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Far East

Discussions regarding holidays in the Far East.

Far East

We're back and had a fab time. Malaysia is now on our "revisit list" as we'd love to go back at some point and do other things such as the Cameron Highlands and Penang. Trip report below, sorry, it's long one!!

Sunday 12th June / Monday 13th June -
After travelling down to Heathrow on Saturday evening we set off for KL at midday on Sunday the 12th. The hotel (Park Inn) was extremely noisy and we didn't get much sleep but I guess this is the norm for airport hotels. Thankfully we need to sleep as much as we can on the journey to KL as it's 8 hours ahead. The journey is OK but is just about long enough for me to be on a plane without getting fidgety.
Upon arrival we are met at the airport by a car and driver from Diethelm Travel and arrive at our hotel in KL (Traders) at 9.30am local time on Monday 13th June. Our room is ready which is fantastic news so I unpack the bare essentials as we are only in KL for 2 nights. We catch a couple of hours rest and the head over to the Suria Mall via the free hotel shuttle (it's actually embarrassingly close and totally walkable but in our sleep deprived haze don't realise that). After a wander around the designer shops we have lunch in Madam Kwans on the top floor of the mall. It's reasonably priced, tasty and the service is good. We head back to the hotel - hubby hits the gym whilst I have a nice soak in the bath. As we had upgraded to a club room we have use of the club lounge. I would recommend this as it's great value. There are soft drinks, tea & coffee all day and at 5pm there are cocktails and canapés until 7pm. I had read on Trip Advisor before coming that the canapés were substantial and many had used that as their evening meal. Well, the reviews weren't wrong as aside from the traditional canapés they also had rice and noodles and various dishes such as teriyaki salmon to go with them. So that was dinner duly sorted, plus several G&T's for me and red wine for his lordship. Afterwards we went up the Sky Bar. Famous for it's views of the Petronas Towers, it's very chic and clearly a place "to be seen in". The bar is dominated by the swimming pool with loads of comfortable sofas around. Along the window wall with the tower views there are lots of intimate seating areas with cushions and tables. We tried a few times to get one of those seats each time someone moved but annoyingly staff were placing out reserved signs as soon as someone moved. I finally asked a member of staff how we could get one of them and he said not tonight. I said we were staying a couple of nights so asked if perhaps we could book one for the following evening? He went off and came back about 5 minutes later and said that we could have one of the tables until 8.30pm as it was booked from then. What a little star! And a bonus was that we actually had the table much longer as the people who booked it didn't turn up. I daresay we could have stayed until they arrived but around 9.15pm we had to admit defeat and go bed. We really just couldn't keep our eyes open any longer.

Tuesday 14th June -
We had breakfast in the club lounge this morning, which was very nice - good mixed of items some of which are not so familiar breakfast fayre for us Europeans (no matter how much I love them I can't face noodles for breakfast"¦).
Afterward breakfast we caught a taxi to Petaling Street and had a good wander around the market. The stall holders are all very friendly and there is absolutely no pressure to buy. Mr W got a really good quality fake Tag watch - left me to do the bartering of course!!
Next up was lunch so we headed over to Central market. The food court there is great and the smells are amazing. We had a different course from each stall and shared it as the portions were really big. We had a huge bowl of bakso soup from Anneka Sup for starters, chicken satay from Makan Makan for main course and some really tasty fruit smoothies from Kopitan for dessert. Total cost - around £6.
After lunch we walked over the KL tower and went up the observation deck (a little hazy so not the best view but it was OK) and then onto the F1 simulator that was include in the ticket price. I love F1 but have discovered I'd never make a driver, after first hitting and then flipping a Ferrari on the first lap, I eventually came 13th.
We walked back over the KLCC simply by following the Petronas Towers on the skyline. Boy, was it humid. We decided to go into the Aquarium. We bought a combo ticket that had entry to the aquarium and fish foot therapy afterwards. The aquarium is pretty decent and if interested you can also dive into the huge tanks. The foot therapy was bliss after you've been walking all day. The combo ticket is well worth it as the aquarium plus half hour foot treatment cost just over what I paid for 15mins with rufa fish in the UK.
After all that walking we were quite tired so just had dinner in the hotel in Gobo Chit Chat. Food was lovely, wine expensive and staff attentive but there is not much atmosphere.

Wednesday 15th June -
Checking out this morning I think the Traders hotel has set the benchmark for the other hotels on this trip - the staff have been simply wonderful and room was really comfortable and well appointed. It's and early flight and I sleep most of the way. The hotel (Tanjung Aru) is only 10 minutes or so from the airport and we are welcomed by a gong, taken to a seating area and given a welcome drink and ice cold towel - very nice! After a wander around the resort to familarise ourselves we have a nice cold beer and snack in the bar. Our room is nice, not quite as nice as Traders but it has a sea view balcony, which is a plus. We chill for a couple of hours and then take walk along the road to some restaurants we'd seen on the way in. Unfortunately most were closed and one that was really busy (an outside BBQ your own style) with locals didn't look too clean or smell too nice so we went back to the hotel and ate in Tatu. We thought that at just over £20 each the huge all you can eat buffet was good value. How little we knew"¦. later on in the holiday we'd challenge ourselves to see just how cheaply we could eat!

Thursday 16th June -
Today we are off to Kinabalu Park. Looking from the hotel it's gorgeous one way and big black dark rain clouds the other way. Guess which was we drove? Ah well, can't have everything eh? The rain was torrential. We stopped off at a market which has viewing platforms across the valley to Mount Kinabalu. Instead of that today we get a lovely picture of me, raincoat and all, pointing the imaginary vista out! By the time we reach Kinabalu Park the rain has stopped. We have a nice walk around the soggy forrest. Lawrence our guide used to volunteer here so has a great knowledge of the local wildlife and flora and fauna. There are some truly weird and wonderful plants. The pitcher plants are amongst some of the largest I've seen - it amazes me how they are created.
Afterwards we move on to Poring Hot Springs. The canopy walk is good fun, but not if you have a fear of heights as it's quite a way up on some parts. By now the sun is streaming down and it's a lovely day. Lunch is a buffet in the Springs restaurant - delicious hot and sour soup just one of the treats. After lunch we take a dip in the hot springs. There are loads of communal pools but I'd read beforehand that they don't fill very fast plus there is nowhere to change so we pay the 15RM for a private one with changing room and toilet. It feels lovely and certainly eases any aches and pains but I couldn't stay in long as it's too hot.
We got back to the hotel at 4pm so decided to go into town tonight. In our guide book I'd read about a Japanese Shiatsu and Reflexology place in the Wisma Medeka so we went there. It really doesn't look much from the outside but we had an excellent 1 hour treatment. The guys there have simply huge knuckles and my bad foot (running injury) really hurt in places when he was digging around but boy was it worth it. It cost under £20 for both of us. After that there really is nothing better than a nice cold beer so we walked across the road to the Upper Star Bar (opposite the Hyatt hotel). It's really good value compared to hotel prices. Top tip - ask for a beer bucket, they aren't on the menu but you can get 2 or 4 beers in a large iced bucket and they are cheaper than buying singly.
I'd been reading (yes, blame that Lonely Planet guide again!) about the Filipino BBQ Paradise and really wanted to try it. I deliberately didn't tell the other half too much as didn't want to spoil the surprise. This place is at the end of the main night market on the seafront. There is no menu or cutlery. You pick what fish you want - we chose prawns, a (still moving) squid and a huge local fish that the guy recommended - and then they cook it for you. You mix your own dipping sauce with chilli, lime juice and soya sauce. You get a plate of rice each and the fish is brought to your table when it's ready. It's truly a unique experience. The fish is so fresh and delicious and the rice sticks to your fingers. The meal plus 2 cokes is under £10, I'm still in shock! We move along the waterfront and have a drink at one of those bars where you pay for the view - 2 beers cost more than our dinner! We feel obliged to go back to the Upper Star Bar and end up staying there until 1am.

Friday 17th June -
Up again early for the 7.30am shuttle to Rasa Ria to see the Orang Utans. We are going to Semmengoh next week but the Orangs are one of the main things my hubby wanted to do so we decided to take 2 trips and double our chances of seeing some. Rasa Ria is the sister resort of the one we are staying in. At the moment they have 5 youngsters and 3 older ones there and we are lucky that 2 come to the feeding platform. They are a delight and stay there the whole hour we are there. What an experience, at times they seemed to be performing for the audience. After the hour is up I'm reluctant to leave as they are still playing.
If you are thinking about doing the same thing I would suggest that you either make a day of it (take your swimming gear and sunbathe, swim, have lunch and come home later in the afternoon) or if, like us you only want to see the Orangs then take a taxi. As we found out, the shuttle service is actually quite infrequent. We finished out visit at 11.30am but the next shuttle wasn't until 2pm. After the first one in the morning they also stop at various points along the route so what should be a 30 minute journey is actually 1 and half hours back. We opted to take a taxi back and were back in our hotel for just after 12pm.
We chilled on the beach in the afternoon and went back into town for dinner at Nishiki, a Japanese restaurant. They have both an a la carte menu and some set dinner menus. We tried a set diner menu each; mine had soup, fish, beef, rice, seaweed and fruit. Afterwards we went to Upper Star Bar again for one of their bargain beer buckets.

Saturday 18th June -
Our flight to Kuching was delayed by 2 hours today so we didn't reach the hotel (Hilton) until after 2pm. Our room wasn't ready so we leave our luggage and go for a walk along the riverside. It's extremely hot and humid. Always thinking ahead we've seen where we fancy having dinner - the stalls along the waterfront look really good (I think we're getting into the Malaysian way of 6 meals a day - I keeping wondering what to have next!). The room is ready when get back at 4pm but as soon as we step off the lift on the 8th floor I can hear banging - there is building work going on. I ring reception and am told it's on floors 9 to 11 but that it finishes at 5pm, which is Ok as we'll be out most of the day anyway. Sadly by 5.45pm they are still drilling but now it's directly above us so I ask for a room change and they move us down to the 3rd floor, which is much better. The view from the room along the waterside is really nice. The hawker stalls along the waterfront are excellent value for money. You'll find one selling food, the next drinks, then food again and so on; so that when you order your food and sit down, the guy from the next stall will pop along and ask if you want a drink. The tea with ginger is recommended - the tea here is sweet anyway as they use condensed milk and so the ginger gives it an extra twist - perfect if you don't have room for dessert. We ate at numerous stalls and just shared whatever dish we ordered (hot and sour soup, fried rice with prawns and chicken, mini pittas stuffed with chicken, vegetables and beef). I love the fact there are so many influences such as Thai, Chinese, Indian etc. in the food. Tonight there is some kind of event going on in the outdoor theatre - seems like some kind of talent contest so we take our deep fried bananas (rapidly turning into a favourite) and watch a while before heading back to the hotel.

Sunday 19th June -
Wayne from Diethelm Travel arrives at 9am for our walking tour of Kuching. It's a really relaxed town with a very mixed culture. Everyone is very friendly and tolerant. We walk to the Sarawak museum, which is really interesting, especially the model longhouse which makes me really look forward to our visit to one in a couple of days. We walk through Chinatown to the temple, which as most Chinese temples do, smells lovely and is very colourful. Next up is the Indian market. There are lots of handicraft stalls with clothes, bags and jewelry. The spice market is a riot of colour and wonderful smells. We come across a sprawling shop, part modern, part antique. There are carvings, pottery, tapestries, carpets and a whole host of Chinese jade. There are also some cannons! Wayne is really nice and seemed pleased when we told him we'd eaten along the waterfront the previous night as he said some of his clients never leave the hotel on an evening. Finally we take a water taxi over the other side of the river to see a local village.
Wayne is so sweet, he asks if we have a fridge in our room and then shows us the kind of shop to look out for where we can buy some beer (not quite an off licence, more like a type of bar that does takeaway!) to take back to the hotel to put in the mini bar. He tells us this will be much cheaper than the hotel.
After the tour we have lunch in a Moroccan restaurant and cool down with a beer. It's 96% humidity today so it's then back to the hotel for a lie down - we need air con!!
Quite a lot of the stalls aren't open this evening but we still find plenty are and manage to get dinner for around £5. I discover Mee Hoon Singapore which is the best vegetarian dish I've ever had - loads of different veggies with rice noodles.

Monday 20th June -
Long drive today, we are leaving Kuching and heading to Batang Ai for 2 nights, but it will be peppered with stops to relieve the bum ache. Today I had one the best experiences of my life and also the scariest as I met Ritchie. We set off from the hotel promptly for the morning feed at Semmengoh. They have lots of Orangs there ranging from babies to a large dominant male. Amazingly we saw about 7 altogether, including a mother and her baby. The surroundings, feeding platform and set-up seem much better than at Rasa Ria. There is more viewing space too. Three Orangs come almost immediately for feeding and one seems to delight in stealing directly from bucket of food when the Ranger isn't looking. Others come and go. After a while we can hear crashing in the distance and we are all told to be quiet as it looks like Ritchie is on his way and he doesn't like too much noise. Ritchie is the dominant male and the excitement at seeing such a creature close up is palpable. We'd been told that he doesn't always come and so we are really lucky to see him. When he arrives, he is massive and sits quietly with the feeding bucket between his legs, noshing away. I never thought we'd see an adult male like him and bizzarely I feel quite emotional. After a while he wanders off but the one of Rangers points out that he is a little way down the track and I leave hubby watching the others to move down with some other visitors to take pictures. I just taken the first shot when he came down the tree like lightening and landed just feet away from us. The Rangers were saying "Move, move, back, back!!" The sight of him up close would have taken my breath away but we were too concerned about moving. What an adrenalin rush, no time to stay and marvel, I'll tell you that!!
A little while up the road we stop at a market, which is very colourful and has everything under the sun, including seaweed flavoured Pringles! Wayne had told us to look out for Sago grubs as some stallholders may have then. Sure enough there they were, wiggling away so the hubby had to buy some to try. Wayne had said that where we stopped for lunch would be able to cook them for us. They can be eaten alive so needless to say Mr W had to try one. Me, well I don't do Bushtucker trials, so I waited until they were fried with onions and garlic. And yes, the video has found it's way onto Facebook!
When we finally arrive at the resort via boat, it's very pretty and the rooms are actually better than I'd expected. Basic, but clean and comfortable with the all important aircon. It's a beautiful setting but very isolated - 2 nights here will be enough. After dinner, we see loads of fireflies on the way back to our room. Quite romantic really"¦

Tuesday 21st June
Today we visited a traditional longhouse. The one we went to had 37 families living there. It's polite to take a gift so when we'd asked Wayne the previous day he had suggested that we buy something they don't always get so we'd bought coffee, salt and candies. We arrived by narrow boat and the ride is exhilarating, you are very low to the water. The best way to describe a longhouse is that it's similar to a row of terraced houses. The house is on stilts above the ground. There is a long veranda outside for drying things such as clothes, peppers etc. and each family has it's own space. Next, and under cover, is the main communal area where families chill out, have friends and family over and is where any younger men will usually sleep. Along the opposite wall there are various doors into the private space for each family. They have a large living cum bedroom and behind there is the kitchen. What struck me was how incredibly tidy everything was. There was a place for everything, mattresses are stored against one of the walls during the day and all of the toys and clothes neatly put away. We were welcome with some sago whiskey and when we left the house the Chief greeted us and offered us sago wine (did I mention it was only 10.30am"¦?) Several members of the group danced for us and after more wine we were invited to join in. Afterwards the gifts we'd brought were distributed equally amongst all the families by a couple of elder ladies. We had a delicious lunch of chicken in bamboo and jungle ferns, rice and pak choi. I have 2 helpings.
Afterwards we are invited to try using a blowpipe. Kudos to the hunters who used them (although these days they are more likely to use a shotgun) as they are extremely long and quite heavy.
When we arrive back at the resort there is an optional nature walk and canopy walk but we are too tired. The heat seems to have sapped our energy and our clothes are sticking to us, all I want is a shower so we chill in our room, fall asleep and wake up in time for dinner. We just have satay and salad - that lunch was huge!

Wednesday 22nd June
Back to Kuching today, we stop at the same place for lunch and arrive mid-afternoon. The Hilton have put us back on the 3rd floor which is good and it's slightly overcast so not quite as hot. We have a walk along the waterfront and a simple dinner before crashing for the night.

Thursday 23rd June
A hike in Bako National Park is on the agenda today and I'm looking forward to it. There are wild bearded pigs, monitor lizards, probiscus monkeys, snakes, birds, butterflies and much more to see if we are lucky. The park is only 30 minutes from the city but feels a world away. It's very hot and humid today and Wayne suggests when we get off the boat that we start with the 1km route round the visitor centre as that's where the monkeys usually are. They say in these conditions that every kilometre feels like 2 and I can vouch for that. I consider myself reasonably fit and I found it completely draining. The route itself was up and down, mainly over roots and boulders and often you to pull yourself up. The sweat pours off and you really have to keep yourself hydrated but what an experience. The jungle feels ancient and mysterious. There are so many unfamiliar plants and noises. We see some macaque monkeys who seem quite happy to sit and observe us too! Eventually we reach our reward - the sea - and can't resist a paddle. Boy does that feel good! One of the options to get back to the starting point is a boat around the coastline to see the rock formations and I have to say this appealed more than a hike back! Some of the rocks look like animals and the boat ride really cools us off. Back at the main centre we have lunch (not great) and there are signs to warning us to watch out for "naughty monkeys" but we don't see any. After lunch we take a less strenuous walk in search of the elusive probiscus monkeys. I think we'd used all our luck for the Orang Utans as we don't see any. We do however see a bearded pig and a green viper. It all feels very natural in this park although I'm saddened by the amount of the litter along the top of the beach but Wayne says it's mainly due the monkeys stealing from the canteen or campsite rather than visitors. I would have loved to have seen a monitor lizard but I guess they are cooling of amongst the rocks.
Late in the afternoon there is a huge storm - thunder and lightening like I've never seen and the rain is like a monsoon. The road outside becomes like a river. It doesn't last long and soon steam is rising from the pavements.
In the evening we have a wonderful foot, head, back and shoulder massage with ear candling with is just perfect after today and only £10! I can't believe how cheap things like this are out here.
Dinner is the usual hawker style food along the waterfront. I ‘m going to miss this.

Friday 24th June
It's sad to leave Kuching as it has such as lovely laid back feeling and the people have all been so nice. However I'm excited to be going to Langkawi for our chill out days. Diethelm Travel are bang on time again (I've been really impressed with them) to drop us off at the airport to take us to KL and then it's a short flight to Langkawi. It's less than an hour but what a flight! It's crowded, noisy and the children behind us are very badly behaved. Anyway that is soon behind us when we reach the Casa Del Mar. We are given a guided tour by Elynn and personally escorted to our room. I could harp on all day about this place. It's fabulous. They have thought of everything, there is a departure lounge if you have a late flight where you can chill, have a shower and watch movies before you leave, free tea and coffee are available in the library until 3pm. You can borrow a variety of DVDs from reception for the DVD player in your room and there are free bikes to use if you fancy a trip out. I've booked a suite and it's is lovely - two balconies, one with a hammock and a huge 4 poster bed. 2 sets of towels for the pool - one to dry yourself on and the other to lie on. They even give you a beach bag and refreshing face spray to cool down. They really have thought of everything. Sadly I'm not really able to enjoy it fully as I've got a dodgy tummy today. I think it's the lunch yesterday. I feel dreadful so have a lie down whilst Mr W goes to the gym. We go down for dinner but I can only manage a little soup before having to retire for the evening - not quite what I'd had in mind! I do smile when we get back to our room though as the bed has been "turned down" and there is a lovely scented book mark and tomorrows weather forecast on my pillow. This I could get used to.

Saturday 25th June
Thankfully I feel much better today and wake up starving. Breakfast is fantastic. The freshly squeezed juice is gorgeous and as well as fruit, cereals, pastries and toast the a la carte cooked to order menu included in the breakfast rate is huge and all very tempting. I opt for the blueberry cinnamon pancakes and they are divine.
We just chill on the sunbeds today - throughout the day the staff bring you jugs of iced water and fresh fruit to keep you hydrated along with ice cold towels to mop your brow. This hotel is number 1 on Trip Advisor for Langkawi and I can see why.
We have a cocktail at the bar before dinner, which tonight I can appreciate!

Sunday 26th June
It's our anniversary today and Elynn gives us a card signed by all the staff and some flowers. I've booked the La Luna dining experience for tonight - 7 courses with wine on the beach and am really looking forward to it.
After breakfast it's a bit overcast after the storm during the night so we take 2 of the bikes from reception and go for a ride. Elynn shows us a circuitous route on the map. There seems lots of places to eat and drink outside if the hotel. It's quite pleasant cycling past the paddy fields. Any children we see seem fascinated and wave and shout hello. By the time we get back the sun is beating down again so we laze by the pool for a couple hours but after lunch it gets incredibly windy and the staff move everyone off the beds. It starts to rain so we borrow a couple of DVDs and head back to our room. Elynn tells us not to worry about the weather as it changes really quickly so dinner should be OK. Sure enough it clears and later on we can see them setting our dinner from our room.
The evening was brilliant. We were made to feel really special - dinner was on the beach surrounded by tikki torches. The food was sublime and beautifully presented along with a personalised menu with our names and date on it. And the alcohol, lordy I don't know how I managed to remain ladylike when leaving the table at the end of night (or maybe I was on all fours, who knows?!) - we had half a bottle of champagne to start, plus another 2 bottles of white and half a red, then we were given 2 more glasses of bubbly with our dessert as they had forgotten to give us them at breakfast time! Our desserts were on a huge plate that had piped on in chocolate sauce "Happy 12th Wedding Anniversary". It's the little touches like this that will have me raving about this hotel to people when I get home. The dining experience is 500RM each but well worth it for a special occasion. We'll probably never get a chance to do something like this again.

Monday 27th June
No bad head - what a surprise! Must be the lie-in as we don't wake until 9.30am, which is really unusual for us. We don't do a thing today other than relax. It's sunny and cloudy in fits and starts but still really warm. Not to be repetitive but it's cocktails before dinner again.

Tuesday 28th June
Oh no - check out day. What a bummer. It's times like this you wish you were really rich and could afford to do this all the time! It's a glorious day and as we are not leaving for the airport until 7.30pm I make the most of it by catching some last rays. Hubby just wants to be home, I tell him to treat it as a normal day except that this evening we're showering in the lounge rather than our room and then instead of going to dinner we're going to the airport. Don't think it worked, he gets very restless and goes for a run on the beach, then retires to the air conditioned departure lounge.

So, what will I remember the most?
"¢ The people - so friendly and genuinely eager to chat. Our drivers and guides were brilliant.
"¢ Orang Utans in Semmengoh
"¢ Hawker food - cheap and delicious
"¢ Hiking in Bako National Park (who knew one could sweat so much?)
"¢ The humidity
"¢ La Luna dinner in Langkawi
"¢ Not being bitten by mossies. OK so you only saw my skin once we reached Langkawi but as someone who the bugs love, you have no idea what an accomplishment this is!!
You fitted a lot in during your 2 weeks +, Puddleduck.
Malaysia is one of those destinations that I like to return to. Thanks for sharing your trip report with us.
Blimey you will need a holiday to get over that :D

It sounds as though you had a fantastic time, thank you very much for sharing it with us :tup

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