Back to Bali

My surf retreat

I am heading to Bali. My arrival is uneventful and I have a car coming to pick me up. No one asks me for proof of vaccination. The world is healed I guess.

My plans for Lombok and the Gillis didn’t work out as planned so I at the last minute I joined a surf and yoga retreat for 8 days in Canggu (pronounced Chawn-gu not can-ju like I keep erroneously saying). I had tried surfing once before in Bali but the way things worked out I only had one real day of surfing and that was not enough. This time I am staying longer where I get 5 days of surfing lessons. Hopefully by the end I’ll be an official surfer right?

The retreat I am at was on my radar years ago when I came to Bali. I didn’t choose it because the fine print of the retreat has some wording about warning if you can’t keep up with the group or something about holding back others from their lessons. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough and I didn’t want to be a burden so I picked another retreat. This time around I am older, in worse shape, and the wording is still there. The difference is I don’t care anymore. I am going to pay my money and try anyway. I still sort of care what people think about me but maybe not as much as I did before.

This trip is for multiple reasons: to work on bucket list travel, get travel out of my system before returning to work, get out of my comfort zone, and heal. Today I had the feeling of being trapped. That is a scary sensation for me. Most of my life I have felt trapped in one way or another: rocky childhood, trapped by my emotions, trapped by family, trapped by marriage, and trapped by work. For probably the first time in my entire life I don’t feel trapped the majority of the time. In the past it may have been valid but now when it comes it is an irrational fear. Today I arrive at my retreat that I hastily booked and I feel trapped. I am far from town and I feel a little trapped at my location, not unlike my experience at my Silent Retreat a couple years ago (Note: I signed up for the Silent retreat again so there will be an update on how that goes).

Anyway it is just anxiety and the fear of the unknown. I am starting surf lessons again tomorrow. I tried once before and I could have done better. Now I am three years older and less in shape so there is a ton of anxiety around the activity. No sense in worrying about it before there is anything to worry about.

Tomorrow I wake up for breakfast at 6:30 for surf lesson at 7. I have a massage booked at 10:45 (part of my package), lunch at 12 and yoga at 4 (also part of my package). I may head into town for dinner. They run one nightly shuttle at 5:45 on weekdays. Unfortunately it is too far to walk to town otherwise I would use that option instead.

Surf lesson 1

5 of us head out to the beach for our surf lessons varying by skill level. Jack Johnson plays while the windows are down. Jack Johnson must be universal surfer music . I am nervous since this is only my second time trying (first time). I have no idea why I never tried surfing when I was younger. Today wasn’t much better than my first attempt. I bail out of the lesson a little early. I didn’t want to kill my shoulders on the first day when I have 4 more days to try. I am pretty good at riding a wave on my knees though. Just need to learn to stand and balance. Today’s lesson started late due to high tide. Luckily I still get back in time for my massage. I think I am going to need it. At this rate I am not going into town tonight. I think snack and early bed time is in order.

Today I am reminded about what I miss now that I no longer stay in hostels. Just to catch you up I am old as can be now, I need good sleep on a regular basis so sharing a room is no longer an option. I need my downtime, I need my alone time. I typically stay in boutique hotels, budget hotels, or any other unique lodging. On a rare occasion I can find a hostel with private rooms I will book it but they tend to be moldy and my sinuses can only handle so much of that. Here at the retreat where I am staying there are good number of women; I guess all lacking the social anxiety that I have so I am meeting lots of nice people. Everyone seems much younger than I but very nice. I’m going to hold off for now telling everyone how old I actually am because at some point do I become the weird old woman? I can’t help that I tend to get involved in activities that young people like to do like this surf retreat. Anyway I’ve already been invited for some weekend snorkeling since we have the weekend off of planned activities. I am hesitant to go but I have to remember there are so many things I don’t do because I’m solo. I should take every opportunity I can to do things with others.

Yoga went better than anticipated. Yes there is lots of sweating and moves I flat out can’t do but that’s normal for me. A good portion of it I could do good enough. I guess I have some muscle memory with yoga. Today is supposed to be the “hard” yoga day. I am glad I got that out of the way.

Tomorrow it looks like I get a solo surf lesson. They are taking me to an easier place. The current and waves are strong where we are today so it takes a good amount of power just to stay out on the water. I am happy that they are chill about my skill level. At the end of all this I may find that surfing is not my thing but I have to give it a try.

More Kuala Lumpur

I was originally going to visit the famous Batu caves temple on Sunday which is a Hindu holiday called Thaipusam. There is a big celebration that starts somewhere in Kuala Lumpur then a parade of people, estimated to be multi-millions of people, walk 13 km to the temple at Batu Caves. There are many things going on and chariots are carried up the colorful stairs. I have anxiety about crowds on a good day but I still feel under the weather. I decide it is a good idea to skip this celebration and visit another day.

Another day

It’s raining. I am supposed to go to Batu but don’t feel good and dont feel like dealing with the rain today. I decide to rest and then make myself do laundry instead. I get dinner and then walk around a bit. I see the lively Jalon Alor as it wakes up. It is supposed to be a great place to go get food at night. Wandering around there is one street I call massage row. As I walk by dozens of ladies ask me if I want a massage. For the first time in a while I don’t. I walk past an area where there is a bunch of bar restaurants. I think about getting a cocktail but I still don’t feel 100% so I forgo and call it an early night.

Batu caves last chance.

I have one last chance to visit the Batu Caves and temple. Luckily I don’t feel as terrible as I had previously. I was going to take the train but the train would take me over an hour and I had to switch lines whereas grab was less than 30 minutes. Grabs being so affordable it was a no brainer. I get there a little after 8 am. The crowds are thin. It is finally not raining but it is humid. I take some pictures out front before I get all sweaty. I ask a lady to help me with a photo, in return she wants to take a photo with me – the weird looking giant (I’m 5’3). I start up the stairs. I am sweating for sure but I am not as tired as I thought I would be. Either the steps are not as bad as I thought they were or my traveling stamina is kicking in. There are monkeys everywhere. They find food where they can. There was a large Hindu celebration two days ago and not much of the mess has been cleaned up; or maybe it has but there is still so much left. The monkeys pick through the garbage to see what meal they can make of it. There are piles of sandals everywhere. There are temples below and two more temples at the top. Chickens roam the place. Once I get inside the top is open like an open air cave. You can hear the birds fly above as well as the chickens below. People walk into the temples to get blessings. Some carry bowls up the stairs which I believe are milk. I think about how crazy crowded this place must have been just a couple days ago.

After my visit I walk to the nearby train station. I am told that the next train isn’t for two hours. This is obviously a commuter rail system and not a regular metro or subway system. There is nothing to do in the area so I don’t want to wait for two hours. I call grab. It is so cheap it again is a no-brainer. I ask to be dropped off at the Islamic Arts Museum. I want some culture … and air conditioning.

The Islamic Arts Museum is a good visit. One exhibit talks about the history of mosque architectures and the differences in the different countries of Islamic peoples. There are good dioramas displayed. There are various old Quran books on display. There are some other books and inventions used by people of Islam. Finally there is a large exhibit dedicated to this one type of sword. Weapons are’t really an interest of mine but I do spend some time here getting educated on it all.

After my visit to the museum I walk by the mosque nearby and other interesting buildings as I head back toward my hotel. There is also a market I walk through.

It’s time to eat so I seek out the other place on my radar to try, Lai Foong LaLa Noodles and their spicy clam soup (LaLa Noodles). It is very good.

In the building that houses that cool bookstore I noticed a weird ice cream shop. Today I am in the mood to try some. I get some cheesy boozy ice cream as dessert.

That pretty much finishes off my visit to Kuala Lumpur. I didn’t see all there is to see but I did a good amount considering I felt pretty bad most of my time here. This is also a good example why I always try to schedule extra down days while I am traveling. You never know when an illness or transportation or whatever is going to take you down. Having padding in the schedule relieves some stress of it all. I need to remember to keep doing it.

Tomorrow I head to Bali where I am spending a couple weeks. I again have a little anxiety about the vaccine entry requirements. The websites say I need to download this app and upload my proof of vaccine ahead of time but the feature to upload the proof has been down for maintenance for over a week. I guess we will see what happens when I get to Bali.

Arrived in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur at night

After a late morning breakfast I take a bus to Kuala Lumpur from Melaka. It is approximately a 2 hour ride. I have a food tour booked this evening at 5:30 PM so I hope I gave myself enough time to check into my hotel, rest and get to the meet up point. I am not feeling the best. My sinuses are acting up but I decide to power through the evening.


My hotel is nice and new. The only problem is the plug is hidden in this compartment that doesn’t quite fit my adapter. I have to call the front desk for assistance and after 20 minutes we finally figure it out and I am finally able to plug in my gadgets, albeit awkwardly.

Chow Kit Food tour

I don’t feel great but I force myself out to the food tour. Doing a food tour first thing always gives me more confidence when I am out eating on my own.

We first stop at the market where we get to try some fruits. Many I have tried before but I am always happy to try them again.

We next stop for some roti and noodles. Some of the bread is filled with egg and accompanied by different sauces. We each get our try to make our own bread. It is harder than it looks so I leave it to the expert.

I learn about torch ginger which is an ingredient in many Malaysian dishes.

And we are to have cendol which I will not complain about. The guide uses this as an opportunity to get the group to try the durian. I am hesitant but partake anyway. It gets easier to handle each time I try it.

We stop next to get a Geeget burger. It is a beef burger that is halal and distributed to vendors who use interesting toppings.

We then try three different laksas (noodle soup). We are warned about the increasingly spicy of the choices but I find myself loving all of them and one of the spicier ones being my favorite. Have I developed a liking for spicy foods again?

I finally get to try Ikan Bakar (grilled fish). It is another dish I have been wanting to try but been too scared to order. This is a tasty mackerel.

My tour guide takes us to the last remaining village in the city. He doesn’t think it will be here long because it is getting forced out by new development. It is intact for now but the surrounding areas are all filled with luxury developments.

We try some satay. It is good but I feel myself start to get uncomfortably full so its hard to eat. We also try this fish paste in a banana leaf. I am not a fan.

Finally we try Nasi Lemak – fried chicken, rice, and sambal in a pandan leaf. I am excited about this because its been on my list. It is very good. We also have a mango shake and a dessert to finish it off. Everyone is very full after this so we take a walk and have a great view of the city.

Trying to figure out the buses

I still do not know the way around the city yet since I just arrived. I’m pretty tired but I brave taking the free bus back to my neighborhood with a couple who were also on the tour. I don’t know where it will stop but its got to be a shorter walk than if I walked from where I am at ~ 45 minutes. I watch on google maps as we travel. It seems to be going in the correct direction then makes a turn away from where I want to be. I get off at the next stop with an anticipated 10 minute walk. The area I am in is very lively and crowded and I still don’t know where I am going. It takes me about 20 minutes to find my hotel but I eventually get to where I need to be. The area I am in sort of reminds me of a mini-times square. There are street performers and crowds. I am exhausted but try to have my wits about me because if there is an area to be pick pocketed, this is it. Maybe I’ll return when I have a ounce of energy.

The next morning I still feel like garbage. There is no coughing and no fever. Just this lingering sinus issue. I take some meds, get a quick breakfast from downstairs and decide that my grand plans for today are definitely not happening. I force myself out after around noon to visit some temples and get lunch.

That’s a tall thing in the middle of nothing.

I visit the highy recommended Mee Tarik Restoran to try the beef ramen. They hand pull all their noodles locally. My visit didn’t start well. Line is very long but seems to move pretty quickly and when it comes time for me to be seating they keep passing me by and seating people in line behind me. Eventually I get directed inside where there are no empty tables but as soon as one opens up they put another party there. I make a big deal about being passed up again and eventually they tell me to sit at this round table with four other girls who don’t seem to mind. As a solo traveler you are often overlooked even sometimes seen as a nuisance. It can be annoying at times.

The beef ramen is good but I find myself jealous of the girl at the table who ordered the braised beef ramen. That looks really good. If I return I will get that and an order of dumplings.

I walk around Chinatown a bit, visit a temple, and find a cute bookstore made from a repurposed theatre. I also see a couple more Chinese new year dragon performances.

Some hidden artwork pictures such as this Yayoi Kusama portrait.

My energy does not last though. Though I have no fever I am visibly sweating more than everyone else and just overall feel run down. I might be legit sick. Back to the hotel to rest. Hopefully a little rest now will keep me from being out multiple days of travel.


Malacca River

Today I am visiting the city of Melaka (or Malacca is English spelling). It is a must see on the tour of Malaysia since it is so rich with history and has a large Dutch influence on its architecture. It is south of Kuala Lumpur and not too far from Singapore.

Luckily my calf issue seems to be on the mend and today is a travel day. I’d hate to lose a day of being out and about due to an injury. I already missed out on the hike yesterday.

It’s a very curvy first half of ride from Cameron Highlands. I forget to take my motion sickness medicine until the bus starts moving so at the start I feel queasy. Luckily it doesn’t take long for my medicine to kick in.

I waited until the last minute to book my transportation within Malaysia because typically with bus tickets you can get them a couple days or the day of travel. I don’t think it is a big concern to travel from Cameron Highlands to Melaka in my initial planning. When I finally go to book my ticket I realize there are no direct buses. I do a little bit of last minute research and I try to use the website that I used to get to the Cameron Highlands but it would not route me to Melaka even with a transfer. I see that there are buses direct from KLIA to Melaka, which is the international airport in Kuala Lumpur and then I realize they are buses from Cameron highlands to KLIA. I buy one ticket to the airport, making sure I have enough time in between the buses, and then book my ticket to the second bus separately. On my first bus to the airport there are multiple stops which is common. It isn’t until after the first stop that people in the front of the bus started acting a little strange and asking questions but I can’t quite hear what they were talking about. I think to myself it probably a good idea to stay alert. When we get to the second stop it’s at a station called TBS, which is also a Kuala Lumpur and the major bus station. The driver makes it known that this is the last stop. I get off the bus and I’m confused because my ticket says KLIA and there’s nothing that says a transfer in the ticket. I ask the driver and he tells me to follow him up the escalator. I’m waiting there because there’s two other guys that are confused and he’s helping them but in another language. He finally hands me a ticket for a transfer to another bus which leaves at 1:30 which is in about an hour from now. I go inside the station and I realize that this is a major bus station and maybe I could just book my bus to Melaka direct from here. The ticket counter lines are long but I see a self service machine. I book a ticket for the same time that I am to catch my transfer to KLIA. Why am I going to the airport to transfer when I can ride direct from here? So here I am waiting for my direct bus to Melaka.

First thing after checking into my hotel is to get something to eat. I’ve only been eating snack food all day. I settle on a Pernakan restaurant called Kocik Heritage Nyonya Restaurant. I walk in and there is no hostess. I looked confused and two nice men who are dining tell me I can sit anywhere. Eventually a waitress appears and I order a couple Peranakan dishes that look appetizing. I can’t possibly finish it all as a single diner but I want to sample a couple things. While I am waiting for my meal I have a nice chat with the men who are just in town for the weekend from Kuala Lumpur. One is a doctor I believe. My visit to this city is already off to a great start with meeting such friendly people. All the food is amazing. I drink the fish curry sauce like it’s a soup because it’s so good.

I wander around Melaka and decide to take a cruise on the river close to sunset. We just go up the river and back. You can tell at one time this boat had many stops and people could get on and off at different locations. Probably another casualty of covid. Like the other cities I’ve been many business that cater to tourists have been permanently closed.

I decide to get roti canai for breakfast the next morning down the street but first a stop at the ATM. It gives me a 20RM instead of one of my 50’s. Basically shorting me the equivalent of 7USD. Not excited about this but the bank isn’t even open yet so I’ll have to deal with it later. I head over to Selvam Restaurant, an Indian restaurant. I order roti canai, a fried egg and a coffee without sugar (finally!). It seems like eating roti canai for breakfast is common so I am not doing something out of the ordinary for once. When my bread comes out the waiter gives me a metal canister with three different sauces for dipping. I am used to only one type in the USA so I am curious. I can tell he is leading me to the milder sauce but I want to try them all so I put all of them on my pate. The milder one, while good is watery. I prefer the other two: one slightly spicer curry that is thick and a white sauce that tastes like cucumber maybe and is slightly spicier than that. None of them is too spicy for me or my taste buds are toughing up.

I planned to go see the pretty mosque this morning but its pretty far out and I don’t feel like walking that far or taking a grab this morning so I stay local. I head over to the old Portuguese church on the hill, Church of Saint Paul. It is the oldest church in Southeast Asia. It’s been used by different Christian colonizers over the years but now it is roofless and hollowed out and holds some old very large tombstones.

I walk down stairs to the A Famousa, an old gate to the Portuguese city. It is all that is left from that wall that the British detonated at some time to prevent it to be taken over by Napoleon’s France. Wow just reading this stuff reminds me how lacking our US education system is. I never heard of this important city that I describe as “Melaka is to Malaysian kids what Saint Augustine is to the Florida kids”. Basically every kid here does a field trip to the town to learn its important history.

I start to begin my day of eating with a pineapple cookie and some sightseeing while I wait for this cafe to open.

I’ve been wanting to visit this highly recommended cafe called the Daily Fix. I get there early so there is no wait. It is very cute inside. I try some Gula Melaka coffee (palm sugar coffee a local specialty) and pandan pancakes. While the pancakes are good I hardly taste the pandan so there is a little disappointment there (I’m addicted.).

Baba and Nyonya museum.

I visit the Baba and Nyonya museum. The museum is in a Peranakan house that was in use by many generations. It is a good example on how life was like during the times. There is no tour guide but they provide a good guide in English that describes the rooms and life. I love the present day family photos of all the different generations.

I visit an old shoemaker that has foot binding shoes on display. He wants me to buy some binding shoes. What the heck am I going to do with these little shoes. I say no thank you and carry on.

The big news is that I tried durian again. I read that one of the local favorites is Cendol Durian ice cream. I get some courage and order it. It is actually not bad. The durian fruit is whole in the dish but when mixed with ice cream it isn’t too terrible. Maybe it is growing on me.

I finally try Putu Piring after being unsuccessful in Singapore. It’s an ok snack but they give you a very large portion for the price. I could only eat a little of it.

I am here on the weekend so I get to visit the famous Jonker Street night market. There are many stands to buy various things and a large food area. Of course I’m too full from my eating spree earlier to want to eat anything.

I am leaving soon. Not one of my proudest moments but I complained about my neighbors smoking this morning. Last night when I came back from being out my entire room smelled like cigarette smoke. It was gross. I thought about complaining then but the smell seemed to dissipate with time. When I was ready to go to sleep I heard noise from my neighbors and once again the smoke smell. I thought about once again getting dressed and going down to complain but I fell asleep anyway. I am not sure how since the smell is disgusting. After breakfast this morning I smell it again. Yes I am packing to leave in two hours but I’ve had enough. I finally complain. Besides being against hotel rules (I don’t really care about that) it is hella inconsiderate to your neighbors. So I am that person that complains about others now.

Besides the smoke I think the moisture in the air the past few days, and high sugar diet, are causing me to get some sort of sinus thing. I hope I can beat whatever this is quickly.

Now I’m off to Kuala Lumpur to hopefully a non-smoking, hot water, good WiFi hotel.

Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands

It is interesting to see how much easier it is to plan travel in advance these days, in fact it is almost required because things sell out ahead of time so many times. When I first started traveling internationally I had a plane ticket and a guide book. When I arrived somewhere I would find whatever housing was available (hostel or whatnot) and plan all my day tours last minute. There is so much FOMO now (fear of missing out) and international travel is popular (mostly due to influencers) that popular things get sold out. I don’t plan things months in advance unless I am traveling with someone with limited time but I do usually have a good idea how things are going to go before I arrive in a country.

Planning for Cameron Highlands coming up is throwing me for a loop. There is very little information available about booking things in advance online. I know all the major attractions, I just don’t know how I am going to get to them. I talk to a couple on a tour group a couple days ago that just visited the highlands and they told me they hired a motorbike (something I’ve never done before, mostly due to fear) and a day tour. I wish I would have asked them how they booked the tour because the only tours I find online are the day tours from kuala lumpor and nearby cities. Those will not work for me because I plan to stay a couple nights in the region. I have also read many people rent cars and drive there themselves but I am not signing up for a 4 hour car ride in a country I have never driven in before, especially for what I read are very curvy roads.

So I have my bus ticket and hotel booked at Cameron Highlands but I have no idea how I am getting around or even how I am leaving at this point. Should be a interesting adventure like the old days of traveling.

The next morning my grab driver drops me off where the long distance buses are. I am correct that is not the same place as I walked by last night but it is close by. I still don’t know which one is my bus because the buses have no signs posted to wear they are going but after going down the travel offices I finally find the waiting point for my bus.

It is over a four hour ride. I didn’t make time for breakfast before so I am pretty hungry. Luckily i have some dried mango and the orange I got the other night to get me through the ride. We stop to pick up other passengers in other towns but we really only make one official bathroom stop. I should have gotten snacks then.

I arrive in Tanah Rata, the town in the Cameron Highlands that I booked my guesthouse. It is a ten minute walk from the bus station so I grab my heavy bags and walk in the same direction as other backpackers. They are heading to hostels with shared rooms. If I was twenty or even maybe ten years younger I might be doing that too. But I need a private room now. Without privacy and good rest I am not a nice person while I travel. It really stinks though because I miss the camaraderie of shared housing. I will occasionally stay in a hostel if they have private rooms or I share with a friend, just to have a place to speak to others during my down time.

As I walk there is a misty drizzle and it is noticeably cooler than where I’ve come from. I am very pleased. I need the break from the heat. I question why I keep traveling in hot places when it is way out of my comfort zone.

My guesthouse has a charming garden. My room is simple but clean. There is no AC but I find I don’t need it, in fact at times it gets chilly for my taste. I wear long pants to bed instead shorts as normal. My only complaint is the shower. It is one of those bathrooms that when you take a shower the whole entire bathroom gets wet, and remains wet for hours. It is more of an annoyance than anything.

Guesthouse at night

After check-in I grab tea and scones at a cute place called The Lord’s Cafe.

For dinner I just grab something simple and easy around the corner. I decide to have a margarita as well. As I am finishing my drink the entire town loses power. I saw this frequently in Cambodia but this is the first time I’ve seen this in Malaysia. It is still daylight when the power goes out but the outage ends up lasting over an hour so it grows dark, Some dogs rest behind me. I thinking about paying my tab in cash and walking back to my hotel but the power is out there too probably. I ask for a beer and wait it out. At some point I lose cell service too but luckily that does not last long. Not long after the power is restored I see fireworks over the hill a little ways away. Still celebrating the new year I see?

Outage friends

The next morning I have a tour booked. Not many attractions are in walking distance so you need to either rent a car or scooter or book group tours. I still haven’t decided if I am renting a motorbike for my second day but I pre-booked a tour for my first full day. I could only find one acceptable tour and it had a two person minimum. I ended up paying for two people just to make sure I could be on a tour. The total for two people is still only 30USD and I feel I got more than my money’s worth on the tour. If I knew better I would have discovered I could have just waited until I arrived in town to book my tour. Fortunately my choice was wonderful so not sure i could have chosen better. The only thing I wanted to see that is not covered by the tour is the Lavender farm. I read recent reviews and it doesn’t seem like it is worth the trouble to visit. I might just do a local hike instead.

The Cameron Highlands Tour

I get a WhatsApp message the night before telling me Mr. Ahmad will be picking me up in the morning. When he arrives I am a party of one but he doesn’t seem to care. I am the first pickup of about three stops. Soon we are on our way. Our first stop is to look at tea plantation. One of the large reasons this area is famous is for its tea production. The tea from this region is called BOH. I’ve seen that term for many days but had no idea what it meant; I thought it was an abbreviation of some dude’s name, probably British (side note: the region is actually named after a British dude William Cameron in the 1885. It was later surveyed and developed into farmlands and such and also a tourist area). As you know the old British had their hands in just about everywhere and Malaysia included since it had a great location in the spice trade route. What BOH stands for is Best of Highland. At some point it was realized that tea grows really well here so what you see today is large areas growing plants for teas. What I did not know before today is the actually plants grown are a type of camellia that is grown in a shrub form and harvested and pruned to stay a shrub (for taste and ease of harvesting). My tour guide is a wealth of knowledge from everything on how its produced here and elsewhere and the types of workers that work on the plantation. We are given beautiful views of the plants. We can see harvesters in the background.

We stop to try the teas at the tasting room. I try a local favorite on ice BOH Teh Tarik, the national drink of Malaysia. It is made from pulling the drink during preparation and adding a sweet milk like condensed milk. I also tried a local strawberry tart and tried for the first time half-boiled eggs. I thought I would be disgusted by it but I was surprisingly not. The only fear now if it I get a food borne illness from undercooked eggs. My toast also came with a topping to make kaya toast but I saved the container for later . Hopefully I’ll remember to bring it up again but it ended up being pandan flavored….still one of my favs from south East Asia.

After tea we head to the mossy forest. We have gotten lucky. The forest has been closed for almost a year dude to dangerous road conditions and destruction due to overtourism. It had just reopened a couple weeks prior. Long story short but because all this mountain region had at one time existed under the sea there is the right conditions for moss to thrive here. So what you see is a romantic moss all over the place. There is a boardwalk to help protect the area somewhat but not sure it’s enough. What I saw today is one of the oldest forests in existence. At one time Malaysia contemplating getting UNESCO status on the area. It decide to forgo that quest when the government realized how much environmental damage has happened to the region already, without all the publicity. Making it a designated area will draw unnecessary attention. I am glad I got to visit and I will tell my friends to visit but I feel bad contributing to the environmental decline of the area. It is beautiful though.

Our driver gives us more history and even some science lessons. He has us walk down the hill where he will pick us up. A family of dogs happily follow us down, maybe thinking we have some treats.

We next head to the butterfly farm, everything at this point starts to feel rushed because one guy on the tour has a bus leaving town at 2:30 that we have to get back for. I feel for him but it is a shame we can’t take our time because of his planning. I’m not too upset about rushing the butterfly farm though. The butterfly portion is cool but the rest of the attraction is a zoo like facility. I am not a fan of animals that are confined in small cages for paid entertainment. This might be a rehab facility which I am ok with but I would not knowingly visit a zoo in this format.

Strawberry farm

We visit a strawberry farm. Strawberries are not native to the region. I cannot recall how or why but strawberries were brought to the region. They are grown differently here with white overhangs protecting them from the UV rays and elements. Drip irrigation is used to water the crops. The introduction of strawberry farming is changing the climate of the region due to the way they reflect the UV rays. I walk along some crops but I do no harvesting on my own. I do buy my own supply to snack on later.

We head back to town. The tour is money well spent.

For dinner I try the highly recommended Indian restaurant since it was closed last night. I have been craving paneer and it seems to be popular on the menu. I order butter paneer, mango lassi and some naan. Service is very slow and the wait for a table gets long if you don’t arrive early. I wouldn’t say it was a life changing meal but it is satisfying.

The hike that wasn’t

Woke up at 7 am this morning and it is wonderful. I want to do a hike this morning but the cool temps in the region means I don’t have to schedule that hike at the crack of dawn. I am getting myself a hardy breakfast – something I haven’t had in a while.

I head out to the hike which is supposed to start 15 minutes from my hotel but when I get to where the trailhead is there is a monstrosity of a construction site in its place. I stand there for a few minutes then walk up a very steep hill thinking there is another way around. I am about to give up and go get tea when a nice gentlemen tells me that yes in fact the entrance is closed but sometimes the construction workers will let you pass through or I can try through some carnation named place. I stand around looking stupid for a minute or two and then I see a worker waving. I walk over to him and he shows me on a map where to catch the trail, 2 km away. So I head toward the new trail head. I do my good deed and warn a couple walking my way like I wish the couple I saw earlier would have done for me (I caught them later). This is already taking longer to start than anticipated so I stop to get a snack for the hike because I already feel hunger coming on. I walk by a pretty nice residential area. The houses seem large and newer and right across the street from an apartment complex where the trailhead exists behind. I follow along the edge of the brush and there is no visible area to start the trail. The only thing I see is what looks like a private garden like area. After about three people instruct me I hop over a gutter and shimmy behind a fence post and follow a trail that looks worn along the edge of the garden. I eventually get to some stairs and then what looks like some makeshift steep stairs that go up. I see the couple from earlier. They tell me there are two ways to start the trail: the steep stairs and a not so stable road. They aren’t a fan of either option and are probably calling it quits. I came here to do a hike so darn-gone-it I am going to do a hike … except two steps into my ascent I feel a sharp pain in my right calf. NOT ANOTHER NEW PROBLEM! Last time I tried to do a double hike in Sedona it was my knee giving me issues, another new injury. This time my calf is angry in pain. I try a couple more steps without success of being pain free. I decide to sit down and stretch and see if a little rest will help. Nothing helps. I feel defeated and take the 20 minute walk back to town. I get some afternoon tea and now I am sitting in bed hoping this is a temporary setback. Getting old sucks.

More afternoon tea. I guess I am British now.

I am partly to blame for this injury since I have not done my stretches in two days because the floor is hard and cold. But to be fair I’ve never had this kind of injury before so I didn’t know to expect it.

I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening resting my calf and doing trip planning. Have to make good use of the down time. Dinner is unremarkable. There are steamboat restaurants everywhere but they are a minimum of two people and I have not made any friends in this part of my trip.

Tomorrow I leave for Melaka.