I wrote this in Bangkok airport as we were about to begin our voyage back to London, to dampen the misery of ending our trip. There are still a couple of entries to make – for central Vietnam, northern Thailand and Bangkok – but alas, I’ll be writing them from England…
So here, in no particular order, are a few things that make ending a six-month jaunt around Asia slightly more endurable.
1 – Sunshine
It might sound contradictory to miss Britain for the sunshine, having spent six months in south-east Asia during its summer months. But it’s a different kind of sunshine – the kind you can stand in for more than 10 minutes and feel it on your skin without peeling like a snake. The kind that makes you want to absorb it, not hide in the shadows.
Romance. That’s what I’d hoped for from Melaka, and under different circumstances, it may well have delivered.
South of Kuala Lumpur and sat on the coast, Melaka was once a prosperous trading town with a long history of colonial influence. Now, it’s a quaint little place that’s clearly pushing its tourism potential, with tonnes of museums, tours and guesthouses springing up. You can ascertain the sentiment of the place by its garish tuk-tuks. Continue reading Knackered in Melaka→
We descended from the highlands refreshed and reinvigorated, and reluctantly acclimatising to the renewed heat and humidity of the lowlands. Props to Mr Cameron, and that glorious quasi-English climate he discovered.
First impressions of Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it is commonly known) included: Ooh, look at all the tall buildings; Aah, what a lovely clean monorail; Hey, look, Petronas!; and, finally, Titty wangs are great!
The bus up to the Cameron Highlands is as gorgeous as it is exciting. Winding up the mountains, the road teeters perilously on the edge of cliffs, or meanders meekly through the jungle. The views are remarkable, which is just as well, as the bus shunts from side to side as it corners each bend, rendering a book about as enjoyable as a migraine (which is what you’ll get if you try to read).
Getting to Ipoh is a doddle. It’s about a tenner on the bus from Georgetown, including the transfer to Butterworth, which is the town on the mainland facing Penang. The roads are well maintained, and the view of lush rainforest-covered hills gives you something pretty to look at for the majority of the journey.
Yes, the bus terminates at a terminal about 45 minutes from the centre, but friendly staff there will stick you on a public bus that’s going the right way – and which are blessedly air-conditioned. And making your way around the city is easy too, with proper road signs at each junction and a river to keep your bearings. Continue reading Getting deep in Ipoh→
After a month of island-hopping, we felt the need for something a bit different, and Georgetown promised to be exactly that.
Those of you with some knowledge of Malaysia will balk at my error: “But Georgetown IS on an island, you fool!” Yes, yes, I know, but it’s connected to the mainland by a big fat bridge, so it doesn’t count. Continue reading Spicy variety in Georgetown→
Our first border crossing – from Thailand to Malaysia – was impressively painless, apart from carrying around a rucksack on my freshly scalded back. Flesh-grating torture aside, the visas were free, the immigration officers unquestioning, and the boat was quick and comfortable.
Our first port of call – Pulau Langkawi – was made a duty-free zone in 1987 to boost tourism and improve the livelihoods of the island’s inhabitants. We celebrated this economic liberation with a glass of Prosecco as soon as we arrived, toasting the island’s effervescent relationship with alcohol, before heading out for a booze-free meal. Continue reading Langkawi – Malaysia’s malaise→