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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Muse Hangs Out in Melaka

 A bridge over the river from the cruise boat.
I have loved Malaysia in general, but I have truly found a restful, yet interesting town in Melaka. I’ve been in town for about two weeks now, and managed a couple of days of sight-seeing. The pictures below will show you what a fun place it can be, but honestly the best part for me is that I located my muse again in the suburbs of Melaka (or Malacca, depending where you look). 

Some dear friends may remember that I named my muse Shirley a few years ago, and she’s been pretty good at alluding me in the past couple of years. Oh, she’d show herself, maybe peek around a corner, just long enough for me to get an idea, but somehow slip away when the writing got to be real work.
Shirley's favorite hangout!

Well, she’s resurfaced and I’m pretty sure she’s bragging with her other muse friends about how she dragged her recalcitrant writer half-way around the world is search of her. Well, credit where credit is due - she did, successfully. 

Melaka has proven to be an oasis for me. There is just the right amount of things that are new to me to keep me interested and the perfect combination of comfortable, familiar stuff to make me settle down in my little hotel room and write. 

Wonderful shopping on Jonker Street
I do love sight-seeing so that’s been nice, but also experiencing such a diverse community of cultures keeps me on my toes. I heard a low droning noise last evening and realized it was the Muslin call to prayer. Now, I’ve heard this sound in Cambodia and other parts of Malaysia, but I realized in that moment that I find it rather soothing, in the same way that church bells make me joyful. I am not religious myself, but I find that the traditions of religious institutions often speak to something in me. 

J's Corner staff!
When I was staying in the Old Town section of Melaka, I happened to find a little café – J’s Corner – with a good selection of Western-ish food choices and since I’ve about exhausted my ability to constantly try new foods, I ended up eating there once or twice a day. I got to know the servers and on my last day there they asked to take a picture with me and then refused to let me pay for my meal. I doubt that any of them were over 30 years old and some were much younger, so our ability to relate to each other was a wonderful surprise. I have had so many wonderful experiences with people all over Southwest Asia, but this is a topper.
Jonker Street -Chinatown marketplace

Malaysia, in general, is very welcoming. There are a lot of Malaysians, especially the older generations, who speak beautiful English, because the country was under British rule for so long. But even if they aren’t fluent it is a rare bird that doesn’t try as hard as he can to speak with me. In every country, there have been those who you can just tell are irritated by the whole foreigner thing and don’t we have the same thing in America?
Colorful transportation in tourist areas.

One of the things that struck me very quickly is that it takes no more than a couple of days before you begin not to notice head scarves. They are such a big deal is other parts of the world, including my own country, that I was surprised how easy it is to become used to something completely enigmatic to us. Now, I rarely seem to notice unless the woman is wearing one with some bling to it. Yes, they do exist, sparkly headscarves, and I am a victim of the “sparkle effect” – anything that glitters gets my attention. I see the occasional burqa here as well and, frankly, it is a far different experience.

But getting back to Melaka and my flighty muse Shirley, she’s here and apparently she’s staying for a while and so am I. I plan to stay in this same hotel for at least a month before I head to Bali. Besides working hard on the first draft of my new book, I am launching myself as an online researcher and freelance writer (at ridiculously reasonable rates!). So my blogs may be a little less exploratory, but I’ll try to keep the flavor going!
Another picture from the river cruise!

A'Famosa - remains of the Portugese era
See you soon on these pages and if you happen to be in Melaka, look me and Shirley up!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kuala Lumpur – Shining City of Malaysia

My writing spot in the mall
Night in Chinatown
As I write this, I’m sitting next to a giant terracotta figure in a nice mall in the Chow Kit area of Kuala Lumpur, one of the prettiest cities I’ve been in yet in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has taken a tad of getting used to because of its distinct multi-culture, dominated by Muslim sensibilities. Oddly, it is the most different from the other countries I’ve visited and at the same time the most westernized in its infrastructure, especially Kuala Lumpur. 

This is a city of sparkling new sky-scrapers, an ultra-modern mono-rail system and highways that look like they are also brand-new or nearly so.  However, I spent six days in their wonderful Chinatown, where very little is modern. If it wasn’t for the designer apparel for sale in most of the vendor stalls along the streets, this could be a throw-back to the 60s. 
Lion dancer performs before an excited crowd

View from KL Tower
Today is my last day here in KL (as the natives refer to it) and I feel like I got a good, intimate look at the city. I rode the mono-rail, the free city bus and the tourist Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. I walked a few streets in the Chinatown area and discovered two temples; one was my first Hindu temple, an amazingly beautiful building (if not as elaborate as the Buddhist temples I’ve seen far and wide). I rode the elevator in the KL Tower to the observation deck 250 feet up and looked out over a hazy maze of giant buildings. I couldn’t perceive the pollution from the street and it’s nothing in comparison to cities I my own country.

Lovely old buildings are revered here too
I spent 6 nights in a perfectly pleasant hotel in Chinatown, but changed to a dismal dump because I thought I should expand my horizons and didn't know it was a pit. But the change did get me next to the Quill City mall, which has provided me with good meals, a movie and a bunch of experiences talking to locals during my hardship. I'd insert smiley face here if this wasn't a super-serious blog.

The Bird Park – Aviary – was something I couldn’t resist but probably should have, however, again  you don’t know until you know. It was very much like my disappointing experience in the Chiang Mai Zoo. Not many varieties of birds led to the same feeling of being cheated. 

Inside the Hindu temple
The transportation hub KL Sentral
There truly are at least 20 other things to see and do here, which I didn't get to. Just observing such a gorgeous, well-designed city is a real treat. So, I’m off to Melaka next, taking a host of memories with me. 

If you get to Southeast Asia, make your way to Kuala Lumpur! You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cheating on Penang

Loading on the ferry
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now but shame kept getting the better of me. You see, I really did cheat on Penang Island. 

Plantar fasciitis had already begun to get the better of me and so…once I got on the Hop-on-hop-off tourist bus I only got off long enough to finally have something to eat. Otherwise, I stayed on the bus not getting off to “see” the tourist attractions. I know…shame on me.
Another ferry and the view

But, I have to tell you that this was one of my best days. It started on the ferry to Penang (I was actually staying in Butterworth, thinking Penang would be too busy for me. Not a valid concern) which was 1) incredibly cheap at $.30 for the ride over and free for the ride back 2) a great view of the island from offshore and 3) I love a boat ride.

Next, I met a taxi driver on the ferry and he convinced me to take his cab to the nearest HOHO bus stop – a mistake because the nearest stop is right outside the ferry terminal. However he took me to Fort Cornwalliis, which had just recently been taken off the route (I’m sure he had no idea) and I had a great time walking the interior, getting my picture taken in prison and having the best coffee of my trip yet at a little café inside the fort. 
Fort Cornwallis

Let me tell you a bit about that coffee. I like my coffee with 3 sugars and 3 creams – sweet and light – so I doctored the cup they brought me but the color did not change – at all. I thought ‘Oh, no!’ but I found the taste was just right – luxuriously rich. Shows what we think we know isn’t always what is.

The start of the beach leg of HOHO
So next I was off to the post office to mail my postcards from Hai Long Bay (back in Vietnam) and that took a bit of walking, then trying to find the nearest HOHO bus stop was an exercise in futility as the taxi drivers hate it (it’s recently been inaugurated) and misdirected me each time I asked. I finally had to get a taxi to take me to the nearest stop – which it wasn’t – and then, at last, board the bus. Yay!

From here it was nothing but great. I did both tours – the city (Georgetown) and the beach – in one day. Saw lots of a beautiful city – entirely livable even for Westerners – and a glorious beach route. However, the beaches that are accessible to tourists are small, unless you stay at one of the big hotels – Holiday Inn, etc.
A beautiful residential section

I highly recommend this method for at least an overview of the city. If you’re healthy, there are plenty of stops to get off and enjoy.

So – in conclusion – a big thumbs up for Fort Cornwallis (and the coffee), the ferry (whether you need to or not) and the HOHO bus (which cost 45 ringgits for the day – equal to $9.45 – for a 24 hour pass).

My bes beach shot

Malaysia continues to make me happy!