We spent several winter weeks in Malaysia, George Town on Penang Island, and also Langkawi Island. The wildlife included large monitor lizards, flying lemurs, pit vipers, and hornbills.
Travels in Malaysia
Flying lemurs, Langkawi island, Malaysia.
Sunda flying lemurs are not lemurs and they cannot fly. They are related to monkeys, and glide between trees in tropical forests in S E Asia. They can glide more than 100 m with minimal loss in elevation. When threatened, they either climb higher up or remain motionless. These animals are quite helpless if on the forest floor.They live either solitary or in small groups that are loosely connected. They can be territorial in foraging and sleeping areas. They are mainly nocturnal and are strictly arboreal and in the daytime, they sleep high within dense foliage in the treetops or in holes in trees. With all four of their feet, they cling on to the trunk of a tree or the underside of branches. Climbing involves stretching out their two front legs and then bringing up their two back legs, which results in an awkward hopping.
Kuala Lumpur and Thaipusam
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is about faith, endurance and penance. In Malaysia it’s dynamic and colorful, and at the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur attracts around one and a half million people each year.
Thaipusam is a time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to say thank you and show their appreciation to one of their Gods, Lord Murugan, a son of Shiva.
It was first celebrated at the Batu Caves in 1888. Since then it’s become an important expression of cultural and religious identity to Malaysians of Tamil Indian origin, and it’s now the largest and most significant Hindu public display in the country.
Groups of musicians and drummers add to the carnival feel, and pilgrims follow in procession.
But despite the atmosphere of celebration this is a deeply reverential event for the pilgrims. Some carry pots of milk or “paal kudam” on their heads as a show of devotion and love to the god.
Others carry elaborate frameworks on their shoulders called “kavadis”, which have long chains hanging down with hooks at the end which are pushed into their backs.
Many of these pilgrims are pierced with two skewers; one through the tongue, and one through the cheeks.
The piercings signify;
- that the pilgrim has temporarily renounced the gift of speech so that he or she may concentrate more fully upon the deity.
- that the devotee has passed wholly under the protection of the deity who will not allow him/her to shed blood or suffer pain.
- the transience of the physical body in contrast with the enduring power of truth
The devotees who go to these extremes say they don’t feel any pain because they are in a spiritual and devotional trance which brings them closer to Lord Murugan. The trance can be induced by chanting, drumming and incense.
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur Heritage
The Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad building was opened in 1897 as the administrative headquarters of the Federated Malay States. Perhaps because the bulk of the population was Muslim the building was designed with an Islamic-styled design.
The Federated Malay States consisted of four protected states in the Malay Peninsula—Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang—established by the British government in 1895, which eventually evolved into Malaysia in 1963.
Joget is a traditional Malay dance that originated in Malacca. It was influenced by the Portuguese dance of Branyo which is believed to have been spread to Malacca during the spice trade. The dance is one of the most popular folk dances in Indonesia & Malaysia and normally performed by couples in cultural festivals, weddings and other social functions.
Penang Snake Temple
The snake temple of Penang is situated in the south west of the island and was built about 1850 by a Buddhist monk. After the construction of the temple, snakes reportedly appeared by themselves. The temple is filled with the smoke of burning incense and a variety of pit vipers. The snakes are believed to be rendered harmless by the sacred smoke, but as a safety precaution, the they are reported to have also been de-venomed but still have their fangs intact. Visitors are warned against picking up the reptiles and placing them on their bodies to take pictures. While some warnings seem over cautious this one was easy for me to follow.
Kota Kinabalu Sights
Of the various things to do in KK, aside from the wonderful grandeur of Mt Kinabalu, we also traveled to view some proboscis monkeys in their natural environment, plus fireflies. It was overall OK, saw a few monkeys. Viewing fireflies was never going to be too exciting because for part of the year we have them at home. These were interesting because they were smaller but congregated in larger numbers and flickered at a much higher frequency. Apart from that we were merely bitten to shreds by mosquitos.
The local food markets provided lots of color.
Sunset at KK.
Part of the KK fishing fleet.
Mt Kinabalu and vicinity
Mt Kinabalu in Borneo is 14,000 ft high and the 20th “most prominent” peak in the world. The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of plants, over 300 species of birds, and more than 100 mammal species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and orangutans. We didn’t see any orangutans because they are further into the wild than we were prepared to go. But we did see a few Rafflesias. The full day tour was organised through downbelowadventures, http://www.downbelowadventures.com located in Kota Kinabalu, and they were great to work with throughout.
We had a wonderful guide, Walter, who pointed out a number of things that we would certainly have missed, including this orchid, the world’s smallest.
Local pineapple seller, probably checking emails.
An ants nest on the jungle floor – probably best avoided.
Our guide Walter explaining how the sap of this tree is drained near the roots, then allowed to dry before being ground into a powder. The powder is then put on a dart in a blow pipe and used to paralyze animals. The area around the wound caused by the dart is never eaten because of the poison.
Shoots of new growth from a ginger plant.
Frogs eggs on the jungle floor.
The Rafflesia flower, named after Thomas Stanford Raffles. The plant has no stems, leaves or true roots. It is a parasite of vines, spreading inside the tissue of the vine. The only part of the plant that can be seen outside the host vine is the five-petaled flower. In some species the flower may be over 40 in. in diameter, and weigh up to 20 lb. This one was probably almost 2 ft in diameter. The flowers apparently look and smell like rotting flesh, and its local name is “corpse flower”. The visible growth of the plant starts with a small bud which takes around a year to form the flower, which then only lasts around one week. The foul odor attracts insects such as flies and beetles, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Successful pollination is not easy because male and female plants need to be close together and of course in flower, so they are very scarce.
Walking on the jungle canopy, around 150 ft up from ground level.
Our excellent guide was able to point out a couple of creatures towards the end of the walk near this waterfall, even as it was getting gloomy in the forest. He spotted a pygmy squirrel and a chameleon, which he said had just been squabbling. It was too dark, and I was too slow, to take any pics of the squabbling creatures.
The sights and sounds of Melaka (Malacca), Malaysia.
Well, actually, its just the sights. Out of the sights, sounds, smells of Melaka, the sights are hopefully interesting, the sounds might be OK, but the smells should mostly be avoided.
Yummy street food. These are a local delicacy – pineapple tarts; these are the few tarts remaining from my bulk purchase. I only wanted to taste one but had to buy at least a dozen.
They were especially delicious straight from the oven.
Colorful Street scenes In the heart of Melaka.
Abraham, proud owner of an old house, which is operated as a private museum, And illuminated at night – see next image.
Refilling the store at night.
Pink curtains only in this apartment block.
Cruising the Melaka river at night.
This place closed early and prevented me from being morally uplifted!
Back on track
Change of Plan
Had an enforced change of plan for medical reasons – high fever so stayed in Penang longer than expected. Will be seeing doc at hospital again tomorrow. Last time I saw him he wanted me to be admitted but I declined. Here are a few pre-fever photos from around the old Penang city of Georgetown.
This is a very famous, well maybe just regularly famous, cannon, at the Cornwallis fort in Georgetown. Made in the 17th century, it was originally used on vessels. And was actually put on a Japanese vessel in 1941. Its hard to believe that the Japanese might have actually used it.
It’s modern usage is as a fertility improvement device. Women put flowers into the cannon with hopes for improved results. I guess the symbolism is clear.
The Cornwallis fort was first established by Captain Sir Francis Light when he took possession of the island from the Sultan of Kedah in 1786 and. It was a simple stockade made from palm tree trunks, and its prime purpose was to protect Penang from pirates. In 1804, after the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars, Indian convict laborers rebuilt the fort using brick and stone.
Note to self – no more jungle hiking
We hiked in the Penang National Park today. I don’t want to see another jungle path for a long time. The map we were given was outrageously scaled, so we took a detour from the main path for what was supposed to be a 20 minute side trip to walk the forest canopy. The side trip took at least 1 1/2 hours and the forest canopy walk was closed, seemingly for safety issues as there wasn’t much evidence of maintenance. There is no charge to enter the National Park, so why not put a charge in place and fix the stuff? We then walked to the monkey beach, where these chaps eat crabs from the ocean. It was fun but hugely arduous doing around 5 miles of jungle paths which were very tough in many places and almost never flat. Up and down over rocks and tree roots in a temperature of 92 degrees in old money, 32 Celsius. We also didn’t take enough water as we didn’t realize how difficult the terrain was. Of course Jean did it all with no trouble, but I was a straggler. Boat back for $12 was the best money spent in a long, long, time.
|One of the crab eating guys|
This monitor lizard was rather nervous and although they are carnivores they don’t care for human flesh.
We did some wildlife, apart from the beach monkeys, there was a huge monitor lizard strolling along the beach. Eventually it then came close to the path we were on and I missed a great photo opportunity because I was so stunned to suddenly see it approx 2 yards away from me. I took off in one direction and fortunately the lizard was more scared than me and took off in the other direction.
Jean also had a meeting with wildlife, a snake slithered into the path in front of her as she was walking behind me. A loud scream ensued, but the snake appeared mild mannered and eventually let her pass without any problem.
|Jean mastering a downhill jungle path.|
Heading Back After Hugely Arduous Day