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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Malaysian Advanture

Guy Wells is one of the lucky winners of the Postcards From Malaysia Contest that ran at the end of 2006 to usher in Visit Malaysia Year 2007. This Australian traveller ventured from the East Coast to the West Coast of the Peninsula, making friends and experiencing new adventures the whole way through.

We set off to Malaysia without doing much research for what we felt was a well-earned break after another set of University exams. With our trust Lonely Planet guides to Malaysia in hand, we arrived in Malaysia at about 10pm, fortunately we had decided to book a hotel just off Petaling Street for a night so that we could get our feet and decide our next destination. The Transit train from the airport was a breeze, and made Melbourne’s International Airport look like a small domestic airport. We got to the Hotel and decided it was time for a snack, fortunately some of the food stalls never seem to close, so having dinner at midnight was no issue.

Before leaving KL we thought it best to have a look around the city, so we spent the day just wandering around, something that would be a breeze in most Australian cities, but we somehow forgot about the humidity, and found ourselves stopping every 20mins for another drinks break. We eventually made it to the Petronas Towers, and the KLCC shopping centre, however we were a little late to get tickets to go up to the Sky-bridge, something that should you get the opportunity would be well worth a look. The area surrounding the Petronas Towers, shows a great deal of planning, with a huge park and play areas right in the middle of the city. Clearly a lot of time and money has gone into the planning and infrastructure of Kuala Lumpur in the last 10 years to make it a first class city.

“To come across the other side of the equator and
meet a group of people with a completely different background yet similar outlook and humour to us, 2 young Australians, was pleasantly surprising.”

Fortunately we had some friends staying in KL at the time of our visit and they were more than happy to take us out for dinner and drinks, there is nothing much better than being in a foreign country and having the locals to show where and what to eat, while at the same time getting a better insight into the culture. We were also given a lesson in the barter economy, quickly learning the benefit of the ‘local price’ as opposed to the ‘tourist price’. Having only been in Malaysia for a day at this stage, we were challenged to eat a number of new foods, some of which were unforgettable and some we would prefer to forget. The Durian or “king of Fruits was one we were told so much about, including one friend saying it was like eating ice cream on a traditional Malaysian toilet (jamban). We just had

Far too quickly our two night/three day experience reached its close. But both Nicky and I knew that this, along with so many of our underwater experiences in Malaysia, had been memorable enough to guarantee our return. Soon!!

From KL it was decided that we should see a little of the east coast of Malaysia, we had been told of an island off the coast of Terengganu called Pulau Redang, which was known for its white beaches, and great snorkelling. Those wishing to go to an island like Redang are recommended to book accommodation, which includes meals and boat transfers. What better way to travel than by bus, nobody can complain about an 8 hour bus ride for 30 MYR. After travelling through parts of Indonesia and China, we were unsure of what quality of transport to expect, but were pleasantly surprised by the air-conditioned comfort of the buses, a tip to future travellers: Ask for super VIP buses (the same price for a little bit of extra comfort).

The Island of Redang must be seen to truly understand the island, or what parts of it we managed to see. Upon arrival on the island, you almost felt relaxed immediately, with resort style accommodation, 3 meals a day, and guided snorkelling trips off the bright white beaches. It was a pleasant surprise to only see a few other Westerners, with most other guests to the island from mainland Malaysia.

“The time spent in Penang was a whole world away from Redang, with some beautiful old world charm and some great night

“In the next 3 days there was a lot of beach volleyball and soccer played as well as having a laugh all around.”
In the next 3 days there was a lot of beach volleyball and soccer played as well as having a laugh all around. The friendships made in those 3 days were amazing and possibly the best memories of the trip. To come across the other side of the equator and meet a group of people with a completely different background yet similar outlook and humour to us, 2 young Australians, was pleasantly surprising. The time spent with these people was so enjoyable that on our return to KL we visited them again, and were treated to a tour of the city by locals.
From Redang, we had heard lots about Penang, so it was decided that this would be our next stop. The overnight bus took us from Terengganu to Penang, arriving at 6 am. We were told that Chulia Street was the place to go for cheap accommodation, being students, we had to have a look. We decided it was best to grab some food for breakfast and then decide where to stay. Dim Sum was something we hadn’t had yet so we decided its as good a breakfast as any. We sat down, waiting for the sun to come up and feasted on Dim Sum.

The time spent in Penang was a whole world away from Redang, with some beautiful old world charm and some great night markets. All we had heard when we mentioned that we would be going to Penang was that the food there was amazing, so it was decided that we would spend much of the next few days eating. It was amazing to watch the Roti Canai being made in front of you, it puts all pizza makers to shame.

After walking past the Beca riders for the last couple of days and not getting a lift off them, we decided to ask one if he could take us to the botanical gardens, naively not knowing how far it was, he thought about it for a second and then decided it was much too far, his friend saw the funny side of it and was rolling around in tears. When we found out how far it was we too couldn’t stop laughing, and to think this guy was actually considering it, it would have taken him an hour!!

The night markets up at Batu Feringghi are well worth a visit, and have a few large eating areas surrounded by hawker stalls to choose your favourite dish. The market has lots of arts and crafts along with the watches and CD’s/DVD’s.
After 3 days in Penang, it was time to get back to KL to spend the last day shopping and catching up with the friends we met in Redang before we headed back to the winter of Melbourne. Staying again along Petaling Street, we frequented the hawker stalls for food and clothes, thinking we were getting everything for an absolute bargain.

The friends from Redang told us we had to go down to Klang to visit them. We jumped on a bus and off we went. We were again treated to dinner and drinks, and a great night amongst friends. Eating as travellers the whole time, it is good to go to peoples favourite restaurants and eat what they recommend.

Due to leave for Melbourne on a night flight, we had 1 day to go in Malaysia, after recounting the stories and determining if there was anything we had yet to do, our friends managed to not be working and took us for a drive, visiting temples and more eateries, the fun didn’t stop till the moment we jumped on the plane to go home.

The hospitality showed by all Malaysians, was very welcoming and helpful, allaying any fears or concerns a traveller may have. We were pleasantly surprised by the progression of KL city and the quality of the transport both within the city and interstate bus services. Malaysia is not always high on the tourist hit list for Australian travellers, however, after visiting the country, I would recommend it as a destination to visit.

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