Tioman Island

Tioman – Salang village

31 march 2015 – 5 nights

One of the highlights of all my travels, is Tioman island’s Salang Village. Such beauty and peace. Can recommend anyone to go here if you feel like a relaxed atmosphere and being surrounded by nature.

Tiomans rough interior jungle landscape makes it hard to travel over the island. The only places being civilized, are directly at the beach. Even walking from one bay to another can be tough and takes some time. Although stated as a popular tourist destination, I never felt being more in midst of nature than on Tioman. Hills covered with jungle rise high up behind your tropical white sand beach. Monkeys jump from palm tree to palm tree and big lizards are peddling around in the inland river. On the other side of the beach an amazing rich coral life appears under the surface of the deep blue sea, with great chances of spotting stingrays, turtles and reef sharks, swimming around peacefully.

What to do in Salang village?

Tioman is a divers and snorkel paradise. So much to see! There are a few dive shops (80R/one dive) around. You can also make excursions to other beaches. There are taxi boats or trails along the coast if you rather go by yourself. I liked reading a book under a palm tree. There are not many shops, but the boulevard stretches far, so you can walk around looking for a place to have a drink or bite. There’s also the duty free alcohol shop, enjoy that. Don’t forget to go to Salangs ‘Complex’ for having delicious breakfast and lunch for cheap prices.

Where to stay in Salang?

The southern part of the bay has the better beach and coral landscapes. I liked to stay here, so I could roll out of bed onto the beach 🙂  I checked out al the places to stay in Salang, and Pandok Sri Salang was the best to us.  Cute bungalows setup around a nice garden for 60R a night. Nice bed, mosquito net, terrace, internet included and free books for rent.

Other budget (50-70 R) places to consider:
-Ella’s Place (cute, far walk from good beach) and Paklong (next to Pandok, similar bungalows only not a nice garden).

Midrange (120-160R) places all with facilities and restaurants attached:
-Salang Pusaka (best looking of all), Salang Sayong (right at the beach), Indah’s place (looks fancy, bungalow’s a bit cramped) and Puteri Salang In (nice setup around garden, very nice owner).

Cheap but not good:
– Nora’s (cosy garden, but crap rooms), Salang Beach resort (very unfriendly owner, crap rooms), cheaper rooms of Puteri In, Indah’s and Salong Sayong. Try to avoid!

Which village to choose on Tioman?

Of course ones experience will differ according to the village you pick to stay on the island. For me it was a hard decision to make with lack of detailed info online. We opted for Salang, with no regrets at all. The main options to choose from are from north to south:
– Salang village: liveliest, ca 10 budget and midrange accommodations, ca 7 restaurants, dutyfree (alcohol) shop, 3 diveshops,  beautiful beach
– Ayer Batang village (ABC):  10+ budget accommodations, ca 5 restaurants, mainly backpackers come here, rocky beach
– Tekek village: biggest village. Most shops and accommodations. Not much happening. Good location for trekking over the island. Road to the east side of the island. Small beach stroke
– Paya, Gunting and Nipah: small villages, just a view accommodations on each place
– Juara village: this is the only place on the east side of the island. Apparently it’s beautiful, but a little hard to reach

 Getting to Tioman

Mersing is the main hub for the ferry to Tioman. There are departures 3 or 4 times a day each day on different times. There are lists at the ferry office, but couldn’t make out a structure. The most early boat can leave already at 4 AM. Due to tides and weather conditions ferry’s can be cancelled. If you are on a tight schedule, make sure you call ahead to be updated on departure times. We arrived on a nightbus at 5:30 am in Mersing to find out the first ferry was cancelled. We had to wait for the one at 2.30 PM. Mersing is a nice village with enough shops and restaurants, so that wasn’t that much of a problem. 1 hour before you can board, you have to register and pay the marine park fee (25R, students 15R!). The boatdrive took 2,5hr to Salang. A return ticket is 70R, you can buy anywhere around Mersing. It’s not possible to make a reservation in advance!

 

Pandok Sri Salang  

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Perhentian islands

On a Dutch, rainy day, what better to do than recall your memories about warm and sunny paradisaical islands? Pictures of little islands spoiled with palm trees, white sand, crystal waters and sun are familiar to everyone. They make you daze away, wonder how it would be to lay there….  the Perhentian islands are this place. With several bays to choose and an untouched inner landscape. And the best and most surprising of it all: no masses of tourists here!

Perhentian Kecil – Long Beach
23 march 2015 – 6 nights

After reading about Perhentians main backpacker hub, Long Beach, I decided to stay there. I red about parties, trash and noise, but nothing of that did I found. There may be some karaoke on the beach in the evening and also dive shops throw parties now and then, but nothing in compare to your Koh Phi Phi island. There are about 13 restaurants and bars for each price range and ca 20 accommodations to choose from. Also some dive shops (70R/dive) and taxi boat/excursion huts.  The beach is very long (hence the name) with umbrella’s for rent (10R/day). Although not the most beautiful bay, I enjoyed the options of eateries and the relaxed atmosphere. From Long Beach you can easily walk around the island and also take taxi boats to the main island.

Long Beach

Where to stay on Long beach?

The most places are budget options. I walked in on Matahari and Panorama hostel, there weren’t cheap rooms available and they didn’t look good either. Then we found Bintang View which was absolutely great value for money (50R/n). A little bit up the hill, you feel among nature and get fresh breezes from the sea. I absolutely loved the place. Good rooms, nice owner, books for rent, great breakfast and cute little cats. Can highly recommend it!

What to do around Long Beach?

Perhentian Kecil – Coral Bay

Almost every day, I walked up to the other side of the island’s Coral Bay. You will enter a whole different surrounding. With the hills closer to the beach, the scenery is the most beautiful. There’s a small beach, but with shade of palmtrees. The ocean is more calm here and you will enjoy good snorkeling. We loved Coral Bay. You will find about 8 restaurants here from where you can enjoy sunset in the evening. There are about 10 accommodations. They all looked relaxed and well maintained. There’s a little paved track between Long Beach and Coral Bay which will only take about 10 minutes to cross.

Perhentian Kecil – North part

From Long beach there is a track to the northern part of the island. The track is easy to walk. It takes about 60 minutes to reach the bay ‘D’Lagoon’. This a good spot to refill your water bottles and enjoy good and cheap lunch. It’s a nice bay, but not terrible pretty. On the east side of the island, you will find here Turtle bay and Adam’s and Eves beach, about 45 minutes from LB. I will not give away too much, but the Adams and Eve beach…. it’s a big stunning surprise. Keep it a secret (;

Perhentian Besar – Main Beach

One afternoon, I went to the big Island, Perhentian Besar. Some folks I met in Taman Negara, where staying here. The taxi boat costs 15 R/pp and takes 10 minutes. You will not regret going here, it’s another paradise. On Perhentian Besar, you will have time to connect totally with your inner self. Mainly families stay here, who don’t look like they want to socialize.  There are some great jungle tracks and within 30 minutes you can reach Turtle point where there are many turtles to spot. I wouldn’t like to spend the nights here, it’s too quite and more expensive than necessary, but it was great to visit.

How to get to the Perhentian Islands?

From Kuala Besut there are frequent boat departures. This are all small boats (45 minute bumpy rides) and it looks like they belong to different owners. As a tourist, you will just be seated on the first boat that leaves. You pay 70R return ticket and 5R marine park fee (which nobody checks upon). Kuala Besut is a cute little lively town. You can buy the boat tickets everywhere. The local bus dropped us of in front of a shop where they were very friendly. The girl who was working there drove me with her own car to the ATM to get cash! This ATM is about 20 min walk from the centre of the town. The boats from Perhentian to KB run every day at 8.30, 12.00 and 16.00.

How to get to Kuala Besut?94.3

There are three main options coming from the following directions:
– from Taman Negara
Each day there are minibuses running between Jerantut (main hub to Taman Negara) and Kuala Besut by hostel and touroperater NKS. Price 145R pp, ca 9 hour drive. Bookings can be made at hostels and touroperaters.
– from Kuala Terengganu
This is the route I took. There are buses from the company ‘P. Bumi’ at 7.30, 10.00 and some more up to 17.00. Check at the bus terminal in advance to be sure! Price 10.80 R pp, 2,5 hours driving along the coast (beautiful).
– from Kota Bahru
As far as I understand there are no direct buses from Kota Bahru to Kuala Besut. You will have to take a taxi (expensive), or a bus to Jerteh. From Jerteh to Kuala Besut you pay 20R for a cab (20min drive).

Coral Bay – Perhentian Kecil

Adam’s and Eve beach – Perhentian Kecil

Beach terrace – Perhentian Kecil

Coral Bay

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Melaka and Georgetown

I will describe Malaysia‘s Colonial villages Melaka and Georgetown in one page, because of their similarity. Of course there are many differences between the two of them. What they do have in common, is they are both picturesque towns in Malaysia, where you can enjoy wandering through colourful streets and discovering cute eateries. As a colonial village, they are protected by Unesco. You will find my experience of each town below.

Georgetown

13 march 2015 – 2 nights

A town with modern buildings and old heritage houses. The Portuguese build here and you can tell this from the colourful streets. Although Georgetown consists mostly of modern blocks, it’s fun to discover the old part. Especially with the effort that’s made of street-art, you will enjoy spotting the paintings and taking pictures of it. Some recommendations for Georgetown:
– cosey street Lebuh Armenian with café’s , shops and art
– checking out the Clan Jetties (wooden houses on stilts)
– the best secondhand bookstores in the country at Chowraster Bazaar’s second floor
– have lunch or dinner at Sip ‘n Chew (72, Lebuh Pitt) or Tang (corner Lebuh Penang and Lebuh China)

We stayed in Little India which is a strategical and funny area. If you have time, you can shop at the impressive Prangin Mall or visit the Botanical Gardens (Bus 10 from Komtar busstation, 2R, 30 mins).

How to get to Georgetown

You pay to get here by ferry (1,20R), but the way back is free :). The Ferry runs every 20 minutes and goes from big city Butterworth, which had good bus connections to other parts of the country. Bus and Ferry terminal are next to each other and everything is well indicated (no chances of getting lost here).  You can also reach Georgetown by bus. The main terminal is Komtar, which is underneath the Prangin mall. From Komtar station, it’s a 20 minute walk to Chinatown or Little India.

Melaka

3 april 2015 – 2 nights

Good, happy memories of Melaka. Alhough Georgetown and Melaka get similar treatment by Unesco, the latter is far more touristic. Walking around Melaka’s Chinatown, it feels a bit like being in a theme park. That said, there’s plenty to see and to discover, also away from clicking camera’s. Things to do:
– endless wandering through the good vibed streets, exploring (art) shops, eateries and cafés
– check out the famous Dutch buildings around the clocktower and also the ruins of St Paul’s church (30 mins).
– gaze at the hectic Saturday evening market in Jonkerstreet. Funny to see, lot’s of kitsch stuff to score
– take a walk, following the Melaka river up north. At the height of Jln Kampung Pantai you will find cheerfully painted houses
– Enjoy lunch or diner at my favourites LocaHouz (53, Jalan Tokong) or Riverview Café (82, Jalan Kampung Pantai)
– if you are not on a tight budget, take a bicycle tour

How to get to Melaka (from Tioman)

not hard to get here as there are frequent bus departures from main cities close by, like for example Kuala Lumpur (every 30 mins, 12R). We got here from Tioman. Of course, from the island you first take the ferry to Mersing (departure times vary, duration 3-4 hours). From Mersing there are bus departures at 9:00, 1:15 and 4:30 to Melaka. We made a booking online through easybook.com but I think on the island there are shops who can also make the booking for you. The drive took 6 (!) hours and cost 25,10 R.

From bus station central to Melaka Chinatown and back

A long-distance bus to Melaka will drop you of at Busstation Central. To get from here to Chinatown, take Bus 17 to station ‘Clocktower’ (20 mins, 1,50R). This is the main square of Melaka, with also a tourist information point. To get back from Chinatown to bus station Central, you can take Bus 17 from the clocktower again, but as it makes a loop, you will arrive one hour later in the bus station. You can also do like me, and walk to the end of Jonkerstreet and wait on Jln Kibu opposite of restaurant Poh Pia Lwee in the bus stop. Every 10 mins a bus passes towards the busstation central (20 mins, 1,50R).

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Cameron Highlands & Tanah Rata

 

March 2015

A few months ago, about Malaysia‘s Cameron Highlands I put down in my diary the words: ‘this is not what you will expect it to be, whatever that is’. While reading this sentence, memories float back to me. Yes, the plantations are as stunning as on the pictures, but there’s more to the Cameron Highlands than tea fields…!

Tanah Rata

18 march 2015 – 2,5 day

This village amidst of the tea plantations and an impressive dense jungle, is surprisingly busy and developed. High up in the mountains, Malaysia’s architecture takes whole different forms. Buildings are designed to keep the cool air outside (or inside?) and therefore you will find a lot more concrete around yourself then you would have seen the past days, weeks or months traveling through Asia. Welcome to an Austrian wintersport village Malaysian style. A buzzing boulevard runs along the main street, filled with restaurants and shops. There’s no need to look for another village while staying in the Cameron Highlands. Tanah Rata will suite you in all your needs. From here, a lot of tracks to plantations and through jungles take of. We stayed in KRS Pines, which we booked through Agoda. The staff is very friendly, the garden is nice, the rooms are very basic.

Around Tanah Rata

In every hostel around Cameron Highlands, they can inform you well about the possible walks and tours. You will see that everything here is set up for the (mainly local) tourist money flow. No shortage in  Bee/Strawberry/Lavender farms with a high entertainment edge. I enjoyed the following sights around the area:

Cameron Valley

One of the two most popular tea plantation fields in the area. Absolutely stunning views! You can also enjoy the Cameron tea with pie in the restaurant overlooking the field. Although busy with tourists, they don’t get in your way for gazing and shooting pictures between the bushes. You get here by walking along the main road downwards (50 min).

Boo Tea Plantation

The other plantation. Little harder to reach, but maybe even more pretty than the valley. You can take a tour here (including a visit to the fabric) or go here by yourself, which is an experience on itself. From Tanah Rata you can take the local bus to Brinchang. The busdriver drops you off at the beginning of track no. 1, which is the trail you need to hike up for about 1,5 hour. A little challenging, but not too hard at all. The surrounding is very impressive!! At the top of the trail, you follow the road down for ca 15 minutes and you are at the ‘Mossy Forest’. Might be interesting to take a look, we skipped this because we could join a Malay family driving down the road to the tea fields. The ride took about 15 minutes. If you have to walk, it can be about 45 min I guess to reach this beautiful landscape. From Boo Tea Plantation it’s 45 minutes down the road to the main way. From here, we took a taxi back to Tanah Rata (30 min, 20R).

track 4,3,5

Being a little creative, you can make your own tour by adding tracks together. Walking from 4 to 3 to 5 and back to the main street is a nice tour of 2,5-3 hours. To find track 3 after finishing the paved track 4, can be a bit hard. Make sure you find the golf course and walk around it anti clock-wise. In about 10 mins, you will see signs to ‘OCBC’ and ‘Arcadia’ on your right hand. This street you walk into and keep to the left side all the way up. Next to the ‘Arcadia’ villa, or whatever it is, starts the very beautiful and peaceful jungle track no 3. Halfway this track, you can take no. 5 which brings you back to Tanah Rata. The last trails are clearly marked and indicated. I really enjoyed finding my way through the untouched forests. They are very green and pretty.

Getting to Tanah Rata

It’s not hard to get here. The major bus companies all drive here daily. I took a bus from Komtar bus terminal in Georgetown to Tanah Rata for 40R, booked through the website easybook. It’s necessary to book in advance! The drive takes about 3 hours. Between CH and Taman Negara national park run tourist mini-buses. They cost about 60R pp.

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Taman Negara National Park

85.8Taman Negara National Park

March 2015 – Situated in the center of Malaysia‘s Peninsula and stated as the oldest national park of the country, Taman Negara attracts a lot of visitors each day. The boat ride to get to the park and the canopy walk are the major attractions of the place. To me it was a nice experience to go here, but as far as I can judge, the jungle around Cameron Highlands is more pleasing.

Kuala Tahan
Surprisingly, the little village, Kuala Tahan, on the park border isn’t that big and touristic at all. Funny how you always have a picture in your mind about the places you’re heading to.. I imagined a tropical overwhelmed village with lot’s of bushes and huts. It’s not really like that! It looks more like a small setup with mainly concrete buildings and some wooden low budget huts. There’s one street with some street food and (very) small supermarkets. The most cozy area is around the river, where there are about 5 floating restaurants all offering kind of the same menu. We stayed in the Xcape/Xbox hotel (haha) because they are the only one where you can book a (whole) dorm online (120R, 4 beds). Pretty okay, but not one other backpacker there. For information on accommodations, check here

The park
To get to the park, you have to cross the river with one of the little taxi boats (very cheap, 1 R). On the other side of the river you pay to get into the park, or show you already paid with your travel agency (also ridiculously cheap). From the headquarter you will find long stretching footbridges. To walk the lot, it can already take you a good couple of hours! Very nice that they put them there. In about 45 mins you walk to the Canopy walk, which you can reach by climbing a 150 stairs. Not so pleasant in this very humid conditions. But, of course it’s worth it! Again for only 2 euro’s or something you can walk among the treetops. It’s pretty high! And unfortunately no scary animals to spot. Furthermore, we made some loop over the footbridges and after 4 hours we were back at the headquarters. That’s it. Of course you can do overnight stays in the park as well and I guess you will than truely experience what Taman Negara is like.

How to get to Taman Negara
As with more remote places, an adventure on itself to get to Taman Negara. Jerantut is the village where you start from. It’s very easy to get to here by mini-bus or public transport. We took a mini bus from Cameron Highlands to Jerantut for 60 R. In Jerantut there’s this hostel/touroperator NKS who can arrange everything for you. The boat ride to Kuala Tahan for most tourists, is already an experience. It’s beautiful to see the river and sometimes bathing cows, but it took verrryy long (2,5hrs, 35 R). There’s also a paved road to the village with a very cheap local bus connection to Jerantut (7 R, mini-bus 25 R). Not that bad either!  We took the local bus back and continued from Jerantut our journey to Kuantan on the east coast.

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Zakynthos Beaches: where to go?!

Cross around Zakynthos and you will find a lot of bays and beaches to enjoy. For more about Zakynthos read my blog post here

zakynthos-map

Xigia Beach

Very beautiful and over all relaxing place. There supposed to be sulphur in the water for the ultimate DIY spa effects. The funny smell is there and the water has a special lightblue colour. Definitely worth going.

Keri Bay

Nice and relaxed atmosphere. Beach out of pebble stones but nice views and clearest water. You can also rent boats from here to drive to the nearby island and spot turtles… Wouldn’t mind staying here next time. Not overly crowded but enough shops and restaurants.

Gerakas Beach

Spectacular surrounding, nice to have a look! (not for whole day chilling). If you click on the picture to enlarge, you will see many wooden pyramids which is a protection for turtle nests. Gerakas beach is one of the main turtle nesting zones. Closeby, you will find the soon to be finished turtle rescue centre.

Limnionas
Supposedly the most beautiful ‘beach’ of Zakynthos. The colour of the water is even more special than on this picture. The bay is great for snorkelling. You find a restaurant with sunbeds aside, many people make use of as there is no sand. Nice to have a look, but not suitable to chill for the whole day.
Dafni
Say hello to Dafni beach. One of the most challenging, but rewarding places to get. It feels like driving to the middle of nowhere (what it is), but you’ll reach an isolated oasis of paradise. A couple of restaurants, free sunbeds, an incredible wide sandy beach with the most scenic views of the island. On top of that, this is also a turtle nesting place so you changes are you can spot some while snorkelling
Kaminia

one of my favourites places to spend the day. Picture is taken just after heavy rain fall (you can find dry spots underneath the umbrellas ;)). Usually white sand, very quite and scenic place. The beach bar plays pleasant lounge music while you feel a like being on a tropical holiday.

Keri Lighthouse
a misleading name to describe a stunning view from a restaurant with a little lighthouse extension on the rooftop. While driving here, you pass the village of Keri which is adorable. This is a must see!
Cameo Island
a bit overrated. Cameo island looks fantastic on pictures and it’s one of the main attractions of the south of Zakynthos. You pay €5 to get onto the island (including a drink), but the places to lay out your towel are limited. Nice to have a look, but not suitable for a whole day of sunbathing.
Porto Roma
Picturesque and quiet hidden bay. Aside you find a lovely restaurant for a drink. Beach is small, but there are lots of sunbeds. Only go here if you have enough time.
Karakonnisi
An absolutely stunning bay, undiscovered by (mass) tourism. Being Limnionas little sister, you find here the same turquoise water. Because the bay is less deep, it’s nicer to take a swim. On the other hand, there’s no restaurant aside. To me Karakonnisi wins anyway. Read more about Karakonnisi here.
 
Banana Beach
This is the most wide and sandy beach of Zakynthos. You will find hip and luxurious restaurants playing lounge music. Although the sand is pretty, I would not come back here. Sunbeds are expensive and lined up by hundreds (!). I really missed the Mediterranean vibe .
Navagio bay
I almost forgot about thé attraction of Zakynthos or maybe the whole of Greece… Navagio alias ‘shipwreck’ bay. It ís as beautiful as on the pictures! You can visit the bay by boat (easy to find), or drive to the viewpoint by car. The signs have been taken away, so you have to look closely at your map to find the place (look for signs to Monastry St. George Kremnon). Take in the views, snap some pictures and be careful at the cliffs.