After seven months, it is farewell to Malaysia! After the ferry ride to Satun, I was on the Thai mainland for less than an hour and did not leave the jetty before getting on another ferry to Ko Lipe, part of the Ko Tarutao National Park. There's no jetty at the island, so I had to climb from the ferry onto a small longtail boat to get ashore. The water is perfectly clear, but there's only electricity during the evening when the generator is switched on.
My last full day in Malaysia. Much of it was spent tootling around the island on a scooter, looking at the scenery, and taking a trip in the Langkawi Cable Car, which is well worth it for the views over the island. From the top I could see my next destination, the Ko Tarutao National Park in Thailand. Well, it might be my next destination, I haven't really decided yet, I guess I'd better do some research before I get to the border about sixteen hours from now.
I've reached my final destination in Malaysia, the duty-free island of Langkawi off the north-west coast. Pantai Cenang, where I am now, is just another beach resort, so do you really want to hear about another beach of white sand fringed with palm trees? I'll give you a break from this one, as there will be a couple more in the southern reaches of Thailand before I get a bit further inland.
Over the past couple of days, I've been reading Michael Moore's newest book, "Dude, Where's My Country?" Published at the start of November, I found an imported copy of the UK edition of the book in one of Penang's larger bookstores. Whilst I might not agree with all he says, and some of the ways he says it, most of the points he makes are very valid, and not just of relevance to George W. Bush in the States, but to our own dear Tony Blair. If you are American, it should be required reading before the primaries and the presidential election next year, and if you don't believe what he is saying, there is an extensive list of sources that can be followed up.
Georgetown, Penang. I've been putting off updating these pages until I could catch up on what I'd missed, but that might mean waiting for a long time, so here goes.
On Tuesday 18th, I caught the bus from Melaka to Tapah, gateway to the Cameron Highlands. From Tapah it is another two hours on the local bus up a narrow, winding road until you reach Tanah Rata, one of the villages and home to most of the accomodation. It is a little strange. For a start it is much colder, but also it takes on a slightly British air, not just the weather, although it rained a fair bit, but the mock-Tudor buildings and the shops selling tea and scones. The Cameron Highlands was established by the British and is now a leading area for the production of tea in Malaysia. There are a number of routes to walk around, and as well as visiting two tea plantations, I went to a strawberry farm (strawberry milkshake, mmmmm), a honey farm, and a few more of the local attractions. I could easily have spent some more days there, but I'd decided that if I stayed beyond the 21st, then I would go straight to Penang, skipping Pangkor, and was advised that due to Hari Raya on the 25th, that could be tough.
So, on the 21st I caught a bus from Tanah Rata to Ipoh, on my way to Pangkor. In itself, this was not an uneventful trip. The road was the same winding, narrow, slightly scary journey, and the woman sitting next to me did a very good job of being very discreetly sick into a small plastic bag which she then tied up. I hardly noticed. Unfortunately the chap across the aisle was not to subtle. He just sat there and produced a copious amount of vomitus. I can tell you that he had noodles either for breakfast, or dinner the previous day, and they looked like Maggi instant noodles, but I might be wrong on that point. The only saving grace was that he was sitting in the second row of the coach, so when the fluid started to pool under the driver's feet, he had to stop and do something. If the person had been sitting further back in the bus, I can easily imagine that the problem would have been ignored. We reached Tapah, and the bus driver hosed down the inside of the bus before we continued on our way to Ipoh.
At Ipoh, there was a short wait for the bus to Lumut, just an hour or so, but as we started off, I could see clouds gathering. Not a good sign when you are heading for a place notable only for its beaches. About halfway on the journey to Ipoh, the heavens opened and it did pour down. Heavily. Very heavily. It didn't stop when I arrived at Ipoh, and the short walk to the ferry jetty involved getting a little bit wet. Never mind, I got on the ferry and about half an hour later was at Pangkor Town, getting into one of the shockingly pink taxis for the ride to Teluk Nipah (Nipah Bay), where I was planning to spend the next couple of days. By this point, it had stopped raining, I was just wondering for how long.
As it turned out, the next few days were mainly fine, so I did very little apart from sit and read and go for the occasional swim. I met up with a few people that I'd previously met in the Cameron Highlands, and had a relaxing few days. Well, mainly relaxing. There was the issue of a certain rugby game on the 22nd. Wow. Talk about tension. Not only that, but the satellite feed that everyone over South-East Asia was watching dropped just as the Aussies were kicking the penalty that would have sent the game into sudden death, after the stress of the extra time. As a certain Mr. Forsyth would have said; "Good game, good game." Nice that England scored a try too, rather than just relying on the boot.
On the 24th, I left Pangkor and caught the ferry back to Lumut, then a bus from Lumut to Butterworth, from where there is a ferry to the island of Penang, and the city of Georgetown, a place with at least as much history as Melaka, and named after one of our former kings. The 25th and 26th were public holidays for Hari Raya, so only today has most of the city been open, but it is indeed a nice place, and I have not had enough time to see as much as I would like, but I need to move on as the days on my visa are counting down quite rapidly. I've missed Penang Hill due to the queues at the railway station, but I have seen the Kek Lok Si temple.
On my first evening here I met a couple that I'd talked to one day in the Cameron Highlands, this happens quite often when a few people are travelling the same route, so they invited me join them when they went for a drink with a few friends of theirs. It turned out that their friends had been next to me on the beach the previous day, and two of them had been on the same coach as me earlier in the day. I wonder where I'll see them next?
This evening, I was reminded about the need to keep an eye on your stuff when a purse was stolen from one of two girls sitting on the table next to me. Tomorrow I catch the ferry for Langkawi, where I'll probably just spend one full day before heading into Thailand on Sunday. I'm definitely starting to feel as though it is time to leave Malaysia. This evening's events have highlighted that, although I'm under no misapprehension about Thailand being any different in that respect.
So, it is Australia v England in the final, should be a good match, as should the third place playoff between New Zealand and France. Anyway, today I did a bit more wandering around, visited a museum dedicated to they way people mutilate their body in the belief it will look better (everything from tattoos to foot binding), and in a fit of geekdom bought a book on MySQL and PHP so I can do a bit of tinkering with these web pages, and create a database of the places I've been to.
Sorry, I can't help it...
I had been hoping to visit one of the islands off Melaka today, but the weather was a bit damp this morning, so I might go tomorrow instead (or maybe not). I'll leave Melaka around Tuesday, as I want a couple of days in the Cameron Highlands, and then time to reach Penang and settle in for a day or two before the Hari Raya holiday begins and all of Malaysia takes a couple of days off.
Oh yes, came awfully close to buying either a Toshiba e805 or a Palm Tungsten C as a replacement PDA. You see, I've been seeing all these "WiFi hotspot" signs around, and the thought of checking my email from some white-sand, blue-sea, palm-fringed beach is quite appealing. I might be able to get a good price on one of them in Penang or Langkawi.
I refer the honourable ladies and gentlemen to my previous apology.
After yesterday's realisation, I decided I should visit some of the tourist haunts today, so spent even more time walking around Bukit St. Paul, Stadthuys, Christ Church, St John's Fort, and Portugese Square. Melaka is a nice city to visit. This evening I'll be going to watch Australia vs New Zealand, as I've found somewhere that is showing the match live.
Most of today was spent walking around the city, finding my way around. Developed a film with the rest of my Kuala Lumpur pictures and the ones from Cherating and Taman Negara, but spent most of the day wandering around like a tourist. Oh, hang on, I am a tourist, aren't I?
After a boat ride from Kuala Tahan in Taman Negara to Tembeling, a coach from Tembeling to Kuala Lumpur, and another coach from Kuala Lumpur to Melaka, I'm here in one of Malaysia's most historic cities. First impressions of the hostel are good, I'll see what the city holds tomorrow.
Taman Negara. This seems to be turning into more of a weblog than a simple list of places, so I might as well go the whole hog and use it as such. Today was a much better day. I did a 16km trek, although was stopped a little short of my destination by a river that was a little fast to cross safely by myself. No matter, liberal use of DEET meant there wasn't a single leech bite, something of a victory! There are a couple of other treks I could do, but I am still going to head out tomorrow.
Went on a night safari by pick-up truck, but didn't see much.
Taman Negara. A 20 minute bus trip from Jerantut to the jetty, a 2.5 hour boat trip upriver, and I'm here in the middle of jungle that has existed since the time of the dinosaurs, writing an email. Isn't technology marvellous? I might be changing my mind about what I wrote yesterday, and I'm thinking of heading out on Thursday. The weather isn't too great, and if I'm not going to do a long trek, then I might get a bit bored of the shorter ones.
Jerantut. I passed through here on the jungle train on 2/11/03, but I arrived here by coach via Kuantan today, and am off to Taman Negara tomorrow morning (three hour boat ride), as I don't think I've seen enough of the jungle yet! I'l probably be there until Saturday.
Cherating. The weather isn't too bad, but there are very few other travellers around. It seems like a nice place to relax for a few days.
Kuala Terengganu, a bit further down the coast. A couple of days here, as it is supposed to be a good place to hang out, but that might be when there are other tourists around. There is one other person in the hostel tonight. I'll probably skip out of here on Friday. It hasn't been raining as heavily as it did on Monday, so I have high hopes for Cherating.
Still KB, but just a quick note to say it looks as though the rains have started. I doubt I will be getting any beach time on the east coast.
Kota Bharu. After fourteen hours on a non-air-conditioned train, breathing diesel soot from the engine, I arrived in KB.
Gemas. Not much to say about this place, it is just a junction between two train lines where I have to spend a night before catching the jungle train tomorrow.