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Published 5:09 am, 30 Oct 2014
KAYAKING THE SEMADANG RIVER
One of the side trips I did out of Kuching was kayaking the Semadang River, an amazing day out in the jungle wilderness only an hour out of the city.
Although a little expensive compared to what I normally like to spend, this was totally worth it and should not be missed if you like outdoor adventure amongst some seriously beautiful scenery. Whether you have kayaked before or not, anyone can handle the casual pace and it really was an incredible day out.
Semadang Kayak will pick you up from your hotel and drop you on the banks of the river an hour or so later to start your paddle. We stopped at a mini waterfall for a quick swim before continuing on to a tiny village where a delicious local lunch awaits.
After lunch, we take a tour of the village, where they have an enormous array of plants and herbs that are still used for medicinal and obviously culinary purposes. Then it is back on the water to finish out the day's paddle.
We saw various wildlife and reptiles along the way and the whole journey takes you through some stunning natural scenery, with a feeling of being totally lost in the Borneo jungle.
A couple of helicopters fly overhead during the day, a reminder of how remote some of these villages and national parks are, the chopper sometimes the only form of transport in or out.
After arriving at another tiny village that signals the end of our trip, our guide burns a copy of all the day's pictures to CD for you to take home.
It was 188 myr for the whole package (around $65 au) but there was only me, one other customer and our guide for the whole day, the Borneo jungle all to ourselves. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Lunch at the village
Coffee beans drying out
I'm no stranger to mango plantations, but this was a 2 kg monster, I have never seen mangoes like it
Published 5:01 am, 27 Oct 2014
PANGKOR ISLAND - KUALA LUMPUR - KUCHING, BORNEO
After our very relaxing time on Pangkor, it is back to hectic bus and ferry schedules which sees us go north to Butterworth to see Noi off on the overnight train back to Thailand and then I head south again to KL for a few hours sleep before flying out the next morning to Kuching, Borneo.
Noi, being Thai, is only issued a 30 day visa for Malaysia and has to head back anyway to look after her mushroom farm.
Now I’m going to rush through the Borneo section to try and get caught up, plus I really feel that I didn’t get anywhere near as much out of my time there as I could or should have. I really underestimated the size of the place and the distances to travel, especially at the slow pace the buses seemed to run at.
I stayed at Hotel Westree in Kuala Lumpur, a bit pricey at $30 au, but a fantastic location with great cheap food a 3 minute walk away and KL Sentral station just across the road, the whole reason for staying there, where i caught the fast train to the airport the next morning. After landing in Borneo I was booked to stay in Kuching at Premium Stay Hostel, a nice enough, very large room with a super friendly and helpful owner, I would definitely recommend the place, though I had to move after a couple of days as they were booked out. This turned out quite OK as the new place was much better value and a really nice room at a great price, under $20 au, the Grand Supreme Hotel. The location was away from the town center, though had plenty of local nightlife and eating options right on the doorstep, plus it only took me about 20 minutes to walk in to town.
Kuching is an amazing little city, for me just the right size and I could seriously see myself living there. There is a great riverside promenade in Kuching that is a beautiful spot for a stroll in the evening as it comes alive with food, lights, art, music and people.
The whole city is a great mix of old and new, with all the infrastructure needed for the modern urban dweller, while retaining a small town feel and some seriously friendly people.
Speakeazy was a great little friendly bar/cafe and the staff were amazing. Definitely a place to check out in Kuching on Jalan Carpenter, which has a 'Chinatown' feel to the street and is home to many western and local oriented bars and restaurants.
I spent almost a week in Kuching just exploring the city and meeting new people, becoming good friends with one guy in particular, Johnny, a local business owner and keen photographer.
We still keep in touch and he may visit in Australia next year to do some photography in my hometown after looking at some of my pictures from home. He even took me to some model shoot party where we all got to practice our skills and I met a great group of locals.
There seems to be a lot of English speakers in Malaysia and plenty of wealthy people, more so than the other parts of SE Asia I had visited.
I really didn't take many photos in Borneo...
The Riverside looks so much nicer at night
Published 5:49 am, 21 Sep 2014
PANGKOR ISLAND PICTURES
Our funky little bungalow at Budget Beach Hotel. We really enjoyed chilling on the balcony, they have scooters for rent also and were willing to do a discount rate on everything as we stayed longer. Highly recommended.
Be careful of this stuff, it really is super strong!!
Fu Ling Kong Chinese Temple
One of my fishing spots
Noi getting 'artsy'
Published 4:56 am, 19 Sep 2014
BEAUTIFUL PANGKOR ISLAND
An endless sea of taxi’s and a bunch of touts, trying to get you to stay at their guesthouse or rent a scooter, await you on your ferry exit, though aren’t pushy and are quickly left behind. Considering our relaxed experience on the Island later, it seems a strange first encounter. But I have a place organized already, the Budget Beach Hotel which is located on the other side of the island, a taxi will take us there for 15 myr. I tell the driver that I have other ‘friends’ still coming and run back to talk to the other western couple from the ferry and see if they want to go halves in the taxi, all good and we are on our way! It probably takes around 15 – 20 minutes to Nipah Bay, where the bulk of the budget accommodation is located, and we are soon checked in to our funky little wooden bungalows at 75 myr per night. We are really just ready to collapse and call it a night, but after a shower we decide to go out for a quick look around and dinner. A great little stretch of beach, with lots of tiny stalls, open air restaurants and simple accommodation set back from the ocean, I like the feel of this place already.
It turns out to be one of the best islands I have visited, large enough to have all the basic amenities and not get boring, but small enough to give it that ‘miles from real civilization’ feel, and we end up staying around 8 nights.
A really beautiful island with nice beaches, a few small towns and some really great riding, I take the bike around the island almost twice a day it is such a nice ride. Our stay coincides with Malaysian Independence Day and my birthday on the same weekend. The island comes alive with festivities and fireworks and makes for an even more special time here.
(as with last year in Jakarta, my football team lose again on my birthday... am i bad luck?!)
There are other tiny islands dotted around the coastline, a lush jungle interior, monkeys everywhere, interesting Chinese temples, great fresh cheap seafood and I even get some fishing in. We both fall in love with Pangkor Island, a place not to be missed if you’re in Malaysia.
View from our favourite eating spot
Go for a walk out past the Chinese Temple just north of Nipah Bay to find this place, beautiful spot to sit on sunset and we were always the only ones there
Published 2:49 am, 19 Sep 2014
THE 'JUNGLE LINE' - KUALA KRAI, GUA MASANG, KL, LUMUT & PANGKOR ISLAND
Once again, plans go awry as the Jungle Line is under maintenance and there are basically no day journeys for another 2 years. The whole point of wanting to do this trip was to take in the supposedly spectacular scenery along the way during daylight hours… oh well, these things happen! Lucky it doesn’t get dark here at the minute until nearly 8pm. We had a few hours to kill in Kuala Krai at the hotel before our train departed at 4:30pm further south to Gua Masang, a 3 hour journey costing a whole 4.70 myr! When when we arrive, it’s possibly one of the most amazing stops I have ever seen, the station itself is nothing special, but there are 2 huge limestone karsts right across the tracks that make for an imposing yet impressive sight, absolutely stunning.
Once here though, it was another 3 hour wait for our onward train south to Gemas and back up and west to Kuala Lumpur, there are toilets, snacks, noodles etc available if you are stuck there. Tickets were 50 & 44 myr, different prices for top/bottom berth, it was now 11pm and we just went sleep for the night, our train scheduled to arrive at KL Sentral Station at around 10am the next morning.
After arriving in KL Sentral, a taxi for 10myr gets us to the Pudu Sentral (Puduraya Bus Station) where there is no rest for us and we are soon on a bus heading back north along the west coast to Lumut, jumping of point to Pangkor Island. Bus ticket is 28 myr and even though I asked a few times whether it was a direct bus, not going through Ipoh (apparently the long way round) we still ended up going there. I was continually reassured that it would take only 4 hours, which it should, but it ended up being 6… Bloody hell that is a pain in the ass, when you have been on the move for so long already, we really didn’t need any more time sitting on a bus but the scenery was really good so not a total loss. We went with Ekspress Kesatuan and I would avoid that company if you do the same journey. I don’t get too upset if they try to have a lend of you, but out right lying is not cool. Our journey is not complete yet though and we still have a ferry to catch across to Pangkor, the jetty is a 3 minute walk from the bus stop and we finally catch a break, just managing to jump on the ferry as it is leaving, saving a 45 minute wait! Tickets are 10 myr and we are disembarking at the Pangkor Island terminal in around 40 minutes.
Some snaps coming into Pangkor on the ferry