Saying Goodbye and Flying Away.

Coming full circle I write this sat in the Concorde Inn, Kuala Lumpur. I start up the story again with the last few days of our stay in KT. It seemed to have flown past! It seems rather surreal that we are going home again.

The last few days in KT were really special. They started with a leaving party being thrown for us in the office, this was a few days before we actually left, but another member of the office was leaving, so they decided to combine our parties! This party consisted of a lunch and a cake iced with our joint name Jelly printed on it alongside Lionel’s nickname, turtle uncle.

This was then followed by a photo session. The evening was made all the more lovely by Yanti taking us out for coffee in China Town, we then proceeded to go and grab some food, Yanti, Nisa and Millie got burgers and I got an ice cream before sitting on the beach under the moonlight through the clouds looking like candyfloss, chatting away about life the universe and everything until midnight.

We fell into our beds and after spending the following day at INOS, we were presented with numerous gifts a beautiful hand stiched seahorse, beautiful pencil holder and an I ❤ Terengganu fridge magnet. We also composed an article for INFOCUS the INOS magazine, it was, rather soppy! Our evening was then like an extract from the Great British Bake Off; we did actually watch an episode of bake off whilst doing the baking, baking being making 3 lemon drizzle cakes, a victoria sandwich and an apple and cinnamon crumble.

The following day and our last day at INOS was one of definite mixed emotions. Our presents went down really well and the food went down even better! We also taught Achap how to use a microwave, I know, he really didn’t know. This was all alongside being fetched more food, that we must try before we leave KT!

Yanti then appeared, whisking us off to lunch with her and Nisa. We returned to the restaurant by the seafront, eating and chatting away, whilst the sun shone and the waves crashed onto the sand. Yanti then asked us if we wanted to go and bath Jelly before they would drop us back at INOS. We eagerly agreed, relishing the opportunity to see Jelly for the last time before we headed home. Oh how I miss animals! We chatted and dried damp kittens with towels, having lots of cuddles with the 3 strays that Yanti had rescued before heading back to INOS. It was really really sad saying goodbye to Yanti and Nisa. They have become such close friends and it was really hard saying goodbye to them both. Hugs were given along with demands that we stay in touch, we then returned to the office, to be presented with more gifts.

It was with sadness that we spent the last afternoon in the office, the people had been, beyond lovely to us, welcoming us like family, into their lives, whilst we have been in KT. It meant a huge amount to us, making a stay that was, so far away from home, feel distinctly, less isolating and less scary. We could not emphasise enough how these people, have made our trip so much better.

So it was with a lump in my throat, that we said goodbye to them all. From the laughs, to the food, to playing badminton outside in the evening, just because, these moments are some of the ones I will never forget. It was nice to give them little gifts as a thank you.

We were however also ready to leave, having completed all of the work we had planned to do, travelled all over KT, worked long days and had a variety of stressful moments, both Millie and I, were ready to go on our little holiday trip we had planned to Penang. We would go for 3 days and stay in a hotel, by the beach and chill, before heading back to the UK.

We left INOS going out to dinner with Dr Jarina, she is head of the international work at INOS and took us out for my favourite the deep fried seafood, further up the coastline. She was really nice, chatting to us about the uni, whilst encouraging us to eat more and more, consequently I was stuffed by the end of that meal! It was her PhD student who dropped us back at Lucy’s, her PhD student who was one of the Lucy’s daughter! It is such a small world!

Our last evening at Lucy’s was spent packing, we had a lot of stuff to pack! We also spent a large portion, deciding which clothes or items we would leave behind, we had to try and keep the weight down in our cases! The following morning we were picked up by Ira a lovely lady, who had given us a few lifts into INOS the previous week when Dr Wan was away. We were given a gift of a lovely compact mirror from the Lucy’s and had a photo with both of them before wrestling our cases into the cars.

Ira gave us both a turtle that had a personalised message on the underside from her, they were so cute! We arrived at the airport, meeting Dr Wan, Acaq and Yana. They took us for breakfast at the Secret Recipe restaurant nearby, after Dr Wan had made sure we checked in and sorted our bags out. She is so lovely to us and definitely deserves the title our Malaysian Mum! We were then bought breakfast, and taken to security after a photo shoot and waved off. Millie and I stifled the tears as we went straight to the gate, got on the plane and flew to KL. All within the space of about 1hr 15 minutes.

At KL we then killed 3 hours, before boarding our next flight to Penang. Also on time and with no trouble, we landed and  retrieved our bags, mine was the first off the plane! That never happens! We hopped into a taxi to where we were staying, the Hard Rock Hotel, Penang!

We spent 4 happy days at the Hard Rock Hotel, mostly eating, sleeping, drinking cocktails and wine. Simply put we just totally chilled out for a few days. It was bliss! We thoroughly enjoyed the ‘swim up’ bar, to which we did indeed swim up to! Millie read my favourite all time book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khalid Hosseni and loved it! We listened to live music every night and went and had, what can only be described as the best Chocolate Brownie I have ever had, although the portion was so huge I just couldn’t finish it, although I really did try!

We sadly checked out of the Hard Rock on Sunday, flying back to KL, although it was with great amusement that we were sat outside our gate, for a good while, before the plane turned up only 30 mins before we were supposed to be flying out of it! The fact that we then left on time, was quite frankly astonishing! We bumped down in KL and negotiating the airport like pro’s, got on the shuttle bus to the Concorde Inn, where we were going to stay for a day before flying out to HOME! Needless to say, I am now looking forward to going home! So much, Malaysia has been amazing, but I am looking forward to seeing my family!

Goodbye for now, I will give you all one last update when I get home!

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Tables, Graphs, Katy Perry and Roast Dinners

So this is it, I am writing this sat in Penang International Airport, you know what that means, we are headed for home. The time we have spent here seems to have been put on fast forward for the last week. When I left off with you guys we were heading back to INOS for our last week before we went on our short trip away, and now, we are literally less than 48 hours away from being home.

Our return to INOS on Tuesday was followed with many, “Hi, your back!” and “How was your trip?” from the gang in the office. We answered all of their questions and chatted for a while before falling easily back into our now routine. We gained a lot of headway through the data we had been given, me plotting endless graphs to demonstrate species and monthly changes in sighting data. Millie compiling a mammoth table of all the different species, with relevant articles about each of them and the numbers of sightings. We both added and changed our report, or compilation of thoughts that we were writing, forming what was a quite well reasoned argument towards data collection and recording differences between Malaysia and the UK. This was obviously punctuated with trips to the hostel cafe, a good two hour chat with Doctor Saifullah about what we had been doing.

We also, after saying to Yanti in passing, that we would cook her some English food, ended up serving, an English Roast Dinner, with all the trimmings, alongside a vast quantity of Apple Crumble, to, 11 people. This was alongside the food that Yanti prepared as well, which was really lovely, though a little spicy, for my delicate taste buds. Millie and I gave each other a hi five upon completing this task, feeling rather proud at our achievement.

This meal was alongside meeting one of the several kittens Yanti had rescued off the streets, who was quite frankly adorable, we were informed that they would name her Jelly – a Bradgelina equivalent mash up of mine and Millies names, Jess-Milly Je-lly it was really rather cute, making Millie and myself feel, more than a little chuffed.

After the meal and pudding, which went down better than the mains, (Millie and I discovered that pudding was not a normal occurrence in KT, but definitely something that was enjoyed!) we headed to, wait for it, Karaoke.

Right I know what those of my family are thinking upon reading this, what they have told me for most of my life, I sing like a strangled cat. This however didn’t seem to bother our friends, as they met us in what I would describe as the equivalent of UK bowling alleys, it’s not the best analogy but bear with me. Karaoke, in KT is separate rooms with, a screen for selecting songs that was similar to that of a bowling alleys, thing that you enter names with, you paid for the hour, and the room was yours to dance and sing away in till your hearts content. These lined a corridor like that of lanes at a bowling alley also. Millie and I soon got over our nerves about singing, jumping and dancing away to songs such as, Firework by Katy Perry, I Got a Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas, Waking Up in Vegas also by Katy Perry and Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. We also did a rendition of Olly Murs, Heart Skips a Beat, that got lots of whoops when Millie completed the rap section wholeheartedly. It was a lot of fun and luckily our bad singing was not as detectable as one may have thought, so atleast when I sang all of the glassware remained uncracked for that part of the evening.

Exhausted we crawled into our beds that night, however no lie in, no no, Millie and I the following morning headed off to… Tmn Tamadan, the ‘theme park’ in KT, this park contained a selection of replica mosques from around the globe, I thought it would be a good idea to rent bikes to cycle the park, mostly for novelty value more than anything, however Millie was, not a cyclingly gifted, proceeding to break bike numero uno, get her trousers trapped in bike number two, and regularly crash into hedges and bushes. It was, amusing to say the least. Returning back to the Lodge we slumped in our usual spots, continuing to make the 3 sets of English bunting and for the first time I had ever tried, made, successfully, Vanilla Fudge, to give as a gift to Yanti on our departure. We headed back to INOS for the last few days as well to be greeted by the return of Dr Wan who gave us a lift home after seeing us. Bless her!

Got to go now very amusing thing happening with our plane, tell you about it later!

Seasickness, Surveys, Sightings and Singing!

After writing the last post at a lightning quick pace, we had to scoot off to get the bus pretty sharpish. Yanti had said to meet at 8pm to get the UMT bus, waiting outside INOS, destined to take us the quayside, where we would join the RV Discovery. This route was a little more direct than the one we had taken to the ferry terminal, we were dropped at the quayside next to the Heritage Resort and Spa. This was sadly not where we were going to be spending 5 days, it was made even more bittersweet when we discovered that the facilities on said boat were, less than perfect, we ended up consequently, going 5 days without a shower, using a lot, of dry shampoo!

I digress, after jumping a rather large gap onto the Discovery and settling ourselves, very proudly I might add, into “Scientist Cabin Number One”, that made us feel official alright.

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We hopped back off the boat and popped for Teh Tarik at the local bar/cafe/restaurant, mostly so, the physical oceanographers, who we were tagging along with, could watch the football. Typical men. We got chatting to them before and after the football had finished, heading back to the boat, which was then followed by several card games, Millie and I tried to teach the crew how to play ‘Rummy’ they referred to it as ‘Grummy’, I did keep trying to teach them the different way of pronouncing it but then gave up after a while, it was clear we were getting nowhere. Then at a rather early hour, we commuted the very long distance, across the corridor, to our cabin, where we retired, rapidly falling asleep in our rather comfortable beds.

Waking the following morning at 6:45am, rather groggily, Millie and I grabbed some breakfast, Millie grabbed hers only briefly, bolting under the rapid, overwhelming seasickness she felt. I cleared away the pots, before going outside to find Millie shaking by the starboard side. She was clearly not doing well with the motion of, the Aluminum made boat (we were warned in advance, that it was, unstable in the water, however we didn’t realise quite how unstable that would be.)

Deciding that the plan for going back inside wasn’t wise, we headed up to the bridge. Surveying wasn’t on due to the rain, even though it could hardly be called rain, it was a drizzle/mizzle combination, that which at home, we get for 2/3rds of the year!

A pod of 30 dolphins entertained us however, just as we were waiting to go back on survey, they appeared jumping and swimming just past the rear of the boat. Cries of wonder escaped my lips as I watched my first, real, wild dolphin sighting. This was followed by 5 days of sitting at my favourite position, the bow of the ship, I only impersonated Titanic once.. maybe twice.. okay lots of times, scanning for dolphins, porpoises, whales, turtles, any mariney thing really that we might see. Over the 5 days we saw, excluding the original pod of 30, 2 more sightings, one of a group of 3 dolphins, 2 adults and a calf, feeding on the artificial coral reefs, and finally a pod of 6-7 bottlenose dolphins bow-riding. We stood in amazement all of the three times, feeling so privileged to see all of the amazing creatures. The dolphins were not the only company we had on our adventure, we saw numerous huge jellyfish, flying fish that were bright blue and could have passed for birds followed us, the beauty of the flat calm seas and feeling so out in the wilds, spending hours upon hours looking and scanning from the horizon to see if we could see any dolphins was both peaceful and tiring, we were quick to fall asleep every night, despite the many films we could have watched with the crew we found ourselves going to sleep earlier and earlier and waking up as late as we dare before starting survey!

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Days were full of food, laughter, music both sang and danced to, much to the people on the bridge of the boats amusement, (We didn’t realise they could see/hear us!) Evenings were filled with a huge array of films, though our only choice, Jurassic Park, didn’t seem to go down as well as expected. I was taught how to play the malaysian card game Pia Pia Pu, which I proceeded to win on my first attempt, winning requires being the least rubbish over a 20 game stretch! It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact I had a helping hand, from one of the very good Pia Pia Pu players… much… 10615442_10154507195160720_5957756061253339688_n DCIM100GOPRO

It all became a happy, tiring blur really so when we landed back at port on Sunday, it was a shock to feel solid ground beneath our feet.

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Unloading the Discovery and packing it all onto a trailer, heading back to INOS to unload everything before our stay in the J Suites Hotel overnight as there was a wedding going on at the B&B.

The J Suites was fun, it had a shower, which was all Millie and I really cared about at that point in time, a call from Yanti that evening inviting us to go for dinner and coffee was well received and we proceeded to have a lovely meal in Tappers, an actual restaurant, with menu’s (not much of which was available for purchase, it was mostly SOLD OUT) and tables inside a building! Sufficiently stuffed a wander along the seafront allowed our food to digest before heading down ‘Turtle Alley’. An alleyway with turtles, made out of pieces of mosaic tiles, all along the sides and information about the different species to act as an educational tool to the local people it was the prettiest information board I had ever seen!

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Coffee was then consumed, my more sensible, Cappuccino, containing vastly less caffine, than Millies americano, which proceeded to keep her up until 4 in the morning, unable to sleep. All in all. a lovely but very tiring trip, filled with memories that will stay with us. Now only for a short week at INOS before we head on our adventures again, this time to Penang for a few days of relaxation, before heading back to the UK. Our time here seems to have flown by, I can not believe we will be heading home soon, it doesn’t feel like many days since we arrived, but feels so long ago that we were in England that I guess it really is drawing to a close.

Magical!

So I write to you from the B&B, we are briefly passing through here on our way to join the team on the RV Discovery Research Vessel for a week. Having just returned from our visit to Chagar Hutang.

We left for Chagar Hutang at 10am from INOS, travelling on the convoluted route to the ferry terminal. Informed that we had an hour and a half before getting the ferry across to Redang, I was glad that I brought my book to read! During this wait, Millie and I purchased some more water, settling down to patiently wait. We were greeted during this time by the rest of the crew from our office, they were returning from their weekend on Redang. They were supposedly educating the tourists with regards to Malaysian wildlife conservation, whilst staying in the plushest hotel by KT; Laguna, sounds like a lot of work to me!

We boarded the ferry after passing through what was basically a bus terminal, complete with uncomfortable metal seats nailed to the floor, we travelled down a long pier to the boat, which we then boarded. It was rather large and had aircon, which I found, rather bizarre for a boat, but apparently that is a thing in Malaysia! 

After sitting and watching the world go by for over an hour and a half, we arrived at Redang Island. Then rather cooly, instead of leaving the boat by the normal exit we took the VIP exit leaving by boarding another boat which was sat behind the ferry!

As if the day couldn’t get more fun, we had a 20 minute boat journey around the island to reach Chagar Hutang. The only way to describe the island, is that it literally looks like those pictures you see in magazines. Perfect sandy beaches, palm trees and beautiful clear seas, in other words, like those beaches that don’t look real, that was Redang Island! It literally took your breath away! 

Landing on the shore, we walked up the beach to a hut where the volunteer centre was. Then after being told to put our bags in a shed and a short briefing, we made ourselves at home. Basically Millie and I wandering around in wonder looking stunned at the beauty of the place!

Ambling the length of the beach, it was easy to see why the turtles loved the place. The sea was shallow and to the right a large coral bed made up half of the sea. Compared to a rocky outcrop to the left. The sand itself was made up of small coral fragments, this was gorgeous, although a little treacherous to walk on at times, stepping on rather sharp coral fragments was quite painful, for some reason though Millie and I didn’t seem to mind, I can’t think why. 

The next discovery was the baby turtles in a couple of tanks just off the beach. They contained numerous baby and young turtles, mostly for research purposes. There were 3 post-graduate students that were working at the research place at the moment.

After much ‘Ahhhing’ from Millie and I, we were told about how protected Chagar Hutang is. The beaches on Redang Island after many a battle with the government are all classified as turtle sanctuaries. Also only one boat was allowed on the beach at Chagar Hutang, the SEATRU’s (who we were working with) one.

Sitting out and reading our books under the shelter of the trees for a while. Millie and I marvelled at the only noises being from; the turtles sat behind us, the noises of the birds in the sky and the sound of the sea and trees swaying in the breeze! It was truly beautiful! Moving to the sands, we sat looking at the sea for a while, before joining Kirat on the rocks chatting to her for a couple of hours, until dinner was served. Dinner consisted of rice, with meat and a sauce alongside a chinese esque soup. It was very nice, even though a little spicy for my sensitive taste buds. 

Then discovering the hammocks by the camp, Millie and I sat chatting and swaying in the breeze on these, until Awin approached us saying,

‘you guys want to see a turtle?’

Scrambling to our feet as quickly as we could, Millie and I raced to the beach. Met by the sight of a green turtle on the sands, making her way up the shore to the softer sands at the top of the beach, in a very slow graceful motion. 

We stood, wordless and breathless as we watched this, then to be told another turtle had landed just a bit further down the beach. Millie and I expressed looks of wonder at each other both momentarily lost for words. Which for anyone who knows me will know is a complete rarity. A lump formed at the back of my throat as we looked on, watching one of natures most private moments, feeling completely privileged and so unnecessary simultaneously. We waited until the first turtle was settled and digging her nest or pitting as it was referred to by the staff. Before wandering up the beach to see the second turtle. The next few hours consisted of watching the sand fly as the turtles both dug their nests, the sky darkened, revealing ontop of all the already magical parts of the evening, a sky full of too many stars to count and shooting stars every minute or two. It was then that we were asked if we would like to release some baby turtles? Millie and I couldn’t believe our luck and when I was passed a tray full of baby green turtles, rescued from excavated nests the babies hadn’t quite made it the first time, I guessed I was holding around 10 maybe 15 babies, yet when Millie quickly took a photo of the babies we could see, the box contained around 30-35 babies! Gently tipping the box to the side we released and helped all the babies into the sea. 

We were told we could go and take a closer look at the mother turtles, being allowed to see her lay her eggs in the sand and touch her briefly, as she was far too busy to care at that specific moment in time. We also watched as she was measured, tagged and the eggs were counted. The exact position of the nest was pinpointed with string, to allow for excavation later. 

Sitting and watching the stars as the mother turtle made her way back to the sea, another turtle landed on the beach, making her trip up the beach too. Too amazed for words, Millie and I fell reluctantly asleep by accident, whilst watching the stars! The following morning we had breakfast, before snorkling over the coral reefs, taking in all the beautiful fishes, including a puffer fish along with many others, sadly then departing heading back to the mainland, visiting Laguna resort briefly.

Millie and I were both incredibly sad to leave, what was undoubtably, one of the most magical places and experiences I had ever visited,  but were also looking forward to our week long survey that was about to take place! 

Sun, Sea, Sleeping and Sightseeing

The weekend started by an awfully, embarrasingly long sleep! We clocked 14 hours of eyes closed slumbering and I can honestly say I have never slept better! This was then followed by a slow wake up and wander around the house. We decided at around lunchtime that we would head for the beach! With towels and water in hand and flip flops at the ready we headed down to the coast! It took a grand total of about 10 minutes to reach the sea from the B&B, not too shabby, if I do say so myself! 

We reached the beach passing a few little food places and getting an even greater amount of stares than normal, we figured this was probably due to the fact we were walking. It has not escaped our notice that here, no one appears to walk or cycle anywhere, this is especially evident in the lack of pavement and often means you are walking on the grass verge next to the road. Due to this fact Millie and I hastened to the beach as fast as we could, and what a beach it was!

Beautiful white sands and empty seas greeted us as we were the only two people on the entire beach! We rushed straight for the sea, mostly to stop the burning of our feet on the white hot sand! To be greeted by water the warmth equivalent to that of bathwater. Needless to say, we stayed in the sea for what felt like a really long time but with no watch or phones with us, we weren’t quite sure how long!

Satisfied with having swam enough for the moment we flopped onto our towels and read for a while, simply enjoying the peace and quiet! Cooled by a sea breeze and relaxing we didn’t really anticipate the strength of the sun! This was to our surprise when after retuning to the lodge in the late afternoon we discovered a, rather, redish tint to our skin, brushing it off as just a sun-kissed look we were even more surprised when later on in the evening our backs had gone a rather violent red colour. Oops, is the only word that seemed to come to mind, as we both covered ourselves in aftersun, watching an episode of Miranda to distract from the burning of our backs. 

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The whole beach, to ourselves!!

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The sea was as warm as bath water!

We rose late again the following day, this time with purpose in our minds as we prepared and then left to explore the KT Museum, apparently the biggest Museum in the whole of Asia! Proceeding to wander round all of the 3 floors of the museum, where strictly no photo’s were allowed, we viewed everything from old clothing and ornate wood carvings to traditional boats and toucans!

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‘Not taking photos’

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This was the nice big one outside that you could stand on and look cool!

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The Toucan!

 

Stuffed full of culture and positively boiled to a crisp from the heat, Millie and I retired back to the lodge after discovering that the river cruise we were planning to get from the jetty in the museum, to the “Theme Park” collection of Mosques from all around the world, was not only not at the jetty but no information was placed anywhere to indicate any times that the boats might or might not appear. This was what we have come to expect as typical Malaysian, you should just know when the cruises are about to come instinctively! Relieved to be back in access to aircon Millie and I both chilled out, relaxing before an undoubtably busy week on the boat and going to the turtle sanctuary the following day! 

In a nutshell the weekend was just what we both needed to relax and feel properly like Malaysian tourists! Bye for now! 

Birthday!

So the following morning we awoke a little early, I wonder why? That was because it was my birthday! Yay! Anyway so this meant I had to open the selection of cards I had brought with me to Malaysia, read the texts that said Happy Birthday have a great day etc, and Millie had to give in to me saying “but it’s my birthday, that means I can have the first shower!” and “you can’t be mean to me, it’s my birthday etc and etc.” She took it very sportingly, basically letting me have the first shower as it was my birthday after all..

Anyway with the card opening over, we got ready for another day at INOS. Picked up by Dr Wan, at the charmingly early time of 7:15am, we proceeded to be taken on the, ‘beach road’ to INOS which was beautiful! The beaches here are just white sand and blue sea, absolutely stunning, with no one else on them! Anyway, so after being taken along that road we were taken for a Birthday breakfast, consisting of honey bbq chicken in a spicy sauce and rice. It was yummy! Then we returned to INOS for another working day! 

Working for most of the morning, putting data from a UK database for whale watching into a 3D Google map format, took up most of the morning. This was then followed by Kirat cheerfully offering to take us down to the turtle sanctuary place called SEATRU, we then bought T-shirts for our trip on the weekend and books with pictures of the work that SEATRU do, to show our families on our return. Kirat then proceeded to chat to us for over an hour about what she was studying and the changes she has witnessed since starting her Masters project on dugongs. We were completely in shock to hear about the rapid decline of dugongs in the area. Awin then joined us, and proceeded to take us to.. literally be registered as students at the university. It was a laborious process of trekking from building to building, under the red hot sun, but we managed to finish it and became fully registered students at UMT woo (for the summer anyway).

Heading home at around 6:45pm, after being taken out to dinner with Dr Wan’s friend Pandai, who was travelling the whole of the West coast of Malaysia on Motorbike, Millie and I flopped on the sofas and chilled out for the evening, only punctuated by; a skype call home, chatting to Lucy, who I had spoken to when arranging the b&b and who had just returned from her trip to Beijing and watching a few episodes of MIranda! 

The day after my Birthday followed a similar tack, we got up showered and went to breakfast with Dr Wan and Pandai, before heading into INOS, working all day, despite lack of caffine, however the Malaysian lot in the office vanished around lunchtime and then to my complete surprise as I looked up from some work Millie and I were attempting, to be greeted by a chorus of Happy Birthday and a cake made up of numerous different slices of many different cakes with a candle on top. I was so touched and turned beetroot red which amused Achap greatly! The cake tasted great too and made my day! 

The following day (20th) was also pretty samey. The highlight of our day however had to be the lunch! We went with Achap, Kirat and a few others from the office to a little, well it was basically a shack, on the beach. It was beautiful and the food was amazing too, we had a drink made of Yams and a lovely beef soup with noodles and spicy sauce. Millie and I paddled in the sea enjoying the relief from the heat! Getting back to the B&B that night however we were ridiculously tired! We went to sleep at around 9:30pm and slept like the dead! I wasn’t even woken by the sound of my alarm going off and the loud call to prayer outside our window.

The morning was much better though, with less of a zombie feeling! We decided we would head for a paddle in the Beach behind INOS that morning instead of going straight into the office, a brief paddle and lots of photo’s later we returned to the office a whole half an hour later than we normally started work!

We then proceeded to have a productive morning, before breaking for lunch, wandering over to the University hostel and having lunch in the lovely canteen there. We were accompanied by cats who sat at the empty chairs at our table with a sense of purpose, as though they were simply waiting for their portion of food! We headed back to the office via the ‘jungle’ route simply a path through the trees, we felt accomplished at our ability to navigate successfully!

Heading home at just past 5 we had a sense of relief fill us! Realising we had never really recovered from all the travelling and that a break for a few days could not come at a better time! We collapsed into bed and resolved to have a lie in and lazy morning the following day! 

Feasts, Friends and Feeling British.

So today has been a rather weird and wonderful one. We started with getting up at around 6:45am, after hurriedly showering and changing we grabbed some fruit and waited outside for our taxi to arrive. Then after getting in the taxi and telling him “Take us to UMT!” We arrived at INOS at around 8am.

This being too early for us to show our faces at the uni, we decided to cowardly hide until a more appropriate time. Hiding turned out to basically be standing for a while on the beautiful, literal white sandy beaches behind the INOS building, we watched the sun rise steadily higher in the clear blue sky and marvelled at the millpond esque water that barely broke on the sand!

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After filling our boots with this gorgeous morning sight, we then decided it was now an ‘acceptable’ time for us to be arriving and we headed into the INOS building. Heading firstly into our office, I know we have a desk in an actual academic office! Anyway, we established that the Malaysians aren’t too keen on this whole early morning malarkey, demonstrated by the lack of a) people and b) light in the office we had been assigned. Ah. Right. The clear absence of our friends Awin and Kirat meant that we sat rather joblessly by our desks hoping to look important/ like we had some form of purpose for being there. 

Then we decided that maybe we should be waiting in the office? After much murmured conversation between Millie and I, we quietly headed to the office a few doors down. After smiling and looking very politely, in other words like lost sheep, at the person behind the desk, we asked for ‘Dr, Shafullah please?’ (we had yet to grasp the local pleases and thank you’s) We were informed to take a seat.

A few minutes later we were introduced to ‘the Doctor’ (not the one with the tardis sadly.) He was very friendly and spoke very good English. He asked us the normal stuff like,

“How was the flight?”

“What do you think of Kuala Terengganu?”

“Have you been treated well so far?”

Followed by “How much of the food have you tried?” you know, all the really important stuff. Then he turned said to us, “So what are you guys working on for your dissertation?” My heart stopped. Dissertations are not until fourth year. We are not prepped for any dissertation work yet. There are classes, lectures and meetings with important people discussing these things beforehand. Basically months and months of prep and decision making goes into even the initial stages of planning a dissertation! Politely and trying not to sound completely panicked we replied in the nicest way we could saying basically. You could be talking dugong for all we understand, we thought we were just coming to help? Dr Shafullah then proceeded to say that he had to leave now and would speak to us properly later. We said goodbye and then gave each other a worried look, heading back to our office.

Sitting at our desks with nothing in the way of paper, laptops or stationary (we were completely unsure of what we would be doing so figured we would suss it out and then come back fully prepared the following day!) we talked in hushed tones about any possible way we could come up with a dissertation plan worth 25% of our degree in 2 hours! Panicked is probably an apt description of our state of mind at this point.

Then Kirat arrived in the office, she was here for literally no more than 5 minutes before she came over to us and said “breakfast?” To which we of course replied, “Yes, please!” Thankful for an excuse to stop stressing for a little while was definitely appreciated by both Millie and myself, we were also glad to get to try more of the Malaysian food.

Breakfast was a nice affair. We tried what, basically constituted as Malaysian pancakes, with curry sauce, instead of the usual golden syrup topping. We sat chatting about England (mostly the weather – typical British!) mostly how the whole country grinds to a halt when it snows and in the summer, we mentioned our maximum temperature was around 24 degrees, to much amusement on their behalf, and how when it’s hot everyone turns a lovely lobster colour from sitting in the sun for too long.

Upon return we were reminded about the feast that the university was holding that afternoon. This feast consists of foods that are only available once every year, kind of like Cadbury mini eggs, but worse! So we felt very pleased and privileged to be a part of the celebrations. We headed with one of the university PhD students, Achab when arriving at the feast or ‘open house’ as our friends referred to it, we proceeded to sit relatively close to the back, of the graduation ceremony hall where the feast was being held. The Vice Chancellor addressed everyone in the hall, however I couldn’t tell you what he said as it was all in Malay, I assume it was a great speech. This was followed by the Vice Chancellor giving money to all of the orphans who were there to enjoy the feast.

Then before we had blinked, we were being summoned by Awin to try all of the food. We approached one of the many kiosks and were given some food. I can’t remember all of the names, I’m really sorry, Millie has all the names of stuff on her blog though.

Anyway, so there we were sat down enjoying the food, when a reporter approached us. He then asked us in Malay, we looked to Awin to explain, if we would pose for a photo. Pulled to the front of the hall we then stood helplessly as what can only be described as staging, involving a plate of food we hadn’t collected, three people we didn’t know and Awin being arranged around us with a poster in the background. The whole process was very surreal, I can’t ever remember having been in the newspaper before, Awin then told us that it was in fact the national newspaper!

The newspaper article can be found at this address: http://teganukita.my/umt-perkenalkan-program-sains-tanaman/.

After all this excitement, we sat with our Malaysian friends and were brought food by numerous different people who we were sat with, very sweetly Awin even brought us a bag of fruit to take back to the b&b, that we supposedly had to eat! After this amazing privilege, we headed back to INOS. We then sat chatting quietly, until Awin and Kirat informed us that we could go and meet Doctor now.

Taken into what was basically, the most fancy conference room I’ve ever seen, I mean it had plants in the middle of the table that was a big 0 shape, with a large hole to the floor in the middle, filled from the floor to the height of the table with flowers! Anyway we then sat down and chatted to Doctor for over two and a half hours. He was genuinely pleased that we weren’t planning on doing our dissertations with him. Yet. He was happy he didn’t have to try and get people to help us and we were basically dogsbodies willing to do intern jobs. After this he then proceeded to tell us he was sending us on, not one, not two, but three trips with the uni! This was made up of two trips on a research vessel for basically two weeks, one on the university boat RV Discovery, no not that Discovery, I do know they have the same but I have checked it, for 6 days, with Yanti, the PhD student that we communicated mostly with whilst in the UK. The second of the trips is with Doctor and all of his masters and PhD students, we are going on a marine mammal survey trip! This is the most exciting thing like ever! Then ASWELL as all this on Thursday the 21st we are going to sleep on a beach, wait for the turtles to come out of the sea and watch where they lay their eggs, or the baby turtles go into the sea! Which I personally can not wait for.

We then met the lovely Dr Wan, who then proceeded to fully take us under her wing, she offered to pick us up and drop us off at the b&b every day so we wouldn’t have to get a taxi! She then also told us all of the places we needed to see, things we needed to do and food we simply must try from certain places within the city! She is quite simply, a babe! She showed us all of the way around the town, where and how to get to the beach from our b&b and showed us how Kuala Terengganu town center all fits together. She then dropped us off after telling us she would pick us up at 0715 the following morning.

Slobbing on the sofas when getting in, both Millie and I commented on how lovely the Malaysian hospitality is, I know I myself have never met a group of people quite so willing to help, feed and take care of, basically two English strangers!