Mild weather and Cream teas - you'd think I'd gone home!

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February 24th 2011
Published: March 8th 2011
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Hi again,

After leaving Bangkok I arrived in Malaysia at about 1am as the plane was delayed. This wasn't such a big deal, up until I discovered the coupon system that keeps the taxi drivers honest closed at midnight, so I had to get a massively expensive taxi into town as they all seemed to have a mutual agreement not to use the meter. After going on a detour to some hotel that the driver undoubtedly would've got commission from, he reluctantly agreed to go where I had asked, and I finally got to Chinatown. Here I checked into the first and cheapest hostel, a place called Le Village. It quickly became apparent why it was the cheapest in KL, as I turned up at 2am to find all the guests still up playing poker, and after chatting with them for a bit, the owner rocked up completely stoned and not very with it, to put me in a room with some other guy, a un-lockable door, and what appeared to be the contents of his attic. Even so, it had a relatively comfortable bed, and I managed to sleep until about 6am, when the other guy in my room woke me up to tell me I was sleeping the wrong way up. Unsurprisingly I wasn't too impressed with this, but obligingly turned around so he would leave me alone and go to sleep!

After this, I decided that KL wasn't really that interesting, and caught a bus up to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. This took longer than expected as I had to detour to Ipoh as there weren't enough people for the service from KL to run, however the buses were super-comfortable, with massage chairs, and TVs showing incredibly violent Asian films. These were funny to watch for a bit, but after a while all the girls' crying about being kidnapped and tortured in very a high pitched Asian whine got annoying. After a couple of hours along a very windy road, we arrived at the little town of Tanah Rata high up in the mountains. There was a little highstreet, and lots of Victorian-looking buildings - this hopefully gives you a vague picture of the town, though it probably destroys my credibility as an up-and-coming archeologist 😉. That evening, I met a couple of travellers (Simon and Melissa), and we went out for a "Party" in town. This ended up being a couple of beers at a dead bar, and an early night. Oh well.

For my first proper day in Tanah Rata, I went into town and looked around, adding to the collection of weapons I've got for my brothers. After a bit I ran into Yashim, the gardener at Father's GH, who in the short walk back to the guesthouse, managed to pull up a citronella plant to scare the mozzies, a plant that turned from white to purple when exposed to a lighted cigarette, and a monkey skull. Once back, he gave me a nice chicken curry, which stopped being quite so nice when the chicken meat was revealed to be heart muscle. Then we went into town with his boss for a proper lunch at a Malay restaurant that was super cheap, but didn't serve much other than fish, and this was mostly fish-heads, before spending about 5 hours doing some gardening to help Yashim out. Once we'd finished planting and cutting things, we met up with Simon, and headed up Jungle Walk #4 to Paret Falls. This was pretty cool, though we didn't see much other than Sakatas and trees, as it was pitch black. Once at the falls, we chilled in a rickety wooden hut suspended over the river, drinking some of the worst beer that Yashim had bought for about 20p at the supermarket. It turned out that Yashim works 11 hours a day, 29 days a month for a daily wage of 40 MYR (8 GBP). When we had finished the beers (or in mine and Simon's case, surreptitiously poured them into the waterfall), we continued on to a lookout tower, which had fallen down, and then headed back.

On Yashim's recommendation, I set off the next day to climb up Mount Brinchang, the highest mountain in the local area. The trail started in Brinchang, the next town along, so I hitchhiked over there, and then started up Jungle Walk #1. The start of it was a gentle walk through some forest and past some farms. Within about half a kilometre however, it turned very steep, and the last K was more climbing up a vertical mudbank using roots as hand and footholds, than it was walking. This made it a very fun walk, but it did mean that the 3k hike took about 2 hours, which sounds a bit pathetic. At the top there was a lookout tower, with an amazing view over the highlands, and a nice breeze to cool down after the hike. I chilled out here for a bit, and ate lunch, before I ran into a guy called Jeff, and we continued the walk down to the Mossy Forest. This was advertised as a forest inches deep in moss, and walking through it was made to sound pretty fun as the moss was meant to be all springy. In reality it was a fairly average forest, the only difference being that most of the trees had a bit of moss growing up the trunks. After deciding that this wasn't all that great, we did the 7k walk back down to Brinchang through the Tea Plantation. This was very pretty, and people kept stopping to offer us lifts. Once in Brinchang we went to the rose garden, which was okay, before heading back to Yashim's flat, where he taught us to cook Bangladeshi Curried Eel, which was surprisingly good.

The next day I met an older couple who were going to do walk #9, so I joined them, as it was meant to be relatively easy, and my feet were blistered from the day before. Penny and Tim turned out to be psychologists studying subconscious warnings, which was interesting conversation up to Robinson Falls, but after the path became more treacherous, to the point where Penny actually slipped off the edge at one point into a handy patch of bushes. When we got to the end of the path, we were quite a way from Tanah Rata, so we got a bus back to a strawberry farm, where we rewarded ourselves with strawberry pancakes covered in strawberry jam, strawberry juice and fresh strawberries. That evening Penny and Tim did walk #4 whilst I lay around drinking the local tea that is everywhere, and nursing blisters 😞.

For my final day headed back to KL, which was nicer the second time, as I stayed in much nicer hostel (Suzys), complete with a shower and doors. I spent the evening going round the Chinatown market with Jeff and his sister, which was rubbish as it was full of fake stuff, and nothing even pretending to be local, and then headed off to Singapore to stay with a guy called Gavin from

Additional photos below
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Final climbFinal climb
Final climb

Jungle Walk #1
View from the topView from the top
View from the top

Jungle Walk #1

8th March 2011

Roses, fuscias, tea and strawberries grown in poly-tents? Are you sure you are not back home? Ok, maybe monkey skulls and eel curry are not quite Surrey hills and I haven't yet seen plantations around Abinger. Anyway it sounds as though the beer is better at the 'Volunteer'. Thanks for the pc. by the way. Take care, xx GDM

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