After our last post we flew on the excellent Singapore Airlines to begin our overland journey through South East Asia.
Thanks to expensive Australia we had to limit our time in the expensive city state of Singapore. After checking in we made our way to the highly recommended ‘Night Safari’ which is basically a zoo that you look round in the dark! Nevertheless it housed a collection of endangered species in impressive conditions. The next day we explored the city via its excellent public transport system witnessing the preparation ahead of last weekend’s Grand Prix and looking round the Asian Civilisations Museum.
That evening we boarded a ‘VIP’ bus and crossed the border into Malaysia. Our first stop was the former Dutch outpost of Melaka. The city is teaming with interesting architecture and ruins as well as trishaw drivers roaming the city playing Jack Johnson from improvised speakers attached to the back of their bikes, an amusing but tacky sight! Melaka, like many Asian cities is home to a mix of peoples grouped together mini Chinatowns, little Indias, and Malay districts.
The rest of our tour through Malaysia was characterised by this mix of people. Recent news of a lady been caned for drinking outside came as a shock having seen how tolerant Malaysians seem to be. In Georgetown for example you can amble down a street and see Mosques, Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples and Churches next door to each other.
Kuala Lumpur was the next stop after leaving Melaka. As we arrived the city was in the grip of its Merdeka (Independence) celebrations, although these were heavily scaled down due to the supposed threat of swine flu. Kuala Lumpur was our first experience of crazy shopping malls, these monoliths are everywhere and serve only to disorientate anyone who makes the mistake of entering. Anyone who has had the misfortune of having to visit the likes of Meadowhall three days before Christmas has no idea how lucky they are. If you ever manage to navigate your way through these ‘megamalls’ you can find a host of food courts and other cheap eats with the luxury of sub zero air conditioning.
Having spent a week in the busy, smelly and hot Capital we wanted a change and boarded a series of busses to the Cameron Highlands. A well trodden tourist route, but for good reason. The Cameron Highlands, famous for their tea and strawberries and more importantly cooler and cleaner mountain air entertained us for a number of days. Jungle Trekking and waterfalls spotting provided a pleasant relief from traffic and people.
Continuing this theme we headed for the local holiday island of Pangkor; so called bad weather and Ramadan meant the island was pretty much deserted. Here we enjoyed a few days sitting on beaches and relaxing (it’s a stressful existence not working or studying). Amusingly the only real way of getting around on this island was in a pink mini bus taxi. Traveling north (in more sensible coloured vehicles) along the western coast we arrived in the island state of Penang and spent a while in Georgetown at the impressive Hutton Lodge Guest House. Anyone planning a stop here should seriously consider this place, it is by a country mile the best accommodation we have seen on our entire trip.
Muslim restrictions on drinking meant Simon hadn’t had any beer for a long time, to remedy this and enjoy more of Malaysia’s stunning beaches we ventured to the (duty free) holiday island of Langkawi. The boat trip in choppy monsoon seas saw an unwelcome return of Simon’s seasickness. Again transport around was tricky and one day we decided to view some inland waterfalls ‘the best’ according to a helpful taxi driver. To get there we hired an impressive, though TINY, Perodua Kecil complete with unique Italian sports steering wheel. None of the gauges worked and the helpful renters gave us one with an empty tank, despite this we did manage to get to the waterfall and it was, as promised, the best.
From Langkawi it is possible to get a ferry to Thailand so we took the early morning ferry on what became our longest traveling day so far: Langkawi to Satun (Thailand) on a ferry, Satun to Hat Yai in a taxi and a mini bus, and finally Hat Yai to Bangkok on a 17 hour sleeper train.
We are writing this from Bangkok and will post again before we leave Thailand. We have had to change plans slightly, a long story but the combination of money and visa issues means we are now flying to Vietnam direct from Bangkok.
Hope you are all well and are impressed that the rambling Australia blog hasn’t reared its ugly head again in the form of a Malaysian Blog.
Keep in touch.
Rachel and Simon x