Malaysia has been top of my dream destination list for the longest time. The thought of getting to see (hopefully!) orangutans in the wild, eat laksa in its spiritual home and find out more about the culture of this wonderful looking country…I can’t wait! Follow along on our adventures, we’ll be posting daily and find out what we get up to on this amazing trip –
It’s been a day of travelling – leaving Heathrow early and flying on the absolutely brilliant Qatar Airways to Doha. The airline was brilliant with the children giving them packs of SpongeBob activity books and crayons all in a lovely little bag and their dinner got served in SpongeBob lunchboxes! It also went down well that they randomly handed out bags of crisps and Mars Bars!
We thought Doha Airport was fantastic, probably my favourite airport. It’s huge and very stylish with great shopping opportunities as well as lovely Qatar handicrafts. But the best bit has to be the art all around with the huge Teddy Lamp in the centre and then beautiful copper play areas throughout.
We loved this airport and despite having a five hour layover it’s whizzed by! Next stop Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Our crazy day of travelling has come to an end and we’ve arrived in Kuala Lumpur. I can’t believe how easy it was to get here – the children have handled it really well and I think stopping at the midway point of Doha really helped.
We caught the airport bus in to the city which was also really easy and we squeezed in with backpackers and locals which felt good – we can still find the cheapest way to get around! Of course that all ended when we pulled at the Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur – an absolutely beautiful, gorgeous five star hotel that is definitely not the usual backpackers domain!
We have interconnecting rooms and this hotel is amazing – gorgeous interiors, plush bedrooms and probably the most beautiful lobby I’ve ever seen. We ate in the hotel’s Shang Palace Chinese restaurant this evening which was delicious – noodles, tofu and wild mushrooms, garlic broccoli and spicy tofu with cashews. For dessert we decided to try the infamous durian fruit which was served in little cream parcels. I don’t know what I was expecting but oh my! It was a mixture of savoury, sweet and…sour onion….and I just couldn’t stand it. None of us could! We had such a laugh as we each tried a spoonful though.
We’re off to bed at a normal-ish time so hoping the jet lag doesn’t kick in during the middle of the night!
Well we were awake from 3am until 6.30 and then up at 7 so it was a very tiring start to the day! Luckily breakfast at the Shangri-la sorted us out – it was an amazing spread including chocolate fountains, a Chinese soup station, an eggs chef, pastries galore – it was hard to know where to start….and stop!!
Afterwards we headed out and started at the Chinese market which was full of hustle and bustle and bartering. It was great fun and the perfect way to take our minds off feeling tired! Next stop was Central Market which was air conditioned and lots of fun too…so much to see and buy!
For lunch I had found a great sounding restaurant at Blue Boy Vegetarian but we had a nightmare finding it – walking the streets in the heat, up and down! The children were great with only minimal moaning and at the point we were about to give up and head for the hotel we discovered it. And I am so pleased we did – we feasted on Assam Laksa soup, fried rice and lots of tofu dishes with the sweetest owner chatting to us and explaining the food – it was definitely worth traipsing the streets for!
Then it was back to the hotel to rest and have a swim in the warm outdoor pool, watching the moon come up as we swam and the lights of the Kuala Lumpur Tower above us – it was really magical.
The evening plan was to make it to the night market and we started off at another great veggie restaurant, Water Lily where we ate vegetarian spare ribs (really!!), sweet and sour mock pork, spring rolls and more noodles. It was so delicious but our three year old fell completely asleep, we couldn’t wake him! He was groggy, grumpy and just totally out of it. We had to abandon the night market and taxi it back to the hotel.
It was a fantastic first day in Malaysia though, we really loved Kuala Lumpur – such a fun, vibrant city.
The jet lag seems to be behind us as the sun rises again over Kuala Lumpur. We were expecting rain but it’s another hot and humid morning with lots of lovely sunshine.
We headed out early to explore the tropical forests just a half an hour drive from the city. This managed eco-park is called the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, or FRIM and is home to over 600 hectares of beautiful forests and jungle, which is criss-crossed with paths and nature trails, as well as waterfalls and botanic gardens. But the reason we had come was to experience the park’s main attraction, a 150 metre canopy walkway slung high in the tops of the trees. The walkway is situated at the end of a hour long climb up the hillside and along forest trails which was pretty grueling in the heat and the sun, but was an amazing trek peppered with views down into the valley and trees and plants towering metres above us. After numerous stops for water and lovely reassuring chats with other walkers we reached our goal. It was at this moment I wondered why I had thought this would be a good idea, what with me not being very good with heights and all. I didn’t think I was going to make it all the way round, the walkways swung slightly and was so, so high up I felt quite sick! I’m really proud of the fact that I made it all the way around, we all did – although only our six year old daughter was dancing about at the end saying she wanted to go on it again!
From FRIM we set off by car to the Batu Caves which again are situated on the edge of Kuala Lumpur, and more climbing ensued! The entrance to the caves is guarded by a 140 foot high statue of Murugan one of the Hindu gods at the bottom of the 272 steps you have to clamber up, and there are groups of cheeky monkeys dotted around on the steps too, ready to snatch refreshments from unwary visitors – our children were laughing hysterically at their antics! Entering the main Temple cave was so awe inspiring – it’s absolutely huge with more Hindu artifacts, and an area open to the elements where more monkeys climb the walls and peer down to see what snacks they might be able to pinch.
Back in Kuala Lumpur it was time for us to catch our coach to the island of Penang, a five hour drive north. The children were astonished to see that each seat came with its own airline style TV screen where they could watch films to their hearts content, and gaze out of the windows at the green forests that whizzed past. I loved the little service station stop which was a simple collection of traders selling fruit, refreshments and delicious aromatic hot peanuts. It was the perfect stop off which felt so much better than the mass produced service stations across the UK.
Arriving as the sun set we could hear the sound of the waves breaking on the beach at our new hotel – the Shangri-La Golden Sands. Tumbling into bed we’re exhausted and happy from a day of real highs.
This morning the oldest two children went off to kids club to give it a try, while I and our youngest sat and relaxed by the pools at the Shangri La Golden Sands and went for a walk along the beach.
In the meantime Mr Globalmouse spent the morning learning the secrets of Nyonya cooking with locally acclaimed chef Pearly Kee. The session involved a trip to one of the islands popular food markets to learn about local produce and the incredible range of herbs and spices – there was also time to sample some delicious street food before heading to Pearly’s home cookery school to prepare lunch – three different veggie dishes all wonderfully fragrant and tasty.
After lunch and a dip in the lovely hotel pools we headed off to George Town – the island’s capital, to go on the trail of some of the amazing street art which has sprung up across the city. It was a really fun trip out as it was quite an interactive experience and the children loved discovering the pieces as we wandered the streets.
It was a great day exploring a little bit of George Town.
We spent a lovely morning at the Shangri-la – swimming, eating and the kids having fun at Adventure Zone – a soft play centre based at the hotel.
We then headed to the airport to catch the first of our Air Asia flights, this time to Langkawi and I don’t think I’ve ever been on a shorter flight – 20 minutes in total! Our three year old kept asking if there was going to be a film on board….it was a bit too quick for that.
At Langkawi we took the decision to get a rental car as it was so cheap and we were getting a bit fed up of negotiating taxi prices. We are now the proud renters of a little run-around that growls and jolts but is getting us around the island for about £27 for four days! We were chugging about perfectly until we realised we had no petrol and weren’t sure how to find a petrol station. We really thought we were going to run out and it was a stressful 10 minutes driving, contemplating what we would do if we suddenly stopped, before the welcome sight of the petrol station came into view. School boy error!
We checked in at Temple Tree, an absolutely fabulous resort which rescues houses from across Malaysia. We had a beautiful 1920’s former Goldsmiths shop from Georgetown, Penang – packed to the rafters with gorgeous antiques and with a huge wooden bath tub in the middle of the central living area. As well as rescuing houses (and bringing them to Langkawi timber by timber to be carefully restored) the owner also rescues cats so the children loved seeing them all around the resort and laughing in delight as they dashed into our home!
We ate at Temple Tree – a lovely, flavourful meal that was just delicious – we sat eating as night fell and the stars started twinkling. And we wandered back to bed – shrieking (well, I did!) as I nearly tripped over a toad hopping along the path in front of us.
Last night the sky crashed so loud my six year old thought it was going to cave in! The thunder roared for much of the night and we could hear the huge raindrops falling hard around us. It was annoying to be awake but also lovely to feel so cosy in our little home while the monsoon rains came outside.
We headed off as early as we could to Malaysia’s biggest aquarium at Underwater World which had a good selection of sea life who were well clearly looked after. It was a good break for an hour or two and the children loved running around spotting all those that they knew…and those that they didn’t!
And then we drove to our next hotel, the absolutely decadent Westin in the south-east of Langkawi. What a beautiful hotel – a number of swimming pools, a large private beach and views out over the Andaman Sea – it really is breathtaking. We went for a swim, picked shells on the beach, watched amazing Dusky Leaf monkeys clamber around our balcony and then ate in one of the Westin’s restaurants, watching the sun set over the sea and the other islands in the distance turning hazy in the fading light. It was a magical evening and we had to pinch ourselves that we were actually here.
We woke up to the beautiful views across the Langkawi islands and a feast for breakfast at the Westin with juices, yoghurts, eggs every way you like them, curry (my new favourite way to start breakfast!) and pastries.
Our daughter was keen to get to kids club so happily skipped off there to paint her own mug while the four of the remainder of us took to the sea – two in a kayak and two on a pedalo. It was a great way to soak up the calm and quiet of the island.
We then went to learn from the Westin’s chef how to make a yellow curry and a delicious coconut dessert all of which we ate for lunch. This was a really fun experience and our eight year old absolutely devoured the yellow curry, I think it’s the first time he’s really fallen in love with curry and I’m so happy!
The afternoon was spent at the slightly strange Oriental Village that has a bit of a theme park feel with activities on offer. They have a very scary looking cable car which I was only slightly disappointed was closed when we visited! So we ate dinner overlooking the lake, the children feeding the fish and wandered around the little shops.
And then we drove on to meet up with one of Dev’s Adventures tour guides for an early evening walk, spotting the rare Colugo – a flying squirrel type animal which we got to see a number of, even watch them glide from tree to tree which was really exciting. Our six year old daughter even spotted one too which she was very proud of and rightly so, it’s not easy to pick them out in the dark.
Roti Canai for breakfast and a heavy heart to leave beautiful Langkawi with its views across the sea to uninhabited islands and wildlilfe at every turn. I love this place.
We swam and Mr Globalmouse had a well deserved massage at the Westin where he was literally pummelled for over an hour and said it felt great!
Then it was flying from Langkawi and arriving back in Penang for a few days more exploring the island. We decided to take the bus rather than the taxi and the journey went on forever – we were on it for nearly two and a half hours, everyone tired and just ready to get off after about an hour!
It was great to arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel though, a very cool, happy space that will provide a perfect amount of fun to mix in with all of the cultural activities we have planned.
Today we spent some time at the fantastic water slides at the Hard Rock Hotel – it was hard to drag the children away from this fun area, our feet enjoying the sandy floor, the sun shining, palm trees all around and the children squealing with the fun of the place – maybe it was actually us who didn’t want to leave?!
We did eventually though and headed for Georgetown (on a taxi this time since we were all a bit bussed-out after yesterday’s trip!) and stopped first at Ee Beng, a Chinese vegetarian restaurant I had read about on-line. We loved this place – you help yourself to all the food you like, first rice and then lots of tofu, pak choi, noodles, steamed buns and then they work out how much you owe by looking at your plate! Our meal here, for all five of us, cost under £5 and we left absolutely full and happy from all the fantastic food. I wish they had Ee Being in the UK….although I’m not sure how the mock “fish head soup” would go down – even though it was vegetarian I still didn’t want to try it!
Then we headed to Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple which was a really amazing, evocative trip – with monks chanting and clouds of incense rising above us. It was colourful and full of intrigue and the children were spell bound – my daughter carefully watching some of the poses of the statues and attempting to copy them was just the sweetest thing to see.
And then we headed back to Batu Ferrenghi for a lovely meal of Curry Kapitan before shopping at the night market which was so much fun – lots of bartering, mock horror at prices being offered, ending with handshakes and leaving with bags full of goods. I can’t wait to decorate our home with them all when we’re back.
We loved our day – lots of good food; interesting, cultural sights and shopping – what more could anyone want?!
We spent another fun morning at Hard Rock’s water slides and pools – this place is fantastic for families. We ate lunch in the Hard Rock Cafe with fajitas and onion rings and the children having mocktails and chocolate brownies before checking out for the next part of our adventure.
We arrived at Penang airport laden down with all of our night market and Penang ‘antique’ shop wares, slightly regretting some of the more awkward shapes and impulsive buys and checked in for our flight to Kuching which annoyingly had been pushed back by another hour meaning we arrived in the dark.
Luckily our wonderful hosts at Permai rainforest resort were there to collect us and whisk us off to our jungle home for a few days exploring Borneo. We are so excited to be here although slightly fearful of what wildlife lays outside our netted window – I’m hoping specifically not to encounter any scorpians, spiders larger then the size of a penny or snakes…I think that’s all.
Today we were up at six to get a ride to Semenggoh Nature Reserve – one of the best places in the world to see orangutans.
I have wanted to see the orangutans in Borneo for the longest time and I couldn’t believe it might come true. Semenggoh feeds them at 9 and 3 but there is no guarantee they will come down from their jungle tree tops and I have read a number of accounts of people visiting and not seeing them.
We were not to be left disappointed however.
It was literally breathtaking to hear the crash in the jungle and see them swinging their way down. Beautiful creatures, strong and graceful as they moved quickly through the trees, cracking coconuts and breaking them open with their hands and feet. There was a mother and baby and we saw the king of the troop himself, a huge hairy orangutan (as my six year old daughter called him). It was an absolutely wonderful sight and one that will stay with us forever.
Next it was on to Kuching to wander the streets of this lovely town – we ate in the old courthouse, visited the museum, walked along the waterfront, visited the artisan shops and ate cake! I think Kuching is the friendliest town yet – even the police were reaching out to stroke my daughter’s hair, there were numerous requests for photos with the children and everywhere people smiled and waved and said ‘hello’, it felt so lovely to have people reaching out to make us feel welcome.
And then back to our jungle home where we ate noodles while the waves crashed below us and walked back to the sounds of the rainforest – a beautiful cacophony of sounds and melodies, bats swooping over our heads, frogs jumping across our path and countless unseen eyes watching us as we walked.
Last night the monsoon rains thundered down over our little rainforest home. The lightening flashed in the sky and crashes of thunder roared overhead. The rain sounded so heavy and it woke us all on and off through the night. When morning came it was still raining and we thought we may have to cancel our exciting trip of the day. Luckily by 10am the rains were starting to lift a little so we decided to go for it and met our guide, the wonderful Remi for a very exciting trip deep in to the Borneo Rainforest.
Remi is a fantastic guide and knows the jungle like the back of his hand – he was the perfect person to take a trip with and he drove us to his home village of Bako where we took a boat ride through the crocodile infested Bako River and out into the South China Sea. It was such a fast, exhilerating ride but I couldn’t help but worry about all those sharp teeth laying beneath the murky surface. It was even more worrying when we arrived at Bako National Park and had to jump out of the boat to wade a couple of metres in! (We carried the children)
We then trekked for two hours through the jungle – it was a hard walk, using tree roots to hold our feet and scrambling down rocky paths. It was fantastic though, we saw Proboscis Monkeys with their long noses and sad eyes, golden skink sunbathing on leaves in front of us and a wonderful green crested lizard that changes colour so is very hard to spot. Then as we were walking I was suddenly aware of something moving close to us and screamed….”snake!!”. Remi was excited, it was a fairly uncommon Paradise Tree snake and the fear lifted slightly as we watched its bright red tongue flick in and out and Remi told us about it and how it could glide between the trees….although finding out it was venomous raised the concern levels up again!
We loved this trip – we had time for shell hunting on the beach (one eye on the sea close by!) and we loved finding out about some of the wildlife in the area. This jungle visit was one of our highlights, such an amazing experience for our children to see such beautiful creatures in the wild. We loved it!
This morning we had a really brief trip to the Sarawak Cultural Centre – a fantastic place where local communities get to keep their traditions alive by showcasing them to the visitors. It’s a wonderful area complete with longhouses and bamboo bridges. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to linger but got to see what our eight year old wanted to – the skulls of the headhunters! High up in a cage above the fire was a blackened skull – a grisly sight but an important part of the local tribes heritage.
And then we were off to the airport for our fourth Air Asia flight and heading back to Kuala Lumpur. It felt strange to be going back to where the adventure all began but before heading into the city we were off for a few days relaxing at Avani Sepang Resort, about an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur on the Goldcoast.
We were greeted with sparkling dragonfruit mocktails as we looked over the gorgeous chalets with woven roofs set on stilts over the sea. We feasted on Malaysian food as the sun set and breathed in the refreshing sea air, happy to relax for a day or so!
Come back tomorrow and find out all about the new adventures we’ve had – and you can follow our Globalmouse Instagram for more photos.