Happy New Year's Day 2011. I don't know if 1 is an auspicious number, but it should be today 1/1/11. My grandfather would have been 110 on 1/11/11. Pretty cool, except he didn't make it. Anyway, we've come to explore a bit of Malaysia over the New Year. Our first impressions (we've been in Penang, KL and today we arrived on Langkawi) are it's a very clean country (at least the cities we've been in) with very friendly people, lush vegetation (especially considering the non-vegetation in AD), and excellent food. Really, who can ask for more? Some of the highlights so far.... the Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang which is comprised of a combo of Thai, Chinese and Burmese architecture (possibly, although I doubt it, the largest temple complex in southeast asia--according to my taxi driver, but certainly the largest buddhist temple in Malaysia), hiking in FRIM (the british-planted rain forest on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur) where we encountered leeches, and the gorgeous beaches of Langkawi (I can't vouch for all of them, but ours is top). The leeches were an interesting event because A. everyone was freaked out and the leeches were popping up all over the place--inside sneakers, under shirts, inside waistbands, B. if you pulled them off you bled like crazy -- leeches secrete an anticoagulant in order to get as much blood out of you as possible by getting you to bleed easily, if you don't want to bleed like crazy you need to light a match blow it out and put the hot tip against the leech getting it to retract, and C. if you do pull them out there is a leaf you can chew and put the paste you create on the cut, getting it to clot; unfortunately I couldn't find the leaf again to save me, AND D. we were of huge entertainment value to the Malaysians around us.
We had an excellent New Year's Eve last night just outside KL (if you're really cool you always say KL) with our Paris friends the McFeeters--complete with fireworks. We returned to the hotel around 2am and were up at 5:30 for our flight to Langkawi. We landed in a beautiful resort. This afternoon they had a snake handler here on the beach with burmese pythons, king cobras and rat snakes. The kids had an excellent time passing those around. While we ate lunch something jumped in a tree and there before us was a flying lemur. They are generally nocturnal and, in fact, she promptly attached herself to the tree and took a snooze. We then bought our fish on the beach from a local fisherman and are going down to the restaurant now to eat it all prepared. Not to bad a start to 2011.