There exists a rocky island off the coast of Penang (which itself is also an island) that legend claims used to be infested with mice.
Early settlers from Thailand used it as a base, and the little furry rodents kept them company on lonely nights (no, not like that). And that is where the name Pulau Tikus came from – literally translating in the local language to the Isle of Mice.
It’s not hard to get there – you just need to think unconventionally.
First you start at the Water Sports Complex just north of the Floating Mosque of Penang in Tanjung Bungah.
Some people choose to swim, while others kayak or catch a little fishing dingy. Whatever floats your boat.
The island itself is actually relatively devoid of rodents, but lots of other little critters now inhabit it. There are lots of little crabs and crustaceans that line the large crusty boulders that protect the island. Oysters and shellfish find shelter between the rocks and just under the surface.
In turn, seabirds and crows flock here to feast on the abundant seafood. As do the fishermen and random passersby.
And believe it or not – the Isle of Mice comes with some man-made facilities!
There is still a working jetty, although I’ve yet to see an actual boat dock there.
There is also a concrete structure that houses a shrine of sorts, accompanied by a tall steel watchtower that is sturdy enough to fit a football team!
During low tide, there is also a nice stretch of beach on Tikus Island.
It has relatively little shade though, and no cooling coconut trees, so I’d recommend coming early in the morning or later in the evening.
And here is footage from above:
This is quite possible the first time Tikus Island has been documented and photographed from above in such detail (no, satellites don’t count)!
Perhaps a small part of Penang history was made today.
I can tell this guy is excited.
Now if you ever want to take a trip out to this island, your best bet is from one of the beaches along Penang Island’s northern coast.
The Water Sports Complex in Tanjung Bungah has a little beach from which you can launch out to reach the Isle of Mice (Pulau Tikus).
So feel free to visit the Isle of Mice and experience the real Pulau Tikus (there’s a suburb named after it on Penang Island itself)!
The Water Sports Complex rents kayaks of all sizes, or if you’re a member of the lofty Penang Swimming Club, then you can easily take off from there.
And since you made it this far, you get the exclusive privilege of watching this not-too-corny video!
The Prince of Songkla University was having a little cycling shindig, so we thought we’d crash.
Because why not?
Well, it turns out these Thai riders are utterly hardcore in a most speed intensive manner that makes it a little tough to keep up at times.
Seems we joined a rather serious event, and the route was rather testy at times.
However, we soldiered through, and were rewarded with the satisfaction of having conquered some of Hatyai’s tougher climbs. The views weren’t too bad either.
With lots of little rolling hills and dense commercial vegetation, the Thai roads are very reminiscent of Malaysia. Apart from the language barrier, it really is pretty close to home.
We finished the ride on a high (literally on the top of a steep hill) and dragged ourselves back into town to the hotel to get a massage and go shopping.
Little orange zebra approves.
Hatyai is popular for their retail options – ranging from fresh produce to clothing to kitchenware (Zebra is a famous stainless steel kitchenware manufacturer in Thailand).
Back in the day it was all too cheap, but thanks to inflation and exchange rates it’s now just mildly more affordable. Also, I’m not much of a shopper, so instead I went in search of some good sights in the moonlight.
In the meantime, we did some sightseeing. There were plenty of food, flora and fauna to experience.
Not all of it was real, but we weren’t too bothered.
Can you spot the skittish little things?
There is a scenic little lake very close to Sadao and the Malaysian-Thai border that is relatively unknown, especially since the passage there has come under development.
However, the lake at Water View Restaurant is definitely worth the trip.
The food is delivered from the kitchen across the waters by boat, and it is delicious! In a scintillating, spicy way that is truly Thai.
If you want them to hold the spice, try telling them “mai pet“.
Welcome to the only bastion of safety for the orangutans in West Malaysia – the protected island sanctuary of Bukit Merah!
To get to the Orang Utan Island Foundation, you’ll have to catch a ferry from the main Bukit Merah Laketown Resort. The ferry departs every 45 minutes, and the ferry ride and tour of the sanctuary costs around thirty ringgit (varies between locals and international visitors, as usual).
The place is sturdily built and well structured, and you do get a chance to see orangutans up close. Orangutans are clever and curious creatures, and although the larger ones are pretty sloth-like, most of them are agile and lively.
This is BJ, the current alpha male on the island. Formidable and deliberate, this giant’s bellow can be heard for kilometres!
The trio above are the resident jokers – teenage males that like to chill and play with things.
It’s a shame they have to be kept behind fences most of the time, as I’m sure some human-orangutan interaction wouldn’t be detrimental to either side. Apart from the rougher males, most of these creatures don’t mean anyone any harm.
The youngest ones get to chill by the water and are fed through a pipe that runs to a platform in the middle of the water.
The way they easily swing their way around makes you wonder – why are they so darn hairy?
And it’s not even a good hue for camouflage!
Although they claim to be preparing the orangutans for rehousing, I’ve met the exact same orangutans in my numerous visits to this sanctuary.
The tour guides are passionate and very professional, but I have a strong feeling there’s things in between the rehearsed lines that they feed us.
Who knows if these orangutans ever make it off the island?
There’s nothing particularly sinister about the place. It’s just that as much as the tour guides joke that the orangutans are the ones that get to roam free and gaze at us humans in the confined caged walkways, this particular sanctuary doesn’t seem all that big.
And I’ve never once seen the neonatal orangutan care centre occupied; that’s where they’re supposed to house the baby orangutans. I hope it’s because all the newborns are happy and healthy.
To me, this is more of an orangutan zoo.
Perhaps it’s the only way to “save” this endangered animal – by keeping the remaining ones alive behind electric fences. A sad reality of our strange human concept of conservation.
Word on the streets is that KL has gotten some brand new blue (di da dum da) bicycle lanes, so I figured I’d check it out. And what better way than by bike!
Just so happens KL was hosting the World Urban Forum, where people gather to discuss things like city planning, global warming and how to grow veggies on your rooftop.
Below you will find lengthy sequences of our journey along the blue bike lanes of central KL. We began in a beautified back alley of Chinatown, not far from the Central Market, and after travelling about 7.5 klicks we ended up back where we started.
Certainly takes you past some of KL’s nicer landmarks, although it’s a shame the paths don’t extend into Bukit Bintang. Cyclists love to shop, too!
Now onto the pictures in strange reverse chronological order!
A popular cycling route in the northern Malaysian region is the trip to the beach of independence – Pantai Merdeka. This independent stretch of beach is a prominent spot along the Kedah coastline, right at the delta of the Muda River where it meets the sea.
Typically we begin from the R&R just past the toll gates of the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR, as the local cyclists call it). It’s a straight ride up from the Butterworth Ferry Terminal.
Straight roads and paddy fields greet you most of the way.
As expected of a sleepy coastal town, fishing is the go-to activity and thus the seafood is abundant. Mee Udang is a readily available dish, although I’m told the place we went to (a hill away from Pantai Merdeka) is the best.
And the best Mee Udang is actually at Pasir Salak, not Pantai Merdeka, although there is a stall at the food court there.
Pasir Salak is over a kilometre away from Pantai Merdeka, and is a little industrial zone with a little island (bemusingly named Leftover Island – Pulau Baki in Malay) just off the beach.
Not letting sleeping cats lie.
The road to Pantai Merdeka is fairly well marked out. However, there are a few alternate routes to reach the final stretch of beach, so definitely have a check beforehand.
Along the way to Pantai Merdeka, there is a prominent monument to the victims of the tsunami that hit the northern region back in 2004.
You can kind of make out the big stack of dinghies on the right.