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A round the world trip in more than 80 days.

Why this blog ?

Our aim : travel and discover the world during 353 days and through some fifhteen countries. We are hoping that this blog will allow us to share the experience with our family and friends thanks to the posts and photos that we will be publishing and also thanks to their comments.

Currently ...

now. For the moment, we are gently readapting from nomadic to sedentary life.


Singapore : Durian and skyscrapers

We finally left Malaysia after enjoying several days in Melaka. We found ourselves again in a city staging a multicultural blend and a colonial architecture but, this time, with a dutch touch. As we are not necessarily too fond of old stones, we spent our stay sampling the spicy hybrid food from the little "Makan" (restaurants). At the Indian from around the corner, we treated ourselves to a Roti Canai : a pancake close to the Moroccan "M'semane" and served with Dal (Lentils Curry). A family Chinese kitchen served us a Laksa : noodles, tofu and sea-food bathing in a very spicy coconut milk and curry gravy. To finish with class, we had a Satay Celup, a DIY thing where you cook various type of skewers in a peanut sauce. Definitely, Melaka tasted real good.

Before heading to Indonesia, we did a stop-over in Singapore where we stayed with Bea, a Spanish girl that we had met at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. She graciously offered to host us on a typical neighborhood of the island with its Kopitiam and its hawker center.

We also spent a nice evening with Timothée, a friend from the university, who took us away from the tourist trail to try a tasty chili-crab, a typical dish. Wearing an apron was mandatory if you did not want to say good-bye to your clothes. Then around midnight, he took us through a dodgy experiment which pictures are already on Facebook : he made us try durian. Imagine a creamy substance with a strong garlic taste and a sewer smell in your mouth. This fruit is so popular over there that it inspired the shape of the city Opera. But still, it is forbidden to take it with you on a plane or the subway.

Singapore is a pleasant Hong-Kong : greener and less claustrophobic. It is true that skyscrapers are all over the CBD but Little India, Chinatown or the colonial area around Raffles square can be quite a change of scenery. In Clark Quay, you can even move your body on Cuban or Middle eastern beats. Like in Hong-Kong, most of the population is from a Chinese origin but, as in Malaysia, English is widely spoken, making it easy to chat with the "locals".

Two full days were not enough to visit the city as we were engaged in a race against time trying to get the most of it. We like also to do things the hard way : we have forgotten to take the camera the first day. So the second day, we re-visited some places to take some shots. Unfortunately, the weather was not sunny anymore, but very foggy as in HK.

We liked Singapore even if some find it oppressive with its heavy fine policy, judicial caning and big brother surveillance.

In our case, it is our next destination that sounds challenging. A few hours before our flight to Jakarta where we planned to do some couchsurfing, our host sent us an email to cancel ...


photos: Malaysia

Click on the image below to see some pictures of our trip in Malaysia :


Selamat Datang Malaysia (Welcome to Malasia)

At our arrival in Malaysia, it felt good to recover the feeling of backpacking rather than being in a huge tourist theme park. At first sight, people here look a lot like their northern neighbors, are as kind and respectful as them and even more smiling. But the similarities do not go much further than that. Starting by religious beliefs, where Thais are mainly Buddhists, most Malaysians are Muslims. Many women wear coloured hijabs (headscarfs), although some of them are, at the same time, profusely maked-up, clothed in tight-fitting outfits and walking on top of heels that would probably make me dizzy.

Secondly, a good chunk of the population is of Indian or Chinese origin. Those who were not muslim have kept their Hindu and Buddhist beliefs alive. And, of course, they have contributed with their genes, their clothing and their culinary specialties to the mix, producing an interesting melting pot. While walking around Georgetown, we discovered three adjoining houses, one Muslim, one Hindu and one Buddhist and we ate fried noodles at the rhythm of the last Bollywood success. The ingredients used in the concoction were 'halal'. All packaged products : tomato sauce, water, shampoo, vinegar, jam and even cooking wear seem to be branded 'halal'. In a country were several religions coexist in harmony, this obsession looks somehow an incongruity as the 'halal' seal, in general, only applies to meat. The whole thing feels more of a marketing strategy than a religious obsession but, still, it makes us wonder if the coexistence is as idyllic as it seems.

Malaysia's colonial past has also left its mark in several cities across the country. Being situated along the Strait of Melaka, a strategic passing point of the maritime spice route, first the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the English set their views on the area and conquered it. In the capital, Kuala Lumpur, there is even an administrative district built by the English shortly before the independence, some 50 years ago, following a reinterpretation of Islamic style (similar to what the French did in Casablanca, although the final result is a bit different).

The country seems to us quite developed. Cities have got abundant greenery, its share of shopping malls, flea markets and museums. Not being junkies of the latter, we actually enjoyed our visits to the National and Islamic Art Museums, as well as the Planetarium in Kuala Lumpur (as a bonus, they saved us from spending outside the hottest hours of the day). Still, overall, despite the charm of colonial towns and the awesome sight of Petrona Towers we think that Malaysian cities are more interesting than impressive.

We also spent a good part of our month in Malaysia in the countryside. The Cameron Highlands, in the heart of the Peninsula, allowed us to get away from the oppressive heat of the coast and spend a few days among tea plantations, strawberry-growing greenhouses and evening downpours. Then, after the bustle of the capital, we flew to Malaysian Borneo, where all the star attractions are related in one way or another with nature. We found ourselves one more time cruising along a 'gringo' path, although this time one almost exclusively populated with people traveling for a few months.

A good part of Borneo is covered by jungle, even if it is difficult to believe it when confronted to endless extensions of palm-oil plantations. We spent a couple of days in a camp in the banks of the Kinabatangan river screening, from a boat or on foot, the sparse jungle spread along the river in search of orangutans, Proboscis monkeys, birds, frogs and other animals. After just a few minutes under the intense humidity of the place we were a sweaty mess. But since using the muddy water pumped from the river was as unwelcoming as sharing the bath cabins with the hairy spiders living on them (or alternatively with the crocodiles living in the river) we preferred to stay filthy and console ourselves thinking we were living the 'true wild experience'.

Back into civilisation and after a short visit to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, we moved to the surroundings of Mount Kinabalu. Most people come here to hike the 8 kilometers of steps leading to the mountain top. The number of climbers per day is limited, the price quite exorbitant and since nevertheless we still remember so vividly our Colca Canyon experience, we decided to walk instead along the trails at the foot of the mountain. A very nice hike indeed, even if we had to keep an eye in our boots and trousers checking for leeches. Due to the rains of the eve, we were warned that the little beasts would be lurking around. True enough, the only time we stopped for more than a few seconds, Karim caught two of them climbing up his boot.

Along with the orangutans, the other reason that took us to Sabah was to dive in Sipadan. The site is classified as one of the best diving spots in the world and we enjoyed the beautiful corals, giant turtles and reef-sharks, even if the famous huge barracuda school did not come to meet us. We dove as well in the less known Mabul because it was a condition set by the diving shop for them to take us to Sipadan. It turned out that, although the place is not as beautiful or the fishes as big as in Sipadan, the variety of aquatic fauna is much higher in Mabul and I personally enjoyed more my dives in there that in its glamorous neighbor.

Malaysia has been our introduction to Muslim Est-Asia. We will continue exploring it in our next destination, Indonesia, that we will reach after a brief stop in Singapore.