After spending some time around Phuket i realised that my Thai visa was going to run out at the end of the month. Having watched the first F1 Grand Prix of the year i realised that the next race was at Sepang Malaysia, a quick check on travel routes and accomodation meant i could go and watch it so i did. A quick flight from Langkawi down to Kuala Lumpur and a few nights booked in a guesthouse, bought a ticket for the weekend and a travel pass to enable me to use the train and shuttle service to the track and everything was complete. The Sepang track is about an hour away from Kuala Lumpur but transport is well organised. The friday practice session is free for everyday to get into but still not many people were there. Pitstop practice on the saturday –
It was good that Hamilton was doing well and most people in the stand seemed to be supporting him. Qualifying became interesting as a huge downpour occured just before the last qualifying session.
Race day came and the place was fairly well packed, i had a good seat in a grandstand which meant i could see about 4 corners but also the hairpin before the start line which was great.
It was a great win for Hamilton who won convincingly, a lot of the spectators went down onto the track afterwards so i followed and took a few more snaps.
Legandary Niki Lauda.
After the grand prix and time in Kualu Lumpur i headed back up to Penang on the overnight train. Unfortunately i left it a big late booking a ticket so i got an upper berth by the door. People were come through the carriage slamming doors or just leaving the door open meaning you could hear the rumble on the train tracks beneath you. The Malaysian trains are could though and an overnight sleeper train may cost about 10 pounds for a seat which converts to a bed for the night. A porter comes and makes the bed around 9-10 o’clock and packs up the bed again around 8 o’clock in the morning. A good way to save on a nights hotel accomodation and cover a few miles as well.
Back to Georgetown where i had been before but this time staying in a guest house. I also went to see a couple who had offered me another crewing position on their trip heading west across the Indian ocean. A guy with his Malaysian wife who were on a slow circumnavigation were leaving Malaysia and heading west south of Sumatra to the Cocos Keeling Islands (Australian) and then across the Indian ocean to Rodriquez, Reunion and Mauritus. After that they would be heading to South Africa, a lot of ocean sailing in a fairly short time. Not sure yet if i would do it, sounds like a good trip and going to some out of the way places, shame they weren’t stopping in Madagascar as they would be a great place to explore.
After touring around the old city of Georgetown it was time to head north again and back to the duty free island of Langkawi. I viewed another two boats, one of which was quite old fashioned and dark and gloomy inside whilst the other was quite smart and modern inside but was a bit tired looking on the outside. The second boat might be worth keeping an eye on to see what refurbishment takes place. I stayed a few more days in Langkawi near the beach but it was just so hot and humid and needed to escape.
I decided to head inland to a place called the Cameron Highlands in central Malaysia. It has the second highest peak in Malaysia so is nice and cool with rolling green hillsides. I was surprised by how many high rise buildings there were on the drive up there and how many industries there were. The biggest were the farmers who were growing all sorts of flowers for export and around other parts of Asia, and a surprising amount of strawberry farmers. One thing i did start to notice was how many Land Rovers there were, once i started noticing them they were everywhere, i mean hundreds of them. Some must have been from the earliest types and others were so bashed up you wouldn’t have thought they were still drivable. I later found out that it is the largest amount of Land Rovers in the world outside of any army barracks. Also the farmers only pay 10% road tax so they are not allowed to drive them outside of the local boundarys, they are clearly marked with a big ‘CH’ on the side of the car. The Cameron Highlands itself actually reminded me of being in the Alps, the air was clean, fresh and very cool, a welcome change. The hills were very green and it became very cool at night.
There were two very large tea plantations nearby one of which i visited which was owned by a Scottish family. The tea bush can actually last up to 250 years in age, they get pruned every 2 years, tea clippings taken every 21 days and any new plant has to grow for 5 years before it can be harvested. This particluarly tea plantation was hundreds of acres in size and the tea plants grew anywhere they could even on the steepest inclines. We were also shown around the factory and shown the drying and cutting process. I now like tea even more now !! Regular as clockwork there would be a huge rainfall around mid afternoon, it was always welcomed as it cleared the air even more and clearly kept everything very green and lush.
After the Cameron Highlands i headed towards the ‘Taman Negara’ which translated simply means rain forest, but this just happened to be the oldest rain forest in the world at over 150 million years old. There were various treks you could do within the national park area some lasting a few days and sleeping in caves and hides along the way. I hadn’t realised but apparantly Malaysia has its own population of Tigers, Elephants, Rhinos and lots of other animals, some of which you might be able to see if you trek deep into the forest. Sadly i didn’t have time to do this so just went on a couple of the smaller treks and went up onto the canopy walkway through the tree tops, apparantly the longesr canopy walkway in the world although half of it is now closed so don’t know where the stand now with their claim ! The heat and humidty was unbelievable and i was soon saturated in persperation and had difficulty drinking enough water to keep up with the loss. No tigers or rhinos spotted but plenty of bird and insect noises along the way.
I jumped on the train to head north up to Kota Bharu in the north east region. I had read about a train ride that had spectacular views along the way of jungle, rivers, open plains, etc.
Well it didn’t dissapoint as the scenary was spectacular in parts and other times the jungle closed in around you so close it was touching the train. I stayed in Kota Bharu for a couple of nights before heading back to Kuala Lumpur, i was going to use the overnight sleeper train which is great value at only £9 for a sleeper berth and 14 hours of train travel. It was to get me into KL early on monday morning and then i had a few hours to kill as i waited for my flight. I had decided to fly to Vietnam for a month and first stop would be Hanoi. As i got to the station for the 18.17 p.m. train to KL i soon found out that it was delayed – by some time – like a few hours. This was going to make things tight as i still had to get to the airport from the train station and any spare time was no gone. A later update and the train wasn’t going to arrive until midnight. Train turned up at 1.30 a.m. some 7 hours late. I managed to get an internet connection via 3G on a Malaysian SIM card i had bought, i found i could get a flight from where i was at to Kualu Lumpur for reasonable money. Problem was tgere was no taxis back into town and i would have to find a hotel room and get a taxi to the airport in the morning. Just as i was trying to work out what was best to do the train pulled in so i jumped aboard. Wrong decision. I found my carriage and my berth, just as i was about to jump into bed a Malaysian man asked if i was in the correct berth, i showed my ticket and he said i was in the wrong carriage. I went and checked with the porter who pointed me to the other end of the train where there were just seating carriages. I went and had a look but returned to him to ask again, ‘Carriage W4’he said, ‘ah yes, that is the one that de-railed’ with a big smile on his face, ‘now you have seating only’. Brilliant, not only was the train 7 hours late but the reason it was late was because the carriage that had my sleeping compartment in it had fallen off the track ! It was going to be a long journey. In fact it turned out to be 17 hours long and somehow they had managed to add another 3 hours onto the journey. Anyway, the flight to Hanoi had been well and truely missed so off i went into KL to find a room for the night and book another flight………….