Mal-Asia (Malaysia, see what I did there)

Little post on my travels in Malaysia with 2 other exchange students: nothing like reminiscing about Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands to cure your Sunday wanderlust, hey.

First impressions in KL Airport? Guard on a Segway. Not what I’d expected. Having gotten what I’d paid for with AirAsia (a rumbling stomach, the terminal miles from the city but some good company), we got a cheap but long Taxi to the city centre between us, and hit up some streetfood once Chinatown was ticked off the list. One thing I will say about Asia: rice. Everywhere. I was kinda sick of it having worked at Thai, but everyone else froths it.

So in KL, hostels (which are already cheap as) do free breakfast (tea/coffee and toast, at least). Sets you up nicely, when you walk round the city (30,000 steps) all day, hitting up Merdeka Square, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the KTM building before lunchtime. Contrastingly, the same city houses Kampong Bharu, which offers the full Malay community experience. KL really is a huge mixing pot of culture, and food types – offering cheap yet incredible food in markets everywhere. The dream. However, it is worth pointing out that wealth gaps are very noticeable (at least they were for me, while I was there) – though I’m aware of them here, it’s crazy.

In fact, the cultural mix was highlighted in a cool street performance festival we visited, with visitors from surrounding countries – Thailand, Laos, Indo, the list goes on. This was a bit of a contrast to the streetart around, which again, contrasted all the Embassy buildings. And all the markets (jeez there were a lot of markets) – great place to eat, though, cooking isn’t worth the cost or time. Curry? Lush. Stir Fry? Great. Chicken Tandoori? Really hits the spot. No complaints at all 🙂

So KL does markets well, but it does malls better. Hear me out: it rains like monsoon style in the afternoon, so they’re great. While it may not sound too fancy, ours had a dock off rollercoaster in it, and some of the deco was unreal.

Oh, and these malls have just about every shop you could want (and more markets). Also all your standard hairdressing stuff, gyms, health clinics, cinemas, the list goes on. Just across from this particular mall was a skyscraper seemingly solely dedicated to mobile phones and repairs. Shame I’d left my broken one at home.

Being in a mall in November, though, Christmas is in full swing. In the heat. Having lived in Manchester and then Sheffield for as long as I can remember, this was weird. And also I don’t do the whole ‘Christmas’ thing until December, so I was pretty confused as to all the lit up decs. Having said that, the lights of the KL tower change at night, and that’s cool as. Somewhat like our hostel, on 3 floors – the ground for socialising (which once you walked through wasn’t the ground, but about 20m up), and then, as you’d expect in a city, the rest built-up.

Still, KL isn’t all shopping and food. It’s got some beautiful parks and gardens: there’s a memorial park, near the Tun Abdul Razak house – a man who had aided the development of Malaysia. This is within the Perdana Botanic Gardens, which are, different – it had some contemporary art in it. Sounds alright, except trees were made of light bulbs.

The Cameron Highlands

Having appreciated some pretty spectacular views along the windy roads to make it from KL to the highlands, with houses on stilts and ridiculously green surroundings lining the way, it was time to appreciate a Chinese lunch, with the highlight a Chicken paprika stir fry, though the curry was good too. No real breakfast: guy’s gotta eat.

So, with a full belly (Asian food is so good over there, better than takeaway here hands down) we further appreciated Chinese culture by checking out the temples. In the rain I mentioned earlier. By the time we saw the Hindu temple, I was soaked. Or refreshed, depending on how you look at it. Clothes (and hair) dry either way: use a hairdryer for both.

One great thing about hostels is meeting others along the way. This gave me tips for other countries and cities, which came in really useful. Spent a lot of time chatting one day due to really heavy rain, which was a shame, but meant that we really made the most of our tour the following day: it was heaps busy.

With the help of a little free caffeine kick we got off to the tour around Gunung Brinchang, a 6666 feet high forest in the Highlands, though the views were somewhat limited by the mist. Still, the jungle walk was pretty cool – it seemed like a bit of a hobbit forest, but watching the guide jump on some moss literally suspended above nothing was a bit of a heart in mouth moment. He survived, luckily: I didn’t fancy driving back down myself. Those roads were mad and wet, and those driving it weren’t exactly the most careful, put it that way. The tea plantation visit was next on the cards. Massive doesn’t cover it really. Learned all I could ever want to know about the manufacturing of tea. Now I can drink it in an educated manner, I guess.

Hit up a strawberry plantation too, which, though we have them here, was nice to see. Put it this way, it meant I didn’t spend too long in the waterfall’s plunge pool later on. Actually, the temperature of the water did that.

A butterfly farm with a whole heap of critters (more spiders/snakes than I’d seen in my first months in Australia) was next. Turkeys, turtles and tarantulas ticked off the list, I managed to get a couple of butterflies to land on me. Rather that than the scorpions that our guide was balancing on his arm.

Managed to grab some chicken curry for dinner too, paired with a roti, which was pretty damn good to be honest. Was pretty hungry, but it’s not worth wasting daylight eating, as when you travel there’s a limit to what you can do when it’s dark – you can’t see sights (mostly) by just moonlight can you?

So, yeah, that’s a couple of things about Malaysia. Hope you enjoyed 🙂

 

 

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