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Malaysia – Week 1

April 11, 2012

Thursday 5th April Kuala Lumpur

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 11pm local time. It is 1h30 ahead of Yangoon. We took an hour bus from the airport and arrived in Chinatown. We walked around and got lost for 40 minutes before to find the hostel where we had booked a double room. We went to bed around 2.30am finally in a room with a wet floor due to a leaking air conditioning we therefore couldn’t use, beee…

Here is a map of the area so you can see where Malaysia is on the map

Malaysia map all

Friday 6th April Kuala Lumpur

We changed in the morning for a wider cheaper room in the hotel nearby. Then we met with my friend Aude around noon. We were in high school together in France, that’s 15 years ago now, one of my oldest friendships. I had not seen her since August 2010, so it was awesome to meet again and be able to have some more time than usual, travelling together for 10 days! We went to Petaling Street for some lunch. It is the main street of Chinatown.

Petaling Street

I had some stuff to ship, so I went to the main post office for the afternoon, while Michael and Aude went to check bus tickets for the North for the next day. Kuala Lumpur was a big change after a month in Burma. It felt really weird to be in such a developed city suddenly, with huge buildings, large roads, more traffic. I felt dizzy!

Kuala Lumpur

In the evening we went for some barbecue, very good skewers, and one of the few good eateries we found around where we were staying.

barbecue

Saturday 7th April Kuala Lumpur

We took the sky train to go see the Petronas Twin Towers and go at the top if possible. According to the LP published in 2009, a limited number of tickets were given everyday for a free visit. However, things had changed and while we got there we were told that the price was now 25 dollars to get to the top, which we were not keen on paying. So we took some bus and went to the Titwangsa Lake Gardens in the North of Kuala Lumpur where we stopped for a coffee and walked around, enjoying the view.

view from the lake

After the park, we walked quite a lot to get a skytrain going in the shopping area.

shopping district KL

We had some lunch nearby, and then went to a mall to check camera lenses and netbooks. Then we walked back, and chilled out for 2 hours in the wifi area of the hotel, finally starting to catch up with internet after a month without it. Then we took a skytrain for a few stations to the bus station, where we took a night bus going to a city in the North from where to take a boat to the Perhentian islands.

bus station

Sunday 8th April Perhentian islands

This is a map of the North of Malaysian Peninsula to get you some idea of where Perhentian Islands, Kota Bharu, Kuala Lipis and Jerantut are.

Malaysia map North

We arrived around 5am in Kuala Besut and were directed to the boat ticket office to buy tickets for the Perhentian and check out the map to decide in which hotel to stay. We decided to stay in D’Lagoon, the most remote one of the small island. See the boat on the map, that’s the hotel on the left of it.

Perhentian Islands map

We waited for sunrise and boarded a real speedboat that took us to the islands in 1h15.

speedboat

Here we were, arriving at the secluded beach of the D’Lagoon bungalows. Not too bad.

D Lagoon

The view from the beach was not too bad either.

beach

I really liked this place, quiet, a good snorkelling beach in front. Perfect to relax a few days. The cool thing also was that it was not only Westerner tourists, most people being Malaysian people here to relax too for a few days! In the afternoon we took the path behind and were immediately into the jungle.

jungle

We walked for about 10-15 minutes and arrived at the Turtle Beach where some turtles can be seen when snorkeling. Meanwhile it had started raining an heavy tropical rain and we got completely soaked, but didn’t care too much as we were in bathing suite and light clothes. The beach there was gorgeous too.

Turtle Beach

We chilled out in the evening, enjoying the quietness of the place…and the great wifi too! Meanwhile, it kept raining and raining heavily. I had not had much rain since I started travelling mid-November and I had forgotten it could be like this.

Monday 9th April

In the morning, Michael and I went snorkelling while Aude was reading a great novel she could not leave, hey hey. In the afternoon, we chilled out on computers while the rain was falling outside most of the time. We had the visit of a monkey in the evening that was the attraction of the day for the few of people we were sleeping there.

monkey

Tuesday 10th April

It was time to travel for a week alone with Aude while Michael was happy to stay there and chill out for a week. With Aude, we took the speedboat back to the mainland. We stopped for an hour there, having some breakfast while waiting for the bus for Khota Baru. While the weather had been really wet on the Perhentian islands, it was hot and dry there. I was glad to finally dry quickly in that sun the clothes I had washed 2 days before that had remained humid so far. The bus was about 2 hours so we arrived in Kota Bharu around noon. The city seemed quite impersonal to me, having huge straights building and wide streets in an American city way, with no soul at all, and not much interesting life going on in the streets compared to Burma. That’s where I realised which treasure Burma was actually, and life in the streets in general.

Kota Bharu

We went to the tourist office and asked for cooking classes, but the guy proposed us a speedy 3-hour only class the next day that seemed too rushed to be interesting. We walked around after and checked out the local history museum, in which was displayed a traditional kite typical of this region called Kelantan.

Malaysian kite

We learned also about the legendary princess who had rules this place at some point called Cik Citi Wan Kembang.

Cik Siti

After that, we looked for a place where to enjoy a sunset drink near the river. While going down to ask if they were serving drinks, we were told that it was a jetty and we could get on a boat right now to a 15-min boat ride nearby village whose name I forgot, so off we were suddenly on the river.

boat

We walked around this village which was had some charm.

village near Kota Bharu

We ran into this mother cat and kitties. See how the mother has a long tail, but the white kitties have short tails. We saw the dad after but sadly I don’t have a picture. There is this weird thing in Asia where cats have short tails. At first, I thought that they were cutting the tail of cats for some cultural or whatever reason. But apparently, it seems that this is genetic and cats can be born here with short tails.

cats

We saw a poor monkey attached to a tree. He looked really sad. Apparently, Malaysian people like to have monkeys as pets.

monkey pet

We ran into this really kind woman who kept talking to us although we couldn’t understand a single word so we were making the conversations too, confirming that yes we were in Malaysia since a few days, but only today in the village, etc etc. Funny conversation.

woman

We left at sunset and arrived back at the pier where 2 young were holding a net to try to catch some birds flying above, while a few more people were observing the scene, apparently working with them.

catching swiftlets

We were intrigued and started chatting. We learned that these birds flying above were swiftlets and that they are the ones whose nest is sold for a lot of money to Chinese people who eat it. The people there were scientists willing to catch some swiftlefts in order to study them and understand what they eat exactly.

swiflets

One man told us a bit about the swiftlets and took us to his house to show us the nests. It was twilight and the birds were coming back to the nests, he showed us how all of them were always coming back in pairs. He had bought this house and the ones nearby for a lot of money, and had some people taking care of the place every day, checking the temperature, the humidity, that it didn’t get too dirty, so that these luxury birds would remain there. Selling those nests to Chinese is really a huge business.

swiftlet birdnests

After this lesson about swiftlet nests, we went for dinner and enjoyed for desert some sticky rice with mango, quite good!

sticky rice mango

Wednesday 11th April Jungle Train

We took the Jungle Train from Kota Bharu in the early morning, in the direct of Kuala Lipis. It really has an appropriate name as you really pass most of the time through the Jungle, with very few villages around.

jungle

There were also really beautiful brownish rivers we could see from it.

river

At some point, we also passed through a landscape of gorgeous cliffs.

cliffs

Most of the little train stations where we stopped were very cute little stations like this one.

railstation

On the way to Kuala Lipis, we decided to finally continue until Jerentut, located 1h30 further, to be closer to Taman Negara National Park. We bought a ticket extension and that was it. Easy. We got in Jerentut around 3pm. The sun was burning when we got there. We walked to the bus station and drunk some coconut while waiting for the minivan of 5pm to Kuala Tahan. We were finally off to there, but the minivan stopped on the way for about 2 hours to change wheels. Classic!

minivan

We arrived in Kuala Tahan around 7pm. We met a British guy in the minivan who had been travelling a lot before in Asia and was living in Tokyo teaching English since a year. We walked to a guest house and checked in.

Here we were, close to Taman Negara, claimed to be one of the oldest forest of the world, 130 million year old tropical rainforest, ready to explore!

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