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Category Archives: Malaysia
Oh hey there! Its time to talk money again! Specifically, what we spent in Malaysia during our five weeks there.
Before we get into the dollars again (here's the first budget post I wrote on our month in Indonesia), the best way to describe our travel style is not uber-cheap - we are travellers on a budget, that like good value and comfort, and I'm sure our spending reflects that.
The reason I am sharing this information is because, like I mentioned in my last budget post, if this can inspire just one reader to realise that living your travel dream is financially possible - and not as scary as it looks - then this will all be worth it!
Right, let's get started.
Malaysia: Our Itinerary
…interlude as we hopped over to Singapore for 5 nights, before returning to Malaysia…
- 5 nights Perhentian Islands
- 6 nights Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
- 7 nights Georgetown, Penang
- 9 nights Pantai Cenang, Langkawi
As New Zealand citizens we received a 90-day visa on arrival into Malaysia (we flew from Jakarta, Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur). We stayed in Malaysia for 34 nights.
In the beauty of hindsight, had we factored Singapore into our itinerary earlier on, we could have saved a chunk of money by flying from Jakarta into Singapore and then working our way up the island, instead of flying from Singapore to Kota Bahru (the jumping off point for the Perhentian Islands). However we had booked the Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur flight back in New Zealand before we left and it was a budget-conscious decision at the time. You live and you learn, right!
Especially in the second half of our time in Malaysia, we relished in moving more slowly and staying in places for at least a week. I loved travelling a bit slower, as it gave us time to unpack a little, settle in, get our bearings, find and frequent some of our favourite restaurants etc.
We considered travelling to Borneo, however after splurging in Singapore and in favour of travelling more slowly throughout Peninsular Malaysia, we decided we will visit Borneo on another occasion when we have more time and money!
Malaysia: Travel Budget Breakdown
Please note these costs are in New Zealand dollars (NZD), unless otherwise stated.
Total we spent over 34 days for two people: $2,916 ($1,458 per person)
Daily average per person: $42.90 (our daily budget is $50 each)
We came in 19% under our maximum budget.
Category Breakdown (Note these costs are for two people and I have rounded to the nearest dollar):
- Accommodation: $918
- Food and drink: $968
- Transport: $679 (this includes a rather expensive last minute Air Asia flight from Singapore to Kota Bahru)
- Entertainment/attractions: $189
- Visas: VOA is free!
- Shopping: $145 (seemingly lots of little things like some multi-vitamins, sunblock, paracetamol, toiletries, sunglasses & too many snacks!)
- Laundry: $17
On average we spent $27 per night on accommodation ($13.50 each). Though we probably could have stayed in places a bit cheaper sometimes, Malaysia budget accommodation on-the-whole is definitely priced slightly on the higher side, with less value for money. We continued to use Agoda for most of our bookings because not only do we love a good deal, we love to pay in New Zealand dollars (no conversion fees, hooray!). We still tried to book rooms with breakfast included, however do read my comment on food further below…these breakfasts were typically nothing special! We continued to stay in private double rooms, though often had shared bathrooms - these are pretty common throughout Malaysia - with varying levels of luxury and cleanliness.
We spent about $28 a day on food and drink for both of us - again slightly on the higher side, however we stayed in quite a few places where breakfast was not included which pushed that price up. Also, food on more remote places like the Perhentian Islands tended to be more expensive.
I loved the variety of food on offer in Malaysia! Indian, Malay, Chinese, Western, and sometimes a combination of them all. Coming from Indonesia where the food was ‘just okay’ to me, Malaysia literally blew my mind with diversity and food options! In Penang, known as a foodie’s heaven, there is a pamphlet you can pickup from most guesthouses with all of the local specialties (and there are a lot!), we had fun trying many of these and ticking them off the list. Some we liked, some we didn’t like so much - but thats the exciting part!
Unfortunately “included” guesthouse breakfasts typically lacked variety, usually consisting of just toast and jam…boring! Though I must make special mention to our accommodation in Kuala Lumpur, Matahari Lodge, where they had quite possibly the most delicious peanut butter in the world. A thick lather of that was enough to get you through to lunchtime!
I may have kicked my cornetto habit, unfortunately in favour of the odd oreo mcflurry…I had far too many of these in Malaysia! I justified it by saying I would simply burn it off come our month of Muay Thai training in Thailand…but I’m not sure that justified the cost. Oh well, we can’t all be perfect, can we!
Alcohol took a backseat in Malaysia, as it is very expensive (i.e. on par with what you would pay for a beer back home in New Zealand, $6-8 a pop). We had just a handful of beers throughout our time there, until we reached duty-free Langkawi and beer was once again a bargain. One or two enjoyed on our little porch most evenings became the norm, though Langkawi certainly isn’t a party island at all (which is fine by me!).
Scooter rental was more expensive in Malaysia than in Indonesia, so we only rented a scooter in Langkawi, and even then we didn’t hire one for our entire stay. Our scooter rental there cost us almost $10 a day, which was on the higher side but also super convenient as we rented directly through our accommodation so returning it was a breeze.
We had hoped to use trains in Malaysia, however unfortunately our route was not very harmonious with the railway system! So busses it was, most of the way. Malaysia’s roads are amazing, and their busses very efficient and affordable, so travelling by bus wasn’t a problem at all. We bussed from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca, then onwards to Singapore - both which were very comfortable and spacious. We then flew from Singapore to Kota Bahru (a 1.5 hour flight versus a 2-day bus/train journey…um yeah), and shared a taxi with some fellow travellers to Kuala Besut pier before catching a boat to the Perhentian Islands. After the Perhentian Islands we took a tourist minivan to the Cameron Highlands (local busses on that route are either non-existent or few and far between), and again took a tourist minivan onwards to the island of Penang. Finally, it was just a couple of hours on a ferry from Penang through to our final stop, the paradise of Langkawi!
Overall, despite coming under budget our spending in Malaysia was quite high. We could have probably done it a bit cheaper, but at the end of the day this is our lifestyle for the time being and we don’t mind spending extra on a few comforts! Malaysia has the reputation of being one of South East Asia’a more expensive destinations, so I’m perfectly happy that we came out under budget.
Have you travelled to Malaysia? Is it a country you would be interested in visiting?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, budget, inspiration, life, Malaysia, Money, travel
After not loving the Perhentian Islands, I was unsure what to expect as we cruised into Kuah, Langkawi.
It was our last stop in Malaysia and we were here for 10 days, before we passed through customs once more and ferried over to our next port-of-call: Thailand. Langkawi was another place of which I had heard very mixed opinions, so I wasn't sure whether I'd like it or not.
After ten days on this tropical island, let me put it bluntly: people who say they do not like Langkawi are either, a) CRAZY or b) LYING.
Langkawi is P-E-R-F-E-C-T.
I may have repeated over and over to Alan that Langkawi was paradise. Perhaps I shed a tear or two as we boarded our ferry to depart 10 days later…yep, I loved Langkawi so much that I was SAD to go to Thailand. Seriously!
So why did I love Langkawi so much? Here are ten things that makes this perfect island special...
1. Roving Night Market
Langkawi has a night market that is in a different location every evening of the week. Given the island’s relatively small size (you can easily drive around it in a couple of hours), we often came across the night market after a day’s escapades.
We ate from the Roving Night Market three times, and enjoyed the variety of noodles, rice dishes, items on sticks and other snacky foods (spring rolls! donuts!) on offer. Tasty and cheap.
2. Pantai Cenang
Langkawi’s liveliest beach, Pantai Cenang, is popular for perfectly good reason. It is absolutely stunning. Do I need to say more or can I just let these photos do the talking?
Other beaches of honourable mention include Black Sand beach for a sunset stroll and the secluded Pasir Tenkorak beach for a tranquil escape.
Black Sand Beach (Pantai Pasir Hitam)
Pasir Tenkorak beach
Langkawi taught Alan and I that we are both waterfall people. Is there such a thing? We love beaches, sure, but after a couple of hours are ready to move on and do something else. At waterfalls, however, we can unknowingly spend hours.
Seven Wells Waterfall (Telaga Tujuh) was our favourite, so much so that we went back twice. You can swim at the bottom of the waterfall which is lovely (though rather busy), however it seems that not many people realise you can walk to the top of the waterfall, and literally stand at the top looking down over the waterfall below. There are different pools you can relax in, natural water slides you can coast down and a rock you can jump off.
Best of all, the cool water is a refreshing break from the island’s intense heat.
We also visited Temurun and Durian Perangin waterfalls, both of which were also pretty magical.
Durian Perangin Waterfall
The number one rule of Langkawi’s waterfalls is: watch out for the monkeys! The cheeky devils will try and steal your things, and anything within a plastic bag they will think is food. Watch your stuff and don’t leave it close to the bush. Watch yourself too - I was minding my own business eating a biscuit from a plastic wrapper when Alan yelled at me to look out for the monkey, it was creeping up behind me and within centimetres of entering my bag for some goodies!
4. Rainbow Lodge
Rainbow Lodge in Cenang was perfect for us. This budget lodge is set back from the main road so is peaceful and quiet. Our room was spacious and clean, the hammock on the front frequently used to peacefully sip a beer as the sun went down.
Turns out it’s mentioned in the Lonely Planet - we didn’t even realise it was a recommendation until we were skimming through the Langkawi section when we were already staying there!
Just down the road is the best place to start your day where we ate breakfast for most of our stay. The friendly owner chit chats with you about life, business and rugby as he prepares your food, and it is always delicious. Perhaps my biggest stress on chilled out Langkawi was whether to have the scrambled eggs on toast or the muesli/fruit/yoghurt - because both were breakfast heaven to me! (Can't recall the name of the cafe for the life of me, but its the one with the umbrellas out on the left as you head towards the main road from Rainbow Lodge, if you're interested. Only open for breakfast!)
5. Skycab Cable Car
We ummed and ached over justifying a trip up the hill on the the pricey (for us!) Langkawi Cable Car. Eventually we decided to just do it and forked over the 35 ringgit each, though perhaps only because it was so close to the Seven Wells waterfall that it justified us a second visit.
Departing from the very touristy and slightly odd ‘Oriental Village’ complex, the process to actually get on the Skycab is not simple, made especially difficult in the 30+ degree heat. We showed up around 11am and were issued a ticket for the 12.15pm boarding time. Why one needs a boarding time for a cable car (what we would call a gondola in New Zealand) of which there is a new ‘car’ coming by every 10 seconds or so is confusing.
You wait in the scorching sun for your boarding time to be called, then everyone scrambles and pushes into something resembling a queue. Slowly you weave your way through, up some stairs, wind around for another half hour or so until you reach the theatre. You’re then ushered into the theatre (which is part of your ticket) where you sit in these chairs that lean right back and watch a couple of different short 3D movies above you (I was skeptical of this but it was actually really awesome!). About 5 minutes later, thats over and you rejoin the queue for another 10 minutes or so until we finally we able to board our cable car! Let’s just say, I’m glad I took snacks.
Why you don’t just enter the queue as you buy your ticket, I don’t know…but hey, we got there in the end. And just look at what we we able to see!
If you go on the Skycab my advice would be: 1) get there when they open, 2) expect it to be confusing and difficult, 3) it takes a long time so take snacks, 4) but expect the views from the top to be worth it!
There is so much to do on Langkawi! Perhaps thats why I loved it so much more than the Perhentian Islands?
Some days we would spend ambling around Cenang with the bliss-inducing recipe of sunbathing a little, swimming a little, eating a little, then repeat over.
However, my favourite days of all were those where we hired a scooter and explored the island.
Where we veered down side roads, got lost and found ourselves again...and again. Getting lost is the best way to explore, in my opinion!
7. Scarborough Fish N' Chip Restaurant
Guys, I’m from New Zealand, where indulging in a greasy pile of fish and chips is integral to our culture! Surely it would be insensitive to my homeland if I weren’t to indulge in a giant plate of fish and chips that comes so highly recommended on TripAdvisor?
Though not remotely Malaysian in taste, these fish and chips were fantastic, on par with the incredible surrounds we were able to enjoy them in. Deliciously blissful.
Scarborough Fish N' Chip Restaurant is located on Tanjung Rhu Beach.
8. Guning Raya
The highest peak on Langkawi, we commandeered the scooter up Guning Raya one moody, misty afternoon.
Its a long and windy drive, though despite reaching the top with a numb bum and having slightly underestimated our petrol situation (we had to drift most of the way back down, oops), it was worth every moment for these views.
You can pay 10 ringgit ($4 NZ) to go up the tower for what I’m sure are spectacular 360* panoramic views, but we chose to keep our wallets happy and take in what we could from just below.
Seriously though. Langkawi’s landscapes, I just can’t get enough!
9. Blues and Greens
Everywhere I looked in Langkawi there was intense colour. Bold blues and vibrant greens, every hue nature could have possibly created. Again, I just can't get enough!
10. I felt relaxed in Langkawi.
Why yes, that’s a big deal for me!
In Langkawi I felt whole, happy, and present in the moment. I didn’t wear a watch for the first time since we started our trip. I didn’t worry about planning the day, about seeing/doing every single little thing, and about organising any future travel.
Langkawi made me feel free. Zipping around the island, wind sweeping through my hair. Sliding down waterfall rocks, not a care in the world. Easy afternoons spent writing, reading or dreaming as rain pattered down outside. In Langkawi, the days drifted by, simply.
I’ve thought about Langkawi just about every day since we left. While I’ve loved many places we have visited on this trip and other travel I’ve done, there is something about Langkawi that stole my heart.
If I had to name paradise, Langkawi would be it.
Have you visited Langkawi? Did you love it as much as I did?
Penang was the kind of place that I wanted to take photos of EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME.
I'm guilty of visiting some places where my camera remains untouched in my bag for days, but in Penang - Georgetown especially - I enthusiastically lugged it around pretty much constantly.
In my opinion, every street, every building, every moment, every itsy bitsy detail was worthy of being snapped into the memory bank.
I'll admit I was skeptical of this popular Malaysian island before we arrived. I'd read a few fellow bloggers' posts about being underwhelmed by Penang so I was worried I'd feel the same. I'd also visited as a kid all the way back in 1997 and had some great memories...thankfully I was anything but disappointed!
We stayed seven nights in Georgetown, Penang state's capital city of about 750,000 people. Our days and nights were spent exploring and eating - this UNESCO World Heritage area also has a reputation of being a Foodie's paradise!
The number one rule of ambling the streets of Georgetown is: don't forget to look up! There is incredible creativity at every turn, vivid lanterns piercing the blue sky, and antique wooden shutters hiding stories from the past. Penang blinded me with colour no matter which direction I looked.
Prepare yourself for the onslaught...a plethora of photos of this island I loved.
So what did we get up to?
Georgetown is known for its diverse street art. There is such a creative vibe to this city, I was delighted with what we found at each and every turn.
We picked up a map from our guesthouse and took ourselves on a lengthy DIY walking tour of Georgetown's street art. As well as spotting many of the popular works marked on the map, it was just as fun ducking our heads around corners and getting lost down alleyways - you never know what you might discover!
As we explored the lively streets we welcomed the respite of beautiful temples and mosques, inviting us in for a few moments of peace and gratitude.
Eventually we reached the ocean, and explored some of the Clan Jetties. Established in the late 1800's by Chinese immigrants, some families still reside in these housing settlements built out over the water. Despite slowly developing into what seems to be a string of souvenir shops, a wander down Chew Jetty (and the other five remaining Clan Jetties) remains a worthwhile glimpse into another life - plus some incredible sea views!
Why yes, that is a long drop toilet going directly into the sea!
We meandered Georgetown's lanes of Little India, absorbing the rich aromas of spices cooking and Bollywood music blasting.
Whilst we were there, we couldn't resist grabbing a thali for lunch.
Perhaps followed by a few rainbow-coloured bites of Indian candy?
One evening, as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon, we ventured out of Georgetown to Penang Hill, for a half-price ride (after 7pm) up the funicular!
Boasting spectacular, sweeping views right across the bright lights of Georgetown and all the way back to the mainland, it was worth the expense.
Another day, we laced up our walking shoes and spent an afternoon ambling from Chinatown to Gurney Drive, wandering along the shore and admiring the views back towards the mainland.
While we were nearby, we couldn't miss the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple. Breathtaking!
Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clocktower
For a rich lesson in Penang's trading history, we headed to Fort Cornwallis and the Jubilee Clock Tower. Fort Cornwallis was originally built back in the late 1700's, yet has never seen a battle!
The Jubilee Clocktower was built in commemoration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Two interesting facts: 1) it is 60 feet tall, one foot per year of the Queen's reign, and 2) it is ever so slightly on a lean from the impact of bombings during WWII.
Of course, no visit to an island is complete without a day on the beach! From Georgetown, we caught a bus to Batu Ferringhi to feel the sand between our toes and have a laugh at those holding on for dear life on the banana boats.
Once back in Georgetown, why yes, we did indeed visit the local Cat Cafe! It was my first Cat Cafe experience, and despite the decadently delicious chocolate cake I'm not sure I'll be back. The cats were a bit...boring? Puppy cafe, anyone?
In addition to chocolate cake, of course we devoured plenty of tasty food. Penang has plenty of local specialties - and while we did our very best to eat as many as we could, it appears my hands were too busy shovelling food into my mouth rather than getting snap happy with the camera.
However there was one dish in particular that caught my fancy and which I perhaps ate every single day we were there. Without a doubt, the world's most perfect combination of rice noodles, cockles, prawns, bean sprouts and chives, bound together in a deliciously addictive soy sauce.
Char Kway Teow. I love you.
Hawker food centres abound in Georgetown, with anything and everything you could want to eat! If you're staying in Chinatown, Red Garden is worth getting to for dinner.
The constant heat of more than 30 degrees Celsius had us begging to quench our thirst. From many days of arduous research, Alan and I can conclude that fresh apple juice trumps all. You can thank us later.
Relax and Sleep
We escaped some hours of the exhausting heat in our peaceful room. We hunted down a brand spanking new guesthouse, in a perfectly renovated traditional building - I'd be back to stay at Rope Walk Guesthouse in a heartbeat.
We sunk deeply into the bed at night, and lapped up the extravagant shower and its multitude of settings (mist!). Seriously though, how could you resist this outlook from bed, for just NZD$30 a night?
As our guesthouse was very new and relatively unknown, we were the only guests. The friendly staff generously attended to us with delicious food, while insisting we relax and watch some TV.
We were fed fresh Roti Canai for breakfast, and brought peanut pancakes and cendol at just the slight mention that we were interested in trying them.
Oh, Penang, you really got me good.
Penang, I'll be back!
Have you visited Penang? What was your experience like?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, food, inspiration, life, Malaysia, Penang, travel
"You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way." - Walter Hagen
After being in a hot climate for two months straight and feeling a little low after struggling to connect with the Perhentian Islands, I was so delighted to reach our next destination in Malaysia: The Cameron Highlands!
The Cameron Highlands is a region in northwest Malaysia, a Hill Station covering more than 700 square kilometres. Known for its expansive tea plantations, produce farms and lush forests, perhaps even more enticing was knowing that the climate hovers between a comfortable 15-22 degrees celsius, due to its altitude of more than 1000m above sea level. Though not exactly freezing by any stretch of the imagination, I still couldn't wait to pull out a long-sleeved top and a pair of leggings from the bottom of my pack! The grass is always greener, right?
The Cameron Highlands is a very popular destination among KL-ites - just a five hour or so drive from Kuala Lumpur the region makes for a perfect weekend destination to escape the hustle and heat of the city.
After a long day travelling - first by boat from the Perhentian Islands back to Kuala Besut on the mainland, followed by a 5 or so hour minibus to the Cameron Highlands - we were pleased to arrive at our guesthouse. We had pre-booked Father’s Guesthouse in Tanah Rata after reading some great reviews, and we were not disappointed - in fact, after just one night there we decided to double the length of our stay. Most travellers stay perhaps two or three nights, but we were in the mood to slow down and relax, so stayed a glorious eight nights - long enough that some of the friendly staff knew us by name!
The Cameron Highlands has a clear English influence, in terms of its architectural style. The region consists of a series of townships (we were based in Tanah Rata, but it's also quite popular to stay in Brinchang), so your best way of getting around is by a tour or hiring a car/motorbike.
Car rental was out of our budget, so we went with a couple of tours which we felt were reasonably priced (we booked directly through Father's Guesthouse). The idea of 'taking a tour' often has a bad reputation amongst backpackers in favour of a DIY approach, but we thoroughly enjoyed both of the tours we did while in the Cameron Highlands.
Eight nights is a fair amount of time to stay in one place, but in the Cameron Highlands I felt like we hit the perfect balance between exploring and enjoying the region's serenity (or I guess you could say, being lazy).
Here's what we got up to...
1. Countryside Tour
We booked a half day 'countryside' tour to take us around the area, stopping off at seven different locations. The tour, which ran from about 9am-2pm, cost us 25 ringgit each (just under NZ$10) and essentially showcased many of the region's drawcards to us in just a few hours. There were a couple of entry fees not included which cost an extra 9 ringgit (NZ$3) each. Considering the amount of driving around we did, there's no way we could have done this more cheaply on our own - plus I'm sure we would have got incredibly lost!
We were collected from our guesthouse in the morning by our enthusiastic guide in what, to us, was a rather luxurious bus.
First we visited a Butterfly Garden that was rather lovely, it also housed all sorts of different creatures including a rather frightening turkey that waddled around like he owned the place!
Beneath the Butterfly Garden was a blindingly colourful flower garden - so beautiful!
Our next stop was the Kea Farm Vegetable Market, where we admired all of the fresh produce, vibrant flowers, and gorged on chocolate-coated strawberries. YUM. Strawberries don't grow anywhere else in Malaysia so are a big deal here!
We then made our way to the stop I was perhaps most excited about, BOH Tea Plantation. BOH is a famous Malaysian brand of tea, founded by a British businessman, J.A. Russell, back in the early 1900's. There was a small museum display where we learned a lot about how tea is made, and the development of BOH Tea over the years, plus were given a quick tour of the factory . It was really interesting!
The one downside of the tour was that because was so busy at the BOH Tea Centre, we didn't have enough time to sit and enjoy a cuppa while admiring the view - we had to move on to the next stop!
Next we visited a Bee Farm...although I love honey, I'm not the biggest fan of bees. So I entertained myself with the funny sculptures and entertained myself like a kid, while avoiding the bees as best as possible. We also did a little honey tasting here, which was rather delicious!
Moving on, we stopped at a Rose Garden. I didn't have very high expectations for this place, seemingly tucked away behind some souvenir shops in the Kea Farm area. But I was pleasantly surprised - it was beautiful. A floral oasis, we weaved through the little pathways for twenty minutes or so...
...before coming across some interesting figurines and a fun slide!
We were starving by the time we reached the Strawberry Farm, our next stop. The crop was slightly underwhelming, so we opted away from picking our own and plonked ourselves down in the cafe area to gorge on strawberry milkshakes and a punnet's worth of chocolate covered strawberries, of course!
As we began to head back towards Tanah Rata, our final stop was the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple near Brinchang. Built in the 1970's, it is a beautiful temple with a modern feel. I couldn't get enough of the tiles lining the interior, they were gorgeous!
2. Hiking to the World's Largest Flower, the Rafflesia
The Cameron Highland's is one of the few areas home the world's largest species of flower, so we couldn't miss the opportunity to see the great Rafflesia in bloom! Again we booked a tour through Father's Guesthouse, as seeing the Rafflesia is an activity that you cannot really do on your own - you'll need a guide to help you find it! Each flower is only in bloom for a single week before it dies, so depending on when you're there, there could be a multitude of different locations where you'll trek through the jungle for your chance to snap a photo of this magnificent bloom.
We trekked for about 2 hours into the bush to see the Rafflesia, crossing three streams and fighting lots of mud and a few leeches. You'll want to cover up with layers and insect repellent, and not mind getting muddy for this one!
The rafflesia was a pretty spectacular and special sight to see. Perhaps our most active day of the lot, the trek was well worth it - this flower is HUGE! This tour cost us 60 ringgit each (about NZ$24).
3. Walks and Waterfalls
The Cameron Highlands has plenty of hiking trails dotted around, each numbered and fairly easily signposted. Trail no. 9 is near Tanah Rata so we spent a morning walking the trail and visiting the Robinson Waterfalls. The scenery was lush, in some parts it felt strangely similar to bushwalking back home in New Zealand!
4. Tea and Scones
The English influence in the Cameron Highlands extends further than the architectural style. As it is grown in the region, hot cups of tea are plentiful - and at their most delicious when accompanied by a warm scone. Tea and scones? Yes, please!
Perhaps the most well-known cafe in the Tanah Rata is Lord's Cafe, and while their baked goods weren't the best I'd ever had, they were certainly tasty enough to warrant going back three times! Lord's Cafe is located above the Marrybrown's on Tanah Rata's main street.
We also enjoyed the baking, milkshakes and giant wholemeal sandwiches at Lillian's Collections & Cafe in the Royal Lily area. A 15 or so minute walk from Tanah Rata main street, Royal Lily is essentially a suburb of Tanah Rata that could be easily missed - but is absolutely worth the stroll! The popular Uncle Chow's Kopitiam is there too, though unfortunately it was closed when we tried to go.
My tastebuds appreciated the multitude of baked goods I savoured over the next eight days, despite being served with some awfully fake cream (because lets be honest, it still tastes good).
5. Wander and relax
To quash any impression you have so far that our week in the Cameron Highlands was overly active and busy, we spent a LOT of time chilling out, relaxing and just wandering in general. Mornings were often spent reading in our room, window wide open, soaking up the sounds of nature while sipping cups of tea or coffee.
The small town feel, the comfortable climate and the (relative) peace and quiet made the perfect conditions for re-energising and re-inspiring - I found my travel groove once again and was excited about moving on to our next destination: the foodie's paradise of Penang!
Have you visited the Cameron Highlands? Is it somewhere you would like to visit?
As part of the Booked.net - Top Destinations to Go There promotion, I've been invited to share five of my favourite destinations that I've been before and would love to revisit. I thought this was going to be easy, but as I reminisced over wonderful travel memories, narrowing down my favourites proved to be quite the challenge!
Don't stress guys, it sure was tough but I managed to reduce it down to my top 5...in no particular order - that would be way too hard to decide!
1. Palawan, the Philippines
Palawan, a province in the west of the Philippines, probably didn't know what had hit it when four of us on a girl's trip explored the region for three weeks a couple of years back. We spent our days island-hopping from one pristine beach to the next, and danced the nights away drinking copious amounts of pineapple juice with local coconut rum. Throw in a bit of music on the beach and a midnight swim or two, and you have the recipe for what might be the most perfect girls' trip ever. We need to plan a reunion, asap!
2. Langkawi, Malaysia
Even though I was on this beautiful island just a mere few weeks ago, I'm already thinking about when I will revisit Langkawi. To me, Langkawi was paradise! Perfect beaches, incredible waterfalls, easy roads for scootering around but rugged enough that you feel like you're truly discovering the island. We spent nine glorious nights there and I can't even begin to explain how sad I was to leave. Langkawi is the kind of place that you lose track of time in the best way possible, I've never felt so relaxed in my life as I was there.
3. Tortuguero, Costa Rica
It takes a long time to get to Tortuguero village, a tiny and remote township on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. This peaceful part of the world has no cars, let alone roads, so you get around by boat and foot. Tortuguero was a wonderful place to recharge, with serene landscapes, lush jungle and plenty of wildlife. As the name suggests, Tortuguero is known for the beach on one side of the village where thousands of sea turtles visit to lay their eggs every year. Unfortunately we were there at the wrong time of year to have much chance of seeing turtles, so I'd love to revisit Tortuguero to see the baby turtles waddling down the beach!
India had me captivated since I first ever visited when I was 14, spending a week in Mumbai with my family. I've already revisited as an adult when I backpacked through the country with some friends and my brother two years ago. Despite spending nearly two months there and loving it, I'm desperate to go back again (and I'm sure again and again after that!). India is such an enormous country that I still feel as though I've barely scratched the surface - I'm yet to visit Hampi, Darjeeling, Pondicherry, much of Goa, the list goes on! India is on our travel radar next year, and I can't wait!
5. Milford Sound, New Zealand
Before I visited earlier this year, I had never been to Milford Sound! As one of New Zealand's most popular tourist destinations I was more than excited to visit, and was certainly not disappointed - Milford Sound is stunning! We visited on a wet April day, though Milford Sound is one of those wonderful places where its better to visit when its raining, as the waterfalls become even more impressive. Mind you, its not hard to get to Milford on a rainy day as it is one of the rainiest places on earth! Such a spectacular and serene landscape, I need to get back to convince myself this place is real - its that beautiful.
I'm nominating the following five travel bloggers to share their top five destinations they would love to return to - can't wait to see where you pick! Petra & Shaun of The Global Couple, Leanne of Broke in the Big Smoke, Greg & Katy of Our Dream Adventure, Alissa of The Living Spree, Sara of Big World, Small Me.
Click here for more info on this promotion.
I'd love to know - where have you visited that you would love to return to?
POSTED IN: adventure, Asia, Backpacking, beach, Costa Rica, dreams, India, inspiration, life, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palawan, The Philippines, travel
I didn’t love the Perhentian Islands.
Ohmygosh I can’t believe I just divulged that to the internet!
Don’t hate me?
Seriously, what am I on about?
I mean, how could I not love this?
I certainly didn't hate the Perhentian Islands, I liked them enough. I guess what I’m getting at is I went there expecting paradise and left a little underwhelmed. But before you close your browser in horror, allow me to explain!
The Perhentian Islands are a popular destination among divers, keen snorkelers and beach-dwellers. Located off the north-eastern coast of Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands are in fact two islands, Pulau Perhentian Kecil (small island) and Pulau Perhentian Besar (big island). The big island has more resort-style accommodation and is known to be more expensive and family-orientated, whereas the small island has a reputation of being cheaper and is more popular among budget travellers and backpackers. Naturally, we decided to save a few dollars and stay on Kecil.
Pulau Perhentian Kecil has two main beaches, Long Beach and Coral Bay, connected by a jungly 10 minute walk over the hill between them. We hadn’t booked any accommodation before we arrived there, as it is impossible to book nearly any of the budget bungalows over the internet (many even by phone!). We had read you just need to turn up as early as you can and cross your fingers there will be availability.
Our boat dropped us off at Coral Bay where we had initially planned to scour for a cheap room, however upon chatting to a fellow backpacker on the beach we were informed that the accommodation was cheaper over on the other side of the island on Long Beach, so we trudged with our packs up and over the rugged path in the scorching midday sun. Oh, the joys of backpacking…
The Perhentian Islands are known for being one of the cheapest places in the world for diving, with very affordable rates on PADI Open Water courses, etc. However, when it comes to accommodation, its safe to say the Perhentian Islands are not cheap.
Despite the monsoon season looming thus the island being quieter than usual, we still walked between quite a few accommodation options before finding one with availability that suited our budget, though perhaps a little more rustic than we would have liked.
For our basic double room with fan, mosquito net, cold shower, dim lighting and a rather rusty toilet we paid a rather astronomical 55 ringgit a night ($21 NZD). With electricity only available in the evenings and nights, it was stifling hot so we quickly dumped our bags and walked the couple of minutes back down the, er, litter-ridden and stagnant-water odoured path to the beach.
We spent a couple of hours lazing on the beach, indispersed with dips into the warm water.
(Thanks Cleo for the journal and awesome pen!)
Later we headed back to our room and while chilling out on our little porch, creeping out from underneath the next-door balcony appears an enormous monitor lizard! Enormous as in almost the size of a crocodile, I'm not kidding! We were sure to take a headlamp with us when we headed out for dinner that night, as tripping over a giant monitor lizard in the dark would have been less than ideal.
By day two, after a night of very little sleep due to a certain next-door neighbour's all-night drinking session, I was struggling to connect with the allure of this island that I had expected so much.
We had already spent hours at the beach, and we could only drink so many mango smoothies (which were really expensive on the Perhentian Islands!) to pass the time. I'm the first to admit I suck at doing nothing, lying on a beach included, so to put it bluntly, after a few hours of beach time I was bored. I can't just sit and dwell in my own thoughts, I need things to see and do! Not to mention with the monsoon season looming we were often greeted with unwelcome rain, forcing us indoors.
On our second day we bumped into a friendly German couple we had met a few days ago in Kota Bahru (where we flew from Singapore). We joined them for lunch and mentioned we were feeling a bit blah about Perhentian Kecil. They raved about where they were staying on Perhentian Besar, and said it was much nicer than Kecil. We were all keen to do some snorkelling so decided the following day Alan and I would check out of our current accommodation, get a taxi boat over to Besar, join them on a snorkelling trip and then hunt for some new accommodation on that island instead.
We woke up the next morning to one of the most perfect days we had seen yet, and happily boarded a taxi boat for the 15 minute ride over to Perhentian Besar.
Our snorkelling trip was absolutely incredible, and I'm kicking myself for not having an underwater camera!
Those of you who know me well, will know that I'm perhaps not the biggest fan of fish being all up in my grill. I'm happy to observe from afar but if they are swishing all around my face its not my favourite place to be. Also, uh, minor shark-phobia.
But this snorkelling experience was different! Somehow I didn't mind the fish all flapping around me, because we SWAM WITH TURTLES.
We dove down deep and swam beside the turtles, as they slowly glided to the surface for some air, before descending back down into the depths below. It was one of the most incredible experiences, I still get a rush of excitement whenever I think about it (like right now). Despite not loving the Perhentian Islands, this remains one of my favourite life experiences to date.
We also saw lots of different kinds of tropical fish, including clownfish (Nemo!) that bounced continually into Alan's mask defending their space, and a couple of enormous humphead parrotfish that are almost the size of a person! Seriously - look!
A few hours later our snorkelling trip was over and as we sped back to Perhentian Besar the beautiful day disintegrated and the rain started bucketing down. After a very wet wander up and down the beach, it became obvious to Alan and I that we could not justify the cost of any of the accommodation there, so in our completely drenched state we said goodbye to our new friends and jumped into a taxi boat, boosting it back to Perhentian Kecil.
In our brief search for accommodation the day earlier, we had come across Senja Bay Resort in Coral Bay, where a more spacious and relatively clean room was available for only 50 ringgit (5 ringgit less than the place we'd stayed earlier). Despite a lingering odour of stagnant water seeping up from beneath the floorboards, it served us well enough for another three nights.
We spent our remaining days demolishing books on the kindle, wandering up and down the island's beaches, and eating more than we needed because - let's be honest - we all know eating is an excellent way to pass time.
There is no mistake that the Perhentian Islands are beautiful, but they are not the postcard-perfect paradise I had imagined. It felt quite dirty and unkempt, with plenty of trash on the paths (which we found quite unusual for Malaysia) and abandoned building sites, Combined with poor value accommodation, Alan and I agree that our overall perception of the Perhentian Islands was average - we neither loved them or hated them.
The Perhentian Islands may be the perfect destination for you if your primary goals are disconnecting, relaxation and book-reading. Or if you're into diving and snorkelling, however unless you're doing a course you're probably not going to want to fork out $$ for a trip every single day. I would certainly not negate the fact that these islands boast some fantastic diving if thats your thing, and I can vouch for the snorkelling being rather impressive (did I mention we swam with TURTLES!?).
In my opinion - as a non-diver, occasional snorkeller, and one of those annoying people who loves lying on the beach for all of half an hour before moving onto the next activity - five nights on the Perhentian Islands was more than enough, though I probably could have easily got away with just three.
The Perhentian Islands may be paradise for some, but not for me. And I’m okay with that.
Have you ever built your expectations up and been underwhelmed by a destination?
From Kuala Lumpur we decided to head south and make Malacca (or Melaka, in Malay), with its impressive history, the next stop on our Malaysia itinerary.
After some challenging bus rides in Indonesia we were pleased that Malacca was just a couple of hours away, on what was a straightforward, smooth and comfortable journey. We departed from Kuala Lumpur's Terminal Bersepadu Selatan and arrived into Malacca Central station (Melaka Sentral), then jumped on the local no.17 bus to reach our guesthouse.
Malacca has a rich history and, along with Georgetown in Penang (which we would visit later in our trip), became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.
Without going into too much detail (I've never been a huge history buff, aye Dad), Malacca was founded around the year 1400 by a dude called Parameswara. The city grew quickly, becoming a bustling international trading port before being conquered by the Portuguese in 1511. In 1641 the Dutch captured Malacca, then a couple of hundred years later traded it for a Sumatran province with the British. The city remained under British control through to the 1940's when it became part of the Malayan Union, which developed into the Malaysia we know today. Phew!
With Portuguese, Dutch, British and Malay influence, combined with the Indian and Chinese elements of Malaysian culture, you can begin to imagine what a cultural melting pot Malacca is.
We arrived on the weekend so were sure to check out the popular Jonker Street Night Market for something to nibble on (the market is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights). We began by discovering the diversity of the food, enjoying some portuguese egg tarts, stuffed pancakes and a deliciously salty fried-potato-swirl-on-a-stick-thing, before sitting down to some sizzling Chinese wontons and pork.
Next up on the agenda in Malacca was the obligatory river cruise. I remember doing this as a kid so it was like reliving a memory for me - though from my recollections, Malacca's riverfront is a lot more developed now!
It was Malaysia Day a couple of weeks before we arrived, so there were patriotic flags everywhere!
It was exceptionally hot and sticky while we were in Malacca, the kind of humid air that requires frequent stops for ice-cold
drinks mango smoothies and a couple of strolls through the nearby shopping mall for air-conditioning relief! However, we still managed to spend plenty of time wandering the central city, admiring the colonial architecture and diverse history. Here's a few snaps...
Malacca's cycle rickshaws are certainly something to write home about! One of my favourite memories from my Malaysia holiday at seven, was being carried through the city streets on one of the few that had a stereo, loud music blaring out - I remember thinking I was so cool!
But since 1997, the city's rickshaws have had a makeover - these days most are heavily decorated with flowers, and, uh, Hello Kitty merchandise. We even saw a rickshaw that had a "Free Wifi" sign, I couldn't quite believe it!
The riverfront is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat in the evening. Despite the Malaysian flags everywhere, I almost felt like we were somewhere in Europe!
We had a lovely couple of days in Malacca, though we weren't too fussed on our guesthouse and were eager to move on fairly quickly. After all, we had Singapore (and Universal Studios) in our sights!
P.S. Malacca was the place where we first discovered this is a thing. After my incident with durian I'm not sure if I'm game...are you?
As my first ever international destination beyond Australia and the Pacific Islands, Malaysia is the magnificent country to which I credit my love for travelling Asia began, and the country in which I officially caught the travel bug at the ripe age of seven.
I was lucky enough to travel to Malaysia and Singapore on a family holiday all the way back in 1997 and couldn’t wait to explore this incredible country again as an adult. I was eager to revisit some of the same destinations, stirring childhood memories and creating exciting new ones.
This photo says it all: I love Kuala Lumpur!
We flew directly to Kuala Lumpur from Jakarta, and I was a bundle of excitement the whole way on our surprisingly comfortable Air Asia flight. After checking though immigration, we whizzed into the city on the train and checked into our Chinatown hostel in the early evening.
Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown is buzzing with activity. Despite being exceptionally touristy, a wander up Petaling Street and the nearby lanes in the evening is enough to intoxicate all of your senses.
In addition to mouth-watering Chinese food, colourful lanterns suspended overhead and people bustling by, Chinatown offers all you could ever need in terms of fake handbags, shoes, watches, sunglasses - you name it, Petaling Street has it! Shame we didn’t need anything, though we certainly made the most of the food.
By day, the city’s diverse temples are peaceful havens from the hectic streets.
And we couldn’t miss Batu Caves, one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. After a toilsome climb of almost 300 steps, you'll reach the largest of the caves housing a Hindu Temple, which also happens to be the home of many scavenging monkeys.
Kuala Lumpur’s lush, green Botanic Gardens was worth a visit. We took our time exploring the gardens and I was sure to make the most of the well signposted photo opportunities.
Frequent rest breaks were required in the 30+ degree heat.
The playgrounds were pretty awesome for kids…or the young at heart!
Of course, no visit to Kuala Lumpur is complete without the standard tourist photo in front of the Petronas Towers, the world's tallest twin skyscrapers. Back when I visited with my family in 1997, the city was coated in thick smog and we were unable to see the Petronas Towers in all their glory, so it was great to tick that one off this time around!
We visited in the evening to make the most of the last remaining daylight…
Before darkness took over and the lights came on!
Outside the Petronas Towers is a beautiful garden with a running track, lake and colourful light show. Not to mention an enormous luxury shopping mall directly beneath!
We spent a morning wandering the city, discovering Pasar Seni (Central Market) just around the corner and Little India a little further up the road...
Followed by an afternoon exploring the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery and admiring the diverse cityscape from Merdeka Square. What a treasure to have a spacious, green area like this within the central city to relax!
That same afternoon was also the day we fatefully decided it was time to try the beloved durian fruit, which is said to taste delicious despite its abhorrent stench. What better way to introduce ourselves to this popular fruit than in cake form, right? Who doesn't love cake?
Durian is gross, guys. I should have known better! Even just the smell alone is enough to make me dry wretch. Alan, somehow managed to consume his own cake and finish off mine.
We also managed to squeeze in a scrumptious meal on the famous Jalan Alor, the city's notorious "eat street", where tables and chairs extend out onto the road and sizzling Chinese dishes are served, best washed down with an icy-cold Tiger or two. I couldn't help but love Jalan Alor!
Despite the durian cake incident, our time in Kuala Lumpur was wonderful. Coming from Jakarta, we were delighted to find an immaculately clean city, with footpaths (!) and a wonderfully functional, easy to navigate MRT/LRT public transport system. I may have regularly exclaimed “I could live here!” more than once a day. Kuala Lumpur is the best of both worlds - the culture, food and bustle of Asia with a modern, luxurious, and somehow very comfortable twist.
Far too soon our four nights in Kuala Lumpur were up and we were headed south to our next destination: the cultural melting pot of Malacca.
Have you visited Kuala Lumpur? Ever visited a place and felt like you would be content to just stay and live there?