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Hope you all had a great May 24 long weekend!
Travelling Isn’t Always Rosy
We have been travelling through Peninsular Malaysia over the past week. Every once in awhile you have one of those crappy days travelling where nothing seems to go right. Well we had one of those days last week on the day we flew from Borneo to Kuala Lumpur. We had wasted away the day doing nothing, but waiting for our flight, only to arrive at the airport and find that the flight had been delayed 3+ hours. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if it was a decent airport, but the airport consisted of an open air waiting room, where you sat beside the taxis in the suffocating heat. Paul kept finding reasons to ask the information ladies questions, to get a cool blast of A/C through the hole in the window. The one good thing that came of this delay, was Paul spotted Ian Wright. He came back to tell me he had seen Ian Wright, and I was like, “and that is?”. He is the host of the Pilot Guides show (also known as Globe Trekker) on Outdoor Life Network, where he travels around the
world and makes an episode about his travels in far off places. Paul went up and introduced himself and so that was the most exciting thing that happened to us on this crappy day. We will have to look out for the episode he must have been filming in Sabah.
We finally caught our flight and got into Kuala Lumpur at 11 pm and had to taxi into town. Paul got motion sick, I had to try and explain to the driver to pull over…finally he understood me and Paul hopped out and the driver got out and proceeded to slap his back (there must be something about Paul that attracts back slapping!). We got to this hostel in Chinatown and checked into a cell type of room – closet size…no window….only room for a bed with dirty sheets…that I forced Paul to return to the reception…the A/C created the North Pole and we couldn’t sleep all night because it was so freezing! Totally crap night to cap our crap day. We’re hoping you feel bad for us travellers…travelling isn’t always fun and games! Oh well you have to have one of those days once in awhile.
The next day, we checked ourselves out and found a cute guesthouse, the Red Palm . We love guesthouses where you feel like you are staying in someone’s home. Sophie, the owner, made us feel right at home and we got to know her friends, who even brought over yummy food! We can’t stop raving about this place…because it truly felt like a home away from home. A place you could curl up on the couch, have a cup of tea and just relax. We were in much better spirits immediately.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia is a large westernized city known for its shopping. We only wish we had more room in our packs to shop! We saw our first glimpse of the sex trade industry when we saw an old white man with his arm around two Asian girls. Yuck, yuck, yuck…but we know we will see more of this as we head to Thailand. We visited many of KL’s shopping malls and Chinatown. Everywhere you go they are offering you fake DVDs….they were trying to sell us the Devinci Code only days after it came out in the theatres. The city had a great transportation system
and they have a monorail riding above the city…it kind of felt like being at DisneyWorld!
KL also has great food and we enjoyed eating in the hawker stalls that are found throughout the city. Each vendor usually sells something different and it is the cheapest and tastiest way to eat in Asia. We have also been eating at a lot of Indian resturants and we are getting quite knowledgeable and don’t even need the English menu! Malaysia is a mix of Chinese, Indian and Malays and the food is very diverse. The one thing you can count on eating in Asia, is that you won’t get your food at the same time. You just get used to one person eating before the other and we’ve finally gotten used it and just dig in right away when our food arrives.
The next day, we headed to see the famous Petronas Towers, the world’s tallest twin towers and a KL landmark. They are very proud of these towers, which stand 452 m, have 88 floors and are connected by a skybridge. They were completed in 1997, at which time they were the largest buildings in the world. It is
free to take the lift up to the skybridge and the towers are architecturally really beautiful. You get great views of the city and the park land around the towers. After, we went to the Theatres in the fancy shopping mall and saw Devinci Code (movies only cost $2 Cdn).
We really liked KL, although we found walking around the streets to be quite the task. Pedestrians come last on the pecking order, behind cars and scooters. There are no crosswalks and the cars and scooters do not yield to pedestrians. For a new modern city, we thought they should make it easier for environmentally friendly walkers.
We took a bus up to the Cameron Highlands, 4 hours from KL, into the centre of Malaysia. The Highlands are an important agriculture area for Malaysia and are known for their trekking trails and cooler climate. We were very excited to be escaping the humidity of the coast. The bus ride was just that…a ride. Our bus driver throught he was Mario Andretti winding along the cliffs at top speed. But we arrived safe and sound and sure enough it was a nice mild temperature. Thank God Paul
took his motion sickness pill before!
The town of Tanah Rata, which is the centre of the Highlands, did not feel like Malaysia. It felt more like Europe with its quaint colonial architecture. Apparently it rains here every afternoon and of course at 4 o’clock it started torrential raining and rained all night.
In the morning, we woke to a cool and damp morning and had some doubts about our plan of jungle trekking. We set off for trail 9A, but finding the start of the trails here can be quite a challenge. We finally found the start of the trail and it was lovely walking through the jungle. We went past Robinson waterfall and continued downhill through the jungle. After 2.5 km we emerged to a valley that was being used for agriculture and had a beautiful temple. Following our guidebook, we set off for the Boh Tea Estate. It was supposed to be a mere 2 km, but ended up being about 4 km, all uphill. The scenery was beautiful as we hiked up, through small terraced plots of farms and tea bushes. The Highlands are known for the tea plantations that cover the rolling hills.
We eventually reached the tea estate, where we watched a movie and learned a lot about tea. Who knew that there was so much to a cup of tea! We toured the factory, which was quite basic. The Boh Tea Estate is the largest tea plantation in Malaysia, with 60% market share here. We had thought that we could catch a bus back to Tanah Rata, but as it turned out, the lady informed us that it was either a taxi or walk. We were pretty pooped by now….but being cheap backpackers, we couldn’t take a taxi. We tried hitchhiking instead. We had barely walked 10 m and we got picked up by a truck going all the way back to Tanah Rata – we were ecstatic! Sure enough it rained again that afternoon. The Highlands were a place that we could have spent a lot of time. It had great treks, great food and a friendly, homey vibe. But we were getting excited to head to Thailand.
We took the VIP bus to Georgetown, on the island of Penang in the north of Malaysia. It was our first experience with the VIP bus – a bus that
has only 9 rows, 3 wide with huge, comfy seats that recline to practically make a bed. We reached Penang by taking the ferry across to Georgetown. Georgetown is the oldest city colonized by the British in Malaysia and has a rich history and beautiful colonial buildings. We had planned on staying a day or so, but got antsy about getting to the Thai beaches and so we only had an afternoon to explore this pretty city. We wandered around visiting the historical sites. The city has rickshaws that you can get around in, but unfortunately we didn’t go for a ride.
Tomorrow we’re taking a minibus for 9 hours to reach Krabi, the entry point for some of the beautiful beaches on the Andaman coast (west coast) of Thailand. Unfortunately minibuses seem to be the only way to get north to Thailand and we have to leave at the lovely hour of 5 am.
We really enjoyed the time we spent in Malaysia. It wasn’t a country that was originally on our radar screen when we were planning this trip. Malaysia is a economic success story and is known as one of the Asian Tigers, economies that
have recently emerged. We couldn’t help feeling proud of this country that has turned itself into a modern, efficient and successful country. The people we encountered were really friendly and we enjoyed seeing the meld of different ethnic and cultural groups. It was also great to see Borneo, which probably represents how Peninsular Malaysia was 30 years ago.
Till next time. We thought we’d leave you with this great quote.