Friday, April 30, 2004

Kota Bharu
Well I have roused myself from a life of idleness once again and left the fine but very hot islands of Perhentian and am currently in the last city before the Thai border. A number of the people that I have spoken with say that it should be OK to cross the border and go to Krabi they also advise me not to linger in the border provinces longer then I have to. For those of you that have missed the news the Thai army just killed over a hundred people a few kilometers north from here.

This happened on the boat over.
She, "Why aren't we going yet"
He, "I don't know"
"This was supposed to be a fast boat"
"I don't know"
"I think I am getting seasick"
"Why aren't we going yet"
Me, "Let me guess you're English?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Perhentian Kecil
A quick update. There is an internet connection here but it's both expensive and unreliable. I waited for close to an hour yesterday to use it and then the power failed, and with that my good humor.

The trip on the jungle railway to get here was interesting but tiring. It takes almost seven hours by train and then another hour by share taxi. The train stops at more then forty stations en route a lot of them no bigger then a palm tree with a sign nailed to them. The signage on the railway is still all semaphore and oil lamps at night. The train was pulled by a familiar sight a YDM4 locomotive on lease from Indian Railways (road number 6407).

By the time I got to Kuala Besut it was 8.30 at night so I just booked a ticket on the boat for the next day and stayed over night in a hotel in the middle of town.

The boat to the islands is another highpowered speed boat affair that bounced from wave to wave and probably damaged my spine but it's excellent fun.

The islands here have some of the most beautiful clear water you have ever seen and it promptly fooled me. When the boat got to the shore, or as I thought close enough, I jumped overboard totally misjudging the water depth and ended up with water just under my chest, well at least it's nice and warm. And then since my arrival I've done little apart from swimming, sunning and reading I am sure I'll can handle that for a few more days.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Moving on
Just a quick note about my movements in the next week. I will be taking the jungle railway in the next hour to a place called Kuala Krai from where I hope to get a bus or taxi to the coast at kuala Besut and from there a boat to the Perhentian islands. Again I don't think the internet has reached the Perhentians yet so it might be five days to a week before my next message.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Taman Negara
Right I am back out of the jungle and it was great! To get there you have to take a boat for about three hours up river to get to the settlement of Kuala Tahan. This little place consists largely out of hotels and a number of restaurants build on pontoons that float along the rivers edge.
I settled on a place on the edge of town which had beautiful little bungalows in a tropical garden and an owner who seemed genuinely happy to see me. This was proven as a good choice in the next few days as again and again they went out of their way to make my stay and that of my fellow guests as pleasant as possible, going as far as one afternoon after a heavy rainfall prevented any further junglewalks, to take us in their four wheel drive and showing us the workings of a rubber and palm oil plantation which was very interesting indeed. Did you know that Malaysia is the largest producer of palm oil? No neither did I.

Jungle Walks
The day after I arrived I set out into the jungle armed with a bottle of water and a totally unreliable map. First to the Canopy Walk a contraption where they have hoisted a number of swingbridges between the trees where you can look down on most of the forest canopy and presumably spot animals that are unlikely to come down to the forest floor, like gibbons or the giant tree squirrel. However large numbers of people including a Danish family with four young children right behind me make seeing any animal most unlikely. I am sure they have left for a quieter tree top a long time ago.
Nevermind once I left the Canopy Walk I located the trail to the top of mount Teresek and never saw anyone else for the next five hours. It didn't take long for my lack of fitness to manifest itself and as the trail is rather steep I was forced to frequently take breaks, sit down and drink some water. The unintended consequence of that was that I actually saw quite a few animals, most of them birds including several hornbills who are most impressive and when they fly over look like something out of Jurassic Park. Their wings make a sort of Woosh woosh sound. I also saw a racket tailed drongo and all sorts of bulbuls and another hundred or so different birds I couldn't identify.
At one stage about three quarters up the mountain while I was catching my breath again I heard a noise in the undergrowth behind me and slowly turned around and tried to make as little noise as I could. After another minute or so a large wild boar came in view and it spend some time rooting around the plants in a gully before it noticed me and ran off into the scrub again.
After about two hours I reached the top of the mountain and was rewarded with a nice view over a large part of the jungle. This is where in my wisdom I decided to take a different trail back to the park headquarters. Initially all went well, it was going down hill after all but I had the nagging feeling that I was walking away from the park HQ rather then towards it. Then the trail started to move uphill again. I stopped for a while and listened for any sounds indicating people or boats on the river but al I heard was jungle noise. I walked on a bit and repeated the procedure with the same result I checked the time and decided that by now I should have come to the river that was clearly indicated on my map. I climbed one last ridge with nothing to indicate where I was and made the decision to turn around so I had some chance of making it back to civilization before nightfall, problem was that meant of course reclimbing the mountain and every step seemed harder and harder and I needed to rest more and more frequently by that stage I had also drunk the last of my water and felt rather parched. Another hour or so of following the trail back up and then I suddenly heard voices. The cavalry had arrived to rescue me! Well not quite it was a hiking party that had a guide with them that assured me that I actually had been going in the right direction after all. So as I wasn't to keen on keeping climbing on my own I hooked up with them and went back the way I had just come, the third time that I walked that particular part of the trail. Finally when I was pretty much stumbling rather then walking we came to the river and I just dived in. I reckon that even after ten minutes in the water my body temperature was still to high.
From the river to park HQ was only a ten minute walk and when I arrived I drank two liter and a half bottles of water in one go.

River Tubing
After my jungle walking effort and a good nights sleep I decided that there should be an easier way to get around so I signed up for a boat ride up a number of rapids and back down again on a tube. Now that is my kind of sport. The water current is strong enough that you hardly have to paddle and the rapids aren't so big as to be dangerous. So a leisurely afternoon was spend floating about watching the birds and a few with wings as well.

I am getting a sore arm from all this typing so I'll write some more tomorrow, maybe.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bussing it
Just a quick update. I have been most of today on the bus. First from Cherating to Kuantan and then from Kuantan to Jerantut where I am now. Nothing really spectacular to see along the road I am afraid. Oil refineries around Kuantan and palm plantations around Jerantut.
Tomorrow I hope to take a bus and boat to Tamara Negara from here and I hope to stay there for three to four days. As it's a jungle park they probably don't have internet access so it might be a few days before I am back on line.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Another road update. The last few days I have been in Cherating a town on the coast of Pahang state in Malaysia. The beach here is nowhere near as nice as on Tioman but I met a young British couple and we have the last few days spend most of our days together doing the various strenuous activities available here. Like lying on the beach or sitting in a boat to do a river trip, which was actually quite good. I saw a number of snakes and other reptiles as well as a sea eagle and the scenery on the whole was very nice.
Also managed to put a visit in to a sea turtle sanctuary close to a spot where turtles come ashore to lay their eggs an interesting sight indeed.
My plan however is to leave tomorrow for Jerantut and then Teman Negara so my next message will probably from somewhere in or near the jungle.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Gizmos and photos (Part 3)
Finally it's done I have uploaded my first photos to the Singapore page. More to come so just check for updates on the Singapore and Malaysia photo pages.
I think I should stop predicting where I am going to be next. Yesterday I thought about going to Pekan but instead I went to Cherating this morning.
Cherating is a bit of a travelers Campung with a beach, plenty of restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere. Very relaxed as a matter of fact, there aren't all that many people around here at all.
The chalet I have here is sited on a hill amongst the trees and is part of a resort with the unlikely name of "Shadow of the moon at half past four" I believe that it might be from a "Grateful Dead" song. It is a fairly funky outfit with a nice looking restaurant and bar, a pool table and plenty of books to read. So I think I'll stay put for a few days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Gizmos and photos (part 2)
After fruitlessly trying at internet cafes for a CD writer it occurred to me that the people that are guaranteed to have one are the little shops that sell all the pirate copies of Playstation and PC programs. And fair enough as soon as I found one of those and asked, they were quite happy to oblige and when things didn't quite work at the first shop he happily gave me directions to a fellow pirate who burned me a brand new disk for RM10 which is the same as they charge for most of their programs.
Long live piracy!! You guys saved the day.
Now I only have to find an internet cafe with an image manipulation program so I can reduce the size of my photos before I upload them. But it's 8.30 in the evening here so that can wait until tomorrow.
Gizmos and photos
I think that I am getting closer to publishing some pictures as I have now been able to buy a card reader for my CF cards. Now I just have to find an internet cafe with a CD burner and a USB interface. The quest continues.
Another day another city. After a good nights sleep I have taken the rather scenic bus trip to Kuantan where I currently am. The trip itself follows the coast line so plenty of sea views, intermittent palm plantations and the old style houses on stilts so they can catch the airflow.
So now I am here in Kuantan and I have opted for a hotel with aircon, to cool my blood down, for at least an evening, because as soon as I do anything at all during the day I tend to be soaked in sweat. Not that that matters but the occasional bit of cool air is pleasant.
Not quite sure how long I am going to stay here but probably tomorrow as well before turning towards the Jungle.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I walked all over Mersing but couldn't find a place that could back up my photos. It's a little annoying but not yet critical, Mersing is smaller then Whangarei so I might have more luck in the next big city. The problem is not the CD burner, they have plenty of computers that can do that but the ten dolllar gadget that reads my CF cards. I know I should have picked one up in Singapore.
A few people have been asking when I am going to update my picture pages well the answer is as soon as I can find a place to Transfer my photos from Compact Flash to CD-rom. So could be today could be next week but I will let you know when it's done.
Tioman Island
Well after six days of swimming, sun bathing and terribly little else I have dragged myself away from the friendly shores of Tioman Island.
In spite of previous remarks that I would do a Batik course it never eventuated, they had run out of materials! So Danny will have to wait for his T-Shirt until I come across some other opportunity.
This morning I hopped on a ferry that managed to take four hours to get back to Mersing. It had only taken me an hour or so by speed boat to get there. Never mind it's not as if I am in a hurry.
Oh by the way if you are afraid of Lizards you won't like the island. I had a monitor lizard of more then a meter long living under my beach hut.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Tioman Island
Hi folks, I am currently on Tioman Island of the west coast of Malaysia where I anticipate to be for the next five or six days. The weather is great the sea sparkling blue and I have nice cottage right on the beach. Ahh.... live is good.
In order to keep you all up to date I better give you a rundown of where I've been so far though.
Singapore to Pengerang
In order to try another route from Singapore to Malaysia I decided to take a bumboat from Changi on the eastern tip of Singapore to Pengerang in Malaysia. As it is that part of it was relatively straight forward and the boat trip itself takes about 45 minutes. However when I got there I found out that Pengerang exists of nothing more then a wharf and a customs office. What to do next? Luckily I had struck up a conversation with to Singaporeans who told me that they were going for a cycle ride to Desaru and who had made this trip before. So the solution is to share a taxi between the three of us to the next town where I plan to stay if there are any hotels just to have a bit of nosy around and they will hire bikes for their trip. All that is well ends well and I find a hotel and have a pleasant lunch with the two cyclists after which I have a bit of wonder through the neighborhood. Nothing earth shattering to be found but a nice little kampung all the same.
Right next day I take another taxi this time to Desaru. The taxi driver drops of in front of this huge resort hotel and I decide what the heck might as well check out the price. OK so it's expensive(RM150 per night) but they've a gorgeous golden sand beach a swimming pool with waterfall and water slide and beautifully manicured gardens so yeah I stayed for the night.
Spend most of the day alternating between the beach and the swimming pool with the occasional stop in one of there restaurants. I did towards the end of the day rouse myself enough to walk down the beach and check out the wreck of a fishing boat and while going there saw this really cute jelly fish in one of the tidal pools. Now normally these beasts just wash up as slimy blobs on the beach but this one was alive and well and quite an amazing site to watch.
Kota Tingi
Another day another log distance taxi this time inland to Kota Tingi. Again this place isn't on the tourist circuit u I ad read somewhere that there is an interesting waterfall nearby. So after dropping my back pack in an hotel I went of in search of the falls. As it turned out they are nice enough but quite heavily developed with food stalls all around them and the stream trained into a number of swimming holes. Still the water was cool and I know worse ways of spending the day.
Well that's where I am now I am staying at a place known as ABC and to update this blog I actually had to walk over to Ketek which is on the next bay. This place is close to paradise and I don't know when I am going to leave. I want to go and do a snorkeling trip one of these days as well as trying my hand a batik making as you see I am really busy Catch a next time people.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Got up early this morning and found a little Indian restaurant that had the most divine Masala Dosa. You know you are in Asia when you can get the real thing by just walking down the road and picking what looks like a decent restaurant and getting a dosa and coffee.
After that feast I took a combination of subway and bus to the Bukit Timah nature reserve. I had been promising myself for some time now that I would go there and climb Singapore's highest mountain, all 163 meters of it. In spite of it's lack of altitude it is however quite a pleasant jungle area and apparently one of the last unlogged forests on the island. After making it to the top I decided to do a bit of off track wandering and spend the next few hours weaving past little streams and trough various forms of jungle growth including rattan, ouch.. From time to time it rained on me so I was rather pleased with my last minute purchase of a waterproof container for my camera. Oh by the way there are supposed the large a number of monkeys in the reserve but the only animals I saw were some butterflies and a lone squirrel.
It was close to two in the afternoon before I made it back to town and to celebrate me conquering the mountain and to cool down I had an Ice Kachang in the airconditioned environs of one of the Orchard road shopping centers. Some time later I made it back to y hotel had a shower and a change of clothing before doing an early dinner and setting of for the museum of Asian civilizations. For those interested in cultural museums I can heartily recommend it.
Well it's 9.30pm local time and I am going to watch some TV and get some sleep, tomorrow I am of to Malaysia

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The flights to Singapore went pretty smooth, just the way I like them, the only bottleneck was at Auckland immigration where hundreds of people were queuing to get through but even so that took only about twenty minutes.
Emirates lived up to their reputation, service was good, the food edible and as they have separate inseat monitors for everyone I could select my own movie. So I caught up on Matrix Revolutions which I had failed to see when it was in the cinema and in spite of the critics panning it I quite enjoyed it. On the Brisbane leg I managed to sleep for a few hours so by the time we arrived in Singapore I was quite well rested. However as it was only two in the morning I did curl up in a corner of the airport and got some rest.
At around six in the morning I decide enough is enough and had wash and a shave at one of the hand basins in the public toilets, got myself a black coffee and some toast and hopped on the MRT to Paya Lebar station.
Now Paya Lebar is about halfway between town and the airport in the Geilang district of Singapore this is a mainly Malaysian part of town and if You keep on following Geaylang road you eventually end up in down town Singapore. So that's just what I did.
There are plenty of shophouses and small coffee shops to investigate the odd temple here and there and I even got called at by a few of the prostitutes that apparently frequent this part of town. I hope they look better at night or they won't get many clients though.
All in all it took me almost three and a half hours before I had walked to my hotel where after a shower a rest and abut two liters of water I am writing this. I am feeling a little peckish so I guess I am going to find myself some lunch now.