My 15-day Thai visa ran out again so I have decided to go to Malaysia for a few days to leave the country and therefore renew my visa. I took a bus and train to Georgetown on Penang Island.
Georgetown is an old colonial city established by the British. The first thing you notice about Malaysia is that it is much wealthier than Thailand. It is also cleaner and as part of the British commonwealth English is common. More of a multicultural society, there is quite a significant Muslim population, many ethnic Chinese and Malays as well.
One high-point of Georgetown was meeting a local artist, Shafarin Ghani ( www. Inggsakuraromanticism.synthasite.com). I saw an exhibit of his work and it was especially nice to talk to someone with the same drives and interest as myself.
After Georgetown I headed southeast to the Cameron Highlands. This area was one of the main draws of Northern Malaysia for me. It is a Tea plantation area at elevation giving it a mild climate that hovers around 20 degrees centigrade (about 70F). After sweating for the last 6 weeks it was a nice change.
I did rent a scooter here and it was the first and only time in Asia that someone wanted to see a driver’s license before they would give me a scooter. It also was the first one that came with Liability insurance. Ah, civilization.
This was also the area where the famous Jim Thompson disappeared. Thompson was an entrepreneur and former military intelligence officer who helped revitalize the Thai silk and textile industry in the 1950s and 1960s. His former residence is a museum In Bangkok. Thompson mysteriously disappeared while going for a walk in the Cameron Highlands
I then took a bus down to Malacca, an old Portuguese trading port even farther south. Malacca has a pretty historic district and Chinatown. But for some reason very limited sidewalk space (this was an issue in Georgetown as well). One thing I glimpsed here that I really regret not pursuing was a workshop where a Chinese man was making this enormous kite. Also in Malacca you found western style malls, as well as a Starbucks and McDonald’s.