My favourite trips in Malaysia (from Penang)

Sitting here right now gazing out at the grey skies and the drizzle, I am thinking of my favourite trips in Malaysia. And of what I have yet to do and see. I won’t bother with more photos as there are plenty in the links. After six years here this is what I think.

the beach

the beach

By far and away my favourite place is the Perhentian Islands.  The beaches are lovely, the sunsets can be stunning, and the snorkelling great.

Then comes Sabah – particularly a jungle tour to cruise the river and see proboscis monkeys.

After this, Langkawi, which we have visited many times.

Next would be a couple of nights in Malacca.  I don’t think there is so much to do or see, but the very centre is nice, and staying near the river is pleasant.

Then, a train trip – the quality of the rolling stock and service is very low, but it’s still fun, especially if it is the first time.  It could be the jungle line up to Khota Bharu from Gemas by day, or simply Penang to KL.

The next would probably be a few nights in KL – staying in a first class hotel.  First Class hotels in KL used to be very good value, but perhaps less so now.  Still, as long as you don’t really intend to get around by car much, as the traffic is terrible, based in a nice hotel near the monorail allows you see to a few fun things and eat some nice food.

Then the Bird Park in Butterworthor in KL, which is bigger but I don’t like as much – to see hornbills.

I also quite like a couple of nights in Ipoh. There are a few things to see nearby,

And an early start from Ipoh to Pangkor Island allows you to spend the day there without spending a night – seeing as the hotels there are pretty bad.

Then there is Penang itself – Little India in George Town, Penang Hill – walking up is better than the funicular if you have the energy and start at dawn – before the heat, Spice Gardens…

A nice drive is also from Penang over to Kota Baru. I’ve done this by car and by bus.

And what I have yet to do – while I have circled Malaysia by train I haven’t by car – I want to see more of the east coast beaches.  Then there are a few east coast islands to see – Tioman Island etc.

What I had expected to be able to do, and can’t is to spend time in the jungle and to camp. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are the main problem, with heat and humidity secondary.  Locals think you are crazy if you want to camp, and they are right.  It is unlikely you’ll get malaria or dengue, but the more mosquito bites you get, the greater the chance.  So stay in hotels, wear long sleeves and trousers at dawn/dusk and where mosquitoes are – but generally, stay away from places where mosquitoes are.

I’ll report back when there is something to add to the list.


Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 10 – Signs of Sabah

Well, this is my last posting about our recent trip to Sabah. A few signs I enjoyed:

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at the waterside tourist area

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at the waterside tourist area

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at the waterside tourist area

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tourist fair in Sabah Mall

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in Sandakan

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when I was a kid we joined two empty tins with string and could talk – reminds me of this

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the biggest ever container of Milo I’ve seen

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scary sign

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the tea should be nice

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if a cat ate cake, then…

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I think “Denda” means “fine”. I don’t know what they want to fine you for. Personally, I would not consent to being fined. Unless it’s a bad thing, in which case I wouldn’t do it.

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on the islands near KK – sandals lined up

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if you need a drink after visiting the islands

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the first time I have seen a powerpoint on a dashboard

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Keep left – but not too far left or you’ll be hit by a train


keep those durian out of the hotel – even if they are upside down

Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 9 – Sandakan Hotel

We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton in Sandakan. It’s a really nice hotel, let down by being understaffed. First we stayed in an executive room, then later a standard room. If you can afford it, and this hotel can be very affordable, this is the nicest place to stay. Even room service is affordable.

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The Sharaton – view from the hill

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viewed from the harbourside

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first floor lobby – this is where you check in

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to the left of the front desk on the first floor is a door leading to the mall

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hallway to rooms

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executive room on 23rd floor

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executive room

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executive room – glass panel, – with blind when necessary, from bathroom.

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view of bathroom

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mini bar

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view of central market with big roof, below

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pool was on the 13th floor

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view from pool

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view of town from pool

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hotel sa soon from waterfront

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view at dawn

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breakfast on 13th floor

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my breakfast

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my breakfast

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my breakfast

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my breakfast

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my breakfast

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my breakfast

We changed from an executive room to standard room. The main difference was it had no bath – and the price was half.

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standard room

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standard room

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standard room

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standard room

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view from this room

Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 8 – Sandakan walk

On the free map you can get at the airport tourist stand, or at hotels, a walk is shown. it’s a pleasant, easy walk.  But as it is the tropics, for me always the best time to go for a walk is first thing in the morning.  If you want to have tea at Agnes Keith house, then time your walk accordingly – not too early. These are photos taken during this walk.

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I started at the Sandakan Hotel

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There is actually a sign, here

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in MPS Square

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In MPS Square

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In MPS Square

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MPS Square

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the stairs start opposite MPS Square

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it’s nice and shady

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no one around, either

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the last few steps up

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looking back

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This sign is at the top of the steps. I didn’t count, so I don’t know if it is accurate, but it’s not a hard climb.

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walking towards the Japanese Cemetary – although I didn’t go that far

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The official residence of the Chief Minister of Sabah – after this I turned back

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not open yet

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nice view here

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the tallest building is the Sheraton

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Clock Tower, in the middle of the roudabout

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after the Sung Siew School I turned left, skipping the Ancient Graveyard found down the road on the right – on the right is a footpath, at the moment

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house next to the temple

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no footpath any more

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just before an ovehead bridge you turn right and follow this covered walkway

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housing for some people

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St Marys Cathedral – Catholic

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St. Francis

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St. Michael – Anglican

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They have time capsules in this rock

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St Michael

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back in MPS Square, having completed the walk

Sabah Soujourn 2013 – Part 7 – Sandakan nature excursion

Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary run a daily excursion from Sandakan, taking in Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre on the way.  The bus departs the Sandakan Hotel at 9.30AM, and arrives back in Sandakan late afternoon. Lunch was not included, but you could eat at their restaurant in between viewings. We got to watch the animals eat – they didn’t get to see us eat, however.

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Sandakan Hotel

We were told there was no need to book, and if the bus were full, they will simply quickly supply more buses. We arrived at the hotel a little early, and apart from us there was only another family, so one mini-bus was sufficient. You don’t need to pay for the excursion until you actually arrive at Labuk Bay.

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mini bus

My first concern on boarding the bus was that the seat belts for our seat did not function. I think the others did, however. Fortunately the driver was good, as were the roads, and mostly, the weather.

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the mosque

We headed off a little early.  Many roundabouts have a big statue in the middle, which I enjoyed seeing.

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I like this crocodile

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local roads


arriving at Sepilok

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feeding times

About 10AM we arrived in Sepilok. This is a different business to Labuk Bay, so we had to pay the entrance fee, and camera fee of RM10. As for the entrance fee, we showed our Malaysian residency, but the woman still charged us the full non-Malaysian fee of RM30, instead of the RM5 fee for Malaysians. And she was not very friendly about turning us down for the lower fee as residents, either. So, a total of RM70 for us two.

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walking through the jungle to where the orang utans live

The driver only allowed us 30 minutes here, so it was a bit of a rush.  After paying one must wash one’s hands with a gell which doesn’t require rinsing off, and leave any bag you are carrying in a locker. The feeding time being 10AM, we were already a few minutes late, and were about the last people to arrive.  There were quite a lot of people, but it was still easy enough to see.

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one of the orang utans

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we saw about seven – and about 100 tourists

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litter bin

As we were departing at 10.30 we left before everyone else, too.  The nature trails were closed, I noticed. Had we had more time, I would have like to walk them, but as they were closed, it was not an issue. The toilet facilities there were very clean, by the way.

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back on the road

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nice scenery

Another 25 minutes drive further and we arrived at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary ticket counter, around 11AM, where we finally paid for our day’s excursion.

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ticket counter

RM30 return for the bus per person

RM10 camera fee – not sure if per camera or per family – but doesn’t seem to be an issue

RM15 entrance fee for Malaysian residents – which is what we paid

RM60 entrance fee for non-residents

So, for us two, RM100.

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the layout

Then it was a few more minutes drive through the estate to Platform B, where the feeding of the proboscis monkeys was to start at 11.30.  This platform has the facilities – toilets, souvenir shop, drink machine… – the other one which we visited later only has a basic toilet.

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it is on a palm oil plantation

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the walk to the platform

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There was still 20 minutes remaining before feeding time, but quite a lot of monkeys were hanging around, some even climbing on the tourists, and with most tourists happily photographing them.

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Platform B

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the first one coming for lunch

It was not so crowded with tourists that once feeding time had commenced that you couldn’t easily get a good view, or good photos. So feeding time lasted about 30 minutes…

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male in the middle

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and soon we walked back to the bus for the few minutes drive to the Nipah Resort

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restaurant at Nipah Resort

where we could lunch at their restaurant.

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part of menu

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part of menu

Mrs Tropical Expat had Mee Hoon, which she said tasted very plain, I had fish and chips, which was good, and we both had coconuts, for a total bill of RM31.

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Nipah Resort

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fish and chips

After lunch we were all shown a video of the life of proboscis monkeys, which was quite interesting, if a little long. While there I also asked to have a quick look at one of their chalets at the resort. If you want to stay in amongst nature, it seems like a nice spot.

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Nipah Resort

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Nipah Resort

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Nipah Resort

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a chalet at the Nipah Resort

Then it was off by bus to Platform A for the 2.30PM feeding. As I mentioned, this platform is quite basic, but perfectly adequate for the viewing. There were fewer tourists this time, and it was very easy to get a good view.

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heading for Platform A

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2.30 feeding time

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A bit after 3PM we were back in the bus, and as all of the passengers turned out to be staying at the same hotel, the Sheraton, the bus driver kindly dropped us there, a little after 4PM. I headed of to floor 13 for a swim.