Trip Report by Lee August/September 2003
Hello folks. We spent three very pleasant weeks in Penang in Aug/Sep. Our fourth trip now in as many years. I’m not going into a detailed post trip report because it was a rather lazy holiday if you know what I mean. Some of the usual tourist sights were overlooked this time in favour of a few more shops and a bit longer at the pool! However one or two points came out of the front end of our holiday which may be of interest to some readers of this fine website.
We flew Singapore Airlines this time - for no other reason than they were offering London – Changi for £185 (RM1100) return. Something to do with post SARS and terrorism apparently but, what the heck, life is for living not cowering - especially with that inducement! The service was ok, nothing special but our real gripe was with the leg room - or rather the lack of it – it was awfully cramped. I’d be really miffed if I’d paid full price. The aircraft was completely full, certainly no room for terrorists, and no chance of taking over a spare seat or two. In fact the only time one enjoyed a little more room was in the loo! Sorry Malaysia Airlines, - the prodigal son will return!
The last time I was in Singapore was in 1970 and it has certainly changed! It is a beautiful city and I know people crack on about "civil liberties’ issues but how refreshing it was to see an environment that really is litter free. We spent two nights there before taking the train north to Kuala Lumpur. 1st class train compartment, air conditioned and very comfortable. If you have the time it’s much more interesting than flying. Singapore is delightful for a short visit but it is very expensive compared to its neighbour over the causeway. I would say that everything we bought in the Lion City, be it taxis, hotels, food, drink etc, was twice the price you would pay for similar items in Malaysia. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Parkview. Very nice.
In Kuala Lumpur we stayed at the Novotel Century on the way north and it was certainly a better standard than the Federal (next door) where we stayed last year. But on the way back we stayed further up Bukit Bintang at the Regent, which was in a different class completely. A really wonderful hotel, which, with a little haggling, wasn’t a huge amount more.
After three days in KL it was north again by bus to the Cameron Highlands. We used the Kurnia Bistari bus company, which is the only one (I think) that goes all the way up to Tanah Rata. Hardly plush but adequate and a very friendly driver! We stayed at the Bala Chalets, which was certainly a disappointment. Our family suite (which we booked) was a rather damp, claustrophobic, spartan room, which required a climb of around 50 or so steps up the steep hillside to get to. With no air-conditioning and as many ‘visitors’ as could crawl under the door - especially if you had the light on at night - was it good value at RM190 a night? I don’t think so! We moved out after the first night. If I want a budget camping experience, I’ll ask for it and expect to pay an appropriate rate. We visited Boh Tea, strawberry fields, the Acheh village and the reptile and butterfly farm. All good tourist stuff!
Then off with Kurnia again to Penang. The descent from Tanah Rata to Tapah was amazing with some fantastic views over some frightening drops. I’m glad to say that what Kurnia lack in the plush seating department they obviously make up for in brake and steering maintenance! Good for them! Finally, we used NICE buses for the trip back to KL and then on to Singapore. Excellent - especially the double decker on the KL-Singapore leg. Highly recommended if you have the time to go overland.