After nearly four weeks in Malaysia, we bid farewell to Penang a couple of days ago and had a quick two-night peak at Kuala Lumpur.

Highlights from the last couple of weeks:

-Tropical Spice Farm visit:  Enjoyed a scrumptious lunch on an outdoor terrace overlooking the sea while monkeys frolicked on the branches overhead.  Afterwards we toured the lush and mosquito-laden gardens on the site of a former rubber plantation.  Zara’s highlight was a real-life version of chutes and ladders.

-Suffolk House: Restored mansion of the former founder of Penang, Francis Light.   Not a popular stop on a tour of Penang’s must see sights (we were the only visitors during our tour), but Jonathan was intrigued by the promise of a colonial mansion. I was less confident that it would be entertaining to a 5-year old, but I was hoping it would offer a tasty snack as we had skipped lunch.  Both our hopes were satisfied.  The mansion tour was happily self-guided and an interesting look at Penang’s colonial styles (especially for the 2 1/2 Brits with me) and the proper (and filling) English Tea in the garden afterwards put grins on all of our faces.  Until the mosquitos hit with precision on all exposed body parts.

-Cameron Highlands: We waffled a bit on whether to make the 4+ hour car journey to the Cameron Highlands for just one night, as Z and I are prone to car sickness.   I finally booked a room at Hotel De La Ferns in Tanah Rata for Sunday night, and then we spent two days debating the best way to get there, as the prospect of being stuck on a bus with carsick child didn’t appeal (see below for why).  We ended up hiring a guide, Gary, an extremely chatty but affable Penangite of Chinese descent who was fluent in at least four languages.  We didn’t plan to hire a guide as we thought we were simply hiring a minibus driver to take us to the Highlands and back but, as I noted, Gary had a way with words.   It turned out to be a wise decision, as Z was struck by severe stomach cramps towards the end of our tour of the Boh Plantations.  Some kids get quiet, needy and cuddly when sick. Ours gets loud, dramatic and angry.  The anger tends to then spread like a contagion through the family as we all turn on each other trying to calm her down.  Fortunately, Gary proffered up a Chinese herbal concoction that seemed to do the trick within a couple of hours.  Still, that scuppered our dinner plans.  The next morning we hunted for Jim Thompson’s “Moonlight” bungalow, which proved to be surprisingly difficult to find and (once again) we were thankful for Gary’s resourcefulness.  Jim Thompson (in case you are as uninformed about him as I was) was an American business, former spy and successful silk trader who mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highlands in 1967 while staying at the Moonlight bungalow.  His disappearance has never been solved and has spawned many conspiracy theories due to the odd circumstances of his disappearance (including the murder of his 74-year old sister a few weeks after his disappearance).  Our visit ended at the most incongruously-located Starbucks I’ve visited to date in Tana Ratah.

Mary’s visit: We all thoroughly enjoyed playing host to Zara’s granny for the past two weeks.

Kuala Lumpur:  Our visit was far too short as there was so much on offer at this impressively modern and clean city.  The Petronus Towers were spectacular, especially at night.  We happily (but unintentionally) crashed the free appetizers and drinks offered for hotel guests (we were staying elsewhere) at the lounge of the 32nd floor of the Traders Hotel.  Zara enjoyed cooling off in the water park on the KLCC after our aquarium visit.

What I’ll miss most about Malaysia: The food, especially the roti canai.   I don’t think we experienced a single bad meal and several were superb (and incredibly cheap).

What Zara will miss most: Being “famous”.  She has quickly taken to having her photos taken with strangers wherever we go.

What I won’t miss:

Burqas.  I never got accustomed to the sight of the full burqa, worn by the Arab visitors who frequented the streets, restaurants and beaches of Batu Ferringhi.

Unexpected experiences:

At least 10 mall visits.  I despise America’s mall culture, but something about the air-conditioned interiors in the stifling heat and English bookstores proved very alluring as we made our frequent trips to top up our SIM data plans.

Getting far too inebriated with the owners of our apartment rental at Bora Bora beach bar as Jonathan kept pace with a former London cop who outweighed him by at last 50 pounds.

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