Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Well into Malaysia

Mark crossed from Thailand to Malaysia yesterday and has already reached the city of George town, capital of the island and state of Penang. After several days of following Mark's journey down through Thailand, it is probably now useful to draw back a bit and take a look at Malaysia within the broader context of SE Asia...Malaysia comprises two main areas of land - the Malay peninsula (Western Malaysia) which forms the southern extremity of the continent of Asia plus Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia) which occupies one third of the island of Borneo. To the south of Malaysia lie the islands of Indonesia, the largest of which (Sumatra) is separated from Malaysia by the narrow Straits of Malacca. This stretch of water is often held to be the most important shipping lane in the world forming the main passage between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. At its narrowest, beside Singapore, it is only 2.5 kms wide. The position of Malaysia, commanding trade routes between India and China, meant that it saw a sequence of colonial rulers (Portuguese, Dutch and British) before gaining independence in 1957. The details of Malaysia's history are well described here.

In terms of relief......the Malay peninsula comprises a series of coastal plains rising to often densely forested hills and mountains. As the map shows, the highest land is a narrow mountain spine about 2000m high in the north and west of the country.

Today Mark has cycled south through the province of Kedah. The web diary reveals that it is still raining and, as explained a couple of days ago in this posting , there is unlikely to be much change! If anything, November will get wetter. Certainly the BBC weather pages suggest rain for the next five days for Penang and by then, of course, Mark will be heading for Australia and back to semi desert conditions.!

Kedah is known as the rice bowl of Malaysia and it produces about one third of the country's total production of the crop. Following Mark's route today, there were several places with good views of flooded rice fields..

Most of the Google images in Thailand and Malaysia have clearly been taken in the dry season when there is less cloud cover. This means that the fields are bare, the rice having been harvested. However, next to rivers, as in this image, it will be possible to irrigate in the dry season and therefore obtain a second crop of rice in the year.

Away from the padis there are mile upon mile of plantations.. Although rubber used to be the main plantation crop of Malaysia, these are more likely to be oil palms . And there's a lot of them !

Tonight Mark is over-nighting in Butterworth, the city on the mainland which is joined to the island of Penang and the city of Georgetown by the 13km long Penang bridge for which there is some excellent high resolution imagery...

...and a nice photo from Flickr

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