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The extded vacation

Backpacking on a budget. Words: Anna Millar

am not your conventional traveller type. For conventional.

read: active. organised. practical. i am. hovvever. a born

optimist. So. equipped with an enormously heavy rucksack. some similarly disorganised friends and £500 in my money belt. I set off backpacking around east peninsular Malaysia for tvvo months. I vvould love to say that our route and subsequent experiences vvere borne of careful consideration and much poring over maps. But that would be a lie.

Asia has long been recognised as an ideal destination for hardcore travellers: scummy living conditions. language barriers and a chance to immerse yourself in a totally different culture. .\'ot forgetting the beautiful idyllic beaches and luscious islands on offer. It didn‘t take us long to realise that on a £500 budget. vve vvere going to have to improvise. A lot. After the initial shock subsided of having a tap as a shovver. a padlock on the outside of the door and a friendly cockroach to pee alongside. the vvhole experience took on a new reality.

()n discovering that the Perenthian islands exceeded our daily budget (costs double on the islands). vve decided to chance it and head south to the smaller. tnore remote island of l’angkor. Due to a slight ‘mis-commtmication' (the first of many) vvith our tuk—tuk driver. vve ended up on .\'ipah beach. a secluded spot vvith rainforest on one side and beautiful blue waters on the other.

In the need for culture. we headed south for Melaka. [in route. sensing adventure. we stopped in the small tovvn of Marang. The most exciting thing on offer vvas a squid statue in the tovvn square. We needed a change of scenery. A fishing boat leaving for the island of Kapas was our ticket to ride. l‘our (idyllic) days later vve vverc back on the bus to Melaka.

'l‘he Dutch-Portuguese influence vvas immediately apparent with the extraordinary architecture of (‘hrist Church. l’orta de Santiago and Bukit St Paul. But hungry for more. vve set off up north to Kota Bharu‘s famous night market. Seven very diverse tovvns. numerous remote villages and tvvo islands later. vve reluctantly headed back to the country‘s capital Kuala Lumpur for our flight home.

()f the fourteen tovvns and villages vve visited and the four islands. no tvvo places vvere the same. And therein lies the charm of the country: multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. it is a window to the vvhole of Asia. lispccially if you just feel like a taster of the traveller lifestyle without actually being one long term.

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