One of the major express bus stations of Kuala Lumpur is located opposite to our guesthouse, so bus tickets to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands are quickly bought. We start a four-hour bus ride and arrive at Tanah Rata around three in the afternoon. The long-distance buses in Malaysia are all very comfy: wide seats, plenty of legroom with leg supports so that we can almost transform our chairs into beds.
In Tanah Rata we go and search for Twin Pines, a guesthouse that apparently rents small attic rooms for 25 Ringit (about 6 euros). We have to check with the owner a few times and insist on a cheaper room before he reveals us his budget rooms, and finally shows us to the the small attic rooms. No more than a mattress on the floor and half a meter of space to store our backpacks. We are lucky and get a room with a window!
Both Tanah Rata, Ipoh and Taiping developed around tin-mines and flourished back in the days when the Dutch, Portuguese and British founded trading posts there. The mix of different cultures and architecture with a thick Asian sauce – Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Thai – make the cities fun and interesting. The Cameron Highlands are also known for the large tea plantations, so we check out one of them and have a nice cup of tea. Furthermore, we explore the jungle, but after three days we have had it with the ‘cold’ and rainy Highlands and we travel to Ipoh.
Around Ipoh we get to know Malaysia’s public transportation. On the few routes that lead out of the city one bus goes back and forth, without fixed times. That means a trip of 15 kilometres with one transfer can take as long as three hours, and of course that was exactly our experience. The locals also do not seem to be charmed by their public transport, but with a petrol price of 40 cents per liter, there are not many people who do not own a car or motorbike. We visit the ruin of Kellie’s Castle and a few beautiful cave temples, but especially enjoy the typical food courts. Covered squares are packed with numbered tables and chairs and surrounded various dishes are prepared in numerous stalls. Order at a stall and your dish is served in a typical Asian-chaotic setting, but the perfect way to try different new dishes and local specialties. Of course with varying success, because often we only get to know what we ordered once we already chewed the first few bites.
At first Taiping does not look like much of a charming city, but after a bit of scrutiny this city also reveals its surprisingly photogenic places. We end up in a stuffed antique shop by talking to the owner of a small messy museum. The owner of the museum and the store talks about his collection and we stroll through the old stuff that was left behind by wealthy Britons: old pedal cars, strollers, record players, rocking horses. We could easily (and really really want to) fill up a truck with all the lovely things. Before we travel to Georgetown, Penang, we visit the Matang Mangrove reserve from Taiping. We explore the park for a couple of hours, take some nice pictures and realize that we have not seen a single tourist in the entire reserve – same in Taiping. At least, no western tourists. That will probably change in Georgetown.