Upon arrival to Kuala Lumpur, we hopped on the KL Sentral line, grabbed a taxi, and headed over to the 21 Capsule Hotel . The hostel itself was decent (although it reeked of cigarette smoke), but the narrow stairway above it had shady shops and random people right outside chain smoking and drinking.
Dropping our bags off, we ventured down the busy streets to grab some food. Browsing around, we finally found a spot serving some vegetarian fare. We indulged, and then walked down to see the Petronas Twin Towers. Navigating the city by foot proved to be tricky, taking very long to get from point A to B, but we weren't trying to pay for a taxi or anything. The city infrastructure was surely designed for automobile traffic.
We sat in the park just below the towers and observed visitors come and go, taking selfies and group photos before scurrying off to the next destination. Afterward, we found some grub and began to research what Malaysia had to offer. We only planned to spend a week here, and realized immediately that Kuala Lumpur was not the city for us.
Although a huge multicultural hotpot, we got rather strange vibes from the place and didn't care for the constant traffic and hurried lifestyle. We visited the Batu Caves (the only significant attraction in the city), and made our way to an aviary. Tickets to enter were steep, so we dodged that and contemplated our next move outside.
It was there that an elderly taxi driver approached us and regurgitated his typical sales pitch. He offered to take us to the Genting Highlands, and we thought, "what have we got to lose?" We accepted his invitation and were soon en route.
The taxi driver waited for us for a few hours as we rode the Awana Skyway to the peak of the mountains. We didn't know what to expect, but we were surprised!
It turns out that the Genting Highlands was basically a resort town located just outside of Kuala Lumpur in the cooler mountain region. The gondola dropped us off at the SkyAvenue mall, but it more than just a regular mall. Think, mega-super-duper-crazy-ridiculous shopping mall!
Inside were the typical clothing stores, an expansive food court, a zipline, a movie theater, a playground, and much more. We were walking around and then all of a sudden the lights shut off, music started playing, and a performance took place. Balls dangling from ropes attacthed to the ceiling danced to the beat of the music, shifting shapes and colors with the funky rhythm.
It was downright impressive, and we stood amazed like little kids. After a few minutes, the lights came on and the balls retracted back to the ceiling. Super random but cool!
We then went back on the gondola to see the Chin Swee Caves Temple, a Taoist temple situated just below the highest peak.
Meeting up with our taxi driver down below, we went back to the Petronas to see the light show. Every night, the fountain in front of the towers lights up different colors and is free for visitors.
The next day we set off to the Cameron Highlands.
Driving up into the misty mountains of the Cameron Highlands, we were surrounded by impeccable views. Thousands of acres of tea plantations and farms filled the lush mountainside, offering a breath of fresh air from the congested city life.
We checked into Sleepbox Hotel, and eagerly booked a tour for the next morning.
Jungle trekking through the highlands was first up, and we set off early to beat the sun. Our guide had been well acquainted with the jungle, and knew the location of every rafflesia in sight. We had no idea what they were, but our jaws dropped when we saw the first one!
These flowers are absolutely incredible. They are huge and, although thy look tough, are very sensitive and will wither away if touched by humans. Our guide showed us examples of rotting ruffleasias from tourists who carelessly trampled on the flowers.
Reacquainting ourselves with nature was absolutely blissful, and we felt recharged trekking through the damp jungle. Monkeys screeching in the trees and the choir of cicadas replaced the honking and beeping of cars in the streets.
We stopped at a small waterfall along the trail, waiting for the others in the group to catch up. Looking down, we noticed we both had a leech gnawing away at our feet! We plucked the pesty freeloaders off and got back to trekking.
After we completed our trek, we climbed back inside the Land Rover and our guide took us to the Mossy Forest. Although the main path was closed for foot traffic, our guide knew an alternative route. We learned that due to the region and elevation, this mossy forest was one of a kind - a Cameron Highlands exclusive.
Next up was a trip to the BOH tea plantation, where we visited a factory and learned about the harvesting, roasting, and distribution process. We also learned about the history of BOH and the value of tea as a cash crop to the Cameron Highlands region. We then enjoyed a cup of tea and gazed at the vast mountainous landscape filled with endless bushes of tea leaves.
Concluding our tour, we returned back to the hostel and got some rest. The following morning we took another tour, this time to visit the nearby strawberry farm, beekeeping facility, botanical garden, and Cameron Valley tea house.
After enjoying our time in the Cameron Highlands, we headed to George Town, Penang, Malaysia to check out the area. Minus a couple museums, there wasn't a whole lot going on. We learned of the Penang National Park from an acquaintance at the Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel, so we decided to visit the next day.
We hopped on the local bus and it stopped right outside the entrance of the park making it easily accessible for us. The hiking trail to Monkey Beach was labeled closed, but we found little credence in that memo because we saw people walking through it anyway. We suspect it was to have visitors hire a boat, which we didn't mind doing because it cut our transit time down and helped out the boat captain as well.
There wasn't too much going on at Monkey Beach other than a couple restaurants and guesthouses. Most beaches we've seen throughout Southeast Asia have been packed to the brim with backpackers, so finding a little slice of paradise that wasn't too crowded was nice. After enjoying some sunshine and splashing in the water for a few hours, it was time to head back.
Leaving George Town on a high note, we set off the next morning for Kuala Lumpur, eager to catch our flight and head to Bali, Indonesia. We stayed at POD's Hostel for the night, located near the KL Sentral which made transport to the airport in the morning super easy.