Our experience tought us that when travelling in group it’s important to delegate responsibilities for the planning – it would become a big mess if everybody just follows his own ideas! So for this time Colu and Isa had to feel like a Tamagotchi, enjoying what Marti and Nadia already had in mind based on the travel guides they got as a Christmas’s present.
Arriving to peninsular Malaysia we were pretty sure that anything we would see would be very interesting, and the only “must-go” place was Taman Negara National Park, the biggest in peninsular Malaysia. Time available: 10 days.
The trip was planned to optimize distances, as we wanted to see lots of things in those few days, so from Kuala Lumpur, where we arrived and passed one great day, we decided to go northwards to Penang Island. We took a night bus and reached Georgetown.
Arriving to Penang we had to take a taxi to actually reach the city, and this was an epic experience. The guy was an Indian Malaysian who showed us all the touristic points and told us a lot about Penang’s story. A very good guide!
He even told us a funny story that later caused lots of laughs. Well Nadia, Isa and Colu were sitting in the part behind, Martina was chatting more with the driver sitting next to him. She was the only one who could actually hear what the guy was saying, but I promise the efford from behind was big to try to follow. At one point, he was explaining the origin of the name Penang and related stories.
One of the stories was a bit weird and maybe his English too, so it was very easy to mistake the word “Betel nut” (“Pinang”, in Malay…) for “Bitter nut” (Martina interpretation) or “Beetle nut” (rear seats interpretation). After a few minutes confrontation after the taxi we decided that “Bitter nut” was probably the actual version, and it was crazy funny when Marti discovered in a book of a friend, months after this, that the actual name of the fruit was a third one. A big pity, mostly because after the conversation with the guide-driver we tried hard to understand the cool story behind the “bitter” fruit, that according to him is very much used in the Indian tradition by women who want to paint their mouth and lips – a vegetal lipstick!
Well, Penang was a short stay but we enjoyed a lot! We went to the island National Park (not a very wild one) and enjoyed its beaches and monkeys – and obviously took hundreds of pictures.
The city of Georgetown is very nice, with its narrows streets full of graffiti, the people riding their bikes and the colorful cafes and bars with live music. It’s quite touristic so many places have a western style, mostly in the city center. Our activities were mostly related to food (Penang is very famous in all Asia for the very good dishes), but we also found some time to walk around, drink beer and sleep 😉
After we went to Tanah Rata, in Cameron highlands, this spot on the mountains where the production of tea and strawberries is the central attraction. The nature is so beautiful there! And it’s full of Hindi and Buddhist temples that we were glad to visit.
The high altitudes give to the region a very fresh and pure air, and inspired by that incredible nature we took some of the mountain treks to discover the place.
The third day our friend José reached us for some days before going to Australia. We also met new people, including a talkative man who we found catching butterflies on the top of a mountain (what a beautiful view from there!) while singng Led Zeppeling. We also did some of the touristic attraction, such as visiting the tea plantations (a residual practice from English colony times) and strawberries productions.
The final and most waited destination was the Taman Negara National Park. To reach it from Tanah Rata we took a van and then a two hours boat, after which we arrived to a small and cozy village which lives mostly on tourism. We were lucky to be there in the low season, so our hostel in the middle of the forest was hosting only the five of us.
After some evaluations we decided not to take a guide, so with a couple of very simple maps we tried to find the trails and things to do on our own. We walked a Canopy Walk (mean height 30m)that was really suggestive, seeing such forest from the upper stairs is something that humans don’t normally experience, a very interesting feeling! One of the treks (which seemed to never end) led us to a beautiful beach on a river, so we passed some hours there to rest and swim.
The magic of the park was about its “hundred shades of green”, the singing of the birds, the crazy attacks of the leeches (somehow we liked them, come on), the lianas, the majestic trees, the unidentified noises and sounds coming from the dense forest, the wonderful views after hours walking in the hot sun… Well, we just loved it!
After this short but intense travel our eyes were already full of new colors and images, our lungs full of fresh air and our ears full of new words in Malay. We were satisfied and now a new place was waiting for us: our future Home-Sweet-Home, Kuala Terengganu!