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10 of My Favourite Things To Do on Koh Samui

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I’ve blogged a lot about our time on Koh Samui from the Muay Thai training side of things, however of course we also spent plenty of time out exploring, eating and playing on this beautiful island.

Among some travellers Koh Samui has a poor reputation of being super-touristy and not worth the visit. Early on in our stay I asked one of the ladies in our Muay Thai class who lives on the island for some ideas of less-touristy things to see and do. This was much better than a guidebook, and she kindly gave me a long list of what to do on Koh Samui, which we spent the next four weeks trying to fulfil - many of her suggestions made it onto my favourites list!

After spending an entire month on this beautiful island, I can assure you that it is entirely possible to escape tourist-laden Chaweng Beach and discover many nooks and crannies that will have you feeling relaxed and happy in no time! You just have to know where to go and what to do.

Here's my top ten favourite things to do on Koh Samui!

1. Hire a scooter and drive around the island

Hiring a scooter is the easiest way to escape the chaos of Chaweng, and driving around the perimeter of the whole island only takes a couple of hours without stopping. While you’re at it, make sure you also drive through the middle of the island for a completely different aspect. The road Maenam Soi 1 will take you from Maenam right through to Lamai. You'll suddenly find yourself amongst lush, untouched greenery, complete with snakes crossing the road!

We rented from Ohm Cycles Samui and rented our Scoopy-i 125cc automatic for 30,000 baht/30 days - of course if you're renting shorter term you can expect to pay a higher daily rental rate. Please, always wear a helmet, drive carefully and be aware - we saw an awful fatal accident in the time we were there, and unfortunately this is a regular occurrence.

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2. Kalasea Cafe

Easily our favourite eating spot on the island, Kalasea is pretty much as far away as you can get from busy Chaweng, being halfway around the island. Fill up on mouth-watering food (salads! fresh spring rolls!) and delicious drinks (mint soda! oreo shake!) followed by a swing over the sea - Kalasea is the kind of places you can stay for hours. We did just that so many times!

From Chaweng, drive through Maenam and just before you reach Nathon there are a cluster of beachfront cafes on your right - Kalasea is the ones that is painted white with a thatched roof.

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3. Boat Temple

I'm letting you in on a bit of a secret here, shhh! Near Laem Sor Pagoda, which is also a beautiful spot, is a small temple that barely any tourists seem to know about. It is called the Boat Temple because it is in the shape of a boat, inside a man-made pond. You step onboard the boat to look inside the temple, which is rather unique!

Follow your map to Laem Sor Pagoda, once you get there hang a left and drive along for another minute or so, eventually you should see the temple up on the hill on your left. There is a smaller, model version of it in a building near the pagoda - don't get mixed up thinking that is it like we did the first time! We had to visit again in order to find the actual temple itself, oops. As always, be sure to dress respectfully when you visit a temple - that means covered shoulders and covered knees.

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4. Wat Plai Laem Temple

Visit on a sunny day and you will be taken aback by the colour and vibrancy of the 18-armed Guanyin statue and a very happy giant Buddha. This is a stunning complex to wander around for an hour or so and take in the ornate details of the temples in a peaceful setting.

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5. Go to the movies

For those of you on holiday trying to escape normality, perhaps this isn't the suggestion for you, but after a few months on the road we loved being able to go to the movies in English! We really enjoy going to the movies at home, so it was a treat to be able to go a few times while we were on Koh Samui.

The Major Cineplex Lotus Samui is in the big Tescos shopping centre in Chaweng. It is just like going to the movies at home except for two things: 1. It is way cheaper (180 baht for a ticket, about NZ$7), and 2. Before the movie starts you have to stand in honour of the King for a couple of minutes while a musical clip plays. Its a unique experience!

6. Visit the dog shelter

We spent an afternoon visiting the animals at Samui Dog and Cat Rescue Centre. Based in Ban Taling Ngam in the southwest of the island, this foundation was set up by a German and Dutch team in 1999 to provide medical treatment, food, shelter and sterilisation for street dogs and cats, along with providing education for Koh Samui people on how to care for their animals. It is a great foundation and keeps going by way of donations and the help of volunteers.

I am dog-obsessed so spending an afternoon there giving the animals some love, along with a bit of dirty work like scooping up some poop, is much appreciated by the dogs and humans alike! My only regret is that I didn't make it back more often. They love helpful visitors, be sure to check out their website here for more information and to donate.

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7. Chill out at Silver Beach

Escape busy Chaweng beach by visiting some of the other beaches dotted around the island. Our pick of the bunch that we visited time and time again is Silver Beach. Located between Chaweng and Lamai, its a small beach that you enter through a restaurant (marked Silver Beach Resort). Grab a bite to eat and a smoothie at the restaurant before laxing out on the beach for the rest of the day. Every time we went there it was never very busy and there was always plenty of space to relax in the sunshine.

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8. Take a Muay Thai class

You're in Thailand, and what better place to learn the eight-limbed martial art of Muay Thai than in the heat and humidity of the Thai islands, right? Seriously though, Muay Thai is an integral part of Thai culture, and just a couple of hours of training will not only give you an amazing workout, but also a greater understanding of Thailands #1 sport!

We loved training at Superpro Samui, you can stay onsite and training is included as part of your accommodation, however you can also visit for a one-off class. Check out their website for more details. Read my post about the gear and essentials you'll need to be prepared for your training session!

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9. Lamai Boxing

Now that you have completed your Muay Thai class and have a better understanding of the sport, hop on your scooter and head to Lamai on a Saturday night to see some fighters in action! The kickboxing at Lamai is in a boxing ring surrounded by bars, so unlike the two stadiums in Chaweng that are extortionately expensive (more than 1,000 baht!), watching the Muay Thai in Lamai will only set you back the cost of an overpriced drink (100 baht or so), and provide hours of entertainment. It starts around 9.30pm and goes through until about midnight, depending on how many rounds the fights last for!

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10. Secret Buddha Garden

Hidden high up in the hills behind Baan Saket, the Secret Buddha Garden is a jungly oasis built by a local durian fruit farmer after he retired back in the 1970's. Its essentially a lush, green garden with waterfalls, statues and figures of Buddhist folklore that make you feel as though you have entered some kind of mythical land! We visited on a drizzly day and were the only ones there at the time - it felt quite eerie and magical. The two of us drove up on one scooter, and while this is certianly manageable be aware that there are quite a few steep sections of road where the person on the back might have to quickly jump off so the scooter has enough power to reach the top!

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Bonus Activity: Cheeseburger Cheeseburger!

I feel almost guilty admitting this one, but while we were on Koh Samui a new eatery opened up, and as we are travelling long-term we have no qualms about indulging in some delicious western food! And Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, at the entrance to the Bophut Fisherman's Village, hits the spot BIG TIME. It's what I ate for lunch on my 25th birthday and it was soooo good. In fact, the vanilla milkshake was the best I've had in my life - I'd go all the way back to Koh Samui even if just for a Cheeseburger Cheeseburger milkshake - its THAT good! On the pricey side (as in, similar to what you would pay at home) but you are promised the #1 cheeseburger on Samui, so totally worth the splurge.

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There you have it, my favourite activities in Koh Samui. Enjoy your trip!

Have you visited Koh Samui or any of the Thai Islands? What was your favourite thing you did there?


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Thai Cooking Class in Ao Nang

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After a few days in Krabi town and visiting Railay, we decided to shift accommodation to the nearby town of Ao Nang. A mere 20 minute songthaew ride from Krabi town, Ao Nang is a beach town that despite being very touristic was just what we needed for our last couple of days of sleeping in, relaxing and eating-all-the-food before we started our hardcore month of Muay Thai training.

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Best of all, we were there for Alan’s birthday so we ‘splurged’ on a $40 a night room at the cute Ben’s House. We were all about the swimming pool!

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We had a couple of nights in Ao Nang and after spending much of our time there rotating between getting a massage, sipping fresh fruit smoothies and relaxing on the beach, we were off to spend the evening of Alan’s birthday doing something we both love to do: cook!

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We booked a cooking class with Thai Charm Cooking School, run by a husband and wife duo, and were picked up in the evening from our hotel to be taken to the countryside outdoor kitchen where the class was located. Welcomed with a cup of tea we were invited to choose from the many options of what we would like to learn to cook.

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It was an extensive menu - we would each be cooking a soup, a salad, a stir-fry and a curry (including the paste from scratch), followed by a melt-in-your-mouth dessert of both bananas in coconut milk and mango sticky rice. Naturally, Alan and I selected different things to cook each so that we could taste as many dishes as possible. Let’s just say, I’m glad we arrived on empty stomachs!

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The cooking class was small which was excellent - the maximum amount of people they ever have at once is 10, though being low season our class was just Alan and I plus another couple. Our teacher, Yok (I’m not sure of the spelling but she said her name was like an egg yolk!), was very passionate about her business and that shined through in the recipes she taught us - they were utterly delicious.

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We left with a plethora of new recipes (all contained in one little cookbook), a certificate (woohoo!) and a much better understanding of Thai food - not to mention, extremely full tummies!

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Perhaps the only downside to the cooking class - if you can even call it that - is that for the rest of our time in Thailand when I ordered any of the dishes we had cooked at a restaurant, I was often dissapointed because they weren’t nearly as delicious as Yok’s recipes!

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Taking a Thai cooking class was one of my favourite things we did in Thailand. I love to cook, and of course eat. Despite being slightly on the pricey side, it’s an activity I would highly recommend to any visitors to Thailand. In fact, its something I would love to do in more countries I visit - there’s no better way to learnt about a new culture than through it’s food, right!

The details: We booked a cooking class with Thai Charm Cooking School after reading rave reviews about it on TripAdvisor - and we were definitely impressed. I would absolutely recommend Yok’s classes to everyone, her enthusiam and passion for what she does shines through. For more information visit their website here. Just one tip: make sure you go with an empty stomach!

Have you taken a cooking class in a foreign country?


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3 Things I Love About Christchurch, New Zealand

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I've been invited to share three things I love about my favourite city, as part of Accor Hotels 'A Tale of Three Cities' promotion.

My favourite city in the world? This has had me thinking for quite some time - there are so many cities I love, how on earth can I pick a favourite!

Despite leaving New Zealand to travel the globe, I am a proud Kiwi and love my home country to bits. So of course my favourite city has to be in New Zealand! But I have already lived in four different New Zealand cities, and loved each of them for different reasons, so how would I be able to choose?

Not to worry, guys - I managed to figure it out. Despite being very partial to my hometown of Nelson, before I left to go travelling I lived in Christchurch for 1.5 years and found so many things I love about that little city that I simply have to share with you.

With a population of around 400,000, Christchurch is New Zealand's third-largest city, though compared with many cities of the world it is just teeny-tiny!

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A little story before I convince you Christchurch is worth a visit...

Just the other day I was chatting to a European traveller who had spent a couple of months travelling around New Zealand a couple of years ago. He was advised by many travellers not to bother going to Christchurch, especially since the devastating 2011 earthquake (which destroyed the entire central city and very sadly killed 185 people). Ignoring the advice he was given, the traveller I was speaking with visited Christchurch anyway and loved it there - of course I absolutely agree with him, Christchurch is an incredible city!

Read on for three (of many!) reasons why I love Christchurch, New Zealand.

1. It is New Zealand's 'Garden City'

Christchurch is not nicknamed 'Garden City' for no reason! There are a number of parks and gardens in and around the city. Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens are both in the central city and can be enjoyed any time of the year. In fact, I used to spend half an hour wandering through the Botanic Gardens nearly every single day on my lunch break and would always return to the office feeling refreshed and revived.

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Perhaps my very favourite area is the Daffodil Woodland during spring - vibrant yellow flowers peeking out of the lush green grass in every direction you look.

You can download a walking guide to the Botanic Gardens here, so you don't miss any of the stunning foliage the gardens have on show!

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2. The Creative Temporary Inner-City

When I lived in Christchurch I worked in the inner city, an area that as I mentioned above was almost completely devastated by the earthquakes. The city centre continues to be in a constant state of change - buildings coming down, new buildings going up - meaning there are many empty sites all around the city as businesses slowly trickle back into the CBD during this lengthy rebuild phase.

You may have heard of the Re:Start Container Mall, which is a shopping area built entirely out of shipping containers! Along with the nearby iconic Ballantynes Department Store, it is now one of the city centre's most popular destinations.

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There is also an initiative called Gap Filler which is AWESOME. They have helped create fun and build hope in this destroyed city, with creative, colourful and exciting 'gap fillers' to make the most of empty lots and turn them into something engaging.

"Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative that temporarily activates vacant sites within Christchurch with cool and creative projects, to make for a more interesting and vibrant city.

We utilise vacant sites and spaces for temporary, creative, people-centred purposes. We work with local community groups, artists, architects, landowners, librarians, designers, students, engineers, dancers – anyone with an idea and initiative."

Perhaps my favourite Gap Filler was the Pallet Pavillion which was a semi-permanent events venue built from, yup you guessed it, pallets! I went to Christchurch's Holi festival there and it was brilliant. I also love the different art installations around town, which add colour and vibrancy to the CBD. There is now a cool Gap Filler called The Commons which holds all sorts of events and is dubbed a "hub of transitional activity", in fact I believe the Holi festival will be held there this year instead.

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3. Nearby to Nature

It is true that no matter where you are in New Zealand, you are never very far from being able to completely submerge yourself in nature. From my humble opinion, Christchurch is one of the best places in the country to base yourself for tonnes of fun outdoor activities in the midst of nature.

Probably my most favourite (and FREE!) activity EVER is Cave Stream, about an hour's drive from Christchurch. Like the name suggests, this is essentially a pitch-black cave with a stream running through it, including a 3-metre waterfall! You wade in one end and out the other - 362 metres later! Take a headlamp, some buddies and some courage, and venture through! Use your common sense and don't go after it has been raining or the forecast is for rain, don't go unprepared, and always tell someone where you are going - this is a dangerous activity, don't say I didn't warn you! Read this for more information.

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Other favourite activities of mine within a one-hour or so drive of Christchurch are...

Castle Hill - a series of incredible rock formations to explore, nearby Cave Stream.

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Ashley Gorge - this is a great spot for camping and summer picnics!

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The Port Hills, near the central city and home to my favourite Rapaki Track.

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Amberley Beach - a small camping spot run by an honesty-box system. Not to mention they do not skimp on ice cream scoops in this little community so be sure to get your compulsory NZ Hokey Pokey ice cream fix here!

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Skiing at Mt Hutt

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Taylor's Mistake - a picturesque beach and the starting point for an incredible coastal walk.

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Oh, I could go on! There you have it - three things I love about Christchurch. A city that has changed so much over the last few years, and will continue to change into the future. A beautiful city of hope, of adventure and creativity, thats only going to get better!

Thank you, Accor Hotels, for reminding me why I love my favourite city so much.

Share something you love about your favourite city in the comments!


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Kicking Back in Krabi

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Although I was really sad to leave my beloved paradise of Langkawi, we had spent a good five weeks travelling through Malaysia and it was time for us to move onwards and upwards through Southeast Asia. I’d travelled a bit of Thailand a few years back for four weeks, so was excited to have even longer this time and be able to explore even more of the country.

We had a few days to kill before we were due to start training Muay Thai at Superpro Samui, so we decided to make our first destination in Thailand Krabi, home to the popular Railay. Railay lives up to the hype, thats for sure! But we’ll get to that.

As we cruised from Langkawi to Thailand's mainland, made our way through immigration and boarded a shuttle bus to Krabi, there was only one thing on my mind. I was hanging out to demolish a giant plate of pad thai and washing it down with a Chang beer...

I managed to sort that one out pretty quickly!

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We had chosen to base ourselves in Krabi town, and spent our first day there mostly just wandering around, gorging on delicious Thai food and having a bit of an explore of the local markets. To be honest - Krabi town itself didn’t have much to do, it seemed to be more of just a transit town for those staying in Railay or Ao Nang.

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The next day we made an day trip to Railay - a 45 minute journey in a long tail boat took us to for a day of beaching and exploring!

Railay is on Thailand's mainland, however there are no roads to get there - it feels like an island because you have to arrive by boat. Sometimes the sea can be rough, and given the design of these boats you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a bit wet!

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There are two sides to Railay, the east and the west, with about a 10 minute walk in between. The side you arrive into, the East, is beautiful when the tide is in - and we were lucky to approach on a high tide as the views were spectacular! However in low tide, this side of Railay is just a giant mudflat…we had to walk about 5 minutes though knee-deep, crab-infested mud (i.e my worst nightmare) to reach our boat on the way back. Womp womp.

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Railay is a popular destination for not only beach-lovers, but also rock climbers. From beginner to crazy-advanced, there is something to suit every skill level in these natural rock formations. We watched some people climbing for a while but didn’t fork out the cash to give it a shot ourselves.

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We made our way to the West beach for a spot of sunbathing and swimming action. This beach did not disappoint! We have some pretty incredible beaches at home, but these cliff faces were really spectacular! Now this was the kind of beach I was looking for.

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My enthusiasm with Railay only grew as we wandered in the direction of Phra Nang beach. I was mesmerised by monkeys lazily dozing high up in the trees, playful cats, uncanny limestone rock formations and jungly tracks to explore.

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We had heard about Railay's Secret Lagoon, but after seeing the rather steep terrain to get there and the fact that we were only armed with jandals (that's flip-flops for those not from New Zealand!), we hastily decided we weren't in the mood for risking our lives and continued onwards towards the beach.

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If it hadn't already, my heart almost skipped a beat when we arrived at Phra Nang beach. It was spectacular!

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Home to the infamous ‘phallous shrine’… essentially an open cave filled with, er, memorabilia…there were queues of people wanting the perfect photo. It was hilarious, but I couldn’t help myself! One couple in particular were taking it very seriously and doing all sorts of poses - it was hilarious!

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We were lucky to have a beautiful day but later in the afternoon the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched as we made our way back to our guesthouse in Krabi town. So much so that we sheltered under an awning out the front of a hairdressers for a few minutes while we waited for the rain to subside. Of course, the rain continued to thunder down so the kind ladies in the salon invited us inside to wait the rain out - they even generously offered us a ride home! Our guesthouse was’t far so we politely declined and made dash for it in the pouring rain. At least it was warm rain, not like that bone-chilling stuff that comes out of the sky back home!

While we both loved Railay and its mind-blowing scenery, we both felt Krabi town itself was a little bit lacklustre. If I were to go again, I'd skip Krabi town altogether and hightail it straight to Railay and Ao Nang - more on that little gem next time!

Where in the world is the most beautiful beach you've visited?


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Travel Budget & Summary: Malaysia

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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.

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Malaysia: Our Itinerary

…interlude as we hopped over to Singapore for 5 nights, before returning to Malaysia…

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

Summary

Accommodation

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.

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Food

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!).

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Transport

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!

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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?


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10 Reasons To Love Langkawi, Malaysia

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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.

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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?

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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)

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Pasir Tenkorak beach

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3. Waterfalls

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.

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We also visited Temurun and Durian Perangin waterfalls, both of which were also pretty magical.

Durian Perangin Waterfall

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Temerun Waterfall

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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!

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Watch out for these cheeky things!

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.

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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!

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Uh so yeah, Rainbow Lodge had BUNNIES!

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.

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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!

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Our favourite Seven Wells Waterfall from the cable car

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!

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6. Exploring

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Seriously though. Langkawi’s landscapes, I just can’t get enough!

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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!

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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.

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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?


Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to follow me on BloglovinInstagram & Twitter to stay up to date with The Butterfly Editions!



Muay Thai Training in Thailand: Week 4

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In the two weeks since we left our beloved Superpro on Koh Samui, we have stayed in four different towns/cities, and five different guesthouses. After staying in a single place for one glorious month I had forgotten how much moving around and having just a couple of days somewhere makes you busy, busy, busy!

Not to mention some unfortunate food-poisoning-laced Tofu Noodle Soup, along with the fact we have been spending hours upon hours (upon HOURS) putting together our three-week itinerary to obtain our China visas (which we leave for on December 29th!), my stressed out little brain has had little time for my beloved little corner of the internet.

But I digress!

Though Week 4 of Muay Thai training in Thailand may have ended over two weeks ago... better late than never, right? Let's talk about our final week at Superpro Samui!

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Our final training session

Week 4 was a fun one. We knew we were coming to the end of our time there so were making the most of our last few days with our group of friends. We continued to train every day, except Saturday as our bus picked us up early in the morning, onwards to our next adventure!

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Despite the smiles, we were so sad to leave!

Classes were feeling easier (though by no means does that mean they were easy!), and I noticed how much fitness I'd gained in the past three weeks. It was still hard to make it to the top of the hill each morning on those killer runs, but it was certainly easier! Since I first made it up without stopping at the end of Week 1, I never once walked up the hill again - a physical and mental feat I am proud of.

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The rounds in the ring were also noticeably easier to get through. In Weeks 1 and 2, I was dying by the third round, but by Week 4 I could get through four three minute rounds with energy, even though I consistently sucked at the compulsory push-ups between rounds. I was still being corrected on my form, but was coming out of the ring with a touch of energy remaining, enough to get through to the end of class.

As I mentioned earlier, Week 4 definitely became more about our friends. Training was just a mere side-activity! We enjoyed plenty of dinners out, revisiting some of our favourite local haunts and some last-minute sightseeing before we left.

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The most epic night of all was our final night on Koh Samui. Everybody squeezed into our little studio apartment and we ruined the last four weeks of hard work by noshing down on copious amounts of chips, cheese and crackers. Later on we headed out for dinner to one of our favourites: Wine Connection at Central Festival (100 baht red wine, yes please!). Perhaps a few too many glasses of wine and Spy wine coolers later, my head was spinning adequately as I drifted off to sleep. A night of lots of fun and a million selfies, but also very sad to to say goodbye to some of my favourite people. Thank goodness for Facebook, right?

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Before we arrived to Superpro Samui, I had absolutely no idea what Muay Thai training in Thailand was going to be like. And I suppose for everybody, depending on your goals and reasons for being there, nobody will come away with the same experience.

However, it certainly came as a surprise to me (and Alan), that not only did I handle an entire month of this full on training schedule in a sport I had absolutely zero prior knowledge about, I really ENJOYED it!

Even when I was frustrated because I just couldn't get the technique right. Even when my alarm bleeped at 7.30 in the morning telling me it was time to wake up. Even when I arrived at the bottom of that damn hill, looked up, and knew that a hellish run was ahead of me. Even when I cried in the shower after my first ever training  wondering how on earth I would get through the whole month.

I'm so, so happy I pushed through the pain and did this.

I'm super proud of my month training Muay Thai in Thailand. Not only did I learn some new bad-ass self defence skills, discover a new sport that I enjoy (I don't mind watching the fighting, though can't see myself ever doing that thanks!), and exercise more often and with more intensity than I ever have before - there is one thing that I am proud of above all else:

I did something completely out of my comfort zone, something that scared the living daylights out of me, and I enjoyed it!

That's what makes me proudest of all.

I miss Superpro Samui every single day.

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See you next time, Samui

Read about the rest of my Muay Thai experiences here: Week 1, Week 2 & Week 3.

If you are a fellow newbie considering Muay Thai training in Thailand, or even if you have never considered it (like me!), but it intrigues you in some way - go for it! You won't regret it.


Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to follow me on BloglovinInstagram & Twitter to stay up to date with The Butterfly Editions!



Penang in Pictures

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Prepare yourself for the onslaught...a plethora of photos of this island I loved.

So what did we get up to?

Street Art

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!

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Temples

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.

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Clan Jetties

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!

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Why yes, that is a long drop toilet going directly into the sea!

Little India

We meandered Georgetown's lanes of Little India, absorbing the rich aromas of spices cooking and Bollywood music blasting.

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Whilst we were there, we couldn't resist grabbing a thali for lunch.

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Perhaps followed by a few rainbow-coloured bites of Indian candy?

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Penang Hill

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.

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Gurney Drive

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.

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While we were nearby, we couldn't miss the Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple and Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple. Breathtaking!

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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!

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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.

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Batu Ferringhi

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.

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Cat Cafe...?

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?

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Delicious Food

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Oh, Penang, you really got me good.

Vibrant, colourful, creative, cultural, interesting, historical, friendly and delicious - in my opinion a place that you just can't quite get enough of.

Penang, I'll be back!

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Have you visited Penang? What was your experience like?


Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to follow me on BloglovinInstagram & Twitter to stay up to date with The Butterfly Editions!



Muay Thai Training in Thailand: Week 3

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How on earth we are already more than 3/4 of the way through our month training Muay Thai at Superpro Samui is beyond me. I remember Week One going soooo slooooow, but this past week has zoomed by! Where has the time gone and can I have it back now please?

I took training a lot easier this week, after spending last Sunday hobbling around feeling sorry for myself. Two hours of morning Muay Thai training, followed by two hours again in the afternoon, before compulsory Saturday night drinks and dancing on the beach (because hey, I'm on a tropical island), apparently makes for one sore left hip that plagued me for much of the week. Kicking, of which there is plenty in Muay Thai, was not possible for a few days!

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Totally worth it though

I skipped Monday entirely, then took it easy for the rest of week with just one class a day. Ha - its funny how 'taking it easy' was still 10 hours of training in a single week, which is more than I'd EVER do at home! But its all relative I guess.

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I was kind of kicking again by Wednesday, and by Thursday was almost back to normal. But then Friday I turned the ripe old age of 25 (when did I grow up?!?!) and I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever worked out on my birthday. Of course, I only did it so I could eat without guilt all the cheeseburgers, milkshakes, cake, lollies, chocolate, chips, cheese and wine....that I may have consumed over the course of the day! Needless to say, getting up on Saturday morning for Muay Thai training was quite the challenge so I'm glad it turned out to be the most relaxed class we've had so far.

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You better believe this was my birthday lunch. BEST EVER.

In terms of the Muay Thai itself, as I say in every weekly update it is bit by bit becoming more natural. Of course I've still got plenty to learn but its surprising how quickly you pick it up when you are training every day in a condensed format like this (as opposed to going once or twice a week like you might for sport's practice at home).

Its funny, because I was chatting to someone here saying how at first I used to enjoy the 20-minute warm up run because it was the part that I could actually do. Now that I can get through the Muay Thai drills without doing everything wrong (more or less, albeit in some awkward beginner way), I actually prefer the Muay Thai part of the class and dread the run! Hill runs suck, why do I choose that route every single day?

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On Saturday night we went to watch the fighting in Lamai - there were a couple of women's Muay Thai fights but also three men's fights, and two young boys fighting (which I mostly covered my eyes for - I didn't want to see them hurt!). One of the men's fights ended in a KO (knockout) which was rather exciting and one of the girl's fight in a TKO (technical knockout). Another men's fight also ended in KO and an elbow that had caught him to the eye had his face dripping with blood. Intense much! It was an interesting experience, where its kind of exciting but also nerve-wracking and also rather violent so you're not quite sure how to feel. I think I kind of enjoyed it?

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Performing their Ram Muay before the fight begins

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Wham! Knockout.

There have been a few goodbyes this week, which is always sad. You have your little group of Muay Thai friends but its always changing as people come and go. It makes me sad to think that its going to be us departing next week - its such a happy little lifestyle here!

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Friends and birthdays. Love my Superpro family!

I felt like this was a lazy week, but laziness is going to hit me for real when we leave in a week's time to Koh Tao. I am going to do nothing for a few glorious days and soak up every second - just like this water buffalo...

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Three weeks down, one to go!

Read about the rest of my Muay Thai experiences here: Week 1Week 2 & Week 4.


Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to follow me on BloglovinInstagram & Twitter to stay up to date with The Butterfly Editions!



Chilling out in the Cameron Highlands

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"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?

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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!

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Many hours were passed drinking copious cups of tea on that second floor balcony

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.

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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.

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Tanah Rata's main street

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.

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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!

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Beneath the Butterfly Garden was a blindingly colourful flower garden - so beautiful!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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...

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...before coming across some interesting figurines and a fun slide!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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).

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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?


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