Cameron Highlands

After two months of sweating every time I move, the crisp Cameron air was so refreshing and invigorating. The temperature averages at about 20c, and there is regular rainfall; it actually reminded me of English weather. 


There is an abundance of trekking routes both around Tanah Rata and Brinchang, and they vary in difficulty. No matter what town you stay in hitching a ride or grabbing a cab to the start of the path is not too complicated. Maps are available in the tour shops for 4 ringgits, but the routes are not described in depth. Also, some of the signs have been removed from the tracks, but generally you will be able to tell which way to go. Personally, I found the routes pleasant without a guide, but there are plenty available in the town if you would be more comfortable with one. 


The paths are enveloped in thick lush jungles, and they provide sublime views of the coutryside. However, it does tend to get a bit misty in the afternoon, so aim to start your trek earlier in order to appreciate them. Also, there are places to stop for afternoon tea on the way, which makes for quite a nice break. Do be aware that the cafes are exactly cheap though. 


Many people say that Cameron is too touristy, but whilst I was trekking around the countryside I hardly came across any other hikers. The hillsides radiate calmness which is very hard to find in Kuala Lumpur. Cameron is easy and cheap to get to from most places in Malaysia. 

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Penang

For some reason I wasn’t expecting much from Malaysia, but it was phenomenal. The transport is a lot more comfortable and scheduled than in Indonesia and the Philippines. Also, there are less hawkers which made it feel much more relaxing. 


After a day in Kuala Lumpur I headed over to Penang, which is an island on the north west coast. There are regular buses from the capital (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan), prices are around 40 ringgit and it takes about 5 hours. 


Georgetown is the capital of the island and it’s a truely multifaceted town; Little India snuggles next to China Town, majestical colonial buildings neighbour ornate Chinese mansions, various places of worship sit peacefully on the same street. There is a rich array of ethnicities and their cultures appear to have remained intact despite living entwined with one another. 

Georgetown is littered with quirky street art that makes the streets feel like an art gallery at times. Sometimes tourists will even queue up on the road to get a picture with it. 


There is more ambrosial food than you could every dream of, and the streetfood is especially spectacular. It’s mostly Indian, Chinese and Malay delights, and there is some divine fusion cuisine. Both Gurney Plaza and Red Garden are phenomenal places to sample the array of food on offer. There are not many bars, but if you want to have a cheap drink there’s a convenience store on Stewart street that has plastic chairs and tables outside. In the evening it fills up with travellers and locals, and it has an alluring ambiance. 

Kekloksi, a Buddhist temple is just outside of the city (I rented a scooter to get there). It sits on a hill overlooking the town, and even as far as the sea. It was really quite captivating, and it is free. However, if you don’t want to travel that far there are some beautiful Burmese and Thai temples on Lorong Burma. The Thai temple is home to a 33m reclining Buddha. 


North of the town is Batu Ferringhi, it’s a pleasant beach to try out some watersports or just relax on. The most convenient way to get there is probably by renting a scooter, which you can rent at most hostels. 

Pangandaran 

Pangandaran is a seaside town on the south cost of West Java, and it has been dubbed the most popular beach resort on Java. However, throughout my time there it was fairly quiet, probably because it was Ramadan. 

There’s a few things on offer in the area. Panagandaran is fronted by a wide stretch of dark beach, along here you can try out some watersports, or just relax in one of the bars. 32km to the west lies Batu Karas, it’s a great spot to try out some surfing. Both beaches tend to be overcrowded on the weekends, and as a foreigner you will probably get hassled by a lot of the locals. Just before you reach Batu Karas is the lush Green Canyon, a river that surges along the coast, there are many tours that will take you here with the option of watersports such as body rafting and kayaking. Taman Nasional Park is situated on the southern tip of Panagandaran. Personally, I found the park overpriced for what it offered (215,000 rupiah and more on a weekend). There is a handful of wildlife in the park, that was interesting to observe, but the beach was not as white or clean as promised. 


East of Pangandaran there is a beach called Pantai Lembah Putri. The best way to get to the beach is by scooter, they are pretty cheap to rent 50-70,000 rupiah per day. Take Jalan Bulak Laut out of Pangandaran, when you get to the junction/roundabout go straight along Jalan Raya Pangandaran following the sign for Ciamis and Bandung. Travel along the road for about 10 minutes, you’ll cross the river and continue a bit further, if you get to the Lembah Putri Hotel you’ve gone too far. 

There are two right turns before the hotel that will both lead you to he coast; one is a narrow, residential road and the other is a wider road that weaves into an abandoned waterpark.


The tide is high until around midday which makes it impossible to access the beach. In the afternoon, there is a wide stretch of clean sand where you probably won’t see anybody else for the rest of the day. The current and waves are very strong along this beach, so be careful if you choose to swim. If you walk east along the sand you will come across a cave where hundreds of thousands of bats migrate into the dusky sky as the sunsets. 


Just off the east beach is the town’s fish market. Many large restaurants display their fish out the front for customers to choose from, you can pick how it’s cooked, what sauce you would like and any other sides. Sari Melati 1 offers spectacular food for affordable prices. 

If you wish to travel to Pangandaran by train, the closest station is Sidareja (about 40km away), and from there you can get a bus to the town. Otherwise there are twice daily buses from Jakarta’s Kampung rambutan terminal (85,000 rupiah for economy, 9 hours).