BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for the 'postcard: Malaysia' Category

« Home

it’s surprising he came with us at all

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Krakow, Poland

“We should take a picture for Grandpa!”
”And one of the sticker too”
”I know! Why don’t you put it on your ear?!”

It all started in Mongolia. We stayed in gers, and gers are not renowned for having very high doorways. Even though he cognitively knew this, poor ol’ Grandpa would knock his head almost every time he came out of his ger, something you do fairly frequently due to the fact that there is not a lot to do inside one of those tents other than keep the fire stoked. Unfortunately for Grandpa, he does not have the protective covering on his head, called hair, and in its place ended up with both a large lump (making him effectively taller than usual and so even more prone to knocking his noggin) and a nasty graze, that turned the stomachs of anyone, who saw it uncovered. Whenever Martin, the big burly ranch owner, saw Grandpa, he called out “Duck duck rubber duck!” – but deep down I’m sure he respected the almost-eighty-year-old man for actually managing to swing himself up on a horse. More than once.

(I *could* insert a picture here as proof of the horse mounting, but it ain’t all that elegant)

That was the beginning. After that, any surface that *could* be used to graze the head, was. Bunks on trains. A suitcase lid. A kitchen bench.
Then there was the motorhome. Again, there was a slightly lower than usual doorway. Donk. And there was a bed in the canopy, which was at just the right height for knocking your head on as you went from the living area through to the cab. Donk donk.
Grandpa looked like he would not be scarred for life, but permanently grazed.

There was not too much to be done about the doorway, but the alcove donking-ground lent itself to some solutions by kind-hearted grandchildren. First of all a piece of foam was fastened to the fairly sharp edge. But it didn’t last. Neither did it work – graze number who-knows-what was scraped in spite of the foam.
Next the kids studiously coloured a danger warning strip black and yellow. Failed.
Daughter-in-law found a pinecone and hung that, embellished with some heather to make it look like an intentional decoration, a bit lower than the edge. It got knocked about a lot, but at least it didn’t leave a graze. No-one knows where it disappeared to or when, but one day Grandpa found himself grazed again.

In desperation he went to Canada, where he was certain he would be immune from such experiences. Turns out it wasn’t to be, but the funniest episode of all happened en route.
In an email Grandpa described the scene succinctly, never one to exaggerate:
“BTW I munted my cell phone – cracked the screen so I have to look for a new one tomorrow.”
Rob’s sister, who was travelling with him, filled in the hilarious details:

You’ll laugh when you hear how he damaged his phone.  We were walking around town taking  photos and had found a quaint medieval street called The Shambles.  The buildings lean over the street toward each other and Dad leant up against a building to get a better angle when he was clonked by a large sign that fell off the wall as he leaned against it.  He quickly stopped it from falling onto the ground and hooked it back up though it was a precarious hold.  He then leant against the same wall to get the same photo as he had been unable to previously and the sign not only fell off the wall it clonked him on the head and fell to the ground.  I turned around just as he was picking it up and putting it back up for the second time!!  As he did a bit of a shuffle when he got clonked he must have leaned against the wall and the hire car key must have pressed hard up against the screen of the phone which broke the LCD display.  It looks like a picture of a shattered window!! 🙁 

After two weeks Grandpa returned to us, still grazed.
More of the same (and we visited some cool castles and mountains).
But in the end he went home! Where he fell off his bike three times in a month, his account of which brought much laughter to our hostel room across the other side of the world.

And so when we were at the Wieliczka salt mine with its reasonably frequent red and white danger stripes on low ceilings and some without any warning whatsoever, our thoughts did not have to move far to turn to Grandpa. He’d have loved it!

But what about the sticker?
That story goes back even further.
In 2001, we were in Malaysia for a family wedding.
We also went to a butterfly park, where we were issued with a little tag on a rubber band for attaching to our cameras to prove we had paid the camera fee. Grandpa had missed that part of the entrance instructions, and so when Rob told him he had to hang it over his ear, he did. Unquestioningly. We saw a good many butterflies, scorpions, lizards and other miscellaneous wildlife samples before he realised he was the source of our out-of-proportion enjoyment at this particular attraction!
We had almost as much fun with the Wieliczka sticker – aren’t memories grand?

Now you know.

South East Asia Summary

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009


Hours spent on long-haul trips: 212
Longest bus trip: 11 hours (with two twenty second stops and one 15 minute one)
Longest boat trip: 2 days down the Mekong
Longest train trip: 43 hours (Saigon to Hanoi)
Favourite transport: elephant
Types of transport:

  • Aeroplane x2
  • Bicycle (2 tandems, 8 solos, 3 tandems with extra seat)
  • Boats
    ~bumboat x3
    ~ferry x4
    ~glorified canoe x1
    ~hydrofoil x1
    ~junk x1
    ~paddle boat x4
    ~slow boat x3
  • Bus x26 (both local and express)
  • Cyclo (high-seated Phnom Penh variety) x4
  • Elephant x4
  • LRT x3
  • Motorbike x4
  • Private car x5
  • Taxis x24 (need three at a time in “civilised” places!), Taxivan x1, Taxitruck x3
  • Tow truck x2!!!!
  • Train: daytime x1, overnight x3, Skytrain x1, Underground train – but multiple trips x2(Singapore, Bangkok)
  • Trishaw (low-seated Penang sort) x3
  • Tuktuk x25
  • Vans x15


Number of places slept in: 31
Worst guesthouse: Phonsavanh (too many rats for us to sleep a wink)
Favourite: couchsurfing in Hanoi (thanks S&T!!!)


  • R&R: Luang Prabang
  • Jboy13 & Mboy6: Malaysia (it’s a food thing!) – oh yes, Rob too!!
  • Jgirl 14, Kboy11, Kgirl10 & Lboy8: Malaysia and Thailand for the food,
                                                       Luang Prabang for delightful character (not food!)
  • Tgirl4 & ERgirl2: whatever the last person said



  • * Mekong sludge river weed
  • * crickets (crunchy)
  • * live huhu grub (yes, singular – well done Kboy11)
  • * black chicken (sounds OK, but it’s the only thing we only took one bite of – each)
  • * buffalo stew (not that unusual, though the hairs take a bit of getting used to)
  • *  deep fried baby crabs (just like potato chips)


  • Singapore: if you stand anywhere near the curb, traffic will stop to let you cross
  • Malaysia: no-one walks anywhere – everyone drives
  • Thailand: in Bangkok it’s best to wait for a break in the traffic – they don’t stop
  • Laos: pedestrians outnumber motorists and all are polite – hardly any cars, just bikes and tuktuks
  • Cambodia: step out into the stream of traffic and it will swerve behind you – scary, but true – but look all ways as traffic goes in every direction and traffic lights amount to nothing more than pleasant suggestions
  • Vietnam: pedestrians do NOT have right of way – EVER. Not even on the footpaths. Be especially careful in Saigon; traffic anticipates lights will change and takes off even if pedestrians are crossing the road – it is unbelievable – they also regularly drive the wrong way up the road!


  • Singapore dollar
  • Malaysian ringgit
  • Thai baht
  • Lao kip
  • Cambodia riel (not real!)
  • Vietnamese dong
  • Biggest rip-off: US$120 on Cambodian visas that were actually free


  • Jboy13: motorbike exhaust burn
  • Kgirl10: dehydrated and non-specific Cambodian virus
  • diarrhoea (from Mama’s one instance to Papa’s multiple recurrences)
  • Tgirl4: big black unknown flying something sting
  • Mboy6: walking stick in gut
  • allergic reaction rash and headaches for the girls, which all disappeared once we learnt how to say “No MSG please”
  • unexplainable fevers of 40 degrees for a few days at a time for various ones
  • mosquito bites
  • warts, nits: these things just don’t go away!


Temperature range: from only just above freezing overnight in the mountains of Thailand to something that broke Jboy13’s thermometer in Malaysia
Oldest lady met: 105 years
Number of New Years celebrated: 4 (Lao, Hmong, international, Vietnamese)
Number of birthdays celebrated: 4


Monday, February 2nd, 2009
by Rachael Hanoi, Vietnam


We had been expecting to hear a bit more English in Vietnam. Not sure what gave us that idea, but we had it all the same. And it was wrong. In our ... [Continue reading this entry]

she might only be two…

Monday, January 19th, 2009
by Mama Phnom Penh, Cambodia ...but the opportunity to travel is not being "wasted" on her. One thing that has surprised us about our youngest is her recognition of details. After even only one time visiting a place, she will tell us ... [Continue reading this entry]


Saturday, December 6th, 2008
Luang Prabang, Laos A simple graphical journey of reflection on our trip so far, two calendar months on (actually, just an excuse to use some of our favourite reflection photos)....

Singapore Quay Area 002[Continue reading this entry]

no room at the inn

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
by Rachael Luang Prabang, Laos As we prepare for Christmas, we are seeing the story through new eyes. We now have a fuller understanding of going door-to-door looking for a place to lay our heads for the night. When we left NZ ... [Continue reading this entry]

B is for……

Friday, October 31st, 2008
by Rach  Bread

penang breadmaker

Taking a late afternoon walk, a traditional western bakery caught the children's attention. As they drooled over French sticks and dark brown rye loaves, the door opened and ... [Continue reading this entry]

traditional trade trail

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Rach writes

trades trail 4

When in Ipoh, Cousin Chris gave us a brochure containing three self-guided walks in Georgetown, Penang. We covered a fair bit of the first couple on ... [Continue reading this entry]

living on stilts

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Rach writes

stilt village 12

stilt village 1

stilt village 4

At the end of ... [Continue reading this entry]

amble * ancient * azan *

Monday, October 27th, 2008
Rach writes No rain for a few days and the heat is stifling again. We pushed our way through it to Fort Cornwallis. On every street corner and partway along each lane was an historic building of some significance, most ... [Continue reading this entry]