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Issue 13 - August 2000

Issue 14 - December 2000

Issue 15 - February 2001


Whew, what a break I've had from this site! Pretty bad show on my part, wasn't it? Never mind, I'm back, and since everybody is getting into the festive mood (well, I think it started back in September to be honest), I'll go completely off track and devote this month's column to the delights of Malaysia.

The most obvious place for any outsider to begin exploring is the official tourism page at The problem is that 'official' in this part of the world, means 'take what you see with a pinch of salt.' But that's the problem with anything a government anywhere in the world puts together. Mix together 2 tablespoons of flour, add egg and butter, and just the merest hint of bullpat, and there you have it. Freshly baked spin.

Malaysia is actually in two parts, the peninsular region, which sits between Singapore and Thailand, and the Sabah-Sarawak region on the north coast of Borneo, which lies further east of the peninsula, and below the Phillipine Islands. The latter region is more isolated and rural, while the other part is much more developed (perhaps too developed, if my previous visit was anything to go by). The capital, Kuala Lumpur, sits in the middle, made obvious to visitors by the world's tallest building, the Petronas twin towers, rising above the thick smog that is a regular feature to this part of the world.

That's not to say that there are no beautiful places left here. To the far north of the peninsula, the island collection of Langkawi sits disparately off the west coast, facing the warm waters of the Andaman Sea. While further down, the more familiar tourist spot of Penang island offers more in the way of nightlife and er, not much else. Both are accesible by ferry, although Penang now has a road crossing, for the impatient ones.

The country is a veritable pot pourri of cultures, religions and food. Now we're talking. The sheer variety of food available in one country is beyond belief. And with the average meal costing the equivalent of a few quid, it's amazingly cheap. My favourite is chicken satay - Small pieces of meat on sticks, served with sweet peanut sauce. Marvellous. Don't try the frozen versions found in the west - it's nowhere near the flavour of the original!

So, how to get there? Two options - by sea or by air. Those who want to take the leisurely route can go via companies such as P&O World Cruises. For air travel, the best airline by far for value for money is Singapore Airlines. With all the recent stories in the press about 'economy flight syndrome' it's always wise to not glue yourself to the seat for 14 hours (that's best left for UK public transport) but to stretch the legs occasionally.

Other carriers include Malaysian Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Gulf Air, and many other big names. They will all fly you to the capital. For destinations such as Langkawi, Penang, and Sabah-Sarawak, you'll need a connecting flight, which varies in length from around an hour, to 3 hours for Borneo. After such a long flight, you'll want to test the waters. Since you're going east, jet lag is not nearly as bad as going west.

To finish off, this country is well worth a visit. Provided that the general air quality is good, any visitor to this part of the world will be rewarded with a memorable experience that feasts on all the senses.

Some further general links can be found below. In the meantime, have a very happy Christmas.

Other links

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