A Travellerspoint blog

Melaka to Bangkok - not always by the scenic route

Some scary moments and good company

semi-overcast 33 °C

Melaka is pretty touristy - the River Cruise is like being on a Disneyland set. But it's a UNESCO World Heritage site as Tony the taxi insisted on telling me. While I was waiting for the Cruise, I just had time for a FISH SPA - my first fish nibbling experience. For the uninitiated, you put your feet in water with loads of little fish who then make a beeline for you and nibble off the dead skin - sounds gross but it's great. Loads of wide-boy rickshaw cyclists around the main tourist area - a lady's bag was taken when she helped a man who had dropped his keys - all very suspicious. Getting braver about food - had Chicken Nyonya for lunch at a lovely riverside restaurant.
Tony the taxi picked me up as agreed and took me to the bus station for the 8:00am bus to Temerloh. What I had planned to do was meet up with the train at Mentakab that would take me to the Taman Negara Rainforest but the bus was SOOO late getting to Temerloh that I missed the only train. We had to stop once for the driver to pick up his lunch and to pick up extra passengers for cash, I think. Had to re-think plans and decided to bus it back to KL and get train towards Thailand and 'do' the east coast of Malaysia on my way back in July. Arrival times are a MYTH. Decided on the overnight train to Butterworth (Penang) and then the sleeper to Bangkok - this would mean two days of trains but what the heck. Bangkok seems to be OK now.

First horrible experience - waiting in VIP lounge for overnight train to leave at 11:30pm. I'm the only passenger in this lounge and, just as I'm getting the lift down to the platform, the young attendant insists on showing me his prized possession! I didn't have time to speak to the police which I was furious about as he may well do it again to somebody else - girls, stay clear of the VIP lounge at KL station if you're on your own!

After arriving at Butterworth at 6:30am, decided not to go to Penang (ferry crossing) but stayed on mainland - very uninspiring. Slept on train platform while waiting for afternoon sleeper. Finally got on train to be greeted by a group of drunk Thais in my sleeping area - turns out they're the overnight staff. Anyway, cleared away and Sunny, my new Penang friend, chatted until lights out. Great night's sleep - always get the bottom bunk - had great breakfast while watching the sun rise on the Thai Buddhist temples. At a level crossing, I saw FOUR large ladies on one motorbike. Sunny put me in taxi and I arrived at Atlanta hotel in one piece after two days of very mixed experiences.

Posted by amazingali 04:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Off to the Highlands and back

Trains maybe NOT so great

sunny 32 °C

After breakfasting with a view of Petronas Twin Towers and The Kuala Lumpur Tower, I found the monorail and headed all across town to KL Sentral in order to book tickets, check e-mails and have lunch. What would I do without internet cafes? I was planning on visiting the KL Tower and Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (in the centre of the city) on the return trip but the heavens opened and the thought of being up this huge tower in a thunderstorm did not appeal. The storm didn't stop the call to prayers which could be heard over the thunder and lightening - very plaintive.

My train from KL to Ipoh was scheduled for 3:00pm but was delayed an hour. As with Singapore station, there was a VIP lounge available to escape the heat. After leaving the new station, we stopped at the OLD station with the Heritage Hotel opening on to the platform. It looked very folorn and unloved, a reminder of the olden days. I now have to report that the Rakyat Express is NOT. We stopped at Tanjung Malim and were informed that the engine had blown up. People got quite flustered and it was very humid without any electricity. At 6:30pm, the engine was uncoupled and disappeared! A new engine didn't arrive until 9:00pm and the engineers took another hour to connect us up correctly. We finally set off again at 9:45 and got to Ipoh just before midnight - 5 hours behind schedule.

No trains, no buses, no taxis! A guy found me a taxi and we agreed the price for the 120Km drive to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands - RM180 (40 pounds). Had to drive around town looking for an ATM - all closed! I agreed with Jamil that, if he came and got me in two day's time, I would give him a total of RM400 - why was he pleased? We had a very hairy drive up into the mountains and finally got to the hotel at about 3:00am when I just crashed.

Spent a lovely day visiting the various intensive farming schemes in the Highlands - what a unique area this is. The Heritage Hotel was very comfortable and you could just imagine the old boys on their verandahs with a G and T as the sun goes down. The old Brits used to come up to the Highlands to escape the heat and it works!

True to his word, Jamil arrived at 8:00am and took me back to Ipoh for the train to Melaka. I'll slow down soon and draw breath but it's been a fantastic adventure so far with people being so helpful and friendly.

Posted by amazingali 03:32 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Malaysia and Beyond

What fantastic trains

rain 30 °C

The Singapore transport system is great - buses and MRT trains everywhere. The buses have a mechanism that counts how many seats are available! However, be careful of maps - some are round the wrong way. Got the bus down to Boat Quay, passing the Arab District, Raffles Arcade and St Andrew's Cathedral. The Cathedral looks like frosted icing. I became a real tourist, walking along Boat Quay. Local resident June suggested I got an umbrella as it was so hot and sunny. There are little boats on the river that are there purely to pick up litter from the water. I met a guy who talks to the birds in the trees along the quay and another guy who had a huge python round his neck - as you do! A fortune teller distracted me from photographing The Esplanade but I got pics of the Merlion and the new, futuristic building that looks even more exciting than Sydney Opera House. There are wonderful bronze statues depicting life in colonial times - very exciting.

After crossing to the other bank by the Colonial buildings, I then headed to Chinatown for a massage - as recommended by Anna. The pain was excruciating but lovely when she stopped. Whoever says that Singapore is bland has not seen the old back streets, the ashtrays designed into the seating outside huge buildings and one little cat sitting on a buddha by the side of the main road.

Got the MRT to Keppel Road Station in Singapore - it's Malaysian but on Singapore territory. Just this week, there has been an agreement between the two nations to swap the land back to Singapore for loads of other stuff that Malaysia will profit from. It will be a shame when the station goes as it's a fantastic building. The first class ticket to Kuala Lumpur cost 68 Singapore Dollars - twice the price it would be in Malaysia but it can't be bought there - curious or what! Still, it's great value - the Man in Seat 61 certainly knows his onions.

Bought samosas at the station then had to wait to go through Malaysian immigration. It was Wesak - Buddha's birthday - so the world and his wife were travelling. Witnessing the poverty evident by the train tracks is quite upsetting - shacks in the jungle with the house number just painted on the side. "In-flight" entertainment is now provided on 1st Class trains - a Vim Diesel film (twice!) water and cake. The carriage was cleaned every couple of hours with a little carpet cleaner! Arrived two hours late at KL but what the hell - I'm on holiday!

Posted by amazingali 22:25 Archived in Malaysia Comments (4)

Arrival in South East Asia - Singapore

Humidity, lost direction and brilliant transport

sunny 30 °C

After an alarm call at 4:00am and Kinky on my chest, Hannah and I set off with the car loaded to the wunwales (?). We stopped at South Mimms (16 pounds for breakfast - last meal in England) and, after the usual traffic jams on the M25, arrived at Heathrow. Loads of tears and hugs then she was off!

With nearly 3 hours to kill, I persuaded a lovely BA guy to change my later flights without charge which was great.

A380 double decker plane - how do they do that?? The seat next to me was empty - what a bonus on an otherwise full plane - BA on strike. Put on flight socks - the last time I did a long haul, DVT hadn't been invented. It was very cold on the plane so I spent the whole 12 hours wrapped up in blankets like an old lady.

Landed at Singapore at 8:00am and tried to find a bus to town. This reminded me of trying to get into NYC from Newark with the kids. Finally found MRT (subway system) with the assistance of very helpful airport staff - what a fantastically cheap and efficient public transport system. I lost my direction (unheard of) at the exit and walked about 2 miles in stifling humidity before finally arriving at the hotel with my suitcase and TWO bags - too much luggage!!!

Slept until 4:00pm then ventured out onto Geylang Road. This is the Red Light district - great fun with loads of girls, food stalls and filth. Saw a major car crash at a busy intersection which caused gridlock. Bought a jar of coffee and water then retreated for more sleep - not brave enough yet to try the food.

After staying up until 2:00am, reading brochures and planning my siteseeing, my alarm went off at 4:00am - I had forgotten to switch it off. Never mind, great sleep until 10:00am with air conditioning - I've decided that it's essential.

Posted by amazingali 22:49 Archived in Singapore Comments (3)

Two weeks to the off

Where shall I start?

sunny 10 °C

What about Thailand? Should I go or should I stay? Until Qantas let me know how they feel, I'll plan two itineraries and await further details. I certainly don't want to miss Thailand but it may be sensible to 'do' it another time.

Visas are taking a bit of time but I'm sure I'll be ready for the 24th. Getting pretty excited now!

Posted by amazingali 11:21 Archived in England Tagged preparation Comments (4)

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