Malaysia

KL and Singapore: our last few days in Asia

After enjoying the cool climate in the Cameron Highlands we got the bus to Kuala Lumpur and returned to the hot weather.

We didn't feel the need to get the tshirt though...

We didn’t feel the need to get the tshirt though…

KL is huge, modern and very clean compared to the recent cities we’ve been to in Asia, but it still has some really traditional, interesting neighbourhoods, as well as the skyscrapers and shopping malls.

The market in Chinatown

The market in Chinatown

We stayed in Chinatown and spent a nice few evenings eating Chinese street food again and wondering around the markets. It’s definitely more expensive in Malaysia than we’ve been used to, although it’s still not too hard to find cheap noodles.

On our second day we headed into the town to see the famous Petronus Towers and marvelled them from the ground, rather than paying the RM80 entrance fee! They are pretty incredible to see and are set in a lovely park.

The Petronus Towers

The Petronus Towers

KL is also supposed to be a shoppers paradise, but there are so many malls, all interlinked that we got disorientated and a bit overwhelmed. So we had some giant iced coffees instead 🙂

The man-crèche in the mall

The man-crèche in the mall

For our final stop in Asia we spent 2 days in the incredibly expensive but really fun city of Singapore. After a night train with just a seated ticket, rather than a sleeping one, we got to the city at 7am and immediately noticed how friendly everyone was, offering us sleepy tourists directions and tips of things to do. We headed out to wander around the marina, which is just full of incredible architecture.

The Marina Bay Sands Resort. We think we'll stay there next time.

The Marina Bay Sands Resort. We think we’ll stay there next time.

We had a great time walking around the waterfront and some of the malls, even buying some jeans so we finally look less like backpacker tourists.

We then cashed in one of our wonderful wedding presents (thanks Sharon and Charlie) and had a very extravagant but fabulous Singapore Sling at the Long Bar, Raffels Hotel. It was full of tourists like us, taking tonnes of photos and eating lots of free peanuts to make up for the $60 bar tab! Totally worth it though, it was a great experience.

Singapore Slings at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel

Singapore Slings at the Long Bar, Raffles Hotel

On day 2 we went to Singapore Zoo, which was definitely the best zoo I have ever been too (recommended by Bex who is an expert on zoos)! They have over 2500 animals who are in really natural looking enclosures, rather than cages, including pigmy hippos, free ranging orangutangs, white tigers and even a polar bear. It was brilliant, we stayed all day.

Awesome polar bear

Awesome polar bear

The elephant show at Singapore Zoo

The elephant show at Singapore Zoo

A white tiger

A white tiger

Singapore was our last stop in Asia and tomorrow we fly to Sydney for the weekend. We will definitely miss cheap food, beer and hostels, but are looking forward to the next stage of our adventures.

Saying goodbye to Asia at Singapore airport

Saying goodbye to Asia at Singapore airport

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The Colonials

We’re a bit behind on the blog, but are currently sheltering from the monsoon rain in Singapore so it’s a good time to catch up.

After an amazing Christmas on Langkawi, we caught the ferry to almost mainland Malaysia and spent a few days in Georgetown on Penang. Georgetown is renowned for its food, so we were very much looking forward to our time here! It was founded (because nothing existed before the Brits got there, obviously) in the 1780s as a trading port, and attracted a huge mix of peoples.

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Fort Cornwallis, Georgetown

Nowadays, there are some really distinct and areas of Chinese, Indian and Malay culture, all thrown together with old colonial buildings and architecture and street names like Campbell, King and Buckingham Streets.

A mix of different building styles in Georgetown

A mix of different building styles in Georgetown

The main area is the old town, and it’s quite compact and easy to navigate on foot. We spent our days wandering around, eating in the food courts and on the street corners and generally enjoying the city. When the heat got too much, we would dive into a nice cafe or coffee shop to enjoy the wifi and a/c, and then head back out.

We resisted the temptation for a man utd burger and stuck to curry and noodles!

We resisted the temptation for a man utd burger and stuck to curry and noodles!

Malaysia is lot more expensive than we’ve been used to, but we managed to get by with staying in a pretty basic hotel and spending our time out and about.

So much curry...

So much curry…

The main highlight for me though was finally seeing the new Hobbit film (though during the Elvish and Orcish scenes there were no English subs, just Malay and Chinese!).

When curry for breakfast and the heat finally got to us, we caught the bus to Tanah a Rata in the Cameron Highlands on New Year’s Eve morning. It was a 4 hour journey, the last part spent winding up through the mountains and into the clouds. After the British settled, they used the Highlands to escape the heat, and due to the climate in the area, cleared masses of the forest to make tea plantations and strawberry farms. There was still a lot of curry in the town, but alongside were cafés with tea and scones for sale which was quite surreal.

The Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands

Like proper colonials, we didn’t do a lot more than relax here. Tanah Rata is the backpacker hub of the area but is still super quiet – one street of restaurants and shops is about it. We stayed at a nice hostel, and spent our New Year’s Eve sat around the campfire, and for the next days chilled out.

New Year's Eve in the highlands

New Year’s Eve in the highlands

We explored the nearby mossy forest (“it’s covered in all the mossy”, our hostel informed us), and visited a tea plantation and strawberry farm to sample the produce.

Mossy Forrest

Mossy Forest

New Year’s Day made us realise we were about to spend the next 6 months in New Zealand, so the time in the highlands was actually quite useful to do a lot of planning. Law’s folks are currently in NZ, and whilst we have really enjoyed Asia, we can’t wait to get to Middle Earth!

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An Island Christmas

Considering it felt like we had ages to spend to Asia, we ended going through Thailand and Laos at quite a pace. We had always planned on spending Christmas on a beach though, and we finally found some very cheap flights to Langkawi in Malaysia. So, we knew we had to get out of Laos by a certain date which was a shame, but we did have a nice last couple of days in Vientiane.

Vientiane's Paris-y bit

Vientiane’s Paris-y bit

It’s a very quiet capital city compared to others we’ve visited, but easy to wander around in with a few interesting places for a short stay. We visited the COPE centre, an NGO who work to make prosthetic limbs for the victims of bombs UXOs, and we climbed the fake arc d’triomphe thing in the city centre – another former French colonial influence. I also had my final cheap Beerlao for the foreseeable future.

The COPE centre

The COPE centre

On the 23rd of December, not feeling at all Christmassy yet, we spent the day in transit, flying first to KL and then on to Langkawi. I have to say, KL airport was a disappointment – I was hoping for more of a Hong Kong ultra modern experience, but we did battle through the crowds and ended up having a fast food chicken thing, still managing to avoid the Maccy D’s (haven’t had any yet on the gap yah). We finally got to Langkawi at about 9.30, and after we checked into our hotel we were pretty glad we’d splashed out over the normal budget!

Classy room

Classy room

We stayed at the Tropical Resort, on Pantai Tengah. Basically, the village we stayed in is a long strip of restaurants and hotels along the beach, and we were down at the quiet end. The room was amazing, the bed was actually comfy (an unusual thing in Asia so far) and there was a free breakfast included which we hadn’t realised. The beach was only about 2 minutes walk from our bungalow, and it was practically empty.

2 minute walk from the hotel

2 minute walk from the hotel

Lying on a white sand beach, swimming occasionally in the warm blue waters and not doing a lot else was a very surreal Christmas Eve experience. We did eventually wander into the town, having a cheap noodle soup for lunch, and then after watching the sunset into the sea we found a beachside restaurant and had a curry!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve


No turkeys in sight...

No turkeys in sight…

Christmas Day and Boxing Day passed in much the same way, beaching, swimming and sunbathing, punctuated by eating and drinking. On Christmas Day night we went and had an amazing seafood meal, and on Boxing Day had a huge Mexican feast. Throughout this we were speaking to home on skype and FaceTime, so watching them open presents and eat proper Christmas food whilst we were in the sun made for an amazing, albeit slightly weird Christmas. Not bad for our first as a married couple.

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