Malaysia – welcome to the jungle!

Welcome to the jungle
We’ve got fun ‘n’ games
We got everything you want
Honey, we know the names
We are the people that can find
Whatever you may need
If you got the money, honey
We got your disease

Greetings my dear readers!!!

20 days of “Into the Wild” through Malaysian jungle is behind us. 1800 km through a country that used to be covered 95 % with jungle forest, but became in last few decades one of the richest and prospective countries in Asia. At first we didn’t know what to think of Malaysian people and cuisine but in the end we discovered that it’s definitely worthwile stopping by. Beautiful beaches, Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisine influence, beautiful nature, friendly people … are all the reasons to pay a visit – and it’s not even so expensive as people were scaring us :). Ahh and I forgot to mentioned – Maja’s ex co-worker and our friend Tatiana from France joined us for the whole 3 weeks. Hey Tatjana, if you are reading this back in France hope reality check isn’t to hard on you 🙂

The road, rivers and the sea took us 1800 km, starting in Kuala Lumpur (point A – 3 h plane ride from Chiang Mai/Thailand) to national park Taman Negara (point B – 4h bus + 3h boat ride on the river). After taste of the jungle we stopped at UNESCO heritage town George Town (point C – due to the Ramadan holidays it took us 15 h with several buses). And in the end it was time for a 1,5 week of beaches at the Perhentian Island (point D – 5 h bus drive and 1 h boat ride), cute coastal town Cherating (point E – 6 h bus drive) and last but not least Tioman Island (point E – 3 h of taxi and 2 h of boat ride).

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 KUALA LUMPUR

Kuala Lumpur – KL to its friends – is more than just a capital city: it is a monument to Malaysian ingenuity and determination. From humble beginnings as a tin-mining shanty town, KL has evolved into a 21st-century metropolis, dominated by the tallest skyscrapers in Southeast Asia and flush with the proceeds of international trade and commerce. Over the years, KL has faced its share of challenges but nothing has succeeded in suppressing the determination of locals to make KL, and Malaysia, a leader among Asian tiger economies.

The most striking thing about KL from a visitor’s perspective is its remarkable cultural diversity. Ethnic Malays, Chinese prospectors, Indian migrants and British colonials all helped carve the city out of the virgin jungle, and each group has left its indelible mark on the capital. Eating, shopping and nightlife are undeniable highlights of any visit to KL, but don’t restrict yourself to the city – there are numerous parks and monuments dotted around KL that make easy day trips for a break from the hustle and bustle.

We stayed in KL 2 nights and I guess if you don’t relay like busy and crowded cities that is more than enough. We arrived on the first day of Ramadan holiday (in Malaysia that mean 7 days of holidays and more or less everything stops) and we had huge problems with finding any place to sleep. So if you are arriving to KL for Ramadan holidays book your stay in advance (we are almost never doing that but this time it would be handy).

What to see in KL. Well you “must” see the Petronas towers – Maja is saying that it’s nicer at night. Then comes the  TV tower – Maja and Tati went on top of it, but due to the entrance fee I skipped it ;), anyway because of the smog you don’t see too much. China town is a kind of must almost everywhere 🙂 – good food and cheaper beer than in hotels. Indian district for good Indian food and some nice architecture, few parks and that would be it. Don’t forget that you are in KL and that accommodation is low quality and not cheap.

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After 2 days of concrete jungle we were more than glad to change it for the real – green – one  of the famous Taman Negara National Park.

TAMAN NEGARA NATIONAL PARK

Taman Negara covers 4343 sq km of shadowy, damp, impenetrable jungle. Hidden within the flora are Asian elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos, you might see snakes, lizards, monkeys, small deer, abundant bird life and perhaps tapir. Nearly everyone who visits Taman Negara gets an up-close and personal meeting with leeches and an impressive array of flying and crawling insects (I for sure did – damn I hate leeches).

The more you put into a visit to Taman Negara park, the more you’ll get out of it. Just the 3h boat ride from Kuala Trenggan (where the bus dropped us) to Kuala Tahan (village in the middle of the park where we stayed) itself is an amazing experience – and an interesting one as well, considering that I had to jump out of the boat and help pushing it since the river level in dry season is very low. We stayed in the park 2 nights and I wish we had stayed probably a day or two more. Why? Although we did a half day trekking by ourselves and it was a nice walk through the jungle, I wish we could have also slept in the middle of jungle (you can, but it’s not cheap) and walk and see a bit more. But ok less days of trekking and more days at the beach wasn’t a bad compensation either :).

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From Taman Negara we were supposed to take a 500 km bus ride to our next stop George Town. But due to the Ramadan holidays and generally bad public bus connections (in Malaysia everybody has a car and the gas is cheap) it took us almost the whole day – 15 h – hey but nothing can stop Into the wild team :).

GEORGE TOWN

George Town is a bustling, colourful and largely Chinese city, full of tumbledown shophouses, impressive colonial architecture and countless trishaws ferrying tourists and locals alike around the maze of broad streets and narrow lanes. Ancient trades such as rattan weaving, joss-stick making, woodcarving and fortune-telling still go on, in scenes which probably haven’t changed in a century, while the soaring skyscrapers of modern Georgetown gleam blankly overhead.

We decided to head for Georg Town for 3 reason: it’s on the UNESCO heritage list, it’s suppose to be the cultural capital (street art and music) of Malaysia if not even of SE Asia and thirdly it supposed to be the food capital of the country. Well let’s just say I don’t understand why it is on UNESCO list (just my humble opinion though), on the other hand there are some nice street art pieces around the city and that I did eat the best meal of my stay in Malaysia. So 1,5 out of 3 isn’t so bad 🙂

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Let’s be honest, if you have more than 2 weeks time I would say stop for a day, otherwise head for the next destination on our journey – Perhentian Islands.

PULAU PERHENTIAN 

The Perhentians are a tropical paradise of crystal clear water, thick jungle, and beaches with white sand. At night bonfires and kerosene lamps on the beach make the real world becomes something like a bad dream. Most people come to snorkel, dive or do nothing at all – and that’s exactly what we did for 5 days: Maja had the snorkel of her life watching sharks, turtles and plenty of small colorful fish, Tatiana was diving her ass off and me – well somebody had to do nothing no!?

There are two main islands, Kecil (‘Small’), popular with the younger backpacker crowd, and Besar (‘Large’), with higher standards of accommodation and a quieter, more relaxed ambience. You can guess which one we decided for. The accommodation could be better but we were looking for something cheap so can’t complain too much either, everything else was just pure paradise. Won’t write too much about it since 5 days of paradise can be described in many ways. See some pictures and just be jealous 🙂

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After 5 hard days being in paradise, we decided we still want more of that but on some other islands. Since the way to the next islands was quite long and we heard about a cool surfing place called Cherating on the way, we decided to drop by.

CHERATING

A sweeping white beach bordered by coconut palms and a small village of guesthouses and shops with more monkeys, monitor lizards and cats walking around than humans, Cherating is a popular spot for surfing and general beachfront slacking.

The only problem of that description is that the surfing period last from october until february so no surfers and even fewer people for us. Either way we stayed 3 nights in the cheapest and nicest accommodation of the whole trip, had some very decent food and charged our batteries for some more of ‘doing nothing’ on the next beach :).

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PULAU TIOMAN

Beautiful Tioman island has a near-Polynesian feel to it, with its heavy-lidded hibiscus flowers, steep green peaks and turquoise, coral-rich waters. At 20km long and 11km wide, the island is so spacious that your ideal holiday spot is surely here somewhere. But of course this is no secret: the island attracts around 190,000 visitors annually looking for their dream beach. Fortunately there are 6 different beaches where the boat can drop you off, so holidaymakers are absorbed subtly and the island retains an unspoiled feel, with authentic village life.

We stayed at the last beach where you could be dropped of (Salang) and we have decided to repeat the exercise from previous island – Maja was snorkelling, Tatiana was diving and me … well lets just say, that I was this time besides doing nothing and getting brown, also taking care of malaria protection for our next stop Indonesia by sipping Gin Tonic as it’s suppose to be a good protector :).

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Well my dear friends, that is it about 20 days of Malaysia. You would expect more words and more adventure but being 12 days out of 20 at the beach makes you speechless and tired to write more :). No for real guys, Malaysia was more than I expected. They have beautiful nature, good food and very friendly people – haven’t you heard that somewhere already :)?? Yeah more or less whole SE Asia is like that, but on the other hand still so many differences between all the countries that you need to experience it by yourself to understand it. Currently we are in Singapore but more about that amazing city in next post.

In the end as usually I will give some interesting facts and +/- if I can find them.

FACTS:

– 20 days of travelling through Malaysia

– 1800 km of taxi’s, buses, boats and trekking

– 550 EUR of costs/person

– 7 different hotels

– a lot of beer drunk but none of it was good (and very expensive compare to other countries visited so far)

– alcohol and tobacco are very expensive since it is a muslim country (exception is Tioman – has a duty-free shop)

– although a muslim country they are considered liberal compare to some others

– most of the country is covered with the jungle

– one of the best snorkelling/diving places in the world

– the most fast food restaurants we have seen so far (people have problems with obesity)

– the highest skyscrapers in SE Asia

– almost no motor bikes in the cities

– not even one tuck – tuck driver that we have seen

– the most modern cars we have seen so far (until we visited Singapore)

– very cheap gasoline since they have a lot of oil resources

– very decent food, although far from the best we had so far

– caught with drugs you can expect a death penalty

– for the previous fact I wasn’t not even once offered drugs (not even on the islands where there is no police)

TOP 5:

1. Pulau Tioman

2. Snorkelling on Pulau Perhentian

3. Chilling in general on the islands

4. Taman Negara national park

5. George Town

NEGATIVE 5:

1. Public transport

2. Low standards of backpackers accommodations

3. Expensive alcohol

4. Hard to find good local food (when you do it’s very good)

5. NO bargaining with the prices (everything is fixed price)

Love Maja & Andrej

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