KL, Petronas Towers and Batu Caves

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.


Beth and I then headed for a full body massage with an hours massage costing us £12 each. Beth went onto have a manicure and pedicure at the fraction of the price back home.

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.


          

Tea, Chocolate Cake and Jungles

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!


Our first stop was the highest point in the Highlands, above the clouds at 1,800 meters. A tower had been built to get much higher, providing panoramic views of the green rolling hills.


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.


 Next was to the tea factory where all the leaves are transported to. We had a very traditional English afternoon tea. With cream and jammed filled scones with fresh tea filling our pallet.


 Climbing uphill we visited a butterfly farm, posing with insects such as scorpions before fresh strawberries at a strawberry farm and a brief visit to a cactus farm.

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.


    Beers by a fire pit closed the evening at the Jungle Bar – a popular bar for backpackers.


Elephants, Back Cracks and Boxing

Wednesday was classed as our ‘free day’ on Koh Samui and the group could do whatever they wanted. We opted for a welcomed lie in and got up about 9.

We headed to the strip with its array of souvenirs, fake branded clothing, massage parlours and bars, shopping on the way down. I had the trouser fitting for my suit – 14 hours after processing the order, watching a man draw all over them with chalk.

We’d booked an elephant treck for the afternoon, with our transfer to the Elephant sanctuary arriving in Thai time – 25 minutes late.  We arrived safely after near misses with scooters and wandering dogs.

We were welcomed by the Giants that are well respected in Thailand, plodding along in the afternoon sunshine. We were offered the options of getting a card framed photo or asking our Mahout (elephant trainer) to take them for a tip, picking the latter.

After 10 minutes the Mahout jumped down and invited me to take his spot on the head of the elephant. He then proceeded to take about 20 photos with various poses. After our ride he let us feed her with bananas, with it being cute watching the elephant search for the bananas with its trunk before shovelling it into its mouth.

  

In the evening we had a girls and lads night with both parties going out separately. The males headed for a Thai body massage followed by pizza and Muay Thai Boxing at the local arena.

Four out of the six left the ring on stretchers which showed the sheer brutality of the boxing. A number of champions from all over Thailand had ventured to the island to compete, with the Bangkok, Southern and Koh Samui champions all taking to the ring. The main fight was between the German champion and the Thai champion which finished in a draw, as the Thai champ sent the German crippling to the floor after a knee to a banned area!