Saturday, December 22, 2007

Birds, Bees, Orchids

Having a room free of insects and with clean sheets, makes for a good night’s sleep. The television even has more channels in English than we do in Hungary. An interesting cultural note is that in all three of the hotels so far, the bathroom is truly a water closet. The shower is not separated elsewhere. You shower where you toilet and the toilet paper is under some protective covering so it does not get wet. Also, each bathroom has a separate hose to be used like a bidet. Now I thought this was a custom for women only, but when I went to the men’s room at the Handicraft Center, all of the stalls there had this hose with a nozzle also. I have heard that Orthodox Jewish men have some restrictions about touching themselves, so perhaps this is the same with Muslims also. I am not going to ask around.

We had to break into the Euros to exchange money this morning in order to get breakfast. We have not had Ron try his luck with his ATM card again. If Bank of America has shut down his card too, well I just don’t want to think of that situation at the moment. When we passed restaurants on our way to Starbucks, I rationalized why we do go there. Besides the fact that none of the restaurants serve coffee, we witnessed what people here eat for breakfast. At 9:00 am, people are sitting at the outdoor restaurants eating duck, pork soup, soup with noodles, another words, all of the same things they eat for lunch and dinner. Now I have been known to eat pizza, left over spaghetti, and chicken for breakfast, but I don’t make it a regular practice. What you don’t see here is what you would consider breakfast foods unless you go to the American style places. Rationalization part II: Starbucks gives free WiFi. Even if I am not going to use it, it is nice to support them. With Internet cafés all over, I have yet to see any WiFi hotspots other than Starbucks.

The National Museum is located near the Bird Sanctuary, the Orchid Farm, and the Butterfly World. None of them are accessible by public transportation, so we had to take a taxi. The hotel desk clerk told us not to pay more than 10 Ringgets for the ride. Well this knowledge did not bid us well as three taxi drivers refused us for that price. We suggested we pay the meter, but was told that they will not use meters in the city since the traffic is so bad. After settling on 20 Ringgets we found a ride.

The National Museum is another gargantuan complex with little open on the grounds. The museum itself is open to the public for an entry fee of 2 Ringgets. It has been years since I have been on a football field, but my guess is that the whole of the museum is smaller than one. What was there was interesting, but there was not a great deal there. A foot bridge connects this underutilized space over the eight lane highway to the National Planetarium. Walking through the parking lot, you can find the Bird Sanctuary. Admission here is 30 Ringgets and despite the fact that it is the world’s largest, we thought the admission was for the birds and all too high. Across the street, the Orchid Gardens was charging a reasonable 2 Ringget admission, so we submerged ourselves in orchids and the national flower, the hibiscus. We went to the butterfly gardens in Thailand, so skipped it here. Returning to the bird side of the road, they have coupon taxis where the rates are fixed by zones, giving us a bargain fare of 15 Ringgets for the ride back to the hotel.

After dropping our laundry at the service next door, we took the monorail to the Malaysian Cultural Center. They have a 45 minute dance performance highlighting the different dance styles throughout Malaysia. We did not realize that parts of Malaysia are not connected to the peninsula, but across the sea. There are two states attached to Indonesia, called Malaysian Borneo, Sabah and Sarwak with Brunei in between. Sabah and Sarwak are larger than the entire peninsular country. The show was vibrant with costumes from all of the different Malaysia States; this country of 24 million has a cosmic number of cultures, costumes, and dance traditions. What really dazzled us was the way the women dancers use their hands in dance. One dance was a hand dance while sitting on the floor. They are able to bend their hands backwards and make unusual contortions making them extremely demonstrative. We found later that they have to start bending their hands backward starting at 2 years old to stretch them to perform these moves.

Then it was time for a nap, reading, and writing. Afterward, we went walking down the street around the corner for a dinner place. Basically, they all look alike, so it is difficult to make an informed decision. Basically, we stopped when we reached a section of the street we had not eaten at yet and where they had menu items other than fish. I don’t eat fish at all, but there were a number of Internet articles on fish contaminated with a new not easily detected parasite throughout Asia, giving Ron pause about ordering seafood. Normally, this would be his choice. We again had chicken curry with fried rice and greens cooked in garlic, sharing a large beer. It is one of the few things on the menu we can understand other than deer, or frogs that does not have gills.

We wandered over to Starbucks to check e-mail and confirm our reservation for our hotel for tomorrow night. We leave for Melaka tomorrow afternoon. It was a tight fight to find a table near an outlet so I could plug in the computer. The place was mobbed at 10:30 pm and they are open until 2:00 am.

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