Sunday, 16 November 2014

Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

Now in our fifth week of our trip, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia just over a week ago. We shared a taxi to Chinatown with lovely Lucie and Karel, who we met at the airport. They were on their honeymoon, having got married back in July in Prague, where they live. We met back up with them for dinner, where we also met Lucie's school friend Simon and his girlfriend Adela. We all went to a Chinese restaurant for a tasty dinner and then walked for the best part of an hour to the Petronas Towers. We were so pleased to get such a good photo opportunity and without anyone else around and the towers look incredible at night!

After our brief, but very pleasant overnight stay in the Malaysian capital we got a 5-hour bus to the Cameron Highlands. We returned to Kuala Lumpur after a travelling further on to Penang and then down to Singapore. We did a bit more sightseeing when we returned to KL, but nothing blog-worthy. Our friend Mark put us in touch with his friends Samantha, Mark and Nick, who live in KL. We're off to meet them for dinner tonight and we're looking forward to more delicious Asian cuisine!

We booked a bus to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands from Pudu Sentral, the main bus station in KL, for 35 MYR each [approx 7 GBP].  It turned out to be the most comfortable and pleasant bus journey we've been on in Asia! Emily and I both had a laugh at the big sign at the front of the bus that stated "plastic bag is for vomit", but thankfully the journey was actually very nice! As we drove higher and higher into the mountains, the roads got increasingly scarier, with landslides creating obstacles in many parts of the roads! It's currently rainy season in Malaysia and it tends to rain particularly heavily from early afternoon through to early evening. We headed straight to Daniel's Lodge aka Kang's when we arrived in Tanah Rata, getting completely drenched in the short distance from the bus station! This guest house is recommended by Lonely Planet, but it really is awful. It's pretty cheap, but the rooms are like prison cells and the walls are super thin. Definitely the worst place we have stayed.

We were woken in the night by an idiot in the room next door who was speaking to his mother on the phone in English, although we realised from his conversation that he is Asian and lives in Malaysia. Despite being annoyed about being woken up, we laughed when he was saying to his mum on the phone "I may stay longer as I feel so full of joy. I just feel so fulfilled". He was also telling his mum about how happy he was as he had been listening to Christmas songs all day. He was clattering around and playing loud games on his phone too, until I banged on the wall and told him to shut up! I felt like a spy when I went to reception in the morning and discovered in the check-in book that his name is Jeremy. I asked if he was staying longer and the guy said he wasn't sure. Anyway, later in the day we were sat in the common area, when we heard a car pulling up with loud Christmas songs blaring out the windows - Emily and I looked at each other and couldn't believe it! In walks Jeremy, who had thankfully not enjoyed me telling him to keep the noise down in the middle of the night and had moved rooms, far away from us. We heard him pull up again the next day, again with Christmas songs loudly jingling from his car. All very strange and amusing!

After a bad nights sleep [thanks Jeremy], we woke early for a tour we had booked the night before, which cost 40 MYR each [approx 8 GBP]. After picking up other tourists in a minivan, we first stopped at the Boho Tea Plantations to take in the impressive view and take photos. We'd seen lots of photos of tea plantations but they look so much more incredible when it's right in front of you.

After a short drive, we stopped at the peak of Mt Brinchang, which conveniently has an access road as there are telecoms towers at the top. We climbed this rather rickety looking watchtower to enjoy the view from the top, which you can see in the photo below. 

After another short drive we were then shown around the 'Mossy Forest' by our tour guide Ravi, who was very knowledgeable and spoke great English. The Mossy Forest has a lovely wooden walkway through it, which makes it an easy and pleasant way to enjoy the plants, wildlife and views that the area has to offer. Despite being so high up, the coldest recorded temperature at 2000 metres above sea level on this mountain is three degrees celsius, due to the relatively short distance from the equator.  

We were then shown around the Boh Tea factory, which was pretty cool as each process is explained and you can see the workers doing it through screens. We then had some lovely tea and scones at the cafe, which overlooked the plantation and the workers village, which you can see below.

After driving back down the mountain, we stopped at a strawberry farm, where we picked our own delicious strawberries, as demonstrated by Emily below!

Last stop of the day was a Butterfly Farm. There were also snakes, chickens, rabbits and many insects at this farm, but sadly not all of the animals seemed particularly well looked after, which was a shame as the place itself was pretty nice.

We didn't stick around for long in the Cameron Highlands, as visiting the tea plantations is the main highlight and there isn't a whole lot else to see. The day after our tour we got a four-hour minivan to George Town, on the island of Penang. There is a large bridge that links the island with the mainland, and as we paid a little more than a standard bus, the journey was quick and took us right to the road where we wanted to find a guest house. I'll write about Penang in the next few days. Thanks for reading!

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