Published: July 4th 2012July 4th 2012
The night train from Chumphon was pretty uneventful and I managed a reasonable sleep before we had to get off the train to go through customs into Malaysia around 8am. Good job I took all my stuff with me after an internal debate as when I emerged from passport control I found that most of the train had vanished, leaving only 2 cars to take the remaining passengers the rest of the way to Butterworth.
After arriving in Butterworth I managed to find a coach to KL within 15 minutes and I was soon on the road again. The coach took around 5 hours to complete the journey into the city and it didnt take me long to find the hostel I had booked for the night by Chinatown. I wanted to stay up to watch the England game but was far too tired after the trip so decided that some food, a beer and bed was a much better bet.
The next day I moved to the much more luxurious Seri Pacific Hotel to treat myself to 2 nights of 5 star comfort for a birthday present to myself. The all you can eat breakfast buffet was tucked
into with the expected level of gusto, with even the curries on offer being sampled before 10am.
I spent the two days exploring the city and the surrounding area. First up were the Batu caves just outside the city. This is a limestone hill with a series of caves and is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India. Leading up the caves are 272 concrete steps, giving you a good sweat on by the time you reach the top and the 100m high entrance to the Cathedral Cave. There are plenty of photo opportunities on the way up the steps with the local monkey population playing around and trying to get some food off the tourists.
The caves themselves were very impressive, if ruined a little by the litter lying around and the odd markings that had been painted on the walls by the authorities. Given that entry was free though, Im not complaining!
Obviously the main attraction in the city itself is the landmark that dominates the skyline, the Petronas Towers. Formerly the world's tallest buildings, they remain the tallest twin structure ever built, complete with the worlds highest two storey bridge. Whilst they
are impressive during the day, the towers really come alive at night when they are lit up and they are a stunning sight to behold.
Having been up to the skybridge ten years ago, I didnt bother queuing for a ticket this time around but I happily walked round the outside in the parks and admired the architecture whcih was every bit as impressive as when I first saw them back in 2002.
As well as the Petronas Towers and the nearby KL Tower (a 421m comms tower), there are a number of other spots to visit on a tour of the city, including the night market in Chinatown for some cheap knock offs and the various parks. Unfortunately, when I set off to look round the parks, a huge thunderstorm passed over and instead I was forced to huddle for shelter under a gazebo, along with a number of tramps, for over an hour. It wasnt a total loss as I sat and watched the towers being repeatedly struck by lightning...unfortunately I didnt get any video footage though.
After the luxury of the hotel it was with some reluctance that I got on another night train
to head over to the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia for the trip to the Perhentian Islands. These two islands, the big and small island, are situated just south of the Thai border and lie about 12km offshore, which didnt take long in the crazy ass speedboats as we flew over the water.
I stayed on the big island, which is the quieter of the two islands, with mostly families rather than backpackers. I had booked a little bungalow by the beach at Mamas Place, which turned out to be a very friendly little resort. The bungalow was small but clean and the family owners were excellent.
The islands were beautiful, much quieter than Koh Tao, with warm, crystal clear, turquoise sea water, white sandy beaches and loads of coral and rocks to explore.
On the third day I did two dives with one of the local dive shops. The first was to the Sugar Wreck, which has a maximum depth of 18 meters and was a 3,500 ton cargo ship identified as M/V Union Star 17, which had been on its way towards Indonesia for restorations but it got trapped on December 16, 2000 due to
a monsoon storm and then wrecked because of a leak. The ship was transporting several tons of sugar, hence the name. The dive was great, with loads of sharks, lion fish and scorpion fish, which I hadnt seen in Koh Tao at all. The second dive was to a pinnacle not far from the island, which was a test with a ripping current but was well worth it as we saw more sharks, rays, a sea snake, scorpion fish, trigger fish and some huge pufferfish. While the vis wasnt as good as Koh Tao, the variety of marine life certainly made up for it.
The rest of the time on the island was spent relaxing on the beaches, snorkelling in the warm waters, kayaking between the two islands, or enjoying the many different local dishes on offer. Sadly, alcohol was not widely available, with only one place selling it near our resort so I went without for the whole five days...apart from a couple of cheeky cans. I recommend to anyone visiting to bring your own booze...will save you a fortune!
All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the mainland for the
long trip down to Singapore, which meant a speedboat, a taxi, a 4 hour wait, a 13 hour night train, a bus, a tube and a taxi to meet up with Tom and Emma.
It was only a brief stay in Malaysia and there are still plenty of places I havent seen there and would like to get back to but I can highly recommend the Perhentian Islands for anyone looking for some peace and quiet and some great diving. Singapore for the next few days and part 1 of the Hawker/Dean wedding celebrations :)
There are more photos below