A Travellerspoint blog

Malaysia

First taste of Malaysia

all seasons in one day 35 °C
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I left Koh Phangan not because I wanted to (I could have stayed forever....), but because I had to... My thai visa had expired. I caught a very early morning boat/bus combo to take me all the way to Georgetown on the island of Penang in Malaysia. Only after paying a fine for overstaying my visa... eeek.

Once in Georgetown I headed towards Clockwise hostel which was unfortunately fully booked. Luckily, Claire, who organised the hostel, agreed to sleep on the sofa to accommodate me and we went out together where I had my first taste of Malaysian food; soon to become my all time favourite cuisine...

My first full day in Georgetown I walked around the water front and headed into the ancient Chinese clan villages and stilted houses built on jetties out into the sea. Walking through one of the quieter clan jetties felt a little odd, people were just getting on with their lives or hanging out in the back yards. I didn't want to take pictures of them, and in some cases I felt like I was imposing on their personal space. So I headed to the larder clan jetty, also the more touristy. Here, most of the houses had been converted into little shops for snacks or tourist trinkets. The jetty was so busy here, I think I arrived just when a coach load of package tourists arrived and so this jetty was uncomfortable for opposite reasons.

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There were even Chinese temples in the villages
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Giant otters playing in the sea
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A view of the spectacular bridge connecting the island of Penang to the mainland.

From the clan jetties it was just a short walk to the modern cultural areas of Georgetown to look at the amazing street art. Along my way I was stopped by a group of locals to pose for some photos and they left me with a gift of 'Langsat' a small plum-like fruit which had segments and large stones like mangosteens. I had seen and tried them before, but I never knew what they were called until now!
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Building on my skills developed on KPG, I decided to rent a scooter! Driving in Georgetown was so crazy compared to the quiet roads of KPG, not to mention the insane number of one-way streets. I drove to the mall to do a spot of retail therapy and fit in with the fashions of Malaysia. On the way there I "accidentally" drove through a police road block which took me by surprise. On instinct I just waved back to the police officer!! I think I could've blagged my way out of it anyway!
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My bike
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I got treated to a meal by Ken who rented me the bike...
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Lok Lok was one of my favourite street stalls in Malaysia; you pick your skewers and cook them at the stall yourself either in frying oil or water baths, you get a paper plate and unlimited spicy peanut sauce. At the end you give the stall owner your empty skewers which are all colour coded based on price. Each skewer was no more than 40p!

The next day the rain was torrential, and so I started with coffee and a cake at a local 'cat cafe', where you could cuddle some posh kitties over your coffee! After the rain stopped I took my bike along the coastal road to one of the main beaches on the island; Batu Ferrengi, before continuing on towards the island's national park. Unfortunately, due to the rain and the fact that I stopped about 20 times along the road to take photos and look at the view, I arrived too late to enter the park... Not like me at all...!!
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Batu Ferrengi
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Jetty at the national park

That evening after searching the internet for a high rated restaurant; Ivy Nonya House. I treated myself to the first of many beef rendangs (probably the most expensive meal of my trip so far, the meal cost me all of £8!). The rendang was fantastic and set the bar very high for all future rendangs!
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My final day in Georgetown I drove my bike through some of the local residential areas towards Penang Hill and the botanical gardens. The freedom of driving wherever you want on a scooter was just incredible and allowed for a more natural way to sightsee and discover the city. The buildings in the suburbs of Georgetown were very bizarre, like the concrete tower blocks from the 70's, built so high in concrete painted white the mould and staining on the buildings made them look awful, but the people living in this areas are what made it beautiful to explore. From the road I saw an amazing looking building partially up the hill and so headed towards it just from sight... As I climbed the hill up towards it I found that it was a huge Buddhist temple complex; Ke Lok Si, which was well kept and had great views out over the city.

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A cow just chilling out at the side of a busy main road!
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White concrete tower blocks dominated the area
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Spotting the temple through the trees
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The road appeared to continue on past the temple and there was some kind of cycling race going up there, so I decided to inspect further... Passing tired cyclists pushing themselves as hard as they could up the steep incline on a motorised scooter shouldn't have been fun, but every single person had a massive smile on their face and said 'Hi' to me as I passed. The road got very steep at one point, but then ended at a beautiful reservoir with an even better view point of the city... I relaxed here for a few minutes but left after I started to attract a lot of attention from the finished cyclists who all wanted photos with me!
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For my evening meal I once again decided to splash out and went to another high rated restaurant I found online; 'Mama's Nonya House'. I sat at a table by myself, but before I had finished looking at the menu I was invited to join a table of 3 Malaysian business people on a business meal, one lady from Georgetown and two guys from KL. They were surprised to see me travelling alone and asked me many questions about where I had been and what had led me there. After the small inquisition the conversation turned casual, and we ordered multiple dishes off the menu to share, one of which was lemon fish head soup, which I did try but was pretty horrific! The group were really lovely, honest people, who were just genuinely interested in getting to know a foreign tourist. There was no scam, no trying to rip me off, no ulterior motive at all... in fact, they wouldn't let me pay my share at the end, for which I was very grateful. Unfortunately, my camera battery had not lasted the day, as it would be lovely to have a photo memory of this meal.

This was the second meal that I had paid for me in 3 days in Malaysia, and I was going to find that it would by-no-means be the last.... the relationship of the Malaysian people with tourists was so so different compared to what I had experienced in Vietnam or Cambodia for example. I was not being exploited, I paid the same as any Malaysian person, people seemed to be honest and but curious... I assumed that this was due to the wealth of the country, but I guess I would see as my travels continued...

That night Claire from Clockwise and I went for a few drinks at the local reggae bar, where there was live music of a mixed duo. Their singing almost brought us close to tears on several occasions! After this we headed to a skybar across town and had some swanky cocktails with another great view out over the city!
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I loved Georgetown, not only was the city full of art and culture, but also some cool bars and amazing food. But by far the best experience of Malaysia so far was the interactions I had had with the local people, It was a great first impression of Malaysia!

Posted by Libbytes 06:31 Archived in Malaysia Tagged penang georgetown Comments (0)

Living like a local in Ipoh

semi-overcast 30 °C
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From Georgetown I decided to take a bus to the city of Ipoh, not a place in Malaysia that is well-renowned for tourism, but it was only a short journey away and the bus was cheap! The bus dropped me at a bus-station that was quite a way out of town, but I didn't feel stranded for long; local people in the station showed me the way to the public bus into the city centre which cost about 20p!

Once in the centre I checked into an awful hostel... probably the worst I stayed in my whole trip, small with no window, pretty foul smelling and overpriced... but it was the only hostel in Ipoh that I could find. That evening I ate at an Indian restaurant, and on the way back to the hostel bumped into 2 swiss guys, Greg and Fady. I guess just cause we were all tourists, they said hi to me in the street and we chatted for a while before exchanging details to perhaps meet somewhere else in Malaysia since they were heading off.

The following day I planned to head out to some of the local temples and caves, but I was finding it difficult to work out how to get there. As I mentioned, Ipoh is not a busy tourist town, and so the infrastructure to the sights is practically non-existent, and I couldn't find anywhere to rent a bike or scooter even the locals didn't know how to get there. I eventually found one guy who was in the reception of my hostel talking to the manager who knew which bus to get to the temples, so I headed out.

However, I decided to go and grab some food first since and headed off in the opposite direction to the bus stop... a few minutes later, the guy who gave me the directions caught up to me in the street, concerned that I has misunderstood his directions. When I explained that I was getting lunch, he got excited to take me to his favourite kari mee (curry noodles) restaurant which we said was just around the corner. I figured that it was worth a try, and it didn't seem like he was trying to trick me. So we did go just around the corner to a little oudoors stall which was quite busy, and the kari mee was.... amazing!
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This is what sparked my addiction to kari mee, which I then had almost everyday for lunch!

At lunch, I got talking with Ikram and he asked if I was still thinking of visiting the caves... I was. Ikram asked if he could join me in visiting the caves since he had never been before. I was a little doubtful at first, but based on our conversations I agreed and we went to the Sam Poh Tong Caves in Ikram's car. From here, we drove to Gua Tempurung, a massive cave system, and joined a walking tour through the caves which was full of local University students (who again all wanted photos with me, as the only tourist..). Ikram and I had a fantastic day, it really was fun. In our journeys between the caves we discussed the differences between our cultures and mainly religion. Ikram was muslim and couldn't believe that I didn't believe in any higher being. He kept asking, "but what do you think happens when you die?!", he couldn't get his head around it, and in the end we both just laughed about it!

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A beautiful view of limestone karsts.... oh, and a kfc sign
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It is good luck to release tortoises within the temple grounds, and there were hundreds of them here (quite sad really)
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After the caves, Ikram took me for some cendol, (a malaysian dessert of shaved ice, coconut cream, sticky rice and sugary sweets... very odd), before dropping me off back at my hostel.
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Back in the hostel I met 2 new additions to my dorm room; a Japanese guy called Takaaki and a Chinese guy called John. we arranged to go out for food together and so headed out to a local hawker market. The satay and peanut sauce we shared was pretty good, and dirt cheap.
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After our starter, we met Ikram at a small restaurant where he introduced us all to cheese naans with curry sauce, before driving us to a place where we go a make your own fish medley... which if I'm honest, I wasn't a fan of. Most of the items where pretty fake tasting, like the artificial fish balls and fish sticks (a little like crab sticks but worse!). Ikram dropped us back at our hostel and after chatting before bed, we all planned to go to the bus station the next day to move on...

Ipoh was not a touristy city by any means. I was very lucky to have found Ikram who played as a personal tour guide and malaysian-culture educator! After speaking to both John and Taka, I found that their experiences of visiting the caves were very different to mine; a 2 hour bus ride there and an expensive taxi journey back... didn't sound like the fun I had. Also neither of them had even heard about the large Gua Tempurung caves, it seems that it is more of a malaysian-tourist attraction rather than one for foreigners. I was beginning to feel the true warmth and hospitality of the Malaysian people. The day with Ikram was so fun, what's more, he insisted on paying for everything that day and wouldn't accept any of my money... there was once again, no scamming, not ulterior motives, just a genuine helpfulness and curiosity of tourists and foreign cultures (plus he also wanted to visit the caves and skive-off work!)

You could say that I took a risk... You are always taught not to go anywhere with strangers, especially strange men, and especially not in a foreign country, but the whole day just seemed natural. There were no apparent ulterior motives, I was never once suspicious, and I trusted my instinct to judge the situation. If I hadn't gone with Ikram, based on public opinion or risk assessment, then I don't know what I would have done... spent all day on hot public transport and potentially needing to be bailed out using expensive taxis....?!

I mean, it is easy to say it was the correct decision in hindsight, but I did learn a lot from this experience. The correct advice is to always keep yourself safe - at all times, not to put yourself in vulnerable situations, BUT - to trust your instincts and to trust humanity. Each individual should be judged separately, not everybody is out to get you.

Posted by Libbytes 16:56 Archived in Malaysia Tagged cave ipoh Comments (0)

Feeling the cold in Cameron Highlands

rain 20 °C
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From Ipoh, John and I headed from the local bus station out towards the Cameron Highlands. The road there wound through the mountains and jungle and was one of the most incredible roads yet. The higher we climbed into the interior of peninsular Malaysia, the worse the weather got... foggy and misty looking out over the valleys from the road. When we finally arrived in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands region, the sky was completely grey and it was raining heavily... A nice difference from all the heat, well, for about 10 minutes before I realised I only had one pair of full length cotton trousers and one jumper! By the time we checked into a hostel in the town it was late, so we headed straight for food at an indian restaurant which did delicious naan bread.
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The next day the rain was still relentless, but John and I decided to try and brave it anyway. We got as far as a coffee shop where we had scones, strawberry jam and cream with local tea (well, coffee for me). The climate in the Cameron Highlands makes it perfect for growing many of Malaysia's fruit and vegetables, but in particular, strawberries, which were bought to the region by the British - hence the influence of locally produced strawberry jam with a cream tea.
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After chilling for a bit the rain died down enough for a walk down into one of the valleys for some strawberry picking and sightseeing...
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Chocolate coloured river!
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On the way back to the town from the valley the heavens really did open up and we managed to find some shelter in a local golf pavilion when we stayed for about half an hour before sucking it up and just getting wet... we arrived back at the hostel very cold and very very wet! After a hot shower and a nap to recover we met some of the other travellers staying at our hostel; Chin, Romy, Roelie and Bryant. We made arrangements to meet up the following day to visit the tea plantations and hang out.
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Surprisingly (and luckily), the following day was actually lovely weather, and so John, Romy, Roelie and I caught a taxi over to one of the local tea plantations that is open to the public. In the plantation was a small museum and information showing how the tea is dried and packaged on the site, but the main attraction was the views of the plantation out over the valley. After a quick pit-stop of cake and coffee we took a walk up one of the hills which we heard lead to a mossy forest and even better views over the valley.
Cake and coffee
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We managed to hitch-hike back into town, which meant all 4 of us squeezing into the back seats!
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When we arrived back the weather turned slightly and so we began a game of pictionary, which slowly attracted lots of people! I was the best by default... as the only English player it was easy to guess words such as 'Wellington boot', that nobody else had ever heard of!
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After the game, Chin took us out for some traditional steam boat, a Malaysian variation of Chinese hot pot.
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The evening carried on late into the night, with far too much Malaysian vodka being drunk... the next day was NOT a good one!

The Cameron Highlands region of Malaysia were such a contrast to the rest of asia I had visited, and reminded me somewhat of Da Lat in Vietnam, with the cooler climate and fruit and vegetable growing farms. However, it felt slightly more commercial than the rest of Malaysia, with more group tours, open tea plantations charging a fortune for coffee and all the gimmicky 'pick-your-own' strawberry farms. But this meant that I was able to meet lots of other travellers who I keep in touch with even now, and there was no denying the beauty of the plantations.

Posted by Libbytes 13:54 Archived in Malaysia Tagged cameron_highlands tanah_rata Comments (0)

On the nature trail in Kuching (Borneo)

sunny 35 °C
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From the Cameron Highlands I headed down to Kuala Lumpur to catch a flight the next day to the Malaysian city of Kuching in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. I bough my ticket here on a bit of a whim after checking the AirAsia website - the flight was about £20 return!

In KL I met up with Fiedel (who I met in Tanah Rata) for food and drinks.
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The following day I took the short flight from KL to Kuching. My flight was very interesting as I was sat next to a Malaysian environmental conversationalist who lived in Kuching. we spoke about my travels and as we got closer to Kuching, she told me about the palm oil plantations around the city that concern her and the work that she does with the local community to try and promote conservation. She also told me about her brother who is a tour guide in Kuching and so we swapped details.

The palm oil plantations seemed to go on forever...

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My flight landed in the afternoon where I caught a taxi into the city centre and checked into Malibu Lifestyle hostel, which was really great value and I absolutely loved! I ate across the road at a simple cafe and had one of the most amazing meals mostly (I think) down to the MSG which made my tongue tingle, but still it was delicious!
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My first full day in Kuching I teamed up with some of the other people staying at my hostel, Jason (American), Ingrid (German) and Antonio (Spanish). We walked around the town, dropping by the tourist information centre to pick up some bus timetables and park opening times.
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From the information we were given, we decided to catch the afternoon bus to Semengoh Orangutan Reserve to catch the 3pm feeding time... Unfortunately we missed the bus, but a taxi there between us was only a few ringgit more.
At the entrance to the reserve we were warned by the wardens that since it was fruiting season in Sarawak, the possibility of actually seeing an Orangutan was extremely low as they were able to feed themselves and stay away from the wardens. We were told that nobody at the reserve had even seen the troop in over a week... still, we thought it was worth a shot and so paid the RM10 entrance.

We walked through the reserve along the main road towards the feeding area, where the wardens place food twice daily in the hope the Orangs will break their camouflage in the jungle to visit. We waited here with a large crowd of mainly domestic tourists for around 20 minutes before one of the wardens broke through the crowd to announce that the troop had been spotted just a short distance away. He told us that the walk was through thick jungle and the probability of leeches and ticks was very high. In hindsight, this seemed like a scare tactic to make sure the families with young (and noisy) children wouldn't come, as I didn't see a single leech or tick along the frequently used path...

Walking through the reserve

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Spying the first female

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Seeing Richie the HUGE male with his long feathered arms

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That evening, Jason, Ingrid and I went to a local bar 'SpeakEazy' where the owners were so friendly; plying us with free shots and tasty hot snacks. We played a few games, first scrabble but after a few beers we our brains were fried and we turned to Jenga!

Free shot anyone?


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The next day I chilled out around Kuching with Jason. The day started very well, with a bowl of Sarawak's version of Laksa. Laksa in Malaysia varies so considerably between districts and towns, I was surprised. In the UK, I enjoy 'Laksa' dishes, they usually always taste the same, a soup-like pale-yellow coconut broth with chicken and prawns, flavoured with lemongrass/ginger/tumeric... I think... My first Laksa, in Penang, was pretty far from this I assumed back in England we had just made up our version of 'Laksa'; a strong fish broth with bitter tasting leaves, fermented fish and prawns, I must admit I didn't enjoy it. However, the Sarawak laksa.... where do I begin? Just cue the photo....

Rice noodles with a thick tasty coconut curry sauce seasoned with fish sauce, lime leaves, lemongrass and ginger, shredded chicken and fresh prawns, with a spicy sauce and fresh lime to season with... For me, Malaysia in a meal.


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After breakfast, we visited the Sarawak museum (and it's eclectic collection of horrifically-bad taxidermy!) where we were acousted by a group of similarly aged Malays who asked to film us in for short interview and to practice their English.

Walking through the streets


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Soon to be superstar...


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The taxidermy was.... questionable


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From here we walked almost the entirety of the city centre, through parks and cemeteries, and eventually to a creepy abandoned observatory sky deck building (which we managed to sneak into!) and then snaking our way back to the hostel. Really.... what would I have done without my 3G and google maps?!
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Almost back at the hostel we stumbled upon a bizarre youth event, mainly because of the blaring music and loads of skateboarders outside. It was an event hosted by AZAM Youth Central, a Sarawak-wide Youth promoter, and we stumbled upon some friends from the management of the SpeakEazy bar again, who convinced us (well me as Jason was camera-shy) to do an official interview for their site about how myself as a tourist viewed Malaysia and specifically Sarawak. It was good fun, but I don't think they actually used it as I never heard from them and I follow him now on facebook... The event was cool, some live bands and an open mic competition, a team CosPlay competition and loads of craft stalls and geeky things for sale. We stayed for about an hour at the centre. Since we saw them that day, we had to end the night in the SpeakEazy bar again...
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Kuching town hall at night


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When we finally got back to the hostel, the hostel owner let us know that in the nearby National Park 2 'Raffelsia' flowers were reported to have bloomed, which is a rare occurrence considering they are only in flower for 2-3 days after a budding time of close to a year. Raffelsia are one of the World's largest flowers, and the Malaysian variety in Sarawak is apparently the largest of them all. The owner said he had a couple who had already arranged a taxi and guide to the park for the following day and so we would get a cheap price if we tagged along. Jason and I did and we had a great day with David and Jackie an older couple from the UK.

Once we arrived at the park we teamed up with some Chinese tourists and followed the guide to the newly opened flower in the jungle...


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The flower produces a smell like rotting flesh to attract insects for pollination, although I could barely smell anything and this one had only just opened that morning


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The flowers actually have no stems, leaves or true roots, and are in fact parasites of a species of jungle vines, meaning they can appear anywhere amongst the vines and are generally hard to find.
The second flower had been open 2 days and it was a deeper colour with a slightly stronger smell, but still nothing to shout about - especially compared to what I had heard about the supposedly horrendous odour.
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After finding the 2 flowers our guide left us, and so as a group of the 4 of us, we decided to explore the rest of the National Park (Gunung Gading).
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We actually then found one more flower by ourselves!

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On the way back we stopped briefly at quite a large cave system know affectionately as the 'fairy caves' due to the moss covered stalagmites that make it look a little magical!
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Defo starting to look a bit browner here anyway!


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The following day Jason and I had arranged to go Kayaking on the Semadang River. I had heard that this was 'THE' thing to do in Kuching as apparently the river flows gently and is shaded by the trees lining it. there is a good chance of spotting animals along the river, especially hornbills which I was dying to see!

The day started early as we travelled by jeep to the drop off point at a tiny village.

Early morning start

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The chocolate brown Semadang river

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We joined a group with 2 canadians and our 2 tour guides who took pictures throughout the whole trip which they gave us on a CD at the end!

About to set off


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There were a lot of other groups that set off from the same point so we started very bunched up, luckily for us our group was set on having a leisurely day and we quickly got left behind (and in peace!)


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Happy kayaking!


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I took my 99p binoculars, but despite my best efforts, I didn't see a thing! A few myna birds was about it! Although the jungle lining the river was so dense that I probably wouldn't have seen anything anyway! We headed towards a mini waterfall where the water was a lot clearer and had a brief chill and swim.
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After this we stopped for lunch at a tiny Bidayuh village. The Bidayuh people are indigenous to Sarawak and still live similar lifestyles to centuries ago. The founder of the kayak company I went on the tour with was apparently a Bidayuh entrepreneur and gives most of his profits back into his old village. The one we visited also benefited from the kayak tours as they get paid for showing us around, but they told us that their main source of income is the growing of native fruits and spices to sell at market. All profits are shared between the villagers as the gardens are communal.

The village's communal garden was either side of the footpath between the houses.


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Drying black pepper and cocoa (which tasted awful!)


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I had no idea pineapples grew like this! Only one pineapple per bush means they take up so much space and as usually sold at a loss compared to more 'compact' fruit.


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From here, we continued downstream, through some rapids and back to the jeep.
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Our guides Mackenzie and Luke!


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As if I hadn't done enough in Kuching already... the next day I went with Antonio to Bako national park with the hope of seeing the famous Proboscis monkeys that are indigenous to Borneo. Unfortunately, my reputation of being late now spans all the way into Asia and we missed the bus that would've taken us there for RM2!! Luckily a minibus was only RM10 (£2) each and actually overtook the bus on the way! After arriving at the bus stop, we found that we then had to get a boat over to the park which was lovely.

The 'harbour'!


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Landing on the beach of the nature reserve


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Pretty much as soon as we arrived on the beach we saw our first proboscis monkeys, a pair, just strolling along the sand. I didn't even have time to get my camera out! We followed them carefully as the climbed into the trees at the edge of the beach and watched them for a while.

Spot the monkey....


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There were also a lot of other animals that were easy to spot, including a semi-tame bearded pig which hangs around the cafe area waiting for snacks! We were told to watch ourself though as his tusks can be quite painful if he charged!

Pig bum


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Just a 2 min walk from the cafe here we saw another proboscis monkey, this one a little closer.

A little more obvious...


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We continued walking deeper into the park to see what we could find...
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The petrified forest was really cool


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Silver langurs


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Antonio trying to see where to go since there was a fallen tree blocking the path...


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Not the nicest thing to encounter... it really was the size of a head! Scary!!


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Baby monkey!


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We then stumbled across a large troop of proboscis monkeys high in the trees, and again those 99p binoculars came into their own. I tried to get photos, but they were just too high. The sounds they made we equally beautiful and hilarious, a really diverse vocabulary. We sat and watched them for a long time. Until.... and I know, I should be better at this by now, learnt from my mistakes etc... we realised we missed the last boat back to the bus stop... this wasn't too bad, apart from we now had to pay for a 'private' boat back which cost us RM50 each! This should help me learn my lesson on being late... But after sitting and watching Proboscis monkeys play in the trees for about 3 hours, I think it was worth it!
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After most of my original hostel buddies had now left, I spend the next day alone and so decided to rent a scooter and explore some of the local villages by myself. I basically looked at a map and used my 3G google maps to get lost and then found again! I had an amazing day driving through some really remote villages, where everyone would wave to me and want me to stop to tell me how pale my skin was! I originally drove to the Sarawak cultural village (basically a museum) because I had heard it was good, but once I leant the price to get in I couldn't justify it. That's when I just started driving around, going down tiny streets on google maps to see what I could find. The villages I found probably had twice the culture of the tourist attraction, plus, they were free. I stopped for roti at what was basically a house not a cafe then explored the mangroves and delta system of the Sarawak river.

My scooter!


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The visitors centre for the 'cultural village'


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Watching crabs dig holes


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I did consider doing the trek up here, but it was a bit hot...


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The culture of this village was definitely more 'real'


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Exploring the mangroves


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When I got home I was pretty exhausted after a full day out in the sun, but I met a German girl at the hostel and we went to a cool bar in the old town.
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For my final day in Kuching I returned to the Laksa restaurant (again... I basically came here everyday!). This morning it was very busy and so I stumbled across what I think must be Malaysian etiquette and would explain why I got a lot of my meals paid for me in Malaysia! I shared a table with a stranger and sat at the opposite corner to him. We didn't talk at all, but when my food was delivered he insisted on paying! After this we spoke a little, but then he politely said goodbye and left to go to work. I think there most be some kind of etiquette that says that any man on a table must pay for the meal... he had no ulterior motive... just wanted to pay!

I still had my bike until the afternoon since I rented for 2 days, and so I drove to the opposite side of Kuching to visit the cat museum (which was awful!) and the neighbourhoods over that way.

The best thing from the cat museum (which was on top of a hill) was the view!


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Kucing in Bahasa means cat, so the city of Kuching is known as the 'cat-city', and there are actually a lot of cat tributes around the town, as well as the cat museum.
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Further down the river that afternoon I stumbled across a traditional boat race! I sat and watched for a long time, the atmosphere was amazing, and although I couldn't understand the commentary that echoed out over the tannoys, it sounded exciting!
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I loved my week in Kuching, it was definitely my animal capital of travelling - even though I didn't see a hornbill! The food was fantastic too and I didn't once have a bad meal. The malaysian culture here is so different to the mainland where Islam is the majority religion. Most people here were either non-religious (or practised animism) or weak Christians. So the dress of most people was casual, women wore shorts and I didn't get the same attention for what I wore as I did on the mainland. Borneo is somewhere I would definitely come back to. The city is large and modern, but just outside of this is enough culture and nature to keep you entertained for years!

Posted by Libbytes 04:20 Archived in Malaysia Tagged borneo kuching sarawak orangutan Comments (0)

Party time in KL

semi-overcast 34 °C
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I flew back to KL from Kuching and checked into Sunshine Bedz, which was a cheap backpacker hostel very close to the centre. By this point in the trip my preconceptions of backpacker accommodation was beginning to fade. It's true that there were a lot of young travellers who come away to booze and party... but there are always other more rounded people at these hostels too. And let's not forget, that I do love a good party too... I didn't have to wait long for one either!

The first day started normal enough. I met a British girl named Claire who I made friends with very quickly and easily. We visited the famous KL malls, Timesquare, Pavillion and the Electronics mall. Luckily they are almost as interesting even when you don't spend money! One had a rollercoaster inside it!
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Timesquare Mall

We ate in the main street food area on Jalan Alor, where I discovered my favourite Kari Mee noodles yet! I think I ate here every day after that!! Then in the evening the owner of the hostel, Patrick, convinced a group of us to go out. We ended up very drunk in an Irish bar!
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I don't know where these straws came from, or what we were doing with them!
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No surprises that I got up very late the following day, and the weather was very overcast. I decided to walk down to see the Petronas towers and gardens - only after more kari mee of course...
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Chatting to some locals!
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Locals cooling down in the park

That night ended much the same, with the same gang heading out to the local bars and clubs for too many drinks...
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KL is an incredible city. So far, nothing like the rest of Malaysia I have visited. It's a bustling modern metropolitan, with malls more impressive than any in Europe I've been to. There was also a lot more travellers here, which was good really as I got to make some good friendships and let my hair down a little!

Posted by Libbytes 09:45 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Making friends in Melaka

sunny 30 °C
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The previous night out lead once again to a late morning, but I eventually made it to the impressive bus station in KL to catch a bus South to Melaka. On the bus I got chatting to a Chinese/Malaysian girl named Viny. She studied in KL and was on the way home to see her family. When we arrived at Melaka, I planned to get a taxi to my hostel. Viny checked in on me before she left and was shocked by how much the taxi driver was going to charge me (I remember thinking it was a reasonable price). So after a brief argument between Viny and the taxi guy, Viny dragged me away and got her Mum and Dad (who were picking her up from the station) to give me a lift to my hostel!

In the car the family began to frantically question me! How long had I been travelling? Was I scared being alone? Did I like Malaysia? Did I like Malaysian food? It was like an interrogation (but friendly). I said I loved Malaysian food and that it was actually my favourite food, especially Rendang. At this point, the Mum almost yelled to stop the car so she could open the boot and get my out some chicken rendang she had made that morning that was packed in lots of little Tupperware boxes. Apparently the family was on their way to a party and she was taking the rendang as a gift, but could spare one box. I took it gladly!

The family dropped me off outside my hostel and Viny added me on Facebook; we still keep in touch! I checked in and tried to eat the rendang the family gave me, but it was so spicy with chilis my mouth was on fire and I only managed half!! Haha

That evening I headed out to the town centre where there was a bustling street market. There was also a lot of street food, my favourites being the dim sum, potato puffs and crispy won tons. I got a gold anklet made for me here too!
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These pop-up cards were incredible, I wish I'd bought one...
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Market taxis!!

The following day I hired a bike and explored the town's waterways, china town, little India, to the townhall and beachfront.
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I stopped to eat another Rendang at a little restaurant - this one was mild enough to eat all of!
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One of the craziest things about the waterways of Melaka were the amount of monitor lizards just mooching about. They were everywhere. it was quite scary at first, because they look like crocodiles in the water and are very big. But I got daring towards the end of the day and managed to get quite close for some good photos.
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That evening I began to head back out to the street market when I stumbled upon a Chinese parade with dragons and lanterns. I followed the group of people who were singing and playing drums. However, my camera couldn't cope with the low light, so I only managed a few blurred photos.
After stalking the group from a distance for a few minutes I was eventually spotted and dragged into the group and given my own lantern! They were celebrating the 'Moon Festival'. My guide became Stella, who was probably about my age.
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The group continued to march through the town until we got to a small clan house? Inside there was some traditional competitions, one of which was who could peel a Pomelo (or chinese grapefruit) the fastest! The families really got in to it and it was very enjoyable to be part of! We then ate moon cake and they gave me some to take away.
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You're supposed to then eat the fruit, but it was so sour!

It was a great evening! In fact the whole of my time in malaysia so far I have met engaging locals who are so genuine and kind. Whether it be the Chinese Malays or the Muslim Malays, Malaysian culture seems to merge them together and the outcome is a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.

Posted by Libbytes 10:06 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Raining in Kuantan

storm 35 °C
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I arrived in Kuantan late at night and the weather was already starting to get bad. I checked into Kuantan Backpackers where, once again on my trip, I had the dorm to myself!

In the morning, the rain cleared a little so I headed to the town. But the rain had made it super humid, it was tough going.
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Kuantan Mosque
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I stopped at a small restaurant and truely discovered roti canai. Although I had had this dish elsewhere in Malaysia, here it was an institution! Everyone was eating it and the cafe was full! it's basically a small oily pancake with a spicy curry to dip it into. You have it for breakfast!
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Delicious roti canai here!
From here I walked across the estuary and thought about finding somewhere cooler...
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Kuantan's hollywood sign!
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I made a kitty friend!
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he followed me for AAAAGGGGEEESSS haha
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Yep... this was a real shop

Eventually I succumbed to the heat and headed back to the hostel for an hour in the aircon. Once cool enough to head back outside, I jumped on to a bus to Teluk Chempedak beach, supposedly a beautiful beach not far away.

Pretty much as soon as I got there, the heavens opened and a massive thunderstorm began which lasted a few hours. It was cool at first to watch the lightning, but then that novelty faded and I visited the local McDonald's for some shelter!
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The beach had potential... but the rain ruined it
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Yep, maccies in Malaysia is the same, except you can get Milo (chocolate milk) as your drink!

Kuantan was a nice sleepy town. Unfortunately the weather meant I didn't make the most out of the local beach here. But it also meant I could relax in the hostel and catch up on some film watching (that evening I watched all the hungergame films) and some blogging. Overall it was a pleasant town.

Posted by Libbytes 05:03 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Kayaking in Kuala Terengganu

sunny 37 °C
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My plan after Kuantan (mainly because of the weather) was to get a bus all the way to Kuala Besut to grab a boat to the Perhentian Islands. Unfortunately, I missed the bus in the morning that would allow me to do that. As an alternative, I decided to simply get a bit closer to them and travel to Kuala Terrengganu which is essentially an island itself connected by many bridges to the mainland.

Whilst at the bus station looking for the next bus to KT I met a nice lady called Sue who informed me that the bus station I was at was a long distance station, the correct one for big buses to Kuala Besut and KT, but not for the quick local buses. So she and her husband drove me in their car to the local bus station across the town where she was going to work - another example of the kindness and friendliness of Malaysian people!

I eventually got a bus to KT and then a taxi (as I didn't fancy the walk in the humidity) to Awi's yellow house hostel. This place was amazing! it's a small number of wooden huts on stilts over the mangroves connected by a wooden deck. The little houses were basic (and I mean, basic) but beautiful. Awi was also a great guy and on the first day arriving told me about the local night market and let me hire a bike for free.
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I'm not sure what this was, but it was tasty
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My little hut - which was an upgrade from the first night which leaked
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View from hut
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Bathroom
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Bedroom

The following day Awi left me use the kayak at the house for free and I spent all day exploring, I basically kayaked around the island. By the end of the day my arms were burning from the effort and my face from the sun!
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Starting out on the kayak - looking fresh
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Towards the end of the day - looking pretty sweaty!
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At one point I had to stop because of the heat, the sun was baking. This was literally the only shade I could find... one lone palm tree! But I beached myself under it to reapply my sun cream!
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Mangroves were beautiful, I saw some otters playing here too but didn't get any good snaps
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Two very contrasting mosques (and a hollywood sign again!)

That night I used the bike to travel over to the China town to eat, when I got there, there was a festival going on celebrating Paranakan culture (chinese-malay or Nyonya). I can't believe how lucky I had been in Malaysia with the amount of festivals or events I stumbled accross. This one was particularly good and I spent all night here!
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Tasty snacks from here!
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Night market
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Street dancers doing martial art
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Some old ladies - everyone was taking pics of them and I don't know why, but took one anyway haha
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More traditional dancing
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Yep that says KT annual yo-yo tournament...
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The yo-yo stuff was amazing! Really! All synchronised to music too - the crowd was going wild for it!
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Beautiful fabrics

On the way back to my hostel I did get heckled and called-at by some young Malaysian boys, which kind of ruined the night for me as they were very rude. But I remembered that this was an incredibly small blib in my otherwise amazing Malaysian cultural experience so far. The day in KT was great apart from this!

Posted by Libbytes 05:17 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Partying in the Perhentians

sunny 32 °C
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I slept so well that night in the little hut on stilts that I woke up late, but still decided to get a bus over to Kuala Besut to grab a boat to the Perhentians. Awi offered to take me to the bus station in KT and on the way took me via his house to meet his family and grab some roti for breakfast.

The bus to Kuala Besut was relatively quick but dropped me quite a way from the harbour to get boats to the Perhentians so I jumped on the back of a motorbike taxi, who after a short journey, literally drove me to the edge of the harbour, through all the shops and ticket offices!

The boat over to Perhentian Kecil (the smaller of the 2 inhabited islands) was beautiful in the early evening heat. I arrived at the island and walked inland to a relatively cheap hostel. There are no roads on Perhentian Kecil, and there's only really one paved footpath which goes over the hills of the spine of the island from the southern to the northern beaches. My hostel was up in the hills, set off the beach and by the time I reached it with my backpack on I was hot, sweaty and dehydrated... I dumped my bag, donned my bikini and headed back down to the beach.

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On the boat
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Driving past Perhentian Besar
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On the beach I got chatting to a few people, one of which was a girl; Isabelle. We arranged to meet at the beach again that evening for food and drinks. After food together we started chatting to a bigger group of people and eventually pushed our tables together. Lots of drinking began and we ended the night dancing on the beach in one of the 3 bars that play music and serve alcohol.

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Me, Isabell, Tom, Alice, Sam, Zeppa
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Lots of drinks and dancing

The following day I spent slightly hungover chilling on the beach, I met some more people at a little bamboo bar on the beach - it literally was just a bar, with some stools, no other structure. I met Luke, Maddie and Cher who had been on the island for a long time - all working at this little bar.
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The beach is beautiful

I went drinking and dancing again that night! It was hard not to, the island has limited electricity and my hostel up in the hills was deserted at night. There was not much else to do past 8pm than go dancing!

The following day some old friends I had met back in Kuala Lumpur joined me, Claire and Rich, and I moved my accommodation to join then in a little private hut at Panorama guest house. This place was much better, being closer to the beach, I no longer had to do the treacherous walk up in the jungle in the pitch black at night! I also met up with the people I met the first night, Sam, Alice and Tom and we went snorkelling on long beach which was amazing, there was so many fish and corals to see. That night.... more partying.... although I took it easy and it was Claire that ended up with a hangover the next day!

The next day was my 26th Birthday! I spent the morning chilling and swimming on the beach before meeting my pals for pizza and drinks. The night ended once again in one the local bars... becoming a routine?!
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Birthday drinks with Claire
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Getting to know the locals!

Fortunately, despite it being my birthday, I was not so hungover the next day, so decided to go snorkelling again. I hired a little boat and driver to take me out to some different spots than where I had been before. We went over to Perhentian Besar where I saw massive sea turtles grazing on the sea grass in the shallows, a spot where we saw barracudas, and some other great reefs where I saw so many clown fish and other fish - I wished I had an underwater camera!
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On my boat with a girl I met on the beach
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Ready to feed the fish with bread

Upon returning to Kecil I met some more people on the beach, Caroline from the Phillipines and Daisy and Steph from Australia. We met up that night with Rich and Claire, and a few other new faces Dom and Mike. We were up late watching fire shows, drinking and dancing!
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Chilling on the beach
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The fire shows were difficult to film
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Caroline and Dom dancing
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The next day I was invited out with the guys I had met at the beach bar; Luke, Maddie and Cher, who were going our with their Malaysian employer Eppy on his boat! He drove us on his little boat over to the Rawa islands to the North of the island and we went snorkelling and fishing, making a little BBQ on the beach to eat our catch!
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On Rawa islands
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We stayed until sunset
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Got to get myself in some pics!

I met the same guys as the previous night and we did the same again, fire show, drinks and crazy dancing! I didn't know what was happening to me, at no other point in this trip had I drunk so much, I'd been out dancing and drinking 6 nights in a row! This really was the island for partying!
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The next day I was seriously hungover and stayed at a roti canai cafe almost all day sleeping in their hammock on the beach and eating far too much roti... It was Claire and Rich's last night on the island and our last day together, so I hung out with them and we had pizza again that night to celebrate an amazing time on the island.

In the evening I got dancing and chatting to a guy called Jer from Ireland, and we hit it off straight away. I mentioned that I'd love to go to Indonesia next - Bali and Lombok and he said he wanted to go with me, so we exchanged numbers and planned to meet up in KL a few days later to travel Indonesia!

After 1 week on the island I was ready to leave, not least because i had run out of money on an island with no ATM! 7 nights back to back drinking was also starting to catch up on me and I had been to every beach on the island. I was ready for a change, but I was sad to leave such a beautiful place. After travelling Malaysia almost completely on my own, it was nice to meet so many other travellers, I made a lot of friends here and caught up with some 'old' ones. It was a great week of partying and one I will never forget. It almost felt like a little holiday amongst all the travelling!

Posted by Libbytes 09:36 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beach perhentian_kecil Comments (0)

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