Ganesha Street

Kuala Lumpur in my opinion, doesn’t have the most interesting sights. The Petronas Towers are ok for two giant cucumbers, but nothing mind blowing. There’s a few mosques, some colonial history and a king’s palace. The reason I like KL, is that it serves it’s purpose as a convenient transit city. It’s a lot cheaper than Singapore so you can stay here and arrange things for the next part of your trip without breaking the piggy bank. The food is great, especially if you’ve just stepped off a flight from somewhere like the Philippines. You can spend hours aimlessly strolling around the posh shopping malls looking at things that you can’t ever afford or just go in and out of the hundreds of 7elevens to have a few seconds of air-con and escape the sweltering heat.


One interesting thing about Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia for that matter, is the high number of Malaysian Indians. The mostly Tamil people of Indian descent make up almost 8% of the population in Malaysia. The Indians and other south Asian people were brought here during the British times to work as plantation workers, traders, soldiers and of course, corner shop owners. Hence, the muddy estuary has a very multi cultural atmosphere and some areas, for example Dixon street, actually feel like you’re taking a walk down Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, although the smell of human excrement and sewage isn’t half as bad.


Tamils are predominantly Hindu, and what do you get where there are Hindus? Not a bunch of milfs stumbling around in fancy dress with the bride-to-be wearing an L plate around her neck, that would be a hen-do, I’m talking about temples.

Sri Ganesar temple

When I pass through Kuala Lumpur, I always stay in a place close to a Hindu Temple named Sri Ganesar Court Hill, dedicated to the elephant god, Ganesha.


Ganesha is the protector, the god of wealth and prosperity, the deva of intellect and wisdom and the remover of obstacles. The previous high court was adjacent to this temple and back in the day, lawyers who had to represent clients would come to the temple and pray for a favourable outcome. The temple is said to be very powerful because it is built on a sloping moona muchandi (three adjoining corners). With that, this is the only temple in the world that performs conch shell prayers twice daily, where the chanting of Hindu mantras take place during the dressing and bathing of the idol Ganesha with spiritual water, this explained the clarion sound of trumpets and bells, along with some quite strange goings on, such as devotees setting fire to coconuts before smashing them on the road outside…


Does it all sound a bit daft? Get this, former colonist Wagner Durai who owned the land which the temple now stands, once asked to have the original statue removed as the temple bells were doing his head in. The day after his grumpy complaint, he suffered a paralytic stroke. It was only when his gardener was instructed by Lord Ganesha in a dream to sprinkle holy ash on Wagner’s legs he fully recovered and regained the ability to walk. Wagner converted to a devout Hindu and remained one until the day he died.


Hindus have 330 million gods, 330 million plus one if you include Sachin Tendulkar. The thought of these giant gods walking the earth may seem a little bit far-fetched or even pokemon-esque, but these paradoxes when examined closer can make more sense than what meets the eye. The court hill temple was facinating and got me wondering about Ganesha and why he has an elephant’s head. Hindu mythology can be very confusing indeed, so here is my simple, soap opera version about the birth of Ganesha.


Parvati is Ganesha’s mam, Parvati wanted to have a kid with Shiva, but Shiva didn’t want a kid, so he went out on the lash with his mates. Parvati went and impregnated herself anyway with some turmeric and Vinayaka was born without the intervention of man. The child was told by his mother to watch the oven while she took a bath and not let anyone in, which he did. Shiva returned after one too many Stellas and was refused into his own house by the boy, so he must have thought ‘Who’s this little mug having it away with my missus?!’ A furious Shiva proceeded to chin Vinayaka and cut off his head. Parvati needless to say was raging and claimed she would end her own existence if her son was not brought back to life. So Shiva told one of his mates who owed him a favour, to go out and bring him the head of the first living being he saw. The first thing he saw was a Mackem, a wild and unwashed one, so instead he brought back the head of the second living being he saw which was an elephant. Shiva placed the new head on the severed body of Parvati’s son and ressurected him, thus becoming the father of Ganesha. A few months later Parvati had an affair with his best friend and Shiva was killed in a car crash after a dramatic show down…

The temple has a telly, but only one channel, Ganesha TV

Believe it or not, the Sri Ganesha court hill temple provided a little bit of intrest to what would otherwise have been a boring visit to Kuala Lumpur. May I add, that it can’t be a coincidence that after visiting the temple I successfully jumped the LTR, was given too much change in 7eleven and found half a bar of dove soap in the hostel shower. The powers that be!

For More insight into Hindu mythology made slightly easier to understand check ‘Myth = Mithya’ by Dr Devdutt Pattanaik

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The Truth About Tioman

Four months in the subcontinent swiftly came to an end when we realised that acquiring another Indian visa in Bangladesh, was substantially more trouble than it’s worth. Thankfully budget flights are readily available within Asia with Tiger airlines, don’t expect any frills though, I was denied a mouthful of cold water on the plane and told I had to pay £4 for a full bottle. Budgeting tip – usually by claiming that you need a drink to take medication will result in receiving a small cup of boiling H2O for free, if not, just pretend to throw a wobbler and begin to foam at the mouth, you’ll be surprised how fast a trolly dolly can run down the gangway with a cold bottle of Evian!

Back in the Malaysian peninsular, we decided to head to Tioman island, it’s close to Singapore and we’d heard it has ok beaches and diving, so it was good enough for us.


Lonely planet says that Tioman is shaped like a turtle, by now we all know that the traveller’s bible talks at least 65.4% pretentious and outdated bullshit. Likethewheels however, speaks nothing but 110% non biased, truth – it’s shaped like a snail or a thumbs up…

Dive sites at the thumb

Tioman was never originally inhabited by anyone, it was only after Time magazine declared it the world’s most beautiful island back in the 70’s that the ethnic people from the neighbouring islands decided to set up a tourist infrastructure. The trip to Tioman used to require travellers to step from one tiny boat to another at the state boundary in the middle of the South China Sea, now it’s a quick two hour passage in what I call ‘the white man’ super ferry. Despite the massive influx of tourism over the last 30 years, development is relatively slow and the beach where we stayed, Air Bitang or ‘water pipe’ still has a chilled village vibe.


The Malaysian government decided that the people of the island needed something to do, so they gave the bored families some basic wooden chalets to rent to foreigners in their ‘make money from tourism’ campaign, so you can still grab a few cheap shanty huts. Tioman, like a lot of tightly knit remote communities, has a problem with incest, so don’t be surprised to see some locals a few fries short of a happy meal wandering around. There is also the small issue of drug addiction and theft is not unheard of, even in such a nice place like Tioman, a druggy will go to any lengths to feed the monster eating away at their very soul. The interesting thing about the island is that everywhere, including the beaches and outside your hut, you will find huge monitor lizards. Coral island near Tioman was once home to hundreds of these beasts and I was told used to make a nice day trip, until one day a fleet of Vietnamese fishermen decided to stay there after they were unable to sail due to bad weather. The fisherman subsequently had monitor lizard for breakfast, lunch and dinner and now the entire island is reptile free…


We done a handful of dives here, the most interesting of which was the 30m sawadee wreck, which was sunk two years ago to make an artificial reef and lies right next to a older wreck from 1995. ‘Snail’ island was a great way to sort my head out after being in the subcontinent for so long, not exactly a tropical paradise but still gets my thumbs up.

Eco Divers– by far the best value dive shop in Tioman, situated on ABC beach, cheers Geoff!

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The Rest Of The Peninsular

Penang or ‘The Pearl of the Orient’ served as a major trading hub between the East and the West. Its capital Georgetown doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, with a mishmash of Hindu/Chinese temples, British Churches and Arabian Mosques. Today Penang is a major hub for the young gap year travellers heading off into Thailand to party hard and get robbed. On our first night in Penang, we were approached by a lost young chap who was obviously tripping something rotten and looking a little worse for wear. We attempted to help him pull himself together for a moment but this was all in vain, he just kept blurting out singular words such as ‘Army, port, butterworth’. Unless this lad had eaten a full packet of Rowntrees Randoms, I suspect he’d been listening to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds…

Sri Mahamariamman temple in Penang’s ‘Little India’

Driving a motorbike on the highways of Penang wasn’t as fun as driving on deserted coastal roads elsewhere, but served its purpose and got us to the snake temple. The temple was built in circa 1850 in memory of Buddhist monk Chor Soo Kong, a spiritual healer who was believed to have given shelter to the snakes in the jungles. Snakes started appearing at the temple shortly after its completion and the burning incense inside is said to render the vipers harmless. The doped up vipers can be found literally hanging around on most of the murals, picture frames and shrines inside the temple…


Melaka was founded by Hindu prince Paremeswara from Sumatra in the 14th century. Since then it was involved in a massive game of pass the parcel and has been in the hands of the Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British. The splendid town is mainly crowded with domestic tourists, but it was a nice to spend a few days trying out the amazing food. Pak Putra Pakistani restaurant, cook their meat in the tandoor oven on the street and served up the best meals I’d had in Malaysia, albeit with typical Asian service…


From the Tandoor

The first time I came to Singapore I was impressed with its organisation and cleanliness, I thought it was like the city from Demolition man! Fast forward six years and the city seems to have lost its futuristic charm, shame.
The Raffles hotel is the oldest lodgings in the city, the old school courtyards resemble that of a English country garden. I’m surprised they let me in sporting a filthy pair of tea stained shorts and the t-shirt I bought from a porter at Dumeguete pier, but they did. The bar inside is where the world famous Singapore Sling was created by Hainanese bartender, and for £16 only, you can try one all to yourself!


We took a long walk through the city, through yet another Little India, into yet another Sri Mahamariamman temple and eventually back to marina bay for some token skyline photos. The Helix Bridge next Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands resort is considered an engineering masterpiece and was designed to represent a DNA double helix.

A Hindu wearing traditional ceromonial clothes inside the temple

Marina Bay – The Helix, Marina Sands and the Science Museum

Not only was our day in Singapore Good Friday, it was also my birthday! So we decided to celebrate it by going to the world’s largest aquarium on Sentosa island, bad idea. On this day, it was more like the world’s largest queue, with a giant fish bowl attached. First you had to queue for a ticket, then get in another queue to enter the building, then queue again to get into the aquarium, it took a total of two hours to get in but the waiting time had doubled by mid afternoon, ridiculous! It seems queuing is one of the only British traditions that is yet to die out in Singapore. Inside the aquarium can be described as a riot of exited children. We spent less than an hour in the crèche, I mean aquarium, as I thought my head might explode. I thought the aquarium was ok, but not a touch on scuba diving and being up close to the marine life. So another valuable lesson learned from visiting a major tourist attraction on a public holiday, don’t do it…





Believe it of not it was this man’s 28th birthday when he joined the queue

There was one thing that put a smile on my little birthday face though, after seeing a record amount of Manchester United shirts on the Malay peninsular, it was nice to see at least one person had the right idea!


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The Cameron Highlands were discovered by a British government surveyor of the same name on a mapping exhibition in 1885. For the first time in a while, I was actually pleased to be at a higher altitude to escape the sweltering heat of the Muddy Estuary below.

Because of its extremely fertile soil and low temperatures, Cameron’s main economic activity is farming. Farms of many kinds are scattered across the highlands. Strawberry farms, pepper farms, butterfly farms, bee farms, cactus farms, flower farms, baby farms, boy band farms…farm farms, Cameron has a farm for almost everything…


The Cactus reunited with family

While moseying around the farms, I learned a few things about some of the things being harvested here. Such as, strawberries actually just start out as a flower which contains a bud that eventually grows into a huge tumour that is a strawberry, all peppers start off green and then change to red or yellow, and Um Bongo (they drink it in the jungle) isn’t a fruit at all, you learn something new everyday…


The life of a strawberry

The butterfly farm held hundreds of different species of these fluttering rascals while the reptile centre attached, featured some bog standard frogs, turtles and snakes. But one thing that stood out for me was the bald rat. Looking like something from a science lab, the disgusting rodent is actually native to Middlesbrough, and survives on a diet consisting solely of chicken parmos…



Cameron’s other main income comes from the production of Tea. The Boh tea estates were founded by another Englishman, J.A. Russell in 1929. Boh tea uses the slogan ‘Boh as Ummph’. They’re not wrong there, I was nearly knocked off my chair by the taste, after months of drinking instant coffee, it was nice to rediscover my inner Englishman with a classic cup of Rosemary Lee.


The highest peak in the highlands, was accessible by a walk through the Mossy Forest. I thought that the Ampang district of Kuala Lumpur reminded me of Manchester, well this forest defiantly resembled Moss Side. I was disappointed not to spot any obscure wildlife during the easy trek, but happy to hear a few song birds tweeting the melody to ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne…



Ipoh served as a quick stop over on our way out of Cameron. The surrounding area has a few interesting cave temples hidden away in the limestone landscape, one of which is the largest on Malaysia that the locals believe possesses spiritual powers. A well known guidebook describes Ipoh as ‘a gritty, frenetic city of faded tropical mansions’. If someone can please explain what this is meant to mean that would be great, as I could see no mansions and found it anything but gritty and frenetic. I think a lot of the time, this particular ‘bible’ as some travellers call it, instead of telling things as they are for the common man, sometimes prefer to speak in riddles, riddles harvested directly from the word farm…




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Muddy Estuary

We didn’t spend much time in Manila, but from the short time we did spend there I came to the conclusion that, this would be the hardest in place in the world to be a bus driver. 40 minutes to drive 4 kilometres through the afternoon traffic, I would have walked had it not been so hot. Whilst sitting in a taxi chewing my nails at the thought of missing our flight, I remembered one more thing I loved about the Philippines, Presto Creams Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. The delicious snack, perfect for dipping, gave me a heavenly sensation every time they touched my lips. And so we left the Philippines, but not before the government could fleece me one last time and charge a 500 peso departure tax. Just to give you an idea of how much that is, 500 pesos buys 83 packets of Presto Creams!


Kuala Lumpur, which literally translates as ‘muddy estuary’ was founded at the confluence of the Gombak River as a tin mining settlement. The currency over here is the Malaysian Ringgit (I’m thinkin about my doorbell, when you gonna Ringgit, when you gonna Ringgit?). The first thing I noticed when riding the Light Transit Rail (LTR) is that the voice on the tannoy at times resembles a broad Geordie accent, ‘next station, plaza RakYAD!’ Maybe this is how Geoff from Byker Grove makes a living these days…

Merdeka (freedom) Square, isn’t actually a typical paved public square, but a former cricket pitch. The pitch was where Malaysia’s independence was proclaimed in 1957. The surrounding area has some fine colonial architecture, a nice contrast to the modern urban sprawl…




Malaysia has a surprisingly large population of South Asian inhabitants, largely due to the fact they were shipped over to work here by the British during the colonial days. We happened to stumble across a busy marketplace in ‘Little India’ as the area is commonly known. A festival was taking place near the Sri Mahamariamman temple where the local Hindus were smashing hundreds of coconuts on the road. If a coconut does not break, it is said to be a bad oman, I would just say you’re not throwing it hard enough…




Poor Coconuts


Sri Mahamariamman


Spot the Difference

One of the things I was looking forward to most in Malaysia, had to be indulging in some world famous food. On the walk through Little India we called into a banana leaf mess. It is exactly as the name describes, a mess served on a banana leaf, delicious.


The Pertronas Towers are almost as iconic to Kuala Lumpur as the hanging monkey is to Hartlepool. Once the world’s tallest skyscrapers until 2004, the towers can be seen from almost anywhere in KL. I obviously wasn’t going to part with my well earned Ringgits just to climb a tower, but I discovered a great view point from the Skybar of a nearby five star hotel. Just make sure you’re clean shaven and walk with a purpose, they will never know you’re not a guest…


A few more sights were taken in before the heat got the better of us. On a number of occasions during our stay in KL we ate at a popular restaurant chain ‘Steven’s corner’. When researching the restaurant I found out that the owner SC Sathisilan Aka Steven, was arrested after battering his neighbour for trying to move some chairs from out the front of his own restaurant. A Facebook group was started for people to ‘boycott the vile thug’s restaurant’, but in all fairness, if Charles Bronson owned a restaurant that made tandoori chicken as good as Steven, I’d still eat there.


Masjid Negara


Istana Negara

I’d never fancied coming to Peninsular Malaysia, nor had I planned to until the Philippines government insisted I needed an exit flight to enter their country. So far I can say I’m nothing but impressed with the amazing food and super friendly people, and I’ve yet to be ripped off!

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