macado's se asia adventure I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

13Jul/063

Kuala Lumpur is awesome

Finally in Kuala Lumpur, we left Cameron Highlands 2 days ago.  So far this is probably one of the coolest cities i've ever been to ANYWHERE in the world.   Everything is extremely modern and clean with a touch of Asian culture.  World class shopping, actually more shopping malls than I can count, countless movie cinemas, iMAX theatres, amusement parks, acquariums, a huge Chinatown, and a Little India section.  It's hard to describe but basically it's like any typical city in the western world only not western 🙂  I guess it's no wonder the tallest buildings in the world are here.  Kuala Lumpur has to live up to it's reputation.

The skytrain/subway system here is amazingly efficient.  Prices are around .40 cents USD for a one way ticket anywhere.  All trains is air conditioned and extremely clean.  You can't eat food, drink or smoke on the subway otherwise you'll get charged a hefty fine. I really can't get over how clean and organized everything is here.  Supposedly Singapore is supposed to be even clearer so it should be interesting to see.  Bangkok is a shit hole compared to this place.  Any inadiquacies that the other shitty places in Malaysia has, KL certainly makes up for it.  To call Malaysia a developing country would almost be an insult.

 We got here yesterday afternoon and walked to Little India for some food, later on did some shopping and went to see Superman Returns at one of the 9 movie theaters (There might be more..) in the area.  Again, every movie theatre here is extremely nice. The price for the movie ticket was $1.75.   Back home it would have probably cost $10 dollars, not counting food/drinks. Anyway, so far KL has been a bit different from the rest of my experiences in Asia. Being in a developed city was actually sort of like being back in Boston.  I can't really say the same for the rest of the places i've been.

Today was pretty much the same.  Once we figured out how to navigate the skytrain (easy than the MBTA), we were off. Had lunch in Chinatown and did some more shopping.  The malls here are incredible.  Everything is air-conditioned which is huge break from the humidity outside. Think of malls back home but in some cases, twice as large with more stores crammed in the same space.   One of the malls here called Time Square has a movie cinema, an iMAX theatre and an amusement park in it.   You can literally go on a roller coaster inside the mall.  I've actually been trying to buy some nice clothing for when I go to New Zealand so I bought a few shirts for a fraction of the price they would have cost back home.   Later on we went to see Pirates of the Carribean 2 in iMAX.  The movie itself was disappointing needless to say but watching iMAX in Malaysia was a cool enough experience.  The ticket only cost $3.75.  I think the iMAX theatre in Boston is like $20 USD.  Definitely a bargain.

Unfortunately we didn't wake up early enough to go inside the Petronas Towers and walk the skybridge connecting them together but we did end up taking the skytrain to KLCC (KL City Center) to see the towers in their full glory.  Pictures don't really do them justice; They're absolutely massive.  Being the tallest buildings in the world, they dominate the skyline just as the World Trade Center towers in NYC once did. They're actually so large I was unable to get them completely inside a picture regardless of how far back I went.  They would not fit in my camera lens.  Just at the bottom of the towers, there is also yet another large shopping mall full of design clothing stores.  Extremely nice but a bit too rich for my taste even with SE Asia prices.

That's pretty much it. I've only spent 2 days here so far but i'm coming back later on.  I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a 5 hour bus ride to Singapore for 2 days then i'm headed back to Kuala Lumpur until approximately the 19th for my AirAsia flight to Cambodia. When I come back to KL, i'm definitely out for some clubbing and bar hopping.  From what i've been reading, the clubs here are insane.

Filed under: Malaysia 3 Comments
9Jul/060

Taman Negara and Cameron Highlands

Just finished up approximately 2 days of Taman Negara, the world's oldest rainforest.  It was actually nothing special in my opinion but i'm glad I saw it. The entire experience was quite commercialized although it's really actually your job to make it what you want it to be. We sort of just did the pre-packaged tours because none of us were obviously equipped for a 3-5 day jungle trek with camping gear in the rainforest but I imagine it would have been quite good. Literally miles of endless rainforest that we barely scratched the surface of.

After taking a bus, we took a 3 hour boat ride that was almost like a safari in itself to get to Taman Negara.  The park itself is on one side of the river while all the budget hotels/guesthouses and stores are on the opposite side of the river.  Getting into the park requires you to take a short (like 40 second) boat ride across the river to the park's entrance.

We got there in the afternoon and did a night trek in the rainforest.  Didn't really see anything too special, a huge snake (extreme exaggeration), some harmless spiders and other bugs, and a poisonous tree frog.  After we finished the night trek we were taken to an observation deck where we could see some wild deer in field.  That's pretty much it; the entire night trek really wasn't even worth the mostique bites that I got in the process.

Next morning was actually much better.  We did a 3 hour jungle trek and walked approximately 6-7km (approx 4.2 miles). We didn't really see any animals but the scenery was fantastic.  The majority of hike was uphill leading to an awesome view overlooking endless rainforest.  We ended the tour doing a canopy walk high above the forest floor, that was the highlight of the trip.  Taman Negera is supposed to have some of the longest canopy walks in the world so it was quite impressive.

Once you get inside mainland Malaysia, the prices are quite cheap and on par with Thailand compared to the Perhentian Islands.  Food wise, prices seem actually cheaper while accommodation is a bit more expensive.  Transportation is unfortunately a bit more expensive but seems generally more reliable and filled with less scams that many people experience in Thailand.

We actually left Taman Negara yesterday afternoon and arrived in Cameron Highlands this afternoon.  So far we haven't really done anything but Cameron Highlands seems to be my favorite place in Malaysia.  Lots of good scenery, cliffs, mountains, etc.  Cameron Highlands is basically the fruit growing capital of Asia.  It's where Malaysia, Thailand and I believe Singapore acquires their fruit.  The place seems extremely clean and developed.  There are lots of jungle-type tours like in Taman Negara, there is a golf course and you can also pick your own strawberries.  The other good thing about Cameron Highlands is that it is 1400 meters above sea level.  The temperature difference is quite drastic.  This is actually the first time since I got here that I was cold and had to put on a long sleeve shirt.  Not sure how long i'll be here but so far it seems like a pretty nice place.  I will try to post some pictures when I have time.  Coming to Malaysia (at least outside the major cities) is like stepping backwards 6 years in computer technology.  I can't really batch edit 60 8megapixels images on these 200MHz Windows98 machines with 64mb of RAM.


3Jul/062

Malaysia (Perhentian Islands)

I'm currently in Malaysia, it was quite a wild ride getting here. So far i've been here about 4 days.  The entire trip took me from 9:00AM to the morning until midnight and that doesn't count the ferry boat to actually get to the Perhentian Islands.  It was the longest bus ride of my life.  At about 10:00PM we were abruptly woken up by the Thai bus driver on what little sleep we had gotten to cross the Malaysian border.  Basically, we grabbed our bags and walked a good 10 minutes into the border until we reached a sign that said "Welcome to Malaysia." You could have driven into Malaysia as well but it would have taken ages due to all the traffic getting into the country.  From there, it couldn't have gotten any more simple.  Got our passport stamped in approximately 2 minutes and then literally walked through customs who just buzzed us through without paying any attention to what we might have been carrying.  We could have been carrying AK47s with 10 pounds of drugs and they would have been completely oblivious.

I am still travelling with the two English guys I met on Koh Phangan in Thailand. Anyway, everything is pretty expensive here compared to Thailand but still cheap compared to western prices. Most bungalows/hotels don't have electricity at night whereas some don't have electricity at all.  The internet here is also quite expensive and slow compared to Thailand.

There was only one ATM we could find on the way to the ferry port. I was freaking out because my Bank of America visa debit card would not work at all and I was down to about 25USD. Luckily, I was able to get a cash advance on my Chase credit card so my money problem seems like it's solved for the moment.  I emailed Bank of America and they said my debit card should work fine in Malaysia however so far I haven't had any luck getting it to work.

This place is really quite different from Thailand.  The beaches seem a bit nicer and the water on Long Beach is crystal clear.  It would be really nice to have seen a sunrise but unfortunately the for past few days there has been a lot of overcast, no rain though. Perhentian Kecil is the small island where most of the "budget" travelers hang out while there is another bigger Perhentian island that is supposed to have much larger resorts although I haven't been there.  There is hardly any development here at all outside from the places on the beach.   There are no roads, no cars.

Malaysia, being a Muslim country means alcohol is pretty much illegal.  There are no official "bars" here although every restaurant pretty much illegally sells alcohol at night.  It's just not on the menu, you need to specifically ask for it.  It's about 12-16USD/night to stay right on the beach. I think I am paying approximately 13USD/night and I am about 2 rows off the beach.  Most places here seem like shitholes compared to Thailand but it's nothing terribly bad.  I decided not to stay on Long Beach (due to the noise and prices) and walked to the otherside of the island to a place called Coral Bay which is much more quieter.  In order to get back to my room at night I need to walk through a thick jungle for approximately 10-15 minutes on a narrowly cleared path.  Even with a flashlight, it's almost impossible to navigate at night so i've been generally staying up until sunrise and then walking back home.

Regardless of alcohol being somewhat harder to get (read: not really hard at all), the night life here is fantastic.  Everything pretty much seems to focus around one restaurant called Palm Tree.  It's where all the local divemasters and backpackers go to drink at night.  For the past 2 nights, i've stayed up drinking all night and didn't go home until 7:00AM the next morning.  Tonight, i'm going to try to tone it down a bit since i'm spending on average more on alcohol than I am for my room.

Before I left Thailand, I did a 53ft cliff jump on Koh Phi Phi into the ocean.  Airtime was incredible.  I only jumped twice although I would have jumped again but actually climbing up the cliff was more dangerous than jumping off of it.  In order to get to the top you need to navigate through razor sharp rocks and broken coral.  I managed to cut up my leg on the coral.  On my second jump down I landed sideways in the water.  Since hitting water at that height is akin to hitting a brick wall, my right side is all bruised although i'm not really hurt.

Today, I did a wreck dive in Malaysia which was pretty interesting. Visibility in the water was pretty bad but we managed to see large schools of fish, some puffer fish, a couple lion fish, and some harmless reef sharks.  The cool thing about this wreck is that it's only been in the water for about 6 years so it's mostly intact.  Inside the wreck, there is actually an air pocket caused by all the divers.  It's sort of a weird feeling entering an air pocket 60ft under the water.  Since the air is toxic you can't really breath it; all you can really do is keep your regulator in your mouth and have a look around.

Anyway, i'm a bit beached out night.  I've been island hopping for almost 4 weeks now.   Every beach (regardless of how beautiful) is starting to look the same.  I believe we're staying here for approximately 2-3 more nights and then we're heading to Taman Negara which is supposed to be one of the oldest rainforests in the world.  I've heard it's awesome so we're going to do a bit jungle trekking for a while and spend maybe another week in Malaysia until we get to Kuala Lumpur.  From there, I don't know.  Alex and Chris are headed to Singapore to fly out. Chris is heading to Indonesia until his money runs out and Alex is headed to Australia on a 6 month working holiday visa. I was originally going to fly out of Kuala Lumpur to Cambodia but I might as well follow them down to Singapore since it's only a short hop.  If only to add another stamp to my passport.  So far Malaysia as been a crazy place.