My first stop in Malaysia was Penang and it was hot (around 37 degrees every day).
Some of the city is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site so there are plenty of really interesting buildings to see. Unfortunately, I was still suffering the after effects of dengue fever in Penang so, I didn’t get out and about as much as I would have liked.
I stayed at the Old Penang Guesthouse on Love Lane. The hostel itself is fine but, there was a live music stage in the car park next door which blared music until midnight every night. That spoiled the overall stay for me.
I did go to visit the Khoo Kongsi clan house. It is celebrated as the glory of Penang heritage and you can visit between 9am and 5pm for 10 ringitts. It’s set back in a courtyard just off Cannon Street.
The decoration on every part of the clan house is intricate and ornate. The pillars are heavily carved here with dragons.
And here, carved flowers are gilded with gold.
I’m sure that the attached museum is interesting to walk around if you like that kind of thing but I wasn’t feeling up to learning much so I gave it a cursory glance at best.
Apart from heat that will melt you and good architecture, Penang is famed for it’s food. As I was still feeling delicate, I really didn’t get to eat much of it. Malaysia is a bit of a mixing pot as far as cuisine goes. There’s Malay food, Indian food and Chinese food to choose from which are all, reportedly, of a very good standard. There’s lots of hawker food places around Penang which trade in the evenings but I can’t tell you about any of them cause I didn’t go! Sorry.
After Penang, I headed to the Cameron a highlands in a minibus. It cost me 50 ringitts to get there. I hadn’t pre booked any accommodation because the variety advertised on line was woeful. I needn’t have worried because there are tonnes of guest houses in the town of Tanah Rata (which is where I stayed). I ended up at the Cameronian Inn for a very reasonable 15 ringitts a night and I would highly recommend it as a place to stay.
The Cameron Highlands is much cooler than the rest of Malaysia. It was between 18 and 22 degrees when I was there. Absolutely beautiful weather!
There’s plenty of walking trails you can do in the highlands and they were very highly reviewed by other travellers I met but my main visit reason was tea. There’s a big Boh tea company plantation in the highlands and I jolly well wanted to go and see it. You can either book yourself onto an organised tour or your can brave public transport for a fraction of the cost. I’m cheap so I took the public transport. You get the bus from the station in Tanah Rata and you get off it has soon as you see the big sign for Boh Tea Plantation attached to a turning going left up a hill. You have to walk from the main road for a few kilometres to get to the plantation but the views are spectacular as you go.
At the plantation, there is a free factory walk through where you can see tea leaf grinding, drying and tasting. You can pay for an organised tour but I didn’t because, again, I’m cheap. There’s a tea shop so you can buy as much tea as you like and a cafe so that you can drink tea looking out over the tea fields. Very lovely indeed!
On the way down, I stopped at a rose garden in order to enjoy the kind of plants I can never grow (they always die on me). It was free to look around and I really did enjoy the flora on show.
These little beauties were actually very little. That’s my index finger behind them for some scale.
After the very leisurely stroll up to and around the plantation and rose garden, the day was pretty much over and so was my time in the highlands. I left for Kuala Lumpur the next morning.
It cost me 30 ringitts for my space on a swanky coach to KL. I was dropped off at the Puduraya bus station which was handy because my hostel, Fern Loft, was a 10 minute walk from the station.
Kuala Lumpur is a big, hot, Asian city. I’d seen a lot of them by now and was sorely hankering for something different. Saying that, I enjoyed KL immensely even though I felt like I was melting again. In contrast to other SE Asian cities, KL felt organised and functional. I’ll be honest and say that I’d given in on sightseeing by now. Instead I went to the cinema and saw Monsters University and Star Trek: Into Darkness. I also went shopping and bought things from cotton on in the sale.
I didn’t fail entirely at sightseeing. I trekked around the city one day and took in a few sights. There are free shuttle busses that get you around parts of the city but I chose to walk as I wanted to take positive steps towards fighting the lethargy dengue had left me with. Anyway, I saw the iconic Petronas Towers as twilight.
I’m told you can go up the towers to the skybridge but that there is a quota each day for the visit. That means you need a very early morning getting to and sitting in a queue for a ticket. I didn’t bother.
I also saw the Kuala Lumpur tower at night.
Both very impressive structures.
The other thing you can do in KL is shop. There are plenty of air conditioned malls and shops with heaps of western brands to browse. If you want something a little more bargain hunter style, go barter with the stall holders at Petaling Street in Chinatown. There’s fake everything on sale there from perfume to pants (it reminded me of the ladies market in Hong Kong i.e. start bargaining at less than a quarter of the asking price then bargain hard until you pay absolutely no more than half the first price). There’s some food places too so you can graze whilst you purchase the finest fakes ringitt can buy.
If you want something a bit ‘nicer’ for souvenirs, I would say you need you need to head to the central market. This big old building holds lots of stalls selling wooden goods, woven goods, fabric, tat and just really interesting bits and pieces. I enjoyed central market much more than Petaling street. They’re pretty close to one another geographically so you can easily do both in an evening.
I had a great time in Kuala Lumpur. My hostel was the only let down. I was in a 24 bed dorm and the air conditioner was not up to the job. If you were too far away from it, you boiled. If you were too close to it, you were deafened. The bathrooms flooded one day and there was constant work happening in the bathrooms making showering tricky. We also had a man in our dorm whose snoring sounded like a farm animal in heat. If he was a sleep apnoea sufferer, no one in the dorm would have nudged him awake. If you know you snore, don’t stay in a dorm, people will think about stabbing you more regularly than you’d like. All in all, an uncomfortable stay at Fern Loft. They bribed me with a free nights stay if I promised to review them well on Hostelworld. I took the bribe but I’m telling the truth here instead.
Overall, I would definitely go back to Malaysia. I had a great time. The food was good and the people were friendly, just a shame it was so blooming hot!