Thursday, April 18, 2013

P: Oh, the places you'll go!

This is my contribution to the A to Z Blogging Challenge, in which I'm focusing on overseas destinations I've visited.
P: Port Dickson, Penang, Pangandaran, Paris, Preston

Port Dickson, Malaysia (December 1988)

We arrived in Port Dickson by bus from Melaka, and we walked 15 minutes in the hot sun to a low-budget hotel. The room had an attached bath, but with only cold water. Best of all were the steps leading down to the beach below. We found that anything we ordered in the hotel restaurant took up to an hour to arrive, but we were in no hurry...and it was worth the wait. One evening we had a fantastic dinner of chicken curry and steamed groupa, and another night we had sweet & sour fish, prawns and onions, and chicken with cashews and chilis. We swam next door at a beach club owned by the same people who owned the hotel, but one day Mike spied a peeping tom peeking through the fence at me swimming in the pool. Being a Muslim country, I suppose the Malaysians were not accustomed to seeing women in swimsuits. That creeped me out!

Most of our few days in Port Dickson, we spent being lazy. The only other unfortunate incident was that my swimsuit, which had been drying on the porch, was pulled away and mauled by dogs! Very upsetting. I can't remember if I ended up finding a replacement suit elsewhere in Malaysia.

Penang Beach, Malaysia (January 1988)

The beach in Penang is actually called Batu Ferringhi, but I forgot to include it in my Bs. When we first arrived in Batu Ferringhi, we stayed at a fancier hotel, because the place where we wanted to stay was booked. It was much more upscale than we were used to. The beach itself was packed with people, most of them probably rich. Lots of people were parasailing, wind surfing, and water skiing. We found the end of the beach to be more secluded with nicer water. The one highly unpleasant thing that happened there was as we were walking down the beach, we saw a middle-aged Malaysian man sitting with his legs wide open, totally nude, with a huge hard-on...probably getting excited by all the women in bikinis and a few topless sunbathers (lots of Europeans frequented Penang).

Mike in the hotel pool

We had dinner out one night, and as we were walking back to the hotel, we heard Japanese being spoken. Mike got so excited listening to the Japanese that he stepped in a big pile of cow shit, which was really mushy after a recent rain. Of course he was wearing flip-flops at the time! So he had to walk into the fancyish hotel wearing only one flip-flop and carrying the other. Made me laugh so hard!

A few days later we checked into the Lone Pine hotel, a few stars down but also half the price. The Lone Pine has since been remodeled, and now it's REALLY nice! This is what it used to look like:

We found that the sea was not that nice in Penang--there was a little tributary that ran into the sea, presumably from the town. It smelled foul and was not very clear--probably raw sewage! In general, we found Penang to be too touristy for our tastes.
Beach from Lone Pine Hotel
On the beach
Sitting on the veranda relaxing--I'm wearing my hand-painted Malaysia shirt,
which I actually still have!
On our last night in Batu Ferringhi, we treated ourselves and went out for a nice meal at a restaurant called the Ferringhi Village. It, too, must have changed its name over the years.  

Exploring the town

Nice dinner our last night in Penang

Pangandaran, Indonesia (August 1989)

View from our bungalow
Pangandaran was one of my favorite off-the-beaten-tourist-track places we visited. (Judging from the Internet, it's definitely been "discovered"!!) It's a little fishing village on the south coast of Java, Indonesia. We arrived there after an unpleasant, smoky third-class train ride from Bandung. Nearly everyone was smoking, and few windows were open for air. It was nearly unbearable! The train also had a constant barrage of sellers and beggars, including a few guys singing, playing the guitar, and asking for money of course. We were exhausted as soon as we arrived in Banjar, where we were pounced on by minibus touts, two of whom nearly kidnapped Mike until I rescued him! As I wrote in my journal, "I think it overwhelms him so he just lets them lead him!" Reminds me of how our kids do the same thing nowadays!!

When we arrived in Pangandaran after a very crowded local bemo ride, we were assaulted by another horde of becak (cycle rickshaw) drivers, who charged us way more than the going rate. We must have looked like complete and total suckers! We stayed at a place called the Panorama Hotel, which was right on the beach and extremely laid back. It was the cheapest place we had stayed up to that point, I think around US$3.50/day, and it included a delicious breakfast! We had a nice little porch with a perfect view of the beach, only steps away.
Our bungalow kind of looked like this...
View from the beach
Pangandaran was much more of a fishing village than a beach resort at the time...the sand on the beach was very black and not that clean and littered with garbage from the fishing boats. The food in Pangandaran was incredible--local, fresh fish every night, gado gado (Indonesian salad), nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice)...and every morning we woke up to the waves crashing against the shore, instead of the obnoxious, loud call to prayer that we heard everywhere else in Java. Although one morning we were woken up at 4:00 a.m. by loud fishermen setting their boats out into the sea!
Fishing boats everywhere

Each morning we'd find breakfast left on our front doorstep--either a wonderful tropical fruit salad sprinkled with lime juice and coconut, or banana pancakes topped with chocolate sauce and peanuts. Best breakfast ever! We enjoyed Pangandaran's lazy, laid-back attitude so much that we decided to stay another night. During our last night in the town, we went to a local seafood restaurant where we chose a fish to have the chef cook in butter sauce--it was amazing! We made friends with two local boys who were trying to sell Jakarta newspapers. It was so sorry to leave Pangandaran...especially because the following day was our worst during our travels in Indonesia...
Our friends the paperboys

With Mike
Paris, France (August 2011)

We visited Paris right before 9/11...we took the chunnel from England to Paris, which was exciting. I had booked a one-bedroom apartment in Montmartre, so we took Mike's mum along with us. We had a wonderful week walking all over Paris and taking the Metro the rest of the time. We walked poor Olga off her feet, I do believe! What we were not aware of is that while many Parisians leave the city in August, the rest of Europe descends. (Smart Parisians...)

We bought crepes in the supermarket and warmed them up in our (tiny) kitchen, and Mike would often get up early to go off to buy fresh croissants for breakfast. 

Buying cheese in Montmartre

Having lunch in a little cafe on our walking tour

Chris takes the camera...
Windmill in Montmartre
My favorite thing about Paris was the gorgeous bridges across the River Seine, especially the elaborate Pont Alexandre II, which is gilded in gold:

View of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower

In preparation for our trip to Paris, I had read Hilary Mantel's A Place of Greater Safety, a historical novel about the French revolution. I often read books about places we travel to--helps me understand the spirit better. In Paris this was particularly helpful, as it made the history come alive for me!

Cleopatra's Needle and the Place de la Concorde,
at which 1,119 people were beheaded,
including Marie Antoinette, King Richard XVI,
and Robespierre among others
You may be shocked, but we didn't actually go into the Louvre--Paris was very crowded at the time, and we figured that with a five-year-old, we wouldn't have much time to enjoy it!
Time to return!
Mike with his mum and Chris in front of the Louvre
On the Champs-Elysees, in front of the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon
We went to an extremely crowded and famous market on our way to the Eiffel Tower, and because of the massively long lines, we decided to walk up into the tower instead of waiting for the elevator.
View from below

View from above

Mike and Chris on top

Another view

Me and Chris
Amazingly, right in front of the Eiffel Tower we met a friend and his wife and son! As I mentioned writing about Delhi, we have a knack for running into people we know when we travel. Dan had taught with Mike at Kinki University the first two years, and he lived one floor above Mike in Fuse. We hadn't seen him for years, as he had been living in various places since leaving Japan. His son, Finn, was close in age to we all rode the carousel in front of the Eiffel Tower. Somehow I failed to get photos of them!

Mike on the carousel
Carousel in front of Sacre Coeur
 Paris had lovely antique carousels, and that was most definitely Chris' favorite thing about Paris!
On a night-time boat trip down the Seine, in front of the tower

Our flat in Montmartre was just downhill from Sacre Coeur, a beautiful Catholic church that overlooks the city.

In front of the Sacre Coeur
Street entertainment

More street entertainment
Although we shied away from most Paris museums (figuring we could return when Chris was older), we did spend a day at the Rodin Museum, much of which was outdoors.

Front of museum

In the back gardens
The Thinker

In front of the Calais Burgers
Gates of Hell

One of my coworkers suggested that we seek out the church of St. Chappelle, which has stunning stained-glass windows, and we were not disappointed.

Most beautiful church I've ever visited!

And then of course we had to visit Notre Dame, which was crazy crowded because of some feast day...but stunning anyway!

Somehow we happened upon a moving memorial to the 200,000 Jews deported from Paris during the Holocaust. It was hidden away behind Notre Dame.

Underground memorial
One of our last days in Paris, we surprised Chris by taking him off to Paris Disney for the day. As far as Disney parks go, this was my least favorite...mostly because of the rude continental European tourists (ran into those at the Eiffel Tower too) who did not stand in queues and pushed ahead to get to the front. That does not make for a pleasant theme park experience! Also, I found the park to be extremely dirty at the end of the day, unlike American Disney parks. But Chris, of course, loved it...even the musical shows, which were mostly in French. I did enjoy the backwards Indiana Jones ride (which in 2004 was set into forward motion again), but it made Mike sick!

At Paris Disney

Most of the time we ate cafe food, but we convinced Olga to watch Chris one evening so we could have one adult evening out. We had an amazing high-quality French meal in Le Restaurant, which was walking distance from the flat. We had a lovely week in Paris with our little preschooler Christopher!
In front of my favorite bridge!

Preston, England (August 2004)

In addition to visiting Mike's Aunty Gena in Liverpool, we also visited her up north in Preston for her Jubilee celebration (50 years of being a nun). Mike's brother Ed and his family also came from Australia for the occasion. It was a very fun time spent with family, and it turned out to be the last time we got to see Mike's Aunty Gena, Aunty Helen, cousin's daughter Jenna (who died tragically a few years ago) or Aunty Kath (she is still alive but doesn't go out in public any more). Those nuns and friends know how to party!

Mike's brother Ed with me and little Kieran in the background

With Aunty Gena, a very blonde Kieran, and my sister-in-law Shemara

Mike twirling our nephew Mark around outside the convent

And Chris this time

Love this photo! They truly loved to laugh!
L to R: My mother-in-law Olga, Aunty Helen, Aunty Gena, Aunty Kath, and a friend
Cousins' daughters--Emily, Jenna, and Briony
Next morning before we left Preston
Visit here to read my A-O posts. Tomorrow, it's back to England.


  1. I remember Indonesian beaches just like your photos. I travelled there with my mother in the 80's. We stayed at the Hyatt. The kids constantly pestered us when we went out and I had 'Bali Belly' for the whole two weeks. And Paris. Your photos brought it back. I stayed in the city with my daughter and her boyfriend and he showed me all over the sights.
    A - Z Challenge

  2. Fun! You must have experienced a more ritzy Indonesia than we did! How wonderful to have a Paris tour guide.