Tag Archives: shopping

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Impressions

Settled as a tin mining town in 1857, Kuala Lumpur didn’t officially become a city until 1972. Yet it’s the fastest growing metropolis in Malaysia, having exceeded 6.5 million people in just 150 years. Like many other rapidly growing cities, parts of it are construction zones with new buildings and public transport systems being developed.

wpid-malaysia-kualalumpur-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

While Kuala Lumpur only has a handful of tourist attractions, it’s still a popular destination because of its great food and plentiful shopping areas. It also has a growing arts and theatre scene and many museums, including a very popular Islamic Arts Museum.

Shopping
Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Golden Triangle’ area is centred around Bukit Bintang, veritably the Fifth Avenue of Malaysia with it’s massive TV screens and monorail.

wpid-p1070186-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

The area is also known as KLCC, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, an area of sky scraping buildings and numerous shopping malls. Most of the buildings and malls in KLCC are connected on their underground levels by tunnels, some simply covered in advertising, while others have shops along their entire length. It’s easy to get lost in this underground tunnel network, as telling where one mall ends and the next begin can be difficult.

wpid-dscf5674-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

Towers
At the heart of KLCC is possibly the most popular central city tourist location, the Petronas Towers.

wpid-dscf5675-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

There are regular tours up the world’s tallest twin towers to the skybridge on level 41 (also one of the highest in the world) and then to the level 86 viewing area. The view out over the second tower with the KL tower and a rain storm in the background…

wpid-dscf5687-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

The nearby KL Tower appears to be taller than the Petronas towers only because it was built on a hill. Both offer great views by day and night.

Markets
There are two main market areas in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Street and the Central Market.

wpid-img_2254-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

While only two minutes from each other the two markets offer different market experiences. Petaling Street vendors tend to more aggressive, mostly insisting that you really want to buy a watch. The Central Market vendors tend to leave you alone unless asked for help.

Batu Caves
At the edge of the city are the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India. The shrines are in caves high in the wall of the limestone hill with 272 steps leading up to them. Dedicated to the Murugan, the Hindu god of war, the shines take some effort to reach, especially in Kuala Lumpur’s general humidity.

wpid-img_2227-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

Another set of stairs leads from the main cavern to an open-topped cave where the main shrine is located.

wpid-img_2242-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

A short distance from the Murugan Caves are the Ramayana Caves. These caves, dedicated to the Hindu god, Hanuman, depicts the Ramayana, an epic indian poem about the avatar Rama. There are many carvings in the cave, although it has yet to be completed.

wpid-img_2195-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

Of course, a general favourite of the caves area are the monkeys.

wpid-img_2234-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

Overall, Kuala Lumpur is a capital city, a great place to hang out for a few days without the need to visit as many tourists spots as possible. We enjoyed the great food, the nightlife and playing Cards Against Humanity with fellow travellers in the hostel. While little is spoken of it in the travel guides, Kuala Lumpur also home to the grande chicken temple of Nandos. A must visit to all chicken lovers.

wpid-img_2260-2014-11-30-12-49.jpg

Next, we head north to the small city of Ipoh.

The Trail Wanderers

Advertisements

Singapore – Impressions

Measuring 40km by 20km, Singapore is an island city-state off the southern coast of Malaysia. While people have lived on these islands for 1800 years, Singapore was only established 200 years ago as a trading port for the English. Occupied by the Japanese in World War 2, it joined with other English Territories to form Malaysia in 1963, only to be expelled two years later. It has since grown to become one of the Four Asian Tigers, free economic states, along with South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

wpid-singapore-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

After nearly 2 months in Indonesia, Singapore seems like the cleanest and most organised city in the world. The downside is that everything is more expensive.

The Central City
Singapore has spread to fill its island quickly and has begun to grow upwards. While the central city boasts many skyscrapers, large portions of the island are covered with high-rises. Singapore is a city of architecture, from the old english style of many central museums…

wpid-dscf5551-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

…to the more modern and unusual, such as The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay buildings.

wpid-dscf5554-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Marina Bay Sands
Completed in 2010 and standing out on the skyline is the most expensive building in the world. At US$4.7 billion The Marina Bay Sands has three main towers, a major mall, casino and a Skypark across its top.

wpid-dscf5623-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Most of the Skypark, which is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall, is only available to hotel patrons and includes a 150 metre vanishing pool.

wpid-dscf5592-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

The rounded tip of the Skypark is a viewing platform available to the general public providing 360º views of the city and marina. Even in the rainy season the views were magnificent.

wpid-dscf5578-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Little India
Singapore has a large Indian contingent with their own region of the city. Little India has plentiful Indian restaurants and several temples.

wpid-img_2052-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Unfortunately, we visited on a Sunday evening when half the population of continental India had popped over to visit. Sunday evening is a common time among the Indian community to go shopping. This was to such a degree that we found it difficult to move through the streets.

Tiger Breweries
Singapore has its only international recognised beer, Tiger. As it happens it was my birthday during our visit, so we headed out to the brewery for a tour.

wpid-img_2027-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Unfortunately, it took us longer to get there on public transport than we’d expected and we missed half of the tour. All was not lost as we did manage to catch the end of the tour, the 45 minutes of free beverages. When my birthday was mentioned, somehow the time stretched to 90 minutes before we decided it best to head off. A good evening!

wpid-img_2033-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Night Safari
Singapore has a world-class zoo with many species of animals. However, a zoo is a zoo and once you’ve seen a few they all start to look the same. Night Safari is still a zoo, but for nocturnal creatures with a tram tour through a portion of the park.

wpid-dscf5609-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

After the main tram ride, there are several other walks available along dimly lit paths. These lead to various other enclosures, including many great cat enclosures, including two separate lion zones, and a bat enclosure. Other animals include elephants, monkeys, opossums and many other lesser known nocturnal species. With no flash photography permitted, getting good photos was near impossible but we still enjoyed the experience.

wpid-img_2110-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Sentosa Island
Off the southern coast of Singapore is the resort island of Sentosa.

wpid-dscf5632-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

This entire island is an entertainment zone with a myriad of different activities, such as a large Universal Studios theme park, 2.2 kilometres of sheltered beaches…

wpid-dscf5644-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

… 2 golf courses, a Megazip adventure park, a Underwater World, a cable car, and many others, including the Luge, which began its life in New Zealand.

wpid-dscf5636-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Since I’d never actually been on the Luge in New Zealand(!), I had to do it. What crazy fun!

A lot of time and money can be spent on Sentosa island, but we had only a single afternoon among showers. Thankfully entry to the island is only S$1.

Orchard Road
With a couple of things on my shopping list, we decided to head to the main shopping area in Singapore, Orchard Road. Renown for having 30 malls along its 2.2km length, the street is Mecca for tourist shoppers.

wpid-dscf5647-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

The start of Orchard road is the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, which exits beneath a 7-level mall. I managed to find the items I was looking for on the first two levels of the mall, so avoided having to spend too much time on the street.

Gardens by the Sea
Behind the Marina Park Sands is a large park area called the Gardens by the Sea. Most of the gardens are free to walk around, with several lakes, bridges and many separate garden areas, including the Supertree Grove…

wpid-dscf5618-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Gardens by the Bay also includes a pair of domes that contain specialty areas: the Cloud Forest and Flower Domes respectively. These are pay areas and can be quite expensive, so we decided against visiting them.

wpid-dscf5628-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

City Lights shows
Most nights of the year Singapore hosts two separate free, light and sound shows. The first is in the Gardens by the Sea where lights dance around Supertree Grove in time to seasonal music. During our visit it was a Christmas theme.

wpid-img_2129-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

There is a canopy walk through the Supertree Grove which gives great views of both the Gardens and the Marina Bay Sands.

wpid-img_2127-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

The second light show is on Marina Bay in front of the Marina Bay Sands, where plentiful seating is provided. While waiting for the show to begin, there are great views of the central city buildings.

wpid-img_2130-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

The main show is about 20 minutes long and is laser light displayed on three fans of water projected up from the bay. The show depicts the life-cycle of humanity. It’s an interesting and most enjoyable show.

wpid-img_2137-2014-11-23-17-06.jpg

Four days was simply not enough, so we extended to a week and still didn’t get to see everything. But alas, it was time get back on the road. Next stop, Malaysia.

The Trail Wanderers

Bandung, West Java, Indonesia – Impressions

Our trip to Java’s third largest city by train provided us amazing views over vast valleys of volcanoes and rice patties. The beauty of inland Java is unbelievable and the locals on the train seemed to agree.

wpid-indonesia-bandung-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Bandung, however, didn’t live up to this beauty. Like the other cities of Java, we knew little of the area before we arrived and were determined to see what it had to offer.

A City of Two Halves.
Bandung is loosely split in half by the railway lines.

The area south of the train lines is a mass of street vendors and crowded dirty streets. We were warned about pickpockets and narrowly avoided a group of smug youths and their attempt on the busy street. There was a sense of being crowded with a little bit of danger. There are large areas of construction and so many cars and motorbikes it was difficult to simply cross the road.

wpid-bandung-indonesia-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

But crossing to the north side it’s like you’ve just stepped out of the 3rd world into the West. On the north side there are malls, higher class shops and restaurants, prominent architecture and more importantly, a relative sense of safety. This is where the few tourist spots are and many of the city’s prominent buildings.

wpid-dscf5406-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Finding an Information Centre in the city is next to impossible. With the vague tourist map we had and absolutely no help from online maps, we walked around dirty, hot streets trying to find a hidden shop that turned out to be inside a mosque. When we found it, we were given little information beyond another copy of the map. We headed off determined to find something about the city that we liked.

Jalan Braga
Near the Information Centre we went to check out the south side’s only tourist spot, Braga Street. Called the Paris of Java, the street was made famous in the 1920s as a promenade street, lined with cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. Now, apparently, it’s the top place locals come to party. When we arrived on Jalan Braga we discovered that it had largely been dug up with dirt and the stink of sewage in many places. And adding to it was the stream of vehicles along what was left of the road.

Frustrated at our day’s efforts, we spied a bar and settled in for a beer before heading back to the hostel.

The next day, determined to find something to like about the Bandung, we set out across the north side with more of a plan.

Angkots
As you travel further west across Indonesia, the Bemos we’d first encountered in Surabaya are called Angkutan Kota meaning ‘city transport’ or Angkot for short. Similar to those in Surabaya the Angkots travel predetermined routes across the city for between Rp2,000 to Rp5,000 depending on how far you’re going. The problems are still the same… if you don’t know the routes, you could end up anywhere. Best to ask the driver just to be sure.

Jalan Cihampelas
Cihampelas Street is a famous shopping area in Bandung which also called ‘Jeans Street’ because of the number of denim clothing stores that opened in the 1990s. The street has many malls and shops for bargain hunters. The area is very popular with Singaporean and Malaysian tourists, who flock here for the good prices. While in the street we stopped by Cihampelas Walk for lunch, a Western mall containing many Western-style stores and every American fast food chain possible.

wpid-dscf5408-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

Museum Geologi
While generally not a great fan of museums, we stopped off at the Geology Museum for an hour as it began to rain. The first signs of the approaching rainy season. While most of the displays were in Indonesian, some were in English discussing the volcanos of Indonesia and the different time periods of the early earth.

wpid-dscf5410-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

The museum is popular with local school trips and during our visit the museum was under sustained attack by three separate hordes of school children. Even so, it was still an informative stop off during a brief rain storm.

Saung Angklung Udjo
30 minutes by Angkot from the Museum Geologi is a school dedicated to the Angklung. The Angklung is an instrument made from bamboo tubes strung together that makes a dull chiming noise when rattled. On most days the school hosts tourists for an ‘Afternoon Show’. Listed as the most popular attraction in Bandung, we attended the show, which was made up of small acts and tunes played on the Angklung.

wpid-dscf5427-2014-11-9-20-39.jpg

The show had some dancing and towards the end the children handed out Angklungs to everyone in the audience and we were taught to play as an orchestra through many songs. The show lasted two hours and was perhaps the best part of our visit to Bandung.

Tangkuban Prahu Crater and Kiawah Putih Lake
Bandung is in a valley between volcanoes and as in many volcano towns, tours up the slopes are common. But after climbing Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta only days before, we felt that paying twice as much to be driven up a volcano wasn’t worth it this time.

Next we continue our travels to the west to the nation’s capital, Jakarta.

The Trail Wanderers