16.10.2012 - 06.11.2012 33 °C
Just before arriving to Kuala Lumpur (KL) airport late in the evening, we hit a major thunderstorm. Surrounded by lightning and heavy rain, we once again, hope we will land soon.. Which we do. Since there is no walking bridge to the terminal (and we are parked basically next to it), a rack full of umbrellas does the trick this time. Selamat Datang ke KL!
A world of difference compared to Nepal. Transfer busses are waiting to take us to the train station close by, and an hour later we arrive at KL Sentral. Even the 'teksi' system here is brilliant (unfortunately the monorail didn't run at midnight). Inside the terminal we have to say where we want to go, they print you a confirmation ticket/receipt, you pay and you give the receipt to the taxi driver. No hassle to find a taxi, no discussions about the price or if the meter please can be turned on, it's delightful! Twenty minutes later we are dropped off in front of our hostel, which apparently is located in a street full of restaurants & bars and the atmosphere is great!
On our first day in Kuala Lumpur we explore the area around our hostel and visit the Petronas towers, a famous sight in KL. Since we do not have a Lonely Planet of Malaysia, since this destination was kind of chosen randomly, we decide to visit the tourist information center to get some more info about this country. With all the info we get, we go back to our hostel and start scheduling the next three weeks. On day two we visit other parts of KL like the city centre, Chinatown, Little India, Central Market and Dataran Merdeka. We even visit a mosque, since most of the Malaysians is Muslim, which off course means as females we can enter the property, (after slightly adjusting our outfit before going in; see photo 13) but of course we can still not enter the prayer area. It's very hot and humid every day, temperatures around 32 Celcius, but "feels likes" up to 45 Celcius! I guess we better get used to it!
After KL we go to Melaka, a place 150 Km south of KL. The busses that run here are very new and spacious, but still cheap! A total opposite of Nepal. It's refreshing and very comfortable! Melaka or Malacca as the Malaysians write it, is famous because it was a big trade town back in the day. It is the birthplace of Malaysia's historical and cultural heritage and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Even though it was possessed by the British (they still drive on the left side of the road) the Dutch also invaded here in the 1600's. The famous Malacca Stadthuys is the most famous Dutch building that remained, the mill on the other side of the streets is also a very obvious Dutch landmark. It's funny to see, but the mass tourism that comes with it is a lot less attractive. Our hostel provides us with breakfast and its delicious! Rice with fresh coconut wrapped in a banana leaf, a deep fried little meat bun, all different kinds of fresh tropical fruits and something that looks and tastes a lot like a Timbit!
In the evening we enjoy some delicious Malaysian satay, and this is definitely a little different that sate sauce at home. It's made fresh from ground peanuts and Cajun. It's runnier than we are used to but very tasty! You walk into the 'restaurant' which is more an empty shack (cement on the floor, nothing on the walls and TL lights in the ceiling) with some lawn furniture inside. There is a hole in the table, where they put a big pot of satay into. Under the plastic table is a huge gas tank, which is connected to the satay pot and heats the pot. Then, you have to grab a tray and walk to the fridge in which there is a lot of meat/ seafood and vegetables on satay sticks, just pick what you want. Minor issue, no signs in front of everything so you have no idea what is what, and the staff doesn't speak enough English to explain. So we grab something that looks like chicken, something that looks like beef and some tofu. You bring the tray to the table, dip the sticks in the hot satay, let it sit for two minutes and ready to eat it is! When your done, the waitress comes to count the amount of sticks on your tray and you pay. Genius!
After Malacca we take a bus to Mersing on the other side of the peninsula, and from there we take a boat to Tioman Island. Already suggested to us by two Dutchies in Chengdu China and also more family and friends, we decide to explore this gem, even though its off season and the weather might not be great. We got almost flushed away in Malacca so it can't get much worse . Semi overcast but dry, we arrive late in the afternoon at Tioman Island's ABC Beach. Nothing booked, but since its off season it's not a problem to find a shack to sleep. It's private, it's clean and there is a fan, which is very much wanted in 34degree Celsius weather. The island is deserted! Low season okay, but having a beach and a bar basically for yourself is luxury that is priceless! We enjoy our first night at the sunset bar with some great food and drinks! Day two was hot and sunny and we get sun burned big time, even though we had factor 85 sunscreen, crazy!
So the next day we spend in the shade, which was a good thing! Unfortunately for us, visiting Tioman Island in the low season also has down sides. Apparently Wednesdays is their day off (like we have Sunday), but when there is no restaurants open at all, finding food is a little bit of a challenge.. Day four we wake up and it's raining. Yuk! But it gets worse, after breakfast it starts pouring, it's literally like the clouds all broke and just emptied their whole content. And it rained until 4.30 so we spend the whole day on our bed in our shack reading a book. Luckily the sunset bar was open again that night and for the last time we enjoyed great drinks, awesome pizza, the best banana milkshakes we've ever tasted and a beautiful sunset!
From Tioman we take the boat back to Mersing, where we wanted to take a bus to Kuantan and from there to the national park Teman Negara. Unfortunately for us, this Friday was the start of a Muslim holiday and there were no busses to Kuantan or any other little town. The only options were Singapore and KL, so KL it was. 6 hours later we were back in KL and booked the bus to Penang Island (Georgetown) for the next day. Another five hours by bus, but we made it to Georgetown! The first night we stayed in little India, obviously a famous India area in Georgetown. The Indian vibe was definitely there, music, good foods, traditional clothing, henna tattoos, it almost felt like how I imagined India must be. Georgetown is like Malacca an Unesco World Heritage site, with a lot of old buildings which we visited on our first day. The fruit here is delicious and plentyful! Everywhere there is little fruit stands on the side of the road that sell delicious fresh tropical fruits and juices, yum! The heat is hard to handle, the 34 degrees is do-able, the humidity isn't. Every day though, around 3.30pm the rain and thunder come in and at least it cools down a little bit. The food here in Georgetown is also great! Lots of Malaysian and Indian places to try some new delicious dishes! Main difference here, is that the locals don't use cutlery, but eat with their hands. Or hand, that is, because they only use their right hand to eat, not there left. A little challenging for us, if something needs to be separated, so the left hands comes to the rescue sometimes, but we at least try to not use our knife and fork. Chicken tandoori, nasi campus, nasi goreng, satay ayam; it's a delicious week!
We visit the tropical fruit farm on the west side of the island, which is quite interesting. 260 different kinds of fruits are grown here, all organic. There is a lot of fruits we have never heard of but it's amazing to see, taste and learn interesting facts about all this fruit. The fresh fruit shake and the fruit buffet were off course the best part of this day trip! Getting there, was a whole different story. "Just take the bus 101, it will take you all the way there". Well.. Bus 101 ran just over a full hour until it got to a national park which was the end station. We had to transfer to bus 501, okay no problem. But, bus 501 only comes once every two hours.. Yeah, little note they forgot to mention.. We end up waiting almost an hour and a half, but luckily this bus does take us to the fruit farm .
Our second hostel in Georgetown organized a guided walking tour which was awesome. First we got to decorate our own chopsticks, that we would be using along the way to try some delicious Malaysian dishes! The other thing we had was an ice ball, which really is like a canadian snowcone, but than made round like a ball. The ice ball then gets soaked with rose and rootbeer syrup, and you suck the syrup out of the ball. Apparently a refreshment for hot days from the old days! Its probably delicious when you like rootbeer! haha. We also saw the biggest incense sticks I've ever seen in my life! Beautiful murals on old buildings and great local markets. We had a nice group of people, learned a lot of little did-you-know's and enjoyed a lot of good food/drinks!
We also make a day trip to Kulim area to visit the "World's longest tree-top canopy walk". Or at least we'll give it a try since bus schedules don't seem to work all the time. It's located in the middle of the rainforest, so it should be exiting and different! After the free ferry to the mainland city Buttersworth, we take a bus to Kulim. From there we want to take a bus to this canopy walk. Goes a little different, since there is no busses to that area.. You would think it would be crawling with people (but we know now, its not China anymore..), but fair enough, once we arrive by taxi there is not a single person present, besides the lodge lady, who grabs her scooter immediately when she sees us. We said to each other, she's probably going to notify someone we are coming. Well, she actually is the one working at the canopy trail and gives us our entrance tickets. The amount of spider webs at the start give us the impression that there haven't been very many people here lately, because it doesn't seem like Halloween decorations . And fair enough, we are all alone and hear the many sounds of the jungle immediately when we start. Lucky for us we see a whole bunch off Gibbon monkeys play in the tree tops, jumping, sitting, hanging, falling, it reminds us of Tarzan It's great to be able to watch them from so close, I don't think they even noticed us! Besides the monkeys we don't see much else exiting, besides some insects, flowers, trees and beautiful butterflies! But the Gibbons were awesome!
October 31st was Halloween! Even in Malaysia; surprisingly we thought. Even though we didn't have a costume we still had great fun! The hostel organized a night out to Slurping Senoritas, where it was ladies night, which means in Malaysia that ladies can drink free! It was great! Our hostel tour guide was the one that took us there, apparently thought it was funny to make that night my birthday, so the performing artists sang happy birthday for me. Soon we got some devils horns with a light in them as a gift and our Halloween party was really getting somewhere. Great night with great people!
Last stop in Malaysia was Cameron Highlands. An area southeast of Penang, and north west of KL. Because of the insane amount of traffic on these narrow roads, it took almost 8 hours, instead of the scheduled 5 to get there, but we made it. Apparently Malaysian schools are out untill the new year, because they don't have summer holidays, good thing were leave soon!
Not situated at sea level anymore, Cameron Highlands felt quite a bit cooler then any other destination in Malaysia we've vistited. The highest point we went to here was 2030mt, which is not that cold, but since Monsoon season is rolling in, it cools down immediately when the rain falls, which is basically all day, except the morning. So, we booked a morning tour the next day to explore Cameron Highlands most famous sights, which is the rainforest (we only had a short but very muddy walk through Mozzy Forest, a forest that is 216thousand years old and yes, is covered in moss), the tea plantations (very interesting to see and never knew tea was such a short process!), strawberry farms (plentiful here, no they don't taste much different than the ones at home but are delicious, especially when you add a Belgian waffle, warm chocolate sauce and some whipped cream ) and last we visited a butterfly and insect place. Interesting to see all the insects and reptiles that live in Malaysia, crazy that some of them (a beetle and the centipede) seem so innocent but are so deadly! Butterflies we've seen a lot in the last three weeks, with a big thank you to all the beautiful flora Malaysia has! The most colorful flowers and plants grow here in the wild, it's sooo amazing!
Back in KL, we innocently go out for supper, because they have the most delicious beef tacos in this street! Its monday, so nothing special, except the fact its ladies night and vodka strawberry is free.. So why pay for beer if you can get free drinks till 10pm? When we leave at 10 (eh, we are cheap Dutch backpackers), to go back to our hostel, the bar next door begs us to come in; they have free drinks for ladies tonight, okay.. because your sooo persuasive we'll have one. When you get to bed at 4am, after an incredibly fun night, we realize that a full evening of drinking costed us $0.. Crazy!! We love Malaysian ladies nights!
So, three weeks in Malaysia are already over.. Time is flying, but I mean seriously flying!! It's not funny!
Tonight we're headed to Thailand, the last country on our trip already. There is only three weeks left that we will spend together and the last three weeks we will be in company of three of my beautiful Canadian friends, and after that, it's almost the end of December and... No, we're not talking about that yet, first six weeks of Thailand!!