Tag Archives: horses

You Say Merang, I Say Marang

We came back to   mainland a day before the Gusties, who were still camping at Mak Kepit on the west side of Pulau Redang.  We needed accommodations and since this happened to be the national Labor Day holiday weekend, lots of places were booked.  I finally found a homestay near Merang, which seemed to be reasonably near the jetty where we were to meet up with the students the next day.

Millbrook Farm Homestay

The place is called Millbrook Farm Homestay, and it was fantastic.  I wish we could have stayed for longer.  We were met by Ella, whose family (parents, brother, uncle) all own and manage the facility.  It has just six rooms now but they are building six more.  The farm in the name is not what you think, but actually an aquaculture facility, a fish farm.  Needless to say, Joel and I were delighted to take the tour with Ella’s brother.  Did I mention the whole place is also right on the ocean?  With views like this?  

View from our front porch at Millbrook Farm Homestay.
The aquaculture facility, right behind our room.

In addition to tilapia, which are a major food fish, this family is trying to raise fish for the aquarium trade.  They have one large tank of brightly-colored koi.  And the bulk of their tanks were devoted to raising different types of arowana.  These large freshwater fish are considered a lucky species to a lot of Chinese because they resemble Chinese dragons.  They can grow quite big and an individual fish can sell for hundreds of dollars (US).
Trying (rather unsuccessfully) to hold an eel.

Ella’s daughter, Bella, is five years old. She loves horses and unicorns and My Little Pony. So Ella drove us all to the nearby stables, where horses are kept for polo. For 5 ringgit, Simon got to ride a horse around the ring. An ever-so-slightly older boy accompanied him.  

Bella was shy when we first met her but soon she and Simon were running around the hotel, playing and laughing. It’s not often that I see Simon actively trying to impress other kids and if I didn’t know better, I’d say he was flirting. “Bella! Listen to me sing this song!” “Bella! Look at this drawing I made for you!” It was adorable. 

SBella was also quite fond of Penelope.  The kids spent the rest of the day running around the property.  There was so much laughing, giggling, and scheming.  Simon was in absolute heaven.

Look at Bella’s beautiful henna! Ella asked to do Simon and I was like, “No way that kid can sit still long enough for it to dry!”

Ella and her Uncle Denny were incredibly accommodating. They took us out to dinner at a delicious Chinese restaurant and to the only ATM in the region. And the next day, they offered to drive us to the jetty to meet up with the students and catch the bus home.  

That’s when we discovered that I’d made a little mistake, you see.

It turns out that Merang and Marang are two different cities, both on the coast in Terengganu State, about an hour’s drive apart.  The jetty is at Merang.  I inadvertently booked our room at Millhouse Farm Homestay outside of Marang.  In my defense, Malaysians seem to be fast and free in their spelling.  Take for instance, the popular noodle dish, char koay teow. Otherwise known as char kuey teow.  Or char koay tiao.  Or char kway teow. Or chow kuey tiao.  I mean, come ON.  If Merang and Marang are both going to be cities in the same state, along the same coastline, and reasonably close to one another, you’d think someone would make a big deal out of that on the travel sites, no?

Now, I don’t regret it at all, because Ella, Bella, and Denny were delightful company and I only wish we’d had more time to spend together.  But our hosts truly went out of their way to take us all the way from Marang to Merang, an hour-plus of driving.  We ate breakfast together before my family boarded the Gustie bus to Penang.  Simon and Bella hugged goodbye and we invited them for a stay in Penang.  I don’t know if it’s likely, but it would be fun.


So You Think You Can Caravan?

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a trip by pony
Just like the caravans of yore,
‘cross mountains far and lonely.
They promised us a short, safe trip,
Return by lunchtime?  Sure!
Seven travelers set off that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.
We climbed up hillsides far from home
The path was steep and stony.
No reins, no helmet to break the fall,
“Just hold onto your pony.”
We packed no food; there was no need,
We’d be home soon enough.
We held on fast to our tiny steeds,
But soon our bellies rumbled; soon our bellies rumbled.


That three-hour-trip was just one way.
In the wilderness, that means
No shopping mall, no Circle K.
We rationed jelly beans! We rationed jelly beans!
So join me here to read the tale,
You’re sure to get a smile,
Seven exhausted horseriders,
They traveled so many miles.


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One of our ponies.
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This young man rode a donkey without even a proper saddle.
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“You’re going to have to get off and walk here. It’s too steep and dangerous for the horses.” Greeeeeaaat…
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Simon and I rode the pony on the right. I nicknamed him Munchie because he was as hungry as us.  But he could eat grass.  We couldn’t.
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View of our trail. It gets pretty dry and desolate up in the mountains!
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Taking a break. No, children, there’s still no food in the bag.
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Atop a dam for a rest stop. The children are counting the last of our jelly beans.
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Coming upon a minority village.
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Finally! We made it to the village! Maybe we can pay them to feed us lunch!
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Nope. But we managed hot water and peaches.
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This fellow took a real liking to Simon.
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At another home, the matriarch dressed up to show us her traditional headwear.
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The kids were more interested in the candy she shared.  Woohoo, sweet, caloric sustenance!
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Listen up, America. If they can manage solar power out here, we can do better. I know we can.
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Returning to town after a long, seven-hour pony ride. These elderly folks were walking home for the day, singing and clapping as they walked.  I felt like clapping, too!