Dave On Tour

From Thu, 01 Jan 1970 until Thu, 01 Jan 1970

Couchsurfing and journey to Malaysia

Added on Sun, 17 Jul 2011 20:37 GMT+8, from Malaysia

After I wrote you last time, we went to have breakfast with Ren at a hawker near Ren's apartment in Toa Payoh.
Since Christian is very interested in buying a new Android powered smartphone and it's possibly cheaper over here in Asia, Ren took us to several hi-tech stores, e.g. to a large shopping mall near city hall MRT station, which sold only electronic stuff on many more than three floors! As you might know, I would never get bored of running around in that kind of shop a whole day. Of course we also had other plans and things to see in Singapore. So, as we didn't find any eligible phone for affordable prices, we went to another Hawker for lunch and proceeded to Chinatown and Little India afterwards.
These two suburbs I remembered from my last times in Singapore are really amazing! I love just slandering through their streets, enjoy typical Chinese or Indian food and/or snacks and drinks, see the Chinese and Hinduism temples, walking along the street markets and watching the people.

For the evening, we had been invited to a Couchsurfing (CS) Party at a very nice friend's large apartment, also close to Toa Payoh. I have been in contact to the CSer for a quiet long time and told her I was coming to Singapore soon. That was why she (Nevaeh) set up a round-mail on CS as an invitation to that party. About 40 CSer attended to this party, I suppose. It was the first time for me on that kind of CS party and I was really, really happy that she set up this party just for us! Everybody had to bring some stuff, e.g. food, drinks, snacks, whatever … that's it! Even a DJ was making music playing the box and he's been doing a great job. All in all, I loved this evening very much! We got to know to many CSers from all over the world, really nice people.
At about 3.30 AM, we got back home by taxi and went to bed immediately, since we planned to leave for Malaysia on Sunday morning.

That's what we did today. We got up at 10 AM, had a quick break fast at a Hawker in Toa Payoh and afterwards headed to Kranji MRT station directly, as the Bus no. 170 would take us over the border from there. On that short trip of just 45 minutes, we had to exit the bus twice: Once for passport control at Singapore departure gates, and once at the immigration gates of Malaysia. After immigration, the 170 took us to Johor Baru, the next city, right behind the border. From that place many buses and other services are supposed to leave to any direction in Malaysia.
We walked along the transport services' shops and bought bus tickets to Melaka at an agency, which seemed to be most serious. The price was about RM 19 (speak: “Ringit” Malaysian) for each ticket for a 3.30hrs ride.

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Dinner and Midnight Market in Melaka

Added on Sun, 17 Jul 2011 21:05 GMT+8, from Malaysia

As soon as we arrived at the bus station in Melaka, we met two Dutch people (Thomas and Lien), who also arrived on another bus in Melaka at the same time.
Ren (our host from Singapore) had recommended us a hostel called “Old Town Guesthouse”, located in Chinatown, which is supposed to be quiet cheap and really clean and had really nice staff. Actually, it is a family, who lives in the same house in their own rooms, but shares the living room, and probably also showers and toilets with their guests. In the mornings, we had breakfast in their kitchen and talked to them a lot. They gave us information about some places worth to be seen in Melaka. From the moment I arrived in the hostel, I really liked it! We lived there in rooms with air-con for about RM 23 (about EUR 5) per person, which is not too much for that kind of hostel in that location.
Thomas and Lien checked in at the same hostel and we decided to spend out two days in Melaka together, before we both Christian and me leave for Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

After check-in, we went to see the famous midnight market, spread over many streets in Chinatown. Beside all those small items and souvenirs, they sold typical Malaysian food and snacks. We tried several different kinds of delicious snacks, before we finally had dinner in a small restaurant.
Later, we sat down outside a bar, which had a special offer on that evening:
Buy 5 beers, get 1 free, pay RM 50 (EUR 12)
So, we took six beers (two for each person, Lien stayed stayed with nonalcoholic drinks).

Now, we're really exhausted due to the journey, the bus-rides and generally the whole demanding day!

Regards from Southeast Asia …

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Sightseeing in Melaka

Added on Tue, 19 Jul 2011 07:29 GMT+8, from Malaysia

We have had some some nice days in the small town Melaka.

In the morning of Mon Jul 7th we got up quiet early, because we met Thomas and Lien again in order to explore more places in the city, which is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked in direction to the sea and inspected any interesting sight that we crossed.
The first thing we passed after leaving our hostel in Chinatown was the landmark, built by Dutch, after the took over Melaka in the middle of the 17th century. It's called “Stadthuys” (dutch. for “cityhall”), known as the “Red Square” and everybody knows it for its red clocktower beside the oldest Dutch Christ Church in the far-east.

The first museum we went inside showed the history of the Portuguese / Dutch / British settlement in Malaysia and was located in a Portuguese ship. One can walk inside on different floors and read every single step and learn about the “liveliness and trading activity in the port during the Melaka Malay Sultanate” as well as the influences of the three European countries that colonised Malaysia, written in many languages (which was really interesting, especially for Thomas and Lien, since they are Dutch).

After leaving museum, we walked along the river and saw an animal swimming inside, which looked really similar to a small crocodile. But a local told us later, that they call this animal a “water lizzard” (see the picture). On our journey we could see many of these animals, so they are quiet spread over here.

The next station was a rundown Portuguese church. It's one of the buildings, that didn't survive the Dutch defeat I talked about. And as they didn't have any ambition to rebuild it, it's still in that state. One thing they did obviously was the assembly of headstones for the people buried under its stones (the inscriptions are written in Dutch). On this occasion I bought a small souvenir, the small Petronas Towers.

We went to another Hawker, I had Nasi Lemak and a coconut. Afterwards we decided to see the famous large cemetery upon a hill above the town. On the way up the hill we passed a an old Chinese Temple.
The cemetery is not similar to what you might know from Europe ore anywhere else in the world. It is spread over a wide area in some kind of forest and there are palms and trees deviding the graves.
We also had an amazing view of the city of Melaka from the top of the hill.

In the evening of that very demanding day, Janina – a German girl we met on the Couchsurfing Party in Singapore before – joined us again in Melaka. Together we went to the same bar we had been the day before and met many other people this time. Janina has some friends there, so, they came in a big group.
In this group was also a Malay girl called Nadia, who was so nice and gave us a tour through Melaka in her car at night. I really enjoyed what I saw, although it was hard to keep my eyes open.
Many thanks to you, Nadia!

Today, Chris and I are leaving for Kuala Lumpur.

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Kuala Lumpur

Added on Thu, 21 Jul 2011 07:01 GMT+8, from Malaysia

Good morning to all my friendly readers and travel fanatics!

Within the past two days I learned to love Kuala Lumpur (KL) a lot. Of course you know about my favour for big cities, but KL is very special, and I will tell you why.

First of all, we had to reach the Melaka Bus station in the very early morning, in order to catch the next bus to KL. Luckily, the buses are supposed to leave every hour. With that knowledge we could start into the day more relaxed.
We had breakfast in our guesthouse and went to the next busstop afterwards. As soon as we looked around the corner, a very old bus was already arriving. So, we rushed and finally, caught it. The bus was really awkward, seemed as if it was going to break down within the next minute.
What the hell does a bus need doors for?! There were none! And with every gear-change the motor began to scream again and again.
Well, after an adventurous trip through the city we finally arrived at the Melaka Bus station and booked a bus ticket to KL. And again, we were very lucky, as we had the privilege to sit in another 1st class bus for the next couple of hours, without spending much money!

The bus ride was relaxed, I managed to sleep for a certain time, until we arrived at KL Bus station. We went inside to check out a LRT connection (LRT is KL's metro system) in direction to the center. That was when we saw another (western) backpacker – maybe European – sitting on a bench, cutting a pineapple into pieces and eating it.Chris moved directly in his direction, spoke to him, and – what a surprise – the guy is German! He was just leaving KL and recommended us to stay in Chinatown, as it is quiet central and famous for tourists.
So, we took the LRT via KL Sentral to Pasar Seni Station (in Chinatown), where we met a British guy called Michael. He was walking around, looking for his pre-booked hostel called “Fernloft” right next to the station. We joined him in the same 24-beds dorm, because it costed us just RM 25 / person per night.
After putting our luggage inside and having a short break, we took the LRT to the place, that is likely the very first step for every tourist in KL: the Petronas Towers (Twin Towers) near KLCC station. When we exited the station, the first things we saw were huge fountains spread over the whole place in front of the Petronas Towers. Especially during sunset, these fountains, lightened by bright lamps, looked beautiful.
We were told before, that not far from KLCC station there is a SkyBar on the 33rd floor of the Traders Hotel, from which you have an awesome 360 degree view over the whole city, especially the Petronas Towers. So, after sunset we looked for that bar and finally found it. Since we arrived before 8:30pm, we had the chance to experience the happy hour, which was saying: Buy 1 beer, get 1 free!
These few beers were the only ones we had up there, since the price was high, according to the bar's location.
When we went back home late at night, some guests were having BBQ on the hostel's own rooftop terrace. We joined them for some hours and went to bed afterwards.

Yesterday in the morning, we went to the rooftop again for having breakfast. A great advantage we had in this hostel: we could have “breakfast” all day, whenever we wanted, for free. The “automatic” coffee machine was crap though, as we had to reset it every 10 minutes, because its' computer crashed and didn't react, thus.
Actually, we had planned to climb the sky-bridge between the Twin Towers on that morning in order to watch the sunrise from up there, but discarded that idea quickly, as the offices opened only at 8am. Instead, we went to see the Batu Caves with a big group of people we had met at the rooftop BBQ the evening before. Basically, there is only one huge main cave – the “dark cave” - in the mountain you can enter, after you climbed long stairs. In front of the entrance – a tall golden Buddha, looking over the town. The cave itself is dark – according to its name – as it's in the mountain, but it's lightened by huge lamps. Inside there is a small Buddhism temple and lots of monkeys are running around in the cave, trying to catch the tourists' items and steal their food and drinks. We watched one of them stealing a tourist's coke, taking it away, trying to drink it, realizing that it's cold as ice and finally, throwing it away. As these animals were taller and stronger than some families' children and kind of aggressive, it was dangerous for the children to walk around alone – especially beside / on the stairs.

Well, that's it about the cave(s). The whole group went back to Chinatown again. Therefore, we took the LRT again and saw something really funny: on several of the LRT's coaches waswritten “koc untuk wanita sahaja”, or in English “coach for ladies only”. We had to keep some of the guys from entering this coach, because they didn't realize the sign and/or didn't understand it.
In a group of eight people we went to an Indian restaurant for dinner, not far from our hostel. That was the time Mouna had to leave in direction to Melaka. That means, she packed her suitcase in the hostel and left; the other went to the SkyBar @ KLCC again – this time a big group with a couple from the UK, the dutch couple, Christian and Me. Later that evening, Mouna called me and told she'd missed her last possible bus connection to Melaka. So, she joined us again. And again, we all had Happy Hour until 8.30pm, when the girls' Happy Hour began, which meant they have free cocktails!
It turned out as a really funny evening.

Late at night – as it was our last evening in KL together with all those people – we went to have food again and afterwards entered a bar called “Reggae Bar”. In the bar we couldn't hear any Reggae though. We were told they play Reggae only for two hours a day. Instead they played music that none of us really liked. Thus, we left home and went to bed.

Now, we just got up , got changed, have had breakfast on the rooftop again and are about to leave to the Taman Negara jungle in the north of the country.
Since I don't think we'll have any Internet access there, I'm announcing a few days off now. But I will try to inform you about our jungle tour as soon as possible!

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Taman Negara jungle

Added on Fri, 22 Jul 2011 21:29 GMT+8, from Malaysia

Well, on that morning we left to the Pasar Seni LRT station with Michael, took the LRT to KL Sentral and found a connection in direction to the Taman Negara Jungle. Luckily, Michael had a really good travel guide for Malaysia and we found a suitable route to a village called Kuala Tahan. Our next stop was Jerantut, which provides the only bus to Kuala Tahan.
So, we took the first bus to Jerantut, which was quiet comfortable, but the ride was really adventurous, like all the public transportation services in Malaysia are. Arriving in Jerantut, it was already afternoon and we were very hungry. Passing some small restaurants, we heard German voices at one table, and when we looked for them, we saw two German backpackers and joined their table. They told us they're from Cologne and they just came back from the jungle, heading towards Kuala Lumpur.
Unfortunately, the kitchen of this restaurant had already closed, but we managed to find another one, where we got some burgers.
These few restaurants, 2 or 3 small supermarkets, may a few hostels and the bus station were the only things provided in Jerantut, as the small town is just a stopover place for travelers, who are heading towards or away from the jungle.
About 1 hour later we caught another bus, to Kuala Tahan, which was the exact opposite of our last bus, as it was horribly loud, the doors stayed open, the seats were really uncomfortable and we weren't able to sleep. I tried it by putting my backpack next to me beside the window and lean my self on the backpack, but it was impossible! Fortunately, the bus ride just took us only 2 hours and we could manage to find a hostel in Kuala Tahan quickly. The village is really small and thus, there are only a few hostels. The one we chose was really messy: rundown / ugly room with a crappy fan for 8 people, but one important thing available was a mosquito net for each bed, which is absolutely necessary in this area! The owner was nice and helpful and was offering a night safari on his Jeep for the same evening.
The price for the hostel was RM 10 (EUR 2.50) and we booked 3 beds for us. I don't remember the price for the night safari, but knowing it was quiet cheap, we fixed it and were told to be prepared at 8.30pm.
Now, the plan for this first evening was fixed: Cross the river, that borders the village on this side and the jungle on the other side, grab some dinner, talk to the guides at the information point in order to make a plan for the next day(s), then return to Kuala Tahan, take a shower and finally, leave for the night safari!

We started:
We crossed the river by motor boat, which costs RM 1 for each persons and takes less than a minute. After having dinner in the nice small restaurant, we had to buy our Taman Negara jungle access permission and worked out a first plan for the next day in the jungle.
This plan said: Canopy walk (walk over hanging bridges between trees in the jungle) in the morning and afterwards a 3 to 4 hours walk to a place called “Lata Berkoh” in the jungle, which is basically a clean cold river, that we're able to swim in and drink from for refreshing after the long walk, with rocks. After a short break at the river we would have to walk back to Kuala Tahan in order to arrive there before sunset.
Well, as everything was organized, we crossed the river again, went back to the hostel in order to take a shower. We tried it, but we weren't able, because there was no pressure in the water pipes. The host told us that happened from time to time, when many people in the village use the water at the same time.
At 9.00pm we left for the night safari. Chris, Michael, a girl from New Zealand and me we sat on the roof of the Jeep, a guide with huge torch at the front, 5 or 6 other people on the back and one more guide inside, beside the driver. Driving through the jungle, we were able to see animals like a wild pig, a leopard cat (a cat that looked like a small leopard), two tiny – not poisoned – snakes, several different exotic birds and many more. Sometimes it was really tough to see them, but fortunately, we had two experienced guides, who always pointed at the animals, told the driver to stop for us to be able to take photos. It took some time for me to find the right setting for my camera and some of the animals were too far away for my lens to get it. Anyway, I will upload a few, which are not necessarily sharp.
Although it was not really planned to join this night safari group, it's been really fun and exciting!

The next day was our long day in the jungle. We got up at 7 AM and bought several bottles of water, breakfast and lunch packets for the trip. Then we started off for the canopy walk. We didn't see much, but learned a lot about the jungle, since we had a group of 120 Dutch people in front of us, who had a guide with them. The guide was talking Dutch all the time, so, Christian and I were able to understand almost everything. That was nice! And even better: we didn't pay for the guide.
The bad thing: these 120 Dutch people were talking, resting and taking pictures every 30 seconds. That's why the whole walk took us about 2 hours, what had not been part of our plan, actually.

After finishing the canopy walk we went back to Kuala Tahan for starting our walk to Lata Berkoh, the place at the river I mentioned above.
The walk through the jungle, the middle of nowhere in this bloody heat and the humid air has been really demanding and we took rests at least every 30 minutes. After one hour already I was hoping to arrive soon or to just go back, because I was so damn exhausted. But I knew I'd be happy and proud of myself after that day, so, I went on. My 3 bottles of water were empty after 2.30 hours!
We saw a green poisoned snake, several bugs, giant ants, a huge and hairy spider, a monitor lizzard as well as tiny lizzards and a few more animals I don't remember now. And , for sure, we experienced the real jungle. Sometimes it was hard to find the right paths, or we didn't believe it was the right path, although it was. Some parts were prepared for tourists to be able to walk easily. Other parts were really tough to overcome, as they were stony, trees were fallen across the way or we had to use ropes, tied to trees beside the way to pull ourselves upon a hill. I loved and hated it at once.
Right in the middle of our route we met another group of people, who had already finished their jungle tracking and were going back. Lucas, one German guy of the group, decided to accompany us throughout the walk, spontaneously.
During the next hour we passed an abandoned jungle camp, but the shower was still working. Christian took a shower with all his clothes and I got refreshed as well.
Just a few minutes later a arrived at a river cross-point, a beautiful sight and the only place for us to cross the river. To reach the river, we had to climb down a fallen-down tree with soared-in steps. So we did and took lots of pictures. Chris went ahead and crossed the river, which was really tough, because the stones inside were quiet slippy.
Well, we were supposed to walk the whole route from Kuala Tahan to this place within 3 to 4 hours, but it had taken us 4.30 hours instead. Time had gone fast! Before we left Kuala Tahan, we had been recommended to engage a guide, in order to not get lost in the jungle, but we went alone anyway. Thus, we had to make a plan and we decided to go back in case we wouldn't find our destination within the next 30 minutes. That was absolutely necessary, because we didn't want to go back in the dark as we had no torches.

Later on we saw a sign which said “Lata Berkoh”. That made us quiet optimistic and we went on. After another 5 minutes walk we arrived at a fork and chose the better accessible way. It was wrong though, the 30 minutes were over and we started to go back, were really disappointed that we didn't reach our destination, knowing we'd have to walk all the way back for another 4 hours.
But we had luck: as soon as we arrived at the river cross-point again, we met a French family, guided by a man, who told as the way to the river was only a 30 minutes walk away AND we could order a motorboat for taking us back to Kuala Tahan. Wow, this information really facilitated us! I kinda had new energy, we made our last part of the walk, booked boat for RM 160 (EUR 40) for 4 people, payed a deposit of RM 50 (about EUR 13) and finally arrived at Lata Berkoh. The boat-tour was worth the money for us, as we didn't have any more ambitions to walk all the way back.

Guys, you can't imagine how happy we were when we saw this beautiful place!
We put our stuff beside the river, got changed and jumped into the river. It was cool and it felt really good to swim and chill after this demanding jungle tracking. We couldn't believe we were in the middle of the Malaysian jungle, swimming in the river! I washed my clothes in the river and hung them up on the tree. We could spend about 2 hours at this place, since the boat-ride would just take us 30 minutes.

When we all became quiet tired, we got out of the river. My clothes had become dry in the meanwhile, we got changed again and went back back to the place the boats leave from.
The boat-ride itself was another very adventurous trip, since the water was not deep, but really stony. The driver navigated the boat like in a slalom race, between the stones and we were very fast. I had fun for the first 15 minutes on the boat, before my eyes close.
Finally, we arrived back “home” in Kuala Tahan, put our bags in the room and took another boat across the river again for having dinner in the group of 4 people: Michael, Lucas, Christian and me.

That was an interesting experience I'm very proud of, but I don't wanna do again!
Please don't get it wrong: I'm happy I did it and I know tracking in the deep jungle now, but we went to the very border of our physical working capacity!

Now, we're back in the hostel, it is raining cats and dogs, Christian and the others are outside on the terrace. I'm inside the room, spent some time on this text and I'm happy being able to access the Internet using my cellphone!

I will write again from Thailand.

See you then!

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