Just in case you missed my video of Asia…..
Two public buses took us from Kuala Lumpur to the historic city of Malacca in the south of Malaysia. Malacca was recognised as a World Heritage Site, which it proudly boasts all over the city.
We took lunch at an Indian which had surprisingly good food and amazing service – we all got our meals at the same time. Winner, winner, chicken dinner – well buttered chicken to be precise!
We then fought over riding in either a Disneys Frozen trishaw or a Hello Kitty one, we let it go and picked the Frozen clad vehicle. Thankfully for the cities traffic I wasn’t peddling!
Our rider, chauffeur, peddler whatever his title was took us on an hour and a half tour of the city, stopping at the serene kampungs (villages). As one of the oldest trading ports in Southeast Asia the city has many different influences including Indian, Chinese and European.
As night fell Beth and I headed to ‘Fat Boys’ restaurant, a western burger joint with a TGI Fridays feel to it. I was defeated by their ‘Fat Bastard’ it was a definite eyes bigger moment after an Indian at lunch time.
We took to the river for a night cruise which lasted for about 45 minutes, taking in the lights and the murals on the walls of the buildings lining the canal. Following the cruise we picked the tackiest trishaw for our trip home, music blaring, clad in cheap fairy lights.
The roads were windy as we descended from the Highlands, it was rather scary too watching the driver navigate through the narrow roads. The bus had Kuala Lumpur on the front – our next stop.
The lush green tea plantations were a stark contrast from the skyscrapers that welcomed us in the Malaysian capital with the KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers standing at 452m and 421m respectively, clear in the skyline.
After lunch in a food court where Beth managed to order three chicken strip meals rather than three individual strips we headed for China town. Large red lanterns hung above tightly packed markets stalls offering everything from Rolex’s to Ray Bans, Michael Kors to the latest Manchester United shirt, all genuine at a good price or so we were told!
A statue clad roof stood over the Hindu temple we visited, the girls wrapped a colourful material around their lower body to cover their knees and the males just removed their flip flops.
Poor, slow service appears to be a regular occurrence in Asian restaurants, with people receiving their food before other table members had ordered – the Chinese we went to was no exception. The smug chap dancing below felt like he was saying ‘we’ve wasted your evening, now we take your money’.
Tuesday morning saw us take a guided bus tour around a number of the tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur. The first stop was the Kings Palace, a grand and golden looking building which wouldn’t look out of place in Aladin. The palace has not long been recently completed (2011) costing £160m which is a lot considering the King doesn’t live there! The King only uses it for meetings in the capital.
The National Monument was next which is beautifully set, surrounded by water, remembering those who have fallen. It’s the world’s tallest bronze freestanding sculpture grouping and looks impressive surrounded by fountains.
The next stop was the National Mosque, a 15,000 people capacity mosque just outside the centre. As a mark of respect we all had to cover up with the girls donning Hijab (head scarves) and the boys wore robes.
272 steps followed as we climbed, along with the monkeys to the Batu Caves, just outside of Kuala Lumpur. A limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples, occupied by cheeky monkeys who patrol the steps. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. We were caked in sweat by the time we reached the top, as the steep climb was difficult in the humidity!
Two of the most iconic buildings in Kuala Lumpur were next, the Petronas Towers. The former tallest building in the world (1998 to 2004), standing at 452m. The lift climbed at 6m per second so we were soon at our first stop the sky bridge, this gave us a teaser at 170m before shooting to the top. The views from the top were incredible with the viewing gallery designed so that you could get a 360 degree view of the city.
As night fell we headed back to Petronas for a meal and drinks. The after dinner fountain show was incredible on the water which laid in the shadow of the towers. For drinks we took our guides advice and headed for the ‘Sky Bar’ on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel. The centre piece of the bar is the pool – could be dangerous for alcohol lovers and the bar offers fantastic views over the Twin Towers. Our frozen cocktails really helped us cool after a day in the humidity.
After a 4 hour journey across motorways and winding climbing roads we arrived in the Cameron Highlands, which are pushing 2,000m. We arrived in Tanah Rata which is surrounded by lush green tea plantations in the early evening.
An Indian was on the agenda for our evening meal. My starter arrived after my main, with the groups meals arriving over a 45 minute period – you’d get fired back home for that! The naan and pancakes were great and although the chicken was well flavoured it was full of bones.
On Sunday morning we boarded a former Austrian military truck, which stood out like a sore thumb in the entourages of Land Rovers in the Highlands. They once broke a World Record for the most Defenders in a convoy, over 400!
We then headed into the ‘Mossy Forest’ which our guide said that it is rare to have easy access to such a habitat with people having to treck for days to reach similar forests. We were warned that our shoes would be turned to ‘chocolate cake’ due to the muddy tracks that we’d be tracking on. If you think of the Avatar film that’s what the forest was like, inter winding moss covered trees letting small glimpses of sunlight through.
We stopped at a viewpoint deep in the 600 acres of tea plantation with stunning panoramic views of the green carpet like hills. The plantation was owned by a company called BOH, which is privately owned by a Scottish family who have passed it through generations. The leaves are ‘picked’ by machine with two men holding either end, this differed to the plantations I saw in Kenya where people carried baskets on their backs to throw the leaves into.
Time Tunnel was next a museum showing the history of the Highlands which has deep British routes. The area is named after William Cameron a Scottish surveyor who found settlements in the late 1800’s. It later had British military influence with camps being based their during the Second World War and letter people doing their National Service their also.
The 4th largest Buddhist temple rounded off our day which is home to the largest statue of the Buddha in Malaysia.
Some of the group chose Steamboats for tea – not a term for somebody getting paralyticly drunk. Steamboats are a gas cooker (camping stove) which are placed in the middle of the table with soup in them. Raw meat, vegetables and noodles are served with them which you throw into the water and boil it to cook. Beth and I were less adventurous opting for chicken dishes, however the dried chillis in mine were an eye waterer.
It was a bit like Sushi, small bowls and lots of them and strained tea with our lips. We ventured for Chinese Dim Sum for breakfast trying just about everything on offer! A very different breakfast to the British fry up.
Penang has become famous for its street art in the last few years so we grabbed a map and went exploring (Find out more here). It’s a mix of wrought-iron caricatures telling the cities story and paintings by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. We worth a visit if you’re in this area of the world. Graffiti has also appeared on the walls of the city with a minion takeover!
Friday was our first full day in Penang in north west Malaysia. The climate was noticeably different and we were greeted by warm rain for the first time in our adventure.
We took to the streets in a minibus with an English speaking guide who pointed out the colonial influence on the city, with beautifully constructed typically grand and white architecture.
However colonialism isn’t the only influence on the city which also boasts a ‘little India’ and ‘China town’, with 60% of the cities population being from a Chinese origin. Their presence on the city is evident and we visited a number of different piers which only Chinese people with certain surnames could stop on, however there was one where any Chinese could stop on too! Red lanterns with golden tassels lined the narrow boardwalk out to the water with little stalls selling gifts on either side.
We braved the lunchtime traffic and ventured over to the only ‘Snake Temple’ in the world, which also hosts over 30 different breeds of snake in its adjoining snake sanctuary.
At the snake sanctuary we witnessed a rattle snake hiss and rattle its tail, supposedly it can rattle at 60 shakes a second! I stroked an albino snake from head to tail, so now I have good luck supposedly – happy days! A man kissed a King Cobra in a snake show, one of the venomous snakes in the world, which will kill you in 15 minutes. ‘You either choose heaven or hospital’ said the commentator, with heaven being the more likely option with the hospitals taking up to 1:30 hours to reach in traffic!
The bus then took us to the a huge Chinese temple set on Penang Hill overlooking the city. Beth and I both wrote our names on a candle, lit it, made a wish and then placed it infront of the 16 handed God. We then placed a wish on ribbon on a tree outside the temple, writing our names on the back.
Youll be pleased to know I am not one of the tourists which has been arrested this week for exposing themselves on the top of a mountain! They’ve been released now, here’s the article.
We arrived in Malaysia yesterday after enduring a 400 mile, 12 hour bus/ferry journey. We left our hotel in Samui and headed for the 7am ferry to mainland Thailand. During the 1:30 hour crossing Beth and I enjoyed a Thai leg massage, feeling a bit like Bambi following it. It was exciting to gain some more ink for my passport on the border, however finding out we had another 3:30 hours to our hotel was not so. Arriving in Penang around 8:30.
After checking in to our hotel we ventured to a local food market, a bizarre of around 60 hawker stalls selling meals for 5MYR each (£1). We were careful how we pointed at what we wanted to order, as Malaysians find it offence if you extend a finger to point. Instead you have to place your thumb over a fist and point with that. The smell of fried meats was mixed with the pungent smell was met with the smell of Durian, a smelly fruit which is banned in some places indoors, including our hotel. Beth and I experimented with a number of different dishes and racked up a bill of about £5.