Friday, April 9, 2010

It's a zoo

Formula 1 frenzy is over for the time being. Last weekend was the race at Sepang, which is about 25 miles from Kuala Lumpur. Colin went to the track Friday to watch the practice sessions, and both of us went Saturday and Sunday for qualifying and the actual race. It was quite an experience to be part of the festivities after seeing the races on television. The cars are smaller than I imagined, and the noise was DEAFENING!!! Fortunately, we both brought earplugs. Saturday, I tried (with reasonable success) to memorize the teams' car paint schemes (none of them have numbers) and drivers in preparation for the big event. This year's race was the first with no rain in its 12-year history at Sepang, and it finished without major incident or injury to any drivers. All in all, a loud, sweaty, fun weekend was had by all 97,000 spectators.
Since we'd already seen what we want to see of KL and had a week to kill before our flight to Indonesia, we took off on Monday for Taiping. It's a small city off the normal tourist trail, and for the first time since we arrived in Malaysia, we actually felt like strangers in a strange land (we encountered no other non-Asians during our stay). There's not a whole lot to do there besides look at the pretty Chinese storefronts and 100-plus year old government buildings, but it's really a nice, quiet, and relaxed town. Its jewel is the Lake Gardens, which were landscaped in the 1880s on an abandoned tin mine. The pair of lakes spread like fingers through the park, and the trees and flowers are beautiful! We saw many vividly colored birds, more than anywhere else, in the trees and hunting bugs in the grass as well. The real surprise was the zoo in the center of the park- we thought it would be a tiny one since we circled the outside perimeter looking for the entrance, but apparently it's in a wormhole and expands once you're inside. The zoo was pretty nice (it's not the NC zoo or the National zoo) and has mainly animals that are native to SE Asia and the subcontinent with some African lions, hippos, and rhinoceroses thrown in the mix. We were fortunate to be there during feeding hours, so everyone was out and about munching their snacks. The local troupe of macaques who live around the zoo but aren't part of the zoo looked forlorn (what are we, chopped liver?!?! Oh, I guess that's the trade-off for being FREE!) when the zookeeper fed the animals in the enclosure below them
We're now back in GeorgeTown (yes, again!) until Tuesday, when we fly to Jakarta for the last leg of the trip (for now). We are bypassing Sumatra after all (it's raining, they just had yet another earthquake and more civil unrest in Aceh again. Call us wusses if you want, but we'd rather live to fight another day. Plus, Jakarta has a MUCH better reputation for stability- HA!). Our tentative itinerary includes Java, Bali, Lombok, and the Gili Islands, but it is subject to change with our whims.
We have uploaded the photos from Malacca, Kota Bharu, Kuantan, Kuala Lumpur, the Perhentians, and are working on Taiping (with a bunch from the zoo). Alas, you will need to look for Silat (the bizzarro martial art) examples yourselves- we deleted our movie (referenced in the previous blog post) in order to get photos uploaded. Anyway, toodles for now!

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