We’ve been in Malaysia for a while now, first stop was Kuala Lumpur or KL as it’s known and quicker to type. We had a helpx place lined up at a hostel where we planned to stay for at least a couple of weeks but, alas, it was not to be and in the end we left after a week.
The work itself wasn’t hard, mostly checking people in and giving directions to the same places – food street, Petronas Towers and the bus station – the problem for us was that there wasn’t too much to do outside of that, there were also 4 other people doing the same job meaning we spent a lot of time walking around looking for things to tidy up. Shift wie we worked 4 hours a day which sounds cool but at different times so we didn’t get much time together, before we arrived we envisioned spending time exploring the city but we only really got 3 hours together between 2pm and 5 pm and exploring isn’t as much fun on your own.
We took some positives from our time there, we’re now pretty good at getting around the city and know a few places that do excellent indian food really cheaply so silver linings all round! Our favourite would be roti canai, roti with curry, usually chicken served as breakfast and usually only around 20p – gorgeous! We also enjoyed plenty of succulent tandoori chicken with hot, fresh naan breads.
So anyway we put our helpx disappointment behind us and through the wonder of the universe looked forward to seeing Stella, Olga and Illia ho we worked with at the Secret Garden again, due to a lovely coincidence we were all in KL at the same time which called for drinks!
Alcohol is expensive in Malaysia, similar to UK prices which, if you’re used to Vietnam prices, is a bit of a shock, luckily we’d been shown how to find the local liquor shop – 3 cans for 10 ringgit (2 quid) not cheap but acceptable!
Better than cheaper drinks are free drinks and luckily for Olga and Sharlie on an evening out we found a bar that offered free drinks for ladies so they enjoyed several gin and tonics and vodka sodas while us boys had to pay for beer, we had some shisha for the first time on this trip too. In the end it ended up being a lot cheaper than expected as when bill time came somehow, despite our (muted) protestations they insisted we’d already paid for the drinks (we hadn’t) – so we scarpered!
We paid a visit to the Reggae Mansion’s rooftop bar to enjoy the view, it was worth it, the place was quieter than we thought it would be but the view of both KL and Petronas Towers was great plus it was near our hotel -bonus!
We’ve been to KL a couple of times in the past so didn’t do much sightseeing, we mostly explored the malls to make use of the AC as it was so hot, the humidity was high too and there were thunderstorms most afternoons. We did try something new, with Stela we had a go at an escape room – it’s a real life puzzle maze type environment where you have to figure out clues to get through stages – we chose to try the art heist scenario as they told us it was the easiest – they lie!
We got through the first room easily enough – we figured out a code then found a secret door behind a painting! – but our brain power then ran out unfortunately. You can ask for hints from the staff but you only get 2, we had to use them to get through the second room a we couldn’t work out some of the more cryptic elements and the last room just bamboozled us completely, I think if we did it again we’d be a bit more prepared but in our defence some of the things you had to work out didn’t make much logical sense or perhaps we’re just sore losers, probably the latter!
After bidding more tearful farewells we decided we needed to leave the city as we were getting a bit stir crazy so in a fit of doing stuff energy booked flights to Borneo and decided to spend some time on the beach at a new island for us, Pulau Pangkor.
Getting there was pretty straightforward if a bit longer than expected, we caught the bus from KL and arrived at Lumut where we got the ferry over and were whisked to our guest house Budget Beach Resort in one of the islands bright pink taxis.
Our place was nice, a simple chalet with a comfy bed and a little seating area and was a few minute walk to one of the best beaches on the island Coral Beach. The island itself, as we arrived mid week, was semi deserted a bit like any seaside resort back home off season, there were lots of signs for shops and restaurants but most were closed so our food options were limited.
We arrived later than expected so missed out on an afternoon on the beach but instead got to enjoy a beer and a lovely sunset (and lots of bugs as it appeared to be flying ant day!). The island is famous for hornbills and we saw our first shortly after arriving just hanging around on the phone lines, many of the locals feed them daily so they are pretty tame, we also saw a troop of monkeys enjoying a dip in a hotel swimming pool! While eating breakfast we noticed some wet monkeys climbing telegraph poles so we peeked over a wall and saw them splashing around, having a swim and eve diving in and swimming underwater! We’ll put the video on youtube when we get a chance.
We wiled our days away basking in the glorious sunshine and enjoying the cool, clear waters, in all we spent 4 nights there, it was nice to be on a beach again after the humidity of the city, we really enjoyed it and thankfully the bus back didn’t take quite as long. We had an overnight stay in KL before our flight over the Kota Kinabalu or KK – they like abbreviations in Malaysia!
After a short flight we arrived on Malaysian Borneo – Sabah – for the first time, to be honest it wasn’t quite what we were expecting, we were expecting more of a quiet town kind of feel but KK is quite a bustling city – must do better research next time! We stayed in a small private room in a hostel call North Borneo Cabin which was OK, the room was nice and cool but the window looked out over the basin where people brushed their teeth – we had to be careful when we opened them!
We spent the afternoon wandering around getting our bearings and found the tourist information centre- the first one we’ve been in that doesn’t have any leaflets – you have to talk to them – gasp! We wanted to explore some of the local islands were quoted a hefty 180 ringgit (36 quid!) each for an island hopping snorkeling trip, the guy must have seen the shock on our faces as he then told us that we could just turn up at the jetty and arrange our own trip at a fraction of the price so that’s what we did!
For only 40 ringgit each we spent the next day on an island called Sapi, the beach was nice if a bit busy but the sea was lovely, a monitor lizard came to inspect our packed lunch and we also wild boar and a proboscis monkey in the jungle behind the beach. We visited two islands the next day, Manukan and Mamutik, we did it DIY style again which didn’t work out quite as well as the previous day as we only got an hour and a half on the first island which was a lot nicer than the second where we spent 4 hours.
There was some good snorkelling on Manukan but we didn’t get a chance to hit the beach. Mamutik was a disappointment, there was quite a bit of rubbish both on the beach and in the water and most of the beach was taken up with restaurants gazebos which didn’t leave a lot of room to park ourselves.
We paid Lok Kawi Wildlife Park a visit, it wasn’t too impressive to be honest, zoo would be a more accurate description, some of the animals looked bored.
From KK we headed north to the Tip of Borneo, the northernmost point of the island, we caught a bus to Kudat where we were picked up by the owner of the place we decided to stay, Tampat Do Aman (TDA) which means place of friends in the local language. After assessing the sleeping options, a little room in the longhouse or a “semi permanent tent” (a little bamboo frame with a bed) we decided to go with the longhouse as although small it had some storage space and we could stand upright in it!
TDA backs onto a forest reserve so you are surrounded by animals, birds, insects and all kinds of other things most of the time, you shower under the stars and the toilets are waterless compost ones which were a new experience for us!
The beach is around 3 kms away which you can walk although not recommended in the searing daytime heat, luckily there is a shuttle to the beach a couple of times a day, we took advantage of this for the 4 days we stayed, it was nice to get a ride but the times meant we ended up hanging around at the Tip Top restaurant a bit more than we would have liked, there are bikes to rent but they were a bit expensive at almost 50 ringgit a day (nearly a tenner) – in Vietnam we paid the equivalent of 2 quid.
Talking of the beach it was breathtaking, a beautiful 3 km long crescent of sand and clear, turquoise water, there were very few people there too, the only downside was the almost complete lack of shade. We spent most of our time there on the beach topping up our tans and enjoying the warm water.
Food wise the restaurant serves up some nice stuff, we enjoyed their rendang and curry and discovered a local dish called hinava which was delicious, it’s a kind of fish carpaccio served with toast – yum! They do some western dishes too but we weren’t too impressed with those, they also sell beer which is very important!
Overall we enjoyed our stay, the beach made up for some shortcomings – for the price the accommodation is basic to say the least and the restaurant is relatively expensive – 1 dish was the same price as 2 meals and 2 drinks back in KL – but it was a good experience.
From Kudat we headed back to KK then flew back to KL where we spent the best part of a week completing our applications for the CELTA English teaching course we want to attend in Bangkok in July. We stayed at a new place called Razzie’s Guesthouse which has become our new fave in the city, we had a private room for 12 quid (can’t find the pound symbol on this keyboard!) the bathrooms were clean and the staff actually happy which was a first for us in our experience of hostel staff although their habit of having a good old throat hack in the morning didn’t go down too well!
Whilst in KL we also arranged our next helpx place at a kindergarten in the south of Malaysia in a town called Johor Bahru which is where we are at the mo, we’ve been here a week now, we’re living at the school which is a bit strange! We’ll update in a little bit about our time here.
Course wise we passed our Skype interview and have booked our places on the course, we start in July! We just need to find somewhere to live for a month now….