Cameron Highlands, Penang and KL


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September 14th 2013
Published: December 21st 2013
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We got the first boat the following morning back to the mainland and were all a bit sad to be leaving the beautiful Perhentians as it had been an amazing few days. We found a bus company called Star Travel and booked onto a bus to take us to the Cameron Highlands. The Cameron Highlands are made up of luscious green hills and are known for their cool climate, vast array of tea plantations, and strawberry farms. When the bus turned up it wasn't quite what we had expected and instead Laura, Jon and I amongst others were squashed into a tiny, sweaty minibus and spent a lot of the journey holding our breath and hoping for the best as our driver weaved his way in and out of the traffic at what felt like 80mph.

The journey took about five hours and we learnt when we arrived into the long que of traffic into Tana Rata town centre that there was a public holiday on that weekend and we hadn't booked any accommodation. Luckily for us three, a couple on our bus had booked into a place called Fathers Guest House and there was one three bed room left so we took it! After chilling out for a couple of hours and hiding from the torrential down pour outside we went to get some dinner. We came across a little Indian restaurant and shared between us some tasty flavoursome dishes including a mutton curry, aloo gobi and dal. After dinner the long day travelling had took its toll on us all so we came back and had an early night.

The following morning we got up early and went for breakfast before getting picked up for our tour of the tea plantations and forest. Over breakfast Jon told me and Laura that we had both woken him up in the night sleep talking and Laura had woken us both up shouting "Got my hands blown off in the Cameron highlands!!!" We had all had weird dreams and put it down to the malaria tablets we had started taking. We got picked by our tour guide and were first taken to see some of the tea plantations and learnt that they were founded by a Britishman in 1929 and that all teas (green and black) come from the same leaf but are only different in taste due to the time taken to dry them out.

Afterwards we were driven to a look out of the hills and then to Mossy Forest. The Mossy Forest is full of moss that soaks up the moisture in the air, hence the name. The forest also gives great views of the surrounding highlands. Our tour guide told us about all the different plants in the forest and their uses to how we could survive if we got stuck there. We then followed him through a muddy trail into the forest to another look out. To finish off the tour we were taken to the tea plantation factory where we saw the process of the tea getting made and then went to try some of the teas out which were really good.

After the tour had finished we were dropped off back at the guesthouse and then went for some lunch at a local cafe. Whilst we were there we decided to try out a fresh strawberry juice as they're were so many farms there and we weren't disappointed. Jon went back to the guesthouse for a nap after lunch as mine and Laura's sleep talking had kept him awake a fair bit in the night. Me and Laura went for a bit of an explore in some of the market stalls near by selling almost everything strawberry related before joining Jon. In the evening we went for a quick bite to eat before coming back to guesthouse to pack our bags for Penang the following morning as the nightlife in the Cameron Highlands seemed to be non existent.

We left the highlands early morning and this time we were actually on a proper bus. The first half of the journey was all bendy and windy roads. Me and Laura were having a nice chat when we heard a guy in the seat behind us retching and before we knew it sick was appearing underneath our seats. Yum! A few hours later we arrived at our next destination, Penang's capital, Georgetown. We had a short walk through lots of erractic traffic, trying to dodge the badly driven cars and mopeds and eventually reached where we were staying for the next three nights, Ryokan Hostel. The hostel had recently been renovated so was really nice and modern. Also as it was new there weren't many people staying there so we got the four bed dorm just for the three of us.

Once we'd checked in we went out to go and explore more of Georgetown. It is a city famous for its Unesco heritage buildings and it was the main port for importations and especially important to the spice trade. I really enjoyed seeing all of the old buildings as they all had a lot of character to them. There was also some really fascinating and quirky street art throughout the town including a really cool piece of two kids on a bike. From the town we went for a stroll along the boardwalk where there were a few locals trying to catch some fish. By this time we had worked up an appetite and made our way to a street food court where there were lots of different stands selling local Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and phillipino food. Jon went for the Japanese food and had a tasty teriyaki salmon dish and me and Laura shared half a delicious crispy duck. Following dinner we went back to the hostel, put on a film and had an early night.

The next morning we got up and got a local bus to Batu Ferrenghi, Penang's nearest beach. It wasn't the nicest beach we'd been to and no Perhentian Kecil but none the less there was sand, sea and a scorching sun so it was time to sunbathe. We spent most of the day on the beach relaxing before finally leaving to get the bus back to the hostel. In the evening we went back to the food court and shared a few dishes between us and some local beers. Afterwards we decided to go for a drink at one of the bars a short walk away. Before we knew it we had been talked into buying a 2 litre tower of Long Island iced tea by one of the bar staff who was desperate for us to shot it all - needless to say we didn't but we were all pretty drunk after that.

On our last day in Penang we spent several hours back at the beach trying to sweat out our hangovers underneath the blaring sun and top up our tans. Later on in the afternoon we caught a local bus to Penang Hill (a look out over Penang island). When we got to the top we all were a bit underwhelmed as we thought there would be a lot more attractions, there was only a temple and a few restaurants. Despite this the views were brilliant especially as the sun was setting but it didn't take us long to make our way back down. From Penang Hill we made our way back to our favourite food market for one last bite to eat and a few beers before having to go back to the hostel and pack again.

We took a bus the next morning back to Kuala Lumpur but this time instead of checking back into a hostel we checked into a four star, newly opened hotel called Aloft. We were all really excited especially me and Laura. Jon and I had been staying in budget accommodation so far on the trip but as Laura had made an effort to come all this way to see us and had been staying in budget accommodation with us the whole time too we decided to splash out for her last couple of days. The hotel was huge and incredibly modern and most importantly had a roof top infinity pool and bar overlooking the city. After getting over the excitement and after I'd finished taking pictures of every inch of the room we caught a train to Batu Caves.

Batu Caves is a series of caves and cave temples within a white limestone cliff. There were so many monkeys there which seemed to be getting more attention than the caves. To reach the caves you had to climb around what seemed like a gazillion steps but it was worth it once wed reached the top. That evening we took a taxi from the hotel to the jaw dropping Petronas Towers and then to a bar with the best views and the most expensive drinks, Sky Bar at the Traders Hotel. When we first arrived there were no seats available by the windows so put our names down on the waiting list and had a few coronas in the meantime. About 30 minutes later we were shown to our window seats, to celebrate we ordered cocktails (any excuse). It got to about 10pm and me and Laura were pretty drunk as we still hadn't eaten so we made our way to Bukit Bintang for some tasty street food before getting the last sky train home.

On Laura's last day we had an early start as we were going to visit an Elephant Sanctuary. It took several hours of different public transport to get there but it was so worth it. To visit the Sanctuary it was free but if you wanted to bathe the baby elephants you had to pay around £2. We went with our guide to go and meet and feed the baby elephants - they were so cute and had all been rescued from the wild. We took it in turns feeding the elephants sugar cane and papaya until it was bathing time. We got in the water with the baby elephants and were given brushes to wash and bathe them with - they seemed to love it, but not as much as Laura who was beaming with excitement the whole time! They took the brushes off us then they told us to start throwing water over the elephants. Before we knew it the staff in the water with us started splashing us all until we were thoroughly soaked. It was hilarious, none of us had brought a towel with us but luckily a change of clothes and me and Laura looked like drowned rats with mascara running down our faces!

We got back to the hotel around six and quickly got ready to go and enjoy the buy one get one free cocktails in the hotel bar. We spent so long drinking cocktails that before we knew it was almost 9pm. We jumped in a taxi to Chinatown for a look around the night market then went to find somewhere to eat. By this time it was almost 11 and everything was closed so shamefully with not many other options we ended up having a McDonald's for Laura's last meal! Before heading to bed we went for one last drink together at the roof top bar and had a few games of jenga. The next morning we went with Laura to the train station and said our goodbyes. Me and Laura both shed a few tears like sissys but I was sad to see her go after such a fun and amazing two weeks and it was so nice seeing and spending time with a friendly face. The rest of that day me and Jon chilled by the pool and had endurance races which Jon lost (obviously). We ventured into "Little India" in the evening for dinner and then back to the hotel to enjoy the luxury for our last few hours!

Next stop Singapore to see another familiar face and a cheeky one at that!


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