Magical Malaysia

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U reader Danielle Ní Chroinin explores the mountains, malls and magical islands in Asia…

A short stay can’t really do Malaysia justice. I felt kind of guilty every time a local gave us a new recommendation for a Malaysian must-see – with only nine days, my sisters and I could only manage a snippet of all the possibilities. Malaysian Borneo alone probably deserves at least a dedicated two weeks. But we decided on a focused visit for a two-day Mount Kinabalu challenge. Lots of steps, a little bit of rope-climbing and minimal scrambling. I had momentary thoughts of abandoning the attempt when I encountered the ropes at first (despite the darkness [typical night-time departure to peak at sunrise], I could ‘sense’ the precipitatous drop), but Mikin our guide seemed confident we could manage and he’s the pro after all. It turns out lots of people get cold feet at that point – terrible to be a cliché, isn’t it? Summit views as rays broke over the east were totally worth it. Having been a touch panicky overnight at the mountain lodge when torrential rains hit and I was picturing myself slithering and sliding across slippy surfaces (I hate downhill slopes at the best of times), I was delighted that the downpour had eased up, the granite afforded better than- expected grip and Edel and Mikin were graciously patient when I struggled with speed on parts of the descent.

Next stop, Kuala Lumpur (KL). Okay, so I didn’t really think the flight luggage weight limit through when I booked the city stop in mid-holiday. (Creative organisation to make it look like we were not carrying excess later employed for internal flights!) KL is a funky city, a cool mix of traditional and progressive, and despite dire warnings about pickpockets and drive-by motorcyclist bag-snatchers, the only monetary loss was self-inflicted at the handbag market. Lots of cheap ‘n’ cheerful Chinese eateries and street-stalls with everything from smoothies and slush-puppies to desiccated seafood (over-indulged on former, resisted latter!) to fuel shopping and sightseeing. We never made it up Menara Tower, but we did go for cocktails at an amazing rooftop bar opposite, with prettily-lit pool (midnight skinny-dipping banned, spoilsports) and fantastic views of the city twinkling by night.

At this stage we definitely felt we had earned our beach break. Especially as I was still a bit creaky after the mountain, and very annoyed about it, as I have never been stiff like this after exercise before and it made me feel old. And not in a healthy, fit, life-experienced ideal geriatric way, more in a decrepit, dependent, depressing way. The flight to Langkawi was tolerably short. God forgive my carbon footprint after all the plane trips this holiday; I will walk everywhere for next month, promise. Langkawi, as expected, meets all the criteria for a standard island paradise and was exactly what we needed. We took it deliciously easy; parasailing was about as active as we got, and sitting in a harness as the wind carries you is a nice relaxing way of blowing away any cobwebs from the night before. A morning trip to the nearby cable car offered stunning views over the archipelago. We went ‘island hopping’ by boat on our last morning, with a boy-racer at the wheel, eager to create a swoosh of wave whenever he could. The gorgeous fresh-water lagoon on one of the isles, just like something out of a movie (but minus the man-eating watersnake or reclusive axe murderer…) allowed a last dip before our departure. With so many fab photo-ops over the holiday, it was hard to resist taking lots of photos. Of course now that means my next fun job is editing… Decisions, decisions