Published: May 2nd 2010April 14th 2010
View from hotel room
Our first stop in Malaysia was Georgetown, Penang. Whilst we were there we did a city tour as this seemed to be the easiest way see all the heritage buildings dating back to when the British were in Malaysia. It was clear from this tour that Malaysia is the "melting pot" of S.E. Asia. There are really strong influences from China, India and Thailand which are evident in the food, the buildings and religious sites etc. However, everybody seems to be able to speak English fluently, you will even hear them speaking it to each other. In spite of all this culture, I think we would both agree that the highlight in Georgetown was when we were strolling through a park only to come across two golf buggies, used to collect rubbish, being absolutely ransacked by monkeys. It was mayhem. One of them, as you can see in the photos, was enjoying a slice of pepperoni pizza.
From Georgetown, we decided to travel right across to the Eastern side of Malaysia to visit the Perhentian Islands. Unlike where we had been in Thailand, these islands have a lot less tourists and are less developed. It's also part of a Marine
National Park with some of the clearest water I have ever seen, it has some amazing coral reefs and marine life. One day we hired snorkels and instead of doing a tour decided instead to swim out to where the boats would normally take you. We hadn't really thought about the fact that we would have to swim all the way back and were knackered when we finally made it to the shore. However, the snorkeling was brilliant. The place is idyllic! Our accommodation was on a quiet beach and we spent everyday just lounging about on it. I hope I'm rubbing this in enough.
Although sorry to leave the island I think Daniel was looking forward to the agreeable temperature of our next stop, the Cameron Highlands. Temperatures here rarely go above about 25°C and it's known for it's tea plantations that the British set up here. It's actually very like the UK, the houses, weather, food are all very similar, we even managed to enjoy some scones with all the trimmings, jam and cream and a cup of Earl Grey! During our stay we visited the strawberry farms, rose gardens, tea plantations and a butterfly farm. Upon
walking into the butterfly farm I could not locate a single one at first. Instead all I could see was every insect possible that terrifies me and on a massive scale due to the climate, although there was no need to panic as they were all in glass enclosures...well I thought there was no need to panic until the guide started opening the enclosures and getting them out. Despite the guides efforts to get me even within a metre of any of these things, Daniel is the only one that features in the insect holding pictures but even he looked scared when the scorpion came out.
Kuala Lumpur is a far cry from what we had experienced in Malaysia so far. Very humid, fume filled and dirty. It has got some really attractive upmarket areas and I imagine that if you're staying in the Hilton that you would be having a splendid time, sadly, we are on a budget so we checked into our delightful 1 metre squared, mdf walled box for what we were hoping would only be a few days. WRONG. Our Indian visa took 9 days to get. To pass the time we, among other things,
visited the Petronas Towers and they are really impressive, they look so futuristic. Daniel visited his first ever mosque! I wasn't allowed in unless I covered myself so in the two we visited they gave me some attractive attire. Despite this, it doesn't say much about KL when we decided one day to spend the entire day at the cinema and if people were to ask we would have to admit that the best thing we did in this city was...Avatar in 3D!!! If you have not done this yet you must, it is the cinematic experience of a lifetime! The other days we headed out of KL to nearby towns, Putrajaya was one and FRIM was another. FRIM is a nature reserve and they have a canopy walk here, a rope bridge suspended in the trees. This particular canopy walk is 30metres above the ground and 150metres long. I was feeling quite confident and marched straight off along the bridge behind Daniel. However, when I reached the first junction it dawned on me that I was in fact petrified. Too afraid to go forward and too afraid to go back I was stuck only 15metres into the canopy. Daniel,
already at the second junction, thought this was hilarious but managed, in between jibes, to eventually coax me out with some words of encouragement. We also spent a weekend in a place called Malacca, we stayed with a really nice family who bought breakfast for us every morning and had it ready for when we got up. This would be a real treat except that breakfast on Day One was rice with an omlette, anchovies and chili paste, Day Two was curry with naan and Day Three was potato curry with rice, all very spicy and all before 9:30am. Finally, we headed back to KL to collect our visas.
With only 5 days left in Malaysia and no desire to stay in KL any longer we decided to fly over to Borneo for a few days. Going for a few days ended up making us feel disappointed that we couldn't stay longer. We went to Bako National Park on the first day, there was barely anyone there so after a walk through the jungle we got to a beach and had it all to ourselves. We had heard that Bako is teaming with wildlife but during our walk we
saw no evidence of this...turns out that it's all just behind the canteen back at the parks headquarters, no need to have done a 5k walk at all. Whilst we were having lunch, out of nowhere a monkey hurtled across the canteen jumped on this woman's lunch, sent it everywhere and ran off with her fried egg, as if this wasn't annoying enough he sat metres away from her munching on it. Other things we saw behind the canteen were the silver leaf monkey, proboscis monkey (google this for the full effect of it's strange appearance), a flying lima and slightly more worrying were some viper snakes.
Next day was really what we had come for, the orangutans. A lot of them are in rehabilitation centres throughout Borneo as their homes are being destroyed all over the country by palm oil plantations. Many of them are orphans and the centres train them with a view to releasing them back into the wild. The ones we visted are semi wild and have been released back into a rainforest not far from the city, luckily we visited when the fruit there was out of season so food is put out for
them to help. This meant our chances of seeing them were much higher as we could watch them come down to platforms to get it. It was brilliant! We saw quite a few of them and the babies as well, as if this wasn't good enough then Ritchie turned up. Ritchie is the alpha male of this group and he is really enormous! He rarely comes down to the feeding platforms so we were lucky to see him. When he arrived, after a few bananas, he went for a coconut, we were wondering how he was going to open it but then before we could give it any thought he just ripped it open with his bare hands!
Last day in Borneo we visited a long house belonging to the Bidayuh tribe. They are built on stilts and are divided into a social area along one side and a row of private living quarters lined along the other side. This was the best way to survive in the jungle as it protected them from floods and roaming wildlife. The Borneo tribes are famous for their headhunting whereby males would seek out and kill members of rival tribes. Fortunately, this
practise ended around 80 years ago but they still keep some of the skulls on show as they believe they bring them luck.
We flew from here to Singapore for our flight to India. We arranged it so we had the day in Singapore to have a look around, however, ended up spending most of it at Raffles enjoying some Singapore slings.
There are more photos below