Arrived in Singapore late on a Tuesday and met the jacket of 100% humidity that would surround us for 2days as well as our friend from college, Gill, who has a superduper apartment in Singapore. We caught up on old times before seeing the city the following day. Saw all the sites, which there wasn't much of really before celebrating our gathering by her apartment complex pool. The following evening we said our goodbyes, not just to Gill but to each other as well as Ricky and Niamh (Nicky!) were heading on a different path to Hega and I.
Hega and I got an overnight train north to Taman Negara in the Malaysian jungle. Our first impression of Malaysians couldn't have been better as a local stayed with us for over an hour to help us get passed the two borders and find the train station. This was on his way home from work! It takes him two hours to get home everyday, imagine coming home from Dublin traffic and taking that time out for a tourist. Our next Malaysian to meet let us sample food before we bought it, something unheard of in Indonesia.
Got to Taman Negara in the jungle after an hour on a bus and two in a boat. (Niamh and Ricky followed us two days later, though we managed to avoid them by leaving in time!) Its a village on a muddy river with all resteraunts on the river and all transport by boat. Firstly we did a night walk where we saw some insects and samba deer despite the hoards of people making more noise than a herd of elephants!
The following day we trekked through the jungle and saw a few interesting creatures and also did the canopy walk before taking a dip in the leach infested river. The canopy walk despite being 30meters in the air lets you see very little as it wobbles so much you have to concentrate on not falling off the trail which consists of a ladder with a plank on it tied with ropes!
We booked in for a night in Blau Hide which means its you and the jungle for the night. Took us an hour and a half of trekking to get there and when we did we realised leaches had somehow got into our socks without us feeling them. Rotton things that move like slinkies!
The massive spider above was just outside our door and despite an awful racket for the whole night we didn't see many animal as they were all hidden. We saw some more spiders and a few lizards running around. Niamh got up in the middle of the night to find there were thousands and thousands of ants on the outside wall but they never came inside despite there being no glass in the windows.
After surviving the night we headed to the Cameron Highlands which is famous for its tea plantations. My favourite place of course. As we were 1400meters towards the sky things were cool and pleasant unlike a very hot and sticky jungle. We got a tour the following day around the hilly terrain to see where the vast majority of Malaysia's strawberries, tea and vegetables comes from. Oh, we also visited a butterfly and insect farm, a dangerous insect farm! And it turns out that Niamh and Ricky followed us there too...
On from there to Kuala Lumpur the cosmopolitan capital of Malaysia where muslim women in a full head to toe outfit walk side by side with teenagers wearing shorts and a Brittney Spears t-shirt, and backpackers wear string tops....(it turns out Niamh and Ricky had been here before us!!)
[Conno: We also managed to witness the Friday midday prayer around a mosque near the towers. Hundreds of men, with a conspicuous lack of women, parading out from their office blocks, removing their black patent shoes, laying their rug out in the park, wherever there was a free spot, facing Mecca in their suits and jackets, and praying aloud..an incredible thing to see]
Ross:We saw the former worlds tallest building in the Petronas Towers. They were very impressive by night and not so impressive by day. Also ascended the higher KL communications tower and saw the sultans palace among other things.
During the day we walked the socks off ourselves and also saw the very impressive Batu Caves just outside KL. These are massive caves which have hindu shrines inside but also have monkies everywhere who rob anything worth robbing.
After KL we stayed in Malaysia but went across the sea to Malaysian Borneo in Sabah (to finally get away from Niamh and Ricky...). We first dived for 2days in one of the world's top 5 dive sites. Saw loads of turtles and reef sharks as well as plenty of fish. After this we went to some more jungle, can't get enough of it! We spent 3days and 2nights in the jungle after seeing some very cute orang utans in a rehabilition centre where there are free to come and go as they please. They are very human like and very agile. They remind me of a few of my red haired friends.....
The jungle was a good experience and here was saw lots of monkies, the same macaques which were in the caves. All equipment had to be kept in storage cages as they have destroyed cameras in the past! We saw the very rare proboscus monkies who have very large red noses and big pot bellies. Exactly like the old guy who sits in the corner of a pub at home! Also saw wild pigs, monitor lizards, lots of insects and frogs.
After this exitement in the lowlands we decided to climb the highest peak in south east Asia in Mount Kinabalu at 4095meters. It takes 2 days to climb with a night's sleep at 3200meters in a temperature of 6 degrees with no heating. Up at 2:30am and a 3hr trek to the top for sunrise at 6am. It was freezing but worth it. Super view of most of the north of Borneo with only the bare rocks and mountain rats for company as the sun peaked over the jagged edges of the mountain.
From there we headed to see the raffelesia flower which is the largest flower in the world but was very dissapointing. The one we saw was about 50cm wide which was way below out expectations but on the bright side we did see the 'shy plant' as a consolation. A magic plant.
To finish up we caught the boat to another country in Brunei with the famous, rich sultan as their ruler. He was 62years old two weeks before we arrived and he was still celebrating it. He has a park in the centre of the city only for birthday and his celebrations. There were more lights around the capital Bendar Seri Begawan than Grafton St. as Christmas time and to top things off, he puts huge posters of himself all over buildings for whatever reason. Strange man.
Conno: Myself and Ricky headed north on peninsular Malaysia to Penang, where it rained, oh how it rained! Though we met one of the nicest hostel owners in the world (we almost enjoyed giving him money...), and got pedalled around by an Indian man who got soaking wet for the princely sum of about €2!