Published: November 16th 2011September 30th 2011
Apologies to anyone who has been waiting for further updates on the blog. After leaving Asia I went to Australia for two weeks and because everything there is expensive I couldn't spend long on the internet whilst travelling. Now that I am back in New Zealand again I will continue:
After Taman Negara (where I saw tapirs....just reminding you) I had given myself a couple of spare days to go to Melaka. If you are old like me, or have some older books, you may know this town better as Malacca. Its about two hours south of Kuala Lumpur. The reason I was going there was partly because I can't stand KL and partly because I wanted to visit the Melaka Zoo. So I took the earliest bus from Kuala Tahan (at Taman Negara) to the Pekeliling bus station in KL. I didn't know where the buses to Melaka left from but a helpful taxi driver told me it was from the TBS station and it would only cost me 50 Ringgits to get there. Surely there's some other form of public transport there, I said, but no apparently taxi was the only possible way. As soon as he said
that I knew there was another way, so I went into the train station next door and got a train there for 1.70. The TBS station (or in full, Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) was completely unexpected after the low-tech Pekeliling -- there were touch-screens to buy your tickets, coffee shops, and departure lounges....it was more like an airport than a bus station!
Melaka turned out to be an exceptionally nice little town, far superior to Kuala Lumpur. Plus it has a maritime museum inside a giant ship. I found a very nice backpackers called Le Village (er, situated in Chinatown) where a single room was only 20 Ringgits. My plan for Melaka was to visit the zoo, visit the Butterfly Park which despite its name also contains a good variety of vertebrates, and also visit a place I'd recently found out about called the Air Keroh Hutan Rekreasi (that's "Recreational Forest" in English). When I had flown into the KL airport from Bali en route
to Taman Negara I had found a free glossy A4-sized booklet on birding sites in Malaysia. It was a magnificent find and it made me question why New Zealand doesn't do the same at its
airports. Then I remembered that birdwatching isn't socially acceptable. Anyway, in the booklet I discovered this Hutan Rekreasi which was apparently abundant in birdlife and situated just outside Melaka by the A'Famosa Resort. As it turned out the booklet was a bit misleading in its directions (well, plain wrong in fact) but fortunately I got that sorted out in the backpackers before actually going out and getting lost. Ayer Keroh is a district nowhere near A'Famosa and in fact the Recreational Forest is almost opposite the Melaka Zoo which was nothing if not handy. The next morning I took a bus to the forest, which was as it happened also the Botanic Gardens. I can't say I found too many birds there at all -- the only species new for the trip list was common tailorbird -- although there were a lot of squirrels (Low's, slender and plantain), and then I got distracted by a Dinosaur Park. Sadly none of the dinosaurs were alive, only statues. It was getting a bit hot by late morning, so I walked down the road to the zoo. I have been to a lot of really bad zoos in Asia, but the Melaka Zoo
isn't one of them. It does have some bad cages scattered amongst the others -- in particular the Small Mammal and Small Carnivore houses (see the photo of the bobcat cage on this blog) -- but so do most western zoos, and overall it has to rank amongst the better collections in this continent. Its easy to find your way around because most of the enclosures are arranged along the road that loops round the zoo's perimeter, and they are set out roughly in taxonomic groupings (hoofstock, primates, birds, etc). Most of the mammals are standard zoo fare but I found a few more interesting creatures such as bamboo rat, Malayan civet and flat-headed cat. The birds were mostly Asiatic species, but a startling gem to find here was a walk-through aviary containing red, lesser, twelve-wired and king birds of paradise as well as Bali mynah, crested wood partridge and other nice species. I spent quite a long time in this aviary getting photos!
I was flying to Perth the next day from KL but the flight wasn't till midnight so I still had most of the day free. In the morning I went to the Butterfly Park, which
is just up the road from the zoo. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I tried
to go to the Buttterfly Park. It was a bit confusing how on the way there there were signs for the Butterfly Park pointing to the left, to the right, and straight ahead. The bus driver dropped me where he was turning off into a side-road and said the Butterfly Park was just up the highway a little way. The map on the park's leaflet showed it right before the toll gates. It wasn't there. I scratched my head a little, then asked some nearby people. They didn't know what I was talking about. I walked back down the highway and found a sign for the park pointing up a side-road. That road just lead to another highway. I spent about an hour wandering around aimlessly trying to find the place then just gave up and caught a bus back to Melaka.
The KL airports are halfway between KL and Melaka, and there are buses straight there from either town. I had a ticket for the last direct bus from Melaka Sentral to the airport. It was leaving at 2.50pm,
although the ticket itself said 3pm. I'd been told I needed to be at the station at 2.30. All very simple. I left the backpackers in plenty of time and waited for a bus from there to Melaka Sentral. One came by...and didn't stop. That was annoying, but its alright because they go every half an hour and it should only be ten minutes to get to the station. Waiting, waiting, waiting....Eventually a bus arrived, I jumped on, and off we went, but not straight to Melaka Sentral, instead on a slow crawl around the city and because I didn't have a clue where I was I didn't know how long it was going to take. Not that it mattered anyway because eventually my watch ticked past 2.50. Ten minutes later we arrived at Melaka Sentral. I was hoping the bus would be leaving late but I wasn't holding my breath, and I wasn't really all that bothered anyway because it would be (or should have been) a simple matter to get another bus to KL and then a bus from there to the airport and still arrive in plenty of time for the midnight flight. Nevertheless I made a
bit of a dash for the stop my bus would be at, and quite surprisingly it was still there. I got on and off we went. What a boring story. See, this is how cruisy things have been since leaving Indonesia -- I have to pad out my blog with a tale about almost missing a bus
!!! Oo-er, as they would say in Beano.
There are more photos below