Singapore - Malaka - Kuala Lumpur - Taman Negara - Pulau Pehentian Besar
Apr 30, 2005
|After a couple of days in Singapore, we caught the bus across the border into Malaysia and onto Melaka, where the story of Malaysia began many centuries ago. The bus was really good, a standard coach but with only three seats across which reclined almost vertically. Felt like business class - and all for around a fiver!
We arrived in Melaka around midday and went to seek out accommodation. We found a really nice place, small and quiet with really nice, friendly owners. That afternoon, we did an hour walking tour of Melaka taking in a couple of temples and getting pretty hot and bothered! We found a nice little café where we recovered with ice tea and fruit juice. Melaka is a nice, quaint town with lots of history. The smells of josh sticks and incense mixed with smells spice stores was pleasant. All around the town, the sound of wooden chimes could be heard. The whole place had a tranquil air about it.
That evening, we had traditional Malaysian fair on the river. After Oz, New Zealand and to a lesser extent Singapore, the prices in Malaysia were very welcome. We can both eat out pretty much for only a few quid, even with a beer or two. And the food is good and freshly prepared. Jo is still a little reluctant to eat a lot of the meat, preferring the vegetarian options.
We stayed only one night in Melaka then got back on the bus and headed to the mayhem of Kuala Lumpur. And what mayhem awaited us... As soon as we arrived at the bus station, the taxi drivers were all over us. However, we spotted a couple of places across the street and plumped for the Anuja Hotel. It was pretty basic but clean and bed bug free. Getting across the road was a nightmare though. It very much seems that pedestrians are third class, after cars and motorcycles - the motorcycles are the worst, paying no notice of lights, road signs or anything. After getting over that we went for a stroll around KL to get our bearings. Malaysian is a muslim state so most of the religious buildings are mosques. We visited a couple, chosing to venture inside one of them where Jo had to cover pretty much her whole body before we were allowed in. Mark was fine, however, in shorts and t-shirt. That evening we ended up in colourful Chinatown. We had barely walked 5 yards and the first of many menus was thrust in front of us. This combined with fending off watch, DVD, CD and fruit and veg sellers was to be the theme for the night. Good fun, if a little tiresome at times.
Next day, we went up the Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest twin structure in the world. Amazingly, they put it together in only two years. It has an excellent shopping centre, offices, beautiful gardens and a mosque. Oh, and great air conditioning!! We went up to the walkway which links the two towers at the half way point. Some good views of KL from the top but it was a little hazy to see too far.
After that, we decided to take a leisurely walk to the Lake Gardens and the butterfly park. However... as we mentioned, pedestrians are far down the priority list of town planners and we spent over an hour trying to find a way across a 7 lane highway.. Hot and bothered, we gave up with a string of expletives about our host country.
We walked around the Golden Triangle that evening, the nicest area of KL we felt.
Thursday morning we headed up to Taman Negara National Park for some clean air. After 3 hours on a bus and then a three hour wait (basically so we would spend money in the restaurant there), our long boat arrived. We then had a brilliant three hour trip upstream to our jungle camp. We saw monitor lizards, monkeys, birds, butterflies, water buffalo and lots more beside. At times, we nearly grounded and we had to negotiate rapids along the route which made it all the more exciting.
We got to camp and dumped our things and then Mark headed to the camp restaurant. No beer available, so a flick through the TV with a can of Sprite. Imagine Mark's delight at finding a channel showing a repeat of the previous night's match between Norwich and Newcastle. We had no idea of the score so it was just like watching it live, complete with highs, lows, then, thankfully highs!
We went for a night jungle walk after the football with our guide for the two days. We didn't see much other than a tarantula and huge ants and millipedes but the noise was immense - all the jungle's creatures vying for attention.
Next morning we went to the jungle canopy walk, a series of rope bridges suspended 25 metres up in the canopy. Pretty hair-raising at times, but spectacular views of the jungle. As Friday is the Muslim holy day, the organizers had to change our schedule around and the 3 hour hike which we should have done that morning was cancelled. After lunch we had to wait around for 3 hours before going rapid shooting, basically they were going to put us on rubber rings and throw us through some rapids. Imagine our annoyance after waiting 3 hours, only to be taken around to the next bay for a swim! We felt cheated. Had we known, we could have done something ourselves such as walk to the waterfall.
As we'd missed the supposed 3 hour hike, we decided to get up early and do it ourseleves. We started by walking through the jungle in the dark with a dodgy torch. We found our way up the hill relatively easily though and were rewarded with superb views across the whole jungle. The hike, incidently, was 75 minutes there and back not 3 hours! Something else we could have done the afternoon before.
After breakfast, we got our boat connection back to Jurantut. We waited in Jerantut for 13 hours for our train to Kota Bharu. The train left at two in the morning. Luckily we had sleeper berths so the journey went pretty well, with us arriving in Kota Bharu around 8am. From there we caught a cab, then a boat to our island hideway, Pulau Perhentian Besar. We got there around noon and what a sight the island was. Beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise seas and barely a person in sight. We could stay here for weeks!
We stayed four days in all, diving a spectacular underwater pinnacle and a not quite so spectacular wreck, did lots of snorkeling and loads of chilling out. The food was good and dirt cheap too. The islands were idyllic and we'll definitely be going back one day. The only thing which is stopping them from becoming much more popular is the lack of an airport - let's hope it stays that way! Our beach hut, complete with sea view cost less than six pounds per night. We met some nice people, including - bizarrely for a hotel with only 15 huts - two couples from Norwich!
Sadly, Thursday we had to leave the island. After the 45 minute boat journey back to the mainland, we got a taxi to the Thai border and began our journey through Thailand...