Sunday, September 30, 2012


What is it that is so fun and appealing about monkeys? They have such cute faces and jump around in such a clever way. And I guess we love them because they remind us of ourselves!

When the kids were little, we always referred to them as monkeys, probably because they enjoyed climbing so much. Madeline used to climb up our laundry pole. Gabriel always enjoyed climbing the walls inside the house until Joe saw him and told him to keep his grubby paws off the walls! The kids were also good at clinging like monkeys. For years, I found it difficult to walk anywhere without 1 or 2 kids grabbing onto my legs. Anyway, with all the monkeys hanging around here, I thought it would be good fun to do a blog on monkeys.

Here are some cute monkey pictures and a couple of cute monkey songs...

the monkey dance

upside down

macaque w/bananas

baby macaque w/juice box!

macaque w/flowers

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Roti canai/Roti chana

Despite the fact that Malaysians love food, talk about food, and have food stalls all over the place, I haven’t found the food here any better than the food I love to eat at home. Don’t get me wrong, Malaysian food is tasty with all the varied spices that come from the Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures. But I think I am less impressed with Malaysian foods because: I am a foodie, I have developed sophisticated tastes by eating at a wide variety of restaurants from around the world, and much of my food is fresh, organic, and locally produced. I have it better than most people around the world.      

One unexpected outcome related to food is that Joe and I have both lost some weight since coming here. I think it must be a combination of eating less because of the humidity and eating less ice cream and alcohol because they are so expensive ($10 for a pint of Haagen Daz and $14 for a 6 pack of Carlsburg beer). But interestingly, we are both eating much more meat (chicken, for the most part) which seems counterintuitive to losing weight!

Yesterday, after a good hour trekking up and down hills, a Malaysian friend took me to an Indian open air restaurant where she introduced me to one of the locals’ favorite, cheap snacks, roti canai. I fell in love. roti chana is an Indian flatbread that is fried in ghee (purified butter) and then covered in whatever variety of sauces you deem appetizing. At this restaurant, there was fish curry, dal, a yogurt mixture, and a couple of other spicy sauces. We also ordered Teh ginger, which is hot ginger tea with milk and sugar (the normal way of ordering). There is a trick to eating the roti to get the most bang for your buck! You pour the sauce on the bread and then use a spoon and fork (the normal eating implements used when not using fingers to eat) to eat the sauce and a little bit of the bread whereby you are able to keep pouring delicious sauces on the roti and eat to your heart’s content. Not only that, for 4 good sized pieces of bread and as much sauce as we desired plus 2 teas, the total was less than $3!!! Delicious and a bargain!!! What could be better for a bargain girl like me?!?

roti chana w/sauces & tea

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Last weekend, we visited the historic town of Melacca. It is a 2 hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur in Peninsular Malaysia. We purchased tickets on line to go from the southern bus station in KL to Melacca on Saturday morning for a 3 day weekend. The kids had Monday off as it was Malaysia Day (or Unification Day). This day celebrates when Malaysia acquired Sabah and Sarawak on the Island of Borneo and Singapore to the south to form Malaysia in 1963 (subsequently, Singapore was released from the union, in 1965, I believe). 

The bus was very comfortable except that the a/c was way too cold! It was nice finally seeing some of the countryside surrounding KL. Madeline slept, Gabriel read, and Joe and I enjoyed the many palm trees (for palm oil???) and little towns on the way down to Melacca. One thing that will forever stand out in my mind is the many food stalls, food courts, restaurants etc everywhere you look. There are even food stalls along main thoroughfares, all with rice and noodle dishes or Indian fried breads like chapattis or roti. 

We arrived in a large bus terminal (with food courts and shopping aplenty!). Then we took a taxi to our hotel, the Best Western. Sad to say, it doesn’t match up to our own hotels in America-not even a much needed swimming pool was present. However, it was within the inner circle of the World Heritage Site, so everything we wanted to see was a close walk. We enjoyed the riverwalk, fresh fruit juices, the Hungry Ghost Festival, Jonker’s street market stalls, a local museum, several beautiful buildings, temples, churches, and shrines as well as the Chinese and Muslim cemeteries, and an old Malay village called a Kampung. Below are some pictures from our weekend.

Madeline with her new hat!

along the riverwalk in Melacca

along the riverwalk

storefronts in Melacca

trishaws in the city center (my next job opportunity?)

popsicles to cool down on a hot day

the Hungry Ghost Festival (burnt offerings made to ancestors)

Jonker's street, during the daytime (nighttime is crowded!)

over the Melacca river

Kampung Morten

inside entryway of Kampung Morten

Madeline hitting the wishing gong to make her wish come true...

updated kitchen in KG Morten bungalow

KG Morten

Malaysian Madeline

KG village

Indian food on banana leaf

Muslim cemetery

I'm not brave (stupid) enough to ride a bike anywhere around Malaysia

open drains everywhere means you'd better keep your eyes on your  feet!

private residence of wealthy family

pork, spinach noodles, and veggies

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bukit Gasing Forest Park

This morning I took my first trek in Malaysia. For you uninitiated folks, that just means a hike in the forest. Yesterday, our real estate agent Eliza, invited our family to join her for a trek through Bukit Gasing Forest Park. This is a heavily forested place in town that she visits weekly for a little exercise. As it turned out, I was the only one to join Eliza this morning, but it was nice to get the lay of the land for future trekking expeditions. Eliza picked me up at 7:15am (a bit on the early side for me), but I didn’t complain as I knew it would soon be hot. So, with tennies, shorts, a water bottle, and mosquito repellant, we set out on our journey. It was a short drive to the preserve and many cars already lined the roads leading to the park entrance. The sky loomed dark. And soon after entering the park, it started raining. Fortunately, the upper canopy blocked much of the rain, so the rain that we did get was enjoyable. The trail consisted of dirt, some cement blocks, and lots of tree roots. It was a nice combination of climbing and descending with many forested vistas. Although the trail was busy with people, the hiking was still quite pleasant. The Malaysian’s interest in trekking is surprising to me as their main passion seems to be shopping (in megamalls) and yet many of them do enjoy a moderately strenuous hike in the woods on a regular basis. Eliza and I spent just over an hour in the forest and I felt I had gotten a nice outdoor experience in the heart of KL.

bukit gasing trail
more trail views

suspension bridge (not too high)

entrance to bukit gasing

trail map to bukit basing

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Batu Caves

Today was my 22nd wedding anniversary and we celebrated it at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. Batu Caves is a series of large limestone caves some of which are still growing. The base of Batu Caves is home to a large sculpture of a Hindu god, Lord Subramaniam, and the Swamy Subramaniam Temple. As we passed Lord Subramaniam and began climbing the 272 colorful stairs, many aggressive macaque monkeys were running, jumping, begging, and stealing and eating food on the stairs and railings around us. It was quite entertaining although a little nerve racking as the stairs were steep and somewhat uneven and the monkeys have been known to bite people. Since we arrived early, it wasn’t that crowded, which was nice. It was hot and humid as it usually is in KL, but overcast, so not as hot. Souvenir stands abounded at both the top and bottom of the long staircase. At the very top of the main cave, the macaques were having a grand time finding and eating food as well as climbing on a forested portion of the cave walls, even throwing coconut halves onto the ground from above (a little scary). There were a number of places where Hindus could stop and pray to Lord Subramaniam in the temple alcoves nestled into the limestone caves.

On the return journey down the staircase, we stopped and took a short guided tour through the Dark Caves. They leant us ‘torches’ (flashlights) and took us along a cement pathway. This cave is home to about 250,000 bats, some fruit and some insect eating bats as well as some indigenous spiders, a centipede, and millions of cockroaches (yuk!) Down at the bottom of the stairs, a Hindu wedding was taking place. We stayed to watch for several minutes. 

Lord Subramaniam at Batu Caves

macaques eating ceremonial flowers 
Lord Subramaniam

colorful steps at Batu Caves

honoring Lord Subramaniam at Swamy Subramaniam Temple at Batu Caves

inside Batu Caves

macaque and baby at Batu Caves

resting after climbing 272 steep steps

wedding decorations at Batu Caves

shoes left outside of wedding celebration


22nd anniversary celebration at Batu Caves
Gabe and Joe with hungry macaque

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chicken, anyone?

Malaysia is approximately 60% Muslim. And Islam is the country religion though other religions are accepted here as well. The Muslim culture pervades many areas of living in Malaysia. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur (the capital of Malaysia) a month ago, during the month of Ramadan which is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar and consists of Muslims fasting from sunrise to sunset in order to contemplate and honor their god. Ramadan concludes with Hari Raya which lasts several days and is a very festive time of eating, drinking, and celebrating with friends and family. As many people leave the city, the roads here become much quieter and faster. 

When we moved into a condominium a few weeks ago, the Muslim influence impacted us greatly. Items that would normally have been included in a fully furnished condo were not included because of Muslim and Hindu food restrictions and requirements.  Muslims do not eat pork and cannot have it touch their dishes, plates, or cookware. And Hindus do not eat beef. Fortunately, a couple of trips to IKEA rectified the issue of missing kitchen accessories and linens.

As a result of Hindu and Muslim food restrictions, the many restaurants and outdoor food courts most popular meat is chicken. Often at a buffet, there will be 3 or 4 types of chicken served with a few veggies and a huge scoop or two of white rice. Additionally, the hotdogs and bacon are made of chicken unless you go to the non-halal area of the grocery store where non-Muslims can get pork products as well as other meats prepared in a non-Muslim manner. At a recent trip to a local pizzaria, the different pizzas offered were: spicy chicken delight, tandoori chicken, ranch style chicken, pesto lovers (with, you guessed it, chicken), bbq chicken bonanza, chicken fajita, mediterranean chicken, several italian and veggie pizzas, a mexican, a greek, and a seafood pizza. Joe has even taken to eating chicken for a while...

non-halal shopping area within the grocery store

non-halal shopping area, you must pay for stuff separately  in this area

non-Muslim grocery area

Reassessing fitness goals

Happily, there are pools all over the place around here. Sadly, I can’t seem to find a swim team to swim with. Naturally there are pools at all the condo buildings in the expat areas because the weather is so hot and humid, but from the condos we looked at, most of the pools are recreational pools meant for lounging and not hardcore swimming like I am used to. A few of the pools did have lines in the bottom of the pool although ours doesn’t. Fortunately (but not luckily, as I wouldn’t have it any other way), our condo has a pool that is just longer than 25 yards, is cool, has straight edges rather than curves, and is 4 1/2 feet deep all over. So I have begun considering mixing in other kinds of workouts to keep me fit if I can’t swim with a team this year. Perhaps it will be a combination of tennis, table tennis, fitness room exercises, and dance classes. We shall see how the year progresses...In the meantime, take a look at some of these pools.

waterfall at Almaspuri (our condo pool)

Almaspuri pool from our 10th floor window

Seni condo pool-Madeline and friend Monica

Mont' Kiara International School pool

Meriden condo pool

other condo pool

Almaspuri condo pool