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Published: March 19th 2009
71 days backpacking through 3 different countries, taking in the sights, trying the local food, avoiding the bedbugs and hopefully coming across lots of photo opportunities……well, that’s the plan anyway!!!
We left Widnes on 11th March and travelled by train from Runcorn to Stanstead where we caught our flight to Kuala Lumpur capital city of Peninsular Malaysia. The Air Asia flight was a bargain - £327 each for a return ticket. This was the Inaugural flight on this route (a big deal for both Air Asia and Stanstead Airport). The check-in desks were swamped with journalists and TV camera crews from the UK and Malaysia….a bit cringey being filmed checking in!!! After a 13hr flight we arrived in KL to another entourage of journalists etc, we caught a bus to KL centre 1 hr away then jumped on the monorail to the Tune Hotel where we had a reservation. Twenty Three and a half hours after leaving home we were finally at our first destination.
KL is a nice city with a great transport network that is cheap, clean and on time. We allowed ourselves two days in KL which gave us enough time to do some shopping for
bits and bobs and let our body clocks get used to the 8hr time difference. We didn’t see or do a lot but will be popping back there a couple of times during the next few months so we’ll be exploring a bit more then and will write some more of our experiences there next time. One thing that we did do was to have our first proper curry since leaving Goa almost 12 months ago. The Malaysians come from a different number of ethnic backgrounds including Indian (so definitely be having more curry here it was gorgeous), Chinese, Malays and the indigenous people (Orang Asli), which means original people.
After our short visit to KL we moved south to Melaka a city that sits on the Straits of Melaka and was once one of the most important ports on the spice route. The bus journey took 2 1/2hrs and cost £2.40 each. Melaka was once ruled by the Portuguese and St Francis Xavier was a regular visitor, in fact his body was interred in the church overlooking the city before being moved to Panjim in Goa where it can still be viewed today. On the whole Melaka was
Satay Stall in Melaka
Ten pieces cost 60p, it was delicious
a nice city if not a bit cheesy for our liking, the trishaws there are decorated with an abundance of tat, everything from plastic flowers to wind chimes and fairy lights. Town square has a windmill…yep, really! In honour of the Dutch that ruled after the Portuguese left and there’s even a big wheel called “the eye of Malaysia”. The night market at Jonker St in China town was quite good with loads of nice food stalls and kerbside bars playing live music, the beer was as expensive as in KL (£2 for a small bottle) but only to be expected from a Muslim country - at least alcohol is legal here.
Two days was definitely enough so we caught the bus back to KL and took a second bus to Tanah Rata up in the Cameron Highlands which is famous amongst other things for its Tea…..how very British!!! The bus took 4 ½ hrs and cost £7 each, it was a really comfy journey, the bus had massive armchairs like the ones in first class on planes so we managed to get a bit of shut eye on the way up. We didn’t fancy trawling around for a
Arm Wrestling Capital of Malaysia
Melaka is apparently the arm wrestling capital and we were there for a big competion....held in a shopping mall....Barry took home the bronze!!!
guest house when we arrived so pre-booked a room at Fathers Guest House which is situated on a slight hill overlooking the town, we’re writing this blog from the communal lounge area where DVD’s are played on big screens and Internet is available for a small charge, they also have Wifi here so we’re typing this on our netbook. The house used to be a seminary at one time but we’re not staying in the house as all the rooms were booked; we got a bed in one of the “Nissen huts” that were used by the British Army in the colonial days, we share the toilets and showers with other guests and a few creepy crawlies, they‘re situated behind the huts, clean but not ideal when you need a pee at 4am!!! The weather is much cooler up in the Highlands and since we’ve been here we’ve had a lot of rain, I’m drinking plenty of locally grown tea to keep warm but Barry is happy to stick to the Tiger beer which is actually half the price compared to KL and Melaka. One of the main reasons that people come up to the highlands (apart from viewing the
tea plantations) is to trail walk and trek around the hills and jungles…..great if you get good weather but unfortunately during one of our walks we were caught in a downpour and when it rains here IT RAINS!!! The conditions under foot quickly became treacherous, we were on trail 3 at the time which goes up through the jungle and is quite hilly, we were soaked to the skin, everything in the back packs was wringing wet, we we’re covered in mud, cold and knackered (how unfit are we)!! Needless to say our walk came to an abrupt end and we trekked back to town with our tails between our legs.
Day two was a much better day weather-wise, we decided to book onto a tour with a local company called Titiwangsa, it was only a half day trip with a small group of ten people who were all Singaporeans on a weeks holiday. The trip started off with a drive up to the tea plantations where we got to walk through the bushes and take some great pictures; it’s unbelievably lush out there the hills of tea bushes roll on and on forever, they don’t pluck the tea by
A cheesy place to be
hand like they used to in the good old days as it takes too long, instead they use machines that are operated by two men at a time - most of whom come from Bangladesh. The tea plantation that we visited was started by a Brit called JA Russell - his family still run the company today. Next on the agenda was a short drive to the highest peak (Gunung Brinchang, 6,666ft above sea level and the highest point in Malaysia accessible by road) to take in the views of the surrounding hills followed by a short walk into the mossy forest where the guide pointed out things of interest. We also got to visit the Boh tea factory to see how the leaves are processed and turned into tea leaves…..English Breakfast Tea being the lowest of the low and consisting of the sweepings from the floor (almost)….nice!!!
Today we take the bus back to KL to catch our Air Asia flight to Phnom Penh in Cambodia where we’ll be checking out the Killing Fields and the Temples of Angkor amongst other things.
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