Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sept 24th 2011 – Penang…mmmm… 2 out of 10?

We took the 8:30 bus from Cameron Highlands to Penang a day earlier than planned beccause I couldn’t stand the dogs barking, school bells ringing and other noises keeping us awake very early in the morning. The rooms at ‘Fathers’ needs updating just a bit… the top of the french windows is just mossie netting so you can’t block out the noise when you want to sleep.Β  And Jane might have tried to talk me into another trek!

Anyway – The journey to Penang was around 4 hours and we arrived at around 1 pm. Instead of going down to the main terminal the bus driver suggested we get off at the Butterworth end (mainland) and catch a ferry across which made it easier for us to get to the hotel. The Malays are a friendly bunch I have to say. Unlike the UK if you smile at people here they actually smile back! They have less than half of the trappings we have in the west and they are much happier it seems.

I have to say I’m not keen on Penang – at least the city – it’s too congested, too many people and too many cars on such a small island is not good. The teenagers and twenty-somethings come here for the partying on Firinghi Beach (didn’t think much of that either – dirty beaches with plastic bags and bottles all over and in the water -mingin’) which is north west of us on the island. How this place gets into the top ten destinations is a mystery to us.

georgetown image

The nice part of Georgetown, Penang πŸ™‚

A little further west and you get to the National Park, which absolutely redeemed Penang for us. The further west you went the less densly populated things were so the towns leading up to it were much more open, so you can get more of an opportunity to talk to people. The park itself was pristine rainforest, one of the only places on the island untouched by modern life. The staff were really nice and required us to register – such as which trail through the jungle we were taking – in case they needed to come get us. We were heading for Turtle Beach on the other side of the rainforest. No sooner had we entered the trail we saw a four foot Monitor Lizard just sauntering on the path…class! I hadn’t seen it at first cause I was looking elsewhere but Jane (in a whispered shout “Doug! “Doug! “Doug!”) soon made me aware, just before he nicked off into the bush. So the only pic I got is this one… he’s in there somewhere.

monitor_lizard image

He's in there somewhere...

The park itself is the smallest national park in the world (apparently) so our walk was only about an hour and half each way. And how cool it was to surface from the rainforest into the open to be greeted by clean beaches and beautiful blue green sea.

turtle_beach image

Whaddya reckon?

The land falls off quite sharply into the sea so the waves were nice and big even though the swell of the ocean was quite calm. The turtle season obviously hadn’t started yet as there was no activity to be found, no turtles, no other people apart from a guard from the national park, just us… great!

turtle_doug image

Me exiting the forest on to Turtle Beach

We hung around in blistering heat and 100% humidity for as long as we could stand it, then headed off into the jungle once more for home.

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Jane on Turtle Beach Penang

The trek back was harder because of the heat… had to rest MANY times for fear of collapse… but we managed it.Β  As theΒ  trek ended we wittnessed a raid on the ‘monkey proof’ bins… see pic.Β  Good day but need a cold drink and me bed!

monkey_proof image

Those monkey proof bins work a treat!

Incidentally the “2” out of 10 is for the National Park and the Noodle place around the corner from the Mingood Hotel – which was also pretty good… so let’s say 3 huh?


Sept 23rd 2011 – Day of the Rhino Beetle

Yesterday we did nothing but rest. We strolled around town, ate claypot noodle soup and had a couple of beers to rest from the day before…

Refreshed we decided on a second jungle trek (much smaller this time!!). We followed the river to Robinson Falls a dramatic waterfall and then took a level path into the forest past ancient trees and wild bananas (f***ing livid they were! πŸ™‚ And soon found ourselves on steep paths just a few inches wide with long drops into the gorge below.

jungle image

Me jungle trek 2

This was indeed a wildlife walk – we saw 1 monkey, a squirrel, lizards, 1 black snake, 1 metallic turquoise flying bug the size of a sparrows egg……..AND….. a flying Rhinoceros Beetle… my personal favourite… I noticed him quite early on in the walk, he had given away his position by firing up his helicopter engines and taking off right in front of my face… it was fantastic! He was the size of my fist…. but flying!? Flying is putting it mildly it was more like… “Get outa the way! I have no clue how to fly this thing!!” – “Get outa the way! I’m trying to land this thing!” πŸ™‚ Hilarous! Great looking thing, and to see it live and so close to my face was brilliant… best creature of the day for me by far.

We surfaced out of the jungle through a vegetable farm and poor map reading skills sent us off in the wrong direction!

field temple image

A small temple in the middle of a vegetable field

But we did find some more fantastic landscape passing small farms and places where you would think no-one lived until a man pops his head through the door and says “hello” πŸ™‚

jungle car

Dodgy parking of the hire car πŸ™‚

We eventually headed back through another steep jungle route up the mountain, luckily (for me at least) this one was much shorter… but no less difficult! It saved us a ten mile trek back to town though!

Another amazing day – we treated ourselves to some more noodle soup and lassi ( a yoghurt drink with blended fruit – bloody lovely!)

There’s no way I’m doing another jungle trek…so heading to Penang tomorrow. I’ve enjoyed Cameron Highlands and it’s people… and it’s food… 8am start, 4 hour drive… better get to bed!

Sept 21st 2011 – Our 1st Jungle Trek! 3.5km (apparently)

Set out on our first jungle walk today. We chose a small trek following one of the rivers with fantastic waterfalls. We came out onto the Brinchang Road, so decided to go for it and climb the Gunung Brinchang mountain.

doug image

Me and my mood - "The Horror"

What a trek! – The last half mile was almost vertical climbing, hanging onto tree routes and vines. It was the most genuine jungle trek you could imagine, there were moments where things looked totally impassable. We really had to think about our route and put a lot of effort into the climb – not easy for me, because I clattered my head on an over hanging tree and nearly knocked some sense into me – thankfully not! So I continued not in the best of moods! πŸ™‚

Jane of the Jungle

Come on Doug move yer bloomin arse!

Gunung Brinchang

View through the canopy.

Two hours into the climb we reached the summit of 6,666 feet… and were the highest people in the Malayasian Peninsula at that moment.

Gunung Brinchang - 6,666ft summit!

Gunung Brinchang - 6,666ft summit!

There was no way I was going back the way we came (grrr), so we took winding road down the mountain on the other side, it was going to be a long walk home (over 12 miles…… 3.5km?? remember that???).

Boh tea plantation

"Proper Boh" - Boh tea plantation.

The road took us through the “Boh” tea plantations and vegetable gardens – acres of them. At about 5 miles from Tanah Rata (home) the heavens opened. Out came the brollies and we ran up and in to “Butterfly World” where we stayed until the torrential rain eased off. Then we set off again on the long road (I didn’t know it at the time) home! To my utter relief a local Malay guy beeped the horn and pulled into the side of the road, offerring us a lift to Tanah Rata… he literally dropped us at the door, and kept us completely entertained the whole way with his stories of “Manchester United” and “Engineering” and “Farming of cabbages” and various other things that popped into his mind. He was a nice man with a great attitude to life and we were very grateful for him at that moment. Time for a shower and food.

Sept 20th 2011 – On route to Cameron Highlands

Today we leave for Cameron Highlands! Oh how I’ll miss the Swiss Inn, with it’s wet room shower, comfortable bed and room service! πŸ™‚ Thankfully the bus station is only 10 minutes away from the hotel so an easy walk.

Our coach is the most comfortable bus I’ve ever been on. Malaysia could teach the west a thing or two about passenger comfort! With it’s plush, extra wide seating and masses of leg room it’s a joy, we can forgive them for the decoration!! See pic πŸ™‚

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Lovely seat covers!

It’s four hours to Cameron from Kuala Lupur. Correction… four hours of nail-biting hairpin bends, near misses with trucks and fantastic scenery! πŸ™‚

We arrived in Tanah Rata and were picked up byΒ  “Fathers” guesthouse, so named because it used to be a priests seminary. We were in a room on a hill over looking the town. The air is much cooler and fresher here because we are high up and the forest surrounds us. Our old priests room is basic to say the least, but has a certain charm (so Jane says).

Some shack and car somewhere...

Our accommodation and hire car... mmm... lovely πŸ™‚ Just kidding!

We strolled into town to get something to eat. The locals are very friendly and the food is great (and cheap).

View from Fathers Guesthouse in Cameron Highlands Malaysia

View from Fathers Guesthouse in Cameron Highlands Malaysia

Sept 17th 2011 – Kualar Lumpur

Up at 6am!! to get the train from Singapore over the causeway bridge – 1 minute later you are in Malaysia. And 6 hours later, through rainforests and plantations (the country seems to be one big palm oil plantation “The Old Man of the Forest” not anywhere to be seen!) Here we are in Kualar Lumpur!

Our hotel here is great (thank god!)- a bit posh in fact – and for the same price as Singapore. We are in the heart of China Town, (again!) but this time our hotel room is quiet…but as soon as you step outside into the street its bedlam! This is a great place full of life, noise and colour. The markets are cool and interesting, and its easy to get around. The people here are very helpful – you can’t get lost for long, and no-one hassles you!

We went to the Batu Caves, a massive limestone outcrop a few miles outside of town. We were very proud of ourselves as we got there and back on the local bus, with the ‘locals’ – it was an experience in itself. The caves are HUGE. There are a loads of steps up to them, with wild monkeys entertaining the crowds on the way up. The tour through ‘the Dark Cave’ was great – apart from a short walk through the cockroaches feeding on the bat guana (sh*t), Jane had flip flops on at that point… very entertaining dance she did, and two of our party turned around and went back to civilisation… whimps! Maybe Jane’s dancing was too upsetting for them!

Batu Monkey image

Jane... er I mean a Monkey on Batu Cave steps πŸ™‚

Batu Caves

Batu Caves entrance "Batu" means "Rock"

Outside you could hear the roar of a huge tropical storm with thunder and rain sending the crowds running for cover! Inside the cave we were warm and dry (too warm) and continued on with the sound of fruit bats squeaking above our heads! At one point we were asked to turn off our torches to adjust to the darkness… only to discover that human eyes can not adjust in this type of dark… cool! Because there is no light at all even at the lower end of the spectrum! We spotted a few crawlies along the way… a cave cricket which apparently when faced with hunger eats it’s own legs!! And a stinging centipede (HUGE) with 15 pairs of extra long legs to feel his way in the dark… weird. As we left the cave there was a dog. She had been born in the cave, the only one of a litter to survive, now seven years old, and was able to negotiate the pitch black routes through the cave to feed on vermin and dying bats. The guide was amazed that we were more interested in her than the famous pre-historic trap-door spider! She doesn’t know the Brits too well!

Batu Cave Dog image

Devil Dog of Batu Cave!!

The next day we went into Kuala Lumpur city to see the Petronas Towers you know the ones made famous by that sh*t film ‘Entrapment’ with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones/Douglas/Tart. We surfaced from the Metro Station and had no idea where to go, and we were dwarfed by towering buildings… “Lets get out the way of this huge thing so we can find our bearings” we said. Only to realise that that “huge thing” was actually the Petronas towers… oh how we laughed! πŸ™‚ Absolutely gob smackingly cool building though see pic.

Doug at Petronas towers

Petronas Towers KL and me

Petronas Towers at night image

Petronas Towers at Night

Tomorrow, the 20th, we are taking a bus up to the Cameron Highlands for a week, to see a little of rural Malaysia and do a few walking trails into the jungle. Hopefully they’ll be short ones!! πŸ™‚

Sept 15th – Singapore – Jet Lagged

We landed in Singapore 0n the 15th, jetlagged. The first day was just spent catching up on a bit of sleep and adjusting to the heat and humidity.

Our hotel was somewhat basic – it’s amazing what you can do with Photoshop on the web these days!!!! – the room was tiny, and being in the working district of China Town, was very noisy. Not that it mattered, nothing stood between us and sleep. Eating out was an experience. Jane took control there, and just sat down at a Hawkers Centre, (they are all on the side walk these little eateries) because I would have starved while trying to decide what was ‘safe and do-able’ ! As it turned out the food was great – it came on a flaming wok, and very nearly set us alight. So, with the evening bringing a cooling breeze we enjoyed our first meal on Asian soil.

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Buddhist Temple Singapore

The next day we were up early to travel right across Singapore to buy train tickets for Kuala Lumpur, as, believe it or not, you can’t book them online or by phone, well you can, but you have to book ahead. Still it was a good dummy run for the next day. We then headed for the heart of Singapore and had a great day, looking at the architecture of old versus new… there were some amazing looking temples! And equally the modern buildings were great! The heat and humidity can be exhausting here! It’s only just over a hundred miles from the equator and is totally tropical.

A Singapore Street image

Old Singapore architecture... πŸ™‚

We took a cable car “The Jewel Box” (because of it’s twinklng lights at night) out over the water to Sentosa Island. Its a bit of a theme park over there and reminds me of “Logans Run” the movie. The whole place looked amazing especially with nightfall and the lights make the place take on a whole new feel we had to drag ourselves away.

Jane Image

Jane being attacked by the local flora on Sentosa Island

Everyone has to do the Marina Bay if you visit Singapore, it really is breathtaking at night. Again, the way they light it, but also the design and sheer size of the buildings!!! It really is a feast for the eyes.

Marina Bay Singapore

Night time in Marina Bay Singapore

September 14th 2011 – Leaving for Singapore!

Today is our last day in South Africa! And, more importantly it’s our last day in Elements Guesthouse!

Elements Lodge Cape Town

"our" garden at Elements

Africa has been amazing! with the landscape, the wildlife, the cities, the beaches and the people – going beyond our expectations. Our home for the last month has been a joy, with great hosts Remo & Esther (not forgetting Tequila the dog!!) for whom nothing was too much trouble – keep us posted on the nest in the garden please! Oh and if I find any dive schools (or guesthouses) worth the investment I’ll be sure to let you know! :).

Image of our friend the Sun Belly finally finishing his nest!

Our friend the Sun Belly finally finishing his nest!

Had some great social moments in the communal kitchen with the volunteers from Saancob (good luck with the driving and sharkdiving Sandra and Laura!).

Time to move on to the next destination.. Singapore!

Image of Doug on Tale Mountain

Onwards to Singapore and Kualar Lumpar