awkward and embarrassing. I had to force myself to keep listening, and to concentrate on what I was saying, rather than how. I really hate hearing myself speak. Hearing those 10 minutes of attempting my presentation I was also reminded of just how much I hate my accent. I tried so hard to keep my South African accent, and I was ‘rewarded’ by ending up with something that is very odd. Most of the time I sound posh English, the sort of accent that  people may (stereotypically) think of when they say “British” . However, listening to my voice, there were times I could hear my accent slip and hint at something else, but its so lost in the British that it just sounds strange and distracting. I also found myself using my phone voice in one of my test presentations, the over pronounced, forced polite, overly sweet sort of voice. I sounded about 15 there, and strangely, more South African. So it seems my original accent comes out a) when I am angry and b) when on the phone. How…odd. I wish I had a more defined accent. A nicer accent. I wish I still had my South African accent.

Anyway. Despite my attempts at preparation this presentation refuses to come together. I picked a topic, researched it, put together a presentation, could not find a way to present it effectively, rewrote it and arrived at the point I am now, where I am filled with doubts as it still does not seem quite right. The presentation starts of reasonably strongly but slightly derails off to the end, if I let it. Its a struggle to reach a conclusion, to wrap things up in a way that feels right. As a whole, I don’t think this presentation is particularly inspiring, or even interesting to other people, but I do like the topic so hopefully I can manage, for just a few hours in my life, to show some of the emotions I am feeling and maybe then my tutor won’t find it dull, or pointless.  I really do feel uncertain about the whole affair. I have absolutely no confidence about it, not at all.

Other university things:  I have maths coursework due next week that I cannot do, which is a bit not good. Numerous other projects and revision things are going equally not well. Ugh. And I still feel so terribly lazy. I cannot believe that exams are only a couple of months away. No, under a couple of months. That’s fucked up, that is. I have only just gotten over the stress and pain of the last lot- and now I have three more?! I know, I should be more positive. I still have two months. I need to do my best, because once this is over, if I do well, I will have finally reached my goal. the last one: the get onto the MEng one. I just need to persevere for two more months, then I am off to Japan, I am going back to the UK and yes, that sucks in some ways, but I will be able to sleep in my own bed and cuddle my cat and eat as much pork as I like (I think every meal for the first week will just about do it!).

It’s a little sad, and I’m not ready to admit it out loud to anyone, but I think in some ways I really am ready to go back. It’s not Malaysia in particular, its more I have had enough of university, and living in halls and yes, there are things I miss. This is a bit cold-hearted isn’t it? That’s why I won’t admit it out loud.

“It’s impossible to keep hiding your true colours”

Three days ago, I lost 80% of the hearing in my left ear. It came back briefly, yesterday, but yesterday I woke up and it was gone again and it has not come back, apart from a brief moment of startling clarity earlier. I am not panicking, or running to the doctor to cry about losing my hearing. Instead I did what I always do when feeling sick: hit up nhs choices, then interpret the information they give as I wish. I have decided that as I am not in pain or experiencing any sort of vertigo that whatever is going on will sort itself out. I am a great believer in letting my body sort itself out, mostly because I find going to the doctors too awkward and embarrassing.

Its worse here in Malaysia as there is one doctor on campus so unlike in the UK where you never see the same doctor or nurse twice, you always see the same guy here and he recognises you. He asks me about my long term condition. And its sweet, in a way, but not something I’m used to and it makes the visit all the more uncomfortable- I don’t like being forced to realize just how intimately the doctor knows me in some ways, like when in the UK you can see the doctors screen and you can see your medical history up for display and you just want to cringe, at all this deeply personal information reduced to an entry in a database that these doctors can read at will. Worse, you can see them type in what you are saying, and I always imagine them internally sighing, thinking that it is such a waste of time… as if, if I’m not physically dying then I am wasting their time. I feel like that.

Nonetheless, it is disconcerting only being able to truly hear out of one ear. Yesterday, an acquaintance was speaking to me and he offered to explain to me some lab work that I’d messed up yesterday and I badly wanted to say yes, please but instead I had to shake my head because I knew that with half my hearing being smothered in cotton wool, that I’d struggle to process the explanation. I was talking to my friend but I couldn’t angle myself in time to hear her, so I fumbled the conversation more than usual as I tried to reply without actually knowing what had been said. In labs earlier, my lab partner could not get my attention because he was sitting to the left of me. (It did not help that I was seriously zoned out, of course) It’s amazing how different everything is with one sense half gone and weirdly, its strange how easy it is to get used to it. I nearly flinched when my hearing returned fully earlier because everything seemed too loud for a moment.

Well, I still wish for it to return. I’ll happily get used to hearing properly again.

“Though sweet and silent, time passes by”

Sun rising over Penang International Airportpenang1_02penang1_03
PENANG, DAY ONE – I wanted to go to Penang during Chinese New Years, as the lights at the Kek Lok Si temple are meant to be magnificent at that time. However I did not want to go alone, and my friend was not free then. She was free the weekend before though…so we booked plane tickets and a cheap hotel to go then. Due to circumstance it would be a very quick, almost rushed trip, with an early morning flight on Saturday from KL to Penang followed by an evening flight from Penang back to KL on Sunday. This meant when I booked the taxi I had to accept that they would be picking us up at 4.10am. :/

I made plans to go to bed early on Friday night but time slipped away and I ended up going to bed at 1am. I had only gotten up at 2pm and I was feeling anxious about all the various things that could go wrong so when my alarm went off at 3am,  I merely sat up and got out of bed and went to get ready without ever actually falling asleep. At 4.00am I get a phone call from the taxi driver to say he had arrived. At 4.10am I left my room and met my friend in the corridor and we headed down to the taxi. The taxi driver greeted us much too cheerily for the early time, though admittedly I was feeling very hyped up from lack of sleep. My friend fell asleep almost as soon as the taxi left campus but I was fully awake, left to stare out at the scenery,  restless and still finding it hard to settle. I was quite excited once we left the taxi, looking forward to Penang, interested in my current surroundings as it was only my second time at LCCT, and basically irritably chatty and energetic compared to my poor friend, who was quiet and subdued with exhaustion. I always get this way when I have not slept, my sister does too. Every time we get a early morning flight to Cape Town, and we’re talking having to get to the airport at 4 or 5am here, our parents struggle to cope with my sister and I, clearly wondering why they were stuck with toddlers again. There have been many times they have not been able to get my sister and I to shut up.

Well, my friend and I decided that we should probably have breakfast, even if neither us particularly wanted it, and so we wandered around trying to decide what to eat. Eventually I left my friend at McDonald’s and went to Old Town cafe to buy myself some toast- the plainest, most ungreasy thing there seemed to be at the airport. I was feeling nauseous already, and we weren’t even on the plane yet. Worse, I knew I could not take my anti-nausea tablets as they would make me spacey, impossible to function properly really. My friend and I sat,  ate and had a good early morning bitch to pass the time until we could go to the gate. The time passed quickly that way. Soon we were off to departures, only to be turned away because we’d gone to international departures XD we were both so sleepy and out of it- me in my hyper active way, and my friend who looked like she was about to pass out at any second. We went to the right place and got through to the gate, which was crowded and noisy, where we sat and waited for our flight. Then came the long walk to the plane. I was still overly enthusiastic about the whole affair, on top of my excitement of going to Penang, and my interest in my surroundings, short distanced flying is still very new to me, and this was only my second time taking a budget flight, as generally flying long distance = non budget and as I usually only fly long distance… well.

My poor, poor, long suffering friend.

We got on the plane and by this point I was not feeling good at all- light headed and nauseous. The plane journey was a not a good one. My friend dozed but I was too hyped up too doze, too nauseous to read or do anything. Thankfully, although not pleasant, the flight was very quick, with gorgeous views of the sun rising over the sea as we started to descend.

From the airport we took a taxi to the nearby Snake Temple. This experience was a little strange. We arrived there quite early and there was no one about. It was open, though, so we walked in and had a look around. My friend had heard from a friend that they had like, pits of snakes. As we entered the temple we were confused, wondering if we’d come to the wrong place…there were no snakes. We entered a room where there was a single other group of tourists and two snake handlers, carrying a large snake. There were some snakes who had draped themselves around the tops of the columns in the room. Still, it was hardly anything exciting. We had a walk around the rest of the temple but the place was deserted, both by snakes and humans. Eventually my friend asked the handlers what had happened to the snakes, and he pointed out a few in the main temple. It was like a game of spot the difference- here is your picture, now spot what is out of place. Needless to say, we left disappointed. We also left without much idea of how to get back on the road to get into Georgetown. We decided to try and find a bus stop, and thankfully we did find one fairly painlessly, mostly due to my friend. So, she sat down and I stood on guard, ready to throw myself at the next bus in order to get it to stop. Not that there were any forthcoming.

With few other options, we waited and discussed our plans for the weekend as we did so,  finally coming to the decision that we’d switch our Sunday plans for our Saturday plans, as our Sunday plans needed more time than we had then, and the weather looked more promising on the Saturday. Weather was important, as our Sunday plans were to go to the Penang National Park. I was pleased, as I had been worried at how we would fit it into Sunday, and I desperately wanted to go. I wanted to see some Malaysian scenery, you know? However, our new plans meant we could not afford to leisurely wait for a bus that may or may not come. We decided to hail a taxi even though it was a lot more expensive than the bus, and then endured an awkward drive with the driver pointing out the sights (fine) and trying to sell us his specialised tour (not so nice). It was like being in Thailand again, the way the taxi driver was being! I really hate pushy taxi drivers. Though I always wonder, who allows themselves to get suckered into parting with their money this way? Because they would not give us the hard sell, if sometimes it did not work, right?

Anyway, we got to the hotel in good time, sooner than we would think for the price we paid for the taxi, ahem, and went to try to check in. We were staying at the Tune Hotel in downtown Penang, and it was a curious hotel. During the check in I discovered that the “extras” my dad had thoughtfully booked with our room were actually essentials- a towel and some soap. So thank everything my dad thought to book them, as I had no idea it would work this way when I chose the hotel. Even the travelodge in the UK comes with these basics, and both me and my friend were a little taken aback, and I am not sure about my friend, but I was embarrassed at the thought of sharing a towel between us. Well, whatever, we tried to check in but could not. We could, however, leave our luggage there. So off we went to the bathrooms to change and sort our stuff. My friend would take her backpack and I would take my handbag, no matter how inappropriate it was to go walking with a handbag, and leave my backpack behind. We handed the backpack over, got the worlds smallest, most easy to lose luggage tag in return then went to find a taxi to get ourselves to the park. We once again got ripped off by the taxi driver, but its not like we had much choice. We had to get to the park quickly, aka not by bus, so we paid the premium. At least this time the journey was substantial, taking us through George Town and to the small town of Teluk Bahang, then right through it to the park entrance.

We had to register at the park entrance, where one girl was catering to the large crowd, meaning the queue was long.  There were a bunch of other tourists there, most of them better and more suitably dressed than me and my friend. At least my friend had a backpack- I just had my handbag. XD We eventually made it to the front of the line to register and get our maps, then set off with the goal of going to Monkey Beach, but feeling wary, with no idea how intense the walk would be or if we would even have the time. You see, the information on the Internet is very conflicting when it comes to this park- some sources say that the walk to the monkey beach is a gentle stroll, others say an intense walk not for the faint of heart. Some say it is quick, others say it is slow. The times the park itself displayed were again different. We really had no idea to expect but we knew that, if possible, we would go to Monkey Beach. Hell, at the beginning, we were dead set on attempting to get the lighthouse, even. We really had no idea.

We entered the park and found ourselves on a paved road. So far, not bad. It was very hot though, and not just that, but the sun was strong, and I could feel myself already becoming sweaty. The fact that I was hyper from lack of sleep had thankfully not begun to wear off yet though. Also: it was beautiful. to our left was the forest, and to our right were beaches of golden sand, and the sea stretching off into the distance. It was really, really gorgeous. This was the Malaysia that were sold when deciding to come here- this was the Malaysia splashed over the tourist brochures. We walked past those first few patches of sand and over the paved path into the forest proper, the trail very well marked, and very much an obvious trail, but it was dirt path now, and with all the minor obstacles you’d expect when walking through a forest. Still, not bad. It got more intense as we got along though, with stairs and bridges and clambering over rocks using ropes and walking over roots and under tree branches, through foliage… all the while it was hot, so very hot. The sun was intense as hell, and the humidity was as high as ever. I was sweating and panting in a highly unattractive manner. I was made to realise, not for the first time, that even after months spent in this country I am still not adjusted to this tropical climate. For the first time, I realised that I was probably never going to get used to it- I find humidity such an uncomfortable thing.

After longer than the map said it would take we made it to USM beach, where we sat to have lunch – some very nutritious chip sandwiches, and water. Then we continued onwards, still with the intention of going to Monkey Beach, even though we were both getting tired.

We did not make it. Eventually we had to accept that the path was getting too much for us, and we were tired, and there was a perfectly decent patch of sand that we had found, so we decided to stay there and leave Monkey beach to everyone else. I actually think that this was a good decision. We basically had this little beach all to ourselves. My friend settled down to read and I went off to explore. The sand was hard beneath my bare feet, initially, but as I walked on it turned to soft sand. I smiled to myself, walking right on the edge of the water, close enough so the waves could rush over my feet, but far enough that I would not get wet. I admired the view for a moment before turning my focus downwards, hunting for shells and interesting rocks. You’d think that at 20 years old such an activity would no longer interest me but it does and it did. It had been so long since I’d been to the beach. I spent a good while walking across the stretch of beach, exploring it, becoming familiar with what it had to offer, picking up the best bits, washing them off then laying them before my friend and whining at her to look at my findings (my poor, long suffering friend) , before setting off again. I made a few trips before  I finally decided to settle down, sitting on the sand and getting out my cellphone/kindle, although my tired brain could not focus. I did my best, though and at least I managed to calm myself enough that I was not disturbing my friend. With that calmness came the tiredness. I could feel myself heading to the crash- the point where I become quiet, and withdrawn, and  moody, like normal tired people.

The tide was coming in, so we decided to head back to USM, as I wanted to walk along the pier there. We ended up walking along said pier right to the end and settling on a bench right there, right out over the ocean. My friend read and I listened to music, staring out into the distance, soaking in the sun and the smell of the sea and just how lovely it was. I wanted to close my eyes and truly rest in the peaceful atmosphere that was just begging for me to do so, but I knew I would fall asleep. So I forced myself to keep my eyes open, and my mind to stay relatively alert even as it tried to drift, even as my eyes kept sliding shut.

I don’t know how long we stayed there, but it was a good while. Eventually we had to accept the tide was heading back and we had been there long enough, anyway, so we headed back the way we came. The way back was quicker, without us stopping to take pictures as much, and we both had a certain focus, now that we had decided that we were going back, and we actually very much wanted to get back. Once out the park we got a cool drink and sat for a bit, chatting idly and people watching a little. Then we de-registered from the park and left to find a bus. We ended up having to run to catch a bus that would drive, then stop and just sit for a good 30 minutes for some reason. Malaysian public transport really is an unreliable, unpredictable beast. It was a hellish wait, with the air con off, sitting there baking with no clue what was going on. It was relief when the driver got in and turned the bus on again, and with it the air con, and off we went. The bus journey was fairly long, but offered pleasant views in return. We got off at KOMTAR then walked back to the hotel to rest and freshen up a bit, as the only other thing we wished to do was go get food, and the place my friend wanted to go to would only open much later.

Much later, we did go out and did walk to the food place, then come back and finally, we were able to sleep. I don’t think I had fallen asleep so quickly in a long time.

Some random thoughts:

1. University is still very slow. I don’t want to complain, as I really don’t want labs to start up or for classes to become more intense, but I can feel myself becoming much too lazy. As in, its becoming natural to be lazy, which it should not. Today I had my first class at 3pm and I was late- because i OVERSLEPT. :| I have also not been studying at all, which is terrible.

2. I finished God’s Quiz Season 3 today. I started season 1 towards the end of last week. Talk about an addictive drama. The 3 seasons came together so well, although all three could stand alone. Ryo Duk Hwan is amazing as the eccentric genius Dr Han. The show is flashy but in a highly enjoyable way- its easy to get caught up in the crazy rare diseases and crimes that (sometimes) suspend disbelief. Best of all is the ongoing thread of Dr Han’s mysterious disease. Crazy scientists and their mad schemes are definitely not the most believable of plots but they sure are fun. In season 1 and 2  Ahn Yong Joon was incredible as the deranged genius Ha Yoon and although the mad scientist of Season 3 wasn’t as interesting, the twist of what was happening to Dr Han because of his disease was fascinating and really creepy. I loved how the last episode just turned everything on its head. Was not expecting it AT ALL. The ending was awful though. HOW COULD THEY LEAVE IT THERE. There better be a fourth season coming soon.

3. Whilst on the subject off dramas can I also recommend The Thousandth Man? Its not perfect, but its a lovely attempt at doing something new with the gumiho legend. I just finished re-watching episode 3 which was just so touching.  I struggle to articulate my thoughts on this drama so let me link to this wonderful review. (skip to the end of the post for the review.)

4. I was surprised, and pleased, to find the God’s Quiz OST on amazon for a little over £1 for one song and its instrumental. Sadly their mp3 store is difficult to navigate and I cannot seem to stumble over any other kpop that I would want to purchase. Still,  its nice to know its probably there for a decent price, and without having to wait for anything to ship to me. (And yes I know, for someone my age I am very out of touch with modern ways of getting music. I still exist in the CD age D:)

5. I’ve been eating too much chocolate and junk food lately and generally wasting to much money on food. Food is very cheap in Malaysia, which was great when I first got here, although I was soon made to realize how much of a double edged sword that is. When my cravings for junk food got very bad in the UK I could usually refrain myself because of the price. Now, the food is cheap and 7-Eleven is right there in the center of campus where I pass everyday and … I need to fix this asap. I have a feeling I’ve posted this before, too, which is embarrassing if true. I really am not good at sticking to personal goals.

6. Also embarrassing: I cannot use chopsticks. Yes, I know even 3 year olds can use them these days but no matter how much I have tried in the past I could never get the hang of it. I am going to Japan in June though which has inspired me to properly try and learn. I bought some cheap chopsticks at TESCO and have been trying to eat my food with them, but it gets so frustrating when I am hungry and  I cannot pick up my food that I always end up back to using a fork. Somehow, I don’t think I am going to end up a master of these things by June. :/