Tag - Malaysia

Top 10 Asian Places to See Before You Die

Lhasa, Tibet

The Potala Palace, Credit, Headseast

The Potala Palace, Credit, Headseast

One of the most fascinating cities in Asia, Lhasa has to be top of the list. Home to the iconic Potala Palace, Drepung and Sera Monasteries and Jokhang temple, this has to be one of the most spiritual places on earth. The smell of incense, yak butter and burning rosemary seems to linger in the air. Don’t let he Chinese visa and permit formalities put you off – just go!

Hoi An, Vietnam

Easily the most charming town in the whole of South-East Asia, Hoi An isn’t all about the tailors. There’s also fantastic food, an almost deserted beach and beautiful colonial architecture. Rent a bicycle and soak up the atmosphere.

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Not far from the capital, Bhaktapur’s architecture and UNESCO status easily lures travellers down its narrow streets. A great place to pick up pottery and other souvenirs, a walk through its crooked alleys feels like a trip back in time.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Often referred to as a tonic for the soul, Luang Prabang has something for even the most jaded traveller. There’s the fantastic temples and monuments, the incredible food, the tree-lined colonial boulevards and the orange-robed monks collecting alms. The relaxed atmosphere is so infectious it’s easy to get stuck here on your Laos holiday. Don’t fight it, just go with the flow.

Angkor Temples, Cambodia

One of the few places that really does live up to all that hype. There truly is something magical about the incredible temple complexes at Angkor. Perhaps it’s the sheer volume of temples, the size, the intricate detailing, or the age of these incredible structures. Whatever the reason, scrambling through the jungle ruins and clambering up ancient steps, makes you feel like a real explorer when you are travelling through Cambodia

Ko Tao Island, Thailand

Without a doubt Ko Tao has some of the best diving in the country. Brightly colored coral and tropical fish are the perfect bait for those seeking to gain their PADI certificates. But it’s not all about the diving; unlike many other Thai islands, Ko Tao has a real chilled-out feeling and beaches that are often deserted during the day – since everyone else is out diving.

Pushkar, India

Pushkar Lake, credit agratours

Pushkar Lake, credit agratours

Numerous temples, stunning Pushkar lake and a market you could get lost in, this should be an essential stop on your trip to India. Try to stop by in November and catch the Pushkar Camel Fair and see who wins the infamous longest moustache competition.

 

The Great Wall, China

As impressive as it sounds; the Great Wall of China should not be missed. Trekking along the wall will take you a few hours’ minimum and work up quite a sweat, especially in the summer months. But the feeling you’ll get when you reach the end of your journey is unbeatable. Try to opt for the less visited sections of the wall for a more authentic, though unstable,experience.china-travel-smiling-man

Everest Base Camp, Tibet

Better viewed from the Tibetan side, Everest fills those who view it with awe. Stay on the right side of the Everest Guesthouse for views of the mountain from your window. While, there you can also visit the highest monastery in the world at Rombuk.

Plain of Jars, Laos

Plain of Jars, Laos

Plain of Jars, Laos

The enigmatic Plain of Jars make a great day trip from Phonsovan. Rather than visiting all the fields one after another, it’s best to break them up with trips to local villages. There are numerous producing Lao Lao (Laotian Whisky) and some can even offer you lunch. Need some more inspiration or want to build your perfect South East Asia holiday? Check out our South East Asia Itineraries.
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Borneo on a Budget- Malaysia

Borneo is a dream destination for many travellers, and it can be quite an affordable place to visit in the Sarawakian city of Kuching, the Malaysian word for cat.

Malaysia's Cat City- Charlotte Baird

Malaysia’s Cat City- Charlotte Baird

Borneo doesn’t seem to do ‘budget’ very well on the surface, certainly not compared to other, more well-known countries on the South East Asian backpacker trail. However, Kuching in Malaysian Borneo has started to appreciate what budget travelers are looking for in terms of both accommodation, and not charging over- inflated entrance fees for its prime tourist attractions.

Getting To Borneo

Air Asia, amongst many other airlines, flies direct from Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal into Kuching, so Borneo no longer has to be quite such a distant and removed destination for budget travellers. It also means it is possible to catch a glimpse of the island cheaply and quickly as a short diversion from a journey around mainland South East Asia.

Accommodation in Kuching

Kuching is one of the only cities in Borneo that has started to cotton on to what backpackers are looking for, even though it will still be a bit of a shock to the wallet for those used to paying only a few US dollars for a bed for the night.

Two hostels that seem to be the best value for money are the Waterfront Lodge, situated as the name suggests, right in the heart of Kuching’s waterfront tourist attractions, and Singgahsana Lodge, close by. If neither of these options appeal, there are numerous other small bed and breakfast hotels dotted around the back streets close to the river to choose from.

City Center Attractions

Most of Kuching’s museums are free to get into, including the Natural History Museum, Art Museum and the Ethnology Museum. Fort Margherita, a picturesque legacy from the 1800’s and the days of the white Rajah’s of Sarawak, is also free, and it only costs 1 Ringgit for 2 people to get across to the other side of the river to see it. Kuching is a very pleasant city to stroll around, browsing the local handicraft shops and galleries and generally soaking up the relaxing atmosphere, a cheap way to spend some time unless you make a purchase, of course!

Budget Options For Eating Out In Kuching

Kuching is positively littered with cheap Chinese and Asian restaurants. Zhun San Yen Vegetarian Food Center, for example, is a haven for non-meat eaters or fans of Chinese food. They charge 1.5 ringgit per 100 grams of food taken from the buffet of over ten dishes. A full plate of food for one person came to just over 5 Ringgit, equivalent to less than two US dollars. Other cheap options to suit any taste or dietary requirement can be found in the large number of stalls and street-side cafes littering the waterfront and maze of back streets.

Orang-utans – Borneo’s Prime Tourist Attraction Semenggoh Orang-utan rehabilitation center is likely to be one of the most costly days out for a budget traveller, but even this must-see attraction does not have to cost the earth. It is easily reached from town by bus for those who are really watching their cents and dollars, or a taxi can be hired for the return journey, including waiting time, for as little as 80 Ringgit for the car, (approximately 25 US dollars.) Sharing expenses like taxi fares between at least one traveling buddy makes some of the expensive attractions a lot more affordable. Semenggoh certainly works out to be a lot more affordable than some to other wildlife experiences on the island, for example, Sepilok Orang-utan Sanctuary in neighboring Sabah charges over ten times Semenggoh’s entrance fee of 3 Ringgit per person, including permission to take a camera in, and still involves a taxi journey several kilometers out of town.

How to Survive a Night in the Malaysian Jungle

“Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh-my!”

Malaysian jungle

Malaysian jungle

 The famous quote from The Wizard of Oz isn’t as far-fetched as you may think. In fact, the Malaysian jungle is a host to some of the Earth’s most feared species. With Malayan tigers, black leopards, and an array of snakes, an evening in Taman Negara National Park is not to be undertaken without caution.

As you enter one of the world’s oldest and best preserved tropical rainforests by motorized banana boat, a daunting abyss of flora and fauna awaits. Many travelers descend upon the six-hour trail that winds through the jungle’s most favored sites, including the longest suspended canopy walk on earth. For those unnerved by lurking dangers, the real adventure begins after dark.

If you’re considering spending a night in the jungle, there are a few things you should know.

The first question to address: where will I sleep? Located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Taman Negara is a protected National Park. Because of this, travelers are required to register with park rangers upon arrival. During registration, you can sign up for a bed in one of the jungle’s six hides. A hide is a fancy term for a jungle hut. These wooden huts are built above natural salt-licks, where animals journey to feast at night. The hide’s most essential feature is an open panoramic window with a bench below it, providing a wide view of the feeding ground. The huts sit on stilt-like planks of wood, to help avoid any unfortunate encounters with one of the jungle’s hungry cats.

Don’t get excited at the thought of having an inviting bed to sleep in. By bed, the park rangers are referring to a 5×3 foot space on the hard wooden floor. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll find yourself in a hide with wooden bunks. Be sure to bring your own sleeping bag or blanket, as nothing is provided.

As far as powder rooms go, look forward to the old “dig and crouch” method, and be sure not to hold it in for very long unless you’re there to mingle with the wildlife. Some luxury hides may boast an ancient, often clogged, and always rusting toilet, so it can be safer to just step into the wild.

Now that you know what you’re in for – if you’re still willing to spend a night in the jungle – the journey to your hide begins.

Be sure to procure a map or a clear description of the route from the rangers. Based on your chosen hide and availability, the average hike to your new jungle dwelling can take anywhere from three to eight hours. Remember, you’re leaving the beaten path and advancing to the heart of the jungle.

The hike is a feat of its own. Taman Negara is anything but flat, and most travelers will find themselves climbing steep mountains one moment, then descending long stretches of slick, marshy earth the next.

Fact: you will get dirty.

The jungle contains so many micro-climates that it’s often hard to properly prepare. Wear clothing that you won’t be upset to part with upon your return to the real world. Light layers are beneficial. You’ll tiptoe across thin logs sprawled across rocky creeks, trapeze over mud-clogged swamps, and skid down sunburnt inclines.

As you make your way to the hide you will witness some of the world’s oldest and grandest foliage and you’ll bump into Malaysia’s many species of monkeys. Another much smaller creature you’ll encounter is less favored and often forgotten: the leech. Unlike the monkeys you’ll spot high in the trees, leeches are not afraid of you, and will be happy to shake hands with your big toe. In fact, they’ll be happy to greet each of your toes, plus your ankles, and sometimes even your lower calves. Wear protective footwear and check your shoes at each water break, because these little suckers (literally) will wriggle their way right through your sneakers.

After emerging through the bush and spotting the hide, a sigh of relief washes over – you’ve made it. Propane burners and cookers are banned in the National Park, so ready made food is a must. Unfortunately the height of the hide doesn’t protect you from all creatures in the Malaysian jungle, as many are great climbers. The last thing you want are strong-jawed fury friends snooping around your hide after dozing off, so wrap your remains and store far from your sleeping area.

As the sun sets, the noise of the living, breathing jungle is unnerving, as you wait for the creatures of the night to slowly emerge. When the sun disappears, your flashlight becomes your new best friend. Get well acquainted, because you’ll be cuddling with it later. From your perch in the hide, you’ll scan the trees and the ground below, and as luck may have it, you’ll spot an animal. Deer, slow lorries, and leopard cats are commonly spotted in Taman Negara, as well as a few slithering pythons. If you’re lucky (or unlucky?) you may even spot a tiger or a jaguar. If you can stay awake, spying can continue well into the morning hours. Often, sleep overcomes you.

Lying on your stretch of hardwood, the heat of the jungle on your face and the alarming sounds of the wild creeping in, you’ll wish you were able to close that panoramic window you once enjoyed. You’ll convince yourself that the scratching sounds on the side and floor of your hide are real. And is there really something crawling over your legs? You’ll turn on your torch just to check, and you’ll see that they are real, and there is something moving near your foot. With rats doing acrobatics along the windowsill, and giant spiders making nests in the corner near your face, reality sets in.

And then it happens. Your flashlight dies.

As the scratching continues, you wish you never turned it on in the first place, and pray that a tiger doesn’t jump through the window. With your imagination racing and your now fully covered body sweating and convulsing in your sleeping bag, the hours tick by. Finally, at the first sign of sunlight, after about 45 minutes of sleep and a full bladder, you’re ready to start the trek back to civilization.

Through the swamp, up the mountains, over the creeks, down the dusty slides, with leeches in tow. As you fearfully glance over your shoulder for signs of last night’s wildlife, the magic path comes into view. Your exit to the other – safer – side of the river. You’ve done it. You’ve really done it! Give yourself a pat on the back; you’ve just survived a night in the Malaysian jungle.

So, the question is – do you dare?