Melaka to KL via East Coast 15 to 24 March 2008
We had met a Malaysian tour guide in Melaka who was a mine of information, so though we hadn’t picked it up from any literature, on his advice we decided to go on the inland road to Johor Bahru (or JB capital city of Johor) visiting Gunung (or Mount) Ledang National Park on the way rather than sticking to the coast. We were glad of this as it was beautiful. The park specializes in outdoor adventure holidays for schools and colleges as well as corporate “team building” exercises. Ledang is the highest mountain in Johor at 1276 metres. Whilst this does not make it the highest in Malaysia it is renowned to be one of the most challenging to climb in the country. Sadly (!!!) we didn’t have time to make the climb but we had a look around the park, and saw the waterfalls. We also had a lovely camp spot right up on the hill with a stunning outlook to wake up to. There were waterfalls nearby for a swim; it was fairly busy when we went being the weekend apparently the place is deserted Monday to Thursday.
Next day we visited the larger waterfalls at nearby Sagil. There were endless forests of palm oil trees all the way. Whilst these trees aren’t native (originally from West Africa) for the last 60 years Malaysia has been one of the world’s top producers of palm oil and the forests are everywhere. We reached the waterfalls to find there is a big resort. You must park here, but you can pay for day access to the falls. They cascade down and there are a series of pools for swimming. It is lovely but being a Sunday very crowded with day trippers from JB mainly.
The next camp spot we were aiming for was Tanjung Piai. This national park is the most Southern point in mainland Asia. The park is over 900 ha, more than half of which are mangrove swamps. You can walk out on wooden walkways to the edge of the Melaka straits so you can see supertankers lined up next to the little fishing boats still in use here. We counted 60 tankers a reminder that this is one of the busiest stretches of water in the world. The walkways are alive with feral monkeys ..a recurring theme!
We went for dinner to the nearby fishing village of Kukup. This place is very popular with weekending Singaporeans for its seafood restaurants most of which are built on stilts over the water. The chili prawns we had were beautiful. We had a walk around the village which is built entirely over the water. Whilst most are traditional fishermen’s houses, some have obviously “made good” and built amazing dynasty style mansions over the water. Sadly we forgot the camera that night so no pictures of this. Though we had asked permission to camp the night at the national park, this obviously hadn’t filtered through to the night watch man who woke us up in the middle of the night by shining his torch on us and yelling in Malaysian. He spoke no English so by the time he was happy (he went off and found someone bi-lingual who sorted it out) and left us alone we were well and truly awake! Next morning on my way to have a shower once again I saw an otter ..a better look this time on the bank and swimming across the river collecting wood, a real thrill which made up for the bad night’s sleep.
Next day we drove on to JB. This is the 2nd largest city in Malaysia. It is connected to Singapore by a causeway and the Singapore skyline is clearly visible. It has a large duty free shopping centre so we re-stocked the beer fridge! We had already decided that JB wouldn’t be great for camping so we planned just to spend the day. First we went to the tourist office (as a general comment these have been universally excellent really helpful staff and lots of information) and decided to visit the Muzim Diraja Abu Bakar (or Royal Abu Bakar museum). This was built in 1866 by the Sultan Abu Bakar and was once the Johor royal family’s main residence and it is just stuffed full of priceless antiques from all around the world i.e.) cut glass furniture from France, and antique vases from China and Japan. It was quite amazing particularly the somewhat gross hunting room which has monstrosities like waste paper bins made from Elephants’ feet several stuffed tigers (now extinct …not surprisingly!) and antelope and horse leg ashtrays! Sadly you aren’t allowed to photograph inside but we got a picture of the guard at the entrance.
We quite liked JB from our brief look at it but we headed on to Mersing a fishing village on the east coast where we managed to find a place at the beach to camp the night. Mersing is a big departure point for the islands, but as we are heading back for the Grand Prix no time for that this trip. We will probably wait until Thailand to do some island hopping as having waited so long for the car we have limited time left in Malaysia.
We drove on to Kuantan the main city in the Pahang state, and the connection point by freeway back across to KL. Kuantan was a nice friendly town with (once more) an excellent tourist information centre, who were really helpful. The town centre was well set out with a large mosque dominating. We had a look around Teluk Chempedak the town’s main beach. This is a quite up market with lots of nice restaurants and a good walkway along the coast, though the current was too strong for swimming on the day we were there. We drove on to Pantai Sepat (Sepat beach) a bit out of town to camp as this was a lot quieter. We actually set up our shower tent for the first time, which was a good thing as seconds after the photo was taken what looked like the Islamic Ladies’ walking club appeared around the corner which might have been awkward had Andrew been showering in the open! International incident averted in the nick of time!
So, we crossed the highway to KL. On the advice of the Kuantan tourist information we decided to stop at Lanchang where there is an elephant conservation centre. You had to book in and it is a day’s event as you get to bath and feed the elephants so we didn’t have time but we booked in for our way back. There was also an Orang Asli village there selling handicrafts and we had a look around.
Back on the freeway the last stop before KL is the Genting highlands. This is a sort of manmade Cameron Highlands ..the hills are real but there is a manmade lake cable cars and a casino, it is a big weekend attraction for KL people. We never really fancied it but decided to have a quick look at Bukit Tinggi (High Hill) one of the resorts. It is pretty expensive and you have to pay 16 rm each to get into the main part with most of the restaurants and hotels so we didn’t bother but …joy of joys ..there was a rabbit park!
As many will know I had 2 much loved rabbits in Australia so I was thrilled to visit this attraction which was basically 100 odd free-range rabbits running around whilst being fed pellets by kids (and me)! We were the only people in there without kids in tow but so what! Amazingly all bunnies seemed to co-exist in a spirit of harmony my 2 tended to rip fist sized holes in each other when left alone so I was intrigued. The keepers said they had no problems in that regard. Either Malaysian bunnies are naturally very placid or (more likely!) they must keep them drugged!
We also stopped at the Berjaya Hills riding stable. This was set up by an Argentinian lady and all 16 beautifully maintained horses were imported from Australia. Unfortunately a bit out of our budget to go for a ride, but we got to pat them ….for an entrance fee of course!
So, we hit down town KL and a lot of traffic. We are staying at the Red Dragon Hostel in China town where we have stayed a few times, as the lady lets us park out the front. A night in KL and then off to the Grand Prix tomorrow.