A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

Eastern Malaysia 2018

Route: Kuala Lumpur – Kota Bharu – Kuala Besut – Pulau Perhentian Besar – Kuala Lumpur – Taman Negara – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore.

sunny 35 °C

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018

Our eastern Malaysia adventure started in the far north east of the mainland, in a town called Kota Bharu. Not a popular tourist destination, so we were able to see more of normal Malaysian life. The town is very Muslim, more so than others that we have visited, almost with out exception you only see women with headscarves. During our two days there we self catered which gave us the opportunity to shop like locals, which is always a fascinating experience. We also did a bit of sightseeing, visiting the old quarters where the original Sultans Palace still stands.

Kota Bharu

Kota Bharu

Old Sultan Palace

Old Sultan Palace

Kota Bharu open market

Kota Bharu open market

Kota Bharu Supermarket, choice of Chilis

Kota Bharu Supermarket, choice of Chilis



Our next destination was completely different, the island of Pulau Perhentian Besar, still in the northeast but south of Kota Bharu. The island sits in a marine conservation area and can only be reached by boat from the mainland town of Kuala Besut. Our room had sea view and balcony, but was a bit basic other than that. The island though was idyllic, everything you would expect, with coconut palm fringed white sandy beaches that plunged into a turquoise sea. It also had good snorkelling, which was the main focus for our visit.
We managed to snorkel in a number of different locations around the island and never ceased to be amazed by the variety of fish we saw. The list of fish species on view would be far too long to display here, also our knowledge of fish is very limited, so we couldn’t do a list anyway. Suffice to say there were a lot of different fish of every colour combination you could think of, together with an amazing variety of other reef creatures, also brightly coloured. A couple of sighting worth a mention though was that of a Blue Spotted Stingray and two very large Green Turtles.
But on a less positive note, we were a little concerned of how the marine conservancy was being treated. We witnessed boatman throwing in anchors without concern for the coral below, snorkelers standing on coral instead of floating above them (sadly all the culprits were Asian) and fish feeding seems to be a bit of a problem here as well. Hopefully the marine authorities and more importantly the locals, who depend on the reef for their livelihood, will enforce some regulations and provide some guidance to tourists who seem to know no better. Otherwise this beautiful place could be ruined forever.

View from our room

View from our room

Perhentian Besar Island

Perhentian Besar Island

Another beach on PI

Another beach on PI

Cozy Resort

Cozy Resort

It was another complete change for our next destination, as we headed into the rainforest. After a stop over in Kuala Lumpur we took a minibus northeast to the Taman Negara (literally “National Park”), see “Interesting Facts” below.
To be as close to the National Park as possible, and still have a bit of comfort, we stayed in the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort. Situated just across the Tembelling River, which forms the boundary of the National Park, the resort consists of a number of chalets, a restaurant and an information centre right on the edge of the rainforest.
Access into the rainforest is limited to a few trails and couple of navigable rivers; this has aided the survival of its wildlife. Close to the resort the rainforest access is on boardwalks, to protect the ground from the bulk of the foot traffic, but deeper in you are on mud paths crisscrossed by vines and tree roots. On each of our four days, we ventured into the forests, three on foot and one via the river. As with all rainforests, wildlife spotting is difficult, due to the thick foliage. However, we did manage to see a few mammals and colourful birds, plus many butterflies of all sizes and colours. But the sounds are what you remember most, and are a reminder that the forest inhabitants are close by but well hidden. The Gibbons in particular are a good example, you could regularly hear their haunting cries but we never even got a glimpse of them. The Long-tailed Macaques were the opposite though, they appeared around the chalets most afternoons, using the roofs as a play area and looking for any food they can steal. An interesting extension to the boardwalk is a canopy walkway, which was our destination on the last day. The walkway takes you high up into the canopy, where you traverse from tree to tree by means of wooden planks suspended by rope supports. Only four people at a time are allowed on each section and they have to be 10 meters apart. Even then the structure sways quite a bit so you have to be comfortable with heights.
And that was it for our rainforest adventure, a very enjoyable four days. The only thing we won’t miss is the heat and humidity, every time we got back to the cabin all our cloth were drenched, it was as though they had just been taken out of a washing machine but hadn’t gone though the spin cycle.

Long Tailed Macaque

Long Tailed Macaque

Spider Lily

Spider Lily

King Fisher

King Fisher

Fungus

Fungus

Tree Lizard

Tree Lizard

Prevost Squirrel

Prevost Squirrel

Broadbill

Broadbill

Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizard

Pheasant Peacock

Pheasant Peacock

Fungi

Fungi

River trip in Taman Negara NP

River trip in Taman Negara NP

Early reflection on the river in the rain forest

Early reflection on the river in the rain forest

Spiny Tree

Spiny Tree

Wild Boar

Wild Boar

Strangler vine

Strangler vine

Highest point in Taman Negara NP

Highest point in Taman Negara NP

Giant Roots

Giant Roots

Our cabin in Taman Negara NP

Our cabin in Taman Negara NP

Arriving at Taman Negara NP

Arriving at Taman Negara NP

Hiking in the rain forest

Hiking in the rain forest

Giant Tree

Giant Tree

Looking down from the canopy walk

Looking down from the canopy walk

Canopy walk (450 meters long)

Canopy walk (450 meters long)

Canopy Walk view from below

Canopy Walk view from below

over 1000 steps hike in the rain forest

over 1000 steps hike in the rain forest

Our final location in Malaysia was back in the capital Kuala Lumpur, and right in the heart of its modern centre. We had another very comfortable hotel, the Impiana, located amongst the skyscrapers and only a stone’s throw away from the famous Petronas Twin Towers. We had two goals for our two-day stay in Kuala Lumpur; one was to visit the craft complex (which had a fair on) and the other to go up the Petronas Twin Towers, both of which were achieved.
Although not the world highest building anymore, the Petronas Twin Towers are still pretty spectacular. The view from the bridge and the observation tower allows you to see to the outer limits of Kuala Lumpur and puts into prospective how the city sits within its environment. It was also interesting for me, as the last time I was in Kuala Lumpur they were in an early stage of construction.
Kuala Lumpur has a permanent craft complex, but our visit during these two days was a bit special, as there was a craft fair on. Traders from all over the country had gathered here to sell their products; each very proud of their unique style and the region they were from. As it would be rude not to, we spent a few Ringgits to support these local producers.

KL by night

KL by night

KL by night

KL by night

KL by night

KL by night

Petronas Twin Towers

Petronas Twin Towers

Monorail in KL

Monorail in KL

View from Petronas Twin Towers

View from Petronas Twin Towers

Petronas Tower

Petronas Tower

View from Petronas Towers

View from Petronas Towers

comic style view

comic style view

Aerial View of KL

Aerial View of KL

And that was it, the end of our Malaysian adventure. A beautiful country, and possibly the friendliest people we have come across anywhere in the world.

From Kuala Lumpur we flew back to Singapore for our third and final visit; before heading back to the UK. This Singapore visit was a chance to take in a few sights that we had missed the first and second time around, always a fascinating city to visit.
But one thing we hadn’t expected was to meet a robot coming out of the hotel lift. About the size of a minibar fridge, it communicated by means of text displayed on a screen on its top. It appeared to be the future for room service, but for the moment needed three humans and a laptop to accompany it.

Garden by the Bay

Garden by the Bay

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Japanese restaurant

Japanese restaurant

Indian Temple

Indian Temple



Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Taman Negara
Taman Negara was Malaysia’s first national park (created in 1925) and is the largest tract of rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia, covering 4,343 square kilometres. It is also one of the oldest rainforest in the world, evolving over the past 130 million years. In addition, it is home to a healthy wildlife population, including a small number (circa 300) of the critically endangered and highly elusive Malayan Tiger (a slightly smaller sub-species of the Bengal Tiger).

The Muslim Faith
Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, but still has a good proportion of other faiths amongst its population, all seemingly getting on fine. The Muslim faith means that a large proportion of women and girls wear a headscarf when they are out, mostly creating a fashionable appendage rather than any religious statement. The Muslim faith also means that there are many mosques throughout the country, with every settlement having at least one. The mosques come in all shapes and sizes, from the grand to the modest, and all have a tower where prayers are sung out several times a day. One of the prayer times is early in the morning, and would wake us up during the first few days of our visit. But we soon got used to it, and slept through.
Also, every room we had in Malaysia would have a green arrow, usually on the ceiling, with the word “Kiblat” written on it. At first we didn’t know what it meant, but soon realised it translated as direction, and more importantly the direction of Mecca for the Muslim prayers.

City Centre Walkways
Although not as bad as the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, walking in the city centre is not easy or straight forward, so the overhead walkways are a major bonus. They don’t go everywhere in the city centre but do connect a few major hubs, and they are undercover with air-conditioning. Very handy when it is over 30 degrees most of the time and tropical downpours are common. And to make it even better, one of the walkways was connected to our hotel.

Unusual Byelaw in Singapore
Singapore has a number of unusual Byelaw’s, but this one is stranger than most. As part of the cities noise abatement laws, it is a requirement that men do not stand up to urinate after 11:00pm. They are required to sit down to do their business, the same as women.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:29 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Western Malaysia

Route: Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Taiping – Alor Setar – Langkawi – Penang

sunny 35 °C

FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018

After a two-night stop over in Singapore, we changed countries once more. This time it is Malaysia, and the first stop, its capital Kuala Lumpur. Our accommodation in KL was a nice apartment just outside the centre and our two days were spent getting acclimatised.
The first thing you find out very quickly when trying to negotiate KL on foot is that it isn’t easy. Usually you can see where you want to go but can’t get there because of a major road blocking your path. An example of this was when we wanted to get from the central train station to the national museum, about 100metres. We had to take five escalators, a walk way and cross a railway platform to get from A to B. Still the museum was good, and worth the effort.

KL

KL

National Museum KL

National Museum KL

National Museum KL, People of Malaysia

National Museum KL, People of Malaysia

Golden Throne of last King of Malaysia in National Museum KL

Golden Throne of last King of Malaysia in National Museum KL

From Kuala Lumpur we took a train north up the west coast to the town of Taiping. Once we left the urban sprawl of KL the scenery changed completely, it was now much more rural with just the occasional town. It was like travelling through a green corridor with trees covering the flat land and hills alike. The only sad thing was that half those trees belonged to Palm Oil Plantations, but at least the other half was either natural forest or coconut.

Train to Taiping

Train to Taiping

View from the train

View from the train

Our arrival in Taiping was met with a tropical downpour, not unusual in these parts evidently, which soon cleared to reveal quite an attractive town. In the late 1800’s the town became very prosperous due to its tin mine, but this didn’t last and by the end of the century the mining had stopped. Usually the legacy of events such as this means an ugly scare on the landscape, but not in Taiping. In 1880 the British Colonial authorities, under the direction of Hugh Low, decided to turn the mines into a lake garden. Since then it has matured and became a haven for wildlife, and is the major attraction for the area. During our stay we spent many tranquil hours there, watching the wildlife and finding the cooling shade under the trees.

Taiping

Taiping

A gook luck ceremony for Chinese New Year in Taiping bank

A gook luck ceremony for Chinese New Year in Taiping bank

Street Scene in Taiping

Street Scene in Taiping

In memory of lives lost in Malaysia flight MH370

In memory of lives lost in Malaysia flight MH370

Water Lily

Water Lily

Reflection in Taiping Lake

Reflection in Taiping Lake

Alley of ancient trees on Taiping Lake Garden

Alley of ancient trees on Taiping Lake Garden

Pig Tailed Macaque

Pig Tailed Macaque

Pig Tailed Macaque

Pig Tailed Macaque

Water Monitor Lizard

Water Monitor Lizard

Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher

Heron

Heron

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill

From Taiping another train ride took us further north, and to the town of Alor Setar. This was just an overnight stop, before taking a ferry over to the island of Langkawi.

Ferry to Langkawi

Ferry to Langkawi

Aboard the Ferry

Aboard the Ferry

Fishing Boats

Fishing Boats

The first thing upon arrival in Langkawi was to pick up our rental car, as we had chosen to stay in a rural location and needed it to get around. This plan worked a dream as it made it easy to explore the whole island. We had planned four key activities for our five-day stay, and got off to a good start. On day one we ventured up the highest point of the island, Gunung Raya, and explored the almost deserted beaches on its northeast tip.

Pristine Beach

Pristine Beach

Beach and Cocktails

Beach and Cocktails

Long Tailed Macaque

Long Tailed Macaque

On day two we got more wonderful views of the island as we took Asia’s steepest cable car to a Sky bridge on top of the Machincang Mountains, great fun and quite spectacular.

Cable Car on Sky Gondola

Cable Car on Sky Gondola

SkyBridge

SkyBridge

SkyBridge

SkyBridge

View of Langkawi from top of Sky Gondola

View of Langkawi from top of Sky Gondola

View from SkyBridge

View from SkyBridge

In addition to the mountain experience, and included in the ticket, were two other activities. These were things we would probably not have paid to see, but as they were included in the ticket price, we did. The first, the Skydome was not very impressive and fortunately only lasted 7 minutes. But the 3D Art Theatre was much better than we had expected. The walls of the theatre were painted with movie scenes, impressive in themselves, but when a person is added to the scene the 3D effect through the camera lens was quite amazing.

3D Theatre

3D Theatre

3D Theatre

3D Theatre

3D Theatre

3D Theatre

Then our planning hit a glitch. The snorkelling trip we were hoping to do never happened, when we found out that fish were being fed so as to attract them to the tourists. Likewise our wildlife boat trip never happened, when we found out that wild Sea Eagles were being fed, this time for the tourist photograph. Feeding wildlife in these circumstances, in our view, is totally unacceptable and something we would not be a part of.
With these two activities cancelled, it gave us more time to fully explore the island. Which we did over the remaining days. I think I can safely say we ventured down every road on the island, and were rewarded with some amazing sights. Mangrove forests, limestone cliffs, hills covered in primary rainforest, rubber plantations, secluded beaches, manicured golf courses, a giant eagle statue, Hindu temples, golden domed mosques and much more. The only spanner in the works for our daily road trip was a punctured tyre on the last day. I can’t remember the last time we had to change a wheel, especially in the 30C+ heat; it must have been in the Namib Desert in 2006.

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Mud Skipper in Mangrove

Mud Skipper in Mangrove

Mangrove crab

Mangrove crab

Mangrove Forest

Mangrove Forest

Mangrove fisherman and boats

Mangrove fisherman and boats

The Eagle

The Eagle

Fruits Stall

Fruits Stall

Fruits stall

Fruits stall

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Flat Tyre

Flat Tyre

From Langkawi we took a ferry south to another island, Penang. We were staying in the capital, Georgetown, and planned to spend our time exploring the city fully. This we did mostly on foot, which allowed us to investigate all the little side streets and alleyways.
Penang was the first stronghold for the British East India Company in South East Asia, when they took control, on behalf of the realm, back in the late 18th century. Although being independent for over half a century, the British legacy is there to see almost around every corner.
Our first day of exploration however, had a much more modern theme. Our target was to see all the street art that had sprung up all over the city. Although we didn’t find all the works of art we did get to see most of them. But as always, when you are looking for something in particular, you tend to come across other interesting things along the way. And this was the case for us. There were colonial buildings in varying degrees of disrepair, brightly coloured temples, shops selling everything you could think of, and all mixed in with ultra modern building housing offices, banks and malls.

Street Art in Georgetown

Street Art in Georgetown

Street Art

Street Art

Street Art

Street Art

street art

street art

Street Art

Street Art

Screaming wall street art

Screaming wall street art

Street Art

Street Art

Street Art

Street Art

On our second day, we decided to have a break from city heat and head for the hills, Penang Hill in fact. A very steep funicular railway takes you to the hilltop, some 800m above the city and provides great views of the surrounding landscape. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the hill was an escape from the heat for the British Colonial aristocrats who were stationed on the island. And because of this the hilltop is doted with a number of colonial buildings, which were visible through the tress as we walked around the area. A very pleasant walk in much cooler air, accompanied by a troop of Dusky Leaf Monkeys and the songs of birds high up in the canopy. What was particularly nice was that we didn’t have to share the walk with anyone else, it seems that the local tourist preferred to get around on golf carts and stuck to the main street.

Georgetown

Georgetown

View from Penang Hill

View from Penang Hill

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Dusky Leaf Monkey

Flowers on Penang Hill

Flowers on Penang Hill

On day three we ventured back into the UNESCO Heritage old town of Georgetown, to visit the historical highlights that we didn’t see on day one. This was a fascinating day, admiring the historic buildings and watching locals go about their daily business. It reminded us of Havana, Cuba, but with an Asian flavour.

House in George Town

House in George Town

Chinese Lanterns in Georgetown

Chinese Lanterns in Georgetown

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple

Chinese Temple

leaning house

leaning house

Jawa Peranakan Mansion

Jawa Peranakan Mansion

An unusually clear covered pavement

An unusually clear covered pavement

Rickshaw

Rickshaw

Eggs Delivery

Eggs Delivery

Workshop

Workshop

Penang was our last destination on the western side of Malaysia, so now it was time to explore the east.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Friendly Locals
The Malaysian people are possibly the friendliest people we have come across. You are always greeted with a smile and a welcoming manner. Complete strangers will engage you in conversation and enquire where you are from and how you find their country. Everyone has a bit of time to spare for a visitor to his or her country.

Malaysia’s Shopping Malls
The Malaysians love their malls, and most towns have one. Strangely for us, we began to like them as well. Now that doesn’t mean we have turned into shopaholics, it’s just that their shops are very different and interesting, plus the air-conditioning provides a rest bite from the outside heat.

Tourist attractions Malaysian style
It seems that most of the tourist in Malaysia are Asian, either Malaysian or from one of the neighbouring counties. Because of this the tourist attractions cater for their needs. This means everything is brightly coloured and generally cartoon themed, which is different for us and adds to the experience. However, there is one aspect that we did not like, and that is the distinction they make between animals as pets and those in the wild. The Asian public seem to find it totally acceptable to feed wild animals just to get a close up photo, and have no concern for that animal’s welfare during and after the event. Sadly, there also seems to be some western tourists who are happy to indulge in this practice or at least turn a blind eye to it.

Drinking Water
As with other countries around the world, Malaysian restaurants serve water with a meal. The only difference is, the water is warm. A little strange we thought, especially as the outside shade temperature seldom drops below 30C. So on the second occasion of being served warm water, we enquired why this was the case. The simple answer was that Malaysian’s prefer their water warm, and as we were dining with a predominately local cliental, that’s why we were served it as well. From then on we would request cold water instead.

Pavements
Because most Malaysians get around by motorbike or car, the pavements in town don’t get a lot of foot traffic. Therefore, when tourists like ourselves venture out on foot we find many obstacles in our way. Firstly, the pavements are not on one level and you are constantly going up and down steps. Secondly, because of the lack of foot traffic, the pavements are used to park motorbikes, as an extension to shop fronts and seating areas for restaurants. And thirdly, because of the obstacles, you are constantly stepping over drainage channels to get round them. However, all of this heightens the experience of exploring the streets and alleyways.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:56 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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