Singapore & Malaysia, 2011

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Article Index
Singapore & Malaysia, 2011
Kuala Lumpur, Feb 20th, 2011
Kuala Lumpur, Feb 21st, 2011
Cameron Highlands, Feb 22nd, 2011
Cameron Highlands, Feb 23rd, 2011
Ferry Journey and Pulau Pangkor, Feb 24th, 2011
Pulau Pangkor, Feb 25th, 2011
Pulau Pangkor, Feb 26th, 2011
Malacca, Feb 27th, 2011
Malacca, Feb 28th, 2011
All Pages

We had a few days holiday to use up, so decided to have a trip to Singapore and Malaysia. After much research on the web, and reading of guide books, we settled on flying into Singapore, catching the bus up to Kuala Lumpur, then from there to the Cameron Highlands. After a couple days in the highlands we planned to catch the bus to Lumut and from there a ferry to the island of Pulau Pangkor, and then, after returning to Lumut, going back to Singapore on the bus, via Malacca.

We knew we didn't have time to do it properly, as we only had a 12 day trip, and flying out and back would take two of those days. Having visited, though, we know we want to go back and do it properly. It really is a wonderful part of the world.

Singapore, Feb 19th, 2011:

We landed in Singapore around 8 o'clock in the morning, headed straight to our hotel, checked in, dropped off our rucksacks, and headed out to have a look around Singapore. We had booked the Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel for the night as it was close to the airport and had a free shuttle bus. It turned out to be a good choice as they also let us check in at 8.30 in the morning, for no extra charge. They are a little off the beaten track, though, as you need to catch a bus to the MRT (Singapore's metro/underground system). They have a lovely pool, and the room was clean and spacious, though, so I would happily stay again.

 We caught the MRT down to the stop near Raffles Hotel, and walked over to it to see what all the fuss is about. It is a lovely old colonial building, with verandas, tree filled squares, and old colonial buildings. We carried on with our walk, through the Chinatown area, and the Indian area, visiting a couple temples, before looking for the ticket office and departure point for our bus to Kuala Lumpur for the next day. We returned to the hotel, foot sore and hungry, before walking round the hotel area and finding a restaurant on the street behind the hotel. I set my alarm for early in the morning so we could get the 8 o'clock bus, and went to sleep.

 


 Kuala Lumpur, Feb 20th, 2011

Well, the idea had been that we get up early with my alarm going off, and catch the 8 o'clock bus if we could make it, or the 9 o'clock bus if we couldn't. It turns out I messed up and didn't turn on my alarm afer all, so, after waking up late, we made a mad dash for it and caught the 11 o'clock bus just as it was pulling out. Buses appear to be the standard method of long distance travel in Malaysia, and there are loads of different bus companies. Some use the official bus terminals, but others, such as Aeroline, use shopping malls or hotels to operate from. While Aeroline is slightly more expensive than some of the other companies (£2 extra on the Singapore - KL trip), I think they are worth the extra. It is only a slight increase in the price, and for it you get a meal, large, clean leather seats that lie almost flat, similar to business class in aeroplanes, and a steward that makes sure everyone is on board after stops etc. This last luxury is actually quite useful. As you go between the countries you have to get off the bus twice. On the first stop you leave the country, so have to take your passport and departure card and go through immigration, before getting back on your bus again. At the next stop you go into the new country, so have to take all your luggage with you for screening. We heard stories of busses not waiting for people, and driving off, leaving the traveller stranded. Hence the usefullness of someone making sure everyone is onboard.

The other advantage of using Aerolines apeared when we arrioved in KL. Instead of being dropped off at the Bukit Jalil bus station on the outskirts of the city, we were dropped off at the Corus Hotel, right at the foot of the famous Petronas towers. Staff at the Aerolines desk in the hotel helped us to orientate ourselves, and pointed us in the direction of KL's metro/underground system, the LRT, and we set off to find a hotel and look around.

KL's LRT system is different from that you find in most cities, in that each line is run by a different company, including the monorail system that interlinks with it. At each train change you need to buy a spereate ticket which can only be done when enetering the station. Still, the tickets are cheap, and it isn't too inconvenient. We caught the LRT to Bukit Bintang, and walked through the streets and squares till the Federal Hotel caught our eye. After checking in, (again, a decent hotel and not a bad price, either), we wandered around KL, discovering the China town street markets and the covered Central Market. As night fell all the trees that lined the streets were illuminated by fairy lights that had been hung along their branches, and chinese lanterns hung from houses and shops. People hit the streets, a Reggae band with a bagpipe player started up in the Bukit Bintang square, and the city really came to life.

We stopped in the Central Market to have our feet 'cleaned' by 'doctor fish', and by a massage parlour a few shops away from our hotel for reflexology and back massages. Then we found a local restaurant, ate, and chatted. The plan had been to just use KL as somewhere to change buses, but we enjoyed it so much we decided to stay another night, so went back to the hotel and booked in for the next night before having a swim and heading to bed.


Kuala Lumpur, Feb 21st, 2011

We continued with our wandering through KL after adding our own artistic flare to a large painting that was in the loby of the Federal Hotel. Apparently it is going to be displayed in the national art gallery there, so we can both say we are artists of international renown. Spurred on by this frenzy of artistic fame, we went on to a local craft centre where K did some silk painting. We aslo wandered around some of the poorer areas of the city, marvelling at the scenes of low, rusty shacks with the huge high rise tower blocks behind them.

Much to the amusement of the locals I took a photo of the seat inside one of the monorail carriages. I have friends who will apreciate the photo. You know who you are.


Cameron Highlands, Feb 22nd, 2011

The next morning we headed off to the Bukit Jalil bus station for our coach to the Cameron Highlands. Officially the buses should leave from the Puduraya bus station in the centre of KL, but it seems to have been 'undergoing renovation' for a few years, so instead you have to take the LRT out to Bukit Jalil and run the gauntlet of a few hundred ticket touts to find the right kiosk selling tickets to your destination. We went with the Kurnia Bistari Express company. The coach was not as salubrious as the Aerolines one, but it got us to the Highlands without breaking down and dropped us off in Tanah Rata. I had checked the TripAdvisor reviews on lots of the accomodation in Tanah Rata, and found that everything got completely mixed reviews. Some people raved about the quality of places, while others slated the same places as places to go only if hell had no rooms. We walked around and liked the looks of the Hillview Inn, which offered us a clean rooms with its own bathroom and balcony. If you looked right from the balcony, towards the town of Tanah Rata, the view was dominated by a large, derelict, building site, that has, by all accounts, been in the same state for over ten years. The view straight out, however, was of the hotel gardens and the hillside, covered by tropical trees and plants. We thought it was worth it, and enjoyes ourselves there.

The Cameron Highlands is famous for its strawberries and colonial English heritage. We walked via the road to one of its famous hotels, the Smokehouse, where we had afternoon tea with scones, homemade strawberry jam, and clotted cream in their traditional English country gardens. We then took trail 4, an easy, mostly paved walk through the bush, back to the hotel. On route we passed a church that had a stone frontage, but behind was an old, wartime, nissen hut, and the 'Parit waterfall'. The walk isn't worth doing to see the waterfall, as it is just a drop of a couple feet, but it is worth doing if you fancy a quiet stroll. We also passed a park where teenagers hung out on giant vegetables, and an old Toyota Land Cruiser. Again, I had to take a photo for a friend who has an obsession over old Toyotas.

That evening we headed down the main (practically only) road and picked one of the many local restaurants to eat at, then headed back to the hotel.


Cameron Highlands, Feb 23rd, 2011

We got up early to get to TJ Nur Travel & Tours for our 1/2 day tour of the area. The trip we chose included a visit to the highest peak in the area, a short hike through the 'moss forest', a visit to a tea plantation, and a trip to a local butterfly farm (actually an insect & reptile display place). We were driven around in an old Landrover by a really great guide. He had perfect English, a really good knowledge of plants and animals, and a great sense of humour. The day was quite misty, so the views weren't amazing, but it did add to the ambience and remind me of my home in PNG. There were lots of pitcher plants in the forest, and the guide pointed them out, as well as teaching us about other plants we came across. The tea plantaion was interesting as well. The factory tour took all of 5 minutes, and the person giving the factory tour was unintelligible, but as our guide had already explained it to us while showing us around the tea 'fields' it didn't matter. I wasn't expecting much of the 'butterfly farm', but it was enjoyable. Lots of the beetles and insects were familiar to me from my childhood, but it was fun to see them again. K bravely held several of them including a non poisonous snake, and a poisonous scorpion.

That evening we ate in a 'steamboat' restaurant, where they bring you a little camping gas stove to the table, along with a saucpan full of boiling soup and several plates of raw ingredients. The idea is you add the ingredients as you wish to eat them, let them cook in the soup, then, after eating all the ingredients, you finally cook the noodles in the soup and drink the soup with the noodles. It was, I think, the most expensive meal of the trip (I think it came to £5 each with drinks), and I probably wouldn't bother doing it again, but you have to try these things.

We had another restaurant cook us some roti canai with sliced bananas in for breakfast and lunch the next day, as we were going to be spending the day travelling to Pulau Pangkor.


Ferry Journey and Pulau Pangkor, Feb 24th, 2011

Another early morning, and we walked down through Tanah Rata to the coach terminus. We got another delapidated Kurnia Bistari Express bus to Ipoh, where we had a mad rush to catch the bus that went between the bus staions (there are two main ones in Ipoh) that was pulling out as we pulled in. Our coach driver was really helpful, and ran after it and stopped it while we got our bags off. We got to the other Ipoh bus station and found the bus to Lumut doesn't leave from the station itself, but just outsde it. Another mad dash got us to the site behind the Shell petrol station the coach leaves from, and we got tickets and jumped on just as it left. The coach was quite a local bus, and stopped anywhere to pick up or drop people off. It seemed we had got on at the same time that the local schools finished, so the journey took hours as it had to stop every few hundred metres to drop off or collect school kids.

We finally arrived at Lumut, found the ferry terminal and got return tickets. There are two ferry companies, it seems, so we picked one at random as they both leave at the same time. We had just missed one, so we had a half hour wait, before skillfully getting on the wrong company's ferry. As the guy taking the tickets said, though, there was no difference and his ferry was as good as the other one, so he happily let us on. The scenery is good on the ferry ride, and it is worth getting on the open air deck for a better view.

On arrival at Pangor town (the second stop on the ferry) we caught one of the many pink minivan taxis across the island to Teluk Nipah, where we had planned to stay. After checking out several of the cheap and mid range options, we decided to hang the expense and get another taxi up to the Pangor Island Beach Resort. The hotel was, it must be said, amazing, in a beautiful private bay, surrounded by lush tropical rainforest. We booked in for one night, had a swim in the sea and in one of the pools, had dinner under the palm trees, and promptly went back to reception and booked in for an extra two nights.


Pulau Pangkor, Feb 25th, 2011

What is there to do in paradise? Well, K sat between the pool and the sea and did her homework while I jogged on the beach and hiked up a trail I found behind the old Chinese shrine on the hillside behind the hotel. I hiked for maybe an hour, ducking between spiky palms that I remembered from my barefoot childhood, swatting mosquitoes, and sweating through the still, humid rainforest. I reached the top of the hill, and descended a different trail, which took me to a small sandy cove from which the hotel was partially visible. I took photos of the hotel and of some driftwood, and headed back. Back at the hotel I found monkeys raiding peoples balconies looking for food, so watched them for half an hour before dinner.

During dinner the lady at the table next to ours left her plate with the empty shells of prawns on it while she went to get some more food. A hornbill flew down and starting eating the prawn sheels, so we helpfully watched and took photos, while the sun set in the background.

 


Pulau Pangkor, Feb 26th, 2011

The next day, as well as swimming in the sea and pools, having a massage and taking a kayak out to sea, we decided to walk down to Teluk Nipah. It is only 2 or 3 kilometers, and is a nice walk past the old airstrip, down a windy, quiet road. We walked around Teluk Nipah, and were glad we had paid the extra. The beach, while beautiful, was lined with hawkers and building sites. We did buy a couple things in small shops, though, and then headed back.

 


Malacca, Feb 27th, 2011

The next day we had to get up early again, and head to the hotel's private ferry terminal. Amusingly enough, our ticket wasn't valid for this ferry either, but no one checked, so we got on anyway. We never actually did use the ferry from the company we bought the ticket. We caught the 9 o'clock bus to Malacca, which went via Ipoh, KL, and several other places, before getting in around 7.30 in the evening. We then caught a bus from the bus station into town (the number 17 to the clock tower, if you ever find yourselves there), and took a room for the night in the Hereen House.

We could not have chosen a better day for our visit. Sunday night is street market time in Malacca, and our hotel was at the end of the main street they close for the markets. We spent the evening walking through the markeet, and ate at the Famosa Chicken Rice Ball restaurant, before heading back to the hotel. Unfortunately I was not in the mood for taking photos after spending over 10 hours on a dodgy bus, so I missed the oportuinities for lots of photos from the market.

The hotel is quite a pleasant one, run by a English lady and her local husband and has views from the rooms over the river. They were both friendly, and the lady was very knowledgable about transport on to Singapore.

 


Malacca, Feb 28th, 2011

Our final day of travelling. We spent the morning in Malacca, walking around, and then caught a coach back to Singapore. We just chose a hotel from the Lonely Planet guide, checked in, and went across the road to a Korean fast food stall, where I finally got to try kimchi.

All that left was to go to sleep, and dread waking up the next day to return to the UK.

 

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