Wednesday, October 27, 2010

National Zoological Park

Zoo Negara or National Zoological Park is BIG- 110 acres with more than 5000 specimens, crosses over 450 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes. We spent a solid 5 Saturday hours there, from 10:30 am to 3:30 pm, and yet with last one hour "running with a brief glance" through the zoo, chased by exhaustion. The zoo was crowdy on the weekend, but yet to reach to maximum limit of 3000 visitors per day. Limiting the number of visitors is a good practice to spare some privacy for the animals.

Our photo at the main entrance of Zoo Negara.

Our first stop was the exhibit with giraffes. The giraffes were active, moving here and there in the exhibit. Then, we moved to the amphitheatre for the animal show. The main actors were two sealions, a "senior" parrot, a "young" hawk, and a "freshy" binturong.

 Our photo with giraffes. They were active and like to "march" in their exhibit.

Amphitheatre was full with visitors. Make sure that you come early to secure a nice seat. The theatre is nicely shaded.

After the show, we visited Tunku Abdul Rahman Aquarium with tropica fishes, the bee museum (run by private company from Malacca), and many species of animals before we took our lunch at The Wild Cafe. The cafe serves western food with reasonable price (around RM 8 per person). The aquarium was bigger than what we had expected, with good air conditioning, and most of the aquariums were well decorated and maintained. While for the bee museum, it looked more to a shop selling honey than a real museum.

Betty and Kelly at the entrance of the aquarium (upper left), inside the aquarium (upper right), the forest reserve beside the aquarium (lower left), and our photo just ourside the bee museum.

We continued our journey to Reptile House and Amphibian World, Savannah Walk with a really large area of grassland, with zebras, ostriches, sable antelopes, scimatar horned oryx, and white rhino, Ape Centre with Orang Utans, and Insect Zoo with mostly dead specimen.

Our photo at the entrance of Reptile House.

Aldabran Tortoises from Madagascar, the second largest tortoise in the world after the Galapagos Tortoise in Amphibian World (upper left). Camouflaged iguana in it's comfy Reptile House (lower left). Sable antelopes and scimatar horned oryx grazing on grassy plain in Savannah Walk (middle), white rhino with toy (upper right), and orang utan in Ape Centre.

Cute entrance to Insect Zoo (left) with the specimen of tarantula, the largest spider in the world from South America (middle). Butterfly garden in Insect Zoo was lack of butterfly as it was still under development. We hope we can get more butterflies in future.

The Mammal Kingdom is just beside the Insect Zoo, with the exhibits showcasing small and cute raccoons, capybara, sunda loris, and leopard cats, and fierce pumas, leopards, and hyenas. Along the road leading us back to the zoo's entrance, we had the opportunity to say hello to Bengal Tigers and African Lions before we made our final stop at Bird House.

An aftermeal nap in hot lazy afternoon is good. Capybara, the largest rodent from South America knew that well (upper left). A puma was grooming under the shadow of the trees (lower left). Unsettled Bengal Tiger was deciding whether to keep itself dry or to take a refreshing dip in the water.

Aviary in Bird House allowed us to get close to the birds. Used to the regular visits, the storks showed no heed to our appearance.

We were amazed by the biological control of mosquitoes applied by the zoo. We didn't get a single bite during our visit. The food and beverages, as well as the souvenirs available in the zoo were reasonably priced. All the pedestrian path were well shaded and covered by trees.

We really have to put both of our thumbs up to the management of the zoo, Malaysia Zoological Society for the excellent management and the designs of the caged habitats for the animals. It is in fact an excellent zoo if we put into consideration that the zoo is run by a non-governmental organization.

Vivid coloured electricity powered shutters offer quiet and confortable lift minus the air pollution. We need to pay RM 2 for the ride.

The Wild Cafe is one of the F & B stalls offers good and reasonably priced food (left). Souvenirs are available at the shops beside the amphitheatre and at the main entrance.

The lake that sits in the middle of the zoo dotted with free roaming storks, ibises, egrets, swans and pelicans. The birds are well fed and have no intention to leave their sweet home in the zoo.

Malaysia Zoological Society had prepared a great website for Zoo Negara with almost everything that you need to know. So please take a look. Btw, the map for the zoo is provided at the entrance with RM 2 per copy. If you wish to get a free copy, please download and print the map from here.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Cameron Highlands 3

We stayed in Titiwangsa Hotel in Cameron Highlands, RM 129 per night, with complementary breakfast and steamboat dinner. The hotel is located just beside the main road, next to Cameron Highland Golf Club, on the Brinchang side.

The hotel is not big, but clean and tidy. Lobby (left), there is a row of shops on the ground floor of the hotel (second left). The room is quite small and just enough for two. Without air-cond, we had to open the windows at night. We were not disturbed by the noise from the traffic as our room was not facing the main road.

We really appreciated the hotel management to arrange the free steamboat buffet dinner for us, and we hope that this offer will last forever. Dishes such as chicken, fish, squid, and toufu was provided once only (upper left). While the chinese tea, the soup for steamboat, and the veges were unlimited (lower left). Cameron Highlands' steamboat is highly recommended. You can find several steamboat buffet shops at Brinchang, just in case your hotel doesn't provide the meal for you.

We are not strawberry lovers, but cannot avoid been lured to get some strawberry products. So, we visited Strawberry Moment in Brinchang. Located beside Star Regency, the shop serves all sorts of food and beverages with strawberry. We didn't really like the food there. However, a stop at the eatery might be a good experience for its decoration.

Strawberry drink (left) and strawberry pancake. Nice to see, but the taste is far from good.

We visited the Green View Garden, a shop selling local products next to Strawberry Moment- Although the shop keepers claimed the products are made by local resources, we actually found that the information given was not quite precise. The chocolates and the coffee sold in the shop aren't local to Cameron Highlands. We bought some jars of jam (strawberry, blueberry and blackberry) from the shop, which later we found that blueberry and blackberry are imported fruits as well.

Honey and strawberry favoured vinegar from Green View Garden.

If you wish to buy some plants, Arked Peladang (Farmers' Arcade) (left) and Uncle Sam Farm (right) are highly recommended. Both places located side by side, between Brinchang and Kea Farm.

Photo taken in Arked Peladang with various plants and cute flower pots on sale.

To reach Cameron Highlands by car, we have two alternatives- through Tapah and another one, through Simpang Pulai. Advised by our friends, we took the more challenging Tapah's route uphill, and followed Simpang Pulai on our way down. There are two interesting parts of the Tapah's route- the majestic Lata Iskandar Waterfall and the settlement of the indigenous people. These two attractions are just steps away from the main road. Simpang Pulai on the other hand, offers less surprise mostly with green hills cover by primary rainforest.

Latar Iskandar Waterfall, located on the halfway from Tapah to Tanah Rata. You will not miss this waterfall as it can be prominently seen from the main road.

Huts built by indigenous people are scattered along the main road, forming some picturesque scenes, as the one shown in this photo.

One thing to mention, Land Rovers are everywhere in Cameron Highlands. These antiques are still moving on the road! In fact, Cameron Highlands is the place with the highest number of Land Rover over the population on earth. Range Rover should pay some advertising fee to the people there for their profound interest in the vehicles.

If you have the chance to visit Cameron Highlands, don't forget to take photo with this antique vehicle. The one in this photo is older than LS.

Overall, Cameron Highlands is not as cold as we had expected. T-shirt and jeans, with a sweater might be sufficient to keep ourselves warm. The best way of getting around is by car. If you are not driving, then you might consider to take a taxi. We can check with the hotel for the fare.

If you really wish to walk around by foot, here are some information about the distance of the places of interest in Cameron Highlands from Tanah Rata. From Tanah Rata towards Ringlet- Cameron Valley Tea Plantation (4.5 km); Habu Boh Tea Plantation (14 km); Ringlet (12 km). Tanah Rata towards Brinchang: Brinchang (4 km), Kea Farm (6 km), Sungai Palas Boh Tea Plantation (9 km), Mount Brinchang (12 km). Most of the attractions are nearer to Brinchang than Tanah Rata.
There are various types of reasonably priced food on the highlands. So, you can leave cup noodle, snacks, and other instant food at home. The buffet steamboat dinner in Hotel Titiwangsa is RM18.90 per person for non-residents. Lunch at Tanah Rata with Asian dishes and coffee is around RM6 per person.

Among all ticketed entrances, Rose Center and Time Tunnel are the two worth a walk in. The butterfly "center"? Oh, forget about it.

A stop at Bala's Chalet, Smoke House and other historical buildings, which had turned into nicely decorated hotels and guesthouses might be good way to get the idea of how the Cameron Highlands originally looked like.

Night market at Brinchang offers veges and instant food with very low price, only if it's raining. Even a brief rain for an hour around 6 pm will make a significant drop in price. Lastly, the prices for flower trees and other types of plants sell in Cameron Highland is almost the same with the nurseries in Kajang. Anyway, we still bought a flower plant from there, not because of the price, but just wish to keep it as a "souvenir".

Some good websites about Cameron Highlands: Cameron Highlands Online with tourist friendly maps and local tourism companies, Cameron Highlands Destinations with a long list of hotels, and Tripadvisor about the visitors' opinion over the places. Besides, Rinaz blogged about Cameron Highlands as well, take a look!

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Cameron Highlands 2

Our journey to Mount Brinchang was adventurous. The narrow road could only can fit in exactly two cars side by side, with heavy shrubs on the inner side and cliff on the other. We got our driving skill tested. Can you imagine the situation where we faced a 3000 cc Land Rover that had taken up more than half of the narrow road on a 30-degree slope? We got our car seriously scratched. By God's mercy, we reached the highest point that can be reached by road in Peninsular Malaysia!

There is a transmission station owned by Telekom Malaysia on the top of Mount Brinchang. We climbed another 25 feet onto the top of the observation post beside the station. From there, we really enjoyed great view of nature. Down to Tanah Rata, we got our car repaired, with around RM 150. Well, by comparing the price to what we had experienced, worth it!

Mount Brinchang, 2031 meters from sea level, is a place that you should not miss in Cameron Highlands. Anyway, our advice, pay a local tourism company to bring you there with their high powered land cruiser. Please don't you ever bring your new car there. Alternatively, you can hike or jog through Path 1 from Brinchang, which you can save 5 km of journey (Path 1 by jungle track, 3 km from Brinchang, while by road, 8 km).

The road to the top of Peninsular Malaysia, accompanies by ancient jungle.

On the way up to Mount Brinchang, we passed by Boh's Sungai Palas Plantation (left). The road turned hostile after the tea plantation, and getting worse somewhere near to the top of the mount. The effective road signs end after the plantation as well. In case you are at a junction without any sign, our guideline is- always follow the way on your left. The last land mark to the mount is a strawberry and vegetable farm (forgotten the name).

Time Tunnel is a unique place in Cameron Highlands. Small museum we call it, filled with the memories of the past- coins, compact discs, old clocks, table fans, barber sets, pictures, photos, native's weapons and living gadgets, black and white tv, soft drink bottles, bicycles, bikes, and many more. We could learn about the history of Cameron Highlands inside, especially about the British surveyor named William Cameron (not the one in America) who discovered the location of the highlands, and Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King who simply vanished into thin air during his vacation in the highlands.

We really like that place and had stayed for more than an hour. For us, that's a must visit place in Cameron Highlands. Location, between Brinchang and Kea Farm, beside Kok Lim Strawberry Farm. Entrance fees- RM 5 for adult and RM 3 for child, opens 9 am-6 pm daily.

From the outside, the modest look of Time Tunnel is deceptive (left). The first showroom in the mini museum with bicycle, barber chair, television, and posters from old days.

Great, we saw and recognized some of these stuffs here, but not all of them. Old clock, telephone, and table fan (upper left), posters for movies (upper middle), photo of Lee Kwong Yew and Lee Hsien Loong during their visit to Cameron Highlands, long before we were born (upper left), table of multiplication made in 1975 (lower left), a table of soft drink (lower middle), and black and white tv (did you ever see a sphere in shape one?). This museum is lack of labelling. If you come across something that you are really have no idea of what it is, then the only thing that can help you is your imagination.

Another must visit site is Brinchang Night Market. We visited the market twice, Monday and Tuesday night. Although been named as weekend market, the market opens on every Friday, Saturday, public holidays and school holidays.

What does the night market offer? Various food, souvenirs, local crops, plants, toys, etc. We tried strawberries with chocolate, sweet potatoes, strawberry drink and bought some souvenirs on our first visit. The second night, after an hour of rain, we suprisingly found that almost everything was offered with a considerably marked-down price. The falling water was a blessing for us. The list of items that we bought- veges (6 packages RM 10, compared to 4 packages on the first day), sweet potatoes with 1.5 kg sold with 1 kg price, strawberries (RM 6 instead of RM 10 per package), and cherry tomatoes (RM 3 instead of RM 6 per package).

Well packed vegetables, local crops and fruits are all around the night market. Located opposite of Brinchang Police Station, the night market is within walking distance from our hotel. However, we went by our car, as we wanted to avoid half a kilometer walk back to our hotel with a handful of heavy stuff, in the middle of night. The night market spans around 100 meters on the both side of the main road. Heavy traffic within the area is expected.

There were two places in our list that not worth a visit. First, the poorly ran butterfly centre. The centre, just a turn away from Equatorial Hotel, keeps iguanas, snakes, tortoise, and several other reptiles. The most shocking part of the centre- a lot of dead butterflies, outnumbered the living, and the "bodies", just been left on the ground. We really felt sick about the place and pity on the butterflies. With the entrance fee of RM 5 per adult, the "center" is not worth for us to pay a single cent on it.

Boxes in Ee Feng Gu Bee Farm, serve as the houses for bees.

The second on our list- the bee farm. We visited Ee Feng Gu Bee Farm, beside butterfly center. The farm just looked like any other small bee farm, with boxes set up as bee houses, and bees are all over the place. Nope, no dead bees, no annoying buzz, nothing annoying until we discovered Aedes mosquitoes. We hurried away from the farm when we realized we were surrounded by this Dengue vector. We did advice one of the workers there to fog the area. Do you think she will tell her boss about this? If you are really dying to visiting a bee farm, then, please apply insect repellent before you proceed.

For our trip, we stayed in Titiwangsa Hotel with complementary steamboat buffet dinner. For more information about the hotel, food and beverages, and other attractions in Cameron Highlands, please click here to go to our Cameron Highland page 3.

Cameron Highlands 1

Tea, strawberries, vegetables, Land Rovers, together with cold climate make Cameron Highlands a good place for a short break. Three days two nights in Cameron Highlands was just nice for us, and we visited many places, led by Cameron Tourism Handbook, which we bought with RM 2 at our hotel's lobby (it was not free).

Our itinerary- first day, afternoon, way up to Cameron Highlands using Tapah's route, we stopped by at Lata Iskandar Waterfall, Boh and Cameron Valley Tea Plantations, took our buffet steamboat dinner, and visited night market at Brinchang. Second day, Big Red and Healthy strawberry farms, Cactus Valley, butterfly center, bee farm, Boh Sungai Palas Tea Plantation on our way up to Brinchang Hill, and the market at Kea Farm on our way to Rose Center. Then, we visited the night market again for second time. Third day, we visited Farmer's Market (Multicrops Central Market) and Uncle Sam Farm before our descending.

Backing the road that we came from, Boh's Habu plantation expands deep into the territory beyond visitor's reach. Photo was taken at 4:30 pm.

First day, taking Tapah's route, we reached Boh's Tea Plantation at Habu, 5 minutes after we passed by Ringlet.  There, we witnessed one of the most spectacular view of Cameron Highlands- tea trees, spanning endlessly like green mosaic throughout the hillside. Counted on our car's meter, 2 km from the entrance until we reached at the final stop for visitors, where non-authorized passes no more. From there, still the deepest edge of the plantation couldn't be seen. Monday, the factory was closed from visitors. However, we had the chance to take our afternoon tea at Ummph Tea Shop with fresh air and soft sunlight. That was 4:30 pm, 2 hours after we departed from Kampar.

Ummph Tea Shop at Boh's Tea Plantation beside the factory (left), the place we stopped for a short refreshment with Cameronian Gold Blended and Cameronian Green Tea. The factory is closed on Monday.

We passed by a long stretch of vegetable farms patched with different types of vegetables on our way to Habu's Boh Tea Plantation.

Within the highlands, there are two other tea plantations- Cameron Valley Tea Plantation (Cameron Bharat Tea) and Boh's Sungai Palas Tea Plantation. We reached Cameron Valley, sooner than we had expected- 15 minutes after we left Habu. With around 10 more kilometers to reach our hotel at Brinchang, we decided to make a stop. The tea plantation, with a tea house nicely located at the high ground overlooking the whole valley of plantation, attracted more visitors than Habu's. At that tea house, we took milk tea and lemon tea while sitting on the resting area, watching a recorded video about how the tea leaves been plucked, dried, fermented, graded, and lastly, packed. We visited Boh's Sungai Palas on our way up to Gunung Brinchang on second day.

Our photo at the entrance of Cameron Valley Tea Plantation, 1500 meters above the sea level. The plantation located just at the roadside, around 4.5 kilometers away from Tanah Rata. The tea house offers rest and nice bird eye's view over the plantation (below).

Strawberry farms, cactus gardens, vege farms, rose gardens, Time Tunnel, Gunung Brinchang, and the night market were on our list for our second day. Strawberry farms are everywhere around Cameron Highlands. We took our chance to visit two- Big Red Strawberry Farm and Healthy Strawberry Farm. Big Red located just beside Brinchang Town (10 minutes by foot from our Titiwangsa Hotel). By car, the journey took us less than three minutes. The farm is big and well run, with automated watering system planted inside the pot so we don't have to worry about wet and muddy ground. How about Healthy Strawberry Farm? It was poorly run and not attractive at all (comparatively). Locates in the middle of Tanah Rata and Brinchang with a hill to climb, the farm is inferior location wise. Our advice, go for the best one and forget about the rest (unless you have plenty of time, like us).

Photos taken from the Big Red Strawberry Farm.

Big Red is an agro-tourism farm (left). We can see a large area with strawberry plants (middle). Other veges are available as well in the farm. The entrance is free.

Cactus Valley, one of the cactus gardens in Cameron is located just in front of Big Red Strawberry Farm. For us, the garden is more to a commercial nursery than a garden, but still worth a visit. Price? Six to seven cactus for RM 10 (middle and right). That should be irresistible temptation for cactus lovers! We visited several cactus gardens and all of them looked similar, with Cactus Valley is an outstanding one.

We found a very interesting "confusion" in Cameron Highlands, for them, cactus garden= flower garden= nursery, with flowers and cactus for sale. If you visit a cactus garden, you can almost for certain that many other types of flowers will be available there. Same thing happens when you visit a rose garden- you will get a lot of cactus as well, and, almost all of them are for sale (unless there is a "not-for-sale" sign).

Among all the gardens and nursery, Rose Centre at Kea Farm is the best that you should not miss. The garden is built along a layered hillside. Each of the layers exhibits different types of landscapes. The garden, with numerous species of flowering and non-flowering plants, were well maintained by several gardeners. At the top of the hill, we gained very good view over Kea Farm down the valley. It is a must visit place in Cameron Highlands.

Flowers available in the gardens around Cameron Highlands. Flower plants for sale are available in most of the gardens.

Rose Center in Kea Farm is nicely landscaped. Each of the layers are connected by stairs (upper right) and are decorated by various types of flowers.

Our photo at one of the staircase with a lot of flowers around at Kea Farm's Rose Center.

Kea's Farm area, from the high ground at Rose Center.

Our Cameron Highlands trip continued with Mount Brinchang, Time Tunnel, and the Brinchang Night Market. We visited some unpleasant places in Cameron Highlands as well. Visit our Cameron Highland page 2 now for more.

[Cameron Highlands 1][Cameron Highlands 2][Cameron Highlands 3]