As a year-end wrap up, I thought I'd do a Best of 2012. Looking back, it's hard to imagine that I've done so much in one year. Add in all the normal, everyday stuff like overseeing homework, going to my boy's baseball games, and volunteering with the school PTO, and I feel like I've been very busy.
|Don't get between Hot Mama and her child at Semenggoh Wildlife Centre.|
Runner Up:Wildlife river cruise in Borneo where we saw Irrawaddy river dolphins and proboscis monkeys.
Best Natural Wonder
Japan's Mount Fuji deserves to be famous. Its beautiful, symmetrical cone rises up from the surrounding plains, towering over everything nearby. From down at the base, I watched snow blowing off the top and couldn't imagine that people actually climb up to the summit.
Runner Up: Hakone National Park is near Mount Fuji and rounded out the day's visit.
|Captivating Mount Fuji|
Best Water Adventure
Our day snorkeling at Thailand's Racha Yai island, near Phuket, suited everybody in the family, even my little, beginning swimmer. Crystal clear, blue waters and a boat crew that looked after all our needs almost made me forget how horribly nauseous I got on the ride to and from the island. That's right. I was seasick, and it's so good that it's still getting a Best of 2012 award. Plus, hubby got to play superhero by rescuing two young women from the surf.
Runner Up: White water rafting near Ipoh, Malaysia
|Snorkeling in Thailand|
Best Use of Gold
I must commend whoever came up with the idea of covering the top two levels of Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto with gold leaf. I'm pretty sure that my Homeowner's Association in my Austin neighborhood would never approve such a design for my house. And now that I think about it, hubby wouldn't approve either.
Runner Up: My wedding ring which is 20 years old and, hence, ineligible for this year's award
|Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto shimmers in the sun.|
Best Use of Steel
What are you going to do with 1800 tons of steel? Sure, some people may choose to erect a tower, but how about turning it into an Observation Wheel (like a Ferris wheel on steroids)? At 165 meters, the Singapore Flyer is the tallest one in the world. We took a 30-minute "round trip" on it last October.
Runner Up: Coming in a very close 2nd place is the Tokyo Tower which is the tallest, self-supporting steel structure in the world.
|The Singapore Flyer - 1800 tons of steel, 165m tall|
|Tokyo Tower - 4000 tons of steel, 333m tall|
Best Theme Park
We're an experienced Disney park family, but Tokyo DisneySea still managed to impress. Most of the rides are unique to this location, but you can still do favorites like The Tower of Terror (with a different storyline, no less).
Runner Up: LEGOland Malaysia
|Jules Verne's Mysterious Island at Tokyo DisneySea|
|That's not a shirt. Those are small urns |
hooked directly into his skin.
One of the must-see festivals in Penang is Thaipussum, but it's not for the squeamish. Hindu devotees honor Lord Murugan by carrying different physical burdens called kavadis to offer up as penance, thanksgiving or in supplication. As the procession makes its way through town, people smash coconuts to cleanse the path. Some people balance urns of milk on their heads while others carry tall altars decorated with peacock feathers. The most difficult burden is a multitude of body piercings with urns hanging off the body from hooks and spears threaded through the cheeks and tongue. All I could think was "Ouch!"
Runner Up: Loy Krathong
|Foot pounding at Pangkor Laut Spa Village|
Pangkor Laut, a private island in Malaysia, doesn't just hold the title of Best Spa for 2012, it's hands down the absolute, best spa I've been to in my entire life. Their Bath House Ritual brings in practices from all over Asia and sets a relaxed mood before your actual treatment begins.
Runner Up: The time I stuck my feet into a tank of flesh-eating fish
I'll admit it. Ever since I went to my first big Vegas buffet when I was I a kid, I've always had a thing for buffets. The Mother's Day Brunch at the Shangri-la Rasa Sayang hotel in Penang wins for selection, quality and flavor. We had our choice of mock shark fin soup, fresh seafood, local delicacies, and a dessert bar with made-to-order crepes, ice cream, cakes and cotton candy. What really clinched the top spot for them was all the entertainment they provided for the kids. A clown went from table to table making balloon art, there was a crafts table for them to make Best Mom sashes, and kids could watch a movie on the porch. Runner Up: Pangkor Laut Feast Village
|Dessert station at the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Spice Market Cafe|
Crepes, Cotton Candy, Cakes and a Chocolate Fountain
Best Street Food
Ok, I like all types of food from the high end to the low budget. Penang is known as a street food paradise, but this year, my heart and cravings are back in Austin, Texas. The Food Trailer Park on South Congress is one of the best places to get cheap, tasty food. The Mighty Cone Hot'n'Crunchy is a favorite of mine. A breading of sesame seeds, almonds, arbol chili flakes, sea salt, sugar and corn flakes encases your choice of chicken, avocado or shrimp. It's deep-fried, plunked in a tortilla cone and topped with mango-jalepeno slaw and ancho sauce. Nom nom!
Runner Up: Penang's Char Koay Teow
|The Mighty Cone Hot'n'Crunchy Chicken in Austin, Texas|
Best Source of Ice Cream Ingredients
Some foodies say that you should know where your food comes from. How about if you visit the farm where it is grown? Escaping the tropical heat of Penang, we drove up to the cooler climate of the Cameron Highlands. We picked hydroponic strawberries, bought strawberry syrup, and turned it into the yummiest strawberry ice cream I have ever made. This flavor has been hard for me to get right, so I was ecstatic with the results. Too bad I forgot to write down what I did.
Runner Up: Coconut milk freshly squeezed before my eyes at the local wet market.
|Get in my belly!|
Before I start making up increasingly strange categories like Best Toilet Instruction Sign, I'll stop now.
Happy New Year from Malaysian Meanders!
May it be filled with adventure and awe.
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday on Budget Traveler's Sandbox. Check it out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.