Arriving in Kuala Lumpur after a night flight from Tokyo was an assault on the senses. But in a good way. Within minutes I realised I'd left the cooler temperate climate of East Asia behind. KL is the kind of city where the humidity is so intense your glasses immediately steam up when you get out of an air conditioned cab. And I was also happy to be back in a country where food and eating are the focus of my day. KL is a melting pot where you can feast on spicy Malay food, as well as Thai and Indian. There's also Chinese, but, well, I've had quite enough of that, thank you!
I spent four days exploring the city, although I know it quite well from a previous trip to Malaysia three years ago. It's not easy walking around, with the dust and heat and terrible paths and roaring traffic, but after Japan it was a nice contrast. When the going got too much, I could always dive into a restaurant for another curry. English is the dominant language there and it makes ordering food and pretty much everything else so much easier.
From KL I flew directly to the island of Lombok, Indonesia, just east of Bali. Last time I was here I spent a fabulous week on the little offshore island of Gili Air, one of the three famous Gilis. Gili actually just means island. However, I read a lot about how these islands have become a victim of their own success and are very overrun with tourists so I decided to head to Gili Gede, in the south west of Lombok. Tourism is just starting here and there were only three places to stay. I had a wonderful bungalow on a hill with a 180 degree view of the sea.
I spent the first day reading in a hammock, but then roused myself the next day for a snorkelling trip. The last day I wandered around the island, which is predominantly Muslim. All the villagers were incredibly friendly and, like in India, loved having their photo taken, including one woman who ran a small shop and clearly had musical ambitions. See the photo! There was a group of kids having a great game with a kind of spinning top. It was a world far removed from Xboxes and iPads.
I came to Sengiggi yesterday to arrange the next part of my trip. It's very much a resort, with all that entails: dirty beach, restaurants serving spaghetti bolognaise and burgers, hassle from street vendors and tour operators, but I'm staying in a nice hotel with a pool situated in a little local neighbourhood off the main drag. Tomorrow I leave on a four day boat trip heading East to Flores to see the Komodo dragons in the only place in the world where they exist. It's no luxury cruise. There are no cabins, just a mattress on deck along with everyone else, and no fresh water, but I think we are going to pass through some stunning scenery.