|Monday 28th December 2009
Time to move on from Singapore today, and we got an early morning coach for the 4-hour journey to Melaka. Crossed the border from Singapore to Malaysia without too many hassles, apart from the hassle of getting off the bus to leave one country and then again when you arrive in the other country 2 minutes later!
There was an English guy on the bus who had just started a 6-month trip so we imparted some our travel tips/tales along the way, but he wasn’t very impressed when we chose to go to McDs for lunch when we arrived in Melaka. He’ll be craving western food as well in a month’s time when all he’s been eating is fried rice!
We had a bit of a wander round the town this afternoon although it’s small so it didn’t take long. The character is quite similar to an old European city on the river, probably the Dutch influence. We went for dinner at a place called Capitol Satay tonight and made some new friends! You have to queue up for ages so we ended up having dinner with an American couple (the guy looked like Seinfeld!) and an aussie guy called Felix, as well as the English guy Ali who we met on the bus this morning. Dinner was great fun as you pick the things you want to eat from a huge selection of meat, fish and vegetables (some recognisable, others not!) and then you cook them for varying lengths of time in the boiling pot of peanut satay in the middle of the table and pay according to the number of empty sticks you have at the end. The owner of the place was great fun and very proud of his business and all the ‘celebrities’ who have frequented the place – if you can eat more than the record number of sticks you get your dinner for free – the record for girls was about 150 sticks (Sam and I only managed 22 between us!!) – despite not beating any records the owner gave us all a free beer, which was very generous of him. Dinner was followed by more drinks at Geographer cafe – it turned out to be an expensive evening as Malaysia taxes its alcohol VERY heavily!
Tuesday 29th December 2009
Lie-in this morning followed by brunch at a cafe called Limau-Limau which was recommended by Sam the hostel owner – we had the best lunch in ages – sandwiches and delicious banana milkshakes! We then spent the afternoon exploring Melaka and its MANY museums. There was a history museum, an ethnographic museum, a literature museum, an education museum, and even a beauty museum (although we gave this one a miss!). We also walked to the top of Bukit (hill) St Paul to look round the remains of St Paul’s Church built in 1521 by a Portuguese sea captain – but used more recently by the British to store explosives!
After walking round for several hours I decided it was finally time to get myself some fish therapy – we have seen Dr Fish all over Asia but it was much cheaper here, so I spent 15 minutes getting my feet nibbled by little fish! The idea is that they eat all the dead skin - it was surprisingly relaxing if a little ticklish!
We had dinner tonight at Pak Putra, another restaurant recommended by Sam the hostel owner. Again a great choice, we had delicious tandoori chicken, naan bread and curry washed down with mango lassies. Yummy!
Wednesday 30th December 2009
We’re on the move again today, but this time it was only a 2-hour bus journey to Kuala Lumpur so we had a leisurely start for a change. We walked through Chinatown for one last time before catching a bus to Melaka Sentral – we knew we were on the right bus when we saw the massive Tesco supermarket again!
We luckily got on a bus straight away and were in KL by mid-afternoon. All very civilised until we got off the bus in the chaotic bus terminal! We soon realised that KL is no Singapore and despite having public transport systems they are not connected up AT ALL, and you can only buy single journeys to use them! We had to queue up to buy tickets to go one stop on the LRT and then queue up again to buy tickets to go 2 stops on the monorail – the ticket guy just laughed when we asked if they sell 3-day passes!!!
Nasi goreng for dinner tonight (well we haven’t had it for at least a week now!) and then shopping in the chaotic night market in Chinatown. Sam’s bargaining skills are getting pretty good now and he managed to pick up two fake designer t-shirts for three quid each, including a black Lacoste t-shirt which he’s wanted for ages! I was content just to wander round and watch the stall holders in action.
Thursday 31st December 2009
New Year’s Eve – the end of 2009 and the end of the noughties! We got up really early to try and get tickets to the viewing platform at the Petronas Towers but our despite our best efforts we arrived too late at 8.25am! We had to make do with taking photos from the outside instead! We walked round KLCC Park and watched them undertaking the preparations for tonight’s fireworks display.
We weren’t really sure what we were going to do tonight, but we got chatting to the owner of the hostel and he suggested that we get dinner and drinks at one of the bars at the bottom of the Petronas Towers so that we could watch the fireworks from there. It turned out to be a great suggestion and we got there just in time to secure a table for dinner.
We had (overpriced!) drinks in the Irish pub and soaked up the atmosphere as KLCC park got busier and busier – there was a light, water and music show in the fountain area for most of the evening which we really enjoyed and then at 10pm we moved to the Apartment restaurant for some dinner - I had ‘Jamie’s’ duck pasta! All round it was a very western evening ad we enjoyed playing the part of ex-pats for a few hours! The evening was finished off with a (brief!) fireworks display at midnight before a mad scramble to get out of KLCC! Fortunately we were able to walk all the back to our guesthouse so didn’t have to get on a packed train. We both had a great new year’s eve – not as good as in Devon but still pretty memorable!
Friday 1st January 2010
The start of a new year and a new decade and we both had sore heads! We were determined not to waste the day though and managed to find the right bus (eventually!) to take us to visit the Batu caves which are about 30 minutes out of town. It is a large Hindu temple built in a big cave half way up a mountain – it’s a steep trek up the stairs but the views from the top were quite impressive. There were the usual monkeys (why is that every temple has a resident monkey population?!) and a very large statue of Buddha, but not much else to keep us there and we soon headed back into town.
We finished the first day of the New Year with tandoori chicken and naan for dinner - but definitely no beers this evening!
Saturday 2nd January 2010
We were feeling lazy this morning and got a taxi to the bus station as we couldn’t be bothered to walk there. We got a bus up to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands which took about 4 hours. Unfortunately it was raining heavily when we got there and there wasn’t much sign of it clearing. This was followed by a nightmare with our accommodation – we were booked into Kang Travellers Lodge – despite some very mixed reviews on Hostelworld we decided to book it anyway as it was half the price of all the other hostels nearby. It soon became apparent that they didn’t have a record of our booking and they also didn’t have any double rooms! They drove us down to their other hotel on the main street to see if we were booked in there but we weren’t and they were fully booked also so then some other people drove us back to the first place and we were told to sit and wait for a while and a room would become available – grr! After about 45 minutes the guy came and told us our ‘room’ was ready... he took us upstairs and it turned out that they had cleaned one of the staff rooms (probably his!) and out us in there. There were two mattresses on the floor but after they had spent so long cleaning we didn’t have the heart to say we’d go elsewhere! We stayed on the promise that we would get a ‘proper’ room the next night!
We soon discovered that there isn’t much to do in the Cameron Highlands when it’s raining so we wandered round the shops, and ate in the same Chinese place for lunch and dinner – not feeling very inspired today!
Sunday 3rd January 2010
We had a much better experience of the Cameron Highlands today. We were booked on a 4WD rainforest adventure tour and the day started with a visit to an Orang Asli (aboriginal) village where our guide Spencer told us about their culture and we got an opportunity to fire darts using a blow pipe... I was spectacularly rubbish at it but it turned out that Sam was pretty good.
After we’d had a look round the village we set off on our jungle adventure to find the Rafflesia flower – the world’s largest flower growing to over a metre in diameter. It grows in the rainforest and usually the tour groups go most of the way in the 4WD jeep but it turned out that it was too muddy even for the jeep so we had to walk all the way! It started off being quite fun trekking up muddy tracks on oiur little expedition until it started raining! I then managed to step in some very deep mud all the way up to my knees and suddenly it wasn’t so much fun anymore! We trekked on uphill in the mud and crossing streams on rickety bridges for another hour or so until eventually we got to the place where the flowers are currently in bloom! We saw two flowers, one 7 days old which had started to decay and another just 3 days old which was much brighter in colour. Suddenly the traipsing through the mud seemed worthwhile, we felt like proper little explorers! After we’d seen the flowers we walked a bit further on through the rainforest to a waterfall. Apparently most tour groups go swimming here, but no-one fancied it today! It was good for me though as I managed to wash at least some of the mud off my trousers and shoes (although this was a bit of a fruitless exercise as they got covered with mud again on the walk back down!).
We had lunch at an Indian buffet place and although at the time I thought the food was ok I think it was probably the source of my later tummy troubles! After lunch we headed to the ‘Boh’ tea estate – the first time either of us had seen how tea is grown – it was really interesting considering how much of the stuff we drink! The emerald green tea bushes cover all the surrounding undulating hills and with the sun finally out it makes for a really beautiful setting. We got to walk through the bushes (apparently there are no snakes here unlike other tea growing places such as Sri Lanka!) and then had a quick tour round the factory to see how they process the leaves into the stuff we drink. Apparently they put the lowest grade tea leaves into the tea bags! We couldn’t leave without having a nice cup of tea and a scone in the cafe!
Next stop was the butterfly farm, but really it should have been called an insect farm as that is what it was full of. The crazy guy showing us about let us handle huge beetles, centipedes, and even scorpions! Sam was brave enough to hold a scorpion but I wasn’t going anywhere near them (no matter how many times the guy told us they wouldn’t hurt us!).
We finished the tour at a strawberry farm – a bit different from the PYO places at home – here the strawberries are grown hydroponically in greenhouses. You could buy all sorts of strawberry related produce but plumped for a strawberry smoothie and it’s safe to say it was probably the best I’ve ever tasted. Yummy!
Once we got back to the hostel I spent about 30 minutes washing the mud off our trainers – not sure they’ll ever be the same again. We have been moved to a ‘proper’ room for tonight – it’s basic but much better than last night! Dinner tonight at a really good Chinese restaurant which was recommended off the main road – today has easily been our best in Malaysia so far.
Monday 4th January 2010
Spent most of the day hanging round Tanah Rata waiting for our bus to Penang – it was raining again – but we walked to one of the waterfalls nearby (Robinson Falls) and had tandoori chicken and naan for lunch (it’s getting to be a favourite at the moment!). We managed to get all our VERY muddy clothes washed and dried at the laundry before we left which was a big relief.
We travelled to Penang in a minivan – they seem to be the preferred mode of transport here but they’re really quite uncomfortable for long journeys! When it arrived to take us to Penang I managed to fall down the steps of the hostel in the rain with my backpack on. It was probably quite amusing to those watching but I was not a happy bunny!
We arrived in Penang around 8 in the evening. Our first impression is that its very touristy, especially in the hawker centre where we went for dinner. We saw a load of annoying British kids who had clearly just been to the full moon party in Ko Pha-Ngan!
Tuesday 5th January 2010
We spent today exploring Penang – we caught the free city bus and had a look at a few of the main sights, such as the Chong Fatt Tze Mansion, Chinese shop houses and temples etc. Penang is supposed to be a UNESCO world heritage city but neither of us was that impressed. It probably doesn’t help that I’m feeling under the weather today; I have finally succumbed to a bad tummy. I thought that I had escaped as I’ve been in Asia for almost a month without any troubles! We went to a funny place for dinner – we were walking round Chinatown and found a restaurant which was recommended in the book for its Hainan chicken and rice dish.... they laughed when we asked for a menu because chicken and rice is the only dish they sell!
Wednesday 6th January 2010
We ended up spending another day in Penang as we are waiting for visas for Thailand (if you apply here for some reason you get 60-days instead of the usual 15). We decided to head to Penang Hill as there are supposed to be good views of the island from the top. We got a bus and then hopped onto the funicular railway up to the top – it took 30 minutes to get to the top and we had to change trains half way up! We just had time to take some photos and walk around at the top before the heavens opened! The rain was so heavy that my emergency poncho had its first ever outing!
We ate lunch and dinner at Ecco cafe today – it’s a cool little catering to Westerners with its fare of pizza, pastas and foccacias – my tummy is still bad and I am craving western/definitely not spicy food today!