Presenter Justine Shapiro explores the heart of South
East Asia - modern Malaysia, with its ancient forests
and vibrant mix of cultures, and the beaches of Southern
Thailand just across the border.
Her first taste of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur.
The capital is central to the Government's
Vision 2020 policy, which aims to make Malaysia a fully
developed nation by the year 2020. Justine visits during
Ramadan, when Muslims fast each day
until sunset, but she finds out that there are two places
to find food before dark - Chinatown and India Street.
Justine hires a car and heads north through the Cameron
Highlands to the Temenggor Dam.
The area is home to ancient rainforests and tribes,
and Justine and her guide Ruben, who is trained in jungle
survival skills, take a boat trip out to a village where
the Orang Astli people live. In preparation
for a hunting party the next day, Justine witnesses
the villagers making deadly poison darts. That evening
the celebratory Sawang dance is performed in the village
for the new year, where the dancers wear woven leaves
and the women beat out the rhythm with bamboo poles.
Next morning Justine joins the hunting party and takes
lessons in the law of the jungle. The party build their
own shelter for the night out of palm leaves and the
hut will remain standing for 6 months. Meanwhile the
hunters catch a tasty dinner of frogs in the river which
are cooked in bamboo.
From Temanggor Justine travels to Kota Bharu
in the Islamic state of Kelantan. She
is invited into a home to celebrate the festival of
Hari Raya the end of Ramadan, where
she helps out in the kitchen preparing an enormous feast
and meets the pet monkey, trained to pick the best coconuts
from the trees. The family also takes her kite-flying,
a popular competitive sport on the east coast.
Before flying back to Kuala Lumpur, Justine spends
a day on the unspoiled Perhentian Islands,
where the beaches are fabulous and the crystal clear
waters invite scuba divers to explore the marine life
and coral reef. She drives along the coastline taking
in the palm-lined white sandy beaches and tiny fishing
Justine arrives back in Kuala Lumpur in time for the
extraordinary Hindu festival of Thaipusam.
It's a chaotic affair as a million Hindu devotees undergo
weeks of purification, then pierce themselves and carry
heavy burdens as acts of penance all the way to the
Batu caves outside the city, where
they pay homage to the Lord Muruga.
Over the border to Thailand by train, Justine makes
her way round the coast to the island of Phuket.
Tourism is big in Phuket, but a private beach is a great
place to enjoy a Thai massage. That evening Justine
hails a motorbike taxi to check out the legendary night-life
in Patong. However she finds the blatant sex trade in
town unpleasant and off-putting and opts for an early
Outside Patong is a sanctuary which gives a home to
lesser known casualties of sex bars - gibbons, a breed
of monkey, which are drugged and abused in the name
of cheap entertainment. Justine goes to see a nearby
island where they are monitored and gradually reintroduced
to the wild.
Justine's final adventure begins in the town of Krabi
- a sea canoe trek back across the bay to Phuket. The
Sea Canoe Company is run by an eco-warrior John Grey,
also known as Cave Man who fights against the mass tourism
which is destroying the lagoons. He takes Justine to
the famous cave formations now under threat from vandals,
where she sees the beautiful stalactite formations and
learns the 'look but don't touch' message of respect
for the environment.