Border formalities were super-efficient and all up we were out of Thailand and into Malaysia in 40 minutes.
No one was around to sign off all vehicle paperwork and we could not find anyone who could help us. While we were looking for the office, we realized we were standing in front of the Malaysian border. So, we decided to proceed and contact the Thai Embassy later. Driving into Northern Malaysia we drove through a landscape of rice paddies and were told this area produces over 50% of Malaysia`s rice. This area is rarely visited by tourists. But the region holds Malaysia`s number one tourist destinations Pukau Langkawi.
Powder white beaches and 5-star accommodation but those guests all fly direct to the island mostly from Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian highway is superb, and we headed straight for Penang. But Penang was the disappointment. It was 15 years since I was last here and I think if anything, it has gone downhill. We did not enjoy Penang and it is not the beach destination you are led to believe in the tourist brochures. We found ourselves a beachfront spot on a filthy vacant block of land amongst lots of rubbish. We love the hospitality of the local people and in their homes, all is so clean, but unfortunately, they do not seem to care for their environment.
With the shipping organized we are now on a time frame. The next day we visited the National Park and left Penang very disappointed, crossing the mountains through thick jungle to the quiet east coast. The scenery from here on is lovely dense jungle and hills. We stumbled upon a fantastic overnight spot with a gorgeous waterfall. You can easily fall asleep to the deafening noises of the jungle surrounded by absolute darkness.
A fantastic experience. As we descended onto the plains, we saw tobacco rice and rubber plantations as the main source of income for the poorest state in Malaysia. The east coast of Malaysia and Kelantan, is one of the most conservative Muslim parts of the country, and the people are very friendly. Just north of Penarik we found a perfect beach where we spent 2 days and never saw another person on the beach. We had the entire stretch of beach to ourselves, camping under palm trees and with no one around. From here it was beach hopping down the East Coast. On the way the only beach we did not enjoy was Kemasak, a beautiful beach but there were many people and parties on the beach till 3am in the morning!
So, one night was enough. (Mind you no alcohol). Only 30 minutes later we found another perfect beach in Cherating where we camped a few nights, fascinated by the local people swimming fully clothed. We are now getting more and more lazy and every day we are also sleeping in longer.
This week we arrived in the most southern state of Malaysia called Johor. This means in Arabic precious stones. After exploring the Northern and Central regions, we arrived in Johor and Malacca. Johor is home to an ancient rainforest rich in flora and fauna, with beautiful beaches around Desaru, Teluk Ramunia, Tanjung Balau, and near the fishing town of Mersing. As we drove further south we were only kilometres away from Singapore.
We have become so lazy that we hardly move, and we are finding it hard to do anything more than swim, lay on the beach and eat. But we had to move as we are running out of time. Our truck is booked in and we have a deadline to be back in Kuala Lumpur for the journey back to Europe. Our next destination was Malacca, a living museum, with a contrasting combination of ruins and intact buildings from bygone eras right in the heart of the city.
The famous ruins of A Famosa (Porta De Santiago), the Portuguese Square and the Portuguese Eurasians have their origin in 1511, when the Portuguese defeated the Malacca Sultanate. The red thick-walled Stadhuys, believed to be the oldest Dutch building in the East, and the salmon red Christ Church, stem from the Dutch period which began in 1641. The lifestyle of the early rich Chinese who arrived from the mid-15th century is well displayed in the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum. And In the old mosques dotted around, can be seen Sumatran and Javanese influence.
From here, it was off to our last destination Kuala Lumpur. The capital of Malaysia was founded in 1857 at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers as a settlement for tin miners. Since tin mining proved to be a profitable activity, the settlement developed over the years into a major city. Kuala Lumpur became capital of the Selangor state in 1880 eventually becoming the capital of Malaysia after independence. Kuala Lumpur has expanded substantially during the boom years of the 1990s, with many skyscrapers being added since we were last here. The next 3 days will allow us to do some much-needed cleaning and reorganizing after 11 months of travel.