My Trips: Malaysia 2008

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Malaysia Grand Prix 2008, Race Day

The traffic isn’t too bad and we get to the circuit in good time. We settle in and watch a Porsche race, before the F1 preparations begin. Today is much busier than yesterday.

Soon enough the race begins. Lewis Hamilton gets off to a great start, jumping several places. We relax and watch the race unfold as we sup beers. Lewis has a few problems in the pits and ends up 5th, which is pretty good

Abby and I help a Malay guy with his digital camera. We avoid the crowds at the buses and walk back to the main road. We grab a taxi for a fair price and head back to Cam’s.

We’ve all had a great day.

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Malaysia Grand Prix 2008, qualifying day

We catch an airport limo taxi (only a few Ringgit more than a regular taxi) to the Sepang motor racing circuit for the Formula 1 Grand Prix qualify. Once in we get some drinks and settle under the cover to watch a Porsche race, and then the F1 qualifying.

The tannoy system is a bit inadequate, but we watch the action and guess from the screen what is happening. Lewis Hamilton, who Abby and I are supporting (fellow Brits) comes 4th.

After the qualifying we stick around to watch the GP2 race. About half way through we head back to to KL.

Abby has loved today.

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Hat Yai, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the overnight train

Today we are traveling to Kuala Lumpur again, to stay with friends and to watch the Grand Prix. We check out of the hotel at out noon and wander around Hat Yai. We have 3 hours to kill and intended on doing a little shopping to buy some things to send home. Although we had read that shopping is good in Hat Yai, we find it a bit limited and don’t buy anything.

We jump on the train and find our seats through to Kuala Lumpur. The seats are already made into our beds, which is a bit annoying, but I change them back to seats.

The train runs through to the Malaysian border, where we get off, go through customs and get back on the train.

We get under way again and continue south towards Kuala Lumpur. We both sleep well and get off early. In Kuala Lumpur Sentral station we stop to get coffee, then grab a taxi to my friend Cameron’s house. It’s great to be back at Cams.

Train platform at Padang Besar

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Crossing into Thailand

At the border we easily leave Malaysia, with their efficient and clear immigration, and painfully and slowly enter Thailand with their ‘could be better’ immigration. Abby and I both get flustered by the jostling of the queues. It even rains on us. Eventually though we get out visas and head into Thailand on foot.

The guide book claims the railway station is 50m from the border, but that turned out to be 1km, by which time our backpacks were hurting, our spirits low and we desperately needed a money changer as we had no Thai Baht.

All of a sudden we see the railway station, and a money changer outside. Once I changed the Malaysian Ringget into Thai Baht, we enter the railway station and book out train tickers to Hat Yai. We by some snacks and wait for the train. The fresh colours of the railway station quickly lifts out spirits.

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Rough boat ride back to mainland Malaysia

We get up early to find the monsoon has blown out, but big waves remain from yesterdays winds. We make our way across the island just as the sun is rising. I like walking through the jungle this early, but I have to admit I kept my eyes open for fresh spider webs across the pathways. The spiders here are big and nasty.

There are a few people waiting at the jetty, and many more arrive whilst we wait. No one seems to know whether the boats are coming today, but we assume they will. A little after 8am I see a boat in the distance getting closer. It’s a fast boat, but there is only 1 and there are about 50 people waiting by now. Eventually, after a lot of talking amongst the boatmen, and many mobile phone calls we get aboard the second boat to arrive and we head off back towards the mainland. About halfway into the crossing the seas get rough. As the mainland becomes closer the waves get big. Bigger than the boat in fact, but the driver skilfully ‘surfs’ the waves, making use of the 400hp engines to stay within the waves and safely deliver us to the jetty. There were a couple of moments when the boat felt like it was tipping sideways, but the driver never looked concerned. He even gave me a thumbs up at one point.

Back at the jetty Abby and I have banana pancakes for breakfast. I arrange a Taxi to the Thai border.

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Monsoon dampens the day on Pulau Perenthian Kecil, Malaysia

We wake to find strong winds and heavy rain bashing the coast. We had planned to take the noon boat back to the mainland. We ask a few locals, including crazy Carlos, who all seem to think the boat will come. We decide that the sea is so rough that we wouldn’t want to take the boat anyway, and stay for another day.

Some of the lads from the place we are staying take a surfboard out and ride some of the waves. We join them by taking a swim. The waves are rough and the currents are very strong.

It’s a shame there is only power on the island between 7pm and 7am, as we have some movies and TV programs to watch on the laptop, and I’d like to get a little work done. Oh well, we cant have everything. We keep ourselves busy, indoors mostly, but occasionally dodging the rain. We even have a game of twister.

Hopefully the boat will come tomorrow and take us back to the mainland. We’re hoping to catch the bus to Thailand.

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Onto the Pulau Perhentian islands, Malaysia

We catch the mini-bus for a day of travel to Kuala Besut. After form filling (government requirements) We jump on the ‘fast boat’ to the small island (Kecil). Once we get past the harbour area the boat driver opens the twin 200BPH engines and smiles (some of fear) come across everyone’s faces as we race at breakneck speed towards the islands. The journey takes just 30 minutes.

We land at Coral Bay due to the waves being high at Long Beach on the other side of the islands. We trek across the islands, through the jungle path, and arrive at the beautiful beach. We check a few places to stay, which are either full or a bit drab and settle on a bungalow at Matahari Chalets. We have no water, and later find we are right by the generator that runs all night. But ear-plugs get us a good nights sleep.

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Exploring the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Today is a tribute day to my late Grandmother Christine Williams who passed away this week.

We rent a motorbike and head north towards the tea plantations. We stop at Bala’s Holiday Chalet for a cream tea which is excellent. We continue north passing through wonderful rolling hills of tea and other crops. After going too far we turn back and find the turning for the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Plantation.

At the tea plantation we have a quick look around and enjoy an ice cream and a home grown tea. The views are stunning.

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Kuala Lumpur to Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

After staying with my friend Cameron in Kuala Lumpur for 10 days we get back on the road. We get the bus from KL to Tanah Rata, in the Cameron Highlands. The last section of the journey becomes more scenic and dangerous as the bus hugs the mountain edge roads at break neck speed.

Once in Tanah Rata we check into the Hillview Inn, which is more expensive that our normal budget, but immaculate, and we after a little more luxury today.

We book a motorbike for tomorrow afternoon and eat at a recommended Indian restaurant.