Malaysia is truly a
multi – Asia – experience
country to visit.
Packed with cultural diversity, from state – to state the colours and traits of a diverse heritage are apparent and visible where ever you turn.
On our journey from Kuala Lumpur -> to Lake Kenyir -> to Kuala Terangganu we venture through;
The big city jungle to the nature wonders of an awe stunning natural Malaysia and experience the traditional ways of eastern Malaysia.
Malaysia consists of 13 states + a federal territory, Kuala Lumpur, which is where we start in the bustle of the capital: Kuala Lumpur.
The city center, or the golden triangle as it’s popularly referred to is a triangle shaped by the points of ‘Jalan Bukit Bintang’, the famous ‘Petronas Twin Towers’ rising next to Suria KLCC shopping center and ‘Petaling Street’, Chinatown.
Jalan ( Street ) Bukit Bintang with its side-and-back streets are where lots of the upscale hotels are adjacent to shopping malls. Almost lined up shoulder to shoulder, making the Bukit Bintang area sort of a reference point to shoot out from.
From KLIA ( Kuala Lumpur International Airport ) you reach Kuala Terangganu in about one hour by domestic flight.
From here, Lake Kenyir is a little over one hours drive.
A real nature wonder
South East Asia’s largest man made lake.
Lake Kenyir is a huge artificial lake with the size of nearly 3 times of Kuala Lumpur city, ( spanning some 38 000 hectares ) with around 340 islands in the lake.
The lake was made in the years 1984-87 when constructing the Jangor dam for a hydro electric power plant, which on maximum output, can produce a great portion of the power demand for all of Malaysia, – some say up to 70%, though this is not verified for certainty, as well as it has the capacity to store and distribute throughout the country.
As the surrounding rivers submerged the valley, mountains or higher peaks became the island landscape of the lake.
The depth vary over seasons from roughly 120 – 140 meters.
Given the rich and diverse organic life flourishing here in this vast area, a few years ago the state of Terangganu decided to preserve and cultivate all organic life; from botanic to fruits to fish & elephant sanctuaries and make large parts into special national park zones.
The purpose is both preservation of the fragile Eco systems, research and educational.
On the banks of the lake is the Kenyir Eco Resort, set in a lush green ambiance and laid out over a large area with large wooden accommodation bungalows on stilts amidst the greenery.
Some bungalows are located on the slope by the riverside with outdoor terrace stunningly overlooking the lake.
Lobby and pool area in two different upper and lower levels and catch a great view of the lake.
The resort fits nicely with the lake and nature ambiance and is a great place to stay and set out on lake adventures from.
Lake view from the resort,
3 island hopping, where each island has its own flora theme
3 island hopping, where each island has its own flora theme
3 Islands Island hopping.
From lake entry point of the Gawi jetty we board a speed boat and cruise out into Lake Kenyir’s Eco tourism park.
On the three island hopping tour we visit the Tropical garden island, Herbal Park island and Orchid Garden island, – soon 2 more islands will open as a butterfly park and bird park.
After 30 min by high speed speedboat cruising in an unsurpassed nature scene, we reach the first stop of the Tropical Garden.
The tropical fruit park consist of 2 islands creating a natural biological landscape for developing and preservation of indigenous rare fruits, not only from Terangganu state but from all over Malaysia.
The park is split up in 5 zones, categorizing the fruits in; Eat fresh, decoration, medicinal, cooking and processing.
Over 1300 trees are planted here in a range of more than 117 species and variations.
Once arriving at the dock entrance for the park there’s a small interactive center for more detailed info and overview of the zones. From here a walkway, with refreshing patios for stops and lake views along the way, take you through the zones.
The Malaysian cherry is the pride of our park curator though as fruits have their ripe season, depending on the time of year you visit is also depending on which fruits to taste.
Next stop is Taman Orchid or the Orchid Garden, portraying Orchid species from all over South East Asia.
The Orchid has – and are bred, in innumerable hybrids and diversities which makes the plant and flower one of the most sought after in the world. The park cover three islands and breed far most of the variations originating from South East Asia, all neatly organized and set up with each its own ‘geographical’ area as: Thailand’s Orchids has own dedicated ground and display next to Malaysia, The Philippines, then Singapore and so on.
The Orchid trail leads you through all the colors and sizes the flower, and over a hanging bridge canopy walk connecting the islands.
Back on the speedboat racing through the lake waters to the last stop for the tour: The Herbal Park.
A myriad of herbal plants are cultivated here with each their own healing qualities. The project is meant for research and studies of the herbs natural medicinal value and in which way they can contribute to the general healthcare.
As we get a tour and information of the different species we learn than some plants are more effective grounded as a powder, some as a liquid intake and under which conditions they grow stronger in their natural habitat.
The famous Malaysian Tongkat Ali plant is one of the parks’ main feature.
The Tongkat Ali is A plant/herb that upon intake increase the blood circulation, and is said to effect and increase a mans’ virility.
The stem grows larger over the years with its effect proportionally becoming stronger with age as well. From the size of a small plant it grows to almost a tree like trunk over the years.
Chunks of aged Tongkat Ali are highly sought after and hence coming with a high market price.
The island has extracted some young Tongkat Ali outtake and made tea for you to have a sip. As it comes in its raw and natural form, before added taste enhancer and sweeteners, the taste can be ‘natural’ bitter.
A 25 years old Tongkat Ali.
( should be able set the night on fire! lol )
Kenyir Elephant Village
Part of the conservation and nature preserve project is the – Kenyir Elephant Village – an ambitious project though still in its early stages but the foundation for something unique has been build already.
The objective of the Village is to translocate and rehabilitate the wild Malaysian Elephants which have had their wild habitat encroached, and at times also been abused by local villagers and poachers. The state of Terangganu has preserved a large swath of land for the project and eventually for many Elephants to live, as natural as possible, breed and populate here. Presently, Oct. 2014, only five elephants whereof 2 are children are in the camp, though as the operational capacities develop the Village is meant for more than 30 elephants to home in the village.
Unfortunately there is a developing need to secure lands for the elephant, cut of from man.
Visitors will be able to experience the elephants habitat from above the ground and with info centers and staff guidance learn more about the life, preservation and future of the elephants.
The tour includes a 30 min. performance in a show arena where the elephants with help from their Mahouts ( personal trainer and caretaker ) display their skills of log pulling as well as their intellectual abilities.
The Village is constructed with five towers covering most of the elephants roaming area. Each tower with the height of a 4 story building and all interconnected by canopy walks.
The construction design has 2 main objectives,
1. For visitors to get a better (over)view of the ground and elephants
2. Not to disturb them and their environment.
It’s a great experience to walk high up under the treetops with the elephants beneath.
As a project within the project, by the mid of 2015 a plan is to have more than 15 huts in treetops for overnight guests.
Back in the Lake Kenyir resort with an evening in tranquility on the room terrace watching the sunset become dusk over the lake, with the sounds of nature as accompaniment.
There are more than 70 species of fish in the lake but the king fish of the river is the Malaysian Mahseer; Kelah. He has a rock star status among all the species here, so much that a dedicated sanctuary for their protection is set up in the Petang River.
It is said that the fish is an delicateness among fish lovers and its price on the open market range up to MYR1000 ( approx. USD320 ) per kilo for live stock and around MYR200 ( approx USD64 ) per kilo in dead weight.
With a price like that on his head the Kelah would be subjected to extinction in no time if not under protection.
The Petang River has 91 streams feeding the main river, where most cascade down over the rocks as fairytale waterfalls from Mount Padang making it a magnificent hiking nature scenery.
A short drive to the Gawi jetty and with an approx. 45 min speedboat cruise we entered a further remote area of the lake also protected as Taman Negara, or National Park.
Just before you enter the the mouth of the Petang River where it merges with the lake there is a control post where we stop, register and get a few guidelines as well as some information about the park for our visit. From here it’s another 5 minutes on the boat, we dock by the river mouth and a trail leading to the Kelah Fish Sanctuary.
The hiking trail from the starting point to the Kelah sanctuary spans about 1.5 km ( count double as you have to return the same way ) and has ups-and-downs from canopy walks to high tower stairways, to narrow nature path passages meandering round trees and rocks and more, but the reward is an unrivalled natural beauty that surrounds you at every step along the river
Are you adventurous?
At the Kelah Sanctuary you have the opportunity to get up close with the star fish, – as in really up close!
A few floats extend a rock patio and form a small fish pool where the Kelah awaits you. It you’re adventurous, you can take off the shoes, dip in the toes and have a refreshing nibbling foot massage by the fishes.
If you’re ‘The Indiana Jones type of adventurer’ you take off as much clothing as you dare ( almost: nudity is not allowed! ) and dive in full body with your new fish friends. It’s a thrilling experience as the fishes rush to you and nibble the body from top to toe.
If you went waterfall exploring on the islands it would be a full day’s program in itself, though our tour takes you to the majestic Lasir Waterfall with a cool cascade drop of more than 500 feet into pools at the lowers levels before merging with the lake.
About 20 min. on the speedboat from the Kelah sanctuary we reach a small dock with a short trail leading upwards a bit before a more flat narrow path leads us onwards to a terrace like platform on the mountainside next to the Lasir waterfall.
Here you are not only close to the fall but also has a great view of the whole scenery where the water comes rushing down the mountain and splashes at the different levels, to finally make a large clear green pool a the bottom.
From here there is also a hanging canopy walk crossing the two mountain sides and as you walk out in the middle you’re exactly in front of the fall, so close that you hear the water roar and feel the cooling breeze of the rush. If you turn here the view goes on with the tributary to the where the stream eventually runs into the lake.
Walking even further to the other side on the bridge there’s a smaller waterfall on the opposite of the mountain.
That was why you should bring swimwear!
Even though there is no fixture to help a climb down to the waterfalls pools, it is possible to gently make your way down the slope and dive into the inviting cool waters.
After some time relaxing in this nature phenomenon we return the same way we came in and join our speedboat back to the Gawi jetty.
Here our van awaits us and we continue with about 1.5 hours drive to the state capital: Kuala Terangganu.
Arriving back at Kuala Terangganu we head straight for the coast and right on the beach, on the fringe of town, we check into the Primula Beach Resort.
Kuala Terangganu and the state of Terangganu is quite remarkable in it’s natural composition. Of course Lake Kenyir in it’s gigantic size and Eco park projects is a true nature wonder, though the coastline of the state of Terangganu has 244 km beach to it.
Some beaches are better than others but the general beach quality is very good; wide and long sandy beaches where it’s easy to find your own spot.
The coastline has open sea waters and is heavy subjected to seasonality. In the high season, April -October, the sea is relatively calm and pleasant though it can seem to have more and stronger waves during the afternoons.
The Sights and sounds of Kuaa Terangganu
On a city tour we start from the waterfront heritage city with about an hour river cruise on the Terangganu river. The state boast of the river being the cleanest river in Malaysia! – we take that as a good sign of how well the state preserve their natural resources.
Back from cruise we visit the Crystal Mosque, also on the waterfront, and close by; the Islamic civilization park.
Driving back to the central part of town, we stop at a traditional Batik factory and see how the design is made and painted into the cloth by a process of several stages, skilled workers use meticulous large pen-tool called ‘Chanting’ and by hand paint bit-by-bit into the final design.
Batik in shirts, sarongs, head scarfs, different kinds of cloth used in households and much more is an essential part of the Terangganu legacy. Just by taking a stroll through town and observe you will experience most of the locals would wear or use Batik in one form or the other.
Campung ( Village ) China or Chinatown is a very central part of town and interesting to see how the Chinese immigrants settled, and now how the Malaysian Chinese has kept their ancestors traditions and culture alive.
Full of Chinese shop houses there are temples, traditional medicine shops and the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants plotted here and there with all kinds of special dishes.
As an artistic feature of Chinatown is the smaller alleys leading to-and from main street are made into storyboards or theme ways, that either tell a story about a man, culture related, events or simply dedicated to a message or topic.
Like, ‘Turtle Alley’ is a narrow path where a group of children has taken the initiative to decorate and highlight the message of preserving the turtles.
At the end of Chinatown is the Central Market ( if you start from the other end! ). A fun place to snoop around for t-shirts and other knick-knacks.
From here we get back on the buss and move on to a smaller brassware shop which still relies on their traditional ways of melting, melding, polishing and forming the designs by an open fireplace and a working bench.
Next stop is the state museum with ‘the inscribed stone’ dating back to 1303 which also serves as a more official significance of the arrival of Islam to Terangganu.
The museum building is made as an enlarged replica of a traditional house on stilts with intricate woodcarving ornaments, wooden stairways and a large pond in front. It’s a very impressive work that greatly compliment the heritage experience.
Last stop on the city tour is to a smaller island ‘Pulau Duyang’ located in a small estuary of the Terangganu river. The island is famous for its old boat building trade dating back for centuries with the trade being handed down from father to son. Still today there are orders coming in for fishing boats crafted by hand.
Though as delivery time becomes more and more important it’s soon expected that the traditional ways here are slowly fading out and taken over by the shipyards nearby.
.. off the coast of Terrangnu are one pearl on a string after the other.
The exotic islands of Perhentian ( a set of two islands ) & Redang are on the top list of renowned dive spots in South East Asia. With their clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, colorful corals and rich marine life – you feel like being in an open aquarium.
Lesser known Lang Kenah & Kapas islands are hidden exotic pearls.
The pier to Pulau ( island ) Redang is in Kuala Terangganu itself and can be easily reached by ferry in just less than two hours.
Puau Perhentian can be reached from Kuala Besut pier which is located about 3 hours drive further north of town.
Pulau Lang Tengah is accessible via the pier of Merang 40 km north of Kuala Terangganu, or about 45 min drive.
Lake Kenyir, Kuala Terangganu & Redang Explorer.
As the journey is a composite of the big city and captivating nature beauty it can easily be tailor made to individual taste and preferences, though to get the full experience an eight days package with all the East Malaysia gems is advisable.
Arrival to -and overnight in Kuala Lumpur.
Kuala Lumpur 1/2 day city tour,
Overnight Kuala Lumpur.
Early morning transfer and flight to Kuala Terangganu.
Pick up in the airport for Lake Kenyir and the Eco Resort.
Afternoon 3 islands, – island hopping.
Overnight Lake Kenyir Eco Resort.
Early morning lake adventure to The Kelah Sanctuary and Lasir Waterfall.
Afternoon return to Kuala Terangganu.
Overnight Kuala Terangganu
Kuala Terangganu 1/2 day city tour,
Afternoon Ferry to Pulau Redang.
Day 6 + 7
Leisure at Pulau Redang,
Early departure from Redang to Kuala Terangganu airport and domestic flight to Kuala Lumpur.
– Connect to international flight.