where it's usually about 100 degrees hot
For the past week we have been traveling along the Malay peninsula from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phuket and Sabang. As elsewhere in Asia, we have seen great contrasts on our journey: incense-filled temples next to soaring skyscrapers, bustling street markets with exotic fruits and vegetables next to shopping malls with Starbucks and MacDonald's. We have seen people of different ethnic backgrounds (Malay, Chinese, Tamil, Indian) and religions (Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem) living together in harmony.
Singapore is actually a country all by itself, a small island with 5,200,000 people off the southern tip of Malaysia. Everything is very modern and efficient here with a very strong and visionary government determined to make Singapore the a global business and financial center. There are also very strict rules about such things as littering and gum chewing, with the result that streets, sidewalks, and subways are immaculate.
Phuket is a little island off the coast of Thailand that has become increasingly popular as a resort destination. The film Impossible that has recently been showing in theaters in the U.S. is about the devastating tsunami here in 2004. We avoided the beach and went on a visit to an elephant park instead.
Sabang is an island at the northwest corner of Indonesia off the tip of Sumatra. It is a very simple place with no hotels or resorts. Everyone turned out to see the cruise ship arrive and children from the middle school and high school gave dance performances to welcome us. We love this hospitable place and its beautiful beaches.