Friday, 30 August 2013

Malaysia on a 'real' shoestring.


I've read a few of those 'travel on a shoestring' guidebooks and I'm here to tell you they're bollicks. How do I know they're bollicks? Because I've just done my August budget and I've spent way less than these books claim. Without even trying I've spent under 1700RM for the entire month of August. 1700RM = £340 = $527. Or about £11/day.

I've spent 12 days in Penang and 19 days in the Cameron Highlands. I've been on some excellent motorbike adventures and enjoyed some fantastic treks. I've eaten like a King and managed to get my weight up to a healthy 74kg. The £340 includes rooms, food, fuel for the bike, bike insurance and some minor items of clothing. Things it didn't include were beer, cigarettes and Thai women of the night.

How is this possible? Well first, you need time on your side. You shouldn't try to move around too much. I have stuck to only two tropical paradises. Next, find a cheap bed. In Penang I paid 30RM/night for a single room with an outside toilet and shower. In the Cameron Highlands I slept in a dorm for 15RM/night. Neither of these places were a hardship - in fact compared to life on submarines it was bliss. The social aspect of staying in these places adds far more value than you'd get staying in an expensive (and soulless) hotel.

The fuel in Malaysia is £0.38/liter. That's right, 38 pence a liter. People in the UK are paying £1.40/liter! As a retired maths teacher I can put those numbers into context for you: £1.40 is a shitload more money than £0.38.

Food. Malaysian food is brilliant. The best food in Asia at rock-bottom prices. I have gained 5kg in a month. There's no better review than that. Indian rice dishes, breads, sauces and tandoori chickens leave you stuffed. Chinese dishes seduce and Malay foods tempt. I seldom wax lyrical about food (too many chef brothers put me off) but it's impossible to not rave about it here. MMmmm.


Retired two months so far. Verdict? Good. However, I can't seem to stop applying for (and then turning down) jobs. I don't know what's wrong with me. I've applied for jobs on ships, in schools and even been offered a possible role on TV! You never know what's around the corner but I think I need to learn to enjoy the here and now.

This is the Parfit Falls just outside Tanah Rata. I went here with a Korean artist going by the name Jung Ki Beak. He was a very cool guy and you can check out his artwork here. Jung studied at Glasgow University and (wrongly) thought my accent was Scottish! We shared tales about Byres Road and other Glaswegian institutes since we've both endured the insufferable Jocks there.

As a side note I'm sick of being asked if I'm Irish or Scottish. No I'm f*cking not! Geordies sound nowt like them. It really vexes me when southern English people ask that. Hello......Londoners......I know it's scary but try visiting the rest of your country you ignorant fools.

Do you speak English? I want to dispel another myth. Many people say:

"The Philippines is great because everyone speaks English."

Utter horseshit! I have spent about six months in total in the Philippines and met thousands of folk who can't string two English words together. Many people say the same thing about Malaysia because it was a British colony. 

Well, I invite you to ride to Gua Musang and stop here for something to eat. This little shack serves typical Malay fayre for the palm oil farmers that work the surrounding plantations. I was thankful I'd learned the Malay words for rice (nasi puteh), chicken (ayam) and hot coffee (kopi panas). Once you stray off the tourist trails very few people parlez Anglais.
Bike trip. The 250km ride from Tanah Rata to Gua Musang and back was excellent and I felt like I deserved this cup of mud at a pit stop. It's certainly a contender for the strongest cup of coffee I've ever drank. I was buzzing on the way home.
Again, the riding around the Cameron Highlands is fantastic. Empty roads with majestic, sweeping curves. Curves as seductive as a gogo dancer's silhouette.

Five minutes later the heavens opened. I managed to find a shelter with a couple of local lads. The zip on my jacket broke so I'm currently tying a piece of string around it until I get a new one. No one in Malaysia is aware that this yellow jacket is a tribute to the King of Thailand. I like it because I reckon yellow's conspicuous on these death-trap-roads.
To try and give you an idea of how much rain falls in a short amount of time in the rain forest I did some time-lapse photography. Well, I took two photographs thirty minutes apart. On this shot you can clearly see all the boulders on the riverbed. 

Thirty minutes later and it was a raging torrent. This was just outside the small shelter. The technical name for this kind of rain is Mega-rain.
Even the road became a river but the cars still blasted through at dangerous speeds.
Trekking. Back in Blighty I used to love trekking through the Lakes, Snowdonia, the Cheviots and the Scottish Highlands. Along with cheese it's one of the things I miss about home. However, the tropics also offer some superb trails. Here I am at the jungle-clad peak of 1840m Mt Berembun. Stretching half a kilometer further into the stratosphere than Ben Nevis. This is the first time I've ever used my phone's camera-timer hence the serious face of concern. This photo was harder to get than it looks. i had to precariously balance the phone against a twig dug into the mud. Took me about 10 minutes to get this right!

On the descent I saw this thing crawling along the ground. I touched it with a twig and it immediately curled up. It had a very hard shiny shell. Some kind of millipede I reckon.
After losing the trail and receiving many cuts and bruises I finally made it down to Robinson Waterfall where an old Singaporean couple took my pic. They had retired in Perth, Australia. We chatted and they thought I was from Newcastle, AUSTRALIA???? 

As a sidenote I'm not from the Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Additionally, I am not from Ireland or Scotland. Jeez.
Another random spin around town. Since I've been at this GH for three weeks I should mention my current batch of companions. There are a few long-termers and we watch the conveyor-belt rush backpackers through the factory's production line everyday. A never-ending rotation of Gap Year F*ckers. They tend to stay for two nights which seems ludicrous to us oldies. Nowhere near enough time to experience the place.
Anyway, we have 35yo Raymond from East Germany who likes to wind people up. He once motorbiked through the Himalayas. 59yo Harry from Australia who used to run camper tours from Adelaide to Perth. Usami and Endo from Tokyo who are in their 60s and just enjoy the peace of the place. David from India who is either meditating or doing stuff on his laptop. A canny bunch of lads.
I took one of these the other night. You can buy them in pharmacies here with no prescription. They really help you sleep!
A tea plantation near my guesthouse. Sometimes I just sit, sip a cup of tea and admire the view contemplating how lucky I am.

Newcastle have not exactly taken the EPL by storm. Man C was always going to be tough but, boy, did they stick it to mighty Morecambe FC in the League Cup. Haway the lads.

After three weeks in cool weather it might be time to embrace the heat again and get my arse down to the Singapore causeway. I am thinking Taman Negara followed by a jaunt to Melacca. A quick swoop down to Johor Baru and then swing north to chill on the baech at Mersing.

Hujan = rain
ada apa = what have you got?

1 comment:

  1. I have stuck to only two tropical paradises. Next, find a cheap bed. In Penang I paid 30RM/night for a single room with an outside toilet and


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