Malaysia

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July 8 - 31, 1997

I took the bus from Singapore to Mersing, in Malaysia, where I caught the ferry to Tioman Island. It was a high speed ferry, so we didn't get to see the end of the Steven Seagal film they were showing.

I spent the night at ABC. The place was dead. It seemed like an okay little place, but the beach was very rocky, so it wasn't good for swimming.

The next morning I caught the round the island boat. My destination was Juara, which was on the other side of the island, and quite isolated. When I got there, who should be on the jetty to greet me, but Rene and Kristine.

Juara was great. There was hardly anyone there. I was surprised at how deserted it was. There were maybe 25 tourists staying there at any one time. Each afternoon the round the island boat would arrive. People would get off, eat, swim, and then leave.

I had my own little hut on the beach. I spent my time relaxing. Reading, writing, swimming, eating. Unfortunately it was windy the whole time I was there, so I couldn't do any snorkeling. I hung out there for a week, recharging my batteries.

There was a couple from Etobicoke staying there. They'd spent the last four and a half years in Japan, teaching English. They said what they missed most about Canada was the canoing. They were winding their way home, and would be back August 1, so were hoping to get one canoe trip in before winter hit.

After a week I hiked across the island to get back to the other side. There's a path across, and it takes about two hours. I got to Tekek at 9:00am. They informed me that all the ferries left at 8:00am, and that was all for the day. I could take a more expensive speed boat, though. I already had a return ticket for the ferry, but I was itching to move on, and Tekek didn't seem like a very nice place, so I took the speed boat.

I wanted to go to Taman Negara, so back in Mersing I needed a bus to Kuantan. Waiting for a bus to KL were a couple of women from Victoria, so we talked for a while. There was a Swiss couple also going to Taman Negara.

We got to Kuantan at 4:00. We were informed that the only buses to Jerantut leave at 12:00 and 1:00, which doesn't get you there in time to catch the last boat. She suggested taking the 8:00am bus to Temerloh, and a local bus to Jerantut. So I was stuck in Kuantan for the night, which was a pretty dull place.

In the morning I caught the bus. No sign of the Swiss couple. In Jerantut I was accosted by a tout, who sold me a boat ticket, and got me a ride to Kuala Tembeling, where the boats leave from.

The boat ride was neat. A big canoe like thing with a roof, holding twenty people. It took three hours, going up river through the jungle.

At Kuala Tahan is the resort. Very touristy. I got a bed in the hostel for RM 40.00, which is outrageously expensive. I was also told that the day after it was full. It seems it was Mohammad's birthday, which is a national holiday, so, like a long weekend back home, everyone was going to the park.

In the dorm I met a Malaysian guy, who told me what to see in the park, and gave me the shortcuts. He was a tour guide, who was going be be charging some German tourists big bucks to show them the things he'd just told me about for free.

The next morning I did a jungle walk up a nearby hill, and then did the canopy walk. They've built these hanging bridges between the trees at canopy level, that you can walk from tree to tree on. Pretty neat.

I went across the river to eat on the cheap, floating restaurants, where I ran into the Swiss couple. They'd taken the Jerantut bus, and had just arrived. They had real trouble finding a place to stay. The cheap hostels across the river were all full. They ended up getting a mattress on the floor.

I hiked to a hide, where I was going to spend the night. It's a small building, built on tall stilts. There's a big window that you can sit at and watch the animals from. They overlook salt licks, to attract the animals.

When I arrived there was no one there. I went down to the river to swim, and then came back. I had just sat down in front of the window, when an American, Willis, arrived, followed by his friends Gary and Beth, who lived in Kuala Lumpur now, and Gary and Beth's friend, Kate, and Aussie living in KL. They immediately apologized profusely for making so much noise, and proceeded to bring out tonnes of food and wine. A couple of Danish girls also arrived.

We sat staring out the window, but didn't see much. But the sounds were amazing. As it got dark, Kate would shine her flashlight at the woods, and occasionally see the glow of eyes.

Then we discovered that there were rats in the hide. One ran across Kate's foot, leaving a huge footprint. One crawled out from under Gary's mattress. We removed the garbage can, and hung the food.

It's was pretty neat, laying there, listening to the different sounds, and hearing how they changed at different times of the day.

The next morning we hiked back to the resort. I ran into the two Canadian women from Mersing.

That night I stayed in one of the hostels across the river for RM 10.00.

Took the boat back in the morning. As I got off the boat there was a guy looking for a fourth person to share a taxi to Jerantut, so I took him up on it. There was a Dutch couple who were going to Kuanton, and French Canadian guy going to KL, which was where I was headed. In Jerantut we had a four hour wait for the bus to KL. The French Canadian guy had a headache, so we went to the one air conditioned place in town - KFC. Big mistake. After three and a half months of eating in exotic places, I got sick at KFC.

About an hour after eating my stomach started to hurt. Half an hour after getting on the bus, my stomach really started to hurt. I went to the washroom at the back, but it was padlocked. I went back to my seat. Then I realized that I was going to throw up. I ran to the front of the bus, and knocked on the door. The driver to opened the door, and I threw up out the door as we sped down the highway.

At Temerloh we got a new driver. I was feeling better, but then, a few minutes out of Temerloh I had to throw up again. This time I didn't make it in time, and projectile vomited all over the door. The driver was not happy. He stopped the bus, and cleaned off the door, while making me stand far away from the bus. After that his assistant gave me a plastic bag to throw up in. When it was full I'd toss it out the door, and he'd give me a new one.

I spent the night at the KL City Lodge; a grotty place, full of grotty Malaysian men who were hacking and coughing. As I threw up in the sink, I thought that I fit right in.

In the morning I was feeling better, so I got the bus to the Cameron Highlands (named after surveyor William Cameron, who "discovered" it). It's up in the hills, so it's nice and cool.

I was still feeling weak, so I spent the first couple of days laying around.

I stayed at the Twin Pines Chalet. In front they had a lounge, with magazines and stuff, and a tv, where they showed movies at night. They also had books for people to write travel tips. Books on Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, Thailand, etc.

And they had a book on Canada, so I read it. All but two of the people who had written in it were Canadians. Other people may not visit Canada, but we Canadians sure love our country. Everyone wrote about what a great place Canada is. I got a little homesick reading it.

Anyways, I did a few of the jungle hikes through the surrounding hills. And took a tour that went to the tea plantations, and strawberry farms, and butterfly farms, and stuff like that. They had huge scorpions, and really big, ugly bugs at the butterfly farm.

Ran into the Etobicoke couple there. They'd gone to Singapore to pick up their mothers. They had gone to Raffles on my recommendation.

Then it was back to KL. I got my Australian visa, and then went to book my flight to Bali. But the travel agent wouldn't book it if I didn't have an onward ticket from Indonesia. But the flight out I wanted I had to book from Indonesia.

I went to another travel agent recommended by the hotel. He checked one airline, and the earliest he flight he could get was in a week. Called another airline; same story. Called back the first airline. Now that flight was sold out, so I had to go the next day. So I was stuck in KL for a week. He made me pay a deposit, and said I could pick up the ticket the next day. I did this, but was worried it might be a scam.

I went the next morning. He said that it was Saturday, so his staff was off, so come back on Monday. Now I was really worried.

In the meantime, I went to Pudu Prison. It was used until last November, but now it's a museum, so it's pretty much how it looked when it was in use. They had a video showing an actual caning. And a cheesy death row show. Displays of prisoner made weapons. A lot of the cells had artwork on the walls done by the prisoners. Some quite good.

I also went to the art museum, which had a lot of recent work which was quite interesting.

There was a guy in the bunk under me who sounded like he had a Canadian accent, so I asked him where he was from. He said Vancouver. I said I was from Toronto. He'd lived there for five years. He'd lived on Roncesvalles when I was at Dundas and Bloor.

Later we were talking, and he said that he was having trouble orienting himself in KL, because the streets were so winding. He said, "All the places I've lived have grid patters. Very boring."

I said, "Well, I'm from Regina."

He said, "No way. I'm from Regina too. How old are you?"

"35"

"I'm 35, too."

He went to LeBoldus, which is one high school down from Campbell, where I went. He took engineering at the U of R and U of S.

We started throwing out names to see who we knew in common, and finally connected on Will Dixon. He also knew Mark Wihak, and a few of those other film types. His name was Hugh Bitz. Small world. So we reminisced about Regina, and about Canadian music.

On Sunday Gary and Beth picked me up and showed me around the city. We went for lunch in the trendy, expat part of town, and talked about what it was like to live in another country, and be away from home for a long time, and about computer stuff.

We went to the Bird Park, which was pretty cool. They've got a huge tent covering a huge area of land, so the bids can fly free. There's a tent within a tent, where the hornbills are, which also encloses the Carl's Jr., so that their customers get exclusive looks at the hornbills, and can feed them french fries. The hornbills are huge, with giant bills. On top of their beaks they have a horn, which makes them look like a unicorn. They hop along sideways, like a cartoon bird.

There are also huge pelicans, and other beautiful birds in the park.

The movie at the hotel that night was Murder at 1600, about a murder in the White House. In one of the shots there's a City-tv van. City-tv. Everywhere.

On Monday morning I went to the travel agent. He said to come back in half an hour. I went back. He was eating breakfast. I waited while he finished, and then he gave me my ticket.

In the afternoon I went to Batu Caves, a huge cave on the outskirts of town. It's enormous, with birds flying around, monkeys, Hindu temples, and a souvenir stand inside.

The next day I went to Malacca for the day, and saw the historic sites, going back to the days of Portuguese, Dutch, and British occupation.


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Last updated: March 7, 2011