Malaysia Travel Notes
After the food of Thailand, many people feel Malaysia is somewhat of a let down. I tend to disagree. The spiceness and variety of dishes my not be present, but the mixture of Chinese, Malay and Indian eateries creates many culinary options. My favorites were: Roti Canai and Roti Bom in the morning with good local coffee. The rotis are flakey flat bread, some of which have bananas, honey, etc. mixed in with the bread, and are dipped in a variety of curry sauces from mild to spicy. Every morning was a Roti morning. Also, Martabuks, were another favorite of our family. Again, a light, flakey bread was filled with diced potatoes, chicken, onions, green peppers, curray sauce and vegetables, then flipped and fried over a gigantic heating device. Also, there are many curries to be added to rice or chicken or mutton. In Tanah Merah, we found these banana fritters, which were the best I have had, in a small out of the way place. I have not seen them anywhere else and rumor has it that this was a local special.
Prehentian Islands Kecil for snorkeling, body surfing, laying on the beach, jungle walks, major beach bumming and the nightly fresh fish BBQs.
Taman Negara National Park. Still ranks as one of my favorite parks of all time. Wildlife observation hides, walking and trekking opportunities in a 130 million year old rainforest, and the numerous river boating and mountain climbing activities. Riding the very early morning "Jungle Train" from Tanah Merah to Jeruntut, the entrance to Taman Negara, through the forests of Central Malaysia.
Malaysian Ringett: 3.7 to 1 US dollar
Cost of Goods and Services
We found Malaysia to be the most expensive country is southeast asia, but still very, very affordable. In addition, Malaysis has the best overall road infrastructure.
1/2 hour express boat ride to Prehentian islands: US$17.00
Local Coffee with Milk: $US .30
Overnight stay in wildlife observation hide per person: $US 1.50
Tiger Beer: $US 3.50 (large size)
Rapids boat ride: $US 18.00 for the entire boat
Average per day hotel cost: US 12.00
Average per day food bill for a family of four: $US 24.00
Snorkeling with giant sea turtles in the Prehentians' rounding a corner on a boat and seeing a pure white sandy beach flanked by crystal clear water that bekoned to just dive into; Coral bay sunsets and snorkeling, the fresh fish BBQs at Lucy's on Long Beach; the picture perfect body surfing waves on Long Beach; teaching Peter and Paul how to perfect their body surfing technique; just being in the warm water; the 8.5 mile hike from Lata Berkoh to the park headquarters through virgin rainforest in Taman Negara; seeing and hearing 3 rhino hornbills was a highlight of this walk; nearly getting lost in the jungle when a large tree blocked about 50 meters of trail and numerous animal trails were in the area, which took about an hour to re-find the trail; the canopy walk; hiking to the top of Bukit Teresek; the boats trips on Sungei Tahan with the rainforest canopy overhanging the river and seeing deer along the way and Sungei Trenggren for the rapids; staying the night in the wildlife observation hide and seeing numerous animals and having a zoologist describe each animal behavior (we saw tapiers, guar, samber deer, languer and macaque monkeys, wild boar and numerous species of bird; deciding to relax from travel in Cameroon highlands instead of Kuala Lumpar; coming around a small back road and seeing the dramatic tea trees planted throughout the valley; sipping fresh tea and scones (very british) in this highland country; hearing how Manchester United ended Chelsea's 40 game win streak; watching European Premeir league futball every night; the indian, chinese and malay cuisine; Rotis and Martabuks; the early morning Jungle train from Tanah Merah to Jeruntut through Central Malaysia; looking for a hotel in Tanah Merah, we were way off the standard backpackers trail, then coming across this little Malay restaurent with a girl who spoke great english and introduced us to each of the Malay dishes. She was the only person in town we came across who spoke enough english to be understood. She also kept asking if Peter was coming back to eat more food.
We traversed the standard backpackers travellers trail through Malaysia. We were very fortunate, because our timing thorugh Malaysia was just ahead of the monsoon season of early November. Because of our late october/early November timeframe, many guesthouses were vacant and we were able to secure cheaper rates. We entered through southeast Thailand and headed straight for the Prehentian islands - Kecil (meaning small) to have some every needed beach time.
Prehentian Islands: Prehentians are everything a tropical paradise is made out to be on the post cards and in the magazines. The two islands (Kecil and Besar) offer many activities and provide a great place to relax from the rigors of travel and work on the tan and swim stroke. Kecil is cheaper and geared more towards backpackers and Besar has more upper end hotels. The one day snorkel trip was the best we have had. Price wise there is no comparison ($US31.00 for our family compared to $US138.00 in Belize). We saw with 3 giant sea turtles, went to 4 different snorkel sites with numerous and diverse coral formations and tropical fish (Paul touched numerous "Nemo" fish and then were treated to a time of relaxtion on a beach straight out of the tourist bourchures. Several days we hiked a 15 minute trail from Long Beach to Coral Bay. Located on this isolated bay are about 5 guesthouses. Right from the beach the snorkeling is excellent. Also, some people call this sunset beach because of the west facing beach. Not to be missed is the nightly BBQ of fresh fish at Lucy's guesthouse and cafe. We ate fresh Marlin, Tuna, King Fish and Snapper served with potatoes and vegetables. After 5 days on the Prehentians, we went to the main land and took the Jungle Train from Tanah Merah to Jeruntut heading to Taman Negara National Park. I would suggest paying the extra money and travel to Kota Bahru. There is only one hotel in Tanah Merah and this was beyond our budget. However, the train arrives at 7:10 AM, instead of the 5:45 departure in Kota Bahru.
Taman Negara National Park: 15 years ago I visited this park and vowed to come back. As everything else, things change. There is now a huge park headquarters and resort and across the river in Kuala Tahan, numerous guesthouses and restaurents have sprung up to meet the demand of travellers to the magnificent rainforest. The rainforest itself has not changed and once a person gets about .5km away from the headquarters, hiking in the park has not changed at all since the last time I visited. Of course, this is a forest that is 130 million years old, the oldest in the world. A majority of people do small hikes of 1 - 4 km around the vicinty of the headquarters. The worlds longest canopy walk and hike up Bukit Teresek to see the park are the most popular. We decided on two long day hike trips and several shorting one. On our first day we took a boat ride on the Sungai Tahan up to the cascades at Lata Berkoh. Riding along the brown river with the rainforest canopy drapping over the river was worth every ringett. After taking several refreshing plunges in the river, we started our 8.5 km trek back to camp. Yes, one needs to be very careful and keep vigilant of where the trail is and look for the yellow markers on the tree, but walking this difficult trail is very magically. The jungle here is incredible. Birds, plants and the sounds of the jungle are tremendous. This jungle is not known for wildlife, even though tigers and the very rare sumatran rhino and elephants inhabit this area, but in known for its old growth rainforest. So we were very excitied watching 3 rhino hornbills play in the upper area of the canopy. We also took a boat ride up the Sungei Treggenan and hiked in 2 km to Bumban Kambang to stay at the wildlife observation hide for the night. We were not dissapointed. During the night we saw numerous animals and had a zoologist describe each animal behavior (we saw tapiers, guar, samber deer, languer and macaque monkeys, wild boar and numerous species of bird). The next morning we prepared for a 11km hike back to camp. However, 1 km into the hike we came across the river we needed to wade and it was up to our chests from the rains of the last two nights. In addition, the leeches were out in full force and attacking us at every corner. Therefore, we back tracked to the main river and took a boat ride back to the headquarters. If planning to hike in the park, bring a compass and get a good map from the headquarters, flashlight, lots of water, leech and mosiquito repellent, trail food, long pants and hiking boots. Also, if the ranger says the trail takes 6 hours, it will. Hiking is very difficult and rewarding in Taman Negara. Getting there: There are local buses from Jeruntut, even if LBK Tours say there are not. Local buses 6 ringetts, LBK tours 25. Also, I would advise taking the boat back to Jeruntut along the Sungei Treggern river. This is a 3 hour tour and well worth the 25 ringetts. At Kuala Tahan, the small village across from Park headquarters, you will see advertisements of many types of day activities. I suggest going to the ranger station and seeing if these activities can be done independently. For instance, the canopy walk and moutain hike costs 39 ringetts through LBK, but only 5 ringetts if you do it ourself. Almost everything, except the long distance or overnight hikes are very doable by oneself or a group.
Cameron Highlands: For myself, Cameron highlands was a great place to escape the heat and crowds of Kuala Lumpar. We needed several days of down time and this was a good place. We spent one day looking at a tea plantation and the rest doing school work and updating the website. Many people took hiking trails and relaxed. We spent our time at Fathers guest house and loved it.