About Me

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I finally made it to the adventure of a lifetime and now I'm a citizen of the World. Indy author, blogger, in love with being an author - Mom of two grown children and widow of the most wonderful man to ever live - Devon "Pete" Hall.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Travels with Ian

Ian, my new friend.
Many people, even the residents of Ipoh, Malaysia, questioned why in the world I’d want to spend time in this “small” town of 700,000. One young hairstylist commented, “There’s nothing to do here.” Since Ipoh is not a typical tourist destination, I understood what he meant, but often people are blinded by familiarity.
One amazing mural

Fortunately for me, not everyone feels that way. A very interesting young man, Ian, loves his hometown and spent four hours with me over two days proudly showing me what it has to offer… a lot. I’ve been having problems with plantar fasciitis in my left heel, so trudging through several of the attractions was off the table, but he took me to see some of the things your average tourist wouldn’t see. This is just the type of experience I’m seeking in my travels.

Kek Lok Tong temple cave
Ipoh is a town made rich in the 1920s and 30s by the mining of tin. Fortunes were made but the industry has long since seen its heyday. There are still wealthy people here, some from the riches of their mining history; the lovely residential areas with their tree-lined streets and decorative light posts that center-divide the thoroughfares giving evidence of that fact.

The garden beyond the cave
Ian drove me through the Old Town, weaving through the back streets to show me some of the murals Ipoh is famous for, treated me to an iced white coffee (also something for which the town is noted) and included a ride into the hilly countryside to see temple caves, the most outstanding of which - Kek Lok Tong - burrows through the mountainside and opens into a tiny valley that has been transformed into a Japanese garden. It was awe-inspiring and deserves more time and attention than we could give it that day.

Concubine Lane
Day two was a lunch date at a well-known cafĂ© on the infamous Concubine Lane and a trek to the deserted grounds of the Iskandar Polo Club, which hugs a limestone hillside. I really loved the watercress and roasted pork over rice - an incredible flavor - however, arriving at a verdant polo field (I’ve never seen one before) and strolling over to the pond where the only other people were fishing in the shade of a towering cliff of limestone was the treat of the day. Here I could picture coming to fish myself or simply sitting in the quiet for hours on end.

To say I had a satisfying tour by a true local is to understate the experience. I had two days of adventure with a generous and intelligent guide who took me on out of the goodness of his heart. My deep thanks to you, Ian.

Watercress and roasted pork - YUM!

Lunch at Restoran Wong Koh Kee
Another fabulous mural! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Diary of a Train Ride

The train station in Chumphon, Thailand.
It’s almost 8 am on January 11th and I’m fed – a meal of chicken soup, coffee and juice - my berth is made up and I’ve got a few hours to kill on the train to Malaysia.

I boarded last night at 10:45 to a sleeper car fully made up and most of the passengers either asleep or trying to reach that state. I noisily settled in. To me, it seemed as everything I touched crackled. It took about 15 minutes to find the right placement for my duffle bag – at my feet – and fish out the overnight necessities like bottled water. Then I settled back as the train began to move. 

The aisle from my berth.
I have to admit that being inside my little berth was a lot like when I used to make “forts” out of blankets draped over kitchen chairs. The feeling of childish joy was intense.

The rattle and sway was not what I’d expected. It was louder and the movement was from side to side rather than the up and down I’d imagined. Just as the rhythm seemed perfect and I’d snuggled in under the comfortable terry blanket provided, I heard “Ticket, please.” It startled me. I found a train conductor peeking at me through a crack in my privacy curtains. I stuttered out a reply and undid all my nesting to find the ticket, lodged safely in my passport. 

That was my last interruption before sleep took me. After all, I had had quite a day of anticipation. And it was a restful slumber, too. I heard and saw the lights of the stations we didn’t stop at and those we did, but none of it disturbed me. I managed to continue sleeping, even waking myself up with a loud snore at one point. (Probably too much information, but that’s how I roll!)

Inside my berth
This morning, roosters of a different kind than I’d become accustomed to in Chumphon, began to crow at around 5:30 a.m. A group of Asian gents sat perched on their berths chatting away. I know because I peeked out at them around my curtain. Most everyone else was still hunkered down though, so I rolled over and snoozed for another hour.

Ah, as I write this we are being told the board crossing is coming up in ten minutes. That means packing this laptop up, gathering my bags and dragging them through Thailand’s exit process and Malaysia’s entrance procedure. See you soon!

Ok, I’m back – an hour later. It’s almost 9 a.m. and we arrive at my stop – Butterworth, Malaysia – at around1:30 p.m., so I have a little time to relax, enjoy the ride and hopefully get a little more writing done. 

Train station in Malaysia
Update! My train got into Butterworth 3 hours early! Nice surprise.

Before I go, I want to share these thoughts with you. While this sleeper train ride hasn’t been quite the romantic romp I’d imagined as a kid, it HAS been so much fun and so worth the time. I’m not in a hurry in my travels so I’m going to go by train again before I leave SE Asia. Hopefully I’ll manage a sleeper train ride again. Maybe I’ll see you on the rails!

The same aisle during the day! Other direction though.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Snorkeling from Chumphon

My favorite shot from Chumphon's community park
I was looking for a quiet place to settle in after noisy, busy Bangkok and the touristy party-town of Patong Beach (Phuket), both in Thailand. I was also looking for a good place to catch the overnight train to Malaysia. Chumphon - at the top of Thailand's southern peninsula - fit the bill – and how!

First, I enjoyed my 8 days in this quaint, smallish town; discovering the lovely and peaceful town park, stumbling on a tiny mall (where I had incredible Hawaiian pizza) and walking to the train station to check it out. All of these minor activities, combined with a comfortable and welcoming hotel, made my stay exactly what I needed…and then there was the snorkeling!
Love this picture of me in the sparkling water

I kind of half-heartedly signed up for the snorkeling excursion, partly because my snorkeling in the Philippines had been so disappointing and I didn’t want to spend the money on that kind of experience again.  At my daughter’s urging, I went for it and I owe her, big-time.

The trip was totally awesome. We took the plunge, face mask and snorkel in place, at four different islands, each of them very unique. We saw tons of fish, bright blue anemones the size of dinner plates and giant clams as well as incredible landscapes, some with homes secluded on these remote islands.
This is just one of the locations where we snorkeled!
I took a different kind of plunge! There was a slide onboard, for entering the sea in a bit more majestic fashion than backing down a set of stairs. I was the only passenger who chose to fly into the water via the magic blue portal (the slide) and I was by far the oldest of them all. I was more than a little proud of myself. I did it twice!

So, a few days of peace and quiet among the real Thai (not geared up for the tourist trade) and a fabulous day of adventure equals a huge thumbs up for Chumphon! It may be just what you’re looking for.

My big splash!

My fellow snorkelers

Just gorgeoous