I’ve been thinking a lot about Southeast Asia lately. It was on the islands and among the rain forests of Malaysia that I discovered my wanderlust. If Singapore was home for the six years I lived there, Malaysia was my second home, and Vietnam and Indonesia were those indulgent escapes that you needed to fork out money for a flight, to get to. Truth is, there was no lack of indulgence in Malaysia itself, albiet the indulgence of luxury and pampering rather than that of long distance or air travel. Read more
Posts from the ‘Malaysia’ Category
Few travel adventures in my life have come close to the experience of climbing the twentieth highest peak in Asia – Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia’s half of Borneo. It was exciting, daunting, exhilarating and surreal, in that order. It was where I turned 21.
After a month of light training on the steps of the 12 floors of our apartment, my brother & I flew to Borneo, and arrived at the Timpohon Gate, located 90 km from Kinabalu National Park. We didn’t know then, but this national park is reason enough to visit Eastern Malaysia; beaches, islands, wildlife, the region has it all. After a compulsory briefing, we were assigned our guide, a small-built lady called Yeta, who I would come to know and admire during the course of our climb. We were each handed a walking stick, which we looked ridiculously at first, and later thanked our stars for carrying. Read more
For the almost half a dozen years that I lived in Southeast Asia, Malaysia was one of those next door neighbors that provided respite with its pristine blue waters, forest-covered expanses and inviting mountain peaks, all under the same roof, and more importantly, all under the same visa. Read more
One minute, the clouds are descending upon you, transporting you to the heavens. The next minute, you’re running for shelter and watching the rain, intimidated by its intensity and the gusty wind. Just then, the rain and the mist both go into hiding, revealing an untouched blue sky.
Most people think Cameron Highlands or Genting Highlands when choosing a hill station getaway in Malaysia. Their lesser known cousin, Maxwell Hill aka Bukit Larut, therefore still retains its quaint English ambiance and a mystic poetic isolation.
A mere 4-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur takes you to the base of the hill. To get to the peak or midway up, you need to rent a 4-wheel drive or trek for 4-5 hours. Neither option is for the faint-hearted; the road is as steep as it is winding, and the jeeps appear to be from the era of the British rule in the region! In our impromptu trip, the tickets for the 4-wheel drive were sold out early on a Sunday, resulting in a great deal of negotiation and hitch-hiking, doubling the thrill of the ride (imagine, if you can, riding a jeep down a hill with 12 other passengers).
Maxwell Hill is a royal way to spend a weekend, soaking up the charm of old English bungalows (they get booked up to 3 months in advance), seeking poetic inspiration, or simply whiling away time watching the sky perform magic.
Many people tend to diss Port Dickson as a disappointment on the shores of muddy seas. I was skeptical too, but my impulsive trip to this little town near Malacca turned out to be a pleasant surprise!
Another weekend getaway from Singapore’s bustling city-life, Port Dickson’s real charm lies in the chalets built upon stilts rooted in the sea bed. The Legend Water Chalets and The Legend International Water Homes are modelled on an open-living concept and are both extremely affordable.
The Water Chalets will charm you with their open-rooftop showers within the rooms – showering under the starry night sky is both chilling and beautiful, as is showering under the sunspots cast by the sun during the day. Each chalet has a private balcony that looks over the Straits of Malacca and is an endearing way to spend an afternoon. The day bed by the window overlooking the sea, and the marble bathtub in the living-room make you feel right at home in the chalets. The floor of each chalet has a small glass panel so you can view the sea directly beneath you, and although the water isn’t exactly blue, it’s surreal watching the waves hit the stilts so close to you.
The Water Homes are in a league of their own – each chalet comes with it’s own private Swimming Pool, and having a private Pool for a midnight dip (or skinny dipping for the bolder ones) is definitely underrated! Enough said.
The town area of Port Dickson is hardly bustling with pedestrians, tourists or activities – but being by the shore, it affords you a no-frills sunset by the beach (not a fancy one at that) or at one of the local eateries (or Pizza Hut if you’re a vegetarian like me).
And it’s amazing how an activities-devoid weekend on the stilts can rejuvenate you!
I’m still in holiday mood. The last 3 days were nothing short of bliss. No work, no stress, no deadlines. 72 hours of pure randomness, some spookiness, loads of gossip, and drunken tequila talk. A bunch of us packed our bags and headed to Malaysia, with no plans and no maps. The idea was to go on a trekking trail which starts at Gunung Lambak near Johor Bahru, but by the time we made it to JB, the evening sun was already sinking, and a jungle trek didn’t seem very appropriate.
The trip was exactly that, random. We got onto a bus and a couple of broken cabs, and made our way to Desaru. Desaru is a beach resort, with clear blue sea, whitish sand, jungle trails, white colored scurrying crabs, komodo dragons and fireflies. Luckily, our trip was a weekday trip, which meant Desaru showed scant signs of civilization, and we pretty much had the entire place to our happy selves. The night was full of stars (a rare sight in Singapore), a shiny moon, and what we identified as UFOs. If you were there, you’d see four lone souls, wandering the roads of Desaru, at wee hours of the morning, unscathed by the darkness, recounting their super-natural encounters.
Things turned out just right. Water-sports were not in operation, which meant no jet-skiing, no banana boats; it also meant less money spent, which let us extend our trip by another night, though we couldn’t afford more alcohol (which, one of my friends might argue, was a blessing!). We stayed at the Desaru Holiday Chalet, and our Chalet 17 was located far from civilization, in some remote corner, past a jungle inhabited by monkeys, after a swamp which probably bred exotic species, yet right opposite the blue waters. Boy, was it spooky! The doors were half broken, half jammed, half cello-taped. The walls had ancient inscriptions, chinese signs and graffiti by past residents. The glass door was an easy target, and we were defenseless in our cosy rooms, laughing, talking, joking, spooked. It was perfect.
I’m not much of an advisor, but trust me, if you’re stressed, tired or bored, pack your bags and walk, drive or ride out of the country. Plan an unplanned holiday, find a remote destination, go somewhere!