Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kenyir Lake in Terengganu, Malaysia

Believe it or not, Tasik Kenyir or Lake Kenyir in Terengganu, Malaysia is man-made. It's the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia, created when the Kenyir River was dammed for a hydroelectric power station. The 260 square kilometer lake is home to many species of freshwater fish and wildlife. Plus hill above the water level became 340 small islands creating a spectacular landscape. And that makes it worth a visit!

It's great that the local authorities were able to protect the local fish species which are abundant in the lake. At the visitor's center, there are aquariums where you get to see some of them up close. Around the lake is said to be the oldest tropical rainforest in the world. In fact, it is another gateway to Taman Negara.

To get around, you need to take a speedboat since the lake is really vast and the attractions quite a distance from each other. Some of the islands have been developed into resorts and there are several of them to choose from, perfect getaways for those who want some quiet time with nature.

Some of the islands are being developed into gardens and scientific research centers such as the Kenyir Tropikal Garden (Taman Tropika), a research and development center for tropical fruits, particularly wild and endemic fruits which are in danger of extinction, and the Orchid Garden (Taman Orkid) which features Malaysian and ASEAN orchid species. There are also a Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Herbal ParkRambutan Garden and Heliconia Garden that have been created or are in the works.

There were a good number of orchids in bloom in Taman Orkid which was on several islands connected by bridges. The garden is a research and preservation center for both local and international species.

One of the highlights of a trip to Lake Kenyir is a visit to the Kelah Sanctuary at Sungai Petang (Petang River). The presence of the Kelah fish or Malaysian mahseer (Tor tambroides) is an indicator of excellent ecological balance since they only thrive in rivers that are clean. You actually get to swim with the Kelah fish which rush to you, giving you a soft ticklish nibble. They are so friendly, you can catch them by hand.

Before returning to Kuala Terengganu, we stopped by the Kenyir Elephant Village just in time to watch them take a bath in the river.

How to get to Lake Kenyir in Terengganu
There is a direct bus service from Kuala Lumpur to Lake Kenyir which departs at 9:00 p.m. daily. The Tasik Kenyir Express departs from Hentian Putra. Fare is RM44.10. For more information, you can contact Nikaniaga Sdn. Bhd +60 (9) 8221276 or Hentian Putra Counter +60 (3) 40444276.  

Lake Kenyir is 55km from Kuala Terengganu. A taxi from Kuala Terengganu costs about RM100.00. There are also regular buses to Kuala Berang from Kuala Terengganu (RM8.00 per person). The taxi from Kuala Berang to Lake Kenyir is only RM50.00. But it's best to book a package via travel agency.

At present, there are approximately 70 boat operators providing boat services within the lake. All boats are located at Gawi Jetty. Aside from the regular boats (maximum of 8 people), double deck houseboats are also available (maximum of 12 people).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Malaysia: Redang Island in Terengganu

Definitely one of the best beaches in Malaysia, Redang Island in Terengganu is a popular resort island that is part of the Redang Island Marine Park. The hot summer sun was up and about yesterday when we visited Pulau Redang and neighboring Pulau Pinang. But despite the heat, the blue water was cool and definitely enticing for a swim. It would be a crime if we did not take a dip!

There are many ways to get to Redang Island. You can take a ferry from Syahbandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu (in front of the post office) or the Merang Jetty in Setiu. The ferry from Kuala Terengganu took about an hour and thirty minutes. Berjaya Air offers flights to Redang from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur and a seasonal route from Seletar Airport in Singapore, but these are definitely not cheap.

Our first stop was Pulau Pinang which is popular for snorkeling. The Redang Island Marine Park is composed of four islands, Redang, Pinang, Lima and Ekor Tebu, and all waters two nautical miles from the lines that connect the four islands. Pinang was actually full of tourists but there was much room to snorkel. By late morning, all the groups had left and we had the island to our own.

For lunch, we proceeded to the Laguna Redang Island Resort on Redang Island where we spent the rest of the afternoon. We enjoyed the buffet spread at the resort, lots of choices. The beach in front of the resort was fantastic! The sand was soft and white, and the water was in beautiful hues of blue, I definitely had to jump in!

Next door was another beach where other resorts are located. The beach was lovely as well. Unfortunately, we were not staying overnight. We had proceed back to Kuala Terengganu that afternoon.

I hope I get a chance to stay a bit longer in Redang if I return to Terengganu. But I heard Redang has some competition in Terengganu. The Perhentian Islands also have fantastic white sand beaches. Now to those who've been to both, which is better?

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Malaysia: Khoo Kongsi, Kek Lok Si Temple, Masjid Kapitan Keling & other Penang heritage sites

Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia
I've been a frequent visitor to Penang, Malaysia. A few years before its inscription in the World Heritage List, I had heard much about the city, made my first visit and saw its transformation through the years, both good and bad. Much of the major heritage buildings have been beautifully restored. Fantastic job indeed! But due to the influx of tourists and the eventual increase in economic activity, ordinary heritage, such as shophouses, have been marred by intrusive signage that now cover the fascinating details of these charming buildings.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Recently, I made another visit. And yet Penang never fails to amaze. We started the day at the Kek Lok Si Temple (Temple of Supreme Bliss) in the town of Air Itam. Construction of the temple began in 1890 and still continues today as more structures are added to the complex. The main landmark of the temple is a seven-story pagoda completed in 1930 with a Chinese octagonal base, Thai middle tier design and Burmese crown.

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang, Malaysia
A 30 meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin was added in 2002, and an ornate shelter built over it in 2009. So yes, the temple continues to expand.

St. George's Church, Penang, Malaysia
From Kek Lok Si, we proceeded to historic George Town, which was inscribed in the World Heritage List together with Melaka in 2008. I remember walking down Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, smelling the incense from the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy Temple and flowers from the Hindu garland makers right beside it. A small shrine to Lord Ganesha was just a few meters away. As I walked down the street, I could hear calls to prayer echoing from the minarets of mosques. Further down the street is the Anglican St. George's Church and the Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption just meters away. Indeed, the racial harmony in Penang was evident.

Masjid Kapitan Keling, Penang, Malaysia
At one end of the street is the Kapitan Keling Mosque, built by Indian Muslim traders in the 19th century. Just a stone's throw away was the Mahamariamman Temple

Mahamariamman Temple, Penang, Malaysia
Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia
Penang's prominent families also have their own temples and clan houses. The grandest and most elaborate of these clan associations is the highly-ornamented Khoo Khongsi built in 1906. Also in the area are the Cheah Kongsi and Yap Kongsi

Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh, Penang, Malaysia
Amid all this Chinese architecture is the Masjid Melayu Lebuh Acheh.

Being a British colonial city, one would expect monumental colonial architecture as well, which includes the City Hall, Town Hall, the War Memorial, Fort Cornwallis and the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Clocktower among others.

Penang, Malaysia
There's so much heritage in Penang, a day around will never do justice. And don't ever forget that Penang is a foodie's paradise as well! Here are some Penang dishes you should not miss and traditional trades you might find interesting. Here's more information and notes on how to reach Penang by bus from Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Malaysia: Hawker food in Penang!

Asam Laksa
Hawker food in Penang, Malaysia is superb! Whenever I visit Penang, I always make sure to try out the local flavors.

Char Kway Teow
Char Kway Teow, a stir-fried flat rice noodle dish, is a personal favorite. This one sold near our hotel had prawns and deshelled cockles.

Bak Kut Teh
Another favorite is Bak Kut Teh which literally translates as meat bone tea. The hot broth is a complex mix of pork ribs plus herbs and spices that includes star anise, cinnamon, cloves, dong quai, fennel seeds and garlic.

Penang Asam Laksa
Asam Laksa, specifically Penang Laksa, is quite popular and a dish that is distinctly from Penang. A sour tamarind and fish-based soup, it's main ingredients are shredded mackarel, finely sliced vegetables, chili, thick rice noodles and a sweet prawn paste. I had this delicious bowl at the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre.

Bakkwa Dry Meat
Bakkwa Dry Meat
I enjoyed the Dry Meat or Bakkwa and the Black Pepper Dry Meat they were grilling at the Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. The hawker stalls also sell sweet and spicy sausages and other dried meats.

To end our day, we had Cendol, a shaved ice dessert made with coconut milk, jelly noodles made with rice flour and colored with pandan coloring, red beans, and palm sugar syrup.

We also tried Apom, an Indian coconut pancake filled with coconut meat and bananas. Really good!

Thanks to Doc Gelo for the treat at the Gurney Drive Hawker Center!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Thank you 2013! Where in the world was I last year?

Machu Picchu, Peru
It's fantastic thinking how much of the planet we've covered in the past twelve months. I've actually decided to slow it down a bit this year. But to welcome the New Year, here are highlights from international destinations I visited in 16 countries in 2013. It was quite difficult to remember every city I visited. But thanks to Instagram @ivanhenares, it's all there!

Hanoi, Vietnam: Huc Bridge, Ngoc Son Temple & Hoan Kiem Lake
In January, I led a tour group to Hanoi, Halong Bay and Tam Coc, Vietnam in pleasantly cool weather. Don't we all love that boat ride through the limestone karst formations of Halong Bay?

February saw me back in Thailand with my UP AIT students. We explored Bangkok and visited the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC
I visited a new continent in the Summer of 2013 ― South America! My trip started in the US; stayed in Washington, DC for a week and visited a classmate in Baltimore, MD. Then I was off to Rio de Janeiro with tokayo Ivan Man Dy for our five-week South American adventure.

View of Sugarloaf Mountain & Rio de Janeiro from Cristo Redentor
Rio is a charming city! We made sure to visit its famed urban beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, and took a tram ride up Cristo Redentor where we were afforded a spectacular view of the city, Sugarloaf Mountain and Guanabara Bay.

Plaza Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay
From Rio de Janeiro, we took a bus to São Paolo and then to Porto Alegre before crossing the border to Uruguay. Yes, it's the country famous for legalizing marijuana this year! In Uruguay, we walked the charming streets of Montevideo with its fantastic architecture, ate a sumptuous steak at the local market, and then visited old Colonia del Sacramento before taking a ferry to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Argentine tango in Barrio San Telmo, Buenos Aires
Of course, like every visitor to Buenos Aires, we payed our respects to Evita at the Recoleta Cemetery and enjoyed the street tango at San Telmo.

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesús in Córdoba, Argentina
Estancia de Santa Catalina, Cordoba, Argentina
The next day, we took an overnight bus and visited the Jesuit Block of Cordoba and the estancias of Alta Gracia, Jesús María and Santa Catalina. We found out that Alta Gracia is where Che Guevara grew up. His family house has been converted into a museum.

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Chile
From Cordoba, we took a bus to Mendoza, and from there took another bus that crossed the Andes and the border, and finally to Santiago, Chile. After spending a night in Santiago, we moved to neighboring Valparaiso and spent two nights there before taking a 24-hour bus to San Pedro de Atacama to experience nature at its finest.

Salar de Atacama, Antofagasta, Chile
We visited the altiplano of the Antofagasta Region at the heart of the Atacama Desert and its sites such as Los Flamencos National Reserve, Laguna Miscanti, Laguna Miñiques, Salar de Atacama, Valle de la Luna, Valle de la Muerte and the Géisers de Tatio.

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
After exploring the driest place on the planet, we hopped on another long bus ride to Arica, the border town of Chile, crossed the border by taxi to Tacna, Peru's border town, and took a bus to Arequipa from there.

Cuzco's Plaza de Armas from the Iglesia de San Cristobal
We had a few hours in charming Arequipa before taking off on another long bus ride to Cuzco. We spent several days there, highlighted by our visit to Machu Picchu. Cuzco is such a historic city with a colorful local culture.

Machu Picchiu, Peru
Casa de Pizarro, Palacio de Gobierno del Perú, Lima
So many long-distance bus rides in Peru! And we weren't done yet! From Cuzco, we traveled by bus for a day to the capital Lima. It's Plaza Mayor is stunning! Lest we forget, Lima was the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, which for a time covered most of South America. We also got to watch the changing of the guard at the Government Palace of Peru.

Uros Floating Islands in Puno, Peru
We then took a bus back to Arequipa (yes, another long bus ride) where we hopped on another bus to Puno, the gateway to Lake Titicaca.

Fraternidades Folklóricas de Copacabana in Copacabana, Bolivia to honor of the Señor de la Santa Cruz de Colquepata
From Puno, we crossed the border into Bolivia and stopped by Copacabana where we were lucky to witness the festivities of the Señor de la Santa Cruz de Colquepata. It wasn't easy finding a place to stay though because of the fiesta, and it wasn't cheap! But it was well worth it. We explored Lake Titicaca again the next day.

Palacio de Gobierno / Palacio Quemado in La Paz, Bolivia
Potosí, Bolivia
From Copacabana, we went to La Paz, explored the highest capital city in the world and shopped at the Witches Market before visiting Sucre and Potosi. We made an exciting border crossing into Argentina, a story we'll keep a secret!

Iguazu / Iguaçu Falls in Argentina & Brazil
In Argentina, we visited Salta and from there took a long-distance bus to Iguazu Falls, more than a day if I remember it right. It was raining really hard, but we got to ride a speed boat that took us under one of the falls. We crossed over to the Brazilian side where the better views are, before rushing back to Rio de Janeiro to catch our flight back to the US. I spent the next few days recuperating in DC, except for a one-day visit to the wineries around Aldie, Virginia where I got to enjoy basted pork ribs slow-grilled over hickory wood at a roadside grill. Yum!

Preah Vihear Temple, Cambodia
May ended with a tour to Siem Reap, Cambodia to visit the famed temples of Angkor. When the group left, I hired a car and visited Preah Vihear, a spectacular temple built on top of a mountain. Visit it while you can and before the crowds discover it!

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Bali, Indonesia
In June, I was back in Bali leading a tour group. We visited its famed temples and experienced its colorful culture. After the tour, I visited the Jatiluwih Rice terraces.

Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal
Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
In August, we had another tour group, this time to Nepal. We stopped over at KL before flying to Kathmandu. We visited Nagarkot, Pokhara and Kathmandu Valley. Pokhara was an exciting destination with many activities. I went paragliding for the first time.

Durbar Square, Bhaktapur, Nepal
Aside from Kathmandu, I also got to visit Bhaktapur and Patan. Bhaktapur is my favorite!

Taj Mahal, Agra, India
The month ended with a trip to India hosted by Jet Airways. The group visited New Delhi, Agra and flew to Kashmir. Our itinerary included Srinagar, Gulmarg and Sonamarg. Indeed the place is Heaven on Earth!

Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir, India
Sonamarg, Kashmir, India
I definitely enjoyed the pony ride to the Himalayan glaciers of Kashmir Valley, the great food and the colorful culture of the region. We also got to stay in the luxurious houseboats of Dal Lake.

Khoo Kongsi, Penang, Malaysia
In September, I led UP AIT students and staff to a food and heritage experience in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Everyone was still talking about the food when we got back!

Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, Thailand
We attended the 2013 Annual Meeting of the ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Committee in Sukhothai and Chiang Mai, Thailand in October. As part of a workshop to help Sukhothai with its tourism master plan, I biked thirty kilometers through rural areas, to the Si Satchanalai Historical Park. I haven't biked in a long while, but I survived that one!

Luang Prabang, Laos
After the meeting, we explored Chiang Rai, crossed the river border at Chiang Kong, Thailand to Houai Xai. Laos. And from there, it was a grueling overnight bus to Luang Prabang, the old royal capital. Luang Prabang is still as charming as every with its colorful temples, colonial architecture and delicious street food!

Pha That Luang, Vientiane, Laos
I got explore Vientiane, met up with my SSEAYP friends and explored the city's temples, before going by land to Udon Thani for my flight back to Bangkok.

Sanam Chandra Palace, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand
I could not believe it, but I was back in Bangkok, and stranded for a week in November, experiencing my first flight cancelation ever! So I spent my time working (and eating). My only out of town trip was a visit to Nakhon Pathom's Phra Pathom Chedi and Sanam Chandra Palace.

Cishou Pagoda, Jinshan Temple, Zhenjiang, China
My last international trip for the year was to China to attend the Asia 21 Young Leaders Summit in Zhenjiang. But because of the smog problem in Shanghai, I had to deal with two flight cancelations (I was on a roll), rerouting to Xiamen were I took a flight to Shanghai, and a bullet train to Zhenjiang before arriving at the summit.

The Bund, Shanghai, China
I went around Shanghai for a day (I was planning to see Suzhou but the smog was bad) before flying back to Manila.

So there! That was 2013! Happy New Year to all! Here are more photos from my 2013 trips. Next up is my post for Philippine destinations.

Do you want to see last year's? Now where in the world was I in 2012?

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