Summer Vacation, Part I

We returned from three weeks in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to find Mussoorie in the midst of monsoon – one that has been, we’re told, fairly light and mostly raining in the nights rather than during the days. This is a grateful reprieve from the daytime rains we were expecting – but monsoon’s been here for less than a month, and isn’t due to recede until September-October, so we’re enjoying the sunshine (and clouds, without rain) while possible.

Out of 21 days, three of them we spent entirely in airports or in transit: one day was Dehradun-Singapore, then a second day with an immense layover in Singapore (we were unable to check in early and get into the transit part of the airport); the third was our return from Singapore to Delhi, a debacle which may get its own post (and open letter to Air India). Out of all the airports we visited (Dehradun, Dehli, Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Banda Aceh), I think our favourites were Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Penang was surprisingly child-friendly and well-organized for a small international airport, and had USB plug-ins next to many of the seats, meaning we could keep our devices charged. KL advertises itself as “the mall with an airport inside”, and it’s absolutely true: a Uniqlo, Pandora, various other shops we had never heard of before, and a variety of restaurants… Adam and I, of course, always beelined for the ones with beef on the menu.

Malaysia was where we spent the most time by calendar count: about six days in Penang and three in Kuala Lumpur. We would absolutely go through Malaysia again in more detail; we could easily spend another week on Penang and explore over the bridge to Butterworth, go up into the Cameron Highlands, down to the Perentian Islands, maybe to Langkawi Island, and then more time in KL (at least another 3 days) and down to Melaka.

The people in Malaysia were amazing. It was one of, if not the, most child-friendly country I have ever visited; everywhere we went, from little restaurants in malls to coffee shops to airport restaurants, offered us a high chair for Asha. Most of the time, she spent only a little time in the “baby chair”, instead going off with waitstaff to play and be shown off/toured wherever we were. At many of the shops we visited, the same thing happened; Adam spent about $3 on cufflinks at a store in the Kuala Lumpur airport, and Asha had about a dozen photos taken of her with various employees. One night at dinner in KL, she spent the entire meal with the staff of 51 Restaurant – they got her snacks from the kitchen, turned the TV to the “Baby TV” channel, and played with her. Even at a street food stall (Fat Brothers Lok-Lok on Jalan Alor), she spent most of the meal playing with/being played with by the staff, and watching the food get made.

Asha is enthusiastic about dim sum.

Asha is enthusiastic about dim sum.

And oh, the food. Adam is no longer a meatitarian, especially after Malaysia. Between the char kuey tiao (Chinese sausage, prawns, cockles – and bean sprouts!), fried oyster omelets, soup, and even a drink of dragonfruit juice, he has broadened his palate significantly. It got even wider in Indonesia, but Freddie’s deserves a post of its own. We gloried in dim sum while we were there as well – I had not realized the real extent of the Chinese influence on Malaysia. Turns out the hotel we booked in Georgetown (on Penang) was around the corner from the best dim sum in the city… and that was breakfast every morning after we figured it out.


Lok-lok (sort of like satay), Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur. Price was determined by the coloured ends of the skewer, cooked for you, then served with 3 different sauces.

Hokkien mee (Hokkien noodles) and char kuey tiao (high-heat noodles cooked with cockles, prawns and Chinese sausage)

Hokkien mee (Hokkien noodles) and char kuey tiao (high-heat noodles cooked with cockles, prawns and Chinese sausage).

Asha contemplating dragonfruit juice.

Asha contemplating dragonfruit juice at the night market near our hotel. Note: the NIGHT MARKET HAD HIGH CHAIRS.

The Chinese influence in Malaysia is astoundingly vast; the community is vibrant along the Malacca/Melaka Strait, from Penang down through Singapore. There are many temples from the various Chinese families (clans) that came over, and it’s not uncommon to see streetside shrines everywhere. All of this, remembering, that Malaysia is a Muslim country – where foreigners can be deported for offending Allah! Yet restaurants were open all day during Ramadhan (in stark contrast to Indonesia), and along the straits I would argue we saw more Chinese influence than British, and even possibly Muslim. Without having journeyed inland, I can’t speak to the native Malay influences we just didn’t pick up on.

The Khoo clan temple.

The Khoo clan temple, an amazing piece of architecture located in the UNESCO World Heritage core area in George Town, Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (aka The Blue Mansion) in Georgetown, Penang.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (aka The Blue Mansion) in Georgetown, Penang.

A terrible photo of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

A terrible photo of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, with the KL Tower visible in the background, kind of.

We didn’t hunt down a perfect shot of the National Mosque, since there are so many otherwise available on the internet, and we were walking past it at a major prayer time and didn’t want to intrude.

A mosque in Georgetown, didn't get the name.

A mosque in Georgetown, didn’t get the name.

St George's church in Penang.

St George’s church in Penang.

Ong Clan Temple, right across from Komtar and right behind our hotel, in Penang.

Ong Clan Temple, right across from Komtar and right behind our hotel, in Penang.

We easily could – and want to! – go back and spend much more time in  Malaysia in the future. Between being kid-friendly, having amazing food, great people, gorgeous architecture, amazing sites… we could no doubt spend a month+ there, easily. This trip gave us enough of a taste to want more!

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