Lazing in the mountains

Another lazy day, so I’ll just hit you with the highlights.

Low temperatures, heavy rain (in the afternoons)… it’s actually nice. Scenery is lovely, though it’s actually quite freaky to be in the cloud cover as the rain comes in – it’s like a mist you can see gradually obscuring the main road.

Breakfast was at the T-Café and was very good. If you’re ever there, try the strawberry tea. It’s the first fruit tea I’ve ever had that actually tastes of the fruit it’s named for. Most of them smell gorgeous and taste rubbish. A very civilised way to start the day – breakfast, a cuppa and the local paper!

About the paper. It’s a fair chunk of a publication called The Star which is more like a daily magazine that a newspaper. One feature I’ve noticed they have every day is “Mind My English” (if I have the title correct), where people write in with queries about their pronunciation, diction and so forth. The panel of experts offer advice. And it’s fantastic. Frankly, based on the nonsense I get via mail, SMS, email and in far too many British publications we could do with something like that back home. We invented the language, for crying out loud, and these people over here take more pride in it than we do.

For dinner I opted for an Indian. 7 Ringgit got me a huge naan, a smattering of veggies, three dips (mint, curry and dahl) and a lump of chicken the size of a baby’s arm. And I splashed out on a chocolate milkshake as well. Superb meal. The waiter dripped the platter in front of me, followed by a basket of forks and spoons. These were taken away and replaced with some napkins when he realised I’d obviously been to India and devoured the entire thing using my hands.

The hostel here has two dogs who are well cute – one old white thing with a dodgy eye that looks part-Schitzu, and a young, bouncy yellow thing that’s about as friendly a pooch as I’ve ever met. They even have a sign up saying that Rocky wants to go for walks! Maybe the day after tomorrow. I’ve signed up for the day-long jungle tour which means an early start and a late return. It probably also means getting soaked… Hope it’s worth it!

I’d also planned on doing the farm tour as well, but they’re not running it due to the weather. I guess people prepared to trudge for 3-4 hours through the jungle aren’t as fussed about bad weather as those who want to do more sedate things.

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Arrival in Tanah Rata

The bus company I used was called Kurnia Bistari and the pickup was pretty much on time. There seemed a little confusion as to what seat I was in, but as the bus was barely a third full this pretty much came to nothing. Not the cleanest bus in the world (and a couple of the seats were knackered), but very spacious with about 1.5′ of legroom.

I read and slept for the 5-hour journey, including through the 30-minute rest stop about halfway through. The aircon was set to “Chill” and once dusk set in, reading was difficult until the driver put the internal lights on. The last ninety minutes reminded me of getting into the mountains in Andorra as the bus swerved and rumbled up the windy roads.

We passed through a couple of smaller towns before reaching Tanah Rata where I was met by a driver from Daniel’s Lodge. It’s not far from the bus station to anywhere in town, but a free ride is always welcome. A quick check-in and I asked where to get my dinner. Rather than recommending their own place in town, I was surprised when the receptionist suggested T-Café opposite the bus station. So off I plodded.

And I’m glad I did. The owner is a very friendly guy, and the food is superb. Probably not the cheapest place to eat, but still very reasonable. I can recommend the home-made veg soup, strawberry milkshake and strawberry scone with cream. Total cost was a shaving over two quid.

This is the first time in ages (outside of a refrigerated boat) I’ve put a jumper on as well. It’s actually… OK, not exactly cold but certainly not warm. As I write, it’s approaching midnight and I’m on the free wireless in the “movie room” which I’m sharing with a member of staff who’s asleep. And snoring like a jumbo jet with a blocked nose. The joys of WinAmp and a pair of earphones.

So great food, lots of little trips to do, free interweb and £1.65 per night accommodation. I can manage that for a night or three…

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Leavin’ KL

Puduraya in the afternoon, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

My bus ticket is for 15:30 – last bus of the day – so I’m sat in the KFC across the road from Puduraya Bus Station using the free wi-fi. For those of you using this station to get to/from KL, you don’t really need public transport to get between it and decent accommodation.

The bus station is right on the edge of Chinatown, which has a lot of budget hostels (the cheapest in Kuala Lumpur, I think). If you’re staying in the Golden Triangle area, as I was, then it’s roughly 20 minutes’ walk – and a very simple one at that. Just head southwest along Jalan Bukit Bintang until you reach the junction at the end. Turn right and keep going. The bus station is a huge, grey structure that looks like (and probably was) a 1970’s multi-storey car park around 300m up the road.

Buying tickets is fun. In general, prices to various destinations are the same although it can pay to shop around. Walk into the first floor and bear right or left to see a gazillion (actually, I think there are just under 100) little cubicles. Many sellers will stand at the end of a row to try and tout for your business and can be very helpful as not every cubicle sells tickets for the same destinations.

It’s all a bit chaotic, but people are generally quite polite and helpful – though obviously insistent that their’s is the best service!

For those heading to the Cameron Highlands, I could have bought a ticket to Tanah Rata from cubicles 47, 87, 88, the one opposite 88… Most charge MR30 for a VIP bus. I opted for the MR18 service from cubicle 87. As I said, I’ve not seen the bus yet but it was half the price of others. In addition, they run a bus every hour whereas most others only have three a day. I’m expecting a diddy, cramped minibus, but it’s only a 4-hour journey. I’ll manage. I hope.

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