A Family Visit, part 2

From 8 until 25 August 2022 my brother Otto and his family visited us in Malaysia. A report of what we did, can be found here. Part of our program was a 8D7N trip to a few of our favorite “haunts” and here is a report about this trip.

We decided to limit ourselves to the West Coast of (Peninsular) Malaysia. Below is the route we followed. Our first destination was the Suka Suka Lake Retreat, next we stayed two nights in Georgetown. One night in Kuala Kurau and in Taiping, finally two nights in the Cameron Highlands.

It is a three hour drive from our condo to Suka Suka, we travelled in two cars. .Using the highway we stopped only for some snacks at the Tapah R&R. The Suka Suja lake retreat is located on the bords of the Chenderoh reservoir, one of the oldest in Malaysia. Left a drone picture of the reservoir, right Suka Suka, marked with an X.

When you enter the resort, it feels like going back in time. Traditional Malay houses, built on pillars. Here the main building with some pictures of the interior..

The resort is managed by a family, Aziz, his wife Asiah and their son Azam. I have stayed in the resort many times and they have become friends. Very friendly and hospitable. We were welcomed with a drink and some fried chempedak.

Aziz has bought old Malay houses from various locations in the country, taken them apart and rebuilt them in his resort. Original design, he only added modern bathrooms. Here are the two houses where we stayed.

Suka Suka is a place to relax, for example in one of the gazebo’s

But of course you can also explore the resort.

Staying there is not cheap, but meals are included and Asiah is a very good cook, eager to explain the various Malay dishes she prepares. She lent us sarongs and asked us to wear them during dinner. Actually we should have eaten, sitting on the floor, but looking at the seniors among us, she suggested that we could sit on chairs 😉

After the dinner she explained to my nephews how to play congkak, a traditional Malay game. Here are the rules, if you are interested. Of course a photo had to be taken with all of us wearing our sarongs.

The next morning Asiah prepared breakfast for us.

The resort has kayaks which can be used by the guests. Aric and I had done that during an earlier visit and we nearly got lost, orientation is not easy with all those small islands. So we left the exercise to Otto and Nina, and to the twins. They found their way back without problems

Then it was time to say goodbye and continue our trip. Azam used a tripod to take this nice farewell picture.

Our next destination was Georgetown in Penang, in 2008 declared a World Heritage Site, because of its historical past. You could spend weeks to explore everything, but we stayed only two nights.

On our way, we passed Kuala Kangsar, the Royal town of the Perak state. Two landmarks, the impressive Ubudiah mosque, a masterpiece by colonial architect A.B. Hubback, completed in 1917 And the Istana Kenangan, the former Royal Palace.

Aric did some droning, here is an aerial view of the mosque. with the present Royal palace in the background and the Royal mausoleum in the left foreground

We had some snacks in an R&R and arrived in the afternoon at the Airbnb booked by Aric. Located in the historical center of Georgetown, it was a nice house in Peranakan style. Left the façade, right the (very) steep stairs, leading to the bedrooms. Notice the traditional screen shielding the ground floor rooms from the entrance

Left the screen as seen from the entrance, and two pictures of the bedrooms. The house was well furnished and comfortable.

Having some refreshments before going out.

During our last stay in Penang, Aric and I had visited the top floors of the Komtar tower, where you can look down 250 meter, through a glass floor. We liked it so much that we wanted to show it to our guests. Here are Xander and Aswin, sitting relaxed on the (very) transparent glass.

Nina had said that she would scream, but she did not. Bravo ;-). I took a photo of our group.

The top floor has a skywalk. Here Aric took a picture of us. I found this a lot less scary. We stayed until after sunset, to take some night pictures.

Dinner at the New World food court. Aric ordered a selection of dished. Without him we should have been at a loss what to order. From top left clockwise: popiah, lobak, vegetarian spaghetti and dumplings.

The next morning. Two brothers having a relaxed cup of coffee in the front yard of their temporary home.

We did a lot of walking that day. First we had a look at some of the famous Zacharevic murals. If you are interested, I wrote several blogs about Penang Mural Art. A lot of copycatting, I am not sure about the top right one, and the lower right is definitely not Zacharevic.

Then we walked to the clan jetties, another landmark of Penang. We selected the Tan Jetty and were a bit disappointed that we could not proceed until the end, from where you have a fantastic view of the harbor front. I could only take a shot through an opening in the gate.

We had a refreshing coconut there

On our way back we passed the famous Khoo Kongsi, the most impressive clan house of Georgetown. We entered and walked around. I have visited this place so many times, I did not take many photos.

After some rest in our Airbnb, we discussed what to do the rest of the day. We decided to take the cable car up Penang Hill and walk around a bit there, having a drink at the Bellevue hotel. This colonial style hotel is owned by a friend of mine and has a spectacular view of Georgetown and Butterworth on the mainland. We stayed until after sunset before taking the cable car down.

The next morning we first had breakfast in the famous Toh Soon cafe. We had tried the day before but found it was closed. Now it was open with a long queue of people waiting. It is famous for its coffee and its toast. I had my favorite eggs on toast.

A trip to Penang is not complete without a visit to the Kek Lok Si temple in Air Hitam. The Buddhist temple is dominated by the huge statue of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.. You can only take a photo of the whole building when you are far away 😉

The construction is not yet complete, you can donate roof tiles. The family bought a tile and wrote NOPAX on it (Nina, Otto, Pascal, Aswin and Xander)

Nina also bought a candle.

There are many temples in the complex. This is the main one.

You can climb the beautiful pagoda, but I had done that already in the past. So I waited at the bottom while the others climbed up.

Before crossing over to the mainland, we visited another temple, the snake temple. Inside(!) the temple and outside in the trees many Wagler’s pit vipers live. When you don’t disturb them, they are harmless (although venomous). During our visit there were only a few snakes inside the temple, sleeping. But many in the trees of the courtyard.

After a simple lunch opposite the snake temple, we crossed the bridge and drove to Kuala Kurau, a fishing village at the mouth (= kuala) of the Kurau river. Years ago we had discovered in this village a nice homestay, located right on the river with a terrace from where we could observe the many activities on the river.

The owner of the homestay, a young man, studied and worked in the UK, but came back to his hometown, missing the rural life. Nicely renovated house.

For dinner the owner suggested a restaurant from where we could enjoy the sunset. In this kind of seafood restaurant you start with looking at the fish tanks to select what you like to eat, Can not be more fresh. The food picture, from top left clockwise: seaweed soup, stingray, mantis shrimps and crab. The bottom right picture shows how people here leave the table after a nice dinner 😉

The restaurant was about1 km from our homestay, as the crow flies, but to reach it by car we had to take a long detour. Crossing the Kurau river we saw the numerous fish farms in the river.

Back in our homestay it was time to relax.

The next morning Aric woke up early to take drone pictures of the river and our homestay (marked with a yellow x). Notice another fish farm in the river.

We had breakfast in the village and walked around. Of course there was a fish market.

On our way to the Hua Seng Kong Temple near Kuala Gula, Aric got a flat tyre, which he changed superfast . The temple is located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by plantations. We were the only visitors.

This Buddhist temple has strong Mahayana and Taoist influences. It has a rustic atmosphere, no exquisite art here. Left the family at one of the entrances. When you kneel on the metal plate, as Nina does, the statue starts pouring holy(?) water.

Very interesting is the depiction of “Hell”, where people are punished for the sins they have committed in their life. A small scale version of the famous Haw Par villa in Singapore.

Here Xander and Aswin are waiting for their judgment. After the punishment everybody gets a cup with the tea of forgetfulness, so they have no memories after being reborn.

It was not far to Taiping where we had lunch in the Old Railway Station. Finally we had Assam Laksa, Aric’s favorite food. He has a special Assam Laksa website. Try to find his verdict about this assam laksa (hint: there are three assam laksa entries for Taiping)

We had booked rooms in the modern Flemington hotel, next to the Taiping :Lake Gardens. After some rest we walked around, we were lucky, Taiping is named the rain town of Malaysia, it rains often in the afternoon, but we had nice weather,

At sunset we watched the colony of egrets, roosting every night at the Lake Gardens. Thousands of them. We also had a look at the rain trees that in recent years have fallen down on the road. The town council took the smart decision to leave them there and make part of the road pedestrian: the Raintree Walk. Now a tourist attraction.

Dinner in the Double Tap, a modern fusion-style restaurant near the Lake Gardens. I had spaghetti with smoked duck, curry leaves and salted egg! Very eatable.

A special feature of Flemington is the infinity swimming pool on the top floor. I had told my family to bring swimwear, they did, but I was actually the only one using the pool haha. We had a buffet breakfast the next morning.

Here is the Raintree Walk during daytime. During evenings and weekends teher can be a happy crowd.

As the “godfather of Malaysian waterfalls”, of course I had to bring my family to a waterfall North of Taiping there is a nice waterfall, not yet discovered by the general public, although easily accessible on a clear trail

The Air Hitam waterfall is an attractive one, from where I took the photo, you can still continue to the bottom of the falls, but that is more tough going. Aric took a drone picture of us.

We could not stay long, because we had a (late) checkout before 1 pm. We had lunch in the Lighthouse restaurant in Matang. The famous Teochew fish porridge (Aric is Teochew himself).

Our last stay was in the Cameron Highlands, two nights in the Lutheran Mission Bungalow. A lot of the Cameron Highlands has lost its charm because of agricultural (over)development, but this bungalow is still relatively unspoilt. Left a drone picture, the ugly gray plastic roofs are approaching. Right the bungalow, built in the 1950s as a retreat for Lutheran missionaries.

How I discovered this bungalow (12 years ago) is too complicated to tell here. Read my blog What Happened to Jim Thompson. I have been there many times and booked three rooms in the main bungalow this time.

For our dinner we went to the Jin Jin Steamboat restaurant in Brinchang. Steamboat is popular in Malaysia and specially in the Cameron Highlands. You get a bowl with hot broth and plates with meat, fish, veggies, mee etc. You prepare your own food. Although it was a weekday, it was very busy, we had to wait for a table. But it was worth it.

Traditional breakfast the next morning..

The view from the garden is still very nice. and there are lots of flowers.

One of the attractions of the Cameron Highlands are the tea plantations.

We visited the BOH Tea Centre Sungai Palas and we were not the only ones. The tea house has a spectacular location, overlooking the tea fields.

Of course we had BOH tea and cakes. I had scones

Pity that the tea factory, where they process the tea leaves, was closed for renovation. Of course we took many pictures of the tea fields.

Another attraction of the Cameron’s are the strawberries, strawberry farms everywhere (with the ugly gray plastic roofs) When you buy Cameron strawberries in the supermarket, they are very sour, but the ones we bought here, were surprisingly sweet.

In the afternoon we hiked to another waterfall, the Parit fall. On the way back it started to rain a bit. We have been very lucky with the weather during the whole trip.

Back in the bungalow Otto and I enjoyed a glass of whisky on the balcony. You have to book for dinner and breakfast in advance. The food was not bad, colonial style: fish and chips for Nina and chicken chop for the others.

The next day we took another route from the CH back to KL. Passing through Raub, a famous place for durians, we stopped at a stall and Aric bought one. For RM 132 , yes durians can be very expensive. But we just had to let our guests taste the “King of Fruits”

I am addicted to durians, judge for yourself what the others though about it.

Our last stop was at the Chamang waterfall, until recently always open without paying tickets, but now closed. It is called development :-(. But at least we saw a nice group of long-tailed macaques along the road.

We did a lot during our 8 days trip ;-). and came back quite exhausted.

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