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
Posts tagged ‘malaysia’
Southeast Asia is so much more than an oasis of Chinese culture. Its unique landscapes and hidden islands are waiting to be discovered by mainstream tourism, and until that happens, it will be sure to please any travel-lusting wanderer. The isolation of its beauty is perhaps what sets it apart from every place else in the world.
I originally wrote about these 5 undiscovered places in Southeast Asia as a guest post for GotSaga.
5. Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
There is nothing like a rejuvenating getaway amid turquoise waters and white sands. Add to that snorkeling in an underwater world of sharks, smoking shisha on the beach under the stars, riding a speedboat on low tide under the moonlight, and an upbeat atmosphere created by half a dozen small cafes serving up the most delicious milkshakes.
4. Taal Volcano, Philippines
Welcome to a volcano within a lake within a volcano within another lake! Hidden somewhere among the clouds, Taal Volcano is the world’s smallest active volcano, located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Tagytay City affords you breathtaking views of this natural wonder, while a climb up the volcano (strictly for the brave-hearted) can take you to the lake inside the volcano’s own crater, aptly called the Crater Lake.
Tagaytay City, Philippines
3. Bunaken Island, Indonesia
It’s easy to lose yourself in this diving haven. Perhaps its remoteness is what makes it so desirable; you can lie on a hammock for days at end, watching the mist play hide & seek with the Manado Tua volcano. You can ride atop the roof of a speedboat at sunset, looking at the most magnificent sky. You can spends days exploring the beauty in an untouched underwater kingdom. And never once will you feel away from home in Bunaken.
Bunaken: of blue seas & anonymity.
2. Halong on Land, Vietnam
You have probably heard of the natural wonder that is Halong Bay. If you dare, take a step into the lesser known north-west where a greater wonder awaits you; what locals dearly call the Halong experience on land. You’ll see landscapes stunning enough to trick you into thinking that you’ve entered the backdrop of Pirates of the Caribbean.
1. East Timor
Make your own trail in East Timor aka Timor-Leste, because there is none to follow. Contrary to accusations of being unsafe, the locals are welcoming & hospitable, and indeed the real charm of a country that has existed for less than 10 years. Its best-kept secrets include a host of lovely beaches and a beautiful countryside, and there’s no better time to visit than now.
Which of these have you been to? Have you stumbled across any other hidden gems?
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.
Close to each weekend, I desperately resort to Google to find offbeat ideas for weekend getaways from Singapore. In the midst of my travel research, I came across these 5 weekend getaways in Malaysia and Indonesia that will pamper your senses and indulge you. So ditch your weekend travel to Kuala Lumpur, and rejuvenate in lesser know Southeast Asian hideouts!
1) Tempat Senang, Indonesia
An hour’s ferry-ride away from Singapore, in the neighborhood of Batam Island (Indonesia), lies this exotic little gem. It’s a boutique resort, with under 10 suites, each designed, decorated and modeled after an Asian country. Besides the likes of Bali room, Indian room and Japanese room, there’s a Tree Room with a bed suspended in mid air. It’s also home to a traditional Balinese spa with a wide range of rejuvenating massages, and a pampering staff.
Also read: Tempat Senang: Rejuvenation
2) Nikoi Island, Indonesia
Close your eyes and imagine you are sprawling on a beach chair on white sands, in the company of crystal blue waters, sipping a drink. Just across the shores of Singapore, Nikoi Island affords you that luxury. Many describe this private island & its ecotourism resort as magical. Of course, a picture speaks a thousand words.
3) Lake Kenyir, Malaysia
Most spas have an artificial waterfall in the background, to soothe your senses with the effect of trickling water. Imagine looking into a lake instead while being pampered, reflecting upon life in its vastness. That’s the Lake Kenyir ecotourism resort & spa for you, in Terengganu, Malaysia.
4) Tanjong Jara, Malaysia
Tanjong Jara replicates the magnificent palaces and the pampering luxury of Malay kings in Terengganu, Malaysia. On the coast of turquoise seas, this traditional resort swept away Time‘s editors too. After all, you must live life king size, at least once!
5) Pangkor Laut, Malaysia
You have probably heard of Pangkor Island on Malaysia’s west coast, but Pangkor Laut, a private island resort, is a world in itself. Think crystal blue waters, white sands, chalets on stilts. Think indulgence.
Which of these 5 getaways have you already pampered yourself at? Do you know of any other secret pampering getaways?
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!
Climbing the 20th highest peak in the world is probably my greatest achievement thus far! It was exciting, daunting, exhilarating and surreal, in that order.
We started our climb via the Timpohon Gate, located 90 km from Kinabalu National Park, Borneo (East Malaysia). The first day’s target was to climb 6 km horizontally and 1300 m vertically. The initial stretch was relatively easy, alternating between clearings and small steps, amid tall trees and dense vegetation. The second half was slightly more taxing, with steeply inclined rocks and steps, where trees were gradually replaced by shrubs and bushes. The trick was to save as much energy as possible by finding an alternative way to climb the steps through rubble and using small rocks as stepping stones. The view became more scenic with height and we were shrouded in mist for certain stretches. I would typically describe it as breath-taking, but I must reserve the term for the summit.
It is mandatory for all climbers to spend the night at Laban Rata or one of its subsidiary guest houses before resuming the climb the next morning. Even those scanty hours of rest were a blessing to sore muscles. At 2 am the next morning, the entire guest house (about 20-25 climbers) was brimming with activity. Over the course of the night, the weather had become chilly, so much that thick woolen gloves offered just enough protection from the cold. Wrapped in all the clothes we had carried, my brother and I set out with our guide, determined to conquer the peak.
The dark of the night was lit by a trail of several small torch-lights making their up, up, up. If the first 6 km were challenging, the next 3 were almost terrifying! With our torches clutched between our teeth, we grabbed climbing ropes from stretch to stretch, trying to get a grip on the bare rock of the mountain. I haven’t experienced such thrill, such adrenalin rush in all my twenty (one) years. The dark, though, made the terrain less daunting, a realization that would dawn on me later.
By about 6 am and after baffling with the wind and the rain for a good half hour, we conquered the last stretch with huge rocks and no ropes. That was it! Low Peak, 4095 m, the 4th highest in SE Asia, the 20th highest in the world, the only that I might ever conquer, spectacular. We were above the clouds, almost touching the sky, and watching the most breathtaking sunrise in all of history. The round of the sun gradually emerged, it’s rays distinctively penetrating the air, a salute to all creation, a promise that nothing is significant enough, an assurance that THIS is life. My words really can’t do justice to that feeling of being at the top of the world, literally. It’s where I began my 21st year of life.
The climb down wasn’t my favorite part at all. The 900 m we had climbed since the morning of the descent almost put my entire life into perspective. In the light of the sun, I could now see clearly the vertical terrain we had climbed, and that now lay for us to climb down. One slip was all it would’ve taken, to unite with creation again, somewhere up there. It was a numbing feeling. In restrospect, I don’t know how I made it back. Perhaps a little determination, lots of good luck, and definitely a helping hand from my guide Yeta. Yeta came from a village at the foot of the mountain and has been a guide for 12 years now. She climbs the mountain, on an average, twice a week, so by rough calculations, she’s done the trail 500 times! Phew.
Light breakfast, wobbling feet and 6 hours later, we made it back to our starting point, proud and tired. The adventure has housed itself in my head. Life can be short, I know, but it can also be the single most intoxicating experience.
Good days are here.
I am off to Malaysia early tomorrow morning, to scale the 4th highest peak in South East Asia – Mount Kota Kinabalu!
I am working on a community service expedition with Habitat for Humanity, to build homes for slum-dwellers in a village near Bangalore. We are in the midst of launching a social media campaign to create social awareness. Look out!
And in the middle of all this excitement, I’m turning 21!
“The future looks so bright, we’ve got to wear shades…”
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!