Saturday, February 6, 2010

Loving Malaysia: Langkawi to Cameron Highlands

For some reason, each time we've entered a new country, it seems to be the best one yet, without fail. Maybe we're just easily excited - I'm sure in retrospect we'll have our favorite places in a number of different countries, not just be in love with wherever we happen to find ourselves. Either way, Malaysia fits the pattern and we're already thrilled with what we've seen so far.

We spent our last day in Langkawi a little hermit-like, chilling out in our hotel room, in restaurants and in internet cafes cuz we were so zonked. As a result, no pictures of Langkawi, cuz they'd have been pretty lame.

By the time we got to Georgetown, we were refreshed and ready to be tourists again. Good thing, because it's a pretty cool city.

Georgetown has alot of British colonial architecture, one of the best examples being their City Hall...

There's also a very interesting mix of Malaysia's three main cultures of Malay, Chinese and Indian, though in Georgetown the Chinese influence does seem to be the strongest. Either way, it makes for an amazing array of street food. So far the Indian food is our favorite, but it's all pretty delish.

The Langkawi and Penang islands were both pretty touristy, so we were anxious to see what mainland Malaysia would be like crossing over the next morning into Butterworth. Our first impressions were that it was the cleanest, wealthiest place we'd been so far with by far the best infrastructure.

Crossing the bridge from Georgetown to Butterworth at daybreak...

That day we made it to Kuala Kangsar which, to our surprise, is a royal capital (I think there's one in every province, each with their own sultan). A few minutes touring the city were enough to convince us that our guidebook probably wasn't lying when it told us it was the most impressive royal city in Malaysia.

Our favorite building we've seen on this trip so far, the Ubidiah Mosque built by the sultan in the early 1900s.

The royal palace was also amazing, but so gigantic and surrounded by equally amazing trees that it simply wasn't possible to capture it in a photo.

After that pleasant surprise of a destination, we headed to Ipoh for a short day. The day after Ipoh would see us gain 1550m elevation over 90km of almost straight climbing, so we took advantage of our short cycling day to see the sights of Ipoh and rest up a little.

On the way into town we stopped at a Buddhist temple built into a limestone cave. It was pretty cool in itself, and we also got a kick out of the fact that we had visited a Catholic church in Georgetown, a Muslim mosque the next day and a Buddhist temple the day after.

We also had the chance to notice some more modern cultural quirks... Like back home, Malaysians also seem to like the drive-thru too, as evidenced by these McD's drivethru stickers seen on a large number of cars.

A strangely familiar sight, though for a very different reason than we're used to. When we saw a parking lot filled with cars like this, we hypothesized that it must be to avoid melting the rubber to the windshield throughout the 40C afternoons, rather than getting the wipers buried by the daytime snowfall.

Ipoh also had its fair share of colonial architecture, as evidenced by the local train station...

The town was surrounded by limestone hills, which made for a nice view in pretty much any direction.

The next morning we headed up the jungle-y hills, towards the famous Cameron Highlands.

It was a long slog, and having long abandoned the practice of stocking up on food (since there have been food stalls pretty much everywhere for the last many months), we almost had to start eating dry instant oatmeal packs for lack of other source of food. Needless to say, we were very happy to reach the top and its plethora of restaurants, food stalls and hotels.

The Highlands is a region of high fertility, with temperatures that stay between 10C and about 20C all year long, lots of humidity and as a result, LOTS of greenhouses.

Today, we took a rest day to explore the area's sights. There are many to choose from, with Tea Plantations, Bee Farms, Butterfly Farms, Strawberry Farms, Orchid and Rose Plantation, etc etc etc. We rented a motorbike and decided to hit the Tea Plantation, Butterfly Farm and Bee Farm, the Bee Farm being the only unimpressive one of the three.

The Boh Tea Plantation was very interesting, and made for great debates between Mike (the coffee lover) and myself (a huge tea fan).

The fantastic scenery around the plantation...

Mike samples some of the local brew...

We also got a free tour of the factory where the tea is processed, often with the same machines used over 75 years ago.

The Butterfly Farm was probably Mike's favorite, and made for some awesome photo-taking opportunities.

The farm also had some cool bugs, including our two favorites, which seem born to be examples in a Biology textbook. Both were almost impossible to find at first glance, even though there were about 10 of them in each small cage.

The stick bug...

... and our favorite, the tree leaf bug.

So far, that's it! Tomorrow we head back down the hill, hoping to get to Klang in two days so that we have time for another rest day to explore Kuala Lumpur, after which we should have another 4-5 cycling days to get to Singapore.

But for now, we're off to enjoy more local fresh strawberries and a Chinese hot pot.

1 comment:

Donna said...

Keep having fun you two. Love the posts so keep them coming Read them every week.Take care

Aunt Donna and Uncle Allan