02.12.2010 33 °C
I spent three nights in the great city before heading elsewhere. The first impression of Malaysia (or at least the small parts of it I’ve seen) is that it’s a model for multi cultural countries. Here people dress very freely. Having in mind that it’s a Muslim country it’s remarkable. In Kuala Lumpur and Penang you have almost an equal share of Chinese, Indians, Indonesians and Malays. The diversity of religions and cultures has created something I haven’t seen before (not even in Europe to this extent). Of what I’ve heard from talking to locals is that regardless of your origins you are indeed a proud Malaysian. Indonesian girls with veils walking amongst with Chinese girls with miniskirts; nobody cares how you look. Apparently there is racism, according to the locals, however it’s hard to spot. Probably it’s a totally different story in the deep country side. Nevertheless, when it comes to the parts I’ve seen, I’m impressed. After applying for my passport last week, I’ve been quite busy trying to make the most of the surroundings of K.L.
I went to Cameron Highlands, an area in the mountains north of the capital that is known for its tea plantations since the colonial times. It was a great escape from the humidity of Kuala Lumpur, which often hovers around the 80% mark. Up there (1500 meter above sea level) the air was dry and the temperature lower. It truly felt like a typical north European summer day. At night it got pretty cold, a blanket is a must! The climate and nature was quite similar to the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, India. The thing that stood out the most was all the old Land Rovers still running across the valleys, one got an impression that they would fall apart any time. I’ve never seen so many type 1 and type 2 Land Rovers in my life. If you’re into classic cars, you should pay a visit.
In the Highlands I met some great people. Me, a Dutch guy, two Frenchmen and a girl from New Zealand made some very beautiful hikes in the area. Rather than paying money for the organized tours around the area, we hitchhiked everywhere. It was incredibly easy to catch a lift, mostly on the back of pickups and lorries.
The highlights of this area were the tea plantations and a tea factory where you could see how the tea is made. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to pay a visit to the butterfly farm. There you can see loads of butterflies, reptiles and really cool insects.
Also in the Highlands, I met this 80 year old American Arnold that totally blew my mind with travel stories. He ran away from home when he was 16, forging his identity to get into the US army before he got sent to China. This was all back in 1947. Imagine a 16 year old American alone in China nowadays. When he and his wife were backpacking through Europe back in the seventies, they came to Spain and stayed for 40 years! After his wife past away he’s been traveling on his own, when I met him he’s been on the road for three years and has no plans whatsoever to come back to Europe.
I told him about my travels in India and Sri Lanka and he got really keen on going (he hasn’t been on the subcontinent for almost half a century). Last time he went to India was with “the magic bus” that went over land from Europe, that’s proper hardcore in those days. Respect. When I told him about that American citizens can obtain a ten year visa for India, he booked a ticket to Colombo straight away in order to apply for it there and also to see how the island itself has changed.
After Cameron Highlands me, one of the French guys (Simon) and the girl from New Zealand (Melanie) went north west to the island of Penang. Staying in Georgetown we made a lot of miles walking the giant air conditioned malls that basically were connected to each other, creating some kind of mega mall. If you’re into colonial architecture it’s a water hole for the enthusiasts, apart from that you really have to be creative to prevent boredom.
We found two really amazing sushi restaurants, me and Simon were really pleased. I think we had 24 pieces each in two days, and that was only the dinners. Compared to Europe it was really a “good bang for the buck”.
The most outstanding though was a foot spa we had all three of us. Ever heard of “Fish spa”? It’s an amazing thing that does wonders to your tired feet. You put your feet into a giant aquarium full of small hungry fishes. On you dip your feet; the fish comes and bites off tiny pieces of dead skin from them. The first five minutes were really ticklish and then you got used to it. People say it feels like acupuncture (I can’t say). After half an hour of being fish food, I can say that the result was amazing. I don’t recall my heels being as soft as they are now. If you’ve been on the road for a couple of months like I have, don’t hesitate!
I’m currently on a “super VIP coach” from Penang back to K.L. It’s a normal size long distance coach with only 18 wide cockpit seats, making it really spacey. When it comes to entertainment, every seat is equipped with a flat screen TV along with a game console and headphones. We actually managed to hitchhike with one of these back in Cameron Highlands. That’s hitchhiking in style!
Here’s Simon enjoying the free ride.
My passport hasn’t arrived yet (of course), hopefully it will arrive in the beginning of next week. If not, more money down the drain for me (I have a flight from Singapore to Jakarta on the 9th). I get upset whenever I think about how bureaucratic western countries are when you’re in trouble. In order to think about other things, I’ve found a climbing gym in K.L. I plan to visit. Probably the passport won’t arrive before next week; however I don’t want to be too far from it if it does. Maybe I’ll pay a one day visit in the old colonial city of Melaka. We’ll see what happens.
Roger and out