Archive for December, 2010


Posted in abu dhabi, Malaysia, Melaka, Travel with tags , , , on December 28, 2010 by Amanda


Melaka has been pretty much what I expected it to be which is a very historic place with too many tourists. It seems to be a very popular destination for huge family groups; this may be simply because of the time of year. I find it annoying when these groups of people decide to take pictures in front of a place in every possible permutation of family members!

A common sight in Melaka

The historic part of the city is quite compact as easy to walk around, distance-wise at least; I think this is the hardest place yet on this trip for crossing the street. I went on an interesting river cruise and also walked along the very nice pathway along the river (which is a very easy place to walk!). My knee is fine for walking but does bother me a little on stairs. I went to a few of the gazillion museums located here. I eventually decided to go on the Menara Taming Sari which looks like a tower when the seating area is at the top. It is a revolving ride and I was a bit reluctant to go on it because it looks so touristy and non-historic. I actually really enjoyed the view from up above the city. The old parts of the city looked even older from above and I was a bit surprised to see just how big the city is in total.

Menara Taming Sari

I’m off to Singapore tomorrow. It has become clear that I’m stuck with the flight out on January 1 and that is a bit worrying because of the arrival time. I would think that anyone with a flight originally scheduled for that date wouldn’t think of getting a visa just in case the flight came in late. The date it is supposed to arrive must be something, right? The good thing is that I know if the flight lands on time I’ll be totally okay as there is never really immigration lines at the Abu Dhabi airport. I really need to stop worrying as everything really is out of my control but I’m unfortunately not so good at that!

Christmas in KL

Posted in Christmas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Travel with tags , , , on December 26, 2010 by Amanda

Kuala Lumpur was definitely a strange place to spend Christmas. Most of the popular doesn’t celebrate Christmas and yet the malls are decorated for Christmas in a much fancier manner than they’d ever be at home. The staff at many stores and restaurants dress for Christmas in expected ways like wearing Santa hats or reindeer antlers but also things on the head that look much more than devil horns to me. The weather here is, of course, very un-Christmasy; it is significantly warmer than Abu Dhabi was last year and Abu Dhabi was certainly far from cold. It is so strange to hear songs like “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” here as it is would be undoubtedly as very delusional dream in this climate!

I saw a strangely fascinating play at one of the large malls yesterday. It was called “Cosmic Christmas” and involved Santa, elves, and some strange-looking characters which must have been “cosmic.” Santa was very skinny and did a lot of dancing. Despite this country having few people of a Christian background, there were many people watching this show; this may simply have been because the mall was so, so crowded. The monorail was even more insane. They really need to implement trains with more than two small cars! I have never seen such crowded public transportation in my life. There were long lines just to buy tickets and then you needed to wait for about two trains to come before there was room to squeeze (and I really mean squeeze) into a train.

Cosmic Christmas

I used the hop-on, hop-off buses for tourists the day before yesterday and yesterday morning. They weren’t crowded and while they moved slowly they provided a good overall of the city. At least in passing, I saw most of the main sights of Kuala Lumpur.

This morning I headed to the Batu Caves which are a little bit outside the city. They were easy to get to though as they are the last stop on the commuter train. Actually, it is the “Komuter” train. I have found that I actually picked up quite a few Malay words even though it is a very easy country to get around just using English. But with words like komuter, farmasi, and restoran it isn’t exactly hard to learn the language! I have also picked up less obvious words from signs (eg. kelular=exit and tandas=toilets); it really does help learning a language when you can read the signage!

The Batu Caves were relatively busy but nothing compared to the malls and monorail. They were very interesting, especially the quiet Cave Villa (quiet because it cost 15 ringitts to visit and the rest was free) which had amazingly colourful paintings.

Inside the cave villa

Early this afternoon, I somehow managed to trip on a sidewalk and fall hard on my knee. My knee is rather sore and was fairly bloody but I’m sure it will feel okay soon. I used this incident as an excuse to nap this afternoon but I will go see a little more of Kuala Lumpur this evening as I’m leaving in the morning.

A small update

Posted in abu dhabi, Frustration with tags , on December 24, 2010 by Amanda

So upon further thinking I decided to try to change my flight. As it is a reward flight, I cannot make route changes. Unfortunately the Singapore to Abu Dhabi flight isn’t a daily one and I can’t get on the December 30 flight. I was able to get on the one for January 1. However, this is still a bit of a worry because it is scheduled to land at 11:30pm and the visa rules change on January 2. It sounds like I shouldn’t have any trouble boarding the flight but who knows what will happen at immigration if it ends up being after midnight. I was told I can call back daily to see if availability occurs on the December 30 flight.

I’m a bit behind once again …

Posted in abu dhabi, Cameron Highlands, Frustration, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Tahan, Malaysia, Taman Negara, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by Amanda

So once again I’ve been lazy about updating what I’ve been doing. Unfortunately, I’ve now had to face the reality that it doesn’t look like the UAE government will be changing its mind about the visa. To make matters worse, getting this visa is very expensive and annoying. The visa has to be acquired through a travel agency, hotel etc. I can’t get one through Etihad because my flight to leave is on another airline. I have so far only found one travel agency that said they could get me the visa and they charge much higher prices for hotel rooms than you find on the online booking sites. With this visa you don’t have a choice but to stay in a hotel. I wish they’d at least give exemptions to people who booked their travel before this new rules were announced. If they’d been around when I left the UAE, I certainly would have taken everything with me and not planned to return! I agree with the UAE government than the Canadian government should let Etihad and Emirates fly to Canada more but these visa procedures aren’t going to accomplish anything except the UAE having virtually zero Canadian tourists! The airlines will probably not even be able to fill the flights they are allowed to have to Canada. It really just makes no sense. I’m so tempted to just find another way home but I really do need some of my stuff. I’m just so frustrated right now and this just seems so unfair! I really wish I was one of those lucky people who have more than one passport.

Anyway, I’ll try to recap what I’ve done the last few days. On my second day in the Cameron Highlands, I went on quite a good tour. I saw the Rafflesia which is billed as the world’s largest flower but it isn’t actually a flower. Anyway, this only live for a few days and it was interesting to see. The hike up to see it was very, very muddy but I managed not to fall! Despite all the mud, the hike was very enjoyable. We also stopped at a small waterfall; I didn’t think that the water was all that cold but everyone else disagreed. We also briefly visited an Orang Asli (aboriginal people) village where we saw a blowpipe demonstration; I didn’t really enjoy the visit as it was one of the those where you get the feeling the people don’t really want you there. The tour also included a visit to a tea plantation which was absolutely beautiful, a butterfly farm where the insects were much more interesting (I got to have a couple scorpions on me), and a strawberry farm.

The Rafflesia "flower"

The tea plantation

The next day, I travelled to Taman Negara which is the world’s oldest rainforest. I entered the area via an interesting boat ride and stayed across the river from Taman Negara (in a places called Kuala Tahan) as there is only one place to stay in Taman Negara and it is very expensive; it cost twice as much for a bed in a dorm there as it did for a private room where I stayed! As it is the rainy season there, the area wasn’t very crowded and some of the businesses had irregular hours. There was a fair bit of rain while I was there but there were also times with very nice, sunny weather. I only had two leech bites which I think isn’t too bad. I went on a night walk but basically we only saw insects. I did see a snake but otherwise I didn’t see more than birds and insects though there were some wild boar footprints and I did hear many animal noises. I found the park generally quite quiet and there was a very nice river to swim in. I also went on a canopy walk which is apparently the world’s longest but some of it was closed (I heard several different stories on how much was closed); regardless, it was an interesting way to see the rainforest.

Canopy walkway

The swimming area

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur today. I haven’t seen too much of the city yet but so far I like it. I definitely different to be in a city again after spending a while in places without many people or stores/restaurants. I had a Subway veggie sub this afternoon and penne primavera from Pizza Hut so I’m really making sure I try Kuala Lumpur’s cuisine! Subway did have coconut cookies which I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Ipoh & Tanah Rata

Posted in Cameron Highlands, Ipoh, Malaysia, Tanah Rata, Travel with tags , , , , on December 18, 2010 by Amanda

The bus ride from Georgetown to Ipoh was definitely a memorable one but not in a good way! Part way through the ride I noticed that my butt was very itchy. A few minutes later I noticed ants all over my seat and me. There were so many of them! After removing the ants from my clothing, I moved to another seat! Another woman nearby said she had moved too because there were ants on her previous seat. It was good that the bus was only about a third full so that moving wasn’t a problem. The strange thing is that this bus looked clean and not all that old. I’ve been on buses that looked so much worse and never had a problem like this.

After seeing no rain whatsoever in Georgetown, I saw plenty during my one night visit to Ipoh. But I walked around the town anyway. It has a lot of interesting old buildings but not too many tourists (at least Western tourists). I stayed in a hotel that is located above the train station. It looks amazing from the outside and while the inside is a bit worn it was a very worthwhile experience though I always used the stairs because the ancient elevator looked a bit scary.

My hotel

The main reason I stopped over in Ipoh was to see nearby Kellie’s Castle (sometimes called Kellie’s Folly). It is an abandoned, never quite finished mansion (it really isn’t castle) that is reputedly haunted. It was really pouring rain on my way there and the taxi driver kept asking me why I wanted to go there even though it was raining. It wasn’t really raining too much when I got the taxi. I kept thinking that he just wanted to go back to town and get the same amount of money as if I went as we’d already agreed on the price. But he did loan me his umbrella when we not there so maybe he was just concerned. Anyway, it was a very interesting place to wander around though I didn’t see any ghosts! As I was mostly inside, the rain wasn’t that much of a problem. The place was empty when I got there but there were other people there by the time I left.

Kellie's Castle

Today I came to Tanah Rata which is located in the Cameron Highlands. It is much cooler here but for December I’m sure everyone back home would think it is hot. I’m guessing the temperature is probably in the high teens but I could be wrong. Regardless this is definitely the coldest weather I’ve experienced in a really long time. It was only about a 70 kilometre journey but it took over three hours because of the steep, windy road.

I hadn’t prebooked accommodation here because I was arriving in the late morning (the problem in Langkawi was basically coming too late in the day), there weren’t many options on the online booking sites, and I had read that there were touts that meet buses coming in. So I figured there wouldn’t be a problem. Actually, the problem wasn’t the lack of places to stay but rather they asked ridiculously high prices for quite basic accommodation (one place wanted three times what there sign outside said) or no one was at the reception desk at all! I found a place a lot quicker than I did in Langkawi and it ended up being very reasonable. The strange thing is that this place is listed in the Lonely Planet and I’ve always figured that if things are pretty busy they would be the first places to fill up. I think that since most of the visitors in Tanah Rata seem to be Malaysians, they probably are relying on the Lonely Planet.

I could have done a tour this afternoon but there seems to be a lot of overlap in the various tours and if I did any of the half day tours this afternoon, I’d end up repeating some of it on a full-day tour tomorrow. So I decided to sign up for a full-day tomorrow (which seem to be better value anyway).

I did wander around the town of Tanah Rata but it is pretty small so that didn’t take long. While the town is basically what I expected I was pretty surprised to see that there is a Starbucks here. There certainly wouldn’t be one in a place this size at home and I’m not even sure somewhere like this would have a Tim Horton’s!

Tanah Rata

When I started this trip and I meet people who were travelling for six months or a year I often thought that I should have done that (I could have afforded to). Now I am glad I only decided on two months. While I am still seeing some interesting places, I am starting to tire of all the travel and packing/unpacking et cetera.