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This was the year…

…I climbed a mountain. A mountain 4095.2m above sea level, to be exact. In mid-November Mr B, myself and a small band of fellow crazy people hikers tackled Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest mountain (not the tallest in South East Asia as many are led to believe; a range of mountains in Myanmar hold that honour). I’d done lots of practice on Penang Hill, so I started the hike well prepared mentally. Reaching that summit just after sunrise was magical, and the sense of accomplishment was worth every ache of soreness.

I also completed the world’s largest Via Ferrata at Kinabalu, climbing and navigating a vertical drop from 3776m. Let’s just say I wasn’t as mentally prepared for that part of the adventure. I was fine until I went over the edge of the cliff and saw the sheer couple of hundred metre drop below. Cue the panic. I think of myself as fairly good with heights but doing that climb scared the crap out of me. There were plenty of tears shed, obscenities uttered and quite a few “I can’t do this anymore” moments…but we completed the trail. The guide said I wasn’t the worst person ever to do the trail, but I think I came pretty close. And I think Mr B was pretty close to filing for a divorce (I think I really pushed that “for better or worse” part of the marital vows to the limit on that mountain.) In short, I’m glad I did the Via Ferrata, but I will never do it again. I’d tackle the summit again though…

…I became an Advanced Open Water Diver. Mr B and I visited Koh Tao in mid-December to get our qualifications. For Mr B, all he had to do was move from Open Water Diver to AOW. I on the other hand had to get the Open Water qualifications before we could even start on the AOW. My last scuba diving experience in the Perhentians in Malaysia wasn’t the best of experiences, so I went into my Open Water training with plenty of nerves. This time around there were still a few tears and moments of panic, but mostly it was just lots of fun, thanks to Mr B and my awesome instructor, Fabio (seriously, that’s his name!) Swimming amongst the fishes, exploring shipwrecks and “finding Nemo” is the most amazing experience. I hope we can do lots more diving in 2011.

…We did shedloads of travel. There was the big trip around Morocco, Spain, France (well, Paris), England and Scotland; girls trips to Bali and the East Malaysian state of Sarawak; a visit to Hong Kong to watch Mr B play cricket; a few trips to Thailand; a few visits to KL and of course the Kota Kinabalu visit in the east at Sabah. Sabah, Bali, Hong Kong and Thailand (Koh Samui and Koh Tao) were all within the last six weeks or so, hence why this blog has been a little quiet…

So, so blessed to have this rare opportunity to travel so much and I’m loving every minute I can cram into an itinerary. I plan to continue this pattern in 2012 – if I can get away with it.

…I didn’t cook a Christmas dinner. We went out with friends for a buffet lunch at one of Penang’s nicest hotels, the G. I bought cupcakes and gingerbread along to the poolside supper, which was the extent of my holiday baking this year. As much as I loved the all-you-can-eat smoked salmon and prawns (and the roast buffet, and the chocolate fountain…) I sure did miss my Boxing Day leftovers sandwich and snatching mouthfuls of Buche de Noel out of the fridge.

…I did lots of exploring in Penang. I love to drive into Georgetown, attempt to park my car (it can take a while to find a park) and then explore the streets on foot. Happy to say I’ve crossed a few things off the “to do” list I made up, and have quite a few more things to add. That’s a whole other post though.

… I swapped volunteer secretary work for volunteer editorial work, and am so happy with the change. This new role suits me to a tee, much more than the former did. I really need to share some of the pieces I’ve written on here; I don’t see any harm in doing so.

…I celebrated four years of marriage with Mr B. I’m hoping that adorable man will allow me to celebrate at least 40 more years with him 😉

…I had my parents and two of my brothers visit us in Penang. It was very cool to see my folks enjoy Penang as much as I do, but especially my two brothers. With both of them being autistic and intellectually handicapped, I was doing my share of “big sister” worrying before they arrived about how they would cope with the different climate, customs, food, etc. But both of them did brilliantly and enjoyed their visit. One of them, who isn’t known for his huge appetite, even developed an affinity for the local food and would specifically ask for us to go for makan. Awesome.

…Enjoyed a lot more time with friends. Being an introvert, it takes me a while to build up friendships with people but this year, new people have arrived who are now good friends, and friendships started last year have strengthened. I’m so thankful for that. I’ve done a lot more socialising this year, and am definitely happier for it. I hope to savour those friendships more in 2012, as well as build some new ones.

…I gained some of the weight I lost last year. Yeah, I’ve spent quite a few hours berating myself for that. Yeah, I know how it happened – I wasn’t as much of a gym junkie (for various reasons), I did a lot of foodie indulgences on my travels and a few sad moments in the year meant I ate a lot of feelings. But next year I’ll be living spitting distance from the gym and I plan to cycle to the wet markets for my fresh produce. Let’s see how that goes. I don’t want to be focused on a weight measurement or a dress size, I just want to feel strong and healthy. And right now, I don’t feel like that.

…I saw some of my hopes and dreams disappear, and I’ve experienced plenty of sadness because of that. I guess you could say I’ve had to climb a few mountains metaphorically, as well as the physical mountain in Kinabalu. I’ve had to adjust my approach to these particular mountains, and imagine a different summit to the one I initially expected. But life is, as John Lennon famously said, what happens when you’re busy making other plans, and I can’t wait for 2012 and the promise it holds. It’ll be my final year in Penang, and I want to enjoy every moment of it, however I can.

Apologies for the long and photoless post; trying to work out how this new photo uploader on WordPress works. Some days I feel tech savvy, others I feel like a Luddite…

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So it’s been a while since I’ve posted random stories about my life in Penang, travel pictures which make you curse under your breath at me in jealousy, or pictures of food which I’ve tried to pretty up with cute fabric backgrounds. But in the intervening months since we’ve spoken, blogging has been at the back of my mind. I’ve written many a blog post in my mind…it just hasn’t translated into typed text. I wish my brain had a print function sometimes…

(Actually, forget the brain print function. Some of the content in my mind would make you a) blush; b) cry; c) laugh at me; d) purchase a straitjacket and pop it in the post for me with the note “I think you need this”…)

But if I was able to print blog posts from my mind, here’s a snippet some of the content you would have seen in the last few months…

 

Greetings from the Rainforest Music Festival, Kuching! Orangutans, sightseeing and plunge pools by day; eclectic world music, bottles of wine and dancing in the dust by night. Six women crammed into a small rainforest cabin…best girls getaway yet!

 

Can’t believe I’m in Morocco! A long time dream come true…loving the food, the architecture, the handicrafts. Not loving the  shopkeepers who try to drag me by the arm into their stands…or the men who give us the wrong directions on purpose so they can “save us”,  for a price. Send help…and a shipping container. I want to take all the market things home with me!

Oh Chefchaouen, Morocco. You’ve stolen a bit of my heart, you beautiful blue-walled city. Thank you for being a welcome reprieve from the crazy of Marrakech and Fes. I hope we’re reunited again one day…

Hola, Espagne!  My dear Spain, I loved you immediately for having fixed prices and shop keepers who left me alone when I was browsing in a shop. Then you just had to seduce me further with sunny skies, balmy nights, cheap wine amd amazing tapas. You stimulated my mind with stunning architecture and your fascinating, vibrant history. You have daily siestas and consider 10pm “just right” for dinner time – and I love you all the more for it. Send me back with a Babel fish in my ear to understand the Spanish…

 

Paris. Versailles. Macarons. Laduree. Someone please send me bigger pants…

Summer in Scotland…fleeting moments of sun; mostly cool, grey and drizzly. I’m definitely not complaining… this cold weather gal has died and gone to heaven. Driving around this country makes you want to stop every five minutes and take a photo of the breathtaking scenery and spectacular castles. Mr B managed to plan a whiskey distillery stop at every town we visit, and has eaten his body weight in haggis. Send Berocca…and Metamucil…

 

London calling! Can’t believe I’m in this amazing city for a second time in my life…saw the changing of the guard at Buckers (albeit squished into a fence with thousands of other tourists), attempted the British Museum in one day, pretended I was rich enough to shop at Harrods, and crammed in as many West End shows as physically possible. Oh, and I cleared the shelves of the Lush store in Covent Garden. We’re going to need yet another new suitcase…

 

Since getting back to Penang I’ve been developing a few new habits… like a dim sum habit. Loving the company and discovering tasty new places to eat in this fabulous city, but will my body love me back? Perhaps I need to develop a two hours at the gym per day habit while I’m at it…

Mr B’s friends have come to stay…as well as turning me into more of a glutton than normal (so much eating!), they also kindly invited me on a day trip to Hat Yai, over the Thai border. The shopping wasn’t as good as anticipated but hey…I got off that island for a day. That’s a fair accomplishment. The idea I can cross into a different country in one day is still so novel to me…it can take me just one day to cross one state in Australia!

That’s merely just a taster of my recent adventures; I’m hoping to post up some more detailed stories about my travels in the coming weeks (if my selection of recently acquired TV series doesn’t distract me first…) Until then, let’s resume to normal brain transmission….

 

   

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Return from the funk

 

For a while I’ve been stuck in a bit of a funk. The fact I haven’t posted anything here on this blog since Easter is probably evidence of that. There’s been quite a few things going on in my life in recent months, a lot of which I don’t really want or need to share here…

All I’ll say is I’ve been worn down by some circumstances of life; I’ve let little molehills of annoyance turn into massive mountains of frustration. I’m a melancholic person by nature, my tendancy is to focus on the half of the glass that’s empty and worry my brains out about why this is so.

I also haven’t been dealing with the worry and frustration in the healthiest of ways; instead of venting my emotions through exercise and writing, I’ve been gobbling my feelings down my throat. Ah, the double edged sword of comfort eating…it tastes great in the moment, but the aftertaste is always bittersweet.

But I’m hopefully starting to experience a breakthrough from the funk, thanks to two recent events. The first was a chance to catch up with friends in KL for a few days at the end of May. Seeing these friends from “home”  was so nourishing to my soul, words won’t do me justice. It was so lovely to hang out, talk, share meals together and shop until we dropped. Those people know who they are; thank you for your friendship.

The second event which helped break the funk? A holiday to Thailand with Mr B. We spent five days in Koh Samui, with no agenda whatsoever for our time there. We slept in late, sat on the beach sipping cocktails, enjoyed daily Thai massages, swam in Samui’s warm, clear waters and stuffed ourselves with excellent Thai food (and a few well-prepared Western meals too.) We did some planning for our upcoming Europe trip, but that was the most mentally strenuous thing we did. Having so much relaxed, unlimited time with Mr B was a rare treat and I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to get away. It was also lovely to visit Thailand in a fit state of health unlike my first time!

So I’m determined to get back into the swing of things, and hopefully you’ll see lots more blogging activity soon. Believe me, I’ve composed many a blog post in my head, but it hasn’t translated to the screen. It’s about time I gave those ideas life on my blog. I have a backlog of Penang stories and delicious recipes to share, so I’m not short of material.

Thanks for those who have continued to visit me during my absence; all I can say is watch this space…

Photo taken at Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui, Thailand in May 2011

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Hello? You still with me?

Time to blow the dust off this little blog of mine and finally post something for the first time in…ages. Apologies for the inactivity of late, life has been nothing but a whirlwind of activity of late with no time to stop and write (though I so desperately wanted to).

Last time I posted, I had just returned from seeing friends in Kuala Lumpur and was about to head to Chennai, India on a girls weekend away. Boy, I’ve packed in a lot of other countries since then:

But first, let’s go back to Chennai. Visiting India was an incredible experience. It’s a noisy, colourful, crazy part of the world, but the country is beautiful and the people are so genuine and friendly. We visited some fascinating places, ate a lot of delicious Indian food (including chutneys from the best condiment bar I have ever seen) and did lots and lots of shopping. Prices were fantastic, as was the quality of the merchandise and we all came home with multiple purchases. A big thanks especially to Amudha, our friend and “local source” who made sure we were well looked after and saw all the sights to see in her home town (as well as the best shops!).

After India I had just over a week at home, and instead of using that time to optimal advantage for writing and other activities, I took a trip to hospital. Yep, that’s right, hospital. I came down with the worst “virus” I’ve had here yet, and was hospitalised due to a high fever and concerns it could be more than just a bug. This illness completely sucked the life out of me and left me wrecked for days. We even had to delay our trip to Koh Samui, Thailand, because I couldn’t get out of hospital and packed in time to take our flight.

We eventually made it though:

Don’t ask me to tell you what Koh Samui is like. I didn’t really see much of it. Since I was still recovering from my virus, it’s all a bit of a blur. I pretty much just divided my time between sleeping, getting Thai massages and trying to eat (but mostly leaving the plates untouched due to bad nausea). I can tell you those Thai massages were worth every baht though, especially since I was suffering from chronic back pain at the time from sleeping in rock hard hospital beds. I definitely hope to go back to Koh Samui, and Thailand, sometime soon so I can properly enjoy this country (and fabulous cuisine).

From Koh Samui, to Penang, and from Penang, to Vietnam:

This photo was taken in northern Vietnam at Halong Bay, home to one of the most incredible natural wonders I’ve seen in my travels. Our trip to Vietnam was excellent, due in part to the fantastic itinerary designed by our fellow travelling companions. We started in Ho Chi Mihn City in the south, working our way up to Hanoi in the north by plane, bus, taxi and motorbike. I would go back to Vietnam for a holiday in a heartbeat; sure, it has its turbulent history, but the country remains largely untouched by western influences such as McDonalds and malls, and is all the better for it. You get excellent value for money in Vietnam, the food is fresh and flavourful, the people are friendly and there’s so many fascinating places to visit, whether it’s the (mostly) turquoise waters of beachside Nha Trang, the historical “old world” town of  Hoi An, or the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Mihn. We’re definitely planning return trips.

From Vietnam we flew into Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the incredible temples of Angkor:

Before we left on our holiday, we spoke to quite a few people who had previously visited Cambodia and the general consensus seemed to be you can “do” Cambodia in a few days. What a load of rubbish. This was a place I could have easily stayed in for a week or two and not be bored. There’s so many temples to explore at Angkor besides the well-known Angkor Wat, and there’s plenty more to do in Siem Reap besides temple trekking. There’s an excellent landmines museum, the floating villages, as well as just riding around the countryside in a tuk-tuk taking in the sights. Cambodia has a lovely relaxed feel to it and again, I’d love to go back in a heartbeat. We were only there for a few days and it definitely wasn’t enough.

Now we’re back home after returning from our travels a few days ago. I feel like I’ve been out of my routine for months now and am looking forward to a quiet Christmas in Penang with Mr B. But I promise I’ll be back soon…after all, I have many travel stories to share, as well as a backlog of recipes and crafty projects I want to post up!

I look forward to keeping your blog feeds busy in the near future…

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In transit

 

Miss Jane B has been doing a bit of travelling of late and as such, things are a little quiet on the blog front.

Just came back from a trip to KL to see visiting friends and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to catch up with some journo (and ex-journo) friends from home. Got to show a first-timer to Malaysia the shimmering pewter Petronas Towers and also joined my friends on a trip to Chinatown’s Petaling St for some hardc0re bartering.

I must admit though, after 10 minutes of walking down those narrow aisles and being hassled by roving DVD salesmen to buy their “genuine copy” movies, I’m over it. Thank goodness for the air mata kucing stand. I sip my way through a cup of this refreshing dried longan drink and snap photos while I wait for my friends to finish bartering their way to a bargain.

Now I’m home, and packed up and ready to go to Chennai, India tomorrow. Not looking forward to the early morning flight (yes, I should be sleeping now, but…I’m a night owl. It feels unnatural) but the rest of it…can’t wait. So excited to have this opportunity to travel with four other women to see this fascinating part of the world.

I did have plans to schedule some posts to run while I was away, but to be honest…I ran out of time to finish the drafts. The intent was there, at least… but the upside is I’ll have plenty of creative pursuits to show you upon my return, as well as India photos.

See you on the other side of Chennai!

Petaling St in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur. One of the better photos from my recent trip.

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This woman…

…will be heading to KL for an overnight visit on Tuesday to catch up with journalist friends from Australia. Always love the chance to catch up with friends from home so if you ever pass through Malaysia, let me know and I’ll come hang out with you (and make sure you try char koay teow and teh tarik before you leave the country!)

…will be heading to Chennai, India on Friday for five days. The fact this trip is occurring next week hasn’t really sunk in yet, and probably won’t until I’m on the plane. I’m travelling with four other women, some of them I don’t know very well, but there’s nothing like sharing a room or a car for a few hours to get to know people better. Bring on the shopping and sightseeing (but hopefully not the travellers belly).

…will be heading to Koh Samui, Thailand later on in November too. Hoping that particular holiday will be a little bit more relaxing than the first two (and I get to enjoy this Thailand trip with my man).

…is very much going to miss her husband in the midst of the travel craziness. Circumstances and travel arrangements mean we’ll be apart for almost two weeks at the beginning of next month. And we’ll be apart on his birthday too…need to cram in as much couple time as I can in the next few days.

…hopes the orthapedic surgeon tells her she can start hiking again at her next appointment. Ankle has improved, knee is also on the mend. Missing my Penang Hill hikes and Hash runs and would love to get back into both soon.

…can’t wait for the next costume party on our list of engagements for November.

…hopes travelling around like crazy means she’ll lose some weight, not gain some. Also hoping to still squeeze in regular workouts even while travelling (I usually fail on this front. I can only improve).

…has had an interesting week. There’s been moments of frustration and sadness, moments of calm and anger. There’s been sleepless nights and a persistant tension headache. Writing down these things has helped to ease the headache. Thank goodness for the cathartic properties of writing. Now, time to go lull myself into a greater sense of calm with some list making. There’s nothing like a good list to make one feel like the world is in order…

Self taken photo at the Green Mansion in Georgetown, Penang. Love this little powder room set up!    

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