I just read The Gift of Rain, a story that takes place prior and during World War ll. The story is part fiction and part historic. It tells the story of when Japan invaded Malaysia and seized control of the island. The British were ill prepared for the invasion and most (including the military) fled to Singapore (history says they redeemed themselves later) leaving Penang (which is where the story is centered) to fend for themselves.
I was fascinated by this story because living in Malaysia, I have visited many of the cities mentioned in the book. Thank you for recommending it, Leslie! Penang is a seaport town that attracts a lot of retirees from around the world. My visit to this waterfront town was very pleasant. I saw firsthand some of the area’s that Phillip talked about in the book. When the island was rebuilt after the war many developers built high rise condos, removing some of the charm from the pre WWll times. The air tram has been restored and will take you to the top of the hill where you can enjoy tea and scones, and appreciate the view which is amazing. If you’re a little more adventurous you can take the very steep hiking trail to the top, I didn’t feel that adventurous. There’s a lot to do in Penang, I saw how fabric is painted and some very unique iron art on some of the buildings. I would consider retiring there if my grandkids would relocate with me.
There are hiking trails all through the hills of Cameron Highlands. You will see vegetation and critters that are indigenous to just this climate. One of the hiking guides pointed out a mountain in the distance and said they filmed Avatar on it. I need to watch the movie again and see if I can recognize it.Not long ago we had a long weekend, so a group of us made the journey to Cameron Highlands, a small town located in the Titiwangsa Mountains of Pahang West Malaysia. It’s about the size of Singapore. A little Google search told me that CH is known for its strawberries and bee farms and being located in the mountains made for cool enough weather to wear jeans and a sweatshirt in the evening. The strawberries are grown hydroponics, which means in water not the soil, which I’m familiar with. They aren’t as sweet as the ones in the states but once blended with ice cream they were really good. There is a beautiful butterfly attraction with a varied of butterflies, and some are huge. What I didn’t realize (guess I should have read the entire Google page) was the tea plantations, aw, now this was an experience. I learned there is more to tea than adding hot water. There are different grades of tea leafs. With the different grades they make loose tea, or powder tea (yuck), and of course bagged tea. I saw mountains covered with tea trees. I learned wild orchids grow out the side of tea trees (I wish I had picked one, it’s allowed). I was fascinated with the two plantations we visited. The bee farms were fun for me, I saw different types of hives, and learned a lot about bees (black, honey and red) and honey (black, amber, and white). Black honey (only found in hives high in certain trees), is said to be the best honey available, it tastes similar to molasses. Amber honey, is made by honey bees, it’s the most common. White honey, is produced by the black bees, it’s considered to be a lower grade honey and not very popular.
Ipoh (also mentioned in the book I read) is the next big city closest to my small town. Ipoh is the capital of Perak (the state I live in). Originally Ipoh was famous for its tin mills. Many British and Chinese became wealthy mining tin in the hills of Ipoh pre WWll. Today Ipoh is famous for being the home of white coffee (coffee with cream and sugar). I personally am not a fan, but then I haven’t tried it in Ipoh. My friend Jen Nei is from Ipoh and she tells me it’s a great place to live and visit. Other than driving through and seeing water buffalo on the road, I haven’t spent any real time exploring Ipoh, but it’s on my list of places to explore someday.
My book ended with the British returning and Japan surrendering, and Phillip Hutton recounting the years of occupation and the loss of many friends and family member.
I’m glad I read this book, I now see this beautiful country a little different, and I understand the culture better. Recently we celebrated Malaysia’s Independence Day, 56 years out from under British rule. I reflected how much this small country has endured, and how they have come out with 3 cultures that each embrace their own culture, traditions, and carry a love for this country that is their home… and my temporary home, the place I call, Mountasia.