A Travellerspoint blog

Melaka

Malacca

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On our way to the South of the malaysian peninsula, towards Singapore, we used our opportunity to stop in Melaka for a couple of days.

This town, that was founded as an important trading hub in the early 15. century, is often referred to as the cradle of modern Malaysia. But during the last century it has kept its much of the peacefulness of a mid-sized town, though it fell far back commercially behind Singapore, KL and also Penang.

From a touristical and cultural point of view it is however worth a visit as well. With its old buildings (dating back to remnants of portuguese fortifications from the 16. century) a nice Chinatown and a relaxed co-existence of Chinese, Moslems, Christians and Hindus.

Another characteristic that puts Melaka on the list of places to see in Malaysia is the local cuisine. As already quite a few other stops on our journey, Melaka inspired us to try its local specialities. Most famous of course ‘chicken [with] rice balls’ and the dessert ‘cendol’ with shaved ice, beans, mung-bean-flour noodles, palm-sugar syrup, coconut milk and condensed milk, which sounds and looks wired, but tastes really great. One also should not forget the local version of ‘Curry laksa’ nice and spicy and with coconut milk or the ‘Nonya pineapple tarts’ buttery pastries with a filling of pineapple jam.

Powered up by this good food we were able to go on with our bus trip to Singapore two days later.

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You can see more pictures for this article on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 15:02 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Putrajaya


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On the evening of our return from Taman Negara NP we had arranged to catch up with Asmadi, a friend from my studies in Perth. He used this opportunity to show us Putrajaya, the government city south of KL, where he lives and works.

The malay government has used this planned city to group together all ministeries and administrations during the last 15 years. In addition it has provided here the living space as well as entertainment and spare time facilities for its employees. Using a different architectural design for every building not only prevents the impression of a new planned town, but adds also to the nice impressions visitors can take away from here.

Even more pleasant than the visit to the city itself was the hospitality we experienced by my friend, his wife and his assistant, who in the middle of the work week showed us around until one o’clock in the morning.

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More pictures for this entry can be found on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 20:12 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Taman Negara National Park


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Rather motivated than scared by our trips to the jungle in Thailand, we were eager to experience the nature in Malaysia first hand as well. This was the reason why we went off to the Taman Negara national park. With over 4300 sqkm it is one if the largest and oldest of this country. Its rainforests are untouched by men and the Ice Ages and belong with an age of 130 million years to the oldest of the planet.

Already the trip to the NP is worthwile. The last 68 km should be done appropriately, meaning going up the river by boat. This is really just a boat, because it fits only 14-16 passengers, who are sitting in pairs on the floor. Moreover, even light tropical rain can get them wet, as on our onwards journey, despite the small roof from corrugated metal. Gliding past the giant rainforest trees into the wilderness is by itself already a great start.

The village at the entrance of the park, where most people stay during the night is Kuala Tahan. It consists maily of floating restaurants and houses built much higher on the shore. One starts to understand this concept, after learning, that the river rises a few meters every rainy season, in record years more than 10 m.

Our first visit to the actual park was a guided night jungle walk. Here our guide would find animals with his flashlight at every corner, which are hard to spot during the day. Mainly hand-sized hunting spiders sitting on trees along the path, over 20 cm long millipedes (harmless) and centipedes (poisonous), thumb-long ants, shy bird-eating spiders, which would only show one leg from their hole, stick insects, whom the guide found even though they are camouflaged as sticks and sleeping birds. In addition we had the luck to see some bigger animals as well. Besides a few jungle deers in the distance, we had a porcupine cross our path and already back in the resort we almost stumpled across two tapirs, which were eating some leaves from the trees just next to us so calm and unterrified as the rabbits in Frankfurt’s Taunusanlage.

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The second day was asking for a bit more effort from us. In the beginning we could climb up to the canopy walkway, on which we could walk a distance of 280 m through the treetops of the rainforest to gain some new perspective. Afterwards we went for a short jungle trekking to a nearby hilltop. This was not only an excursion to a nice viewing point, but also a short lecture on the local nature by our guide. He showed us not only thee light balsa wood trees and the poisonous Ipoh trees, from the raisin of which the aboriginal people make the poison for their arrows, but also rattan and the health and virility improving trees of the jungle for men and women.

The afternoon consisted of a good mix between fun and education too, by combining a boat trip through the rapids on which all participants got soaking wet (albeit with some help of our guide) and a visit to the local aboriginal people. In this village of the Bateq tribe, we were able to learn a few things about their traditions and after a short introduction could try ourselves to handle fire making and blowpipe shooting (as a precaution without poisonous darts). With a short stop for a round of swimming in the river on the way back, we finished a nice and eventful day in the jungle.

Finally on the next morning, all that was left was to start the journey back to KL, where we planned to meet a friend from my time in Perth.

If you want to see the article with more pictures, just visit my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 13:27 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur

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A journey to Malaysia would not be complete without a stop at the capital Kuala Lumpur (or just KL).

Hence, we too visited this South-East Asian metropole for a couple of days, to get an impression of the vibrating heart of the nation. KL is a modern city, which still remains some Asian character. But it feels much less different from a European metropole, than e.g. Bangkok does. Sparkling skyscrapers, shopping malls with stores from Apple to Tiffany’s, subways and a monorail, for which you buy a reusable plastic chip instead of ordinary tickets, bear witness of the high development standard. Unfortunately, the small 5 sqm budget room without a window and just place enough for the bed does too.

Noice and business on the other hand are typical Asian, but surely on themselves no characteristic trait for differentiation. These are rather the ‘still’ existing small alleys in Chinatown, Little India and other corners of the city, with their market stalls, street kitchens und many shops for all possible and impossible things.

It is probably mandatory to visit the city’s best known symbol, the Petronas Twin Towers. For years it was free to visit the famous skybridge, connecting the two towers at 170 m height. Now Petronas seems to have enough of so much generosity and asks the proud sum of 80 MYR for it. At least this includes another view from the observation deck on the 86. floor at more than double the height. The latter is especially impressive, since you can look down on all the surrounding skyscrapers, themselves rather tall.

Some more impressions of the city are best gathered on foot, with walks through the golden triangle, Chinatown, Little India, the old colonial centre or the green park areas.

For us, however, 2 days in the big city jungle are more than enough, because we prefer more quiet places, as e.g. the real jungle. That is hence, where we are heading directly afterwards.

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Posted by fkrebs 20:08 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Langkawi

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From Penang we took the ferry to our second destination in Malaysia, the island of Langkawi. This island or rather this island group with altogether 99 island of which besides the main island only two are inhabited lies 2 1/2 hours by boat to the North. this means we were almost back to Thailand which can be seen on a nice day from Gunung Machingchang (708 m).

The two main attractions of Langkawi are probably the wide and bright beaches calling for visitors from faraway as well as locals and the duty free status of the island, resulting in a price reduction for the otherwise in Malaysia expensive alcohol (4$ / 0,5l can) to just about a third of that, thereby freeing close budgets a bit.

Nevertheless, you should not reduce Langkawi to beaches and shopping, because the island has much more to offer. It can be used as a basis for island hopping tours, snorkeling trips, jetski, etc.

From own experience I can only recommend to discover the mangrove forrests in the North-East. There the typical day tour will bring you to caves, swimming monkeys and an encounter with the local eagles (lang = eagle, kavi = rock).

Another great daytrip to the North-West consists of a tour with the cable car onto Gunung Machingchang and a visit to the nearby Telaga Tujuh waterfalls. While the first costs time (long queues) and money (30 MYR) it offers great views over the island. The second only costs stamina, (more than 600 steps), offering therefore beautiful nature and a refreshing dip under the waterfalls.

For us these 5 days passed very quickly and the hospitality of the local people would have made us stay a couple of days longer hadn’t we already booked our onward flight to Kuala Lumpur.

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The article with more pictures is available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 18:10 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Penang

Our start in Malaysia

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Our first stop in Malaysia was Penang. I had visited this island in the country’s north-west before during my studies, but then lectures and group work were the main purposes. Although of course even then exploration and night life did not suffer too much.

More than four years later some things have changed again, but many aspects that I had positiv memories of and because of which I had convinced Natalia to stop here as well were still present. First of all the old colonial Georgetown with its buildings from the british colonial presence, Buddhist and Hindu temples as well as churches and mosques.

The second aspect, that might have been even more important for the two of us is the good and diverse availability of foods from the different cultural groups (Malay, Chinese, Indian).

Hence both our days in Georgetown should start at a small hidden eatery in side streat, our hostel owner recommended, since he just came from there. They offered typical local breakfast with coffee, toast from the oven with some sweet spread, a half boiled egg in a cup and optional some Nasi Lemak in a banana leaf.

In evenings on the other side we should visit a small streetmarket with many hawker stalls or an “official” night food market with all different kinds of food stalls to test different noodle, rice and soup dishes. Even though we were almost full already we still had to try some satay and deep fried sesame balls filled with peanut or red bean.

I shall not forget to mention that we both really liked the local Penang Assam Lhaksa, a slightly bitter fish soup with noodles and that I suprisingly only niw had my first bag (the local take away cup) of freshly squized sugar cane juice.

But of course, not even a culinary highlight such as Penang is purely about food and we have used one day to discover Georgetown and another for an unhurried trip into the close surroundings.

Within Georgetown itself there is of course the colonial impact visible R almost every corner. In addition we were most impressed by the Chinese influence. On one hand the magnificent clan building of the Khoo (Khoo Kongsi), on the other hand many colourful Chinese temples. Besides this, one needs to mention the lively street markets, that attract attention by their relative peacefullness and complete lack of intrusiveness and “Little India” which provides an interesting contrast to Chinatown.

On our trip into the hills around Georgetown we took the bus to Malaysia’s biggest Buddhist temple “Kek Lok Si”, the discovery of iwhich takes some time, but it is time well spend. Probably because of the still ongoing construction, there are Souvenirs sold all around the temple area to generate income. Albeit this reduces the overall impression, it should not be a reason not to visit.

The second half of our trip began with a walk to the base station of the Penang Hill mountain railway. This brought us close to the top of this 821 m high hill, from which there is a great view over Georgetown and across the sea to Butterworth. Starting at the top, we took advantage of the coller and cleaner air, and decended on foot on steep pathes and roads towards the botanical garden, from where we caught the bus back to town.

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More picture for this article are available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 21:23 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Back in Bangkok

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We finished off our three weeks in Thailand with another quick stop in Bangkok. 19 days after our first steps on Kho San Road, then directly out of the plane from Germany this time our arrival felt more like coming home. The few days until our flight to Penang was used by us to enjoy the many street kitchens. From soup and pad thai over sticks with chicken hearts to Roti pancakes and a sort of coconut waffle, not forgetting the 2 Mangos I needed to have per day, just to give a small impression.
Besides going through the local bars, there was a visit to the Calypso Show on our agenda, Bangkok’s new travesty show. A very interesting experience to see all actors move their mouthes relatively synchronous to old songs.
In addition to that we had a short “treatment” in the fish spa to ridden our feet of unneccessary dead skin
After saying our goodbyes to Natalia’s parents and sending them back home it is now time for us to travel further through South-East Asia.

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Posted by fkrebs 19:23 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Relaxing on Koh Yao Noi


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To balance off our travels through the country with spending almost every night somewhere else, we have planned a 5 day stop on Koh Yao Noi before the end of our Thailand visit. This gives us the time to relax at a small bungalow next to the sea. On this occasion our agenda is reduced to reading, swimming, updating the blog and small excursions on the island, before going back to the crowds of Bangkok once again on Saturday.

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The article with all photos is available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 19:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Khao Sok National Park

Cheow Lan Lake

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After a 20 hour trip from Ayutthaya via Bangkok and Surat Thani, by tuk-tuk, train, bus and mini-bus we arrived at Khao Sok and the respective national park. While our arrival day was purely for searching accommodation and for relaxing, we used days 2+3 for a 2-day trip to Cheow Lan lake. This ca. 165 sqkm big lake has been created beginning to mid of the 80′s and provides with its 100 islands and the fingerlike structure a beautiful getaway to forget about the hectic and noise of civilisation.

From the village of Khao Sok, we started after breakfast and it took about an hour by mini-bus to the lake and an additional hour by long boat to our swimming huts. There we could relax and enjoy the day, by just jumping into the lake from either front or back door. The silence of the night, except for the jungle animals and the water beneath us as well as the magnificent night sky make this place worth to visit.

The next day was centered on our visit to the Nam Talu cave. Once again the long boat is used to get to another corner of the lake. After arriving there a 90 min. trek through the jungle follows. This jungle belongs with an estimated age of 160 mio. years to the oldest still existing and the impressions of wildernes and the unknown were even stronger than up in the North at Chiang Mai. Even more adventurous was the one hour crossing through the Nam Talu cave just with the light of your small torch. In the beginning the cave started to give us the impressions of the complete darkness surrounding us. The next expierence was the day quarter of the bats, which bring other animals with them. Firstly there were some kind of cricket living on bat excrements, in adition these crickets seem to attract more than palm-sized spiders. Even so the later ones were according to our guide non-poisoness their numerous presence did not really enhance the fun experience of walking through a dark cave. The second half was mainly easy climbing and walking in the underground river with the occasional swim necessary to go on. Finally sunlight called for us from a small hole through which we could crawl out into the now suddenly more welcoming jungle again.

After the return through the jungle, our late lunch with fresh fish from Cheow Lan lake was more than well deserved.

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The article with all photos is available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 20:33 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Ayutthaya

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Two days later we visited the next former capital of Thailand. Ayutthaya was after Sukhothai and before Bangkok the centre of the kingdom. Here as well, there are many tempel ruins to be discovered. These are, however, more destroyed (might be because of the Burmese) and are more spread out between the modern buildings than the historical park of Sukhothai, which decreases the joy a bit. As compensation for this, we decided to get a 2-hour boat trip around the city centre with a few further stops at some nice wats (temples).

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The article with all pictures is available on my travel blog.

Posted by fkrebs 20:28 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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