Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happiness is an old Land Rover

We ventured up to the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia to get out of the steamy heat of Kuala Lumpur for a few days... Tanah Rata, the town where we stayed, is at about 2000 metres above sea-level. The area is truly beautiful. It is mainly known for its comfortable climate, wonderful tea, and lovely flowers. I did not know the Cameron Highlands have the highest density (per capita) of Land Rovers in the world! These Rovers are literally everywhere you look. Many of you know old Rovers are a bit of a joy of mine, so I guess I was like a kid in a candy store... Even Lesa laughed about it, because we just kept seeing them.
Just from informal observations, I'd guess that at least 15% of the vehicles you see in the Highlands are old Land Rovers - mainly Series III and Defender SUVs and pickup models.
So why all the old Landies? After chatting with some locals I found out why there are so many. The vast majority are used for "farm vehicles" in the tea and produce plantations. The Malaysian Armed Forces wear them out and then sell them to the public... mostly to farmers and adventure tour companies. The trucks are narrow and perform well in the rough, muddy, and often rocky terrain.
The older Rovers we saw would often have a large "CH" painted on the doors indicating they are only for farm use. Their owners can provide limited, lowcost insurance if the old trucks are only used for local "farm to town" purposes. The Tanah Rata tourist board estimates there are approximately 4,000 Land Rovers in the Cameron Highlands region alone. In 2009, local Highland farmers held a harvest parade. The parade contained over 400 farm-based Land Rovers as part of the procession!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grandma Comes for a Visit...

Grandma (Lesa's mom) came to India for five weeks. Cousin Brandi came along as well for the first 2 weeks. We tried to fill their days with places to go and things to see. I think India was a bit of a shock. Sights of wide-spread poverty, cattle roaming freely in city streets and rubbish everywhere can be overwhelming for new-comers!
Grandma got to experience a lot while here. We took her up north to the Nainital hill-station so she could lay her eyes on the Himalayan mountains...
Then we got her to go on an Elephant Safari AND a Jeep Safari in Jim Corbett National Park. Of course we never saw any tigers... but she did get up close and personal with an elephant.
We dragged her east to the city of Agra to see one of the seven wonders of the world: the Taj Mahal.And then we sent her south with our driver, Chauhan to see the "Pink" city of Jaipur and the holy city of Pushkar down in Rajasthan.
I think Grandma was exhausted when she arrived back at ATS here in Noida. Cousin Brandi made her escape back home to Buffalo, but Grandma was determined to hang with us for 3 more weeks. She got a chance to shop and see some of the many sights in Delhi... then we dragged her off again... on a family trip to Singapore and Malaysia.Sights of the "Merlion" in Singapore, the spires of the tall Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and the beautiful Boh Tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands were a great way to round out her visit with us... We will really miss having her here (especially the kids), but hopefully Grandma's India-experience was worth all the miles traveled.