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Malihom: A Respite Tucked Away In Balik Pulau

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Malihom: A Respite Tucked Away In Balik Pulau

Away from the resort row in Batu Ferringhi and southeast of the UNESCO hub of Georgetown, a lesser developed area of Penang known as Balik Pulau is home to Malihom. A boutique eco-lodge high up in the jungle with a narrow one lane road leading to it's entrance (there is a simple flashing light system in place to know whether a car is coming down and whether you're clear to ascend), the curvy journey there makes the views on arrival all the sweeter. 

We arrived after a long drive from Kuala Lumpur and were greeted with an icy lemon ginger beverage while checking in. Billed as "your private estate in Penang" on their website, it did feel like we had arrived at the home of a [very fortuitous] friend. Malihom is one of those secluded destinations where you pretty much park yourself there during the duration of your stay and soak in the serenity away from bustling city life. 

Malihom-Penang-Pool-Sunrise

There are 8 separate bungalows at Malihom, all inspired by traditional Thai rice barn designs that sit on stilts off the ground. Paying homage to their origins, they are all named in Thai. Ours was "Khanun", aka jackfruit. Others include "Dhamma", the state of nature, and "Sankhara": progress. 

At Malihom, which means 'village of the fragrant rice', the lower level of the barns are designed with hammocks and patio seating for repose in the fresh mountain air. Having been back to Penang many times since my childhood there, I was pleasantly struck by how much less humidity was present in the high altitude than at sea level.

malihom-tropical-lush-greens

 

After an incredibly windy night, we woke up to an epic sunrise, one of those with every color strewn together in abstract percussion. Without saying, I loved all the sun flare I was able to capture streaming over the balcony of our barn. We lazed around a bit, marveling at the natural beauty of our surroundings before meandering down to breakfast for a meal of tea, fresh papaya, toast, and eggs. 

malihom-bungalow-papaya-yogurt-breakfast
Our power lies in our small daily choices, one after another, to create eternal ripples of a life well lived.
— M. Marti
malihom-balcony-breakfast-hammock-tea

Ah, the hammock. The icon of leisure. Our favorite spot in our barn. Napping in the afternoon breeze to the gentle swing of the hammock was one of the highlights of our short stay, not including a visit to the infinity pool with it's expansive views.

Below is a short video of the breezy morning we woke up to, set to an instrumental version of Bon Iver's Perth. 

Shirt:  Faithfull the Brand ; Sandals:  Need Supply

After a full day of relaxing family time (and lots of picture taking), we gazed out our balcony at the view below before changing and heading back down for another freshly prepared meal. No complaints here.

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Stay

Malihom Kiri N/T 168, Bukit Penara, Mukim 6, 11000 Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia

Online reservations recommended; email malihom.reservation@gmail.com

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Climbing Mount Popa's 777 Steps in Myanmar

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Climbing Mount Popa's 777 Steps in Myanmar

About an hour's drive away from the flat landscape of Bagan lies Mount Popa, a volcanic plug 2418ft from sea level. From the base to the top where the Taung Kalat Monastery lies, there are precisely 777 steps to climb. Taung Kalat is home to the "37 great nats", spiritual deities who loom large in Burmese folk religion. For those not squeamish about climbing barefoot alongside the many macaque monkeys who roam freely along the stairway (believed to be guarding the spirits), stunning views and fascinating insights into the world of Burmese nat worship illuminate the steep ascent.   

Mount-Popa-777-steps-views

Arriving at the base, it is abuzz with vendors and markets selling fruit for offerings as well as trinkets and refreshments for the climb. All footwear must be taken off and either stored (for a small tip) or carried. There are many stops along the way to discover the history behind the "37 nat" and observe locals paying homage to these canonized spirits, as Taung Kalat is a significant pilgrimage for many Burmese. 

Mount-Popa-777-steps-Taungkalat

At a moderate pace, the climb is between 30-45 minutes, and there is no need to rush. There are plenty of lookout points to stop and admire the panoramic views or simply catch your breath and take in the significance of this site, also known to many as Burma's 'Mount Olympus'.  

Mount-Popa-TaungKalat-Bagan

We were fortunate to visit on a clear day, when the views close to the stop stretched as far as the eye can see. Facing north in the image below, the massive peak of Taung Ma-gyi, a former volcano, rises up from the fertile soil as a result of volcanic ash. At the very top, you are face to face with the gleaming gold details of the monastery which shimmers from a distance atop this historic landmark. 

DE-Mt-Popa-Views

Getting There:

A car hire from Bagan for a half day can be arranged through any hotel or restaurant in Bagan. Be sure to stop at the palm farms along the way and taste some handmade palm sugar treats with Burmese tea in support of the local palm farmers.  

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