The Friendly Face of West Malaysia and Sarawak

Trip Start May 11, 2003
Trip End May 10, 2004

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Monday, October 13, 2003

Our last chapter of the travelogue ended on the train as we were about to reach Sungai Kolok on the Thailand-Malaysia border almost a month ago. We are now only a week away from meeting L's Mum, Dad and sister, Les, at Kuala Lumpur airport for their two week holiday!! L is emotionally drained and we are both counting the days until Monday. Tears are a regular daily occurrence (not really, only twice a week - L!?).

Mon 15th Sep - Most of the morning is spent on the train to the Malay border. We walk through 'No Mans Land', but it is certainly not as interesting as the Cambodia-Vietnam border crossing. Decide to go to Kota Bharu on the East Coast for one night before heading to the Perhentian islands. Stay at the Town Guesthouse (our best guesthouse yet, not!) and walk around the town taking in a curry, a visit to the internet, the Night Market and some Malay culture along the way.

Tue 16th Sep - After picking up some provisions we catch a taxi to the jetty at Kuala Besut to get our boat to Perhentian's 'small' island. Once there L walks up and down the beach to find a place to stay. We end up at Symphony (in single beds) and it turns out to be a bad decision as there are inch wide gaps in the hut, so the mozzies can smell our blood and the shower block leaves a lot to be desired! Get on the beach to top up our tans and have a swim before having a Mars shake at the guesthouse. Have a barbeque (which will become an almost nightly occurrence on Perhentian) at Umbrella Café before an early night.

Wed 17th Sep - M gets up early to swap our accommodation as we both don't sleep very well. Move to a hut at Matahari down the beach with an attached bathroom and balcony (but it costs more). A day on the beach (literally) and we end the daylight hours sizzling. Eat at the Umbrella with Jan & Roger and Nicci from Matahari and watch "Inferno" on the box.

Thu 18th Sep - Today is wash day and as we had too much sun yesterday we decide to stay out of it today and spend most of the day round the room/on the balcony. Later we check out the dive centres as we want to do our Open Water Dive Certificate and decide to go with Coral Sea Divers. When we get round to filling out the form, L is told she can't do the course because of her asthma. Aaargh! We'd decided to leave it until the Perhentian because it's the best place to do it. Anyway, we save 100 quid each!

Fri 19th Sep - Have another lazy day before checking out the batik courses run at Matahari. Eat at Matahari and watch "Gigli" (v. poor). Meet Vanessa and Robin from Manchester and go for a few drinks with them. Bed at 5am after a party on the beach!!!!

Sat 20th Sep - Book our return flights to Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo for the 6th October before heading onto the beach for an hour or so. Sketch our batik designs onto paper before having the BBQ at Panorama where M has tandoori chicken and L has chicken satay. Watch half of "Chasing Amy" before deciding it's not worth it and going to bed.

Sun 21st Sep - Start on our batik course by copying our designs onto the fabric (M's is 120cm by 90 cm, L's adventurous with double at 180 cm by 120 cm) and then applying the hot wax. Link up with M's sisters Heather and Jules (who are spending the weekend together) on the internet. Watch "2 Fast 2 Furious" at Panorama having a chocolate orange shake for dessert. Mmmm!

Mon 22nd Sep - Finish our batiks after adding all the different colours and we are really chuffed. Have a swim and well deserved lie on the beach. Go to Umbrella later with Jan & Roger and swap tips on our trip to India and theirs to Australia. Watch "15 Minutes of Fame".

Tues 23rd Sep - Set off on a snorkeling trip at 11am and visit five different bays where we see numerous sharks (up to 150cm long), a couple of turtles (1m long), a spotted stingray, loads of brightly coloured fish and some wonderful coral (people say it's some of the best anywhere). What a fantastic experience! After they have been fixed and washed, we collect our completed batiks, before heading to Coral Bay to watch the sun set. As it's our last night, we have BBQ (again!) and a pizza at Panorama watching "S.W.O.T." in the process.

Wed 24th Sep - Catch the early boat back to the mainland and make our way down the coast by two local buses to Kuala Terengganu. Check into Ping Anchorage. Do our usual and walk around the town to get our bearings and see what there is to see. Have lunch at one of the food stalls, where the guy serving recognizes the BWFC emblem on my baseball cap!! Later have our first Murtabak (curried pancake) and banana leaf curry (various Indian dishes served on a banana leaf).

Thu 25th Sep - Get the express bus to Cherating (still on the coast) which is meant to be a travellers hangout. Check into Matahari Huts. Walk around the town and visit a stables, the beach and a cultural centre, where there is a guy who does traditional batik for a living. Head to the Night Market at Kemaman, trying all sorts of food from the hundreds of food stalls, before a visit to the supermarket on the way back.

Fri 26th Sep - Cook our own breakfast for the first time since we left. Another wash day and we spend all day around the hut. End up later at a bar called "Ranah Pippin" where there is a free BBQ. Meet Angel (who has coincidentally booked on the same flight as us to Sarawak) and Brendan, have a few drinks and head to watch a live band doing various covers, including John Denver's "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" (first cry of many! - L). Get to bed at 3am.

Sat 27th Sep - Do a bit more washing and catch up on sleep. Spot in the paper that there are loads of things going on in Kuala Lumpur while we are there - Malaysian Cup Final, International Show Jumping, F1 Powerboating and F1 Motorcycling, so we decide to look into the football and showjumping (see Sport Weekend Extravaganza). Head to town to ring L's Mum & Dad and Les (who ring back) to talk about their visit to Malaysia in a few weeks. M's Mum also rings later and we catch up. Have a fantastic spaghetti carbonara and pizza before bumping into Helen & Ashley who have only been travelling a few weeks and will be in Sydney at New Year. Hope to meet for a drink later, but L is drifting away so we head back.

Sun 28th Sep - Have a leisurely breakfast and morning, leave some milk and watermelon for Helen & Ashley, before catching the bus to Kuantan and then on to Kuala Lumpur. Get there at 7.30pm and check into Backpackers Travellers Lodge. Walk to Little India and find a great place to eat which is dirt cheap then head back to Backpackers, very tired.......

Mon 29th Sep - Catch the 9am bus to Cameron Highlands, which is much higher in altitude than KL, so is cool (about 15 degrees lower) and wet. Ideal for tea plantations and strawberry farms! Arrive at Tanah Rata and check into Fathers Guest House, where we stay in these very inventive huts made out of corrugated sheet metal shaped into a semi circle. Have a walk around town and find a great little Indian café where the woman who runs it calls all Westerners "boss"!

Tues 30th Sep - Have a lie in before heading into town. Eat at T Café and have apple pie and ice cream, scone jam & cream and freshly brewed tea. There we discuss our budget for the trip (including all our overspends so far!!). Both have a haircut (L at a salon, M at a cut-throat barbers) before having another curry for tea.
NEWSFLASH - three months today since M gave up smoking!!

Wed 1st Oct - Plan our jungle trek which takes us out of the town, past a waterfall on the way up to the Watchtower where we get views of the whole of Tanah Rata and surrounding area. From there we head over the top, through the forests down to the Forestry Commission headquarters, past a camp site and down to the Golf Course. We walk on and visit a Strawberry Farm and the Golf Club before arriving back in town 4 ½ hours later. Head out later in a massive rain storm which doesn't seem to want to let up and have a drink at the "Indian Ranch Pub" after tea where John Denver sings "Country Road, take me home, to the place, I belong!" bringing back childhood memories and another tearful session for L!!

Thu 2nd Oct - Get the bus back to KL at 8am and after last nights storm carefully pass a dozen landslides, some of which almost cover the road! Check into the Anuja this time and catch the LRT train down to the National Sports Stadium complex at Bukit Jalil to buy tickets for the "KL Grand Prix" International Show Jumping event on Sunday. Eat at KFC before watching the end of Vanilla Sky (again!) at the guesthouse.

Fri 3rd Oct - Have breakfast, then go on the internet then head back down to Bukit Jalil to pick up tickets for the footie final tomorrow. Meet Angel and Giles later, eat at Little India and have a few drinks at "Shadows" bar before searching out a club that Angel has heard about. When we eventually find it at 1.00am there is no one there, L&M decide to go back, the other two go on.

Sat 4th Oct - see Sport Weekend Extravaganza

Sun 5th Oct - see Sport Weekend Extravaganza

Mon 6th Oct - Up at 5.15am to get to the airport, via train and bus, for the 9.50am flight to Sarawak. When we get to Kuching, we check into the B&B Inn. Have a walk around the city, finding an open air swimming pool on the way. Have a beer and a read on the guesthouse rooftop terrace. Head out with Angel later and eat at one of the food courts in Chinatown before having a drink at Amigos.

Tue 7th Oct - Walk to the aquarium, which has some great fish, eagles (?), crocodiles and terrapins. Then visit the Old Sarawak Museum which has a fascinating collection of wildlife, marine life, jungle village life as well as full size Longhouse (typical jungle dwelling). After deciding what we are going to do over the next few days, we get our permit for Bako National Park and book our accommodation there. Get chatting to a couple at the guesthouse called Alan & Anna, who are also going to Bako, before eating at "Charlottes" café, the owner of which coincidentally has a niece called Charlotte, aged 9, who lives in London (the owner is Malay-Chinese by the way!!)

Wed 8th Oct - Catch the 8am bus to Bako and arrive there at 10am and have a bite to eat in the canteen deciding which of the jungle trails we are going to attempt over the next three days. Set off on our first walk (Tanjung Sapi) up the hill to a great viewpoint overlooking the bay, then return and go on our second (Telok Paku) through the jungle and eventually arriving at a secluded beach. Have a bathe on the rocks and then a swim in the sea before heading back, seeing lots of Proboscis Monkeys (only about 150 on Borneo) on the way back. Meet up with Alan & Anna in the canteen for tea, swapping tips on our trip in SE Asia and theirs in Bali, Oz and NZ.

Thu 9th Oct - Move from our hostel to one of the lodges and then set off on the Telok Delima trail before continuing on the Lintang trail, a circular route up the mountain, through various types of forest and vegetation. Being in the middle of a limestone crag on the top, we almost felt like we were on Top of the World, so we stop to collect our thoughts. See some more Proboscis Monkeys on our way back while we rest. The whole trek takes us almost five hours.

Fri 10th Oct - Leave the lodge after lunch and take the trail that leads to Telok Pandan Kecil beach. Get straight in the sea when we arrive and sunbathe until the beach is swallowed up by the incoming tide. To get back onto the trail, we have to clamber over the rocks as the sea has totally cut off the beach. Back at the Park HQ we meet up with Angel and some others and have BBQ chicken at the canteen.

Sat 11th Oct - Catch the boat from Bako back to Kuching and have a feast (for just under 2 quid) at our favourite cafe, Jubilee, when we get there. Check into a new place called Fairview which is a heritage house opened two months ago after being left by a wealthy businessman and converted into a guesthouse. It has all mod cons - washing machine, TV room, internet, hot bath & shower, cooking facilities etc etc. We link up via webcam with M's sister, Heather, and then have an eat-as-much-as-you-like (or -can in our case) buffet at "Little Lebanon", where they serve pitta, hummous, olives, falafel, Arabic rice, roast lamb & chicken and rice pudding with jasmine. Lovely!! Decide not to watch the England game as it doesn't start 'til 1am and we can't be guaranteed that the bars will stay open for the whole game.

Sun 12th Oct - We are woken up at 6am by the church bells next door and M can't get back to sleep so gets up, reads and goes on the internet to find that England have qualified for Euro 2004 (go on Sven's men!), so we'll be going to Portugal for our holiday next year!!! (Will we?? L). Sit outside in the garden and have breakfast and then spend the rest of the day sorting out our 1000+ photos (on CD) and uploading India, Thailand and Malaysia photos onto the travelogue. We have a treat at night when we go to "Beccaris" Italian restaurant where we have, you've guessed it, another eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet of soup, salad, lasagne, roast lamb, baked red snapper, fresh pizza and create-your-own fresh pasta/sauce followed by crepe suzette, choc éclair, tiramisu and coffee. We also have our first bottle of wine (Penfold's Rawsons Retreat) since M's birthday in June. (Yum - L). As is usual the wine costs more than the food!!!
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