Kuala Lumpur

Type : City break
Best Date :  May-Jul
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Shopping, Dine, Cultural
Points of Interest: KL menorah(tower), Petronas tower, Jalan Alor (food market), Bukit Bintang, Batu Caves, Central Market, Petalling Street and many more

Brief

Kuala Lumpur also known as KL is the capital city of Malaysia situated southwest of the country. It is the largest city in the country and is known to be the fastest growing in the ASEAN (Association of south-east Asian nations) region which include nations such as Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines and a few more. Kuala Lumpur only acquired its city status in 1972 which also means it is one of the newest in the region, only being founded by Chinese miners at 1857.

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The city has influences from British, Chinese and Japanese occupation and has the architecture and cuisine to portray these.  Furthermore KL is home to one of the tallest twin towers with the Petronas towers which was built within just 6 years. The city is one of the worlds leading visited for tourism and shopping a brilliant place for all.

The Place

Kuala Lumpur was the first stop and a central base in my latest South East Asian ventures. Malaysia is the first mainly muslim country I have travelled to and Kuala Lumpur my first city. It has been a place I have intended to travel for a long time with many positive feedback and recommendations.

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When I visited the city was hot and very humid with an average of 30c-35c degrees. It was a very diverse city with many different influence in lifestyle, food and other aspects.

Because of potential flight problems I took an earlier flight, which resulted being in Kuala Lumpur a day early resulting on an extra day.

Firstly I came across Bukit Bintang which is home to various points of interest in the city itself and the preferred location to stay with hotels for any budget. The region has both luxurious and affordable establishments with the famed Pavilion mall, Times Square Mall and the cheaper Jalan Alor which is the popular food market. Firstly the focal purpose of Bukit Bintang is shopping and dining with the Pavilion mall being the main attraction. This mall has the upper class and luxurious labels such as Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and others alike. They also have the finer restaurants around but also the popular chains. The mall itself had a beautiful architecture and is a sight to see. Next to Pavilion is a cheaper mall called Fahrenheit which also attracts shopping travellers. Further down around the corner of Bukit Bintang about 10 minutes walk from Pavilion is another mall called Times Square Mall a trendy artsy mall with many of the popular affordable shops. Lastly another main place to visit within Bukit Bintang is Jalan Alor a popular food market with plenty of local cuisines. The market is amazing however can get very crowded and is not as cheap as you might think. Overall Bukit Bintang is mainly for shopping, it is a nice central location to start off your visit it also is a convenient area to stay with nearly everything like restaurants, supermarkets and shops nearby.

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Bridge from Pavilion (Bukit Bintang) to Petronas Towers (KLCC)

Just a 10 minute walk away via a conveniently built elevated airconditioned walkway behind the Pavilion Mall is a place called Kuala Lumpur City Centre better known as KLCC which is a place where the Aquaria, Petronas Tower, Suria Mall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and others are situated. It is a more touristic area with plenty of sightseeing hotspots. Firstly one of the more family friendly attraction in KLCC is Aquaria which is located below the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre I didn’t personally visit this as I deemed it for families or kids, however ive been told it is underrated. Next in the area is the main landmark of the whole city and in my opinion the country aswell.

The Petronas towers also known as the Petronas Twin Towers  are two twin skyscrapers joined (midpoint called the skybridge) designed by an Argentine architect and built by two different companies, Japanese built tower one and a South Korean consortium built tower two. Known as the city’s crown jewel the 88 storey building is open to limited tourists per day (limited by day, limited by night) to go up and view KLs panoramic scenery. There are also high end restaurants inside the Petronas towers so those with a higher budget can dine in one of the highest points in the city. Below the towers is a popular mall called Suria Mall, this shopping area is somewhat similar to the Pavilion in terms of the shops and restaurants it accommodates. Another nearby area popular with tourists is the KLCC Park which is a nice place for tourists and locals alike to chill, there are many different trees and plants but most observed is the symphony lake which presents magical fountain shows at around 2000, 2100 and 2145 every night, it is nice to see but for me I have seen better. Overall KLCC is a nice area to visit the Petronas towers and its architectural surroundings are amazing and beautiful.

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The Kuala Lumpur Menora or Kuala Lumpur Tower which is more known to tourists is another must see landmark whilst visiting Kuala Lumpur. The tower which is the seventh largest telecommunication tower in the world has an observation deck, a revolving restaurant, sky deck, sky box and a few others. I only managed to go on the revolving restaurant called atmosphere 360, it was a good experience that had marvellous views of the city. Surrounding the tower is Kuala Lumpur Eco Park which is an interesting visit in itself. Like a botanical garden this parks has plenty different plants and trees. What’s more enjoyable about this Eco Park is the canopy walk which takes people into a nice desired height to enjoy and observe the park from a panoramic view.

Other places popular to visit are the markets. I visited two of the city’s main markets, the Central Market and Petalling Street which is also known to be the city’s China town. Firstly the Central Market, which sells local handicrafts and eateries. Before visiting the place I thought it would be a local wet market selling produce but it was very focused selling to tourists. The Market was an interesting place to walk around which has had its own story to tell, you can appreciate the local Malaysian creativity. The market also offers delicious local delicacies such as durian, you would not be let down if you come here. Petalling  Street which is a short 10min walk from the Central Market is another popular place for tourists. Known as KL’s china town this area has many different street foods and cheap products. Also roamed by locals these side streets can also be a shoppers haven, a place where your haggling skills can be tested.

Just outside of Kuala Lumpur in the region known as Selangor which circles around the capital is home to one of the most famous points of interest in the ‘Batu Caves’ which is a limestone hill that has a series of caves which consist of over 100 year old Hindu temples. Firstly on the front there is a large golden (painted) statue of Lord Muragan in whom the temples are dedicated to. This statue is significant to the country as it is also the  largest at 43 metres high. Past the statue is 272 steps which lead up to the temple caves. These steps which have recently been coloured are somewhat obstacles for religious pilgrims. Whilst climbing these steps monkeys are ever present, they are very nice to take pictures with but be careful these monkeys are known to steal food and water, they will also bite if felt threatened. After the steps the cave is amazing and picturesque there are a lot of Hindu idols statues around and there temples are very active in prayers. The Batu cave is a must whilst visiting Malaysia it is free and there are no touts or vendors annoying tourists, the only thing you would need to think about is what you wear. It is a religious place and respectful attire are required, stricter for women than men.

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A popular thing to do whilst staying in Kuala Lumpur is to do a day excursions. I visited Kuala Gandah which was just over an hour drive from the capital. Kuala Gandah is usually visited for the National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC) which is a retreat for rescued elephants, so visiting this facility is helpful to the creatures whilst a brilliant experience and spectacle to those who visit. In the conservation you will watch a short 30min video about the rescued animals, feed, learn and watch a show about these majestic giants. You will also be able to bath with baby elephants which is a popular thing to do for many tourists.

Conclusion

Overall Kuala Lumpur was an eye opener, it is definitely one of my favourite capitals I have visited just because of its culture and the amount of things you can see and do. The city is cheap but can be a luxurious as you want it to be. There is also a lot that can be done whatever your age, interest and budget. My particular favourite is the Elephant conservation centre which highlighted the importance of protecting elephants but any creatures altogether, which is something special to learn especially for tourists from large cities that don’t know about these problems. Another place I loved about KL is the Petronas Towers which is just an architectural spectacle from any angle.

A visit to Kuala Lumpur is something any traveller must do, nice people, delicious food, eye opening culture and outstanding architecture, you cant go wrong.

Back to “A small circuit around south east Asia”

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Reference:

15 Interesting Facts About Kuala Lumpur
http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/en https://menarakl.com.my/index.php/the-tower/about-us
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Kyoto

Type : City, Provincial
Best Date : Feb-May
Expense : Expensive
Things to do : Sightseeing, religious prayers, dining, shopping, dress up in kimono, ect
Points of Interest: Nijo Castle, Fushimi-Inari, Kiyomizu-Dera, Gion, Kyoto Impreial Castle, Nishi Hogan-Ji, ect
The Good: Best preserved Japanese culture
The Bad: Generally expensive

Brief

Kyoto is another of Japans former capitals. Rich and famous for is various Buddhist temples, shrines, gardens, imperial palaces and wooden houses. The Prefecture or city is said to be the historical and cultural centre of the country with its traditional society, dining and architecture still experienced today. The kaiseki dining and the female entertainers known as geishas are found within this city.

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The Place

Getting a train from Osaka to Kyoto (S rapid train) within 30minutes was amazing to say the least, even though it was very busy and crowded. I was expecting to get out of a very rural small station but was surprised to arrive to a large station just like Osaka central. Walking out of the station I was starting to get a vibe that Kyoto was anything but provincial but another metropolis.

I arrived in Kyoto in the evening and planned to check-in and head straight out to visit what I could. The first building you see once stepping out of the main entrance of the station is ‘Kyoto Tower’ which is an observation tower overlooking the city, I didn’t enter the building but ive heard its a sight to see. After we planned a trip to a place called Shijo Dori (Shijo Street) to have something to eat and see what the nightlife is like as it was also the area for their clubs and bars. Walking around the streets there were plenty of shops some more traditional than others. Arcades were also a big thing around these streets and can get very busy with local children, some even still in their school uniform.

The next morning we went to ‘Fushimi Inari-Taisha’ it rained but this gave our experience a little more character. Dating back to year 794 when Kyoto was capital, this shrine is one of the most important which is dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari. The iconic shrine is famous for having over a thousand orange vermilion torii gates which routes up mount Inari and into the wooden forest. The experience was incredible, the whole visit took about 3-4 hours in total trekking up and down the shrine. There were plenty of stops and different shrines to visit. I saw lots of fox statues and didn’t know what they were for till I found out that foxes are seen to be the messenger for the God Inari. The top of the mountain (shrine) was a bit of an anti climax (in my opinion) as there was nothing different than the various shrines that you pass along the way.

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After hiking for almost 3-4 hours, we went back to Shijo street then got something to eat in ‘ Nishiki market’ which is known to have the best traditional food in the city.

On that same day we also visited the ‘Kiyomizu- Dera’ which is a one of Kyoto’s notable attractions. ‘ Kiyomizu Dera’ is a huge Buddhist temple which is significant to the city and named a UNESCO world heritage site. When I visited the main building was being refurbished and had plenty of scaffolding and a cover, so it wasn’t as picturesque as it would normally be. Nonetheless the Kiyomizu-Dera is one of Kyoto’s main attractions and must be visited, even with all the construction the place was still very beautiful and scenic.

‘Gion’ is also an excellent place to visit especially in ‘ Hanamikoji Dori’ the street famous for the Geisha tradition. Filled with long-established wooden buildings, this area is also famous for its traditional dining and hospitality. The walk is only about 10 minutes from one end to the other and the Geishas are rarely seen, there are very strict rules in the street which include no touching of the geishas, selfie sticks, littering and others alike. Take note although dining here is a must, it is very expensive.

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Nishi-Hogan-Ji is another place that should be visited as it is the largest school for a particular type of Buddhism. Here you will find beautiful large traditional Japanese architecture.

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One place that is not really advertised for tourist to visit is actually an observation point above Kyoto station. Here there are views of Kyoto but the most observed are its stairs with LED lights acting like one huge screen where short light shows happen. I don’t know a special name for this place but yeah, the light stairs!

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Conclusion

Kyoto was the best place I went to in for Japanese culture and history. I was expecting a provincial rural atmosphere but was surprised that the whole city looked like a miniature Osaka and Tokyo with many lit up and technological areas such as ‘Gion’. Although it rained when I was there, this only just gave the city more character. Tourists rent Kimonos and Geisha outfits whilst around the city. This was interesting as this is not done in any other place around the world with their local traditional outfits. I did however under estimate the time I needed in the city, so there were plenty more places I haven’t visited.

Back to my Japan Trip
Reference:

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3915.html

Photo:

www.circumnavacation.com (Kyoto station light show)
663highland (Nishi Hogan Ji)

My Ilocos Trip

Holiday 2017 in the Philippines I decided to go north to the preserved Spanish colonial villages. Using the luxury Partas bus from Cubao I excursed north from Manila to visit the countries north

(please click on the cities to find out more)

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First Stop Laoag

My base for a night, the small city was capital of north Ilocos, it had important historical significance which is shown in many of their museums and buildings

Next Stop Paoay

Laoag’s neighbouring city, this is the more active area of the holiday with its 4×4 sand dunes and sand boarding.

The Finale in Vigan

Vigan one of Philippines highly preserved Spanish colonial cities. Capital of Ilocos south region, Vigan is one of UNESCO’s heritage sites in the country.

Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)

“Paradise Cruise, an excellent way to experience Ha Long Bay”

Type : Cruise, Island Hopping, Beach, Fishing
Best Date : Nov-Dec, Mar-Apr
Expense :  Expensive
Things to do Island hopping, swimming, fishing, trekking ect
Points of Interest: Tuan Chau, Dau Go cave, Thien Cung cave, Ti-Top island ect

Brief

Ha Long Bay which means the ‘Descending Dragon Bay’ is a popular excursion away from Hanoi’s bustling and chaotic city. The bay is a UNESCO world heritage north east of the Vietnam in Quang Ninh province. Ha long bay is said to have around 1,600 limestone islands and islets, many of which haven’t been influenced by human presence due to their steepness, height and sharpness which make them dangerous to venture and discover.

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The Place

There is many ways in which you can enjoy ‘Ha Long Bay’ but most popular is to take a 2 or 3 day cruise, many take private boats and some stay on the shores. Activities such as canoeing, trekking, scuba diving are available at some areas of Ha long bay which after experiencing the serene scenery, the reason why so many come here.

I experienced Ha Long Bay through a 2 day voyage with ‘Paradise Luxury Cruises’ which has plenty of tours to offer, they have a fleet of many named ‘Paradise Elegance 1’, ‘Paradise Elegance 2’, ‘Paradise Peak’. ‘Paradise Luxury’ and many more. I was in ‘Paradise Elegance 1’ and I will write about my the tour and my personal experiences with them.

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Our itinerary went like this.

DAY ONE:

07:30 – 11:30 Transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay

11:30 – 12:15 Arrive in Tuan Chau Island. Light snacks at Paradise Suites Hotel

12:15 Transfer to Paradise Elegance Cruise ship

12:30 Welcome drink, cruise information and check-in

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch at Le Marin Restaurant (onboard)

14:30 – 15:30 Cruise and sightseeing along Halong Bay

15:30 Visit Sung Sot Cave

17:00 – 18:30 Happy Hour (Buy one, get one drink), free time

17:30 – 19:00 Anchor at Coconut Tree Island for overnight stay
Cooking demonstration at L’Odyssée Sundeck (onboard)

19:00 – 22:00 À la carte dinner is served at Le Marin Restaurant 

21:00 Enjoy live music at Le Piano Bar (onboard)

DAY TWO: 

06:30 – 07:00 Tai Chi demonstration at the Sundeck

07:00 – 08:00 Light breakfast, coffee & pastries

08:00 Visit Titov Island (1 hour) for swimming or hiking

09:00 Breakfast Buffet

09:30 Bill settlement and checkout

10:30 Return to Tuan Chau Marina

10:45 – 12:00 Light snacks at Paradise Suites Hotel

12:00 Return to Hanoi

 

So our journey started on an overnight stay in Hanoi having booked our hotel as a package deal with the cruise. The pickup from the airport to our Hanoi hotel using a luxury limousine van was inclusive of the package deal. Staying in the capital first was a good way to start off our Vietnam experience not only to climatise but also to soak up the atmosphere for the days to come. However the next morning an early wake up was required for the transfer to ‘Halong Bay’, the pickup arrives 07:30 which means a rushed breakfast. Again the transfer to ‘Halong Bay’ is inclusive with the whole tour experience and uses the luxury limousine van (used from airport to Hanoi hotel). Before the journey starts the driver will introduce himself and a bottle of water would be given to each passenger. The journey takes about 3 hours with a stop over to a lovely Vietnamese product factory which sells paintings, artwork, clothes and food products, however strictly no photography is allowed. This stopover also acts as a little toilet and snack break from the long journey.

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Upon arrival at the Halong Bay area you get off at ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’ at Tuan Chau island where you will register, check-in, get little instructions and receive your key card for your room in the boat. At this point you will no longer need to carry your baggage around as next time you will see them is at your room. Before leaving for the boat you will be invited for light lunch at the hotel until the transfer to your boat is ready (main buffet lunch is served on-board the boat). The transfer to the boat is about 5 minutes where you will get an extraordinary welcome, my highlight is petals getting thrown on you from a balcony upon stepping foot on the boat, which doesn’t usually happen. A quick welcome dance, safety and information briefing (whilst sipping on some welcome drinks) will be given before you get to go down and enter your rooms for the first time. After a brief wind down in your rooms the buffet lunch will be served, whilst the cruise starts to move.

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After cruising through the spectacular majestic limestone islets for about 2 hours you arrive at the first stop at ‘Sung Sot Cave’. This excursion is somewhat tiring  going uphill with plenty walking required, if you are not fit or would just like to relax then it is possible to stay on the boat and rest. However ‘Sung Sot Cave’ is an awesome sight to see and I advise everybody who has the chance to see this sight. After the tour which takes about 1.5hrs – 2hrs, you return to the boat, which is then a time to relax and have a rest. Alternatively if you don’t want to rest then the bar is at happy hour at this time which means 2 drinks for the price on 1.

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At about 17:30 there is a cooking demonstration/ lessons. This is a fun way to end the evening and to learn Vietnamese cuisine under breath taking sceneries, after completion a certificate is awarded at dinner. After that there is a 3 course ‘A la Carte’ (included in the package), divided into 2 menus ‘Western Cuisine’ and ‘Eastern Cuisine’, from what I can remember the ‘western cuisine’ had steak, roast chicken, pasta and more a like, ‘Eastern menu’ had food such as noodles, spring rolls and so on. Usually during dinner there is a live band or pianist but ours didn’t have one, but our host ‘Ronald’ was very good at conversing and entertaining his guests. The last activity on that day is ‘squid fishing’  here patience is required and although I didn’t catch anything, I still enjoyed the experience. After that I then ordered a few to drinks, returned to my room and then called it a day and slept in my nice comfortable ‘Queen size bed’, the only bad side is that the televisions didn’t work as well as it should due to signals being difficult to reach.

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Next morning, I woke up around 05:45 ready for a morning ‘Tai Chi’ session. The sunrise was spectacular from my balcony, and more so at the sundeck where the tai chi took place. The morning exercise took about 20-30 minutes full with warm up stretches, the martial art itself then a warm down. It was a weird experience and I definitely know I didn’t do it correctly but the result was interesting, my body felt very good after and throughout the day. After that, light breakfast is served which means a simple tea and coffee with some croissants and biscuits, only small bite until the full breakfast buffet which is served at 09:00. However before that there is another excursion out of the boat and onto ‘Titov Island’. This is an island much more challenging than the first outing at ‘Sung Sot Cave’ with much longer walks and steeper stairs, but it is not necessary to go to the top of the island and many just stay at the shores swim on the beach. However hiking to the top is enjoyable and it is the highest point of ‘Halong Bay’ overall, which has beautiful, majestic panoramic views. I didn’t get to swim in the beaches but all guest were told to be careful of jellyfishes, which didn’t sound very safe anyway.

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Upon returning to the boat there is about 10-30 minutes to freshen up and then the breakfast buffet is served. The buffet is like any continental breakfast found in any high end hotels, with hot and cold foods, fresh eggs, a good choice of juices and many more. After breakfast you start to feel the end of the cruise as you bill out at this point and pack to leave your luggage out of your room for collection (you wont need to carry your luggage again until arriving to the ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’. The last chance to take photos and videos and catch last glimpses of these islets are at this point of the journey. Upon arriving at the harbour you say farewell to the amazing staff and head to ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’ where you await your transport back to Hanoi. The last offering from the whole tour package is the light lunch whilst waiting for your ride back to the capital. When your ride arrives there is another 3 hours ride with a stopover, the whole cruise experience sadly ends.

Overall the cruise was a fantastic experience for all the family to enjoy, although younger kid may have limited to do. Firstly the boat was spacious with rooms good enough to be compared to a 5 star hotel. The staff in the cruise were very nice and knowledgeable, loved to converse and take care of their passengers with in high regard. The activities such as canoeing and fishing were good additions. The only small downside is that the television and Wi-Fi signals can sometimes be very weak. Although the cost of this cruise was very high plus a few add-ons, I still believe the experience was well worth it and thought that the 2 days wasn’t enough.

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