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Malaysia: The End of the Road

September 17, 2013

About travelling about 13,181 miles over this great land mass, from the London Eurostar terminal, I’m feeling a little guilty as I roam around Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal waiting for my Air Asia flight to Medan, Sumatra. I’ve got about two weeks left in Asia and I researched the short ferry ride from Melaka, Malaysia to Dumai in Sumatra. That sounded great, but then I read about the fourteen hour coach ride on the other side and I thought, sod it, I’m going to buy a flight for the first time in this journey. I had intended to come as far as a Thai island overland/ sea, so I suppose getting to Kuala Lumpur by train, bus and boat is pretty good going, but still, it feels like cheating, flying. And it is so much more stressful than hopping on a train, but maybe I’m forgetting how horrid that overnight bus ride in Vietnam was, or how stressful it was getting over the Russia – Mongolia land boarder was. Hmm, still, a nice comfy night train bunk then arriving right in the city centre is much more appealing than a cramped seat on a cheap airline that deposits you at some airport far out of the city.

Anyway, I felt like I had to get out of Malaysia. For some reason I just wasn’t

A good cuppa in Tanah Rata

A good cuppa in Tanah Rata

really ‘feeling’ the place. I’d arrived here from Chumphon, Thailand, on the overnight train which terminated at a bus station in Butterworth that seemed to be on the edge of a giant industrial estate. My bunk mate on the train, a German lady called Christanne was going to teach in Malaysia and had been there before so she was a massive help when I was trying to find a bus to the Cameron Highlands. Sitting in the bus station, I was fascinated by the ethnic mix here – Muslim girls in head scarves, trendy Chinese kids, Indian ladies in saris. Sadly, the Cameron Highland themselves were less interesting. The guidebook did warn of intensive agriculture, but I was still expecting a

Tea, glorious tea!

Tea, glorious tea!

quiet little village nestled amongst the tea plantations. Sadly, it was more like a large town nestled amongst fields and fields of greenhouses, fertiliser shops, machinery depots. The only quaint thing was the tea rooms, offering tea and scones. I went to the Lord’s Café, where I ordered the Lord’s scone with cream and jam. What can I say? It wasn’t quite as heavenly as a real Cornish cream tea. The tea though! They make a bloody good cuppa in Tanah Rata though and the Indian food was absolutely delicious and very veggie friendly.

After I’d checked out the tea plantation – miles and miles of the lovely green stuff, I headed to the Perhentian Islands, where I’d signed up for four more dives. As I loitered in the dive shop, waiting to fill out the forms that remind you how dangerous scuba diving is, I again questioned what the hell I was doing, but this dive school was much more chilled out than the one in Koh Tao, and by the end of my forth dive, I had become a little bit addicted. The sea was clearer here and we dived in some amazing sites and even saw a big Hawksbill sea turtle just chilling on the reef. But Perhentian Island Kecil offered little more – just a few bars and restaurants on the beach and an insipid bit of

Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil

Coral Bay, Perhentian Kecil

jungle. I started to get bored, so decided to head back to the mainland, but didn’t really have a plan of where to go. I ended up staying in a couple of really crap guest houses, taking the much hyped Jungle Railway, of which the jungle in question was no way near as impressive as the scenery on the Bangkok to Chang Mai line, and then a bus to Kuala Lumpur, where I caught a quick glimpse of the Petronas Towers while heading across the city to the delightfully named Low Cost Carrier Terminal, and here I am. Two things on this journey towards the airport made me think maybe I should have given Malaysia more of a chance to impress me. The first was the kindness of a lovely Chinese man working in a computer shop in Jerantut who printed out my boarding pass for me, and the second was the fact that there was a cheap, vegetarian Indian restaurant right outside the airport terminal. But it was too late, I was at the airport now and had exchanged my Ringgits for Indonesian rupiahs. The orangutans of Sumatra were calling me.

Some Islamic tinsel for Eid.

Some Islamic tinsel for Eid

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