Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands

wpid-imgp0795.jpgWe have arrived safely in Kuala Lumpur.  As we entered the city, you can see the same layer of smog that you see in LA.  We took a taxi into the downtown core of the city and were dropped off at the Tune Hotel.  A budget 2 star hotel where you can get a room for around $20 per night.  Then you can add on things like AC, TV, Towels and soap, wifi and some other things.  We just wanted wifi and towels but it was cheaper to get the package that included AC and TV so we got everything.  In the end we paid around $33 for everything. The hotel itself was clean and trendy looking.  Our room was a bed with a TV at the foot and a small bathroom with the best shower we’ve had.  Hot water and great pressure.  It’s amazing how much the little things can be appreciated.

The location left us about a 30 minute walk from everything.  15-20 minutes to the Petronas Towers, 30 mins to the convention center, 30 min to food street, 30 min to city central and China Town.
Now that we are in Malaysia, we no longer use the massive increments of the Indonesian Rupiah. Now it’s Malaysian Ringets and the exchange is almost perfectly 3RM=$1CA.  This should be easy enough to figure out.

Kuala Lumpur is similar to any other big city.  Tall buildings, busy streets, and lots of shopping.  Actually, there is an unusual amount of malls in this city.  Like malls beside malls.  Pictured above is the Petronas Towers, the pride of KL. Below in between the towers, not in the picture, is a mall.  Loaded with high end designer stores that I cannot afford.  However, there was one thing in the towers mall that really caught my attention.  Something familiar to home and one of my favorite restaurants: Nando’s Chicken.  Even better, it was 18RM for 1/4 chicken and 2 sides.

On the bottom floor of the mall is an underground tunnel that takes you into the convention center where the Aquarium is.  It takes between 1-2 hours to go through the whole thing and they have a massive underwater tunnel where you get to look at sharks, turtles, stingrays and many other creatures of the sea.

We spent another day trying to find the Bird Sanctuary.  It was a lot further on the map than it lead us to believe.  We made it half way in about 30 minutes to a random free Gallery that had a massive model city.  From there they had a tram that took you around to a bunch of cites and one of them being the bird sanctuary.  So we paid 2RM each and hopped on.

The Bird Sanctuary, like the Aquarium, was 50RM each.  It is huge and has all kinds of cool birds from all over the world. Our favorite was the Hornbill.  What a weird looking animal this is

After the Bird Sanctuary we decided to go to a bar that had great reviews on Trip Advisor: Taps Beer Bar.  They are a pub style craft beer bar.  We arrived at happy hour in hopes of saving some money since we have been way over budget since arriving in this city.  This didn’t work out well.  Instead of paying 28RM for our beers, we paid 25RM.  I had a milk stout from New Zealand and Kristi had a white ale from Japan.  The beers were great but having more than one likely wasn’t an option based on how much cash I actually brought with me.  Our food was delicious too. Deep fried mushrooms and a BBQ Chicken Pizza.  When the bill came, 2/3 of it were our two beers but we’re glad we went and enjoyed it.  Sometimes you need to forget the budget and enjoy yourself.

KL also has Groupon.  So one night we found a Groupon for the movie theater at the Petronas Towers and decided to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. So weird thing about this movie… it only seemed to air at 4pm and 9:45pm.  Seems rather late for a kids movie.  It was also rated PG13 in Malaysia (not sure if that is the same back home)  So regardless of the time for the late show, there were kids in there.  As we were leaving the theatre, one little girl summed up the movie quite well by yelling out “THAT WAS AWESOME” at the top of her lungs.  Kristi looked at me and said, “That little girl just yelled what I was thinking!”

On our last day in KL, we went to see the Batu Caves.  We decided we were going to figure out the KL skytrain system.  In the end, we paid a total of 10.5RM for round trip.  Plus you had large seats, AC and TV screens running ads.  BC could learn a thing or two about transit.

Back to the Batu Caves: There are 3 main caves and a bunch of smaller caves.  The most popular of the 3 is the Temple Cave, located at the top of 272 steps.  The way up, you spend most of your time trying not to look down while still looking over shoulder as monkeys lurk a few feet over your head and you should never trust a monkey.

Once you reach the top, there are a couple different Hindu Temples inside the cave.  I remember our taxi driver telling us that he believes it is a very powerful temple because when he got married, he went there to pray and a month later, his wife was pregnant. Believe what you would like, either way this Temple was something to see.

wpid-imgp0959.jpgWe went into the Museum Cave after for a small charge of 2RM each.  We didn’t go into the Art Gallery Cave because they were charging 15RM each and we didn’t see the point.  The one thing we really felt we missed out on was the Dark cave Tour.  Unfortunately we were there on a Monday which is the only day that they do not host tours.

Finally our time to leave KL has come.  We decided to catch a 4 hour long bus to the Cameron Highlands where we will stay in a small town called Tanah Rata.  When we arrived at the bus station, our taxi driver told us not to buy from the random people outside but to go to the ticket counter.  We walked into an area full of busses and no sign of a ticket counter.  To get to the ticket counter, you have to go into what looks like a mall and go up a level.  We bought tickets for 35RM each for the 12:30 Bus.  At 12:15 we went downstairs to find our bus.  It was nowhere to be seen.  A cool and fashionable 40 minutes late, we didn’t actually leave until closer to 1:30pm.  However, we expected a crappy bus as it pulled up but the seats inside were huge.  With recliners and foot stools, this is the most comfortable bus I have ever had the honor of riding on.

Tanah Rata is literally one street.  It is up in the mountains and the temperature is much cooler.  No AC or fan in the room.  We actually wore long sleeve shirts and pants in the evening.  We stayed at TJ Lodge which is also a tour company here.  Our room is one of few that has it’s own bathroom though it is tight.  When you sit on the toilet, your legs rest under the sink and when you shower, you remove anything from the bathroom that you don’t want to get wet.  However, we are very happy with the hotel itself.  The staff are friendly and the wifi is great.

There are lots of hikes in the area though none appear to be very difficult.  The tour companies advertise them as “Jungle Trekking” but they’re more like nature walks.  We bought a map and did one of the hikes on our own.  We picked one that advertised a waterfall… it was so crappy that we didn’t bother taking pictures.   We heard there were better hikes but we just were not in the mood to go find them. However, there is one fantastic attraction to Tanah Rata. Street food.  Now before I get into the street food. One thing I have never understood is all the hype around naan bread.  It’s good and all… but roti is where it’s at.  Roti dipped into dhall (lentil) is amazing.  It is officially in my top 3 foods alongside pizza and fajitas.  I guess naan is alright for when there is no roti but if you choose naan over roti, you’re an idiot.

Needless to say, the stands were all indian food.  We did our best to try a bit of everything.  Some of it was delicious, some of it was not.  There were stuffed roti with chicken, egg and vegetables (murtabek).  Add a little bit of curry sauce… drool.  Honestly though, the food was amazing and all very affordable.  We could try almost everything for $1 or less per item.  None of our meals were over $10 combined.

On our final day in the Cameron Highlands, we took a bus north to another town called Brinchang.  We were going to see the BOH Tea Plantation.  We were dropped off on the main street and it was a 3.5km walk to the plantation.  About time we got some proper exercise up here.  The hike along the road is up up up and then back down a seemingly endless road.  The scenery however, is amazing.


At the tea plantation, we ate a light lunch at their cafeteria and tried a couple of their iced teas.  The food and tea was great but I think the flavours might have been enhanced due to our view


This is just one side.  The views are panoramic with windows on all sides overlooking the tea fields.  We took a short tour of the factory, they use equipment that was designed in 1935… I don’t understand how they have not found a more efficient way to produce their tea.  On our bus ride back, there was a no smoking sign… but our bus driver was enjoying a cigarette.


Yeah that’s happening.  We arrived back at the hotel a few hours later… sunburnt.

So as I sit here typing this out, with a damp tea towel draped over my shoulders.  I can’t help but think how ironic it is that I’m using tea to help sooth my sunburn that I got from going to the tea plantation.
Next up is a 5 hour bus ride to Penang



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