After finishing our time in Australia, we took a flight from Brisbane to Singapore to start our Asian leg of the journey. Although we had already heard about how clean and orderly Singapore was, we weren't quite prepared for how clean it actually was. The airport on arrival was pristine and the underground journey to our guest house, even more so. No advertisements or graffiti anywhere. However, we did stay in an older part of the city, Little India, which wasn't quite as clean as some parts, but still very clean. We all liked our guest house, which had a nice little atmosphere to it and free DVD viewing for the rainy days (i.e. every day). Thankfully, our place had air conditioning too as the heat and humidity was incredible. The first night, we sat outside as if we had been swimming and forgotten to dry ourselves! Wetter than an otter's pocket! (That ones for you randy!!) Pretty much all of the city was full of sparking new buildings, but it still had some evidence of it's colonial past including the colonial 'must-have' cricket pitch right in the city centre. Although, after being in fairly western countries for most of our journey so far, we did start to feel like aliens amongst the mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian Singaporeans. We spent most of our time wandering around the city, especially the harbour side, and doing the odd bit of shopping. There wasn't much in the way of sights in the city apart from a few temples in the Chinatown area, so after a couple of days we finished up in Singapore with the obligatory Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel and caught the bus across the border to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia.
It really felt like we had properly hit Asia when we arrived in KL. The first thing we noticed was the amount of traffic, where mopeds weaved precariously in-between the parked cars, and if there was no way through they would simply drive on the wrong side of the road or move on to the footpaths! Where Singapore was organised and clean, KL seemed chaotic and dirty, but after spending time in Asia we have learnt that this is how life is for the most part, and something we have now become accustomed to.
As we arrived we were literally thrown in at the deep end, the bus station, to which we found out later, was being renovated, and this was the reason we made a random stop in the middle of KL with our bags flung out onto the footpath. With no clue as to where we were, and the obvious fact that we were tourists, we felt slightly vulnerable to random people asking us where we needed to go. Thankfully we had pre-booked our accommodation so we grabbed a taxi and headed to the guesthouse. From here we called our Asian representative, Hiongy, a mate from school who had moved to KL last year. We met up with Hiong who took us under his wing and showed us around KL. He took us around Chinatown and the bustling night markets where you could pick up anything, as long as it's fake. Although we had been blessed so far with the weather, we had hit Malaysia in the monsoon season and there were no signs of the rain stopping. So, days generally consisted of walking around the malls where Paul picked up a bargain with a new camera. While in KL we learnt that Hiong had been busy making connections, as he managed to get us VIP tickets to see Armen Van Buuren, who unbeknown to any of us lot was one of the best DJs today in House music. Naturally we had tickets to jump the queues which were bloody long and it was very hard to keep a straight face as we walked straight in as though it was completely normal! If only they knew that a few hours before Crust had been drying his wet trousers with an iron! As you may imagine the next day was a complete write-off and generally consisted of us licking our pillows for some life-saving moisture! The day after we had recovered, just about and headed to the Petronas Towers - they are offices owned by Petrona, a large oil and petroleum organisation and cost a mere $1.6 BILLION (US). On the evening we again met up with Hiong and his girlfriend who we took to a restaurant for a farewell meal to say thanks. Well, for a pound a meal it was the least we could do!
From KL we headed further north into Malaysia to an area called the Cameron Highlands, which is where the majority of tea is grown. After throwing away our warm clothes in Brisbane we were in for a shock - cold wet weather! Again, it constantly rained and much of our time was spent watching DVDs and relaxing in the guesthouse, but we did brave the weather a few days and went on a jungle trek and a visit to the tea plantations. After visiting the plantations and watching labourers cutting the leaves we were told how people drink their tea in England, which was very fascinating. Firstly those English folk only drink from the finest chinaware and never use the same pot twice in the same day! If only he knew that the builders brew was closer to the mark!
From Cameron Highlands we took another bumpy ride to the island of Penang in the very north of Malaysia near to the Thailand border. We stayed in an area called Georgetown, the first western settlement in Malaysia. Unfortunately Paul picked up a sniffle in the Cameron Highlands and spent a couple of days in bed in our Faulty Towers-style hotel. With not a great deal to see or do in Georgetown we waited until Paul had fully recovered and booked a bus across the border into Thailand to a town called Krabi, and the start of our Thailand tour!