Friday, December 30, 2011

Getting to Cameron Highlands - Part 2

Cameron Highlands is about 1 and a half to 2 hours drive from Ipoh - without traffic jam.  If you go during the school holidays via the new Simpang Pulai Highway that is less winding,  expect a jam that could start before you reach Kea and Brinchang.

The bus ride up to the mountains was smooth and comfortable, though I picked the front seats in case of nausea.  SW slept soon after the bus moved off while CH enjoyed her chuppa-chup bought from Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal.  

Head support packed in for the coach ride.

Here are some views from the window:

Not long after we got on the Unitity coach 8811 from Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal, the bus driver asked around for "Mr. Tan".  There were only about 13 of us taking the 40 seater (about) and no one acknowledged.

I raised my hand and the bus driver told me someone was looking for me.  "Who is it?"  I was surprised and curious.  He smiled,"Maybe it's the president."

"Is that SY Tan?" The man on the line asked.  "Yes", I replied. "3 adults and 2 children?" he continued excitedly.  "Nobody told us you have left Ipoh! I was so worried!"  

Aha!  "Are you Mr. Chai?" I never thought I would hear from him again after mt last email to him a week ago.

"Yes, yes!  I am Mr. Chai!  The weather at Cameron is not very good today.  Are you still interested in the Agro Tour?"

It was indeed raining.  But we were still an hour away from Cameron Highlands, and I was positive everything would turn out fine when we get there.  I considered for a moment before Mr. Chai continued,

"Which hotel are you staying at?"

"Century Pines", I replied.

"Ok, then you get off at Tanah Rata, which is the last station, and I will meet you there," said Mr. Chai.

"Was that Mr. Chai?" I asked the Indian driver as I handed him back his mobile.  "Yes, that's my boss." he replied.

Cool. Everything was as planned.   Our luck did not end there.  We passed by Equatorial Hotel up in the mountain (which was how I knew we reached Kea), then the driver stopped at a Shell station at Brinchang.  I thought some fellow tourist was going to alight there, but a middle-aged Chinese man with glasses came on board, looking for "Mr. Tan".

"I am Mr. Chai.  There is a big jam here, and you are just in time to join our tour.  But we must quickly get to Tanah Rata to check you into the hotel first.  You need to get off here where you take our van.  It would be faster!"

Before we hopped on to a new white mini-van also numbered 8811, HM couldn't help giving feedback about our ride to Mr. Chai, "There were screeching sounds coming from the brakes..."

"Yes! The bus is new.  The screeching sound will wear out after some time!" Mr. Chai was in an operations frenzy rushing on tight schedules, but he was courteous and jolly.  I wished I had more time to tell him what happened at the Bus Terminal.

Off we went on the mini-van.  Everyone were excited and relieved.  "You guys brought us luck!  See, the rain has stopped!" A high-spirited, young Indian driver yelled at us, beaming through the rear mirror.

Related articles:

Getting to Cameron Highlands - Part 1

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting to Cameron Highlands - Part 1

Getting to Cameron Highlands was tricky because we did not drive and did not take a direct bus from Singapore.  I had difficulty pre-booking a bus from Ipoh to Cameron until I came across Titiwangsa Tours website.  Even then, my correspondence with Mr. Chai did not touch on specifics like which booth I should collect the tickets from when I get to Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal.

It all worked out fine when we met the helpful taxi driver in Ipoh, Mr. Lai.  (Read about how Mr. Lai brought me to Medan Gopeng to purchase Coach tickets). There was no signboard that read 'Titiwangsa Tours' or 'Unitity' at Medan Gopeng Bus Terminal.  The weirder thing was after Mr. Lai dropped us off at the Terminal on the day to Cameron Highlands, there was no one mending the counter where we bought the tickets from, except for a sign that redirected us to 'Bandar Ekxpress':

I checked my tickets and had a moment of panic:  the Company name on the tickets did not match any of the Counter signboards: 

I checked with the next counter and they were not helpful at all.  As I walked on, I spotted the girl who sold me the tickets, sitting behind the counter of 'Bandar Ekspres'.  She promptly asked me for my tickets and arrange for us the Unitity Express coach 8811, leaving at 12noon.  Mr. Chai from Titiwangsa had mentioned to me in the email of the 12 noon departure time, so I was prepared.  The only thing we could do next was wait - and take pictures.

Beside me is the young lady in stripes T-shirt who sold me the tickets.

Our bus, Unitity 8811

I gathered from a tourist from Germany taking the same bus that she also got her tickets from whichever counter that had buses going to Cameron Highlands.  The counter she picked was different from mine.  It seemed all these counters were agents to the bus companies, so it did not matter which counter you go to.  You just need to tell them your preferred date & time of departure, and make known if you have any preferred buses.  There were other more well-known buses like Konsortium, but they may not have the time schedule you want.  There was also the familiar Sri Maju, but they did not go to Cameron Highlands.  Also, no one responded to my email when I wrote to them during the planning of this trip.

The Unitity bus was new and clean.  Most importantly, it was prompt.  Cameron Highlands, here we come!

Related articles:

Getting to Cameron Highlands - Part 2

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lost World of Tambun, Ipoh - Day 2

The Lost World Theme Park opens at 11am which gave us ample time to sleep in and have breakfast.  

The area around the park is beautiful too.

There was no restaurant at the hotel. The free breakfast that came with the room was across the road and carpark, right where theTheme Park was.

The same place where you have breakfast is converted to a cafeteria 
which serves the Theme Park in the afternoon. 

Breakfast consists of Nasi Lemak, sausages, omelette, fried Kway Teow/Bee Hoon, cereal, toast, fruits - nothing fantastic, basic meal before you start the day.

Purchasing the entrance tickets online not only saved us money, it helped us beat the queue at the entrance which was quickly forming.

Having experienced Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur, we tried to cover as many places as we could at Lost World this time, not to dwelling too long in one area.  This would give us ample time for water play in the afternoon.  We started with Tiger Valley, going up to Swan Lake, Tin Mining and Team Building Park before moving on to Petting Zoo and finally heading for the waters.

I have selected pictures from our takes at each attraction.  Enjoy!

Tiger Valley - we did not hang around to watch Tiger Feeding.

Swan Lake - real swans!  Look at the well-fed fishes craving for more food!  
You can also take swan paddle boat rides.

View of the Tin Bearers attraction past Tin History Walk 
(Thanks to the backlight function on my Samsung phone camera 
without which my photo would have been too dark)

Dulang Washing (Tin Mining) attraction

Beautiful view at Team Building Park.

SW found his own rock to climb.

The activities at the Team Building Park were interesting, but not suitable for children.  We could however, have a go at the Firefox.

The Petting Zoo was a highlight of our trip.  There were rodents, birds, snakes, goats and deers, the latter two of which we did not see.


Beautiful Hen and Rooster

At the Aviary, it was delightful to see all kinds of birds around us, roaming about freely.  Their colors were amazingly beautiful.  Amongst the many species were White Peacock, Indian Peafowl, Lady Amherst Pheasant, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Ruddy Shelduck, Wood Duck, and Mandarin Duck, Parrots and Quails.

Golden Pheasant

Victoria Crowned Pigeon

It was difficult to take pictures and finding out the names of the species when a group of tourist with screaming children came in.  The birds started fluttering and flying about. I made my way out before anything undesirable dropped on me!
It's time to jump onto the train ride and head for the Water Theme Park!


Lost World Hot Spring and Spa during the day looks different.  The hot spring makes your body feel even warmer hence it is better to go later in the day or at night.  The temperature at various pools start from 37˚C, the hottest being the Steam Cave which one can hardly stay in there for 5 minutes (contact lens users beware).  There is also the Top of the World Jacuzzi which allows few people to go in at a time.  Besides having the water fountain massaging your back at the Sapphire Pool, the Foot Spa has smooth pebbles at the base that massages your feet as you walk round the pool.  It is also good for those who do not wish to get wet, but do not mind a little fun.  At the Infinity Pool, you could enjoy a sip  while you relax and enjoy the fresh air and mountain view.

The Theme park closes at 6pm and you could stay at this section for the Night Spa.  It would have been interesting to see the place light up for the night as the sun goes down. 

Sapphire Pool

 Sapphire Baby Pool

Stairs leading to Top of the World Jacuzzi

Infinity Pool

Heading back to the Hotel after a day of fun.

Again, if you have a car, it would be a good time to head to town for dinner.  For us, we rested early to prepare ourselves for Cameron Highlands trip the following day.  A good shower at the hotel with cup noodles, snacks and apples, chatting over the day's events sealed our day.

Related articles:

First Flight

Getting to Cameron Highlands - Part 1

Lost World of Tambun, Ipoh - Day 1

Ipoh is surrounded by beautiful mountains.  Perhaps it is such a unique location, with natural hot spring that attracted the Sunway Group to locate their Theme Park here, called Lost World of Tambun.

The Lost World Hotel is new and just opened its doors on 28th April 2011.  It is a 3-star hotel right opposite the Theme Park, serving mainly visitors to the Theme Park.  The building designs blends in very nicely with the mountainous landscape.

The Lost World Hotel taken from the main road

What I found out-of-place was the row of modern terraces located 
too close to the Hotel which spoils the beauty.  Can see that the window view from the 
lower floors of the hotel might be somewhat blocked too.

Check-in time to the hotel was 3pm and we were early.  I have read of a river around the Theme Park, but it looked more like a drain to me.  The receptionist suggested we take a cab to town for sight-seeing and makan, but we did not want to take another round in the cab and Uncle Lai the taxi driver has already left, so we just hopped by to the Mcdonald's opposite and grab some cup noodles, snacks and slippers at the Giant hypermarket nearby.

Giant on the Left and Mcdonald's on the Right.  Walking time approximately 10 to 15 minutes from Lost World Hotel.

Ipoh did not look very busy.   On hindsight, it would have been fine to rent a car from the airport to explore Ipoh, well known for its Beansprout Chicken and Ipoh Hor Fan amongst others.

Upon our return, our rooms were ready and we were given nice connecting rooms on the 3rd Floor.

Nice, clean rooms without carpet.  Floor mat not provided at the toilet.  Need to bring slippers.  Free Wi-fi in Rooms.

View from our Hotel Room 352

Clean toilet.  Body lotion, soap, bath towels, hair-dryer, Box Tissue provided.  
Body and Hair Shampoo is in dispenser in the bathroom.

The Lost World Hotel has one of the longest corridors for a hotel.
It was noisy at night when the guests returned or just arrived.

After brief rest at the Hotel, we took a walk around the area, taking pictures and enjoying the peacefulness of a weekday visit.  There was also a souvenir shop at the entrance where Mom got her fridge magnet, adding to her travel collection. 

We have purchased entrance tickets through the Theme Park Online Store at a discount for the following day.  Usual price at the Counter was RM48 for adults and RM38 for children and senior citizens.  

There were no restaurants at the hotel.  The only restaurant at the Theme park that served dinner was deserted when we went.  

There was a Unique Seafood Restaurant right beside the Hotspring and Spa, but it was out-of-sight.  Do not be fooled by the Google map as it shows its location near Giant.  That is their new location from next February onwards.  It was a good thing we asked for directions at the guard house.

True to its name, Unique Seafood Restaurant serves some unique dishes.
Price was reasonable and service was prompt.

To think that dinner is the last event of the day before you retire at the hotel would be a a total waste of time if you visit Lost World of Tambun.  It is the Night Hotspring and Spa that one simply should not miss.  Hotel guests are given 2 free tickets per room to the Night Spa.  Bring your hotel key to collect the wrist bands from the hotel receptionist.  

There was a small commotion during our dinner where the waiter serving us the fish dropped the entire plate and glass shattered on the table and floor.  SW's jeans was stained as he was closest to the waiter.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  The manager had our entire table replaced, including the drinks and rice.  We thought we were not able to make it to the Night Spa.  According to the receptionist, if you miss out on the first night of the Night Spa, you can accumulate them for the following night's - which means the 5th person in our group would not need to pay to go in.

The Night Spa closes at 10pm and at 8pm after our dinner, we made it.  

Unfortunately, I have no pictures to show - that is because I was enjoying myself there, and no lockers were available.  Unlike many spas in other places, you need not be scantily clad and the whole family can have fun together.  We all wore swimsuits and Mom wore T-shirt and short stretchy pants.

The Hotspring and Spa was beautifully lit with mood lights at night.  I found out the following day that you could enjoy the same facilities as it is connected to the Theme Park.  However, the experience is different.

For hotel guests, ask for towels upon your entrance to the Night Spa to wrap yourself back to the hotel across the carpark and small road.  If not, bring a T-shirt along in case you catch a cold.  In any case, the heat from the Spa would be enough to keep your body warm till you get back to the hotel.

I will elaborate on the Spa in Day 2 since I would have the pictures to show.