My plans are generally random, get weird ideas and then love making them happen.
29th 2018 May was a holiday in Singapore. I was planning to join my family for a 10 day trip to Delhi, Jim Corbett national park, Nainital and Haridwar in India. However Vish did not have any leaves. We both have always wanted to go to Jim Corbett together so I came up with an exchange offer … how about a road trip to Malaysia, one day leave on Monday and yo we have 4 days trip. From last 2 years a road trip from Singapore was pending.I was already feeling the excitement building up and as hoped for, Vish managed his leave. The crazy planning started..
Car rental from Singapore was expensive and hence we planned to book one from Johor Bahru, Malaysia. We booked the Group A car, proton saga an automatic car local to Malaysia for four days. We were hoping to pick up the car at 9:00 AM on 26th May.The cost was around 880 MYR.
To travel to Johor there are a lot of options available. We have taxis from Bugis to Johor city centre which charges $12 per person, or $48 for the entire car. There are also buses available from Changi airport or the Golden Mile Complex. However since we did not want to struggle much and had less time for planning, we booked a point to point taxi service with Limousine Taxi service. They charged us $100, a little expensive but they would pick us up from out home in Singapore and drop us to the Avis car rental in Johor.
Vish loves driving, he is in his element when he is driving, I knew this from our 10 days Scotland trip. I had full confidence that we would easily be able to cover the 1400 Kms which we had planned for in our 4 day trip.
Friday was busy, as musts for a road trip is a few things :
Lots of food, easy to eat while driving and filling so that we don’t have to take frequent stops and also because eating and driving is fun.
Lots of music, for us mainly Bollywood numbers with nice beats and lyrics to keep you upbeat and awake
Lots of charge, for your phone, navigation devices etc.
We charged up our speakers, phones and ipods and also downloaded apps like ganna.com( for songs) and WAZE( The best navigation app for Malaysia) , HERE offline maps etc. For food we cooked stuffed paranthas and made sandwiches. Kept some indian snacks and biscuits. All packed and very excited for the trip, we went for a nice rested sleep.
26th May Saturday:
At 7 : 00 AM we started from our home to Johor Bahru, our driver Sunny was very good and drove wonderfully cutting traffic( and some rules 😉 to ensure we are not held up anywhere. I was not aware but the immigration happens while you are seated in the car and there are long car queues for the same. the first check happens at Singapore ( around woodlands checkpoint) and after 10 mins while entering Johor. Since our driver was super good we reached to Avis car rental at around 8:30 AM itself. One more important thing which you need for a road trip in Malaysia is a Touch N Go card which helps you pay at tolls as there are no cash counters. As soon as you pass the immigration counter at JB, there are a few booths from where you can buy TouchNGo .We bought one and topped it with 200 MYR.
At Avis which opens at 8:00 AM , we paid for our car, they take a deposit of 500MYR above the cost of the rental. You need to sign the terms and conditions and also the car comes with full loaded petrol, however we need to return in the same condition. We were hoping we could get Group B car, but they only have limited number of options depending on the booking. We could not change at the last moment. We dropped our luggage and went to have our breakfast. There was a food court called Zam Zam which had cheap and nice breakfast. We also went to the mini mart just opposite to the Avis office at Menara Zurich to buy water and Malaysian sim card to have connectivity on the road. We bought HOTLINK maxis cards and topped up with 10 MYR which gave us enough GB for the trip.
All set , we took the proton saga, took a video of the car condition and the miles and started for our first destination to Avillion Admiral Cove resort at Port Dickson. A distance of appx 300 Km and 3hr45 in travel time. Inside Johor itself we took a wrong turn and had to travel extra 5 mins to take the highway which would take us to Port Dickson. The WAZE app tells you the speed limits, and police cars on the road, alerts you of speed traps and cars halted on road shoulders. That way it is a very helpful app. The proton saga car does not have an outlet for aux cable or connecting iPods. They do not have bluetooth also 🙁 we were kind of stuck on how to play music, but thankfully we had a small portable speaker which could last for 3-4 hours. We connected the phone to the speaker, started with the most happening song at the moment called Tareefa and we were set. Loud and nice music to keep us happy and charged through the trip.
The roads actually take you on the highway to Kuala Lumpur and around 70 Kms before the city you take a turn to enter the Port Dickson highway There are a number of tolls on the way and the first one was within 30 mins and it was fun to use the TouchNGo for the first time. The screen tells you the amount left on your cards. It can be topped up at many Petronas (Petrol) outlets. Port dickson is a beach town with the Lexis hibiscus and Avillion resort being the best ones , with amazing choices of water villas. They are quite expensive for a trip for which the main focus is on the road trip. Our room for the night costed around $61 and the hotel was very nice. There was a small lagoon and the sea was just 2 mins away. There were a lot of water sports etc which can be done at the resort as well. The room was very spacious and was quite good. Breakfast was included.
While on the road we realized that the washroom in a Petronas station were better than the ones in the rest area. Most of the washroom do not have tissues and we need to carry our own. You have boards letting you know when is the next Rehat ( rest) areas coming up. We took one small bathroom break and one longer food break at a rest area near Pagoh. A new interesting thing for us was topping up the petrol. We had done it ourselves a few times in Scotland but find it always fun to do it. You pay for petrol at the mini marts and then fill up the gas. We did take around 50MYR petrol first day before reaching Port Dickson.
The sandwiches we had in the car as breakfast. In the rest areas vegetarian food is difficult so I ate more of the food we had got and Vish relished a KFC.One more thing we had been advised was never to park the car in an area where there are a lot of motor bikes as theft from the car is very common. Also we kept all our luggage in the boot of the car and nothing visible form the car windows. We carried the valuables like phones, wallets and passports every time both of us got down. Else we took turns and one of us stayed in the car.
When we were near our hotel around 1: 30 PM , we decide to visit the ostrich park. We had never seen ostriches and the farms had a lot of ostriches to see. They are beautiful creatures with long necks and thin strong legs. with a big oval tummy. They smile at you quite nicely 🙂 As usual i was a little scared to go too close, but Vish took pictures with Ostrich as they were friends. There are quite a few animals, like lots of rabbits, turkeys, chicken, one horse and guinea pigs. You could hold birds or buy food for the animals and feed them. A very child friendly place to spend an hours time.
From there we went to our hotel. There is a tourism tax of 10 MYR which every hotel charges for each night, and also every hotel takes some deposit amount, either cash or block on your credit card. We roamed about a little, finished the home-made paranthas for lunch and had the most relaxed sleep. We were supposed to wake up at 7 PM at night and go for a drive around, however when we woke up it was 9:15 PM. We went looking for food, and in the hotel itself found some options and ate dinner. Once dinner was done we strolled around the lagoon, it was so windy , that we sat there for an hour just talking and spending time. It felt that we had not done that in a long time. Just thinking some random thoughts , having random discussions . It was super relaxing. Looking forward to Cameron Highlands!
Next day we could start at around 10 AM, so had some time. Woke up , had an average but filling breakfast, checked out and left for Cameron Highlands, drive of around 4hr 28 mins and distance of 315 Kms. Also we were informed that the route via Simpang Pulai was better and not from Tanah Rata. It was some 15 mins slower route but the roads were wider and smoother. What then we started with the song ‘Tareefa” and started our journey. You feel so liberated when you drive, as a child as well I always wanted to learn to drive. I know how to drive but have not driven in many days. Only Vish was driving but the feeling is still awesome. We took a break around after 2 hours for a KFC for Vish and I bought a few donuts. In Cameron Highlands we had read about two hotels/resorts which are very famous, Cameron Highlands resort and SmokeHouse hotel, however both of them were fully booked over the weekend, and they are at lower heights. I am very fond of the cold weather and wanted to stay as high as possible. The highest point in Cameron is Brinchang and we booked the Copthorne hotel there.
I am also used to finding the top 10 things to do in a place, and that is how I had come across the Ostrich Farm in Port Dickson. In Cameron highlands also I had a few things which I really wanted to do. One of them was the Mossy Forest. The Mossy forest is located at the top of Gunung Brinchang , one of the highest peaks in the area. There is a thick layer of Moss which covers all the trees and have a sweeping view of surroundings and valley below. There is a point from where the 6km trek starts and even though the journey is very steep and takes time , I am sure it is worth it. If you have booked a nice car, made for steep roads(not our proton saga) you can actually take your car to the top of the mountain as well, the roads are very narrow and there is only one lane for the to and fro traffic. A 4X4 car would be better for the hair pin turns. There are tour which one can book as well. Unfortunately we could not go to the Mossy forest but should have.
The last 90 Kms to our hotel was the twisted road of the mountains, we switched off the air conditioner in the car and felt the fresh cool air,which made our day. In Singapore everything is super nice but there is no weather change generally.It does not reach the low temperatures and you hardly feel the chill in the air. I miss that weather, always have been love with the slight cold weather, my body reacts beautifully to the cool temperatures. The turns , all the cars one after the other , windows rolled down and fresh air on the skin and reaching greater heights. It was fabulous, reminded me of all the Darjeeling trips we had taken as a child.
At one point on the road, there was just floating clouds even on the roads in front of us and all around. We could see them floating on top of mountains and it was sight to behold. Really magical and hilly. Hills have another charm which the beaches cannot compare to. Feeling very happy we made to our hotel and reached by 3:00 PM. We checked, our room was on the 13th floor and had a beautiful view. We rested for a while , and planned to go sightseeing.
BOH tea plantation is one of the most beautiful sites of the area and a trip to Cameron Highlands without a visit to it is not complete. The cafe closes at 5:00 PM and is also closed on Monday , so we had to make it that day itself. We started and made it in the knick of time. We placed the order at 5:02 actually but were served, ordered one big pot of earl grey tea, we enjoyed the view from the cafe which had a spread of the entire tea plantation. Very beautiful. After some photos and tea and we walked down to the plantation and walked around. You can actually spend some great time if you reach early and enjoy some cookies and tea overlooking the plantation.
Vish was in high energy and wanted to see a lot of things today itself, not goes with his character, later I realized he want to complete my 10 things list so that he could chill tomorrow 🙂 We went to the Cactus garden after that, the lady at the counter was very rude and they charged 20 MYR for entry. It was a beautiful garden though, lots of stairs, but beautifully maintained cactus and so many varieties, there were also some flowers like lavender and roses, a nice spot to visit.
Next we went to the BIG RED Strawberry farm, oh what a lovely place. You can pick your own strawberries, but we did not do it. A very nice place, vibrant with red colors and nice music playing in the background, looked liked the cafes served amazing strawberry dishes as well, ice creams, yoghurt, drinks, fresh fruits and cakes etc. However by the time we had reached it was closed, but the plantation was amazing. It was water plantation and they had a lots of greens and strawberries.All these places were very child friendly and had a lot of things for the kids to enjoy.
Next we drove around and then went to Honey Bee farm, but did not enjoy this one. The bees were enclosed in small boxes and there was nobody to guide or help inform how the farming happens etc, not very exciting.There were a lot of shops offering fresh honey and small souvenirs. We did not buy anything and were tired by then and decided to go eat and drink a little. We went to a small joint near our hotel, looked local and thankfully had some vegetarian stuff. Ordered a Mee Goreng, fried maggi, some steam rice , and stir fry vegetables in garlic sauce and some beers. It was an amazing time, though the service was very slow reminding you the slow and peaceful life of the hills, people take their own time and are not in rush like in big cities. We had jackets in the car which was parked in the hotel parking. Sitting there we started feeling extra cold, and went to get the jackets and saw the most beautiful moon in the sky. A very happy and cool 😉 day.
Next day, we had nothing much to do and planned to chill around. Had a long breakfast. The breakfast was average from a vegetarian point of view. After than we had planned to go to a water cress cafe which has some very nice views, but before we covered the Lavender gardens. It was very beautiful and again the view was amazing, we ate strawberry yoghurt which was suber yummy, even though the strawberries were a little sour. Spend an hour and half in that area enjoying ourselves, walking around, taking pictures. Then we made our way to Water Cress cafe, but it only offered steamboats, and some vegetarian combo. We ordered very skeptical about the food, but surprisingly the food was awesome, the spicy soup and loves stir fried tofu.
We had a long journey the next day as we had to drive from Cameron Highlands to Johor Bahru , where we had a car booked at 5:00 PM to take us to Singapore. It was close to 7-8 hours of drive but I was sure Vish would enjoy it and we would reach earlier than expected. However we had to stock up, so we went to buy cheese and bread and filled up the tank. We drove a little towards Tanah Rata to Tapah to see how the roads were and to look for a Indian restaurant, we found one but it was not open yet. After stocking up , we had a few snacks and went for a massage, foot massage. This place was amazing called foot reflexology, pure heaven, we took a 70 min foot and shoulder massage and the ladies were super good. They were very talkative, but the massage was just superb. Really relaxed and light on our foot, literally , we went to the hotel to sleep by 10 as we had to start by 6:00 AM next morning.
We woke up around 5:00 AM and got ready, after a hot bath, we also made cheese sandwiches and packed them for the journey, it was dark and cold outside, sunrise would happen around 7:00 AM and around 6:10 AM we had started the long journey back. It was surreal and very nice experience to drive in the dawn with the darkness giving way to light and going to down the hair pin turns. We took the same route back from Simpang Pulai, played some nice slow numbers.Around 7:10 AM, we actually crossed the place with clouds on the roads and hills behind and it was lighted as sunrise had just happened. It was amazing.
Vish was in a momentum and wanted to cross the Kuala Lumpur traffic and so we kept driving. At around 8:30 I started feeling hungry and tired and wanted to stop for a break, but we were around 20 mins from crossing the KL traffic and from the next Rehat. At around 9 we stopped finally!. We were a little exhausted and looked forward to the break. At the Petronas mini mart there was this amazing cappuccino machine and I had one of the nicest coffees. It was what I needed, along with one of the cheese sandwiches. Vish had one of the spiciest available cuppa noodles and we love dour breakfast and break. We were almost halfway to our destination already.
“Tareefa” and next two hours of driving at almost speeds of 140 Kms per hour, my eyes on the Waze app looking for speed traps etc and songs playing in the speaker. The speaker was a great help and actually lasted well for our trip. We took a quicker break around 12:00 PM at KFC, where we sat for more than hour, resting ourselves and talking. I was in a chit chatting mood and was sharing some funny stories about my family and our trips. Since we were very close to our destination we planned to go to the Johor Bahru mall when we reach as it would be around 3:00 PM and we would have two hours before our pick up. At around 2: 45 we were at the mall after some 15 mins of traffic within the city. We roamed about but it was not interesting at all. So we planned to refill the car tank , eat something at ZAM ZAM and drop the car.
At exactly 5PM, our driver came to pick us up and , we had just finished the car parking, keys dropping at Avis( No one was there in the office and we just had to drop the keys in the drop box, the deposit money would be refunded within 2 weeks) and quick dinner and freshening up. We were very worried seeing the queues at the immigration and thought we would reach Singapore very late but by 6:30 we were at our home in Singapore, exhausted but very happy with our trip!! There are surely going to be more road trips and we have to plan the India one soon!! Stay tuned.
- Avis Car Rental, Menara Zurich, Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
- Limousine Taxi service.
- Avillion Admiral Cove, Port Dickson.
- Copthorne Hotel,Brinchang,Cameron Higlands.
Please leave comments and feedbacks on how to improve my writing. Also please drop in any questions about any trips or information you would like in planning you trip.
Looking forward to hear from you 🙂