A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

We're going to need some training.

Cameron Highlands, Penisular Malaysia

Having enjoyed our time in KL we decided we would head north and visit the Cameron Highlands to take in the cooler climate and also get some trekking in to get ready for Mount Kinabalu. We had read that the Cameron Highlands was a popular destination for not only foreign tourists but locals as well as it offered a relief from the humid temperatures of the lowlands. What we didn't know at the time was that due to Chinese New Year being so recent a horde of locals were making the same trip in their cars as they all had an extra days holiday.

Before finding this out we had to contend with getting from KL to our destination, and fortunately it was easy enough to book a bus online and find out we needed to go from Puduraya bus station in order to catch the early morning bus. We arranged a taxi to the bus station and when we got there we had a slight problem. For some bizarre reason the set up for the bus station was completely un-user friendly and for the unknowing tourist was a bit confusing. When you walk in to the building there are sort of terminals that are marked and these are stairs that lead underground to the buses. However the ticket booths are situated on another level through a car park which Sarah found out, much to her bewilderment and was glad that we had pre-booked because all she had to do was find the bus company amongst the 5 or 6 who all so the same route and pick up our tickets.

Despite a bit of a wait we got onboard and were pleased to find that the Malaysian buses are far more luxurious than the ones we had experienced in Laos and Cambodia, with foot space and air con. Although the decor was a bit too cosmic and probably contributes to travel sickness!!

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The roads from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands are pretty direct as there is a large highway that runs from North to South that connects most of the eastern side of the Penisular. We did have to turn off from the highway in order to make our way into the Highlands and there were some winding roads to contend with but all and all it was certainly easier to grab some rest.

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When we reached the main hub of Tanah Rata we were pleasantly surprised by how the surroundings resembled a sort of ski resort in the summer months. The cooler humidity was instantly obvious as we grabbed our bags and went to look for our guesthouse. It took a while to find it as it was a little confusing what road the Fathers guesthouse was on. When we did find it we were pleased with our choice as the staff were friendly and helpful and gave us details on walks we could do and the actual guesthouse and room although basic was nice. And there was a free supply of one of Cameron Highlands main exports.....Tea!!!

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After the advice we received we decided that an easy walk for the first day would set us up nicely for the longer more difficult challenge of taking the trail up to hill station on top of Gunung Brinchang the next day. We found out the route and also read in our guide book about the Olde Smokehouse which resembled an English countryside cottage and boasted some familiar sights from home so we had to check it out, especially when there was a promise of tea and scones!!!

Before finding our way to the Smokehouse we had to find the trail which was pretty easy and the path itself was well laid out so that we didn't need to think about where to go that much. On the way we passed a couple of centipedes who seem to be working together to get across the path.

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The path some times had some off piste parts.

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And once we came out of the forest part we passed a strawberry farm, which was another one of Cameron Highlands exports. Sarah was none too pleased and displayed her disgust towards the large novelty strawberry that was situated at the entrance to the farm area.

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I was pleased because where there is strawberries, there is .....JAM!!!!!

When we found the Olde Smokehouse we were lucky because it had just started to chuck it down with rain that the opportunity to have nice cup of tea, scones and jam was an easy decision to make. The Smokehouse was very nice, odd but also quite nostalgic to see the Englishness that had been built here especially when we had previouly been missing home.

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The tea was good!, the scones and biscuits were better and the Jam.....oh the jam!!! . Needless to say we were pleased with our surroundings.

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When the weather cleared up we continued back to Tanah Rata via the main road not before taking some photos.

This was a bit weird to see ...

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...And I didn't do anything honestly !!!!

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The garden reminded we of many homes I had worked on when I was a landscape gardener.

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The walk back was easy enough although a bit overcast and before we headed back to the guesthouse we stopped off at a small park.

My inner boy led me to try the monkey bars.

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Sarah's inner girl led here to get a angelic picture

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And we both gravited to the large over sized novelty vegetables !! ....ah to be a kid again (think one of the vegetables may have landed on the wicked witch!)

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We decided to have dinner at a restaurant which was randomly decorated in the colours of Holland but owned and run by a Chinese family and unfortunately had the worst service ever as they gave our order to someone else and offered not even a proper apology despite us waiting over an hour. It was a crap way to the end a very pleasant day.

Day 2

The early start was important if we wanted to hit our target of the hill station on top of Brinchang which we would reach via a trail that went through the jungle. At one point we weren't sure whether we would be able to do the walk as the heavens had opened over the night and the possibility of a waterlogged trek would not allow us, however the advice from the guesthouse was that it would be fine to walk. For breakfast we had visited the local Indian restaurant to have a delicious dish called Roti which is essentially a pancake with a choice of curry sauces. It was good because we missed pancake day back home.

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We had also picked up some local food at the market for our lunch and I had decided on the Nasi Lemak which is coconut rice with nuts an egg and anchovies, and Sarah went for the noodle dish.

The first part of the walk was a revisit to the trail we did the day before and we took a slightly different course which sweeped round the golf course before heading towards the town of Brinchang. There was not much to see on route but the first image of our target came upon us as we headed up the hill. It looked pretty far and high covered in cloud!

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The trail started up a stoney road passing some farms were locals lived before veering off to literally a small opening in the jungle that had been marked with a fence line.

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It was good to know that the whole trail would be officially marked along the way otherwise this type of trek we would not undertake unless we had a guide. I've seen those programmes on Discovery channel were a tourist gets themselves lost in the jungle and lives off stank water and creepy crawly's and would not want to be in that situation. This trail was far from that but it was still a little unnerving/exciting going into the wilderness unguided and we kept an eye out for the red markers to make sure we were on the right track.

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A test of our climbing abilities was what we came here for and a test is what we got. Almost immediately we were negiotating big steps over trees, pools of sticky mud and steep inclines that meant you had to climb up using all fours. It was a good test for Sarah as she needed to make sure her hip was strong enough to cope with the steps at Kinabalu.

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We must of walked for about 3 hours to get to the top and the views were well worth it on the trail that we had taken.

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As we approached the end of the trail we reached the hill station which made me think of the TV series Lost.

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You can walk up to a viewing platform at the hill station but it wasn't as good we thought. Alot of tourist choose to get a car ride to the top so we felt pleased with ourselves that we had down it the hard way and picked up a bit of mud on the way.

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After tucking into lunch we needed to make a move so we could make it back before dark. We decided there was no way we could go back the way we came and so we started back down the road to make our way back.

It ended up being a long walk back which we found tough on the legs however we got to see some more sights on the way. The first was the mossy forest which you can walk through via a purpose built walkway. It was quite eerie as the clouds that formed around the forest meant that you couldn't see out across the landscape. It was prime conditions for flora to grow and Sarah was able to get a picture of the famous pitcher plant which actually eats bugs!.

The second was tea plantations, lots of them. In fact most of the landscape was made up of them.

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At one point the field of tea plants looked like a fairway to a golf course.

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The goats in the this area knew the best spots to hang.

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We didn't stray off the path after seeing this.

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As we passed the strawberry farms and markets we saw how the Malaysian all like to get in ther cars and head to this part of the country as the roads were busy and cars were parked up back to back along the sidewalks.

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After 6 hours trekking and walking we made it back to Brinchang and we celebrated because we knew we could get a taxi back to Tanah Rata to our guesthouse. We even managed to raise a smile for the local kids who enjoyed shouting hello!!

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It was long day but a really fun to get out on our own and take it on. Bring on Mount Kinabalu!!

The last day in the Cameron Highlands was a chill out and organise day, which we didn't do much and we content with it because we knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us.

Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

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

From a small island to a big city...

Kuala Lumpur

What a difference a day makes!

After a getting the ferry and bus from Koh Tao to Krabi (having a lovely Massaman curry at Mr Krab-I restaurant) we flew to Kuala Lumpur and found ourselves staying here....

Crossroads hotel in Chow Kit, KL
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A far cry from our beach at Alvaro
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Day 1...

Arriving in KL after nearly two weeks of simple island living was a bit of a shock to the system not only because of all the people, buildings and cars but also the heat and humidity! It was overbearingly hot but we needed to make the most of the afternoon and headed straight out to find the Indonesian Embassy to get the ball rolling with our visa application whilst we were in the city.

We hopped on the metro to Bukit Bintang and walked what would become a very familiar route to the embassy on Tan Razaak. Each stop on the metro is sponsored and so we were getting off at the stop after 'The Colonel'.

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Bukit Butang was a bit overwhelming as we walked passed the glitzy shopping malls, designer stores, plush hotels with expensive cars out front and all the traffic. We definitely felt a bit shabby in the clothes we d been travelling in for months even though we had made sure we were presentable to get into the embassy! We did think it might be a laugh to splash out for one night in one of the hotels just to see whether the doormen would let us in with our backpacks.

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Arriving outside the Indonesian embassy we were met by a grey wall with a door at one end. We reported in at the window and walked through the door to be met by a sea of people sitting on plastic chairs in a courtyard. It was rammed and then we saw some steps up to another room for people with foreign passports and were relieved that it was practically empty so we wouldn't have long to wait. This relief was short lived as we started to fill in the forms we were told that visa applications were only accepted in the morning, and they would only take 120 applications per day. That morning all the application slots had gone by 9am so we would need to be up early to be at the front of the queue to make sure our application could be submitted! At least we would be a step ahead now we had our forms filled in ready to go.

We headed back to Bukit Bintang and took refuge from the heat in one of the many air conditioned malls. Chinese New Year was in full swing and the mall was decked out in Chinese decorations and it was fun to look at the stalls selling some familiar things from earlier in our trip. One stand had a plasticine artist who could make miniature models with a big head of your likeness, we debated getting ones made of us to send home in case our folks were missing our faces but at about 40 quid a head we decided against it. Would have been funny though as we could have re-used them on our wedding cake!

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In the Chinese zodiac I am a rat and Dan is an Ox and we found our signs next to each other (not that its a competition but I had more stars than Dan!)

After Dan was stopped to be interviewed by some students on his thoughts on the mall, this seems to happen to him a lot, we continued exploring the city and came across Jalan Alhor which is famous for all its food stalls but as we weren't hungry we opted for a beer in a bar a few roads over instead. Yep that's right I drink beer now! Although it takes me more than double to time it takes Dan to make my way through a pint!

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We continued to explore the city after the sun went down and after a cheap dinner at a local Indian restaurant with the banging of fireworks going off throughout the city we went to find the luminous Patronus Towers!

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This is by far one of the most impressive modern buildings I ve seen! So cool!

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We were typical tourists trying to taking silly photos infront of it

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All that jumping around was knackering in the heat so it was an early night if we were going to have a chance of getting our visa sorted!

Day 2...

The early bird catches the worm so they say... It also finds out that the metro is shut and will be all morning! Great just what you want to hear when you need to get to the embassy on time so we flagged down a taxi and hoped there would not be too much traffic. Luckily we beat the traffic and we also had a friendly driver who pointed out lots of things on the way from their opera house to the local blood bank. When we got to the embassy there was already a queue outside and we were about 30th people in the line. Not knowing if queuing in KL would be the same as 'queuing' in China I was overly aware of any new people coming over that might push in but everyone waited in line. Passing the time in the queue we read our books and also spoke with a local businessman who was in the oil industry and has travelled most of the world it seems through his job, a v friendly guy. As the doors opened we filed in and luckily got a ticket and a seat and waited to be called. After a couple of hours, a few forms, questions and RM170 out of pocket our applications were in and we would need to come back again the following afternoon to pick up our visas. Time to explore the city some more...

We headed towards Imbi market which is meant to be a great place to pick up some breakfast but we were too late and it had already closed for the day. With rain clouds looming we went into a small cafe just as it started to come down. It didn't look like it was going to let up so we went to get a couple of umbrellas on our way...

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Some sights of the city...

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Whilst looking at the tallest flag pole in the world (100m) in Merdeka square, where Malaysias independence was declared in 1953, the storm clouds gathered again and soon we were in torrential down pour so we dove into the KL City Gallery to keep dry.

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It was an interesting exhibition on KL with a great model of the city and all the buildings they were planning to build. It also home to the Arch collection which makes the most amazing pieces of art and models out of wood, we spent quite a while waiting for the rain to die down which meant could take a look around the shop and get myself and my sister a necklace. www.archcollection.com

Dan surprised me with a Valentines meal at Ril's steak house! It was amazing food and also great to have some wine! I don't think we scrubbed up too badly either.

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Day 3...

Knowing we would be tackling Kinabalu soon I was on the hunt for some new walking boots as mine were falling apart. Despite all the outdoor adventures you can do in Malaysia and Borneo it was almost impossible to find proper walking boots in KL. From what we found out the outdoor adventures seem to be more done by tourists than by locals in KL which is why there are hardly any outdoor shops in the city. I eventually found some but it would have been easier to get them in the Cameron Highlands where there is a hiking scene than the city.

Bye boots!
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Boots bought we walked to the embassy to finally pick up our Indonesian visa! And what better way to celebrate than with a cocktail in the Sky Bar on the 30th floor of the Traders Hotel. This has great views of the Patronas Towers and we should have bought our swimming stuff as there is a pool in the bar too!

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We decided we wanted to get more of a view of the whole city and so headed to the Menara Tower and its viewing deck (which is 276m high!) for sunset and to see the city light up.

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The meal on the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower was a bit pricey for us and so we went elsewhere which was a good decision as we got to see some more Chinese New Year Celebrations of some dragon dancers whilst we sat outside a little Mexican restaurant.

Although the firecrackers they used at the end were a bit OTT, thought a whole building might catch fire! (Video upload not working at the mo but will try to update).

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 08:32 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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