Travel Tips

 

Kuala Lumpur There are plenty of ways to see Kuala Lumpur. Despite modernization, much of the city's appeal - markets, temples and historic mosques - remains intact and the city center is compact, making it easy to get around on foot. 

A good place to start is Central Market. It is by no means the thronging, spit-and-sawdust affair you might expect, but an Art Deco building with stalls selling batik, jewelry, and handicrafts. On the second level is a food hall with excellent Indian and Malay food. You can try most curries on a stall for about 8 ringgit. If you want a more rough and ready market, try Jalan Haji Hussein, off Jalan TAR, where animals' brains are sold alongside the more traditional batik souvenirs.

A short walk away from Central Market is Kuala Lumpur's main Hindu focus, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, which is free and always open. Also near is Merdeka (freedom) Square, on the west bank of the Klang. On August 31, 1957, the British flag was lowered, marking the end of the 133-year-long British era and the birth of the nation. The immaculately kept field was the focus of KL in colonial times, serving as a police parade ground and cricket ground. The Old KL train station with its spires, domes and arches - a hybrid of Malaysian and British architecture - is worth looking out for as another leftover of British rule.

You may have skyscraper fatigue from travelling in other cities, but the Petronas Towers deserve your attention. These days we don't get out of bed to see anything less than 101 floors, and you may well want to forego visiting the sky deck 41 floors up. Admission is free but requires queuing from 8:30am when the office opens to be guaranteed a ticket.

Given that the towers themselves are the best thing to see, the better way to experience the beautiful towers is to get up close at night. Stand at the base of the lit-up towers as they sparkle like diamond encrusted blancmanges, with bats circling them - it's quite breathtaking. 

Shopping is good in Kuala Lumpur. Many of the Western chains including TopShop and Gap, can all be found in the six-story mall, Suria KLCC, underneath the Petronas Towers, alongside the usual designer labels.

And if you go to the Pavilion shopping mall, be sure to check out the Kenko Fish Spa on the fifth floor, where for 38 ringgit you can sink your feet into an aquarium and have small feeder fish nibble away your dead skin. Those brave enough to try it, recommend it for relaxation.

If you only spend a weekend in Kuala Lumpur, it is worth going to the outskirts of the city, to visit the Batu Caves, a leading Hindu shrine. Watch the short documentary in a small building near the entrance and you will see the spectacle this place is host to come the Hindu festival of Thaipusam which falls in either the end of January or start of February each year.

Over one million people climb the 272 steps to the main cave over the three-day festival, many pierced with sharp wires through their cheeks, backs and arms, to show penance to Lord Murugan, whose gold-painted effigy beside the steps is the world's tallest of the Hindu deity at 42.7 meters. 

Cultural melting pot that Kuala Lumpur is, you can settle in and watch an art house film or, for a spot of jazz, the No Black Tie at 17 Jalan Mesui is a great bar and bistro, founded by Malaysian concert pianist, Evelyn Hii. And after you've danced the night away you'll be ready to feast the next day on more delicious fine food.
Sabah

Kinabalu Train - 108 years on, and still chugging along

 

More than a century ago, steam trains transported tobacco and other local produce from the interior to ports in Weston and Jesselton, now Kota Kinabalu. Today, the 134km railway track built by the British North Borneo Company in 1896, remains the lifeline of several rural communities on Sabah’s west coast.
The train service is also used by tourists who want to go white-water rafting on the Padas river. They take the train from Beaufort to Tenom, getting off at Pangi station for the next leg of their adventure.
Although there is only one service for some routes and two for others, and the old diesel engines frequently break down, the railway is the only viable transport for those living along its tracks, especially between Beaufort and Tenom. There is no road between Beaufort and Tenom, and a trip would take two-and-a-half hours by train.
The compensation for sitting on hard benches and enduring the sweltering heat is the opportunity to see rural Sabah and its changing landscapes. At least 1,500 tourists used the railway annually to go white-water rafting.

 

Gomantong Caves

This is the largest limestone outcrop in the Lower Kinabatangan area and contains at least nine caves! For centuries, Gomantong have been renowned

TAMAN NEGARA If you enjoy a tropical jungle to live in, the sound of rushing water for music and stars overhead then Taman Negara is for you Designated a protected area in 1938 (King George V National Park) it was meant to preserve nature in perpetuity. After Independence (1957) it was renamed Taman Negara (“national park” in Malay).

Taman Negara is one of the oldest rainforests in the world and is estimated to be 130 million years old. The park encompasses the 3 states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu, a total area of 4,343 square km.

The discerning naturalist can find 10,000 plant species 150,000 insects, 675 birds and over 270 reptiles.

Do wear light loose clothing, comfortable long sleeved shirts and long pants for protection from insects and abrasions and wear, comfortable shoes. Carry a waterproof jacket as well. Also choose a marked trail and ensure you return before dark.

The entry point to Kuala Tahan, the national park headquarters is either by scenic boat ride via the Sungai Tembeling river or a drive on the rural road (in a four wheel drive) to Kuala Tahan village.

The plants are beautiful especially the peacock plants whose colour changes from blue to green to blue,

The Mutiara resort is situated in the park and the best place to stay. Jungle treks are easy from here but a good guide is a must. River cruises will take you past Orang Asli villages who are dependent on the forest for their survival. They will give you demonstrations on using a blow pipe which they use for hunting monkeys for food.

There is plenty of wildlife, such as the Indochinese Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Malayan gaur Asian Elephant, tapirs and a variety of wildcats. Observation hides are the way to observe the wildlife. Small huts built high above the ground allow you to stay overnight to observe the animals and if you are lucky you will see them.

Gunung Tahan is the highest point of the Malay Peninsula and climbers can take off from Kuala Tahan if they wish to climb it The Canopy Walk is a must. This suspended rope bridge about 45 meters off the ground is a great way to observe the forest life. The ropeway sways so keep your balance as you go from tree to tree. Look out for the giant flying squirrel with its furry red tail or the green monitor lizard which climbs up trees in search of food.

The fun part of the trip is shooting the rapids on the Trenggan River in a locally made wooden boat. So put on your life vest and hold on for dear life for spills and thrills and screaming fun.

Fishing for kelisa or the prized mahseer can be arranged. Sometimes just sitting by the waterfalls at Lata Berkoh can be most enjoyable.

Explore the limestone caves of Gua Talinga (Ear Cave). Bird watchers can see drongoes malkohas, and pied hornbills. The Taman Negara Eco Challenge (held in November) is a much awaited event. Teams follow an obstacle course exploring the flora and fauna of different areas through tea plantations, waterfalls, Orang settlements, ride bamboo rafts and run several miles before ending at the finishing line.