I stopped in Kuala Lumpur on my trip to Indonesia last September, but besides a blissful sleep on comfortable benches and a bus ride around the airport, no time was actually spent on Malaysian soil. After Amy and I had a mediocre (read: frustrating) experience traveling in Gujurat, we started looking into destinations nearby India for a taste of something different. We found cheap flights from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur, and our next adventure was set.
A maddeningly slow rickshaw driver starts off our journey taking us to the airport at 20kmph, but we arrive in Kuala Lumpur with no other hassles. KL, in contrast to the insanity of Mumbai, is incredibly clean, orderly and functioning. An express train runs straight from the airport to the Sentral Train Station and many busses offer even cheaper means of getting to downtown. Amy sleeps for the hour and half trip and I entertain myself with the badly subtitled english movie. We had set up with a couch surfer to stay at their house, but we realized when we arrived at their train station that they are pretty far from the airport and far away from everything in the city, so we got back on the train and found a small room in Chinatown. The market in Chinatown is overflowing with activity, vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to footwear.
Ginormous butterfly outside the Petronas towers.
Amy and I find our way to the Petronas Towers, as the tallest twin buildings in the world – a major attraction of KL, and wander through the mall on the first few floors. We don’t even bother to go into the ridiculously expensive brand stores like Gucci, Coach, etc, but feeling hungry we search out the most Malay food we could find – A&W Restaurant and Rootbeer. My cheeseburger and Amy’s coneydog were mighty delicious.
We leave early the next morning to catch our flight to Kuching on the island of Borneo. We are lucky that the security is easy at the Low Cost Airlines Terminal because we are quite late.
Kuching is a nice small city situated on a river, but inland several miles from the sea. Outside of the city there are several National Parks and things to do, so we decide just to use it as our base and do day trips from here. We only have a week and don’t want to be moving around the entire time.
The large pink mosque in downtown Kuching.
The public bus leaves every hour for Bako National Park and takes about an hour to drop us off at the reception area. From there we have to take a small motorboat to get to the actual park that drops us off a ways off shore because it is low tide. The jungle comes right to the edge of the beach on top of black sandstone cliffs. The park has several trail options that range from an hour to two days, but we select one that leads to “The best beach at Bako” (3 points) that should take a few hours roundtrip. The trail takes us up steep switchbacks through the thick vegetation till it levels out, where the sun mercilessly slaps you from its high vantage point. Begging for the coolness of the ocean and panting for the little bit of water we brought with us, we finally reach the beach…
The only accessible beach that is not in a national park is Damai Resort, and at the recommendation of the tourist office we spend our third day here. The weather is poor and the beach is nothing to get excited about, but it was a nice place to relax.
We meet up with Jammie, a host from Couchsurfing.org, who graciously brings us into her home. She suggests that we go to the Kubah National Park, which is nearby, for more trekking and to see a waterfall. Sounds good to us.
We hire a taxi to take us to the entrance of the National Park, then after a friendly introduction to the park by the ranger we walk up a never ending hill to get to our trail. Of all of the jungles I’ve been in around the world (East Africa, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Washington) this is the first forest I’ve trekked in that I felt I was actually in the “Jungle”. I guess my idea of the jungle comes from the movies, but this is finally it. Something about the vegetation is different, exotic. The trees block out the sun and roots form an intricate maze to navigate. Stingless bees make their homes inside hollow trees, building an intricate system of tubes. Ferns slap you as you walk, and birds and insects make a deafening sound.
Amy loves the smell of adventure.
Amy enjoying the cool waters.
The waterfall is beautiful, and we are glad to be cooled by the water, but it’s not quite as large as we had imagined. After maybe five minutes of enjoying the waterfall it starts to downpour. “How was your trek?” asks the ranger on the way out. “Great! But we got pretty wet,” I say. “That’s why they call it a rainforest…” The ranger drives us into the next village so we can catch a bus back to Kuching.
We decide to go to a “Rainforest Resort” near Damai Beach for our last morning in Kuching. We rent a kayak and paddle around in the surf in the rain. It was the perfect ending to our time in Kuching.
A commuter train station on the way to the Kuala Lumpur airport.
With a quick flight back to Kuala Lumpur, a night in a small hotel, and a longer flight across the Indian Ocean we arrive back in Mumbai. I would love to explore Malaysia in more depth, but it was a pretty successful trip/vacation.