Our plan was to head back to Spain for the winter but some family stuff meant we needed to be around UK for a while. Having had a great Christmas with all the family, we found ourselves climbing the walls with being in the same place for such a long time. We really do have the travelling bug now, we simply couldn’t stay put any longer and decided we need to head away to find some sun somewhere. Just a few weeks later, we found ourselves in Bangkok!
We blame this on our ex neighbours Karen and Brian, who told us about their own plans for touring Thailand when we visited them in Spain just before Christmas. Once that seed was sown it wouldn’t stop!
After a seven hour flight to Abu Dhabi, and then a six hour flight to Bangkok we finally found ourselves some winter sun! Hello Thailand, goodbye cold wet and dark England, We’ll see you again in five weeks.
We decided to keep our Thailand travel plans pretty loose and work out where to go once we arrived, but when we realised the Thai Visa was only valid for 30 days we added a visit down to Malaysia into our trip.
Bangkok is an amazing manic city and worth putting on everybody’s bucket list as a place to visit sometime in their lives, but we’ve before, so this time we stayed on the outskirts of the city – in the same hotel as Karen and Brian who just happened to be in the same area at the same time – and spent a couple of days exploring the local area, and the evenings in the massive night market with more market stalls than we’ve ever seen in our lives! We adore Thai food and there was so much on offer it was difficult to work out what and where to eat. We had some fantastic food although the food of the future, crickets, bugs and mealworms were very bland, and enhanced only slightly by the addition of pepper and Soy sauce !
Bangkok done, we said goodbye to our friends and jumped on our cheap Tiger Airways flights down to Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia. We’ve decided we’re not city people, we much prefer being out in the countryside but when we come to a capital city we have to at least give it a bit of time to explore. Two nights in Kuala Lumpur gave us one whole day to explore, and the hop on hop off city bus gave us a flying tour of this beautiful city. Kuala Lumpur is famous for the Petronas towers – they were more stunning in real life than they are in pictures.
Our city obligations completed, we were up at dawn the next day and onto a bus to take us up into the Cameron Highlands, in central Malaysia. Our first Asian bus experience in the windy mountain roads was “interesting” – A blast on the drivers horn as a warning to other drivers and then full speed around the corners across both lanes of the Road hoping the oncoming traffic had heard the horn! One massive failure of this system saw us heading headfirst into an oncoming lorry and a only a last minute swerve by our driver into the ditch prevented disaster! Fortunately nobody was hurt. In England it would have been a full disaster scenario with a few police cars, massive traffic queues and a few hundred traffic cones but not here. A lorry pulled up past us, attached a steel hawser, towed us out, and we were on our way within 30 minutes and not a traffic cone in sight!
Cameron Hills was a massive contrast to the busy city and all we could see for miles and miles on our journey was trees, trees, and more trees. After five hours on the bus we eventually alighted in a small village in the middle of the Highlands called Tanah Rata. Now here’s a weird thing – Karen and Brian had told us about some friends of theirs who were also somewhere in the Cameron Highlands. Bearing in mind the Cameron Highlands is a big place with a whole load of towns along its bymain road, we were sitting having a beer when blow me down, Kait and Michael walked straight past us! (Michael was very distinctive by his plaited goatee beard). “It’s you” screeched Carol in excitement, and after they’d come down from the shock of being shouted at by strangers, we chatted for a while and arranged to meet the next night. Had a fantastic fun night with these new friends, and shared a great curry, lots of beer and lots of laughs.
We went out on an organised tour which took us to some local landmarks, and around the tea plantations for which the Cameron Highlands are famous. It was fabulous to see how the Tea is grown, picked and processed, and the tea trees make for a beautiful landscape across the hills.
After a couple of days and a couple of jungle treks it was time to move on, and another bus (!) which uneventfully took us down from the Highlands to the island of Penang.
We stayed in a small backpackers hostel “The Old Pernang” in the centre of the bustling quaint old town centre of Georgetown. The old town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its unique multicultural heritage still so evident today. There are beautiful old British Colonial buildings everywhere, and a real Asian mix of peoples with such a bustling busy street life . With so much street food of every Asian persuasion – the choices of what to eat was endless. Street art is a major part of the city’s attraction today with dozens of wall paintings scattered round the old town, and following the guides for the wall art took us through the most interesting parts of this amazing, busy, but laid back “town”.
Such a busy place, we decided we needed some peace and quiet for a few hours, so headed off to the Botanical Gardens.
Little did we know this quiet walk was going to give us one of the most memorable evenings of our lives!
Next post – how our quiet walk to the Penang Botanical Gardens gave us one of the most memorable evenings of our lives!