16 May 2014

Peninsular Malaysia

Lisa wanted to have a break from work and life in Solo, I needed to renew my Indonesian visa. And I'm always happy to travel. So we flew to Kuala Lumpur on May 1st. Lisa had been there before (visa issues), it was my first visit to Malaysia.



Relaxing with a view
Kuala Lumpur is a big city with everything big cities usually offer, but it failed to amaze me. I will probably go back to KL as it's a great transport hub, but the city itself is a conglomerate of shopping malls, office buildings and residential condos and has little attractions in it's own sense. At least that's my impression.
Getting around in KL is quite simple. Taxis are rather cheap (as long as you make sure that they use the meter) and buses, LRT, KTM and Monorel trains very straightforward and easy to manage. Plus, a lot of locals speak English, so you can easily ask for your way should you get lost.
We enjoyed eating food from all over the world - Malaysian, Indian, German, Korean, Italian, Chinese, and even a Swiss fondue(!) - as the foreign food choice in Solo is quite limited. Don't get me wrong, I love Indonesian food. But it's also nice to enjoy every now and then the variety of different foods the world has to offer.

Enjoying a Swiss fondue in KL

Batu Caves
Getting a new visa for me at the Indonesian embassy was surprisingly easy. I was prepared to long queues and interminable waiting time. Especially after Lisa told me her experiences. But we arrived there at 8:50 am on Friday morning with all papers prepared and walked out an hour later already. Monday afternoon, it took us a mere 15 minutes to pick up my passport with a brand new 60 day student visa in it (more about that later).

As Lisa had to fly back to Solo on May 6, our time together in Malaysia was quite limited. We still enjoyed it as much as we could. Once Lisa was on her way back home, I was eager to get out of KL and discover some other parts of peninsular Malaysia. A short trip to the city limits took me to the Batu Caves. Once quite far from downtown KL, the urban sprawl has now reached the Caves which makes them easy to reach by KTM train. Imagine a huge cave filled with stairs, Hindu temples, pilgrims and tourists: there you have the Batu Caves. While the caves and the temples aren't anything special, I still liked the trip as it brought me in contact with a kind of spirituality that is quite foreign to me.

Melaka

The next day, I failed in my attempt to go to Melaka, as I woke up quite late and went to the wrong bus terminal. Sometimes it wouldn't hurt double checking the information you have been given. The next day, I woke up a bit earlier and went to the right bus terminal. And everything went extremely smooth. I arrived there, bought a bus ticket to Melaka for ten ringgit and the bus left ten minutes later already. By noon, I arrived in Melaka and took a city bus from the terminal to the center. Once an important trading port, Melaka still shows a lot of foreign influence. The Dutch and English occupation is very visible in the historic center and an early Portuguese settlement is also nearby. In addition, Melaka has a sizeable Chinese community. If you're eager to try Malay-Chinese fusion food, Melaka is a good starting point. Getting back to KL from Melaka was as easy as getting there.

After a day trip, I left KL for the weekend. I went to Penang, an island just off the northwestern coast, the only state of Malaysia with a Chinese majority (about 11% of Malaysians are of Chinese origin). Penang turned out to be my best travel experience in Malaysia. The trip there was again simple: turn up at the bus terminal, buy a ticket for the next bus, wait until the driver decides the bus is sufficiently full, lean back and enjoy the ride. 35 Ringgit (about 10$) for a five hour bus ride in
Kek Lok Si Temple - Penang
comfortable seat. I like Malaysia :) Once arrived in George Town, the capital of Penang, I found a nice guesthouse called Stardust with cheap and clean rooms. It took me the rest of the afternoon to explore the colonial center of the city. In the evening, I met a bunch of local CouchSurfers for food and drinks in a nice café called Mugshot. Best bagels I've had n a long time and their yogurt is to die for. Thanks for that, guys!
The next day I went to Penang National Park, as I wanted to go hiking and I heard the park also features the nicest beaches on the island. Fortunately for hiking but unfortunately for beach photos, it was quite cloudy the whole day and in the afternoon I got stuck on Monkey Beach for two hours due to heavy downpours. But well, I went swimming in the rain, left my clothes and my bag with the owner of a small food and drinks stall and when I came back he already awaited me with a steaming teh tarik ("pulled tea", black tea with a lot of sugar and milk).
After visiting Kek Lok Si Temple the next morning, it was unfortunately already time to head back to Kuala Lumpur. But well, Lisa hasn't been in Penang yet, so it's quite probable I will return there soon. I left Malaysia after 13 days with a promise to return, at least to Penang and to discover Sarawak and Sabah. But for now, more adventures await in Indonesia, our temporary home.

More pictures from Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang (May 2014)

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