A Travellerspoint blog

Between paradise and palm oil

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Hello world! Checking in with you from the shadows below mighty Mount Kinabalu where we are sitting and writing this blog post. Truth be told, we saw the majestic mountain for the first time this morning, as it is covered in low hanging clouds most of the time. But how did we get here exactly? Let’s go back a few steps.

Flying from Lombok to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia was incredibly cheap (Schnäppchen!), so we kind of had to go. It was our first time in a big city since leaving Sydney, and we took full advantage of that. Our place in Pudu (sort of Chinatown) offered a great base for eating our way through Chinese food courts, loads of street food and drinking cocktails in the Skybar overlooking the famous Petronas Twin Towers at night.

Kuala Lumpur is all about shopping, clearly visible in the amount of mega shopping malls – all with 200+ shops and somehow every single one of them constantly filled with people shopping! The crazier ones even have an indoor cinema or a theme park, with a rollercoaster racing above the racks with priced-down clothes. Nice! Something as normal as going to the cinema (Ghost in the Shell, can recommend!) felt great after being on the road for a while. The shopping virus even caught us eventually and we left with a pair of sneakers for M and a handbag for I.

Heading south towards the colonial town of Melaka the landscape became incredibly uniform – for a country that has the oldest tropical rainforests in the world it is heartbreaking to see that everything is being transformed into huge palm oil plantations. Just rows and rows of the same type of palm as far as the eye can see. Much of the demand for palm oil comes from western countries, and to see the result of that demand has been a true eye opener. :(

Melaka turned out to be a beautiful little town with some leftover Dutch flavor from the colonial past (Holland! Holland! ;) ) There is even a ‘Stadhuys’ (City Hall) and a windmill left. The night market on Jonker Street is also very famous but mostly oriented towards Asian tourists. Good snacks though! :) The hostel we stayed at was new and ran by a Chinese named Tim (Yes, Tim). He was full of good local advice and very interesting to talk to about everything. Fun nights with drinks and card games followed!

At the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula lies the city-state of Singapore, which we honored with a visit. The border crossing by bus requires you to get out two times; for Malaysian and Singaporean border control. The second one took a bit longer and after that our bus was nowhere to be found. Luckily we had a last few ringgits left and eventually managed to find another bus that headed the right way.

Now as for Singapore – the stories about its strict laws and cleanliness are legendary in the sense of “spit on the sidewalk and go to jail for a week”, so our expectations were high! It turned out that the city is clean, but not THAT clean. It is about the same as the average European city, which is very clean for Asia but of course not that special for us.

Over the course of a few days we discovered much of the city by foot, stopping by in Little India, Arab Street, the Formula 1 track and of course the famous Marina Bay with otters playing in it. High on the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel with an overpriced cocktail in hand we have to admit, the view over the financial district and harbor is fantastic. On the other side are the Gardens by the Bay, with the Supertree Grove at its center. These massive tree-shaped structures are covered in all sorts of plants growing upwards. The garden lights up when it gets dark. While we were there this was combined with lots of lightning and thunder in the distance. Beautiful sight!

Leaving Singapore behind we headed up along the east coast of Malaysia, immediately returning to the painful view of endless palm oil plantations. We arrived in the seaside town of Mersing, which is the gateway to the island paradise of Tioman. Because the Swiss Cottage that came highly recommended by Maik was full for the next few days, we decided to lay low and chill in Mersing. It turned out there isn’t much to do in Mersing except getting on the ferry! ;)

Well, at least there were plenty of cats around with kittens too. We dedicated ourselves to try and save a poor kitten that had lost it’s mother. Regular cleaning and milk feeding by us helped a little bit, but the poor guy really still needed mother’s milk. Desperately we tried introducing the kitten to another momma that had two kittens already, however she didn’t have enough mother instinct to accept him. Poor kitty was left to find it’s own way as we headed over to Tioman.

The ferry was delayed quite some time but it was worth every minute of waiting. Once settled at our cottage we had the most brilliant beach on our doorstep with the most crystal clear water that you can imagine. A dive school within reach completed the picture for us, and we had great fun exploring the underwater world. Turtles and reef sharks were particularly good! All the locals walking around with fishing rods in the “protected marine park” were a bit suspicious though…

Tioman Island has quite some mountains inland, and we took it upon ourselves to hike a jungle trail towards the other side of the island. Hiking in tropical heat is quite intense, but unspoiled rainforest filled with birds and monkeys made it very worthwhile. A particular reason we wanted to go to the beach at Juara was the Turtle conservation project that is running there. We paid the project a visit and maybe you will hear some more about that sometime soon. :)

Completing our tour around the West-Malaysian peninsula we landed back in Kuala Lumpur, which felt a bit like coming home. Next our sights are set on… Borneo!

PS: Congratulations on Macron’s election, Tag der Arbeit, Koningsdag, Bevrijdingsdag, Ton’s birthday, mother’s day and all the other things we missed. :) How time flies! How is everyone doing wherever you are? Let us know in the comments!

Michael & Isabella

Posted by gekkies 02:52 Archived in Malaysia Comments (6)

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