Going Places

Pantai Batu Burok, Terengganu

Jumaat, 6 November 2015.



Visiting Zoo Negara

My husband loves animals in a way that is very dissimilar to mine, if there’s any left of that kind of love in me. I was surprised to discover that when we got married, because really, how on earth could anyone watch Natgeo Wild, or Natgeo all day long and remember all those little trivia about a certain species of animal? Just the other day I had to listen to his ‘story’ about orca, coming from the documentary he downloaded and watched… alone, of course.

Because of his weird interest, naturally Zoo Negara is a place he likes to visit. But he has refused to visit much sooner, and only recently I managed to get him to agree to make the trip. Isa is already three (and worryingly shows lack of interest in animals and nature for that matter) and we just can’t afford to wait for Khadijah to grow up to make it the most perfect time to visit the zoo. She’s shown her aptitude for going out and behaving nicely so why not now before our classes begin?

In case you are not aware, as Zoo Negara receives two pandas from China on a loan – so if you’d like to see them (for 20 minutes only) you may pay an extra RM22 for adult and RM11 for children on top of the usual fee, which is RM32 per adult and RM11 per child. We opted out of seeing the pandas, partly because I have no interest whatsoever in them, and my husband can be quite calculative himself despite his interest (“RM 22 for 20 minutes? That’s like RM 1 per minute, so no way!”).

And now I can say that lucky we didn’t pay that much, because kids will always, always be kids. Khadijah became really sleepy after half an hour being in the zoo and later slept peacefully in her stroller, and Isa  just could not be bothered with the animals after the first few. By the time we reached the safari he’s already crying for milk.  We purposely didn’t bring his bottle with us thinking that he’d enjoy seeing the animals much that he’d forget the bottle – but that didn’t happen apparently.

Because we the stroller was still occupied by his sleeping sister, my husband had to carry Isa on his back for some times – which was a better option that dragging him around. And just as a note for the future Isa who may be reading this: you cried and refused to see the tiger, fearing that it may eat you alive.

Overall, I think the Zoo has improved a lot since I last visited it 6 years ago. It is definitely children-friendly, with the trams ready for you should you just lose your legs and energy along the way. We paid RM3/person for a half-way trip back to the entrance, and I’d say the ride, despite it being quite short, was worth it given at our condition that time: a preschooler throwing tantrum, and a baby who just woke up and refused to stay quiet in the stroller.

Some notes:

  • Bring your own food and have a little picnic. There are many nicely placed benches overlooking the animals. We had our brunch next to the monkeys, for your info. Nice view nevertheless.
  • The animal show was not that impressive, at least compared to the one we saw at Zoo Melaka (Malacca Zoo) a couple of years back.
  • The Zoo photographers may usher you to the photo booth and snap some photos of you. We had ours printed before we left. We paid RM30 for the photo – the price for the one and only decent family photo so far.
  • Go early if you must. The zoo opens at 9 AM, and it is just the right time to be there. We had our meals, saw perhaps a quarter of the zoo, before relaxing a bit while watching the animal show at 11 AM. Plan your visit wisely.
  • The zoo also offers annual membership for children at the price of RM30/year. It is tempting for me to make a project for Isa based on that, but since the accompanying adult must pay the full price…I’ll pass. Even if the Zoo is less than 20 minutes away from my house.
  • There’s no more KFC within the zoo area. Yes, that iconic KFC is gone.

Cameron Highlands with a Toddler

I could feel that my husband was craving for another getaway when he asked me to check whether there would be another destination we’d like to go to during Air Asia was having a massive mark down. Then we realised that we only have a short window of time still opened now that I am in my second trimester. Come third trimester I’d be too heavy to be adventurous, and most airlines won’t accept me as their passenger. Then come the baby – and yeah, I don’t fancy travelling with a baby less than six month old.

If we were to go somewhere now, we were left with less choices. It’s the end of the year, and most beaches on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia and in Borneo are no longer perfect for visiting with the monsoon coming.

So we were left with inland vacation – the only place I could think of was Cameron Highlands, which I have visited at least twice, and my husband probably none. Perfect, I thought!

Is Cameron Highlands suitable for toddlers?

Yes! Plenty of things to do and none of them really takes a long time before you finish looking at everything (save you from having a toddler throwing tantrums out of boredom). However, some of the places are not buggy/stroller-friendly. Suitable for toddlers who are in the phase of learning about animals, and perhaps (this is my assumption) for little girls who may have started to appreciate pretty flowers – my son doesn’t (as much as I hoped).

How should we schedule our trip?

I’ll skip the part on how to get there, though if you can, please use the route from Simpang Pulai instead of Tapah, especially if you are pregnant in your first trimester i.e. bound to feel nauseous. It is a more comfortable route to use if you have a bunch of screaming children on your back seats.

As my travelling principle revolves around being Free & Easy and making sure Isa is in his best mood (i.e. he has his nap comfortably and most importantly enough), my itinerary was pretty relaxed. We stayed there for three nights, and with the weather being a bit wet (it’s nearly rainy season), we got to do everything I planned for. Well, almost. I’ll explain later.  What I should have done better was to not over estimate the time needed to enjoy each places visited. As I have said before, most places we went to don’t require more than 2 hours. But, here is the big BUT, during weekends the traffic in Cameron Highlands is extremely terrible. It took us one hour to move less than 4 km. Weekdays may be a better option.

My itinerary looks like this:

Day 1: 

  • Left KL around 10:00 AM, and arrived at Simpang Pulai (check point where we met my parents) for lunch around 1:30PM
  • Reached Hotel Copthorne around 3 PM, checked-in and rest.
  • After the pregnant mom has her rest, we went out to the Night Market at Brinchang little town.

Day 2:

  • Left hotel after breakfast for the Big Red Strawberry Farm at Brinchang. Excused ourselves from visiting the Cactus farm nearby though.
  • Went to Sg Palas BOH Tea Plantation. It rained heavily so we had our short mid day tea break over there before heading back to the hotel.
  • Left Isa with my parents to get lunch for them from KFC. Reached hotel only at 3:30 PM
  • Rest for the rest of the day because it rained heavily.

Day 3:

  • Left hotel after breakfast for the Lavender Garden at Tringkap.
  • Went to Ee Feng Gu Bee Farm at Kea Farm after that.
  • Had lunch at Tanah Rata.
  • Went back to Hotel through massive traffic jam.
  • Went out to Brinchang ‘town’ for dinner. Stopped by a roadside market on the way back to the hotel.

Day 4:

  • Left hotel after breakfast for Rose Centre at Kea Farm.
  • Did some shopping at Kea Farm market.
  • Checked-out and left Cameron Highlands.

Best places to stay in Cameron Highlands?

If you are coming from Tapah, towards the highest reachable place i.e. Kea Farm, you will pass through Ringlet first, then Tanah Rata, then Kea Farm. If you are coming from Simpang Pulai, upon climbing upwards (in a car, of course), you will see Blue Valley, then Kg. Raja, then further uphill would be Tringkap, before you reach Kea Farm.

We stayed at Kea Farm (where the Copthorne Hotel is), and I am pretty happy with the choice given that it has better view (not saying the best view of the farms, it’s subjective) because I don’t prefer an accommodation in a town, though that will make it easier to find good places to eat. Those nearby the Sultan Ahmad Shah Golf Club would offer reasonably good view of nature too, but I suspect the price tags are not any cheaper.

If you don’t prefer breakfasts at the hotel, then perhaps a better choice would be any accommodation at Brinchang or Tanah Rata where you’d have better access to restaurants, food courts and stalls.

I will continue with posts on specific places we visited in Cameron Highlands soon!


Sunrise at Cameron Highlands

I sprinted to finish off my first assignment as a Master student yesterday, and submitted it as early as I could and we began our journey to Cameron Highlands. It is one of the places you’ll go in Malaysia if you miss the chilling European weather (but that’s not my reason) – it’s practically 17 degree Celsius last evening, and with light shower it felt much colder.

My parents are with us – so happy to have them around. I remember those days, even with limited amount of money they had, they would still make the effort to bring us somewhere special whenever I was about to sit for big, important exams.

This morning I was greeted by this view from our room on the 10th floor of the hotel, somewhere 1620m above the sea level.


A Day at the National Science Centre

Both of us parents have been postponing our plan to visit the National Science Centre for a long, long time. I was aware that the 1001 Muslim Invention exhibition began last year at the Centre, but only after I checked again the website that I knew I have not have much time left to postpone the trip if I don’t want to miss the opportunity to see the exhibition, as it will end pretty soon. I told my husband of that, and he agreed to go to the Centre last weekend.

And yes, we would have that little kiddo with us all the time, and I am not sure how much we could spend our time really focusing on the exhibition.

However, once we stepped inside the Centre we already knew that there was only one way to make the trip as effective as it could be – entertain Isa until he gets tired and falls asleep, then only can we have a peaceful time to indulge in the exhibition.

It turned out that National Science Centre is such a great place for a kid, even at Isa’s age!

Isa was so, so excited with all the things he saw, and touched and heard there, that after two hours he surrendered to exhaustion. The (permanent) gallery and displays are mostly, if not all, interactive, he went crazy pushing buttons and waited for the reaction. Forget about him learning  proper science, I am just glad he was entertained and stimulated much.

We went in at around 11:30 AM, and by nearly 1:30 PM he fell asleep during the introductory session to the 1001 Muslim Invention exhibition. I guess a dark room (they were showing a video clip during the session) and two bottles of milk made it harder for him to stay awake.

Isa woke up two hours after that, as soon as we left the exhibition hall.

It seems that he truly enjoyed it that when I showed him the  photos of him at the Centre, he started crying, wanting to go back to the place.

Since it costs us adult nothing more than RM 6 each, I don’t think the next visit is far ahead in the future!