Kuala Tahan, Malaysia
Woke up to find the water was turned off at the hostel I was staying at, so no shower for me today. I then packed my bags and walked down to the floating restaurant where NKS travel agency is located, requested a bus ticket, but the bus was full, so I took the boat back to Kuala Tembeling jetty. Luckily the journey down river was only two hours instead of the three it took to move up river; also, it was cloudy, so much of the sun’s harm was shielded from us sensitive skin types. On the way back, the most interesting thing we saw was a group of water buffalo on both sides of the river, with some standing on the shore, but most were standing in the water. Also, our boat did get stuck in the shallow river bottom, just like during the journey to Kuala Tahan, though this time it happened in another location; the boat operator just reversed the engine while his assistant pushed us out; then he turned the boat around, and went all the way through the shallow section in reverse; other than that, the boat scrapped the tops of some rocks on several occasions where there were rapids, but the hull remained intact. Finally we reached the jetty and I waited around for about a half hour before the bus traveling to Cameron Highlands arrived. I loaded up on to the mini-bus (luckily one seat was available – I was the only one at the jetty waiting for this particular bus) and I met up with the Italian couple I had traveled with on the bus from Kuala Lumpur two days ago; we had all done the jungle trek with canopy walk and the visit to the Orang Asli village, but they also did the night walk and whitewater rapids (their verdict: not worth it – the night walk doesn’t offer much to see and the whitewater rapids was just a motorized boat trip through the rather weak rapids, no different than a water ride at an amusement park where everyone just gets wet). The mini-bus drove west on meandering roads through mountainous forests to Cameron Highlands; we passed date palm plantations and (near Cameron Highlands) a tea plantation situated in the valley on the mountain sides (thick patches of green close together like broken stripes) – it looked beautiful, but I did not get an opportunity to take any pictures, luckily the internet exists and anyone who searches for it will find it.
Once the mini-bus stopped in Cameron Highlands (which gained its name from Sir William Cameron who surveyed the area in 1885 for the British colonial government; it is also an old tourist spot used for people to escape the heat in the lowlands and to enjoy the natural and unnatural flora (i.e. the tea plantations)), I exited and walked to the nearest bus terminal, which ended up being run by one company and their bus to Ipoh (my destination; pronounced “e-poe”, as if it were some electronic macabre poet from the romantic era) had left forty minutes ago, so they directed me to the main bus terminal, which I then swiftly proceeded to. At the main bus station, I found the next and only available bus to Ipoh today was at 18:00 (it was 15:10); so I paid for my ticket and then walked across the street to a cafe to wait out the next nearly three hours. I ordered maggi goreng, a special blended tea (blended with tea, milk, and sugar), a plain hot tea made from the leaves grown locally in Cameron Highlands (I had to at least try their tea while I was here), and a black coffee. I also used the cafe’s wireless internet to research lodging and activities in Ipoh.
Finally it came time to depart the cafe and board the bus to Ipoh. After taking my seat, we were soon on our way through some seriously curving roads down the mountainside; actually, the entire journey was on roads like that until we reached Ipoh. The bus reached its disembarkation terminal shortly after 20:00 and I walked in to the old city center near the Sungai Kinta (“Kinta River”); I though I knew where I was and started heading south – I think – to reach the hotel I wished to stay at. I walked past the old buildings, the government administration buildings, and an intersection I could not locate on the map on my iPhone; at this point it began to rain and the lightning storm I had been watching moved in closer; I took shelter near some open restaurant stalls that at least had a roof above; I then saw a table of four local guys and asked them where I was, showing the map on my iPhone; well, they had no clue where we were at on my map of Ipoh; they finally guessed I was by the golf course near the airport and that turned out to be completely wrong (I was on the other end of town). The rain let up a little bit, so I continued on my inner-city walkabout, it wasn’t long before I reached a nice hotel (too nice for my budget) near the river and I had the security guard call a taxi for me since the rain showed no sign of letting up. The taxi arrived and we drove through many complicated and twisted roads until we finally arrived at my destination (it turned out I was walking north instead of south; I had mistakenly thought that the old city center was on the east side of the river – based on the dense road layout on my map). Thankfully the hotel still had vacancies and I checked in; shortly after I grabbed some snacks and drinks at a nearby mini-mart and then took a much needed shower before eventually succumbing to sweet, sweet slumber.