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Singapore & Kuala Lumpur

SINGAPORE | Saturday, 17 August 2013 | Views [1302]

KL at dusk

KL at dusk

Getting around Singapore couldn't be easier. My first trip entails a sight-seeing tour on an open top bus. It may the ultimate tourist option, but it's a great way to get your bearings. What better start than to make my first watering hole stop the iconic Raffles Hotel. Although colonialism has long gone, it is an enduring relic which does not require much imagination to contour up its history. I'm not a fan of gin and so swap the Singapore Sling for its virgin sister & later a pot of tea and settle back to absorb the atmosphere. The service is pretty bad and I see quite a few disappointed faces, but it's one of those must-do experiences so photos are taken and s$28 plus service later, it is checked off the list.

The Singapore Flyer is a great way to appreciate just how many skyscrapers soar upwards on the islands skyline. There is something here that reminds me of Dubai, perhaps making so much of so little. There is certainly plenty to do here. A whole day is taken up on Sentosa, the islands playground and as I stand at the most southern point of the continent of Asia, I find myself drawing a parallel to doing the same thing in New Zealand. I consider having a beer as some sort of sealing of such a momentous occasion, but then see the price and decide against it. I ponder briefly whether it is the high prices of non essentials that enable necessities to be affordable. Another day is spent walking all the way down to Chinatown where I watch an artist at work painting names in the Rainbow Alphabet. The speed and beauty of what he produces is amazing, and not for the first time I wish I was artistic. Dance yes, writing perhaps, but I definitely missed the queue for artistic talent. Feeling completely safe I wander by Chinese and Hindu temples, see Singapores emblem the Merlion (a lion's head and mermaid's tail) past innumerable shopping malls and the ever present pavement cafes. The heavily Chinese inflenced food here does not hold the same appeal as Thai food for me and finding something to eat takes far longer when you can't see what's in it.

I have decided to take the coach to Malaysia and S$38 later I have a ticket from Grasslands on their 'super nice' service to Kuala Lumpur. Singapore is not cheap, but it works and its clean. Malaysia falls a long way short of the same mark. A business woman I later meet on the coach informs me that Singapore does not have dirty streets, dirty cars or dirty homes! The coach really is 'super nice' - huge reclining bed-seats, I'm wishing the journey was longer! Within an hour we have cleared both sets of customs and left the concrete jungle far behind. We whizz past miles of palm trees with hardly a building in sight. I later learn that palm oil is a hugely profitable business for farmers fetching prices that massively outweigh previous crops of coconuts.

The bus pulls up at the side of a road and Kuala Lumpur is announced and our bags offloaded. A conveniently located Starbucks provides coffee at the same price as the long taxi ride to the Seri Pacific hotel and some useful help on taxi prices. I only have two nights here and this 5* bargain was a deal too good to miss. It is a real treat but as the local shopping centre is being rebuilt and it is 2kms to the nearest operational one, you are pretty much stuck in the hotel. I accept my fate with relief and head for the pool, followed by a delicious bento box at the Japanese restaurant. I requested a room with a view of the famous twin towers and was put up on the 22nd floor. The room was a million miles from the pod and I was grateful to be 'trapped' here.

Taxi Driver of the Trip Award goes to Jeff Yeo who happened to pull up as I am leaving the hotel. He charges just RM80 (in lieu of the hotel taxi's fee of RM180) and is a font of information. On the way we stop at a roadside stall and Jeff comes back with a box of sticky-rice which has been stuffed into and cooked in bamboo. The hard outer wood is cut open leaving the rice wrapped in a bamboo lining. It is a new year speciality and only available for two weeks a year. It was tasty and having missed breakfast, was very welcome.

It is a good 45 minutes drive to the airport but be advised, Air Asia fly out of LCCT not KLIA airport. They are 20 minutes apart so make sure you tell your driver which airline you are taking! In stark contrast to KLIA, LCCT is a chaotic free-for-all with endless counters that state 'Baggage Drop' but given the time taken, I sincerely question that. By now time is running short and when it comes to an additional 'queue' to check hand baggage sizing, me & my small beach bag go local and queue-jump. The lack of security is alarming and the covered walkway to several planes leaving simultaneously leaves me open mouthed. Somehow the right number of passengers are on board and we leave just about on time and arrive a little early. Air Asia may have won travel awards for the past 5 years, but I'm pretty sure the airport should be condemned!

Welcome to Chiang Mai's clean, air conditioned and orderly airport.

Tags: air asia, backpacking, grasslands coaches, kuala lumpur, lcct, seri pacific hotel, singapore, super nice

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