Matt & Michael's
Malaysia & Singapore Expedition
 20th April - 14th May 2000

Malaysia Map

Travel Report

Pre-Expedition Planning (Köln & Düsseldorf):

We started planning the trip 8 weeks in advance, by first checking return flight prices from DUS (Düsseldorf Airport) to SIN (Singapore Changi Airport) on the internet: http://www.flug.de which we booked at http://ba-ticket-direkt.de/ for DEM 1,306 per person, since it was at least DEM 50 per person cheaper than with a travel agent. We chose KLM since it was cheaper than Lufthansa or British Airways for our requested dates.

The best deal for a Borneo tour was an 8 day package with Borneo Eco Tours (http://www.borneoecotours.com/). We booked the Borneo 2000 non-climbers package for DEM 1,300 per person directly with them via e-mail. (Flights were DEM 500 extra).

The hotel prices with Meier's Weltreisen were comparatively cheap, so we arranged some luxury hotels in advance for Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.
 

Day 1 (Thur 20 April) (Düsseldorf)

We left work early at 14:30, drove back to my flat to get changed and then took a taxi to Düsseldorf airport. We checked in 2 hours early to make sure we had some good seats on the long haul flight. The short flight to Amsterdam was operated by Eurowings (a BAe 146). We had a 2 hour wait at Schipol Amsterdam before boarding the KLM Boeing 747-400 at 20:15. The duty free selection and prices were very reasonable. The flight was OK, obviously very cramped in economy class, but at least we could see a video screen showing the films Stuart Little and The World is not Enough.
Michael and our huge rucksacks at DUS  Me at Schipol airport with David Coulthard  The KLM plane to Singapore - a Boeing 747-400

Day 2 (Fri 21 April) (Singapore)

We landed 15 minutes late at 15:10 and got through customs with no problem (having spent 5 minutes filling in the immigration-form on the plane). Our big rucksacks arrived with no problem. Alastair (a friend since school) met us outside baggage reclaim and, as we stepped outside the terminal building, we were hit by the weather: 30°C with 98% humidity. We got in an air-conditioned taxi and drove to Alastair's flat at Nanyang Technological University (http://www.ntu.edu.sg). In the evening we went to Holland Village, a great place to eat and drink, where we sampled Tiger Beer for the first time and were immediately hooked (http://www.tigerbeer.com/). We went to a few bars/restaurants and had Thai and Malay food, which was nice (and some more Tiger of course).
Me outside Alastair's flat

Day 3 (Sat 22 April) (Singapore)

In the morning we took the bus and MRT (Mass Rapid Transport train system) to Raffles Place and walked past Merlion Park to the Westin Stamford shopping centre (Westin Plaza) and then to the Raffles Hotel where we had a coffee in a posh café after browsing past the expensive boutiques. We went down Orchard Road and checked out some of the shopping centers. Some salt-'n-vinegar crisps and a 100-Plus drink were required to survive the heat when we got to Marks & Spencer. We proceeded to Bugis Junction where all the fake watch market stalls were, we looked at a large temple and drank a Tiger beer nearby in a local foodcourt. After that, at Clarke Quay we bought a load of crap cheap ties for future Carnival use in Germany (only 1 SGD (Singapore dollar) per tie). At 18:00 we then met Alastair at Boat Quay at the English pub, where we had some pints of bitter. On Boat Quay there are loads of bars and restaurants and you can't go down that street without being asked by several proprietors if you want to eat at their restaurant. We went to an excellent Indian restaurant and were joined by one of Alastair's friends as well to celebrate Alastair's birthday. The Kingfisher beer tasted rather odd, it was the Indian bottled version which seemed to have loads of additives in it.
Michael at Merlion Park with Westin Stamford hotel in the distance  Merlion Park  The Raffles Hotel  Michael in front of the Raffles hotel  Inside the Raffles Hotel courtyard  Me inside the Raffles hotel courtyard  Michael outside the Louis Vuitton shop boutique at the Raffles hotel  Michael with the Marks & Spencer salt 'n vinegar crisps (on the roof of the Paragon Center)  Me infront of a temple at Bugis Junction  Me drinking a Tiger beer at a Bugis Junction foodcourt  Boat Quay  Me and Michael at the English pub on Boat Quay

Day 4 (Sun 23 April) (Singapore)

After a late breakfast at Coffee Bean at Orchard MRT shopping centre, we headed to the East Coast Sailing Club, where Alastair kept his boat (a Laser 3000 2-person boat). He and Michael went sailing for about 2 hours getting quite close to some huge oil tankers and other cargo ships. The weather was superb, blazing sun and a reasonable amount of wind.

In the evening we went on the Singapore Night Safari where we saw hundreds of different animals, i.e. leopards, lions, tigers, giraffes, owls, otters and huge bats amongst others. The admission fee was SGD 17.35, but it is well worth it. You get driven round on a tram and you can get out at various places to explore on foot. The restaurants there were excellent, serving Malay style food like Nasi Lemak, (you can also get burgers or steaks there). To get back to the flat we flagged down a Taxi on the Buket Timah Expressway, the driver was an absolute nutter with a crazy loud laugh. He was interested in English football, so we discussed Beckham's new (non-)hairstyle.
The boat club  Alastair's boat  Michael in the boat club

Day 5 (Mon 24 April) (Singapore)

Michael and I took the MRT to China Town where we saw some impressive temples and browsed the market stalls where cheap T-shirts and copy watches were on sale. Tailors offered to make us suits and shirts. We could probably have had a good suit made for about SGD 250, but that was too expensive for me. For lunch we had high tea (SGD 31 per person) at the top of the Westin Stamford hotel on the 70th floor in the Compass Rose Bar. The view over the whole of Singapore was incredible. We then proceeded to Little India (via Bugis Junction where I bought a watch for SGD 18, it still works). In little India we saw loads of old colonial style houses. We drunk some more Tiger beer to recover from the heat (34°C and 90% humidity).

Alastair joined us at 18:30 and we went to the East India Restaurant where we had a superb curry (chicken tikka masala, chicken curry, mutton rara and aloo gobhi with biriyani rice and Tiger beer). Which was nice. Back at the flat we booked a taxi for the following morning since we had to get up extremely early!
Michael in China Town  A temple in China Town  Another large temple in China Town  View from the Compass Rose Restaurant in the Westin Stamford hotel  Little India

Day 6 (Tue 25 April) (Kota Kinabalu)

The taxi bloke phoned up 05:00 and asked how to get to us. He eventually arrived 10 minutes late at 05:40 and took us via the PIE (Pan Island Expressway) to the Copthorne Orchid hotel Malaysian Airlines' check-in office. The bus to JHB (Johor Bahru airport) took about 1.5 hours and cost SGD 12. There is no ATM at JHB so we couldn't withdraw any Malaysian money. We had just enough MYR (Malaysian Ringits) to buy lunch downstairs in the small restaurant. Michael had some Nasi something-or-other noodle soup which had, amongst other things, tiny fish with eyes in, which he didn't realize until he had eaten half of it. The Malaysian Airlines' flight was 2h 20min in a new Boeing 737-400. We arrived at Kota Kinabalu airport (BKI) on time and got our hold luggage pretty quickly. Outside we looked for the Borneo Eco Tours guide. He was no where to be seen, so we waited for a few minutes and just before I was going to phone them he showed up and drove us to the Shangri-La hotel in town. There are apparently 3 Shangri-La hotels in Kota Kinabalu and we were in the one located in the town center and not one of the luxury beach resort ones. For the next 8 days we had a set program, pre-booked with Borneo Eco Tours (BET) (http://www.borneoecotours.com/).

In the afternoon we walked south down the Lebuh Raya Pantai Baru, past a dilapidated wooden village on stilts built over some polluted stagnant water. Then, left at the traffic lights and we found the large State Mosque. Following that we proceeded to the Sabah State Museum, which had displays about the history, culture and wildlife found in North Borneo. In the evening we went round the night market (fruit, vegetable and fish markets next to the sea) and ate at a corner café where we had some sweet & sour fish with rice, and large (625 ml) bottles of Tiger beer. The beer bottles are most sensibly sized, but also rather expensive, since the tax on alcohol in Malaysia is quite high.
The stilt village over water  Local food - peanuts with tiny fish  State Mosque in Kota Kinabalu (image from Albert C.K. Teo)  Sabah State Museum in Kota Kinabalu (image from Albert C.K. Teo)  Our hotel in Kota Kinabalu -  The Shangri-La

Day 7 (Wed 26 April) (Kota Kinabalu / Pulau Sapi)

We were picked up at 09:00 in the lobby and driven to a jetty where a small speed boat took us to Sapi island, about 20 minutes boat ride away. Sapi island belongs to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and has a small white sandy beach, with excellent snorkeling. Michael saw 100s of tropical fish, something that looked like a sea snake and loads of different coral. The water was extremely clear and he got sunburnt on his back, since he was so engrossed in the fish he lost track of time. I explored the steep jungle paths in the blazing heat, it was about 36°C in the shade. I saw a monitor lizard and some aggressive long-tail macaques on the jungle path. The macaques later came down to the beach and tried stealing everyone's food bags. We left again just as it started raining at 15:00. Back at the hotel we wrote postcards and later on went to the internet café to let everyone know that we were OK and had not been kidnapped. Two days previously 21 people had been kidnapped on Pulau Sipadan (a small island off the east coast of Borneo).

That evening we went to a food-stall restaurant in Sedco Square (on the Julan Sapuloh) where we chose live fish and frogs from fish tanks which they took away and cooked for us. It tasted excellent! The frogs tasted similar to chicken. Several copy watch sellers came round and eventually I bought one that looked reasonable for MYR 28.
Pulau Sapi (Sapi Island) (image from Albert C.K. Teo)  Me on the beach on Sapi Island  A high speed, tiny crab on the beach  A long-tail macaque stealing food on the beach  A monitor lizard in the jungle on Sapi island  View into the sea through the jungle from Sapi  View over to the next island from Sapi  Sunset view from our room at the Shangri-La hotel
 

Day 8 (Thur 27 April) (Poring, Kinabalu Park)

The BET guide from the first day picked us up at 08:15 and we drove 2 hours past Kinabalu Park and Ranau to Poring. The road in certain places had collapsed due to landslides, so we had to drive off-road in these areas, but our guide was a superb driver and knew how to handle the mini-bus. At Poring we saw the Kipungit waterfall (which wasn't that big, but had large smooth slab rock channels), some huge trees and the butterfly farm. After that we got changed into our swim gear and got into a hot spring bath. Poring is well known for its hot spring, and there are several large outdoor bath tubs where tourists like us can get in and relax and imagine that the hot spring water is healthy. The air temperature in Poring was about 32°C and sunny.

We then had lunch - an excellent curry - in a small restaurant in Ranau. The guide then dropped us off at a hotel about 20 minutes walk away from Kinabalu Park Headquarters. The hotel Fairy Garden was quite basic, but with an excellent view down into the valley. The temperature here was only 20°C at a height of 1400 m. That afternoon we walked up to the park headquarters and did one of the jungle walks. We saw quite a few strange insects and kept walking into spider web strands. Flying insects were buzzing around us and we were rather paranoid about being bitten or stung by something. At park headquarters we looked at the insect museum and drank lots of beer (Anchor). Which was nice.

Back at the hotel the electricity in our room didn't work and it took the hotel manager and his caretaker 20 minutes to fix it. We had an excellent Chinese set meal for dinner, and then some more Anchor beer.
Michael at Kipungit waterfall  Me at the hot spring source at Poring  Me and Michael in one of the health spa tubs at Poring Hot Spring drinking out of a coconut  The local butterfly  Inside the butterfly park  Michael impressed with the view from our hotel balcony  View of Kinabalu Park from our hotel balcony  A xenomorph may be involved  Me at Kinabalu Park Headquarters with a pint of Anchor beer

Day 9 (Fri 28 April) (Kinabalu Park / Kota Kinabalu)

We got picked up by our guide at 10:00 and driven to the Kinabalu Park headquarters building where he showed us the mini museum and explained the history of the National Parks. We also learnt about the lifecycle of the world’s largest flower - the Rafflesia (up to 1 meter diameter). After that we went on a nature trail jungle walk guided by a local expert who told us about the plants and wildlife. We also saw loads of wildly shaped and colourful orchids.

Lunch was back at the hotel (Chinese style). In the afternoon we saw a video about Mount Kinabalu (which I climbed last year with Alastair, http://mattw.de/kinabalu99/). In the afternoon we picked up some other people who had climbed the mountain and drove back to Kota Kinabalu passing a large mosque en route. We stayed in the Shangri-La hotel again.

In the evening Michael had some excellent prawns and I had chicken curry in the Sri Delima restaurant (in the Ruby Hotel) on Jalan Sapuloh. We asked for some Tiger beer and they brought us a big teapot with cups and saucers and hinted to us that it was "American Tea" (i.e. it was beer disguised).
Michael at the Kinabalu Park route sign  Rafflesia, the world's largest flower  The local flora and fauna expert  A banana tree  A mosque on the outskirts of Kota Kinabalu  A cockroach in our room

Day 10 (Sat 29 April) (Sepilok / Sukau)

We got picked up at 05:50 from the hotel and drove to Kota Kinabalu airport. En route we stopped off at the Shangrila Tanjung Aru luxury beach resort hotel to pick up 2 more people (Alan and Jill, I think). We then flew to Sandakan (30 minutes flight in a Boeing 737-400) and were met there by another BET guide, John. He took us to Sepilok orangutan sanctuary, where we watched the orangutans being fed with milk and bananas at 10:00. Sepilok is a large jungle reserve where orphaned orangutans are nurtured back to the wild.

We then drove 2 hours to Sukau. The last hour was on a gravel dirt road leading through huge palm plantations. From the BET jetty in Sukau it was a 5 minute boat ride to the Sukau rainforest lodge. This wooden lodge built on stilts in the middle of the jungle was amazing. Joseph the large Sumo-style cook prepared the best food, it was outstanding. In the afternoon we went on a cruise up the Kinabatangan river looking into the jungle at the edge of the river for wildlife. We saw long-tail and pig-tail macaques, proboscis monkeys, otters and loads of birds. On our way back the petrol engine on the boat wouldn't restart for ages so we used the slow electric reserve engine. Eventually the main engine did start, after John had given it a good seeing to. We arrived back at the lodge in the dark, somewhat paranoid about being bitten by malaria mozzies.

In the evening, back at the lodge, we had extremely tasty tiger prawns, lobster and fish (with plenty of Tiger beer). Brilliant.
The double rooms all had electricity and en-suite bathrooms with hot water, so although we were in the jungle, it was really very comfortable.
Me at Sepilok sanctuary  Michael at Sepilok sanctuary  The wardens and orangutans at feeding time at Sepilok sanctuary  The gravel road through palm plantations leading to Sukau   Me waiting for the boat at the Kinabatangan river   Me and Michael at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge  Me outside the Sukau Rainforest Lodge  Michael impressed with the room at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge  A local hut on the bank of the Kinabatangan river  Proboscis monkeys in the trees on the banks of the Kinabatangan river  Me and Michael in the Sukau Rainforest Lodge wearing the mandatory sarongs  Michael and our superb food (and Tiger beer) at the lodge  At the lodge: Alan, Jill, Me, Michael

Day 11 (Sun 30 April) (Sukau)

We left very early at 06:00 on a river cruise to the Kelenanap ox-bow lake. It was just me, Michael, Alan and Jill (the couple who flew over from Kota Kinabalu with us) with our guide John in the boat. John pointed out loads of monkeys and birds that he saw. Many local fishermen were checking their fish/prawn trap baskets for contents.

Before lunch we went on a boat and minibus tour of the tiny Sukau village.

After lunch Michael and I put Wellington boots on and we set off on a jungle trek behind the lodge. We were at times almost knee deep in squelchy mud. We saw loads of insects, including huge woodlice type creatures, armored millipedes, stick insects and spiders (but no big hairy ones). It was extremely hot and we got drenched in sweat, but it was definitely worth doing the roundtrip walk, which starts behind the lodge. One of the guides found a baby crocodile near the lodge which we photographed and took back to the river.

In the late afternoon we cruised up a tributary where we saw loads of Macaques, Proboscis monkeys and a black snake with dark blue stripes in a tree (which John our guide spotted).
In the evening, after another superb meal, John the guide held a slide show, where he explained more about the wildlife and history of the region.
The Kinabatangan river early in the morning  Cruising in the boat up a small tributary  Sukau village seen from the Kinabatangen river  The legendary cliffs at Sukau  An armoured centipede in the jungle  Me in the muddy jungle  Michael and a baby crocodile

Day 12 (Mon 1 May) (Sandakan)

We left the lodge at 09:00 in the boat and then drove 30 minutes to the Gomantong caves. These were most spectacular for their huge cavernous size and loads of bats and birds (swifts). The cave stunk of bat and bird droppings. The walls and plank walkways were also overrun with hundreds of cockroaches, which I thought was most amusing. The locals recover the bird nests to make a local delicacy - bird nest soup, I tried a bird nest drink a few days later and it was quite nice actually - it tasted like vanilla banana with stringy noodles (which were the nest bits).

We then arrived at the luxury Renaissance hotel in Sandakan after 1.5 hour's drive for lunch. In the afternoon John took us on a city tour of Sandakan where we saw the fish market, a local stilt village over water and the huge Puu Gih Jih Chinese temple .

In the evening Alan and Jill (I think those were their names) flew back to Kota Kinabalu and we stayed in the Renaissance hotel. We checked out a local food hall, but then decide to have Nasi Lemak and Goreng (or something similar) in the hotel, which was not bad.
Michael, Alan and Jill at the Gomantong Cave entrance  Inside the Gomantong Caves with hundreds of bats at the top  A squad of cockroaches in the Gomantong Caves  Inside the Gomantong Caves  Hundreds of cockroaches on some branches in the cave  View of Sandakan  John, Michael, Me and Jill at the Sandakan viewpoint  Sandakan cemetary/graveyard  The stilt water village at Sandakan with Michael on the pier  Michael in the fruit and veg market at Sandakan  Sandakan fishing harbour  Sandakan fish market  Michael, John the guide and Me at the Puu Gih Jih Chinese Temple  Jill and Alan at the Puu Gih Jih Chinese Temple  Inside the Puu Gih Jih Chinese Temple  Our hotel - The Renaissance Sandakan Hotel

Day 13 (Tue 2 May) (Pulau Selingan)

John picked us up at 09:00 to drive to the jetty where we took the BET high performance speed boat to Pulau Selingan (turtle island). We had a good room with air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. The island is so small that walking round the beach only took 30 minutes. The coral and fish were also quite spectacular.

In the evening after an excellent buffet dinner, we were led to the beach by one of the park rangers to quietly watch a gigantic green turtle lay 120 eggs in the sand. The turtle shell length was 110 cm diameter! Later we helped release some hatchlings into the sea.
In the speedboat en route to Turtle Island  Michael next to the Selingan Island Map  The turtle hatchery  Me and Michael on the Selingan Island beach  Tourists looking at the turtles lay eggs (image from Albert C.K. Teo)  A giant green turtle on Pulau Selingan (image from Albert C.K. Teo)

Day 14 (Wed 3 May) (Kuala Lumpur)

Back on the speed boat we reached the jetty again at 08:00. Since our flight back to BKI was only at 14:45 we went back to the orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok with another group. This time we also saw some cheeky macaques fighting with the orangutans for the bananas, one orangutan also managed to pour all the milk over itself.

That was the end of our guided Borneo Eco Tours package and we flew back to BKI where we got a flight to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). We arrived at about 18:00 and then got on the express bus from the main bus station at KLIA into town. For MYR 25 we got driven directly to our hotel by a connecting minibus.

Our hotel was the New World Renaissance, which we had booked beforehand for only DEM 78 per night (for a luxury double room) with Meiers Weltreisen. The hotel was extremely posh and the bar prices extremely high. We had an amazing view of the Petronas Twin Towers from our hotel room on he 21st floor. The swimming pool was also pretty fancy.

In the evening we walked down the Julan Sultan Ismail and were asked by several pimps "you want some young girl" or similar. Which was quite funny. We walked to Julan Alor, a street full of food-stall restaurants. We chose a sea-food one, Michael had a huge slab of tuna fish and I had some squid (obviously with several big Tiger beers).
Me in the luxury marble bathroom in the NW Renaissance Hotel Kuala Lumpur  View of the Petronas Twin Towers from our hotel room  Our hotel next to the Petronas Twin Towers  Our hotel viewed from the KL TV Tower  The hotel swimming pool
 

Day 15 (Thur 4 May) (Kuala Lumpur)

We got up late and walked to the shopping centers. We saw ginseng plants for sale for several thousand Ringits in the Bukit Bintang Plaza, the more human shaped the roots were the more expensive they were.

We then continued towards Chinatown where I bought some fake T-shirts at the market stalls. Then we checked out the crazy Pudu Raya central bus station. There were loads of small booths which all seemed to sell the same types of ticket. It wasn't clear what bus went from where and the whole place was hot, crowded and cloudy with diesel fumes. Excellent, it was just like I had imagined a busy bus station in SE Asia should be like.

Round the corner was Central Market, which is where tourists can find a huge selection of souvenirs. Round the corner over the bridge we looked at the world’s tallest flagpole at Merdeka Square opposite the magnificent colonial style Sultan Abdul Samad building. We sat down next to a fountain near a large cricket pitch and this local guy came over who gave us loads of tourist maps and ideas where to go in Kuala Lumpur and the rest of Malaysia, he said he was homeless, so we gave him some money to say thanks for the maps.

In the evening we went to an Indian curry food stall market, and had a nice selection of dishes. After restocking our hotel minibar with our own beer we went to the Emporium Grand Café night club until early in the morning, which was extremely full and had a live Australian band playing.
Kuala Lumpur shopping street with me and the F1 Ferrari  China Town (KL)  Central Market with Michael on the left  Me and Michael at Merdeka Square  The Fierce Curry House

Day 16 (Fri 5 May) (Kuala Lumpur)

The Menara KL tower is a 412 m high transmission tower with a superb indoor observation deck and revolving restaurant. We took a load of pictures of the city from up there. Following that we went back to the Pudu Raya bus station, past an old house with interesting graffiti, and bought our bus tickets in advance to get to the Cameron Highlands. They cost MYR 13 at any one of the booths.

We then went on a long walk as recommended by the freelance tour guide we had met the previous day. We checked out the ASEAN Sculpture Garden, National Monument, the Butterfly Park, the Orchid Garden, the Bird Park and the National Museum. Then we tried to get to the King’s Palace, and faced the problem that crossing roads was extremely difficult and that pavements were non-existent. One can only get to the Palace via car! But somehow we made it by illegally running across 4 lane highways and walking on several grass verges.

In the evening we went to the posh Suria KLCC shopping center underneath the Petronas Twin Towers, where we ate some superb tempura and sushi with Kirin beer at an excellent Japanese restaurant. Which was nice, and only half the price of what an identical meal in Düsseldorf would have cost. Later we went to a cocktail bar and sat outside with loads of people near the night club we had gone to the previous night (on the junction of Julan Sultan Ismail and the Julan Raja Chulan).
The Petronas Twin Tower viewed from the Menara KL Tower  View of KL from the Menara Tower  Interesting graffiti in an old building  Me at the pitcher plant fountain on Merdeka Square  Michael at the National Monument  A peacock at the Bird Park  Me at the King's Palace (Istana Negara)  Michael at the Suria KLCC shopping centre

Day 17 (Sat 6 May) (Kuala Lumpur)

Trying to find the right bus and where to get it to the Batu Caves was not easy. Anyway you get Bus 11d at the square at Leboh Pudu in front of the Bangkok Bank building. Batu Caves were quite spectacular and had loads of mini temples built into them. We had a curry for lunch and drank the juice directly out of a coconut.

We took the same bus back, it stops more-or-less where it let us off, about 100m from the caves. There was no bus stop sign, so we hoped for the best and luckily the bus stopped and we got back to KL center.

We had a posh cocktail in the Coliseum Café/Hotel on the Julan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. The food there is also outstanding and has a huge selection including huge sizzling steaks. Then we went to Chow Kit market, where I bought some Durion!!!! Michael smelt it and that was enough for him. I ate 1 small piece and it tasted very intense like a sweet onion with a hint of banana. Anyway it and I smelt of rotting rubbish after eating it for 24 hours.

We lazed around in the luxury hotel pool for the rest of the afternoon and had the most expensive beer that we had during the holiday (MYR 18 for a small glass of beer). In the evening we had some extremely hot Thai food at the Suria KLCC, it was hotter than (UK) vindaloo strength.
Me at the steps leading up to Batu Caves  Inside Batu Caves  Michael outside the Coliseum Cafe  A market stall selling Durion, I ate some !  The Renaissance hotel swimming pool

Day 18 (Sun 7 May) (Cameron Highlands)

We got up early and took a taxi to the Pudu Raya bus station where we got on the 09:00 Kurnia Bistari Express Bus to the Cameron Highlands. The bus was semi air-conditioned and a bit crap, but it got us there in 4.5 hours. It stopped once at a local food place. Obviously public places like this never have toilet roll in the toilets - so always have some with you!

We got to the bus station in Tanah Rata and first bought our tickets for our onward journey to Penang. A 10 minute walk up the hill got us to the Heritage Hotel. We booked this by phoning up 2 days beforehand. It was MYR 150 per night for a good double room. You can get much cheaper (grottier) places in the middle of the town, but we wanted luxury! We later went for a longer than expected walk (number 9) down to the Robinson power station past a waterfall and then back past tea plantations.

In the evening we had a steam boat - a local speciality which involves throwing raw fish, meat and vegetables into a soup and letting them cook in it (i.e. like a fondue). It was really good and rather filling.
The Kurnia Bistari bus from KL to the Cameron Highlands  View from our balcony at the Heritage Hotel in Tanah Rata  Me and Michael at the Robinson waterfall

Day 19 (Mon 8 May) (Cameron Highlands)

We walked to Brinchang (a small village just north of Tanah Rata) via a back road, which was most picturesque. There we checked out the impressive Sam Poh Buddhist temple.

After a quick drink in the village we took a taxi to the Sungai Palace Boh Tea estate which was closed on Mondays. So we decided to walk to the top of the 2000m Gunung Brinchang hill. We had no water with us and there was nowhere within 10 km to buy any from, so we were slightly worried about dehydrating. We reached the top and it was cloudy and about 20°C. There was a fenced off Malaysia Telecom transmission station at the top. We spent ages looking for the jungle path number 1. It was about ¾ of the way round the perimeter fence next to a stone marker which said ¼ or something like that on it. Anyway, the path was very steep and required a lot of holding onto trees to get down it. Eventually it got a bit easier and we got back to Brinchang rather worn out 1.5  hours later. We reanimated ourselves with 100Plus (isotonic drinks), bought loads of Tiger beer and took a taxi back to the Heritage hotel in Tanah Rata.

In the evening we had a superb Indian meal served on a banana leaf with loads of sauces and different types of vegetables.
Michael at Brinchang  Me and Michael at the Sam Poh Temple  Two huge golden figures in the Sam Poh Temple  The Boa tea plantations at Sungai Palas Estate  The steep jungle path starting at Gunung Brinchang

Day 20 (Tue 9 May) (Penang / Langkawi)

The bus to Penang cost MYR 14.10 and was from the same company as before: Kurnia Bistari. The bus was rather crap and underpowered, so it struggled up the hills on the motorways, whilst other more luxurious busses were overtaking us at 3 times our speed. Anyway, the bus stopped at Ipoh and Butterworth. 6.5 hours later we got to Georgetown in Penang. We trekked through half the city to get to the next bus station to get the bus to the airport (which only goes once an hour). It was extremely hot 48°C (in the sun, according to my altimeter, compass watch from Suunto) and we were sweating loads having to wipe the sweat off our sunglasses. Before that we had lunch nearby, in a curry place where Michael had spotted a Tiger beer sign. I had chicken curry and Michael some strange Malay unidentified noodle soup with soggy liver-like bits in. We survived it and then waited ages for the bus. It took ages to get to the airport and we eventually got there rather concerned that we may miss the flight 40 minutes before take-off at 18:40.

The flight was in a high tech Malaysian Airlines Boeing 737 - 200. We had feared it might be a dodgy propeller plane, since the flight was only 20 minutes. We then got a taxi to our luxury (yes again, we spoilt ourselves) Pelangi Beach Resort Hotel, which was amazing. Loads of small wooden chalets, with splendid large double rooms, a huge bathroom and a nice balcony with pond and sea view.

A few minutes walk south we founds many different places to eat. We chose squid and fish, Thai style, not bad at all!
Our chalet at the Pelangi Beach Resort  The view from our balcony at the Pelangi Beach Resort

Day 21 (Wed 10 May) (Langkawi)

Today we lay on the beach relaxing. I got sun burnt on my shoulders and front. We had a Malay breakfast lunch at 13:00 and then went to play miniature golf, which was quite difficult since the holes were up to 40 m long, with various obstacles including a crocodile where we had to play through its mouth. Michael was unlucky, hit the ball too hard and it ended up in the water. I got it out of the water after hanging upside down off a rock with Michael holding my legs so that I wouldn't fall in. Anyway I found a golf ball (not his) after a couple of minutes searching in the dirty, slimy brown turbid water. In the end I won 43 to Michael's 50 (par was 38).

Then we hung out at one of the nice swimming pools. I was reading "Looking for Trouble" by General Sir Peter de la Billiere, and Michael was reading American Psycho which he found rather gruesome. We also had a cocktail at the poolside bar and spent quite some time talking to the staff.

In the evening we had an Indian curry in a place with no beer, so I got a bit flustered. To make up for it we had several cocktails in the hotel bar later on during live music! Wow! (errr not really wow).
Michael relaxing on the beach  Me and Michael playing miniature golf  Our beach resort swimming pool with poolside bar

Day 22 (Thur 11 May) (Langkawi)

In the morning we walked in sweltering heat to the Aquarium (Langkawi Underwater World) which had quite a reasonable selection of tropical and other huge fish and sharks in it. The whole island Langkawi is duty free, so the BEER WAS DEAD CHEAP, which was nice.

In the afternoon we hung out at the pool again. For evening food we had some superb fish and I had squid with some outstanding smokey style vegetables. Brilliant.
Feeding the fish at Underwater World  Me at our swimming pool

Day 23 (Fri 12 May) (Langkawi)

We hung out at our resort beach, had burger and pizza for lunch (in order to reacclimatize to home food). We left for the airport at 16:00 having observed the sign outside the hotel which said "No Durions". Quite right as well, having had the experience of the smell and taste the previous week. We flew via Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Johor Bahru, where we got on the 22:00 SPS bus just in time heading back to the Copthorne Orchid hotel in Singapore (MYR 16). From there a taxi took us back to Alastair's flat.
The view from our beach  Michael getting a suntan at the Pelangi Beach Resort

Day 24 (Sat 13 May) (Singapore)

We went browsing round some shopping centres in Singapore with Alastair, who had taken the day off (since he has to work on Saturday's!). I got myself another watch at Bugis Junction, where we also had lunch. We all had something different - Malay, Indian and Chinese, obviously with Tiger beer.

We headed back to the flat and then took a taxi to the airport at 20:00. There were no aisle seats left on the 747-400 KLM jumbo allegedly, since they had all been filled with people continuing their flight from Jakarta. (Really, we believe that don't we? No.) The films on board were The Talented Mr. Rippley and Anna and the King. The food was worse than on the way out.
One of the food courts at Bugis Junction, me and Alastair eating  Me drinking Tiger beer and Michael eating Malay food

Day 25 (Sun 14 May) (Düsseldorf)

We landed half an hour late at Schipol in Amsterdam which meant we had to run 2 km to get on our connecting flight. En route we had to wait 10 minutes at an extremely inefficient passport queue and then have our hand luggage scanned AGAIN! We got on the plane 5 minutes before they closed the gate. The stewardess on the Eurowings flight at 07:00 was extremely miserable and never smiled. We were also not in a good mood since our luggage could not have been transferred in time to the flight.

We arrived on time in Düsseldorf and were met by Michael's father. We then queued for another 10 minutes at the Aviation Handling Services counter to report our missing luggage, since our big rucksacks did not manage to get on our connecting flight at Schipol.

Anyway, Michael picked his car up at my flat and drove back in convoy with his father. It was 29°C today i.e. extremely good re-acclimatization weather!
My rucksack arrived at 18:00, delivered by an airport courier. Michael's rucksack arrived at his parents' house the following afternoon.
 

That's it. We had a great time and can highly recommend visiting Malaysia and Singapore! What a brilliant holiday. The total cost, including everything and what we bought was approximately DEM 5,000.

The following year (in NOV 2001) I continued my Malaysia Expedition to SARAWAK


Further travel tips for Malaysia can be found at http://www.travel-library.com/asia/malaysia/ or for Singapore at http://www.travel-library.com/asia/singapore/
The photos were taken by me and Michael and are also available in much higher quality.
If you have any comments or questions please e-mail me at:
E-Mail e-mail: matt.wegener@web.de

Back to the my main page Updated 18 JAN 2002

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