Malaysia, A Beautiful CountryShare
Greetings, I’m in northern Malaysia after a few days of travel stopping in Melaka, Kuala Lampur (KL) the capital, and am now in Thana Rata. I’ve been using their long haul buses to travel (primarily, more on that later) and they make it easy. A full size bus with just 36 seats leaves plenty of leg room, air conditioning, and big windows. I went to Melaka with two girls I had met in Singapore and met another American on the bus as well. The four of us hung out together there and saw the sites. It has been a major shipping port for 1,000 years and was settled by the Dutch and Portuguese in the 1500’s which influenced a lot of their buildings. We walked through the Chinatown night Market on Sunday which was packed until they shut down at 11. All sorts of basic souvenirs that were at every other stand, but lots of fruit and food stands, and local products also. I was shocked to learn later that there are 650,000 people living there it did not seem that big at all.
The food here is quite good and you can find anything you want; Malay, Chinese, Indian, Western. I’ve had lots of curry dishes, seafood, noodles, rice, vegetables (if you can believe that), eggs in the morning, and even a decent club sandwich. So far my stomach is handling all of it ok which is good because there is plenty more of it to try. Chinese New Year is coming up this weekend and every town is hanging up decorations and getting ready for it. This is the first town I’ve been in where all the guide books don’t tell you to go to Chinatown first thing. It seems like that all over the world though.
Moving on to KL it started drizzling 5 minutes before the bus arrived and advanced to pouring down as we got our bags and starting walking. The four of us were still together and found a hostel quickly and dried off. We split up for a while to wander and eat and met back up at a bar later that evening. I have been around so many British people I’ve already adopted all of their slang and think I may pick up their accent if I keep this up.
The next morning I said goodbye to the two girls from Devon and went to the Patronas Towers with Jon, the american. The towers were formally the tallest buildings in the world and are now #2. You may recognize the pictures as they were in a James Bond movie (I think Tomorrow Never Dies). Jon has been working 6 months and traveling 6 months for the about 6 years and has developed his own ways of doing things. There is a free tour to the skybridge between the towers on the 41st floor, out of 88. He decided he wanted to go to the top and sent them an email then stating this. When we showed up he asked to see the person he emailed in their media relations department. Anytime anyone said no to him he would find someone else and after about 45 minutes someone came down with our press kits. Jon kept talking and if we hadn’t been wearing shorts and sandals would have had a VIP tour to the 83rd floor! Stupid us! They ended up giving me a ticket for the skybridge between the two towers and Jon left for the airport to fly to Cambodia.
I had to hustle after going up to the bridge to get back to the hostel, get my bag, and to the bus station. I was heading to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands were most of their tea production is as well as some mountainous area for views and walks. I made it there right at 3:30 and tried to get on that bus, but was told that it wasn’t going so they booked me on the 4:30 bus which was the last one of the day because the road is too narrow and windy for the buses to use at night. At 4:30 someone came by and said that bus wasn’t going either and that we could get a refund and come back at 9am the next day.
At this point I met another two English girls traveling together who were talking to a Malaya family who said there was a bus 2/3 of the way here and then a taxi would be about 50 Ringats ($24) the rest of the way. We decided to do that and had to wait until 6 for that bus. It pulled up, but never opened its doors like they always do and finally we were shuffled to a different bus where we got on and pulled out at 6:30. I’d heard that this sort of things happens and a lot of the time it is simply because the don’t have enough people so they just cancel the trip.
We had no troubles on that bus and arrived and found out a taxi would be 80R, but just wanted to get there by now, the two girls had been waiting since 1pm for a bus. It took 1.5 hours in the taxi since it was an uphill and windy 50 miles. But it is still incredible that the ride was $24 total, for all three of us! Basically it cost me $12 to get here instead the $7 it was supposed. Absolutely incredible; travel, food, and lodging are super cheap. Beer isn’t cheep, but not bad either. I’ve been living very comfortably on $30/day and doing everything I’ve wanted to.
We finally arrived to our hostel at 10pm and set up for a full day tour the next day which included a tour of a tea plantation, two jungle walks, and visiting a native village. We left at 9 the next morning to a crystal clear day. We drove to the top of a mountain passing the tea plantation and learning all about how the tea is grown, harvested, and made into tea. The temperature is so mild and consistent that they harvest the leaves every three weeks in the dry season and two weeks during the wet. They get paid 0.20R for every kilogram which takes about 5 minutes to do.
Then we went for a walk through the forest there where our guide was absolutely brilliant. He knew all the plants, animals, and history that we asked him. He was only about 25, and there is no way he was just making it up. He made the entire day so worth it with his knowledge. The ground on the walk was just like a sponge even though it has hardly rained in a month. Every step you took the ground would depress in about a one foot circle and then pop right back up when you moved. The guide showed us one area where he jumped up and all the trees around him starting shaking. There is such a variety of trees, plants, flowers, everything just thrives here. The sun and night humidity let all sorts of flora grow and everything looks so healthy and exotic. Some of it I recognized and some things were so much bigger I never would guess what they were, while others were just completely new.
There were 8 of us on the tour at this point and we went for a nice leisurely lunch after which three of them left since they were just doing the first half of the trip. We switched to Land Cruiser and went to the southern portion of the trip for another walk and to the village. The guide put on an Indian rap song while we were bouncing down the highway (at our request) which I got a video of that is hilarious. As we got into the jungle our guide let the five of us out and told us to follow the road and take a look at everything around us while he drove aways down and would walk back and meet us.
Fairly quickly we started seeing some spiders about 2-3 inches across which were freaking the four girls out. As we continued down the spiders kept getting bigger and bigger, until we caught up to our guide and they were the size of my hand fully spread out. He took one off the web and just kept passing it hand over hand as it walked along, they weren’t poisonous so I asked if I could hold it. He let me and eventually three of the girls did also. He said that was the first time he had any ladies hold it.
We drove down to village and all of their building are built from bamboo. The walls are six pieces rolled out into 16 inch strips, bamboo supports holding them off the ground, and small bamboo strips as the floor. We all got to try out one of their blow guns and tried to kill the sandal nailed to the wall of a hut. We didn’t use the cyanide tips like they do just to give the sandal a chance. To my embarrassment I was the worst at it, but still only took two tries to hit the target. Next we went into the chiefs hut where we sat on the floor and had fresh mango pieces and hot hibiscus tea. The chief sat with us while the guide told us about them and the different tools that they use. He has lived with them for a couple of weeks and gone on hunting trips so again had an incredible amount of knowledge. We went back to the hostel nearly 12 hours after we left with smiles we couldn’t wipe off our faces and full of new experiences and information.
I’m getting my laundry done now and will be catching an evening bus then the night train into Thailand. I’m anxious to see what the train is like, but would rather do it during the day so I can see the landscape as we go, but it only goes once a day. Once I’m in Thailand I’ll get a chance for a few beach days, but I’ll still be moving to get to Bangkok and meet Michelle in a little over a week. At least I won’t have to think so much when I go to the ATM machine wondering how much money I’ll need in this currency before I leave.