Took about 4 hours monday afternoon to drive up to the Genting Highlands. At the border we had our temperature checked leaving Singapore with little throw away strip thermometers and then again a kilometer later with a thermal camera at the Malaysian customs. The highlands are about 50 km from KL and are high enough to actually be cool so serve as a break from the heat for local tourists. There isn't much there except a cluster of hotels, a casino, and a small amusement park. We stayed in the New World hotel, one of the largest in Asia with over 6000 rooms (only 3000 parking spaces however :). Had a Malay buffet that evening and then did some gamboling in the casino where I won 100 RM, about 25$ US, but nonetheless kept the win streak alive past the dangerous 13 mark. Next day went for a ride on the cable car, about 4 km up and down the mountain and then after touring the casino floor, but not finding any open tables we gave up and headed for KL. Malaysia follows the custom I found in Australia where the casino lets people bet in others boxes. This lets up to three play each hand and encourages a large group standing around the table and lets the house not run nearly as many tables. I hate the idea as I have no interest in just putting money down on the table while someone else makes the decisions about play and it makes it hard to find a chair and become primary owner of a box (i.e. the guy hitting or standing). The casino was also almost exclusively spanish BJ instead of normal since it gives the house better odds. They did have interesting tables like War which I don't understand how the casino got a advantage.
KL is of course a big crowded city and we drove around for a while trying to find the Backpackers Inn where I stayed for the night. After the girls dropped me off and I got my room I went for a wander around town and eventually took the railway to the Patronis Towers for some pictures. Watched it rain that evening as it winds up doing almost every night and the next day got a bus to Penang. I walked to the station about 1/2 hour early with a pre-bought ticket and one of the locals put me on a different bus that was already leaving. How they work out the tickets I have no idea, but it was a nice bus with huge seats and leaving earlier so I didn't care. Took about 6 hours to get to Penang, finally crossing a 3km bridge from the mainland and into Georgetown. I took a taxi to Chinatown and got a room in the Blue Diamond hostel. Not much to say about Penang, it is nice enough and reminds me of Thailand with all the cafes playing movies on the TV at night. First night was hot, and I am not used to the heat after Australia and then airconditioning in Singapore so I wimped out the next day and moved to a air-con room at the Hotel Ping Hong. It doesn't look like I am going to spend much time in Malaysia anyway and I still have lots of Ringet left. I am sure I would get an argument from many (not of course the people back home who will probably never come over and form an opinion), but I don't have much interest in staying in Malaysia. I hear the beaches are better in Thailand and in general the culture/setting/whatever seems very similar so I think I will move on without staying a week. Most interesting was the vernacular up Penang Hill overlooking the town and canopy walk at the top. A swinging rope walkway through the treetops similar to the Skywalk in Tasmania only ropes instead of steel. After coming back down and a walk around waterfront I booked a minibus to take me to Krabi this morning. This morning of course I decided that 8 was too early to get up so I stayed in bed until 1. I will try to leave again tomorrow morning (Sun :). The stay here did give me a chance to see a bad copy of the Hulk which I didn't really like, and gave me cheap internet so I could update my website and get current. Anyway off to Thailand tomorrow and Hurray to my brother Joe and his wife Christi who just found out they are having their second son.
So long Malaysia...6/29/03