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snippets of blackwings life

Big city life: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok

The last part of my trip was all in all: big booming cities – After all those relaxing days in small to medium sized towns and cities, I visited some of the Asian mega cities: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok. First I reached Kuala Lumpur by AirAsia from Vientiane – and stayed in the very same Guesthouse as in 2007. Kameleon Travellers lodge right next to Pudu Raya Bus terminal. As two years before, the place was OK, cheap and centrally located.

I took the 1.5 days in Kuala Lumpur to keep up with the latest changes in the city: Here a new skyscraper, there a new shopping mall… And was delighted again by the great Indian Food! I really advise people to get a real banana leaf curry! In KL I found that Sri Ganesha Curry restaurant at Jalan Pudu (right next to the Hindu temple, close to Pudu Raya terminal) is a pretty advisable place to get that. Besides that, I took quite much time for shopping some Sarong, Tea (BOH Teh rocks my world!) and so on. The most interesting visit was probably the National Gallery at Merdeka Square – Go there for an relaxing insight into Arts and Literature of Malaysia.

So finally I took a bus (Konsortium Bas) to Johor Bahru (cheaper to go there, than to Singapore directly) and hopped onto the SBS transit bus crossing the border. My dear friend Nick provided me a ride to “The Hive” backapckers, where I was intended to stay for the next few days. Later that day I took a ride to the Airport in order to welcome Julian, a friend of mine from Erlangen, who was gonna join me.

The next days, I spent on visiting former co-workers at Sulzer, eating a lot of delicious Singaporian/South-East Asian food and showing Julian around.
Finally we took a flight to Bangkok to stay there for the last few days. And so my vacation was over…

Last stop: Kuala Lumpur

My journey is coming to an end – I finally reached Kuala Lumpur. Actually I arrived here on Thursday afternoon – So I had Friday, Saturday and Sunday to explore the capital of Malaysia.

It seems to me, that Kuala Lumpur is the most uninteresting capital I have ever been to: Probably because it is a rather “young” boomtown with just a little more than 100 years of history. This capital is nice for shopping, but somehow it seems a little soul-less… Maybe because it is so sterile or so pedestrian-unfriendly…

Chinatown is even compared to Singapore pretty unspectacular. Besides that the financial and business district is rather nice to look at. Despite the fact, that I dislike shopping, I was impressed by shopping malls such as Berjaya Time Square, with its 900 shops on 13 floors and the other huge ones around Bukit Bintang.

The far most interesting places in KL had been Merdeka Square, the Lake Garden with the surrounding National Museum, National Mosque, … and finally the superb Petronas Twin Towers at KLCC.

While this is the end of my trip, it is also time to say good-bye to David, who was my fellow Traveler for the past two weeks. I really enjoyed the time with him and the fruitful discussion about life & the universe! David, I wish you all the best for your remaining 7 months in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East – I appreciate the coincidence of meeting you!

Finally: I got my bus ticket for tomorrow morning which will bring me to Johor Bahru – From there I will proceed to Singapore. I just checked in for my long-haul flight back to Frankfurt (on Tuesday) having a good seat at an emergency exit door.

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Cameron Highlands

Tea plantationAfter the “hot” days in Penang with way more than 34 degrees it was a pleasure to leave for the Highlands: Just a 5 hour bus ride and we found ourselves at about 1500m above sea level in Tanah Rata, in the “center” of the Highlands in Peninsular Malaysia, named after the surveyor William Cameron, who arrived there in 1885. We choose Father’s Guest house as our place to stay and settled down for some Tea.

The Highlands offer an unique climate, being on the one hand in the inner tropical belt, but on the other hand at 1500m (and more) above sea level: So there is all year round a temperature between 20 and 25 at days and around 10 to 15 degrees at night. TeaThis is fairly optimal to grow all kinds of vegetables and: Even non-tropical fruits, such as strawberries. But the far most prominent thing, that is produced in the Highlands is Tea. The climate was the reason, why the Highlands were a “hide-out” for the British people in colonial times: And because of this, there a some house in Tudor style left. Together with climate and so on it feels almost like in Great Britain.

About 70 years ago a British guy named J.A. Russell had the brilliant idea of starting a Tea plantation in the Highlands… Visiting a Tea plantation is impressive: It is unbelievable how many greenish colors exist! And the tea… hhhhm… wonderful!

Sunrise at Gunung BrinchanMossy ForestBesides visiting Tea plantations, we did some hiking at the Jungle trails around Tanah Rata. But the highlight was: The sunrise & mossy forest tour. Concerning the sunrise, we were only partially lucky, because of fog blocking most of the view, but the mossy forest was just impressive. This piece of jungle at about 1800m above sea level is a very interesting piece of nature: Trees completely covered with moss, carnivore plants and ultra-soft ground: Because you are walking on about 3m of leaves…

All in all: Cameron Highlands were a decent spot to chill out: Nice jungle hiking, impressive natural wonders and the tea plantations… And the non-tropical temperatures: A pleasure!

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Colonial multicultural city: Georgetown, Penang

After an extraordinary weekend in Penang – or, to be more precise, in Georgetown on Penang Island it is time to summarize what we did there (we, because David is still travelling with me).

Protectice LionFirst of all: The cultural mix: On one side of the street a Mosque… You turn around and see a Hindu temple with its colorful statues… And just round the corner is a full-featured Chinese temple… Then you enter a restaurant and see people from southern and northern India dining together with people of Chinese and Malay heritage – Kek Lok SiSeems like, that a peaceful live of people of different religion and origin is possible in Malaysia! David and I discussed, why this is working out in Malaysia: Our theory is, that it is, because they are living together since colonial times: And when the colonial force was present, they were just forced to accept… And from generation to generation it became “normal”. We try to find out, wether this theory is correct or not.

Besides all this exotic “mix”, there are quite many temples to see: We went to the Snake temple, which is actually not interesting – Pagoda at Kek Lok Si TempleBut the snake farm nearby IS! Especially the 7.5m long one is worth mentioning. The Kek Lok Si temple is a definitive must-go for Penang Visitors: Its impressive size and the mixture of different architectural styles makes it special – Even if you have seen n-hundred temples already.
We also went to the Botanical Gardens – just for relaxing, because they were not as good as the ones in Singapore.

As mentioned before: Penang is a big melting pot of people of different origin: So the food you can get, is remarkable: Exquisite Indian food and many local delights, such as Laksa Asam or Nasi Kandar.

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East to West coast: From Kota Bahru to Penang

Old Mosque at Kota BahruI spent the past two days in the very relaxing Malay city of Kota Bahru – Actually there is not much to see there, but you can get a good impression of Malaysian culture. The East coast, especially in the northern part is very Muslimic, so there are many Mosques and of course: No alcohol!

Night market before sunset.David, the guy from France accompanied me and we had a lot of fun by just walking around or drinking Kopi. Besides that, we had a lot of excellent food at the night market, such as Roti Canai, Murtabak and Laksa. As you can see: Nothing really stunning happened – Just the feeling of some really Malay town :)

Egg delivery?Today we took a Bus to get from the East coast to the (far more developed) West coast of peninsular Malaysia – This involved an 6 hour bus ride. We choose a fairly comfortable Super-VIP bus: This means: Just 24 seats in a Bus, with really good seats, which you can adjust down to almost “flat”.

Incense XXLWe finally arrived in Butterworth, which is just on the coast-line opposite of Georgetown on Penang Island. So we took the 10 minute Ferry ride to arrive in the so called “pearl of south-east Asia”: Georgetown. As a former colonial hide-out of the British East-India Company there a many colonial style buildings to be seen. Even after just being here just a few hours, it is completely clear, that this town has a completely different “flair” compared to Kota Bahru: In KB were mostly Malays, with just a few Chinese – In Georgetown there seems to be an equal mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian people…

By the way: David, my fellow traveler put some of his pics to flickr. Check them out to get some impressions of the places I have recently been to! Especially the pictures from the Perhentians are wonderful…

Update: I put some of my pics on flickr, too – Just to make you jealous!

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Pulau Perhentian – Welcome to paradise!

Muharhar!I’m just back after a 6 days stay at Pulau Perhentian… This place has turned out to be the ultimate tropical beach, snorkeling & chill-out destination – You get everything you ever dreamed of: White powder-like sand, waves, excellent water-quality, palm trees and so on… Actually it was fairly hard to get myself convinced of leaving this gorgeous place, but it was a “now or never” decision.

Sunset at Coral BeachI stayed at Chempaka Chalets and paid 15 Ringgit per night for my room having shared bathroom, a mosquito net and some electrical light (because the Perhentians don’t have a centralised power grid yet… generators at every single place, which run only at night.). There is also no public water supply, so basically all water you use just comes from a well. The variety of food you can get is pretty limited, but you are free to order stuff, which is not on the menu – But this does not remove the fact, that food is really overpriced. But it is easily possible to stay alive on around 50-60 ringgit a day including accomodation.

Water quality? Excellent!A day trip for snorkeling was actually the most impressive single event on my journey so far! Wonderful coral reefs even in shallow water – Massive rock- and brain corals, anemones (with many clown fish – remember Nemo?) and all sorts of reef fish, such as rainbow fish, needle fish … Never seen a reef so “alive”! On the snorkeling trip we also went to some spots to see sea turtles (and there were huge ones!) and reef sharks… The trip ended at the “perfect beach” (named blue lagoon beach), where we stayed for some relaxing.

Wanna ride?During the stay at the Perhentians I met some really interesting people, especially David from France, who is on a 1-year trip in Asia, involving countries such as Pakistan, Burma, Iran, Afghanistan and so on and Joanne from the UK, who was just on a 4 week stop over for her working encounter in Australia… Actually David and I got to Kota Bharu together in order to proceed as a Team for some time.

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Kuala Terengganu

Cherating Beach ViewThis morning I left Cherating – very lovely, quiet and relaxing, but a little boring after some time, especially because I ran out of books to read…Besides that it is pretty isolated… Food is pretty expensive (calling it overpriced tends to fit the situation best) and the alternatives are not satisfying. The beach is OK, but I’ve seen way better ones – Quality of the water was quite poor and there were many sandflies…

Kuala Terengganu river viewI took a Transnasional Bus to Kuala Terengganu, the capital of the Malaysian state Terengganu. The town has actually about 300k inhabitants, but the interesting part, the inner city can be explored within an afternoon. I really liked the Bukit Cina – the tiny “Chinatown” with its nicely restored historic houses right on the riverside.

Banana leaf curry After being just on Islands and little villages, KT is a good stop-over for me: For “refueling” – Changing money, buying stuff and getting some variety of food. My dinner today was a wonderful Banana-leaf-curry – definitively the best one I ever had! I also had some Roti Canai as side-order, which were also wonderful. Finally I paid 8 Ringgit including some Goreng Pisang (fried banana) and Kopi Oh (Black, Malaysian style coffee) as dessert. The place is called “Kari Aysah” and is located on Jalan Air Jernih, close to Bukit Cina.

Tomorrow morning I will try to manage a convenient transfer to Pulau Perhentian. This involves taking a local bus to Kuala Besut and taking a ferry from there. I’m anxious to visit the Perhentians – Heard so much stuff about those Islands…

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From Tioman to Cherating

This morning I left Tioman using the first Ferry as early as 7.30am… It took about 2 hours to reach Mersing. After having some Roti Canai & Roti Pisang for breakfast, I took a Transnasional bus to Kuantan. This bus took about 3 hours to do the 220km to Kuantan – including the 20min lunchbreak at some random Warung.

State-Mosque in KuantanOriginally I was intended to stay in Kuantan for one night – but after arriving in this 300k inhabitants town, I was instantly wanna to leave – I dont know why… So I walked down from the long-distance bus terminal down to the local bus station. On the way there I passed several 24-hour-”hotels” – Have a guess which purpose they serve… Anyway – I took a local bus to Cherating, which is just 35km from Kuantan. After another 1 hour bus ride at this bus, which was definitively older than me, I arrived at Cherating around 1700.

Matahari Chalets in CheratingWalking around this little village I finally checked into Matahari’s having a HUGE chalet for just 20 ringgit per night. So lets see how long I’m gonna stay there. The athmosphere is pretty relaxed, but there is not much to see in this little village… Stay tuned.

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Tioman

Beach view at Air BatangYesterday I left Singapore heading to Larkin Busterminal in Johor Bahru – Faster than I expected I was sitting in an express bus to Mersing which cost me just 10RMB… I arrived in Mersing just in time to catch a speed-boat to Tioman… So I was in Tioman just 6 hours after leaving NTU…

SunsetI am staying somewhere in Air Batang having a decent Chalet about 30m from the sea :) Tioman is quite nice – really quiet and not crowded. I spent yesterday’s afternoon by enjoying the sea and watching a graceful sunset…Besides that: Tioman has no taxes on Alc – so a can of Tiger is only 3 ringgit!

Jungle at Tioman IslandToday I took a jungle trail from Kg. Tekek over to Kg. Juara – 7.5km through the Jungle. Many Geckos, wild Monkeys and Birds to see! First part is reaching uphill to around 550m and then descending on the other side – I probably sweated out 2 liters on the ascending path… Juara has a quiet sandy beach with crystal clear water to offer – Palmtrees and quietness included. Very decent beach! The trek is definitively worth doing it – You get a wonderful jungle experience and one of Tioman’s best beaches.

Beach at Kampung JuaraI’m planning to stay at Tioman til Monday morning. Next destination will be Kuantan – For all those that wanna reach me: +60 167 966 584 is the number of my Malaysian Pre-Paid card – Unbelievably cheap! Just 10 RMB (about 2.5 euro!) with 0.01RMB per SMS and 0.25RMB/min for domestic calls! Stay tuned!

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Heading for Malaysia

I just finished wrapping up all my stuff at my NTU Hall 12 room – because tomorrow morning I gonna return the keys and head to Malaysia. After staying here for 4 months the time has come – The time in Singapore is finally over.

Just this evening I had the long-planned farewell dinner with Sulzer. We had excellent food and I really enjoyed this event. It is always a curious feeling when some defined time-slot is over: You awaited it for a long time, but when it is finally there… Hm strange…

So tomorrow morning I will return keys and straightly head to Johor Bahru, Larkin Bus Terminal in order to catch a bus to Mersing at the East Coast of Malaysia. Mersing will be the gate to Tioman Island which is supposed to be the first major destination of my trip.

Stay tuned – maybe I will have the possibilities to present updates here frequently! People keep asking me via Skype, ICQ and Jabber at which date I return – So here again: Flight to Germany is at 20th of March… I plan to be back at my flat-share in Erlangen around 24th of March.

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