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Perhentian Islands.

Or to be precise Perhentian Besar and this resort and a few others are packed in a narrow strip between the sea and the jungle. Scenic enough but definitely not the best although both Tuna Bay to the north and Flora Bay to the south surpass where we stayed.

The thing I really disliked though was that the wooden chalets were semi-detached and when you have for neighbours people who are only able to shut doors by slamming them really got me very pissed off!!!

Terengguna.

Another town, another staging point and another hotel. This time it’s the Grand Continental in Terengguna and shortly after getting checked-in I went for a cigarette just by the main doors. I was shortly joined the by Malayan Chinese guy who started chatting and asking where we were from and I explained that live live in Reading in the UK, he immediately asked if I knew John Madejski as he used to work with him setting up Auto Trader. Well, I had to say no but the guy offered us dinner. Later, that day he apologised as he had to cancel dinner as the Queen of Malaysia had just arrived and as the General Manager of the hotel he had to look after her. However, we caught up with George in Chinatown the next evening and had an enjoyable evening with him and another of his friends. We also learnt something, if you want a beer head to Chinatown!!!

Kota Bharu.

Well, after an eventful day we have time to relax and do a little evening sight-seeing and find somewhere to eat but not until we have checked out the Cigar Room in the hotel. Being a Muslim country, and Kelantan being one of the most fundamentalist states, the hotel wasn’t permitted to admit they sold alcoholic  drinks, but fortunately they did.


The next couple of day were spent trying to find the alleged silver ware and craft centres and a visit to PCB beach (Pantai Cahaya Bulan) which for sun-bathing meant a long walk until Jo felt suitably far away from anyone else. I mean this is a country where there are signs around swimming pools saying “No Burkas allowed in the pool” not that it is obeyed.


Having said all this the main reason for stopping at Kota Bharu was a staging point to head to the Perhentian Islands.

Kapas Island

The only way to Kapas Island was, of course, by ferry but we had to book a resort first and, apparently, the only one with vacancies was the Kapas Island Resort. It looked ok but we decided only to book one night - just in case….

On arrival we were greeted in a friendly manner and there certainly appeared to have a lack of other guests and lack of a bar. Come mealtime the guests appeared - all Muslim and hence the lack of a bar. That certainly wasn’t our idea of fun, especially on holiday!! However, the following morning we walked along the beach looking for alternative accommodation. The first place did have vacancies, some much for the bullshit at the port, but they suggested their resort wasn’t the sort of place we would like and instead recommended the Turtle Valley Resort in the next cove and it was very pleasant with chalets perched on a steep hill surrounded by jungle but a strenuous climb over the outcrop to reach it. However, the owner picked us up from the beach in his dinghy and dropped us off just in front of the resort. We were greeted by the owner’s wife and led to our chalet.

The next few days we explored the island finding another resort where we stopped for drinks. Qimi’s Chalets were probably one one of most friendly places we had found. The guy in the picture took us out snorkelling and then to the turtle sanctuary. One day as we snorkelled in the sea near Qimi’s I swam through a gap between rocks and suddenly found I was facing a 5 foot shark, now I  saw Jaws and there was no way I staying there!! Later at Qimi’s again I told them about the shark and they said it was alright as the sharks were vegetarian!!

As we were settling the bill and checking out at Turtle Valley Resort my backpack suddenly made a vibrating sound and, unless my eyes mis-read the look, Sylvi, the owner’s wife looked most disappointed when I reached inside and switch my electric toothbruush off.

Back to KL for a final night before catching the flight back home. In reflection we did to some extent satisfy the idea of not getting on the main-stream tourist routes but I think we did miss some of the prettiest places!!!!

Cameron Highland to Khota Bharu

(Or what can go wrong, did!!)

We knew that going to the Cameron Highlands would throw us off course for the southern entrance of Taman Negara National Park but we had a plan. Head to Gua Musang and use the northern entrance and to reach Gua Masang without massive delays we hired a taxi to get us there. That’s when our plan fell apart big-time as the locals seemed to know nothing about a northern entrance. After chewing this over we could either travel south again or abort. We choose the latter and decided to spend extra time on the east coast and decided to head for Kota Bharu but then we discovered the coach, the fastest mode of transport was fully booked, leaving the alternative but slower route via the “Jungle Railway” a mere 6 hours to cover something like 180 miles!!!

Ok it was different but with the jungle coming right up to the track you don’t see much apart from trees and leaves “whizzing” by.  We had a long and interesting chat with conductor until the school kids filled the train up.

Arrived in Kota Bharu feeling hot, sticky and very grubby but grabbed a taxi to the hotel we had chosen en route from the guide book and then horrors of horrors as we arrived everyone, and I mean everyone, was being evicted. Apparently, the hotel had literally been just closed. Scratching our heads and talking to the taxi-driver he suggested we tried the Renaisance Hotel. Arrived feeling even more grubby only to be greeted by an elegant Thai receptionist whose ultra-cool appearance put us to shame - well, almost!!!

Cameron Highlands.

With just 2 nights booked at the Equatorial Hotel near Brinchang we have to make the most of our time here and hope the rain will stop. But the following morning with warmer, drier weather we set off to explore a tea-plantation

Amazing views - take a look at the pictures.

However, the rain didn’t stay away long and just as we were returning to the main road back to Brinchang and our hotel the heavens opened. We found refuge in a coffee shop, well, they sold coffee but the “shop” was more like a trestle table set up in a multi-storey car park. Still it rained but, regardless, we set off only to be more than pleasantly surprised when some locals stopped and offered us a lift. I think we were as shocked as we were when another back-packer appeared from out of nowhere and jumped in too!!!

Batu Caves.

Time to move on - tickets booked for a coach trip to the Cameron Highlands after only an hour’s delay we finally set off. The reason for the delay was that, although the coach did have a departure time, the driver waited for one delayed passenger, which really pissed me off as I had seen the guy in the bus terminal way before the departure time. I would have left him behind!!!

As we head north and started to climb higher and higher the weather changed to rain and the temperature dropped from tropical heat to a more familiar English temperature.

Kuala Lumpur.

Arrived at the Crown Princess Hotel in the business district with views over the Petrona Towers - really impressive at night. Spend hours walking and sight-seeing including a trip to the KL Tower and the surrounding "jungle" which, to be strictly honest, we hadn't thought it through, we talking high temperatures and high humidity and that combination means MOSSIES for which we hadn't considered in the city. A few hours later looking somewhat bitten we stopped for tea and the staff in the tea-shop were horrified and try to ply us with balms and salves. Very kind but perhaps something for our stupidity would have been more useful!!!

Really enjoyed the cosmopolitan feel of KL where bars, and dancing, are allowed in this Islamic country, apparently it changes outside the city though.


After last year's Cuban "adventure" I'm slightly surprised that we are sticking will our original format but Malaysia is, after all, Asia not Cuba.

So snorkelling gear packed onto our backpacks and off we go sticking to a similar plan. Three days in Kuala Lumpar before travelling to the Cameron Highlands then on to Taman Negara National Park and on to the east coast for some island hopping. Final destination planned is Tioman Island. One major objective is to avoid the most "touristy" resorts, will it work or not - read and see.


Malaysia 2008