This time we decided to do our visa run to Malaysia on our terms. Last time if you recall our minibus off the island to Trang was 2 hours late, the seats we had paid for had been given away by the driver to his friends and we missed connections because of it! Originally we were going to spend this month in Malaysia, but life on Koh Lanta is too good so we have decided to stay here a bit longer.
So we took our motorbike to Trang, a few hours south of here. It was going to be way too hard core even for us to ride all the way to Malaysia (especially on our little, old, crappy scooter), so we got the bus from Trang and then the train from Hat Yai to KL.
We didn’t actually take any photos in Malaysia, instead we went to the movies. 3 times in one day! (Since the Petronas towers in KL are now our official movie viewing place in all of SE asia!) And then came back, riding the bike back from Trang. We were exceptionally lucky that on the way there, it was mainly cloudy so we didn’t fry in the sun, and then on the way back we rode into the sunset for most of the way, then we got hit by a tropical storm that seem to have become pretty common in the last week or so, lucky we brought our raincoats! After the rain stopped and we figured out we weren’t lost it was pretty fun winding the little Mio up to max speed in the swirling mist. After last time, we learned a lot about how not to do visa runs, so this time was comparitively a breeze. :-)
So if anyone wants to do a visa run to Malaysia from the south of Thailand, just ask us we are now self proclaimed experts….just dont ask us for directions out of Trang city, not even Google maps could help us there!
We have spent the past few days walking through the jungle and seeing the stunning tea plantations. We had another lovely room with a view right onto a forest. We learned a valuable lesson about Malaysia: never, under any circumstances, follow walking directions that anyone gives you, because although they mean well, no one has ever walked anywhere! The people are truly lovely and we have actually really fallen in love with this area, it was so much more to our liking than our previous visit to Penang. In terms of the directions though, it is very much like NZ; the public transport is not good so everyone has a car. This means that while they might know how to drive somewhere, they probably have absolutely no idea how long it will take to walk, or the easiest way to walk there. We pretty much did find this out as soon as we arrived in Malaysia but still thought we would chance a well-meaning lady’s advice to walk to the lake, ‘about 15-20 minutes’ in the opposite direction of the tea plantation we were heading to. Over an hour later we arrived at the lake, and while the walk was quite pleasant, it meant that we now had over 10 km’s to walk to get back to Tanah Rata, and we soon found it it was 100% uphill!
The walk on the way there was really lovely through the forest, both up and downhill over a mountain. The start of the walk made us realise that no one actually did the forest walks around this area – we had completed another walk the previous day and had to fight our way through overgrown paths and eventually had to give up on the path because it was so thickly overgrown that we physically couldn’t get through. This one started at – of course – a hotel construction site which had totally obliterated the start of the trail, and after climbing over construction materials and a huge pile of clay, we found the trail. Many times we had to make our own path to the next section of path, which we could always luckily see, but often the path hadn’t been used for so long that it didn’t exist anymore. It was really fun though, the forest was so beautiful with loads of orchids growing and heaps of other cool plants and flowers too.
The tea plantations were a definite highlight, so expansive and beautiful with rolling hills for miles covered in tea. Drinking the tea was pretty good too!
Over the few days we were in the highlands we walked about 35 kilometers, all of which were thoroughly enjoyable. After that we went back to KL so that we could fly into Thailand (to get a 1 month visa instead of only 15 days if we had entered overland) and although last time we didn’t really like KL that much, we decided it was OK. It was the first time in about 6 months that we have been somewhere civilised enough to have a movie theatre, so we went back to the Petronas towers to the movies! The last time we saw a movie was last time we were in KL so we decided perhaps transitting through KL can be our movie catch up times. :-) Our photos are here.
It would be hard to come to Malaysia, and especially Penang without writing about food. In fact, part of the reason we came here was because of the food. On our first couple of days we gorged ourselves on food that was quite simply, sublime. The following few days we were slighly more restrained… and were getting to the point where all the sugar, salt and oil was a bit much! The one disappointing thing has been the lack of healthy food – something which we have been quite surprised about considering Penang’s international reputation for all things delicious. It was only once we got to KL that there were Indian foods that were healthy and some sushi. We have tried the best laksa ever, many good noodle dishes, and many, many, many sweets and desserts. We plan to do LOTS of excercise in Thailand!!! So, how much food can two people eat in a week? To see the weird and wonderful stuff we have eaten, see our photos here. Disclaimer: This will only be interesting to our foodie friends – you know who you are!
We have really enjoyed our time in Malaysia, it is a really interesting blend of modern vs old, east meets west, organised and crazy Asian madness. There are road rules (something we had almost forgotten existed after Indonesia), traffic lights, fast internet, ancient temples, crumbling buildings, people fasting for Ramadan, and people eating themselves silly. The multi-cultural society has been fascinating to watch and be a part of. Kuala Lumpur itself hasn’t really inspired us – we didn’t really expect it to though and that’s why we’re only here for a day (unavoidable due to train and flight times). Petronas Towers are really impressive – more so than we thought they’d be, and the public transport is abysmal. We did manage to pick an awesome little hotel though and overall KL wasn’t a bad place to spend a day. Although we haven’t seen much of Malaysia (yet), it seems to be a really good balance of mod-cons, and slow-paced chilling out. We’re definitely looking forward to next time we’re here and exploring a bit more.
We left Indonesia on the morning of the first day of Ramadan – which was completely fluke – and which turned out to be a really interesting experience. We left Bukit Lawang at around 5.30am and the streets most of the way to Medan (about 2.5 hours away) were lined with partying muslims letting off fireworks to celebrate the beginning of their fasting period. Once at the airport we decided to console ourselves about leaving Indo with massages before getting on the plane.
We spent the first afternoon in Penang pretty much just chilling on the beach opposite our guesthouse, then the next day in Georgetown. We saw all the usual sights – the British Colonial buildings, waterfront and Little India (where we spent most of our time). We decided to spend the next morning at Kek Lok Si Temple, and ended up loving it so much that we spent almost the entire day there, wandering the extensive temple grounds and climbing the stairs of the Pagoda of ten thousand buddhas. Kek Lok Si was definitely the highlight of our time in Penang. In the following couple of days we went to Batu Ferringhi (the main touristy beach) and hung out on our beach, went to the floating mosque and basically just chilled. We felt a little underwhelmed at both Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi, and are glad that we opted to stay on the beach between the two, near an awesome hawker centre. Tonight we’re getting the overnight train to KL which we’re both really looking forward to, so will report back soon! Our photos are here.