Our last stop in Malaysia was Kuala Lumpur. It was kind of strange being in a big city again. We stayed near Chinatown where you can buy just about anything for $5 or less and stocked up on some new clothes and other odds and ends. We only had a day and a half before we left for Cambodia so we only got a sense of this big city by visiting a few mosques, the Batu caves, the twin towers and riding around the city by subway.
We planned to catch a few hours of sleep in the airport before our early morning flight but ended up at the wrong airport and had to spend the night at the nearest subway station waiting for a 5am shuttle bus. The ‘train station master’ was nice enough to take us with him on his break to the nearest food stalls and we shared a drink and some food. Through all that we made our flight with minutes to spare and treated ourselves to a nice guesthouse with a/c and a pool in Cambodia!
After several days of beaching we sadly said goodbye to Bevon and Claire and caught a bus to Melacca.
Melacca is a coastal town with a rich history. Because of it’s ideal location it has been ruled by the Dutch, British and Japanese and you can see these influences in the architecture. It was Chinese New Year which had its pros and cons for us. It was next to impossible to find a room and we ended up in an 8 person dorm for the first night (and felt lucky!) but there was also lots going on in the town to see and do. The best part was all the market vendors selling all sorts of food and treats. My favourite was the curry mee – a curry noodle soup and the durian tart – a type of fruit found in SE Asia.
At the last minute we decided to catch a train and boat to Tioman island with an awesome couple we met on our hike, Bevon and Claire. We were all exhausted and ready for a little R&R by that time! We weren’t sure if there would be a ferry to the island since monsoon season was just ending, but luckily they had just opened for tourists again. We spent half our time on the beach at the northwest side and the other on the more secluded eastern side. We spent several days kayaking, snorkeling, reading, playing cards, and building fires by the beach at night.
After that brief detour we headed to our intended destination, Taman Negara. After reaching the nearest town it was a three hour ride in a longboat up the river that runs through the jungle to reach a cluster of guesthouses where most hikes start off. We signed up for a two day, one night hike at the cheapest, sketchiest looking place (obviously). The next day we met up with five other hikers and our guide, Yee (pronounced i-eeeeee). We eached packed a daypack: three big water bottles, one sleeping mat, 1/6 of the food, a flashlight, bug repellent, a bathing suit and a change of clothes (optional).
We started at the canopy walk that was strung up high in the trees then continued another hour boat ride, past some indigenous tribes and swimming, waving kids, to start our trek. As we started to walk it started to rain (of course) and it just got heavier from there. Then the leeches came out. We were constantly peeling them off ourselves (and eachother) – mostly ankles but the occasional back, arm, and even one butt sucker! The path turned to mud and we were soon slipping and sliding along the paths, climbing over fallen trees and crossing rivers. After 8km of this the rain let up and we reached a large cave that was almost invisible from the outside. Most of the photos are from Jesse’s iphone as I had to put away my camera.
Our guide Yee was awesome! We all gathered firewood and he started a fire while we set up our beds and washed off the day’s dirt in a nearby river. When we went to make dinner nobody had brought a knife (besides Yee’s machete) but luckily Jesse had brought two (obviously) and saved the day. Yee insisted women should cut the vegetables and the men should tend the fire (which means relaxing!) so I swallowed my pride and did the ‘women’s work.’ It was quite funny since Yee was completely oblivious to their being anything strange about this. We ate rice and stew off of giant leaves and Yee taught us how to make jungle tea and roll cigarettes with banana leaf rolling papers before bed. He also told us about his fiancee and their upcoming marriage. There would be a ceremony and reception in both her city and his town and he was saving up to buy two cows to feed all the guests. Even though we were sharing the cave with a bunch of bats and the odd porcupine we all swept quite well that night.
We rekindled the fire the next morning to make toast and more jungle tea and re-packed our bags for the days hike. It didn’t rain that day and the hike was really enjoyable despite our soggy shoes. We stopped halfway through the day for lunch and played in the river while Yee made us Mr. Noodles with the remaining vegetables (they were already cut so the girls got to play too!) We reached our pick up stop and I was both relieved and disappointed it was over. We both agreed we would do a week (or longer) trek one day when we were better prepared.
Our accommodation for the night from the outside …
When coming to Malaysia we intended to travel peninsular Malaysia as well as the Borneo side. After some contemplation we decided to take our time on the peninsular side and get to the cheaper countries of Cambodia and Vietnam. Hence we spent quite a bit of time exploring half of Malaysia! It’s primarily Muslim which was a first for me. Several times a day you hear the call to prayer no matter if you’re in a big city or a small island. The women are very conservatively dressed and even swim in all there clothes. Most of the time tourists weren’t expected to follow that dress code (thankfully since it was sweltering hot) but I was mindful of it none the less. While playing cards with another couple we attracted a crowd of about ten people so I’m assuming women playing cards is quite unusual as well. They were looking on with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.
After a few days in Georgetown we headed for the jungle, but a missed bus meant some last minute changes and we ended up on the next bus to the Cameron Highlands. The winding bus ride up the mountain gave us phenomenal views including tea plantations which that area is known for. Once we got into town we felt a little trapped but made use of the peaceful garden patio at our hostel.
We decided to go on a hike since there are several trails around there. It started off great with some waterfalls and a very steep dirt path, but once we reached the top we made the mistake of stumbling down the other side rather than turning back the way we came. The ‘path’ slowly petered off and we found ourselves thrashing through the jungle. Sweaty and very dirty we decided that was enough hiking til we got to the inner jungle. Little did we know but that was kid stuff compared to what we were about to embark on!