I loved South East Asia so much the last time that I decided to go back and visit some more countries. It is well suited for the backpacker and the food is great so all the reason to go there. This time I had Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in mind. After a very convenient flight with Singapore Airlines I arrived in Kuala Lumpur. I took it very easy the first day but I was quite impressed when I was standing in front of the famous Petronas towers that night and when I saw a rollercoaster in a shopping mall. Kuala Lumpur is a very friendly city and it is easy to navigate. It is a mix between Asian and Western and an excellent place to adapt. It is divided in three main areas and these are China Town, Little India and the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle is the more Western area with big, no not big, huge shopping malls. They are nice to walk around and cool down because they have air-conditioning. The cinemas inside are great too. Obviously there are a lot of Chinese restaurants in China Town and a lot of Indian in Little India. The food is fantastic here and I loved these areas for the variety. The tallest building in the city is the KL tower from where you have a great view on the city. The best view though I had from the roof of the Traders Hotel where you can zip an expensive drink and watch the Petronas Towers in all their glory. KL has a couple of parks as well which are definitely worth visiting.
After Kuala Lumpur I went to the Cameron Highlands. The Cameron Highlands are famous for their tea plantations and it is an excellent place to escape from the heat. It is even cold at night and it rains quite a lot. There are hikes you can do on your own there so I decided to do one with my buddy. First we climbed a mountain through the rainforest. It was not easy and muddy and slippery sometimes but the views were rewarding. The second half we walked through the tea plantations and that was amazing. Lush green fields for tea plants were growing against the mountain, just spectacular. Of course we had a nice cup of green tea in the chilly mountains.
Another thing that is famous in this area is the biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. It can grow bigger than half a meter and it smells like decaying bodies. You can only see one with a tour and we did not want to miss this flower so we took it. After walking through the jungle for a few hours we arrived at this freak of nature. That is one big flower I must say. It was not at its most glorious moment anymore but still impressive.
The next destination was George Town on the Island Penang. It was not the smartest move because there was a tsunami warning but nothing happened. I stayed at the Reggae Hostel which is truly a great hostel and till my surprise I shared the room with a couple of transvestites from Birma who were preparing for their big evening all day long. Quite funny.
But George Town is great. The atmosphere is friendly and it is famous for their great food. The dish called Laksa is definitely one you have to try on the streets. Penang is an Island so it is nice to rent a scooter and explore it. The Kek Lok Si temple is a large and wonderful Buddhist temple with a huge bronze Buddha watching over the Island. There are a couple of nice beaches, some interesting buildings and enough to keep you busy for a few days. The nightlife is also fun. I remember after a night of karaoke and clubs we danced in the warm rain and it was such a magical moment.
I heard so many good stories about the Perhentian Islands so I was very excited when I was getting there after George Town. There are actually two islands, the big one (Besar) and the small one (Kecil). The big one is more for families and the small one for backpackers. As backpackers we chose for the small one. On the small Island there are two beaches where you can stay, Long Beach and Coral Bay. Long Beach is the party beach and Coral Bay the quiet and prettier one so we chose to sleep there. To get to Long Beach all we had to do was cross the island which was a small walk. Man did I have a good time there. The islands are truly beautiful, like the ones you always see in magazines. White beaches, palm trees and crystal clear water filled with colorful fish.
The snorkeling is excellent around these islands and I swam with sharks and sea turtles while passing colorful coral. The atmosphere in the evening is very relaxed and you can sit, dance and drink on the beach with torches all around. One night we went in the water while it was raining very hard but the temperature of the water was nice and warm. When we moved the water we saw green glowing plankton, we tasted salt and sweet water and it was one of the most romantic experiences I have ever had. When I was on this island it was also my birthday and my travel friends gave me an amazing day and night including a canoe trip, a birthday cake and white wine which was quite scarce on the island.
The oldest rainforest in the world is called Taman Negara and is located in Malaysia. Reason enough for me to take a visit. I heard stories about leeches and other weird stuff but I needed to see it. In the end I am glad I did so I have seen it but for me it was not that special. Maybe because I was alone at that moment and perhaps it is better to be there with more. The thing is, all you can do there is hike in the jungle which can be quite an experience of course but it is not fun to do it alone.
The town itself was deserted so there was no one to meet either. You can book a tour with more people and an overnight stay in the jungle but it was not cheap. I decided to try a one day track alone first to see if it was worth it. No it was not. At least not for me. After one day of mud, intense humidity and leeches I decided it was enough for me. But like I said, maybe I would have liked it more if I was with some friends.
Anyways, after Taman Negara I went to Pulau Tioman which is an Island too but bigger than the Perhentains. I stayed at Batang Beach which is the backpackers beach. I was very quiet and a great place to do nothing and read a book. The beaches are not as nice as the beaches on the Perhentians but it was still beautiful. In the evening we sang, played guitar and we made campfires. Great atmosphere. You can take a walk from one side of the island to the other so that is what we did. The hike takes a couple of hours and gets you through rainforest. We saw quite some interesting animals like snakes and lizards. Later I heard there are king cobras too in the forest but maybe it is better we did not cross them.
Some friends of mine were in Melaka so I decided to go there. Good decision because I had a great time there. Melaka has a lot of history and was once occupied by the Dutch. There are still a lot of old colonial buildings left with some Dutch names which I recognized of course. Melaka is a great place and has a little bit of everything. The old buildings, lots of museums but also a big shopping mall with the Western stuff like a big cinema. The place attracts a lot of artists too so there is a bit of an arty vibe. There are great designed restaurant/cafés and it easy to spend there a couple of hours drinking coffee and reading magazines. There is a bit of a party scene but not too much. While we were there we were lucky enough to see a large Buddhist parade while drinking red wine on the roof of a shopping mall. We had sushi on midnight in the park and I just enjoyed a lot. It is an easy place to stick around for a while and also my last place in Malaysia.
Malaysia is a very nice country to travel around. It is richer than most South East Asian countries and the people do not bother you at all. They are super friendly and helpful. The country is very divers and there is a lot to see. It is also a good mixture between Asian and Western and I felt comfortable from the moment I arrived. It is an excellent country for backpackers because there are a lot of hostel. Surprisingly it is very cheap as well. You can sleep for a couple of Euros and the food at hawker stalls on the street in delicious and very inexpensive. It is a superb country for the beginning backpacker.