Travel to KL

Just drifting off to sleep last night and Simon decided to get up to use the toilet. I was lying in bed and could hear him chatting to someone, obviously having a discussion about something and eventually my nosy nature got the better of me and I got up too. At the end of our hut sat on the floor was the most enormous bug I have ever seen. Its body was around 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. The noise from the thing was incredible as it flew around trying to get out. It was undoubtedly the creepiest insect I have ever seen alive or dead.

The alarm woke us this morning at 8.30. We quickly showered and started to pack up our stuff. We still seem to be unable to stay anywhere without unpacking almost everything but on the other hand are quicker at repacking now. We have had to ditch Ali’s converse as they are so wet and muddy and are getting too small for him anyway.

After a quiet morning spent having a leisurely breakfast and doing some literacy with the kids, we make our way to the bus station at 1.30. The bus leaves on time and is very luxurious with huge bucket seats. We arrive back in KL at around 5.15pm as planned. We check out The Trekker Lodge and I’m relieved to see it’s clean and the owner seems friendly and knowledgeable. We are staying in a dorm room which has 2 bunk beds in it and will share a toilet and shower with other people. The kids said they feel like real travellers now we are staying in hostels but actually there are lots of facilities here that we haven’t had in some other places we stayed such as a TV lounge, tea and coffee making facilities and free internet.

We walk to the KLCC shopping mall and buy a few things including a new pair of trainers for Ali and some underwear from Marks and Spencer for Maisie. After dinner we return to the hostel and get ourselves into bed we have to get a very early start tomorrow if we are to see anything at the festival and plan to get up around 5am.

Tea Plantation and Mossy Forest

Simon wakes me up around 7am and I head for the shower before I can chicken out and decide to give it a miss as it’s so cold. We have organised a trip this morning called The Mossy Forest and will be picked up at 8.45, so rush to get some breakfast.

The guides name is Kumar and there are another 5 people on the tour with us. We all pile into the back of a Land Rover and head off for our first stop which is at the tea plantation around 20 minutes away. The tea plantations are really amazing and we see tea pickers collecting the top leaves. The plantations are very sloped and pretty and Kumar is an interesting and informative guide who talks us through the history of the plantation and the tea producing process.

From the plantation we drive up to Gunung Brinchang, this is the highest point in the highlands and at around 2000 metres it is really quite cold. There is a viewing platform but the clouds are swirling around and there are only brief photo opportunities when the clouds break.

We head off for the mossy forest. Before we enter the forest Kumar tells us a little about his job as a NGO conservationist and goes on to show us many different types of plants and bushes along the way including citronella, wild ginger and bergamot. He explains the medicinal properties of many plants and shows us some amazing flowers called Monkey Pitchers. We then enter the forest and are taken on a muddy and difficult hour long trek. Despite getting filthy we all loved it and had a great time tramping along. I was a little worried when he explained that bird eating spiders live in this forest and their bodies can be 4 inches across with 3 -4 inch long legs.

Next we stop off at the tea factory, I am surprised that the despite the highlands being a huge producer of tea, some of which is exported internationally, the majority of the work is still done by hand. This includes the sorting and grading of the leaves.
By now it is 2pm and Kumar drops us of at an insect farm, this is very good and there are lots of butterflies, giant stick insects, grasshoppers and many other creepy crawlies to look at.

From here we walk to a nearby strawberry farm. As well as the tea plantations the highlands also produce strawberries and the town of Tanah Rata is really a strawberry town. Everywhere we go sells strawberry t shirts, handbags, fridge magnets, paper weights, balloons etc! As well as strawberry jam, tea, tarts, cheesecake, milkshakes and so on!

We catch the bus back and walk the short distance back “home”. I insist that the kids have a shower and we then settle down to do some science. One of the girls on our trip this morning is a Canadian who has been working as a science teacher in London for the past 4 years and she gives me some tips on specific areas of work to concentrate on which is useful.
We join the other guests in the communal lounge and manage to bag a settee. There is a nightly film showing and the 7pm offering is The Queen. We enjoy laughing at the translation of the subtitles more than the film but have a lovely evening chatting to other travellers.

We will be leaving in the morning and I’m so sad, it is one of the nicest places we have stayed and I would recommend it to anyone who is considering a holiday to Malaysia. The people who run the place have been very friendly and try their utmost to create a homely atmosphere.

We are going back to KL on the 1.45pm VIP bus. The journey should take 3 and a half hours and we have arranged to stay in another hostel. Originally we had booked The Pudu Hostel but spent some time reading recent traveller reviews on Malaysia and Thailand and discovered 6 terrible reviews about the place including one couple who had all their money stolen at festival time. As we are only returning to KL for the Thaipusam festival I’m relieved we have had the opportunity to change where we are staying and hopefully will be ok.

Cameron Highlands

We had an early start to the day and by 7.45 were on the bus on the way to the Cameron Highlands. This is slightly further north and we expect our journey there by bus to take around 5 hours. The Highlands is Malaysia’s most extensive hill station and is inside the state of Pehang. Apparently the name is taken from the surveyor who mapped the area in 1885 and he was followed by tea planters and vegetable farmers. The weather is fairly damp and the temperature remains quite even, rarely getting any hotter than 21 degrees or colder than 10 degrees.

The first leg of the journey takes an hour to a place called Jerantut. After stopping for an hour for breakfast we get back on the bus and are joined by a couple from London and a lad from Ireland. We now have a 2 and a half hour ride and we all chat about our previous/future travel destinations. The time flies and its great to chat to another girl for more than 2 minutes. We have all planned to stay at the same place when we arrive in the highlands.

Eventually we have a quick lunch break; Maisie isn’t feeling very well and looks very dark under her eyes. I’m not sure if this is mainly due to tiredness or she is coming down with something. I hope not.

We transfer to a mini bus for the last 2 hours and the landscape starts to change dramatically. We had heard from a girl in Taman Negara that it is very beautiful and we pass some of the most gorgeous scenery. Malaysia is definitely one of the most picturesque places I have ever been to and I listen to my MP3 player and watch the world go by.

It’s so relaxing and I can’t help thinking how great this is and how lucky we are to be travelling and seeing all these different places. At last we arrive at Fathers Guest House in the town of Tanah Rata. We have booked this by telephone yesterday and will be staying in a Nissen hut left over from the British Occupation. These look like bomb shelters and are made from corrugated iron but seem quite comfortable and are spotlessly clean. Despite having to share toilets and showers we decide to stay as everything else about this place is completely fab.

It is a bit like a huge campsite, up a hill and with lots of lovely flowers and trees. There is a reception area with facilities for making hot drinks and we’re thrilled to see they have around 50 different types of teas, all kinds of coffee and homemade cakes. There is a large communal area with 3 computers, TV and DVD and a generally welcoming atmosphere. The fella who shows us round is really nice and it will cost us 50 ringitt for 2 rooms per night. (7 quid). I ring home to let mum know we survived the jungle and a 15 minute call costs about 2 quid.

We have to sort our laundry out quickly as our clothes are still wet and muddy and we will probably need the extra stuff due to the cold. We think it is probably about 12 degrees here and it definitely feels quite chilly. We walk into town and drop off our washing which will be back tomorrow afternoon.

By this time it is around 6pm and as the restaurant at Fathers Guesthouse is closed on Sundays we stop for dinner at a Chinese place. There seems to be a wide variety of food here which is great and we go for the local speciality which is called a Steamboat.
This is basically a fondue with 2 different types of soup, kept boiling by a gas burner and we are given 2 plates of raw food to cook in the soup ourselves. There is beef, chicken, prawns, fishballs, tofu, cuttlefish, jellyfish, mussels and crab. This is accompanied by 2 different types of noodles, eggs, green vegetables and shitake mushrooms. Not only is a real feast but good fun to cook and cheap. (6 quid with a few beers).

Our first impressions of this place are excellent and I think we will have a great time here. We walk back to the guesthouse, stopping off to buy a few supplies on the way and are all in bed by 9.30. There are loads of travellers staying here and we’re hardly up there with the hardcore ones but I don’t care. So happy to be here in a dry place and we will have clean clothes tomorrow what more could a girl want.

Canopy Walkway and Orang Asli

I couldn’t sleep last night and as I finally turned the light out at 3am it takes me a while to get my arse out of bed this morning. We try breakfast in one of the floating restaurants and after stuffing ourselves feel ready for the day. We have hired a guide called Suvala (Ali played guitar with him last night) and he is going to spend a few hours showing us some of the sights around the river.

We get into the boat and as he has to bail it out first I’m pleased to see life jackets and immediately consider putting mine on. We motor up the river, against the flow and after 10 minutes or so stop at the side. We are going to the canopy walkway and although I was feeling slightly anxious about this, my nerves are quickly forgotten as we realise that we have forgotten our park pass. There is a big sign explaining the penalty is 500 ringitt and up to 2 years in prison for such an infringement. (This scares me more) We tell Suvala but he assures us that the rangers are his friends and it will be ok.

The canopy walkway is reached by a long steep flight of steps and we have to register and pay 16 ringitt before we can start to make our way across. We listen carefully to the instructions. We must stay at least 5 metres apart, no more than 4 people on the walkway and go slowly. We are about 150 feet above the ground and there is no way I’ll be ignoring any of their advice.

Ali goes first, Maisie next and then it’s me. I step onto the walkway and start to plod along ignoring the fact that it is wobbling madly and focusing on the tree tops around me. The views are outstanding and despite my legs feeling a bit jellyfish, I make it across without losing it and feel pleased that I have achieved this.

We get back to the boat and I use the toilet near the river. Suvala tells me afterwards that the last time he used that toilet he found a viper in there.

Next we stop off at The Orang Asli Village. This is a small village of 6 families and they live very simply on the riverside in huts. The Orang Asli people are indigenous aboriginal people. Suvala explains that several years ago the Malaysian government provided them with bungalows with televisions and other mod cons but they only stayed there for one night and then chose to return to the village where they have continued to live.

They make a living by harvesting sandalwood and sell it to the village where we are staying. The chief of the village spoke a very little English and with Suvala they showed us the blow pipes they use to kills birds and how they make fire from sticks. (Suvala explained in the rainy season they just use a lighter!)

We took the opportunity to take some photographs which was perfectly acceptable and all felt privileged to spend a bit of time there observing the families, particularly the children playing. Although we had read that visiting the village can feel quite intrusive we didn’t experience that, maybe because there was only us 4 there and we just sat quietly watching what went on.

We get back to the boat and after bailing it out once more set off back down the river. Suvala tells us we must prepare to get wet as we have some small rapids to go through. Actually we get completely soaked but we all enjoyed the bit of excitement.

We arrive back at the jetty and arrange to leave Taman Negara tomorrow. We will be travelling by road which is actually a longer route than by the river but as we wish to move onto the Cameron Highlands it is the most direct way for us to travel.
This will cost us 55 ringitt each (around 8 pounds) and we need to arrange some cheap accommodation also.

We also pay Suvala for the day and he charges us approx 24 pounds which is much cheaper than an organised tour and we agree well worth it. He’s an interesting character and I have learnt a little about Malay culture today. He tells us he left home aged 13 and that his brother has 2 wives. Like all the people we have met here he loves music and tells us the names of his favourite films.

We have found that the Malaysians, although not as outwardly chatty and friendly as the Indian people we met previously have a sly and cheeky sense of humour. We have watched today as they tease their kids and they laugh at each other a lot. I had heard reports that as Malaysia is such a conservative Muslim country, Westerners may encounter some minor hostility here but that certainly hasn’t been the case for us so far and we haven’t witnessed it for anyone else either.

Simon goes to update our website in the afternoon and I read my book. It is so humid here that lying around isn’t really a pleasant experience and everywhere and everything smells damp. It has been an amazing few days that I wouldn’t have missed for the world and Taman Negara is probably the most beautiful place I have ever been but I don’t qualify as Jungle Jane quite yet and once again I am looking forward to moving on.

Bukit Teresek

We have had a great day today. We did set our alarms but for a bit later as we all wanted to have a lie in today. We decide to go for the set breakfast which consists of toast, eggs, juice and coffee. We haven’t really had any good coffee since arriving in Malaysia and despite asking for Nescafe the coffee that we get here is really vile!

It is starting to rain and we decide that rather than getting our trousers soaked we will wear as little as possible with our raincoats over the top. The main fault with this plan is that our legs will be exposed to leeches and we cover them with repellent cream and then spray our socks.

We catch the river taxi across to the entrance to the park. As we have discovered we can hire jungle boots for 4 ringitt a day, we then make our way to the reserve office and get kitted out. I am feeling the part now and looking forward to a few hours trekking. We are going to climb Bukit Teresik a small hill that is described as being a fairly steep climb and slippery in parts, with good views across the forest once you reach the top.

We reach the entrance of the rain forest. As it has been dry for the past 5 days the path was ok last night but it is much more slippery today and we make our way along carefully. It is extremely hot although very shady and raining lightly. Before long we are all sweating and I decide to take off my raincoat and brave the insects. Suddenly we hear a little shriek from Maisie who has been marching along a great pace. There stuck to the back of her leg is a leech waving its head around and trying to clamp on. It is quite funny but Simon brushes it off quickly and it doesn’t leave any mark. From then on we all watch each others legs and all have to dislodge leeches from our boots at some point.

We have found out the canopy walkway is closed on Friday afternoons so decide to do that tomorrow morning and concentrate on climbing today. It turns out to be quite a difficult climb and we need to pull ourselves up on ropes for some parts of it. We were trying to compare it to when we climbed Savitri in Pushkar in India and decide that although that was much hotter in the burning sun, this is harder by far. I must be getting a lot fitter as although it’s very tiring I’m not as completely knackered as I was then and we all quite enjoy the challenge of it.

We sing “We are the Champions” by Queen when we finally get to the top and wow what a beautiful view. This is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been and in the rain it looks absolutely lush. The huge green leaves are dripping with water and the tops of the trees are covered in mist. It makes quite an amazing sight and we get some good photos for the website.

This area of virgin rainforest is around 130 million years old and we have been told it has never been felled or artificially planted. There are hundreds of different trees, plants and bushes ranging from huge trees to small scrubby bushes. There are so many different shades of green and we recognise trees such as bamboo which are simple to identify.
We begin our descent down and this takes around an hour. At the bottom is an exclusive holiday resort which is good news, as we have begun to realise 5 star means beer will be available. As we are staying across the river in a strict Muslim village there isn’t any alcohol available and after our strenuous efforts a cold Tiger beer goes down great. The kids have some chocolate cake and we head back to our motel for a shower and a rest.

We decide to have dinner at the same restaurant as last night. The kids have burgers and fries but Simon and I have some tasty sweet and sour beef and ginger prawns with rice. It is reasonably cheap and costs around 7 quid including drinks and puddings.

On the way back up to the motel we stop off at a bar where 4 fellas are playing their guitars. Ali hasn’t played too much recently but before long he is playing with them and Simon goes and fetches his own guitar. There are a couple of Greek lads there too and one of them also joins in. Its quite surreal, sat in the jungle listening to them all jammin along to a mixture of Malaysian songs, Greek tragedy and Greenday!

A bonus is that they also have internet access and this keeps Maisie quiet for an hour and a small library with books available for exchange and sale. We buy a 2005 edition copy of Lonely Planet’s China for 4 quid.

Its 11pm now and I’m off to bed, need to conserve some energy for tomorrow.

Taman Negara

6.30am and both alarms are simultaneously drilling into my brain. Simon is first out of bed and makes me a weak coffee which is, eventually enough to rouse me. We have a quick shower, get the kids up and all run downstairs for a few slices of toast, before we get on the bus to Taman Negara.

The bus is clean and comfortable and as there are only another 3 passengers on it we have lots of space to spread out. Taman Negara is located in central Malaysia and as we start to drive out of KL the landscape changes dramatically. It is very green, hilly and densely populated with trees. The road is excellent, like a dual carriageway in England and we zip along. The journey is estimated to take 3 hours after which we will stop for some lunch and we have a 15 minute break after an hour or so.

We talk to the other couple on the bus who tell us they are back packing for the first time. They are from the Netherlands and have visited their son in Singapore for a holiday. Like us they haven’t made any firm plans and are also slightly anxious about what awaits us in the jungle.

We stop as planned and then transfer to a minibus for the next 8km. The road is very narrow and twisty and Simon tells me he read that “this is where old buses go to die”. Happily though our driver is fairly careful and we arrive at the riverbank in one piece. We now have a 3 hour boat journey to the jungle and the boat doesn’t appear as seaworthy as I would have liked. It is a type of flat bottomed long boat with a motor and actually races along at a speed far faster than I would have imagined it was capable of.

The River Tembeling is a wide and fast flowing river and the journey along it is a beautiful one. Although we don’t see any animals more exciting than a few water buffalo, there are lots of brightly coloured birds to watch through our binoculars and the time flies by.

We’re all glad to reach the reserve though as our bums are numb and we moor up at the jetty of a floating restaurant. There are about 5 of these along the waters edge and each one offer excursions around the park and river. We have pre booked our accommodation and note that if we had booked it through the tour company it would have cost 70 ringitts each per night. (20 quid a night) as it is we have paid 80 ringitts (11 quid) total per night for 2 rooms. This is good as we are trying to reduce our daily expenditure!

We make our way to The Teresek View Motel. This isn’t easy as we have to walk along a steep and winding sandy pathway with our packs and although it isn’t far it takes ages. Still we get there in the end and are glad to see our rooms although very tiny and cramped are clean with a fan and shower.

We quickly change into long trousers and trainers and apply insect repellent liberally. We haven’t used it since leaving India and have only had a few bites each but I guess there will be plenty of biting insects here and don’t want to take the risk. We also spray it over our socks and shoes as it supposed to deter leeches.

The floating restaurants all seem to offer similar food and we stop at one for dinner. This is a fairly quick and simple affair consisting of grilled prawns, rice and kaluba, a local vegetable dish. I also have a lemon and sugar pancake for pudding.

We have decided that we are going to do a night walk in the jungle tonight and pay for a guided tour which focuses on insect life in the rain forest. The jungle here is so dense that you could pass very close to an animal and not even realise. It is claimed that this is the world oldest rainforest and it is one of the most pristine primary rainforests on earth.
There are only us 4 and another couple on the tour and we set off at 9pm. The guides name is Long and he tells us he has been working in the Malaysian jungle as a guide for 20 years.

We had to purchase a park permit prior to entering the park and Long asks us” to leave nothing but our footprints and take nothing but photographs”. We all have torches and as soon as we enter the rain forest we are in complete blackness. I think I expected that there would be a nice wide path but we have to inch along stepping over huge roots, up, down and around. Long is in front and starts to point out insects. We see Huntsman spiders (one nearly as big as my hand), poisonous caterpillars, bull ants (massive an inch and a half long), crickets, stick insects, leeches and a giant centipede.

I have my raincoat on pulled right up to my neck with all the drawcords as tight as they will go. As it is probably around 28 degrees I am really hot but I would rather boil than loosen any and risk getting any bugs in my clothes.

Suddenly Long stops abruptly and motions to us that we should all stand still to the side. He whispers that he has seen a scorpion and proceeds to shine a light and tap on the ground lightly. This apparently tricks the scorpion into think there is prey around and soon it scuttles out from under a log. It’s about as big as my hand and we all thought it was great to see it close up.

We reach one of the hides that are dotted around the reserve. It is possible to stay overnight in a hide and we are considering doing this. The hides are all located near natural or artificial salt licks which encourage larger animals to the area. Although elephant and big cats do inhabit the park we have been told that it would be very unusual to see these animals and we’re all pleased to see some small deer.

Our walk is nearly over and we start to make our way back to the rivers edge where we have to catch a boat to the other side. We thank Long and as we are making our way back to our motel I see a small frog. I’m pleased that I noticed it, I must have learnt something! The kids absolutely loved it and we are all looking forward to tomorrow when I have to face my fear of heights again as we go to walk in the canopies of the trees.

KL

Last night I had a nightmare that our room was crawling with cockroaches and woke up about 1am with my heart racing. The revenge of the roaches. Although I went back to sleep quickly I felt tired this morning and we didn’t get up until 9.

After breakfast we spend an hour doing science we’re trying to complete the topic of the human body but it seems to be taking ages and we will be glad to move onto something different. We then discuss our plans for our jungle trip. Maisie is adamant that she doesn’t want to go rafting and we work out that it will probably be cheaper if we arrange it all independently rather than joining an organised tour.

We have decided that we are spending too much money and are going to try more budget accommodation. Whether this is a good idea in the jungle I don’t know but as it will only be for 2 or 3 nights I’m sure it will be ok. We have a minimum standard that we will go to and that basically means no sharing rooms/toilet with other people. The next request on the list is a window but we will go without that if necessary.

We have planned to visit the bird park later and we stop at a cafe and have lunch first.
Next we make for the biggest and busiest internet cafe I’ve seen. It is unbelievably noisy with 50 or so school boys playing a fighting game on the computers and after an hour of checking and replying to loads of emails from our friends and family I’m glad to get out of there.

We have a wander up the road through Petaling Street. This should be a good place to buy Ali a pair of trousers but due to a slight difference of opinion as to what constitutes appropriate jungle wear we come away empty handed. Apart from Ali we all have good trousers, but as he didn’t want to come shopping prior to the trip either, his only pair are very thick and baggy. I have tried to talk him about leeches but style is of course, far more important and what do I know anyway?

We give the bird park a miss as it is looking very overcast and walk back to our hotel, we then spend a few hours lazing around and planning some stuff to do over the next few weeks. We decide to book the bus to take us to Taman Negara and ring ahead and arrange some accommodation. As we will be leaving in the morning at 8.30, I pack up our rucksacks so we don’t have to get up too early.

Its 8pm and Ai has now decided that he would like to buy the trousers that we saw earlier. All it took was a bit of discussion amongst Simon and I about how wet and muddy we will get caving/ rafting/ walking etc and he announced perhaps he was being a bit awkward after all earlier!

We also buy insect repellent, knock down spray, a torch and tigerbalm (apparently makes leeches drop off). Can’t make up my mind if I’m more or less nervous now!
If the website hasn’t been updated in 5 days please call International Rescue.

Kuala Lumpur

Simon has gone off early this morning to get tickets for the Petronas Towers skybridge and I wake the kids around 8.30.
While I was in the bathroom this morning I noticed a large creepy cockroach lying on its back wriggling its feelers. There is no way I’m touching it so I get Ali and we trap it under a glass. After a few minutes it lies quite still and we wonder if it’s ill. Eventually Ali decides to get it out and put it out of the window but once it’s out we realise the windows don’t open. We settle for shoving it down the neck of an empty beer bottle and when I check on it 10 minutes later it’s crawling around and looking quite lively.

Our good deed for the day.

Following an hour of science work we catch the LRT train to the Thai embassy and collect our passports and visa’s. Simon has arranged for us to visit the skybridge at 6pm so we head off to The National Museum. This is a great place to visit and has several galleries with life size waxwork figures which display Malaysia’s history, arts and crafts. They also explain many aspects of Malay culture and at around 40 pence admission and kids free it is a really entertaining and worthwhile hour.

Suddenly I feel really ill and have to run to the toilet and be sick (my own fault, I took my malaria tablet 3 hours after breakfast). We decide to stop for some lunch but I can’t face anything other than multi coloured cake and Simon and the kids don’t look too enthusiastic about what’s on offer either.

Next we visit the National Planetarium. The last time we went to one of these was in London and I seem to remember it cost loads but at 1 ringitt per person (just over 10 pence) this is a bargain attraction and we have a great time there. The exhibits are all good and it’s both interesting for us and very educational for Ali and Maisie. We have to cover “Space” as one of their science topics and this whets their appetites for it.
The best thing about the planetarium was the space ball, which enabled us to experience weightlessness, a room with a black hole and a gravity simulator.

We walk from the planetarium to Taman Orkid and Taman Bunga Raya. These are beautiful orchid and hibiscus gardens and as I love flowers I really want to visit them. The kids aren’t however quite as enthused and as it is now 35 degrees I quickly lose my motivation for them myself. Simon is also quite ambivalent and after 15 minutes wandering through the gardens we make our way back to KLCC to get a bit of air con.

At 6pm we make our way to the Petronas Towers skybridge experience. After watching a short film about the construction of the towers we get in the express elevator to the 41st floor. Ali says it goes so fast it makes his ears pop. The view from the skybridge is excellent and we all enjoy ourselves loads.
We return to the mall and after dinner at the food court decide to head back to our hotel. We are all tired again and I think we will get up a bit later tomorrow. Walking around in the heat and humidity is absolutely exhausting and we have done a lot today.

We are trying to decide whether to go and spend some time in the jungle over the next few days. It sounds good but is fairly remote and I actually seriously feel scared about going. I guess I’ll sleep on it and decide tomorrow.

Petronas Towers

We set the alarm for 7am and get up fairly swiftly. The reason for this is twofold; firstly we have to visit the Thai Embassy today to get 60 day tourist visas. UK citizens can visit Thailand for 30 days without a visa but we feel that as we may want to stay longer and spend less time in Cambodia it is better to sort this out before we get to Thailand.
The second reason for getting up earlier is to try and improve our sleeping and subsequent eating patterns.

We arrive at the Embassy before 9am and are bit disappointed to see a long queue has already formed (especially as the doors don’t open until 9.30). It is already very hot but we have come prepared with water and the kids’ games to keep them quiet.

The visa application process is simple enough and by 11 o’clock we have handed over our passports, 4 photos and 100 ringitt. (The exchange rate is around 6 ringitt to the pound). We are informed that we have to return to the embassy tomorrow morning between 11.30 and 12.30 to collect our passports and visas.

We walk along the road past the various embassies; this is a smart area of town with lots of colonial style buildings. We stop for lunch at a hawker centre and then make our way to the Petronas Towers that dominate the skyline.

We all remember watching “The Race for the Worlds Tallest Building” on TV a few years ago. This documented the story of the building of the towers and it’s great to see them for real. Completed in1998 to the cost of 1.9 billion US dollars the 88 storey twin towered building is an amazing sight and also very beautiful. The floor plan is based on the 8 pointed star seen in Islamic art and these influences are also evident in the 5 tiers of each tower that represent the 5 pillars of Islam.

We want to go up to the skybridge that connects the towers but as it is closed on Mondays will probably return tomorrow to do this. We take lots of photos but eventually the heat gets too much and we head back to the hotel. On the way the taxi driver tells us that the temperature in Malaysia is fairly constant all year round and “only goes up to 40″ degrees in the summer. At 34 degrees today I think this is quite hot enough though.

We spend the next few hours learning about the Islamic faith. It is part of the curriculum for year 8 pupils and we wanted Ali and Maisie to study this whilst in Malaysia as the majority of Malay’s are devout Muslims. We also learnt that there are large minorities of Chinese and Indians and that despite some racial tensions on the whole everyone gets along well. Our first impressions of Malaysia are very good the weather is perfect; the people seem friendly and helpful and getting around is easy using trains and taxis.

We decide to go out again around 8pm, the kids are hungry and we want to see the Petronas Towers at night.
This turns out to be a good idea. The towers look absolutely awesome all lit up in the dark and we take a few more shots.

We head back around 10pm we are really tired and need some sleep. Tomorrow we will try and find some internet access. This has been a bit more difficult than we expected and although we quickly checked a few emails today we need to update the website also.
Off to bed now, we have the easy listening channel on the radio which plays a never ending supply of Barry Manilow, The Carpenters, Abba and songs from Grease. I love it.

Malaysia

As planned we boarded the 1015 train to Malaysia last night. We weren’t sure what the form would be at the border but before we were allowed on the platform we had to show our passports and were issued with immigration cards.

The train is very clean and we have 4 bunks which are already made up with sheets and pillows .Unlike the Indian trains though there is no room underneath for us to store our gear. This means we have to have it all on our beds with us but is not too much of a problem. We have eaten earlier and the kids are tired so by 11pm I ask them to turn out their lights and try to get some sleep.

Half an hour later the train stops and we all have to get off at immigration and have our cards checked. Still it doesn’t take too long and we are soon back on the train
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What a difference to the trains of India. I find myself missing the noise of other people though, constant ringing of mobiles, kids chattering, the smell of spices and curries amongst other things, the heat, men hanging out of the door for a smoke and the vendors monotonous “chai chai chai”.

The train is far more comfortable, air conditioned and almost completely silent which I find weird considering its full .It is also very bright and unfortunately the lights stay on all night resulting in a sleepless night for everyone.

Still we arrive at 6.30am on time at Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station; my first impression of KL is that it is a clean and modern looking city. It is quite cool here and doesn’t seem to be as humid as Singapore which is a relief. We get a taxi to our hotel; we are staying at The Mandarin Pacific Hotel in Chinatown and the kids are pleased when we arrive to see we are opposite a McDonalds. The hotel looks really nice and is costing us 138 ringitt per room a night. This is around 23 pounds a room and is quite expensive for our budget but we are hoping to pay less when we move on out of the city.

Our rooms are fantastic and it’s definitely one of the best places we have stayed in. We have two large suites with a connecting door and a fridge. Most important we have a bath, although I generally prefer showers and despite the water being yellow it’s great to have a long hot soak.

We sleep until 1230 and then go out in search of food, the first place we come across is a hawker centre and we sit down without much thought. The fellas must have seen us coming as they pile the food on, we end up with far too much and I guess I wouldn’t have asked for deep fried baby octopus for breakfast. But it’s all ok and does the job.

We decide to take a walking tour of KL to look at some of the architecture including early 20th century Chinese teahouses, a pretty mosque and an art deco building now used as a bank. It is very hot though and half way round we give up and head for the Chinese market.

This is really amazing and I think it is probably possible to buy almost anything here.
There are clothes, watches, shoes, handbags and DVD’s alongside fruit and vegetables and numerous food vendors .Its very noisy, hot and smelly and we have a great time picking our way through and chatting to the market traders. We buy James Bond, Casino Royale for the second time, hopefully it will be a better copy than the last one and I get some earrings. Ali also buys a game for his PSP. We pass a pet shop and in the window are two Alsatian puppies, the kids are completely enthralled and we go inside to see 10 or 12 big cages all containing little puppies. It is a strange sight for us but I’m pleased to say the pups all looked well cared for.

Before long the sky clouds over and it starts to rain, these tropical storms are quite different to storms at home and although it absolutely pours down it doesn’t last for long and the sun is soon out again. The temperature is fairly constant at around 30 degrees and the humidity about 80%.

We get back to the hotel and Simon does some maths with the kids for an hour. We’re all tired and decide to give dinner a miss and watch Casino Royale on the laptop. By 10 o’clock we’re all starving and give in to the temptation that is McDonalds. Shame on us!