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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.



98. Tanah Rata Walk

About Tanah Rata
Tanah Rata is the major town in the Cameron Highlands, with Brinchang to the north and Ringlet to the south. It is a lovely town for strolling around down the main street with quaint shops on either side and lots of lively action filled with tourists and locals alike. The best thing about this place is the cool mountain air - I felt just like I was back in Melbourne! The air is fresh and clear and there's no humidity like the rest of Malaysia. There are still old buildings around which haven't yet been torn down by the Malaysian government in the name of progress.

Out and about
As the bus arrived around noon and given the kerfuffle of before (see #96 Kang Traveller's Lodge - Warning) it was well past my lunch time and with rumbling tummy I set off to investigate the town and find somewhere to eat.

Above: Butterfly
Spotted this poor butterfly on the ground. As you can see, its right wing is damaged and it was having difficulty flying so I gently picked it up and palced it on the grass.

Above: The Dreaded Durian
Ah here at last were the durians I had heard so much about. And no, I wasn't game to try one.

Above: Street Cafes
Walking further down the street, this is the high side btw - the steps are raised and as I walked along it was up, walk, down, walk, up, walk etc. The whole side is raised it really was quite pretty. The other side of the street is the "low" side.

Above: The "low" side of the street
For some reason I didn't find this side as interesting as the high side. Perhaps it had something to do with light and dark - the high side was light filled.

I had lunch (not in the main street) at a place called Nonga Fern, or it could be Nonga Ferm (can't read my own writing), the meal was so-so, coffee awful and the cup very dirty with a big chip. This is from my notes of that day. I ate ouside the cafe/restaurant at their tables and chairs and spent a very pleasant half hour or so writing in my travel diary.

Above: Food stalls
Going back up the way I had come there are many food and market type stalls here. I also noticed quite a number of white plastic tables and chairs and a lot of people were eating - there were several families gathered around and plenty of cooking going on too.

Above: S K Convent Primary School
This beautiful old building was built in the 1930's and is sited on a hillside overlooking the township of Tanah Rata. The Convent Primary School, (or Sekolah Kebangsaan Convent (SK Convent) is one of the oldest buildings in Tanah Rata and has lovely elegant lines. It was once used as a British hospital (as were a number of the old buildings here) as this was where people came to escape the heat and for those who were recovering from malaria. It became a fully-fledged Roman Catholic school in 1971.

Above: Funky fone
I thought the public telephones here were cute - much nicer than ours back home.

Above: Town Clock
Further down (think it was south but can't be sure as one's sense of direction gets a little hay wire) is the town clock which is situated in the Botanic Gardens which are on the right hand side of the main street. I've not been able to find any information about the clock so don't know when it was built. The time on the clock is wrong btw.

Above: Botanic Gardens, Tanah Rata
The gardens were were a lovely surprise and the flowers! Beautiful, bold, bright colours and the layout was well thought out. I spotted several seats where you could sit in the shade and the paths were clean and well kept.

Above: Bridge
This adorable little bridge is down the side from the side street. It had a look of a Dutch feel to it, although why that should be I don't know. It was sort of olde worldly.

Above: Botanic Gardens
This metal arch is in keeping with the rest of the design - again that olde worlde look.

Above: Cameron Highlands
Walking back along the main road, this very large structure stands out from across the street - this is on the "low" side. 

Above: Marrybrown
Back on the high side again, is Marrybrown's - Malaysia's answer to McDonalds. By this time it was late in the day, the weather had turned quite cool and it had started to rain a little so I stopped here and had tea - chicken and rice from memory. The food was delicious. I should add that I don't patronise McDondal's, Hungry Jack's or KFC. But I did eat at this "junk food" place.

Above: Coloured Tree
I really love this tree and wondered how there could possibly such a tree in existence with the different colours. Closer inspection showed me that it was not actually a (living) tree at all - hence the different colours. If you enlarge the picture, you can see the Botanic Gardens in the backdrop on the left side. Further to the right, the number "one" sports part of the Malaysian flag,
This was back towards the "low" side of the main road near the bus/taxi terminal - a cream brick place. The public loos were closed. Building was going on and hadn't been completed when I was here. As you can see from this photo, it is raining and fairly consistent too. I had left my brolly in my suitcase, wasn't wearing long sleeves so caught a taxi back. Didn't take long going by car.

I had a lovely walk around the town and thouroughly enjoyed the day. Back at the Cameronian Inn it was cups of hot tea sitting around the tables at the front entrance with Ganesh and three or four of the other guests. We just sat and talked and a good time was had by all.

So ended the first day in the Cameron Highlands.


97. Cameronian Inn

We arrived back at Cameronian Inn which didn't take very long at all.

Above: Cameronian Inn
The Inn is in Mentigi Utama Street/Road and to get into the township, you just turn right, walk down a few minutes and turn left at Camelia Street and you come to the main road. The Tourist Info/Bus Station is sort of in the centre of the road.

Above: Front entrance
When you walk through the front door, the dining area is to your right. There is self service tea and coffee available - but it's not free. Tea is 1.20 ringgit and coffee 1.60. They do have fresh milk which is good. You can also order a cup of tea or coffee but the price is higher. They work on the honour system here - you make your tea/coffee and write it on a piece of paper - name, room no, date, item and price and but it in the basket. There were also some delicious looking home made shortbread as well.

Above: Room 21
This was my room, as I said it was very basic but is was also clean. It was quiet here and when you went out the door there was a huge undercover area with pot plants and other paraphernalia lying around and you just went in the back door to enter in. The shower had a good supply of hot water and there were fresh towels on the bed.

Above: Sitting room
This was the sitting room which I only discovered not long before I left. Don't know how often it gets used.

Above: Cameronian Inn gardens
This section is at right angles from the front door and there was a family with three or four children staying here.

Above: Alfresco
This is in the "front yard" of the place.


96. Kang Traveller's Lodge - Warning

I had pre-booked two nights accommodation at Kang Traveller's Lodge (formerly Daniel's Lodge). The bus dropped me off in the main street, I asked directions and walked up the hilly slope. From the street, the outside looks like an old house with an overgrown garden. On entering, I was shocked to meet the man in charge - he was naked except for a pair of jeans - bare chested and bare foot. I should have realised then and turned tail. Alas, stupidly I didn't. (Yes, we all know things with hindsight don't we?)

Dirty and disgusting
The room which was "reserved" - there were two he said, had no bathroom facilities. Walking through the place there were open drains/sewers for the water and the whole place looked (and smelt) disgusting. The toilets were dirty and disgusting - a hole in the ground, a bucket and not much else. Plenty of water all over the floors though.

The first room he showed me was terrible, never in my life had I seen such a hovel. I told him no, was there anything else? He took me outside and we turned right (from the street, the room is on the left) there were a couple of rooms made of flimsy panelboard. He opened the door and my heart sank - the room stank, the window didn't close properly, there was a one inch gap under the door, there was barely enough room to walk around the bed and there was no power point. As this was all there was and not having been in a situation like this before, I took it.

Mildew on the bedding
I handed over my credit card and he said no credit card, cash only. Now, had I been smart, I should have said I didn't have any cash on me and would need to go to a bank. Then gone and looked for alternative accommodation. Foolishly I handed over 25 MYR. I went back to the room to unpack and discovered the bedding and mattress were mouldy and had mildew on them.

This was worse than I thought. I went and found the tourist information counter (It's where the buses pick you up) and explained what had happened and asked the lady could she recommend a place. She said "We never recommend Kang to anybody, it is very dirty and disgusting." They were her words. She suggested Cameronian Inn - 40 MYR for single room with share toilet, 65 MYR for single room with private toilet/shower. I chose the private one.
I was given Room 21, you have to go outside out the back door which is all under cover, the room was on the right. Very basic, but clean. Ran my fingers along the bedside table - no dust. The owner Ganesh had his driver come and drive me back to Kangs to get my suitcase.


No refund
The bare chested fellow looked at me and I apologised and said I wasn't going to be staying here, the bed had mildew etc. Never have I seen a face change so quickly. I wondered later if this had happened before. Anyway, we collected my suitcase and I asked politely for my money back. No he snarled, no refund. Why asks I? Because it has already gone through. I knew he was lying - there was no computer, just a piece of paper. Look I reasoned, my suitcase was only here for less than half and hour etc. but no salada. Nothing doing. You want refund - you go see boss.

I did try the "boss" who is at their hotel in the main street. The fellow there was even ruder and the "boss lady" was always conveniently "in Ipoh."

95. Overland to Cameron Highlands

Driving over Penang Bridge was the first time I'd seen it up close and there was some traffic but not much. The sky was a lovely yellow colour - a remnant from the sunrise. The day was partly cloudy although we did have some brilliantly blue skies as well.

Above: Paying the toll
Twenty minutes after leaving the hotel, the bus stopped here to pay a toll. I'm not exactly sure where this is, but after doing some research, I believe it may be Butterworth.

Above: Stop between Penang and Tanah Rata
After the tollway we arrived here 75 minutes later. Again, I couldn't say exactly where it was and am kicking myself that I didn't think to ask at the time or at least look for a sign. Anyway, we stopped here for a coffee break/toilet stop and we all stretched our legs. The smokers as usual congregated outside puffing away. I went in to the place and found a shop on the left hand side and asked if they made coffee. After much hand gesturing and nodding (they spoke little English and I had no Malay) my coffee was ordered. The poor ladies were ever so nice and ever so slow - by the time it was ready it was almost time to board the bus.

So - should you be on the minibus forget the coffee and just buy some fruit or a snack as the bus doesn't really stop for long - just enough time to go to the loo and have a quick stretch of the legs.

This was a very pretty place with lots of flowers - the bougainvillea was pretty with a variegated leaf
Above: Bougainvilleas

and another flower whose name I don't know.
Above: Flower with yellow centre

Do you know where this place is?
However, after a lot of searching, the only placed I found is the Terminal Bas Ekspres Medan Gopeng Ipoh, but I don't think this is correct because where we stopped there were a lot of trees/shrubs/flowers and the only retail place is the one you see in the photo.

If anyone reading this should happen to know this place, it'd be great if you would leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.☺

Above: Lightning cloud
The scenery changed and we were surrounded by luscious forests and trees. I remember thinking at the time this tree looked like it was being struck by lightning. Strange cloud formation.

Building in progress
You couldn't help noticing a huge swathe of the forests had been cut down and everywhere there seemed to be buildings going up - huge, modern monstrosities that were hotels and resorts which stood out like sore thumbs. The countryside was being destroyed for resort developments and golf courses. It really did make an ugly blot on the landscape and for what? Expensive resorts? It seemed such a pity that this was happening, with so much natural beauty it would be better by far to keep that beauty and make do with what had already been there. There are plenty of accommodation places, many of which fit in with their surroundings so why cannot the Malaysian government be content and stop chasing the tourist dollar for ugly eyesores?

94. Goodbye to Penang

Above: Penang flag
The flag is a tricolour consisting of vertical stripes of equal width of light blue (at the hoist), white and yellow; on the central (white) stripe is an areca nut palm or pokok pinang on a mount. Light blue signifies the sea, which surrounds the island. The white represents the State itself in its serenity. The yellow signifies prosperity. The betelnut tree is the tree from which the island takes its names.

Above: Waiting for the bus
It was time to leave Penang and I waited here for the bus. When I'd booked the bus a couple of days previously, I found out that the mini bus which left Penang at (from memory) 8.00am, stopped at certain locations to pick-up passengers and the Bayview Hotel was one of them. This was so much easier than having to lug a suitcase down somewhere to catch a bus to take me to Komtar or wherever the bus began its journey.

The bus arrived at the hotel at 7.45am and we were on our way. There was a German fellow plus one or two other chaps on the bus when it stopped for me. We made a stop at Hutton Lodge and a German couple and their 5 year old daughter hopped on. I remember later he found it hard to get comfortable - it was a minibus and he was very tall with such long legs he didn't have room to stretch out. I sat on the right hand side and being nowhere near 6 foot was quite comfortable.

Above: Kapitan Keling mosque
The streets devoid of people make for better photos.

Above: Penang apartments
We passed these tall apartments on the way. I think the different colours make for an interesting effect don't you? The people on the upper floors must have a lovely view.

Above: Morning skies over Penang Bridge
In this photo you can see the hazy mist of early morning light over the Penang Bridge. As the bus was fast moving, very few photos came out well enough. These are the ones that did.

Above: Penang Island map

The history of Penang began in 1786, when Captain Francis Light struck a deal with the Sultan of Kedah. He acquired Pulau Pinang (Penang Island) from the Sultan on behalf of the East India Company, which is return promised Kedah protection against its powerful neighbours. You can read more information here.

93. Pitfalls of Travelex Cash Passport

Leaving Penang
Because of the length and the subject, I have written this seperately to the post about leaving Penang.

Travel Tip
I write this as a warning to other travellers who have either opened a Travelex Cash Passport or are thinking of opening one - be aware of the pitfalls of such a card. Here's what happened with me:

Above: Travelex Cash Passport (Visa)

Card Declined
I purchased a Travelex Cash Passport which is a prepaid currency card. It costs AUD$15 to have one. I put $500 on mine and used some of this in Cambodia to make purchases. I still had around $260 left in it. When I arrived at the Bayview Hotel, I used this card for my accommodation. What I didn't know was they take the amount (in this case 600MYR which is approx $200) from the card and "hold" it. When it came time to pay my hotel bill, I had a big problem.

I'm standing at reception, try to pay the bill, the card was declined - there wasn't enough money in it. The chap told me thay "hold" the money for seven days. But it depends on the bank when the money gets put back in.

Always have other forms of cash or CC
So effectively, there was no money on the card, even though there was $260 there was still no money. I rang the number on the back of the card, kept getting a recorded message, pressed all the right buttons too, but couldn't get to speak to anyone. All this telephoning took around 10 to 15 minutes and I was panicking - what was I going to do, was I going to miss my bus (you had to pre-book your bus fare), the robotic voice on the other end of the phone was useless. Plus I was mortified that this was happening - can't pay my hotel bill, oh the shame!

I had to use my credit card. The total was 781 MYR (this included all the "extras" - eg meals) and I'd have been up you know what creek without a paddle if I hadn't had a credit card.

Now, the money had been taken out and "held" somewhere on the 14th March so the money should have been put back in by the 21st March - it wasn't. I checked this several times online in Malacca. I left Malaysia on the 22nd and arrived back in Australia on the 23rd March. I checked the account balance again, still the money had not been put back in the account.

On the 24th, I rang Travelex in Australia and explained the situation. The lady I spoke with was very helpful and was surprised to hear I couldn't speak with anyone when I rang them (Travelex) from the hotel. She asked for my bank account details and after the 600 MYR had been put back on the card, credited all the money to my bank. This meant that the balance left was zero. So I did get my money back but only after a long list of problems.

Travelex Cash Passport Rules
a) It costs $15 to open an account and deposit money.
b) Each time you wish to add more money onto the card it costs $15.
c) You can only use the card overseas.
d) You cannot use the card in your home country
e) If you wish to withdraw the money in your home country you will be charged $15.
f) The card is valid for three years.

I am going to Thailand and Laos in a little over three weeks, but I won't be using the cash passport again. True, it is good to have another form of money in case your credit card gets stolen, but after the hassle I had in Malaysia, I really don't think it's worth it. I'll still have EFTPOS cards as well anyway, so will be content with that.

92. Bayview Hotel - Revolving Restaurant

It was my last night in Penang and I'd decided to have dinner in the Revolving Restaurant. The REvolving Restaurant is the crown jewel of Bayview Hotel. You get a 360 º view of Penang Island and they serve a buffet dinner daily. I love buffets - you can eat what you want and as much as you want or as little as you want, although I've noticed whenever I've had a buffet meal I don't really overeat. There's only so much food one's stomach can hold after all. No sense in stuffing one's face like a pig - you'd end up feeling like a beached whale with gastric problems!

Above: Revolving restaurant
The cuisine offered is local and western so there's something to suit everybody. Here you can see the dessert section. I had arrived a little late and many people were onto their dessert course.

Above: Desserts
A selection of desserts. I must say for all that I loved the Bayview I found the desserts very sweet. I'd be happy with such mundane treats as baked custards, bread and butter pudding, chocolate mud cake and the ever popular "pav". Pav being short for pavlova of course. And real cream. Perhaps it's because of the tropical heat that fresh cream isn't used. I guess we're somewhat spoilt in Australia where fresh cream is readily available. That said, if I'm lucky enough to visit Penang again I would stay at the Bayview, and yes, I'd still eat in the Revolving Restaurant.

Above: Entrance doors
Did you know it takes a full hour (60 minutes) to make a complete revolution? Now that's something - you can be eating an entree looking in one direction and by your next course have a completely different view! Marvelous. Muted coffer lighting gives an ambience that is relaxed and romantic which adds to the feeling of being removed from the hum-drum of everyday and transports you to a special place.

Above: Ceiling designs
The ceiling is decorated with signs of the Zodiac. This is Capricorn - sign of the goat.

Above: Entertainment
After dinner, I went down to the Lobby Lounge for a bit. It was a lovely way to round of the day and one of the lasses working there was ever so helpful. I'd said I hadn't had a cappucino since I left home. Do you serve cappucino here I asked? It was too late really for coffee making but she brought me over a cappucino as a surprise. It was definitely not a cappucino in any way, shape or form. Actually it was more like Viennese coffee without the cream. I thanked her and told her it was a lovely cup of coffee.

All too soon it was time to return to my room and finish packing my suitcase.


91. Streets of Penang

Styles and Architecture
I am including a few streets of Penang which shows different architectural styles and eras. The first is redolant of the British Colonial era while the others have their own style and atmosphere.

Above: Colonial shop buildings

Above: Market Street (Lebuh Pasar)

Above: Ladies and Umbrellas

Above: Street vendor in Queen Street

Above: Corner Penang Street and Sultan Ahmad Shah Street

Above: Under a Penang Sky
Part of the Penang Scultpure Trail, under the auspices of the Penang Museum & Art Gallery & Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang spearheaded by Friends of Penang Group.
"Under a Penang Sky" was created by Kikuchi Mitsuo in 2009. His sponsor was Dr. Tan Chong Guan.

90. Heritage and Culture

Georgetown - UNESCO Heritage City
Here are a few more buildings I liked. Most are heritage and were built in the 19th century or early 20th century.

Above: Leong Yin Kean Mansion
This Italian-style villa was built in 1926 by Leong Yin Kean, son of tin magnate Leong Fee. The architect was Charles Joseph Miller, and it was known back then as Leong Yin Kean's George Town Garden House. It was modelled after the opulent villas in London's Regent's Park.
Today, it is better known as "Thirty Two at the Mansion" - an upmarket restaurant housed in the building.

Above: Cathedral of the Assumption
""One of the earliest religious landmarks in Penang, the Cathedral got its name from the day the first group of Roman Catholic Eurasians from Kedah landed in Penang in 1786, which was the eve of the Feast of the Assumption."
Originally founded at Church Street by Father Garnault in 1786, the church was later moved to Farquhar Street in 1802. The building that you see today was built in 1860 by Father Manissol and because of its religious role in Penang was given the status of Cathedral in 1955.

Above: Kapitan Keling Mosque
The Kapitan Keling mosque was built at the beginning of the 19th century is the largest historic mosque in Penang. It has yellow domes and was enlarged more than once and the minaret dates back to 1916. It is the place of wirship for the Indian muslim community.

Above: Uptown Bistro
Built in 1924, the Uptown Bistro is a great pub where people enjoy the George Town nightlife. There is a live band nightly (Chinese pop) and a beer garden in the courtyard. Some years ago the building was painted purple, but thankfully has been repainted. I really like the current paint job, it's so much better don't you think?

Above: Penang Museum
The Penang State museum re-opened after a major renovation. The exhibits are organised according to the various communities in Penang, their customs and costumes, historic places, houses of worship and so on. Among the original collections on display are a hand-written Quran and old Malay weapons.

Above: Institute of Trading & Development
The photo is a little blurry as we were moving at a fairly fast pace. I haven't been able to find much information about this building other than the name.

Above: Dewan Sri Pinang
Dewan Sri Pinang is a multi-purpose auditorium built in the early 1970's and serves as a venue for live performances. It also houses the Penang State Art Gallery and showcases a permanent collection of local artists as well as special exhibitions. Although not a heritage building, I have included it here for its cultural purposes.
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