Flowers of Cambodia & Malaysia

Melbourne Time

Malaysia Time

Click On Your Flag To Translate

Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



13. Food - Cambodia

Not being able to eat curry or spice foods and having an aversion to coconut milk, it appears I may have a bit of a time finding foods that don't fall into these categories. I really wish I did like curry and spicy foods, but I just can't eat them, although I have tried - the experience left me with steaming eyes and nose and a burning like a red hot fire in my mouth and throat. Woe is me.

After asking and being given some info, it appears there are some things I can try and I do so want to try the local foods. No amok, but eat the luk lak (cubed beef in sauce w/rice). Lots of steamed rice, chicken, meats, and fish. Cambodian iced coffee I'm told is 1/3 condensed milk - very sweet, and as I drink both tea and coffee without sugar, I shall forgo this delicay. Many places on Sivatha Blvd with good Khmer food but avoid Pub street I'm told.

There's supposed to be a good one up in the Wat Bo area (where I'm staying) called Arun restaurant which is run by Arun guesthouse. Have also been advised to stay away from Khmer Kitchen. Then there's something called ikan bilis, although I haven't the foggiest what it actually is. Evidently the guesthouse I'm staying at does very good Thai food.

So on the "To Eat" list we have -
1. French loaf of bread filled with pate, pork and vegetables.
2. Luk lak
3. Steamed rice with chicken, meats, and fish.
4. Pates and roasts are quite good - a good value filling snack.
5. Sivatha Boulevard - good Khmer food.
6. "Nom pang" hawkers
7. Pub Street is aimed at tourists and the Red Piano gets many customers cos that's where Angelina Jolie's crew members went (for drinks)!

So all in all, I should be able to survive and as a family member pointed out yesterday - you can always go to McDonald's! Huh, I don't even eat McDonalds here. Methinks a packet of SALADAS - that's dry bikkies and a jar of VEGEMITE will come in handy as "emergency" food.

12. Finding Information - 2

A friend gave me what he had on Malaysia which he'd had from a number of years ago and he advised me to contact the TOURISM MALAYSIA OFFICE in Australia. Their head office is in MELBOURNE at 355 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. Telephone +61-3-9654 3177 - 61 is the country code and 3 is the area code. If you were to ring from anywhere in Australia then you'd dial 03 96543177. They also have offices in NSW and Western Australia.

I contacted them last year and a very nice gentleman sent me some information, and included in it was a booklet on Melacca. I did eventually make it into the city a fortnight ago but sadly, they no longer have brochures for each place - none on Melacca at all. The lady there said they used to have much more, but the ones they receive from Malaysia now are separated into "sections".

Tourism Malaysia - Melbourne Office
For example, Southern Region, which includes Melacca, Negeri Sembilan and Johor. There's the East Coast Region which includes Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan - traditions, beaches, highlands. The only information in it about the Cameron Highlands was eleven lines and a list of "must do". I didn't learn anything I didn't know before. She did say they used to have a separate brochure for the CH but alas, it like so many others are no longer available.

From the information I had posted to me last year was a booklet titled Malaysia Travel Guide - a glossy, shiny book. The ones they have now, while having the same information are no longer glossy and shiny.

Colourful Kites in the Office
Even if I wasn't able to find the information I was seeking, this wonderful display of kites hanging from the ceiling in their office was a sight to behold.

11. Finding Information - 1

Finding information about Malaysia was not easy. When I plan to travel, I always start my research months beforehand by collecting brochures from travel agents and reading all I can find. Addedto this, I either contact the tourist information centre for that area, usually there's an 1800 number or a 1300 number. For those who may be unfamiliar with Australian telephone numbers, those beginning with 1800 are free calls and those starting with 1300 are charged at the rate of a local call. If both these numbers are unavailable, I send emails to the appropriate tourist centres.

There was very little to be found on both Malaysia and Cambodia. Either the tourist brochures were about Asia and listed several countries, with only a small portion devoted to both the countries I will visit, or there was nothing. The best I could find was (for example) Singapore and Malaysia, and Vietnam and Cambodia. There were plenty of glossy pages devoted to high end hotels but very little on the actual areas. And if you're looking for information on budget hotels and guesthouses - forget it. It isn't to be found.

You're betrter off either going online and/or asking on a travel website.

10. Travel Insurance

One of the most important things you must have when travelling overseas is travel insurance. When I travel around Australia, I never take out travel insurance, and when I went to New Zealand three years ago, I didn't take out travel insurance then either. As it turned out, I tripped on three concrete steps and did my left leg in.

The hotel I was staying in took me to the local Medical Centre in Queenstown. (I should point out, I had pre-booked and pre-paid for all my accommodation in NZ and was booked into YHA Lakeside Queenstown for six nights. On arriving there, to cut a long story short, someone from the other YHA in Queenstown had rung them five days previously cancelling my booking. I kicked up a big stink, demanded the manager came and promised them heads would roll - I remember saying "Believe me, somebody's head will roll" So - the manager came, there was not a bed to be found anywhere in any hostel in Queenstown, so they put me up at their expense, at a hotel. I had to pay the amount it would have cost me at the YHA (someone had even refunded the amount back onto the credit card) - I heard later that the person responsible was sacked. A few people suggested perhaps she had a friend who wanted a bed and cancelled my booking for that reason. Anyway, that is why I was staying in a hotel)

Anyway, to get back on track, New Zealand has something in place where tourists can't sue (there's a proper name for it but I can't remember it) whereby medical treatment is provided free.

Going to New Zealand is one thing, but travelling anywhere else it is really important to make sure you have adequate travel insurance. After asking the advice of others I did some checking. My car insurer offer travel insurance - it was only $59 but the problem was they have a $200 excess for every claim. Plus they didn't cover certain things - replacement of personal effects - like money/cash stolen, replacement of credit cards/visa cards, passports and travel documents. Their health coverage wasn't all that good either.

A friend suggest YHA Travel - I had looked at their website but initially had thought no - because it was much higher. After going through the policy online I came to the conclusion what's the point of only having to fork out $59 - if nothing happens you're alright, but, if something did happen, you'd be up for a $200 excess and if your money was stolen then forget it - you could kiss that money goodbye.

So - I looked at other suggested Travel Insurance companies and decided to go with YHA Travel. Being a YHA member we get 25% discount. They use QBE Insurance and people who had insured with them said they had no problems when making a claim. For the International Insurance they have two policies - $117 with a $100 excess, or $129 with $0 excess. Yours truly opted to pay the extra $12 and have $0 excess. Not bad considering for a mere $12 you don't have to pay any excess fees. Being a member I saved $43 (it would have cost me $172 had I not been a YHA member)
Important things to remember
a) Make sure your insurance offers good hopsital/medical cover
b) Cover for lost/stolen cash/credit cards etc
c) Cover for loss of passports
d) Cover for accommodation if your plane is delayed - with YHA Travel/QBE, if your scheduled flight is delayed six hours or more they will pay for accommodation.
e) Luggage - do they replace lost/stolen luggage.
f) Most importantly read the fine print and if you're not sure of the fancy wording, ask questions.

Total $129.00

9. Climate

Transport for Cambodia is worked out. Many guesthouses and hotels have their own drivers and mine is no exception. I could have either a tuk tuk or a car, thinking of the colourful trishaws around Melacca and Penang, I went for the tuk tuk. On seeing someon'es blog about their time at Angkor, it was just like a horse and cart, sans the horse - think cart pulled by a motorbike. A car might have been a cooler mode of transport - presumably it would be air-conditioned! The tuk tuk while having an overhead cover is exposed to the elements. Think of all that heat - oh my, I think the heat bothers me more than any of the other harrowing stories I've been told be well-meaning folk who take a serious delgight in pointing out all the horrors and pitfalls that can befall am overseas visitor.

Hearing that the weather in Penang at the moment was rather hot, I asked what "rather hot" meant. Was given a website called WUNDERGROUND and looked up Penang's weather.

I have selected the cities/places I'll be staying and set up MY FAVOURITES. I'm now going to save this page under "Useful Links" in the sidebar and call it Weather Forecasts.

Just checked and and it works - yippee! Now any time I want to check the weather all I need to do is click on "Weather Forecasts".

The reason I spoke of the heat bothering me, on looking at Penang's forecast for next Wednesday, it says High: 34°C, Heat Index: 45°C. Bloody hell, 34º is what we call "stinking hot", but 45º - I think I'm gonna die from the heat. I complain when it gets to 34º and up, the only time I remember the temperature being anywhere near 45º was on Black Saturday when we had 46.4º and it was terrible - hot northerlies which burnt your legs even when in the shade. Ah well, if I can survive the heat...someone said look on the bright side - you might come back 10 kgs lighter. I wish.

Ah well, it's good to have a bit of a whinge - after all, the weather is always a good topic of conversation for at least thirty minutes. It's one of the few topics you can talk about when you meet a complete stranger.

8. Expenses 2 - Accommodation

Accommodation rates were quoted in either US Dollars or Malaysian Ringitts (MYR)
In the case of US Dollars, at present US$17 is AUD$18.9880, or $19. And 35.00 MYR is AUD$11.4946, or $11.50.

Kualar Lumpur, 1 night = $35.03
Siem Reap for 1 nights = $38.00 (US$17 per night)
Penang - 3 nights = $35.00 (35MYR per night)
Tanah Rata 1 night = $16.43 (25MYR per night)
Melacca 3 nights = $136.95 (139MYR per night)

Actually, the rate for Heeren House is 119MYR but there is a surcharge of 20MYR for weekends and public holidays. Considering I'm checking in on the Friday and checking out on the Monday, I'm not sure I understand why I've been charged 3 lots of 20MYR extra. Two lots, yes, but three? Seems a bit strange, I'll have to clarify it with them when I check in.

Total $261.41

7. Accommodation

This is an edit update - Warning: The Old Penang Guesthouse in Penang bore no description to their website. It was a terrible place in a very seedy part of town and I felt very unsafe just walking there. I stayed elsewhere.
Also Kang Travellers Lodge (Daniels Lodge) in the Cameron Highlands was very dirty, had open drains, the toilets were disgusting and the man running the place wore nothing but a pair of jeans - bare foot and bare chested. I didn't stay there either and would advise others not to stay at either of these properties. I will post about this in fuller detail a little later. (Edited on 25th March)

After having made the decision of which hotel/guesthouse to stay in, it came time to make reservations. When I tried making a booking through a hotel website, it came up as no rooms vacant. Right, I thought to myself, I'll just go straight to the horse's mouth so to speak. In other words, book directly with the accommodation place. So that is what I did, and found there were vacancies at the place in Penang.
Anyway my accommodation is as follows -

Siem Reap - Two Dragons...2 nights

Kualar Lumpur - Tunes Hotel at LCCT (Airport)...1 night
Penang - Old Penang Guesthouse...3 nights
Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata) - Kang Travellers Lodge (Daniels Lodge)...2 nights
Melacca - Heeren House...3 nights

Below are photos of the places I'm staying. As I haven't yet left Melbourne, I don't have any photos of my own - the following are from the accommodation websites.

Two Dragons Guesthouse - Siem Reap

Tunes Hotel LCCT - Kuala Lumpur

Address is ~ Tunes Hotel KLIA-LCCT Airport
Lot PT 29, Jalan KLIA S4, 64000 KLIA
Selangor Darul Ehsan

Old Penang Guesthouse - Georgetown

Kang Travellers Lodge - Tanah Rata

Heeren House - Melacca

6. Accommodation

An edit update - Warning: Do not stay at the Old Penang Guesthouse in Penang or Klang Travellers Lodge (formerly Daniel's Travellers Lodge) in Tanah Rata. (Edited on 25th March)

Not having been to Asia before, I was all at sea as far as accommodation went. When I travel around Australia I stay in YHA hostels - dorm share. For my trip to New Zealand I did the same thing. I love staying in a dorm, firstly it's cheaper than a single room and secondly, it's so much more fun when you're travelling solo. You get to meet other people and don't have to spend your time alone. It's comforting to know there are others in the same room. Apart from a couple of hostels which weren't YHA's, I've always stayed in a female dorm. In other words YHA hostels have male and female dorms, many other hostels have mixed dorms.

There are very few YHA places is Malaysia, I found one in Penang but it was dearer than some budget hotels. I asked on a travel forum for advice and although there weren't that many suggestions, I looked up some and settled on Old Penang Hotel in Penang, Klang Travellers Lodge (formerly Daniel's Travellers Lodge) in Tanah Rata and a friend who I see each day on the way to work advised Heeren House in Melacca. She and her husband had stayed there in 2008 and loved it.

I had contacted Tourism Malaysia in Melbourne and their advice for Penang was
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, which although lovely and I would love to have stayed there, was way out of my price range. That's why I settled for Old Penang Hotel in Love Lane.


5. Expenses 1 - Flights

I really ought to keep a record of expenses, firstly so I know how much this trip is costing, secondly for anyone who reads this, it'll give them some idea of how much they'll need for a similar trip. The prices are in Australia dollars.

Return flights Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur $258
Return flights KL to Siem Reap (Cambodia) $127
One way flight KL to Penang $ 21
Total .............. $406

Add $28 for changing return flight date $434
Add $20 for selecting seat Mel>KL>Mel $454

So five flights total $454 - not bad. A return flight Melbourne to Darwin was $400 in 2006, same when I flew to Perth (2006)and New Zealand (2007).

Total $454

4. The Itinerary - Part 2

Well now, after much hair pulling and should I's? and countless advice from others, I finally had an itinerary that I was happy with. But before I did this, I also had to check accommodation places.

Anyway, The "Itinerary" which I ended up with is as follows -

Day 1 - Kuala Lumpur
Day 2 - Siem Reap
Day 3 - Siem Reap
Day 4 - Penang
Day 5 - Penang
Day 6 - Penang
Day 7 - Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata)
Day 8 - Cameron Highlands (Tanah Rata)
Day 9 - Melacca
Day 10 - Melacca
Day 11 - Melacca
Day 12 - Depart
Day 13 - Arrive home (12.10 am)

I had planned on have at least the last night in KL - I thought this would be easier to get to the airport, but as was pointed out to me I would be doubling back going from Cameron Highlands to Melacca, then Melacca back to KL. There are buses that go from Melacca to LCCT airport. I thought this was very good advice and having three nights in Melacca I would be able to relax and unwind rather than rushing around trying to see everything in one day.

3. Working Out My Itinerary

After booking my tickets, then came the conundrum of where to go. Penang was on my list of places, people had advised stopping in the Cameron Highlands and Melacca was also on the cards. My itinerary was at this stage looking something like this -
Day 1 - Kuala Lumpur
Day 2 Siem Reap
Day 3 Siem Reap
Day 4 Penang
Day 5 Penang
Day 6 Cameron Highlands
Day 7 Cameron Highlands
Day 8 ?
Day 9 ?
Day 10 Kuala Lumpur
Day 11 Kuala Lumpur
Day 12 Depart

For days 8 and 9, I had the bright idea of going to Taman Negara, rather than doing the "expected" of going to Melacca. I'd heard of the trip up the river which took around 4 or 5 hours and thought that'd be fantastic - getting off the beaten track so to speak, staying in the "jungle" and doing the treetop rainforest walk the following morning.

It wasn't until this year that I finally worked out the itinerary. I realised that having two nights in Penang would only give me one day to see the things I wanted to see as I wouldn't be arriving until 5.30pm at the airport. Add a good half an hour onto that it would be at least 6.00 or 6.30pm by the time I checked in to my accommodation.


2. Booking My Tickets - Part 2

With all the cheap fares going, and me never having been out of Australia except for the time I went to New Zealand in 2007, I thought it'd be good to see as many countries as I could. So - I had visions of flitting here and there and being able to say, "I've been to Malaysia and Thailand and Cambodia and Hong Kong", etc. But as someone pointed out, I'd be spending more time at airports and waiting around rather than seeing much of anything. So, I settled on Cambodia. I had heard of the wonderful temples of Angkor and thought now that would be really something worth doing and so I booked a return flight to Siem Reap. Departing KL at 7.00am, 12th March, arriving Siem Reap at 8.00am, then leaving Siem Reap 14th March at 8.00am and arriving in KL at 11.35am.

I also decided to book a flight for the same day to Penang and hummed and haahed over which flight I should take. I'd have liked to book the earlier flight leaving at around 1.30pm but worried I might miss my connection. The next flight was around 3.00pm - still I fretted I might miss it if the plane from Siem Reap was delayed. Eventually, I settled on the 4.30pm flight which would land at Penang at 5.30pm. As someone said, that was a waste of a day - 5 hours hanging around the airport twiddling my thumbs. Still, better safe than sorry.

On the advice of a friend, I booked my first night at the TUNES HOTEL at the LCCT airport, (I wouldn't have thought of doing this) and my two nights in Siem Reap. He recommended the TWO DRAGONS GUESTHOUSE, a lovely place part owned by Cambodians and part owned by Gordon Sharpless who wrote TALES OF ASIA. I chose the room with a small double bed at US$17 per night and booked their tuk-tuk driver - US$15 per day. Plus an extra US$4 for return to the airport.

Gordon asked me did I also wish to book a guide. I wasn't sure and said I'd let him know later on. He did say if I was still undecided a week before I'm due to arrive, he would advise me to book one. Evidently, drivers cannot guide and guides cannot drive. Having read about land mines and noting the warnings - stick to the paths, I'm thinking that perhaps I should go for a guide, but at an extra US$25 per day, that's an extra $50. Still unsure whether to have a guide or not.

Then of course, came the big decision of The Itinerary.

1. The Beginning - Booking My Tickets

Monday 22 February 2010

Well this is the first post for this blog - and I've realised it's only 17 days to go! It all started back in September last year (2009). Air Asia emailed me (I joined their mailing list some months previously) and they had a big sale on - $119 Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur. $238 return Melbourne to Malaysia seemed like a pretty good deal to me. Add $20 for checked luggage - a total of $258. It cost more to fly to Darwin and Perth - even Melbourne to Christchurch was much dearer.

Anyway, I asked a few people was this a cheap fare? Evidently it was a very cheap fare - someone said they paid over $400. So, on the 9th September, I booked my return flight. Now, thinking that accommodation would be around $30 per night, I decided to stay for 6 nights only. I was due to fly out 11 March 2010 around 1.00am (Melbourne time), landing in KL at 6.35am (Malaysian time). My return flight was departing KL 18th March at 1.10am.

After being advised that it really wasn't long enough and then finding out that prices in Malaysia are waaay cheaper than here, I decided to change my flight details. Alas, most of the cheap fares ($119) had gone - the best I could do was 11 nights with a return flight departing at 13.20pm and arriving home at 12.10am the next day. I would have liked to have had a few extra days, but didn't see the point in paying an extra $80 or so for the privilege. So - 11 nights in total. Departing Melbourne 11th March at 1.10am arriving in KL at 6.35am, the return being 22nd March 13.20pm arriving Melbourne 23rd March at 12.10am. Cost an extra $28 to change the flight.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...