Monday, 2 July 2012

Days 11-14: Nents, Yum cha, and a view from the top.

On Friday, we decided we were going to have a relaxing day. We needed to update our blogs so we took our computers to Old town white coffee, and sat and updated things; sent emails, wrote postcards, and updated our blogs. At least I would have done except my computer annoyingly ran out of battery.  We were both feeling a little lazy, and we needed to pick up some washing for the next day, so we decided to give ourselves a day of relaxing by the pool at my Uncles.  In the pool was the first time I’ve been cold in Malaysia, actually shivering, it was strange. 

In the evening we went out for dinner at an Italian place. I know it seems slightly odd to come to Malaysia to eat Italian food, but we felt the need for something familiar. The food was quite nice, not amazing, not bad. There was no pork though, because it’s a Muslim country, so all the bacon was made with beef, and all the ham was made with chicken. It makes a surprising amount of difference.  Then we got an early night, because we knew we were getting up early the next day, and I was very excited.

Now, if you know me you may have noticed that I like Elephants.  I have been collecting elephant figurines since I was quite small, and have always found them fascinating. So one of the things I wanted to do while in the part of the world was go to an Elephant sanctuary. When we first started planning the trip we were going to go to Thailand specifically to go to the Elephant sanctuary at Chang Mai, but then we discovered that there was one in KL and the extra trip didn’t seem necessary anymore.

Tiny village
The Elephant sanctuary was about two and a half hours drive from KL. Two hours by bus, to a tiny little village and then a private car took us the rest of the way.  We went with my Uncle and his friend Shirley, who is Malay and could help us with translating things, which, as it turned out, was quite lucky, because a fair number of people at the park didn’t seem to speak any English, or at least very little.

The park was cool, but if I’m honest was a little disappointing. I was expecting a safari park type thing where we could walk around and see elephants being elephants, instead we got a zoo type thing where the elephants were either kept chained up, or caged, and were trained for the people coming to visit. I don’t think they were mistreated, and I certainly still enjoyed it, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, and all the elephants seemed so bored. 

There was no entrance fee to get in, you just donated what you thought it was worth, and there were limited tickets available, if you got there early enough you could get a ticket that allowed you to ride an elephant, and have a bath with the baby elephants. You could also pay a couple of ringgit and get some bananas to feed the elephants, which, of course we did.
Feeding the nents

You could also hire a guide to take you to feed the baby elephants, again something we did. The baby elephants were all taught to bow and say thank you on command, which the guides would make them do after the tourists gave them food.

Bowing to say thank you
Apparently the elephants at the sanctuary are rescued from various places, and taken to the park to rehabilitate. They are kept for a year to 18 months, or longer if they are injured or young and then released back into the wild. While at the park they are allowed to paint, play music and socialise, they are all taught at least one trick and are used in the daily shows for a little while. It doesn’t really sound like a bad life
Bathing the babies

On Sunday morning we went out for Yum Cha. We caught the LRT to a giant mall, well giant by NZ standards, probably quite small, or at least normal by Malaysian standards.  The restaurant was quite nice, there was a window looking into the kitchen so you could see the chefs preparing the food, which looked rather cramped. There were about eight chefs crowded around a coffee table sized bench making dumplings. I don’t think I would want to work in those sort of conditions, although it didn’t seem to impact on the quality of the food.
The Yum Cha wasn’t what I know as Yum Cha, with the waiters bringing the food to your table and you taking what you want. Instead it was Yum Cha type food but you order off a menu, like you would in a normal restaurant.  We got, pork buns, and pork and vegetable dumplings, Xiao something or other dumplings, Pea-shoots stir-fried with garlic, noodles in a peanut sauce,  a different sort of dumpling, and thousand year old eggs.  

The thousand year eggs,  looked qute disgusting, but knowing that my uncle had ordered them as some sort of ninja test, I tried them with no squeamishness,  and determined to look like was enjoying them, whether I liked them or not. They were, surprisingly, really delicious. They tasted kind of like really well made devilled eggs. 

After we had eaten way too much, drunk a lot of tea, and had a history lesson – did you know that you shouldn’t say thank you when someone pours you tea? Instead just subtly tap your first two fingers on the table. This is left over from a king going undercover to get some idea of how happy his people were. He disguised himself as a man servant, and his man servant was a travelling official. When the king poured tea for his servant, the servant would tap his fingers as a way of subtly kowtowing. – we went to  find a bakery where we could get some Kaya. I think I’ve mentioned Kaya before; amazing coconut, Pandan and sugar stuff, kinda like nutella? We wanted to get some to take to England with us so that we could still enjoy Kaya toast. 

Taffy pulling, changes the colour from clear to white
After we had got the Kaya, we were looking around and saw a place called Sticky which sold “delicious handmade yummy.” With a Slogan like that who could resist going to have a look? It’s really lucky we did, because it meant we got to see them making their yummy almost from start to finish. Turns out “yummy” is boiled sweets. We didn’t get to see them melting the sugar and making the actual toffee stuff, but we saw them dye it, and pull it,  and form the design to go in the centre (in this case a cluster of berries but we couldn’t tell that for quite a while), and then stretch it to bring it to size. It was fascinating to watch.

Once we had finished being mesmerised by the sweet making for a surpisingly long time we decided to go and do some touristy things around KL. First we went to the technology mall - an entire mall dedicated to phones, cameras, gaming and computers. It was crazy, thousands of people in a huge four floor mall, with hundreds of shops selling exactly the same things at very slightly different prices. We didn't stay very long.
Then we went to Bukit Nanas (Pinapple Hill) to visit the Menara Kuala Lumpur, or the KL Sky tower. It was pretty cool, the view from the top was very cool, you had a three sixty view over KL. 

For dinner we caught the Monorail to one of the Little Indias, where we had some very nice Badam (almond milk) and some absolutely enormous meals, which were also very nice. We wandered around a bit looking at the shops and admiring the Bollywood video clips.

Today, we caught a bus from KL to Singapore. Quite an experience. We had to get on and off the bus to go through customs a few times, our bus driver didn't speak English, so we were never really sure what we were doing, or whether the bus would be waiting for us on the other side. We made it however, and eventually found an internet cafe that gave us the address of our hostel. 

Our hostel was a bit of a shock to the system. It was very cheap, so we were expecting basic, but not quite this basic, it is spread over two seperate buildings, not even on the same street, the rooms are very simple, just bunk beds, and the bathroom is shared. If you wanted, you could shower whilst on the toilet.  Oh, and here is the kicker, we booked our hostel from NZ, not really knowing much about anything, and ended up booking it in the red light district. Our bedroom is above a sex toys store.

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