I travelled to Thailand from Singapore overland as quickly as I could. Later I came to regret my rush. Under-rated Malaysia is a much better country for the tourist than Thailand. …
Malaysia has a superb expressway which runs the length of the peninsula from the Thai border in the north to Johor Bahru in the south. I was impressed with the terrific bus service.
I had no interest in stopping in KL which I perhaps wrongly assumed was another polluted Asian megalopolis. But I did glimpse the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers. The architecture was inspired by the Five Pillars of Islam protecting it, I assume, from terrorist attack.
Malaysia is considered a Muslim country but I found it a charmingly pluralist place, including a fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous cultures and customs.
We spent some time talking to a Muslim student, son of the owners of a guest house. What I remember best of what he told me was that his most important class was morality (religion).
I headed directly to Cameron Highlands, in the centre of peninsular Malaysia, a series of hill stations at altitudes between up to 1800m (5904ft). The climate is wonderful here when it is sweltering on the coastal plains.
Hill stations in Asia have a rural, colonial, relaxed ambiance. Nice.
Attractions include jungle walks, waterfalls, beautiful gardens & plenty of wild flowers.
Malaysia was my first experience in touring tea plantations. I learned this lesson: wherever tea grows, tourists are happy.
Tea trees look quite normal unless workers start trimming them to the height of bushes. It is an amazing, labour intensive process.
Some trees are hand picked, some trimmed by scissors and workers even use a simple machine trimmer.
Intensely scenic. Textured trees on steep hillsides, terraced, irrigated steps.
My only other stop was Georgetown, on the island of Penang, off the northwest coast, the oldest British settlement in Malaysia.
Everyone enjoys Georgetown.
Georgetown is an appealing contrasting hodgepodge of influences. The compact town is a delight to wander. Old Chinese houses, vegetable markets, temple ceremonies, mahjong games.
I‘ll remember just hanging out, playing my Big Dave McLean cassette at the Sidewalk Blues Café.
Farewell Malaysia, the most pleasant country in Asia.