Malaysia

I will never forget the moment I get to hear that I am going to Malaysia. The country has been on my bucket list for quite some time and now going there has become reality! I cannot tell you why Malaysia is on my bucket list, but I have heard the country is so diverse. I have booked many holidays for clients to either mainland, the islands or Borneo and only got positive feedback. So now I get to discover what Malaysia has to offer myself.

Day 1: from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur

At the end of October a select group of travel agents, including me 🙂 (One Lucky Traveller) meet each other at Schiphol Airport. We are ready for a promotional / study trip to Malaysia. Everyone is enthusiastic and we are ready to leave with Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines has had a hard time this year; on March 8, the MH370 went missing and on July 17th, the MH17 was shot down: 298 people died, 65% being Dutch. I am Dutch and the entire country is still in morning this day. It had a huge impact on so many people. Before we board the plane, we are invited by the airline to visit their office. The staff has been affected by the tragedies as well and they just keep on going. We also visit a temporary memorial room at the airport. It is heart breaking to see notes, cards, letters, flowers and personal gifts and I cannot help it when tears roll down my face; I am not the only one. The airline keeps on going though, no matter how hard the struggle and Malaysia Airlines remains a great airline to fly with. Tourism in Malaysia has suffered because of these tragedies and hopefully we can make a difference by experiencing all that Malaysia has to offer and pass on the message.

Our group consists mainly of women; we are happy with the 30 kg free baggage allowance the airline allows us to take with us. Why do we women always take so much with us? Our flight leaves around noon and it leaves on time. We get acquainted during the flight, but also try to sleep as much as possible; 12 hours later we arrive in Kuala Lumpur; it is morning. Upon arrival we are welcomed by Dutch guide Giles, who works for De Jong Intra (the tour operator that made this trip happen) and Mr. Loh, the Malaysian guide, who has the most friendly face ever. It is warm and a bit sticky in Malaysia. The difference between temperatures is quite big, so we change clothes at the airport before we leave.

Day 2: from Kuala Lumpur to Sepang

Our bus driver takes us south to Melaka (also know as Malakka or Malacca), our first stop for today. The drive is about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We are taken to Hotel Equatorial. Upon arrival we see the most beautiful decorations on the floor. Deepavali (Dewali), the festival of lights is just a few days away. The hotel has some rooms available for us, so we can freshen up. We take a quick shower and then do a short tour through the hotel and then we get offered a delicious lunch. I have heard that Malaysia is known for its excellent cuisine and if this is how it will be the rest of the trip, we are in for a treat!

In the afternoon we go for a city walk through Melaka to see the sights. Despite the enormous heat that we have to get used to, we enjoy walking. Mr. Loh shows us the most beautiful places and the city feels very friendly and welcoming. We visit the Portuguese fort A Famosa, St. Paul’s Church and the Windmill at the Dutch Square with the robust Dutch Stadthuys from the 17th century. We admire the colourful rickshaws or tuk tuks that are waiting for tourists who want to go for a ride. We walk through the narrow streets of old Chinatown with its old Cheng Hong Teng temple, we pass by mosques and graveyards. What a great mix of cultures and religions and it seems that everybody lives together in peace.

Being Dutch it is interisting to see the Dutch influence in the city. Mr. Loh tells us the Dutch ruled for almost 183 years. You can walk a Dutch heritage trail and find out about all Dutch occupation of Melaka.

After this beautiful afternoon city walk our bus takes us to Sepang in about 1,5 hour. We drive by the F1 Circuit which bring loads of tourist every time there is a F1 race. We get to spend the night in a luxurious 5-star resort: Avani Sepang Goldcoast Resort. It is an ideal place for travellers who have just arrived in Malaysia and want to recover from jet-lag at a beautiful location. The city of Sepang itself has not much to offer, but the resort is beautiful. We are welcomed by the manager, are offered a coconut drink and check in.

I share a room with a sweet lady from a travel agency in the north of Holland. We all have a superior room and all rooms are on the water, how amazing is that?! We have a shower, get changed, enjoy a beautiful sunset before we have dinner. I love Asian food and in Malaysia there seems to be a mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese cuisine; yum! We take our time for dinner, enjoy a glass of wine and relax. We have a good night sleep, although jet lag does wake me up somewhere in the middle of the night. I remember having a look outside the window and thinking: where is the water? The tide goes out and comes in changing the view on the water, but this sleepy head did not realize that in the middle of the night.

Day 3: from Sepang to Kuala Lumpur

The following morning after breakfast we have a look around. This resort is built like a palm tree on the water; the entrance and the reception are on land. The comfortable rooms and villas are built on stilts in the sea and they are spacious and beautifully furnished. There are seating areas inside, but also outside if you want to enjoy a cool sea breeze and the beautiful view. At the entrance of the resort there is a beach and in the middle of the palm tree there are restaurants, a spa and a stunning infinity pool. What a great place to have stayed for our first night! And I would love to stay a bit longer, but we have to move on, so we check out and continue this Malaysian adventure. And we have more luxury hotelstays to look forward to during this trip, so off we go…

From Sepang we go to Putrajaya, only a 45 minute drive. It is a state-of-the-art city located south of Kuala Lumpur and since 1999 it is the administrative centre of the federal government of Malaysia. Putrajaya offers not much atmosphere or cosiness. But the city has some great architecture, is very green (plenty of beautiful parks) and it is famous its largest roundabout in the world and for its beautiful bridges. We stop at Putra Square to take photographs of the bridges and the Putra Mosque (from the outside of course). We have 2 beautiful blond young travel agents amongst us and young men ask them to pose with them for a photograph (hmm… I wonder why 😉

From Putrajaya it is only a short drive to Kuala Lumpur. Close to arriving in the capital you cannot help but notice the amazing Petronas Twin Towers who dominate Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. Before we enter the city, we have to stop for a quick photograph and then it takes us quite some time to reach city centre, since traffic is jammed in the city. But it gives us some time to look around. Kuala Lumpur is huge and bustling and alive. On our program is lunch at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel. We have a quick look around and the hotel looks pretty comfortable to me, all the facilities you need in a hotel are present. A huge plus is the large pool where you can cool off and leave the city bustle behind you.

sky line Kuala Lumpur

After lunch a city tour by bus is on the program. Kuala Lumpur is the lively capital city of Malaysia, so there is a lot to see. The city has some special architecture to offer, different building styles. During this tour we discover both the old and the new city, situated at the start of two muddy rivers, to which the city owes its name. We get a really good impression of this bustling metropolis. I like this city; it feels very friendly and it is clean and full of life! Our guide Mr. Loh tells us wonderful stories during our stops: we have a stop at the National Palace (we do not go in, no time), we visit freedom square, war monument and more! When I go on holidays I never go with a group, But it really does help seeing things differently and having a guide like Mr. Loh giving useful information and history lessons, it really makes it more interesting!

Kuala Lumpur

When we have explored the city extensively, our bus takes us to our overnight hotel, The Istana. The hotel is in city centre, so centrally located in the ‘Golden Triangle’ and many sights, various shopping centres, entertainment venues and a metro stop are within walking distance. We have dinner at the buffet restaurant and the variety of food is amazing and we do not know what to choose. We al try local cuisine; I love Asian food and I have a stir fry with veggies and prawns: yum!

After dinner we are free to do as we please 😉 In small groups we walk into town. We pass Chinese shopping streets, market stalls and walk into a shopping mall. Inside the mall there are still a lot of decorations from Deepavali, the Hindu New Year. We walk through a short Sky Walk to the famous Traders Hotel with the even more famous Sky Bar. It is a modern bar with a swimming pool on the 33rd floor of the hotel. We have to have a drink there, although they are outrageously expensive and it is not so easy to get a seat. But we manage to find ourselves a table. The music is good and there is the most amazing view on the Petronas Twin Towers, which are beautifully lit at night. I even manage to take some photographs without reflection from the windows. What an stunning view. After a few drinks (and spending a small fortune) we walk back towards The Istana.

Deepavali / Diwali 2014
Petronas Twin Towers

Day 4: from Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands

The following morning, after enjoying an overwhelming breakfast buffet, we leave The Istana Hotel and Kuala Lumpur and head for Cameron Highlands. The landscape changes quickly once we are out of the city. The roads are really good in Malaysia, so a self drive holiday is definitely a possibility. Probably most people travel around the mainland with a rental car. While on the bus it starts to rain quite heavily. Now these tropical showers do not last long, but you get soke wet if you have no place to hide. I see locals driving their mopeds hiding under bridges or tunnels.

Our first stop today is at the famous and holy Batu Caves at Selangor, only 15 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur. The caves are one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions and a pilgrimage place for Tamil Hindus. The caves got their name for the Sungai Batu (Batu River), which flows nearby. It is very busy at the Batu caves, because of the Hindu New Year Deepavali. Outside there are little stalls where you can flowers and of course souvenirs. Candles are lit, people are praying… I do not know where to look; there is a lot going on here.

At the entrance of the cave there is a huge gold painted concrete statue of god Murugan (Lord Murugan Statue); it reaches almost 43 meters. We have to go up 272 steps barefoot to reach the main cave. On the way up we take a break now and then to supposedly enjoy the view (read: to catch our breath). Upon arrival, however, an impressive view, colourful temples and cheeky monkeys await us. Now I can tell you a lot more about what is inside the caves, but you should go and see for yourself. There is a lot of activity inside the cave today because of Deepavali, there is a lot of noise, a lot of fragrant smells, a lot of people… It is special to be here today. I am not religious, but am interested in and respectful to all religions and cultures. After a while we descend again, leaving the Batu Caves behind us.

Diwali 2014 at the Batu Caves
Lord Murugan Statue

From Selangor we go to the Lata Iskander waterfalls, it takes us about 2 hours to get there. Again the scenery is changing and it gets more greener and greener as we get closer to Cameron Highlands. The Lata Iskander waterfalls is a great place to stop for a break. The stalls along the street sell all kinds of foods and one of my favourites: fried banana and oh well … let’s taste some. As the waterfalls families are having picknicks, they go for a swim and I climb up the stairs to admire the waterfalls from above. Butterflies are all around me, beautiful flowers and I am loving this place.

Next is a visit to the Orang Asli village, the original inhabitants of Malaysia, who still hunt with blowpipes. The Orang Asli village has become a major tourist attraction, the village has made them modern people and they even have Wi-Fi! We get a blowpipe demonstration from the residents and get to try ourselves. I do not participate in this but prefer to walk around and take some photographs. I do not feel very comfortable here, I feel like an intruder. Although the people are very welcoming.

Near Tanah Rata we get stuck in traffic big time. It gives us the opportunity to enjoy the view. The Cameron Highlands are mountains, vast plateaus with fresh green tea plantations, dense jungle and waterfalls. A beautiful explosion of green surrounds us. Tea plantations on the left and on the right… The landscape reminds me a little bit of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. Due to its location in the mountains, the climate is nice and cool here, instead of warm and sticky. Also the vegetation is different from other parts of Malaysia.

Cameron HIghlands, taken from the bus

We finally arrive at The Old Smoke House in Tanah Rata, where they are waiting for us. We enjoy a very late lunch. It is the tastiest lunch ever and so worth the wait in the bus. The Old Smoke House is an enchanting hotel/restaurant with a beautiful and colourful garden and after lunch I have a walk around the garden which is an explosion of flowers and I breathe in the fresh air. The property looks typically old English and that is of course thanks to the British ;-). We unfortunately have to leave The Old Smoke House behind us.

Late in the afternoon we move on to one of the most famous resorts in the area: Strawberry Park Resort, where we will spend the night and have dinner. Fortunately we first have some time to relax and look around the property. Our late lunch has not gone down yet, so we need a bit of time. It is a beautiful resort, also with an old English appearance but with modern rooms having all the facilities you could possibly need. The resort is beautifully situated on a hilltop with breathtaking views. It is about 4 kilometres outside of Tanah Rata. If you are an active traveller, you can hike and mountain bike as much as you want in this area. But also for the not so sporty ones, there are plenty of things to do and see. It is time for dinner. We are not really hungry, but OMG… why is the food here so amazing; I will go back home having gained lots of weight! So we eat until we are have to roll ourselves back to our rooms. Before going to sleep I sit on the balcony and enjoy the cool air. The beds are comfortable and I fall asleep easily.

Day 5: from Cameron Highlands to Penang

In the morning we the many birds wake us up. I open up the curtains and go on the balcony to see what kind of birds I hear. But I cannot see them, I just hear them. We have a delicious breakfast and enjoy the amazing views by daylight. After breakfast we leave the Strawberry Park Resort. Before we leave Cameron Highlands we stop at a fruit and vegetable market and the Rose Garden. The intention was to do this yesterday, but we had to skip it since we got stuck in traffic. The fruit and vegetable market is cosy and it looks clean. In the area they grow strawberries and they look delicious. But there are also lots of other fruits and vegetables and only half I recognize. I love foreign markets. The Rose Garden has over 450 varieties of roses and the roses of course are beautiful, but we do not want to spend too much time here. Finally we make a photo stop between the tea plantations and then drive towards Ipoh.

We arrive in Ipoh and will stop for a short lunch break. But our wonderful Mr. Loh has decided that we will first visit the Kek Lok Tong Temple Cave. It is not on the program, but we have some time and he thinks we will enjoy the visit. And he is right! Kek Lok Tong means Cave of Ultimate Bliss (or Great Happiness). Mr. Loh tells us that it many local visitors regard it as their favourite cave temple. The temple cave is impressive, really beautiful. We are grateful that Mr. Loh has brought us here.

We have to go up only a few steps and then we walk through the Buddhist cave. Inside I see see gigantic stalactite and stalagmite formations and in the cave are all kinds of stairs that take you to different “cave rooms”. Pretty Buddha statues are found throughout the cave and then suddenly on the other side of the entrance there is a sea of light and an entrance to a gigantic garden. The view over the garden is something else. I understand now what Mr. Loh means: it is a beautiful, peaceful place and you instantly feel happy being here.

The garden is full with monkeys, birds, geese, flower beds and a giant lily pond. I see a group of photographers watching a bird with interest and it must be something special; a nightingale? In the garden there is a foot reflexology path and of course we walk over it (which actually hurts, but we finish the walk). And then we need to leave and move on. I would have liked to have stayed here longer, the peaceful feeling that comes over you when being is something else. But we have to go.

After a short lunch stop we continue our way to drive to one of the longest bridges in the world, which connects mainland Malaysia to the island of Penang.

The story continues here: https://oneluckytraveller.com/2019/08/31/penang/

Travel Blog by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller

October 26, 2014

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