Siem Reap Temples in the Grand Circuit

The Grand Circuit also known as the Grand tour is a collection of temples on the outer road of the Angkor archaeological park. All tuk-tuk, taxi and tour drivers would know which collection of temples to take you. I did the Grand tour on my second day in Siem Reap but it was my first day visiting the temples itself. We booked a Sunset evening tour which followed the Grand circuit route and spanned around 4 hours. This tour was carried out using a Tuk-tuk which in my opinion is the best way to experience the Archaeological sights.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan which means ‘Royal Sword’ is a temple complex built around 1191, it was a gift by King Jayavarman VII to his father. The temple was built upon victory of a battle against the Chams.

This is the very first temple we visited on our visit to Siem Reap. Hearing all the great things about all the temples in Angkor, I was particularly excited to see for myself and witness what all the fuss was about. Our first impressions of our first temple Preah Khan was amazing, enchanting and very much perfect and picturesque. We didn’t even enter the temple walls and we already spent half an hour taking photographs. The entrance had a nice old bridge crossing a beautiful calm stream, it was a perfect sight but somewhat ruined by some scaffolding as some structures were still being refurbished or repaired. The place was very quiet which was the exact opposite of what I was expecting. The temple complex was huge and you can easily spend an hour or even more here. There are still a lot of rubble in different areas which is awaiting to be rebuilt or repaired.

A great start to my temple experience and knowing it can only get better made me eager to see the rest. Best part for me here was the entrance where the bridge is situated with the calm relaxing stream.

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Neak Pean  

This was our next stop after Preah Khan, this was a much simpler temple. Firstly from the drop off point you would have to walk around 10-15 minutes on a very beautifully scenic elevated platform towards the temple. The walk is a pleasure however when arriving to the actual temple it is (in my opinion) not bad but somewhat of an anti-climax compared to our first temple. However the complex is beautiful and has huge significance to the area at its time.

Neak Pean was also built by King Jayavaraman VII on the second half of the 12th century, he dedicating this to the Buddhists. the complex is small and consists of an island temple surrounded by four smaller ponds representing wind, fire, water and earth. It is said that this was built to be a place of healing whereas bathing on the ponds would heal disease or wounds.  

My impressions for this temple was ok. If you are a photography type tourist it wouldn’t be much of a loss to miss this place, however if you like learning about the place then there is much information to be had here. Best part for me here is the walk to get to this complex.

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Ta Som Temple

Ta Som is one of the Smaller temples in the Archaeological area. This temple is another built by King Jayavaraman VII but its purpose is still a mystery, some say it was built dedicated to his father whilst others say it was for his teacher.

This temple is one of the most completely restored and you can visit almost everywhere possible. Like a few other temples in Angkor there are trees growing on this temple which make for good photo opportunities. The ancient artwork is also well preserved in this temple. Best part for me on this complex was its surroundings of tall trees, it was magical and enchanting to say the least.

We somewhat rushed through this as it was similar to the first temple we visited (Preah Khan). You start to get the impression that all temples are similar and visits to others would be boring unless the architecture or styles change drastically.

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East Mebon

East Mebon was one of the earlier temples in the Angkor Archaeological park built in the 10th century. King Rajendravarman II built this mountain temple complex dedicating to the Hindu god Shiva.

Visiting East Mebon was a pleasure, it had different architectural style than that of the other temples. The complex consisted of step terraces shaping as a pyramid. It had huge sculptures of elephants on each corner. This place was clean and I didn’t see any loose stones awaiting to be repaired.

For me, East Mebon was interesting for the difference it had to the other temples we visited. The complex was not too big and you could spend 30 minutes to roam. This temple did however have steep narrow steps so a bit of care is required when visiting this place. It was very picturesque but was ruined by dark clouds which brought rain as we were leaving this complex.

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Pre Rup

Pre Rup is another temple built by King Rajendravarman II around the year 961, said to be the state Hindu temple of the King. It is also thought that this was popular in burial ceremonies and some say the complex is one huge crematorium. It has similar architectural style as that of East Mebon as a mountain temple complex with a pyramid step styled terraces. 

This was suppose to be the grand finale of our tour (Sunset tour), as it is meant to be a spectacular sunset. However the experience was ruined by the showering monsoon style rain. We didn’t have any jackets or umbrellas and even if we did the rain would’ve been too strong. We stayed in our tuk-tuk waiting for a possible stop, but this unfortunately didn’t happen and we ended up going back to the hostel, seeing the sunset on our journey back.

However reading about this specific temple it was not one to miss out on even though this is the quiet compared to other notable temples in the Angkor region.

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Pre Rup      (Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/3238877325)

Overall Conclusion

The temples in the Grand Circuit are astonishing to say the least, I saw two different styles of ancient architecture and saw lots of unique art. The difference in architecture style did make the tour more fascinating and boredom didn’t occur on this circuit. I was surprised that there weren’t huge crowds in any of these temples, I don’t know if we were lucky or we just chose a good time. My experience was somewhat ruined by the rain, but then that’s no fault of this fantastic place, actually apart from the heavy shower on the last temple (Pre Rup) the light droplets on other temples did give the place character and cooled the place for us as it was the peak of summer.

In my overall opinion the Grand Circuit which could be completed in a single day is perfect to start off with. The reason being is that because the more notable temples are on the small circuit it would be a better progress the experience rather than to have an anti-climax. As in my opinion although the collection of temples in this circuit are astonishing the temples in the small circuit are a little better.

Thanks or reading…

Please read my further experience:

  1. Tickets, Entry to the Temples
  2. Small Circuit (Coming soon)
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples (Coming soon)

and also read my full experience in

 

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Reference:

https://www.wmf.org/project/preah-khan-temple
https://www.tourismcambodia.com/attractions/angkor/neak-pean.htm
Ta Som
https://www.renown-travel.com/cambodia/angkor/pre-rup.html https://justsiemreap.com/temple-guide/pre-rup/

 

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Siem Reap

Type : Historical, Religious, Cultural
Best Date : Dec – Jan
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Visit Temples, Bike tours, ATV tours,
Points of Interest: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, Killing Fields, Night Market, Military Museum and many more

Brief

Siem Reap is a province north of Cambodia, the main hub for the world famous temple structures such as the Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm which was the set for the Tomb Raider movie. Siem Reap means “Siamese Defeated” which refers to the victory of the Khmer empire against the Thai Kingdom. Tourism is said to be the main form of income to the province and thus this is tightly controlled by the government.

I have been so excited to go to Siem Reap for a while now and with a consistency in top 5 must see places in various different websites and blogs and because of this I had high hopes for this place. Before this trip Machu Picchu was my top and favourite place to date and I wanted to see if this province and its attractions can knock it off my personal first place.

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The Place

My stay in Siem Reap was a total of 5 days which was advised a little too long for a visit. They have told me that apart from temples which could be completed in 2-3 days, there is not much else to see and do in the province. Taking opinions into account I researched and read more blogs and websites which various sources do indeed recommend a 2-3 days stay which made me panic a bit as I already confirmed my plans and have had various bookings made. However I did decide to proceed with my plans and see and judge the place to myself.

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My first day was kind of a surprise as it was the last day of the Cambodian new year. Hotels were packed and there was a lot of people many holding water guns (which got me quiet confused). We arrived early morning about 8am, me and my friend Russel (who was with me on this trip) decided to head to our hostel and see if they would let us check-in or to leave are bags. As the period was busy we weren’t able to check-in and we had to just leave are bags and explore the city. We didn’t have too much plans and we wanted to leave the temples for the next day for tactical reasons which I will explain further-on. So we decided to get a tuk-tuk driver to take us around the nearby points-of-interests which were the Wat Thmey Killing Fields and the Military Museum.

The Wat Thmey Killing Fields is the area mass killings took place during the 20th century by the ruling party the Khmer Rouge. This place is not one visits to enjoy themselves and take selfies but a place for respect, education and reflection. Today the area which is free of charge has a temple and a few educational features. There is also a pagoda which has placed all the remains of some of the victims of this awful tragedy. After our visit to the killing fields, it was rightful we learnt more about the conflict and headed to the Military Museum. This museum did have a small entrance fee but I’d say was worth it. The museum showcased many real vehicles and weapons of the wartime era and most educational for me was the landmine exhibition which was a big deal for Cambodia at the time.

Whilst on our way back to the hostel with our dedicated tuk-tuk driver we were suddenly squirted with water via a water gun by pedestrians which got me a little mad but our tuk-tuk driver was smiling and laughing and he explained it is the last day of new year and there will be a huge water fight around temple street at night. He explained that everyone is happy and no-one gets angry or mad at this water fight, locals and tourists are welcome. This was a huge bonus for my trip as I had no idea this was happening (what an experience). I set out to get a water gun and found that I was being charged much higher than the locals which I expected anyway, after a few hours of haggling I found my toy. That night was beautiful, it was truly a festival spectacle. Load music, firework displays, bright lights but the difference was everyone was wet. Throughout the road just by Temple street kids, adults, locals and tourists had water-guns and were playing without limits. The experience for me was brilliant it was unlike anything I have ever done.

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The second day we were now joined by my cousin. I collected her from the airport at around 8am and after a short rest we decided to start with visiting the Temples. In Siem Reap there are many different temples to visit and the tours and tickets are closely managed by the government. We opted for a 3 day pass hence we didn’t visit temples on our first day to conserve our pass days. I will be explaining this in depth on another blog (Siem Reap and its temples), which will include the temples themselves and the different tours which all follow the same pattern. On our first temple day (day two of Siem Reap) we decided to roam the morning in the city and took the ‘Sunset Tour’ which was the outer Circuit also known as the Grand Circuit. Included in this are popular temples such as Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som and Pre Rup the popular location for views of the sunset. It was a four hour tour using a tuk-tuk however the weather was not in our favour for the end as it rained heavily as we were stopping to our last temple and the most important one to see the sunset. I had mixed feeling for the Grand tour as there were some very amazing structures and others were nothing special. A more in depth post about the Grand Circuit can be found here.

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Day three  we decided to do the Small Circuit and a further temple called Bantaey Srei. The small circuit included temples such as Angkor Thom, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, the famous Ta Prohm temple which featured in the Tomb Raider film, the main temple of the country Angkor Wat and many more. Bantaey Srei was 40km away from the village so our tuk-tuk driver decided to take us there first and then return for the small circuit afterwards, the journey to this temple was long and about after halfway the excitement begins to die down. After visiting this we headed towards the small circuit which included all the more notable temples on offer in Siem Reap. Bayon was specifically my favourite ahead of Angkor Wat, it was enchanting and tested my view if Machu Picchu was better, however at the end Bayon still couldn’t knock the Peruvian mountain off my top spot.  A more in depth post about the Small Circuit can be found here.

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Angkor Wat

The next day and day four of Siem Reap my parent arrived for their visit and we moved from a hostel into a luxurious hotel. We used this day as a rest day as you could get bored with a temple overload, so we lounged at the pool and roamed the village further which there wasn’t much to it. In the evening we attended a traditional Khmer cultural show in Koulen Restaurant which was just behind our hotel. This show included quality buffet dinner which had so many choices. The performances were outstanding.

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After the cultural show we decided to head to town and to Temple road to do our shopping for the trip. The road was very lively, it was a diverse mixture of people from locals and tourists, old and young. Walking around we also passed through Market street and the Arts market. These places are really nice to hang around but I was surprised that unlike other markets across Asia, the markets here close very early at around 9pm or 10pm.

 

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Day five was a repeat of the Small circuit which me and my cousin have done but parents haven’t yet. The fact that I had a 3 day ticket meant I had 1 more day to use so we decided to redo the small circuit to learn more about the place rather than roam at our own account. However this time the tour was inclusive of a van rather than a tuk-tuk and an English speaking tour guide. I was able to distinguish the difference in having a luxurious tour and also doing things on a budget. I believe that using a nice air-conditioned van is much more comfortable, but it does take away the extra authentic feel of the places you are visiting. However the guide was a positive in that you gain more knowledge of the place, but as tours can be shared picture or roaming opportunities can be limited.

Conclusion

In conclusion Siem Reap has lived up to its reputation as a very enchanting place to visit, the people, its culture and history are just amazing apart from the terrible tragedy of its wartime era. Siem Reap was the majestic place I have imagined and all the positive travel reviews I have read were accurate. Furthermore I agree that Siem Reap is consistently a chart topping travel destination even with popular travel guide publishers ‘Lonely Planet‘. Sadly for me neither Angkor Wat or Bayon have beaten my favourite place in Machu Picchu, however they firmly take my second spot of places to visit.

Many people would advise you to visit for 2-3 days max as apart from the temples there is not much to do. However from my experience a 5 day stay is also practical as there is just so many temples to you may want to visit.

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Siem Reap and although travel to the province is somewhat difficult it is worth it.

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Please read more in-depth blogs on my experience in Siem Reap (please click to read):

  1. Tickets, Entry to the Temples
  2.  Small Circuit (Coming soon)
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples (Coming soon)

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Reference:

https://www.tourismcambodia.com/travelguides/provinces/siem-reap/introduction.htm

 

Langkawi

Type : Island
Best Date :  May-Jul
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Jet Ski, Beach walks, Paragliding, Shopping, attractions
Points of Interest: Pantai Cenang beach, Eagle Square, Sky Bridge, Golf

Brief

Langkawi is a group of islands on the west coast of Malaysia part of the Kedah state. Known as the Jewel of Kedah Langkawi is a popular place for tourism with its dive sites, many water sport activities and attractions within the main island.

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The Place

Langkawi was a place with bountiful attractions to see and a magnitude of activities to do. Langkawi was an itinerary I miss-planned when working on this visit, I only planned a two days stay resulting in not much time to see and do everything possible. Langkawi was an eye opener for me and I enjoyed every minute of it, I only wish I had stayed a little longer to see and do more. That’s a learning curve for me I guess, to never underestimate an area and do more research. However for the things I did do I cannot exaggerate the fun and enjoyment I had.

Firstly in Langkawi you must visit the beaches especially the ones in front of Pantai Tengah and Pantai Cenang. The sand was white and powdery and at times you will see amazing small crabs digging holes (harmless). Furthermore the beach is beautiful and scenic but best of all it was very quiet only seeing a few people from a space in the whole beach (well when I was there). At night although unlit the shores get a little more livelier with some shisha stands opening and a little more families roaming, this is a brilliant place to chill and unwind where some musics are played and fire dancers perform.

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The Pantai Cenang strip is a brighter and noisier place with various malls, market stands and restaurants. In my opinion this area or nearby place is the best place to stay as this is convenient for food, shops and even some attractions, other areas are difficult and may need some sort of transport.

One of my favourite place in Pantai Cenang and Langkawi altogether is the makeshift food truck park (I don’t know its formal name) which only appear in the evenings. Here you can dine on a budget with some of the most delicious food and drinks you can find on the island. There is a variety of different foods from burgers, local BBQ, rice dishes, fruits and many different beverages, anybody will be spoilt for choice. Furthermore these food trucks do have seats and tables usually reserved for customers who buy from their truck. A popular place for all tourists looking for a new experience.

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Pantai Kok probably has many of the most popular attraction in Langkawi. First we start with the best known mountain on the island Mt Mat Cincang which has a lot of attractions around its area. One of which is the Sky Bridge (cover attraction in Langkawi) the longest free span and curved bridge in the world. This is a brilliant place to visit and a sight to see even for me who is not brilliant with heights. To get here you will need to take the Langkawi Cable Car (Sky Cab) which is around a 15 minute ride from the oriental village to the top of Gunung Machinchang where the Sky Bridge is located. However after reaching the peak of the cable cart ride you will still need to get a Sky train or do a nature walk (tickets needed for both) in order to reach the sky bridge, a money rouse if you ask me. The SkyCab was safe and had brilliant views however in my opinion needs updating as it can get very hot inside the cabins as there is no air conditioning only small open windows. There are different types of cabins from standard, glass bottom and a VIP cart (don’t know the difference) however I’m not too sure about the prices. The Oriental Village below the mountains is an attraction in itself. My SkyCab ticket included 2 other attractions the 3D Museum which I thoroughly enjoyed and the Sky Rex a virtual reality simulation worthy to spare 5minutes for. There are also other attractions within this area but I deemed these would be for children and didn’t have the time. You can easily spend a whole day around this area alone (I spent half a day) as there is just so much to do, something for everyone.

Other attractions around Pantai Kok but missed due to time were the Telaga Harbour Park, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls (seen from the Sky Cab), Bird Paradise, Crocodile Farm and many more. Not too happy about missing some of these.

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We also did one of the main activities to do in Langkawi the Jet Ski tour which we did with Wave Quest Watersport which was the company in front of our hotel. Its important to know there were plenty of different operators so I will just describe my experience with this company and I cannot guess the experience on other jet Ski tours. The tour we did was the Island tour which was a 6 hour tour visiting 8 different islands. The jet skis with this company were the one of the best quality I have ever used in a tour and I have been to quiet a few. The vehicles had two storages, one larger one in front of the jet skis for bags and the other in front of the driver for smaller items such as water bottles and smaller gadgets, no other jet ski I have used before had any storages. The tour also provided each individual with a waterproof bag to put all belongings in, a very well organised jet ski tour company from the start.

Firstly we stopped on our first island Beras Basah  island one of the two islands we got off to roam. This island was basic for me, nothing made me amazed the only plus were the population of monkeys. After about a 40 minute stopover we then went right back to the seas for hours of jet skiing we passed various of Langkawi’s magnificent island formations including Tuba , Lima, Singa, Jong Island passing some smooth and some aggressive but fun waves. Then for lunch and a longer stopover than the first we got off at the Pregnant Maiden Island. Here we got to swim in the fresh water lake which was fun and serene, a much more interesting island than the first stopover.  Although a lunch stopover there were not too much to eat in this island there were only a burger and a rice stand. After about a 1hr stopover we then head for the jet skis again and to visit some of the other islands including an echoing island. Finally ending this amazing tour we went to the Eagle point at Singa Besar Island where we fed eagle, this was an incredible sight to see and a worthy ending to a fantastic Jet ski tour. All in all this to me was the highlight of Langkawi a nice way to see many off Langkawi’s islands.

The next day, we visited Kuah Langkawi’s largest town. This is the place where most ferries enter and depart, it is not the place to look for beaches as in other locations around the island. I can only describe this place as more of a boat port area with a few malls built to appease tourists. We headed straight to Eagle Square and one of the main spot here is the Datarang Lang a 12 metre tall statue which overlooks the scenic harbour. A nice monument to see but would advise to visit in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t too strong. Apart from that there is nothing really to see here just a few nice views and a traditional market.

Other places to visit in Langkawi that we didn’t have the time to visit are Galeria Perdana Museum, Under water world, Durian Pernagin Waterfall, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls and a whole lot more. Sadly with only 2 nights in Langkawi we only visited a few places.

Conclusion

Langkawi is beautiful, I didn’t expect too much before I got there but after just one night fell in love with the calm laidback conservative culture, an island that didn’t bow down to the western way of life by filling it with bars and clubs like other island destinations in Asia.  Places for alcohol was a little bit difficult but you’ve got to appreciate their culture. Nonetheless Langkawi was a magnificent place with plenty points of interests and loads of activities to enjoy. The island was much more special as it had both natural attractions along with man made ones. The Sky Bridge is a must visit albeit expensive and the Jet Ski tour is something everyone that is able should do. I think maybe 3 or 4 days is required to fulfil a trip to Langkawi.

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Back to “A small circuit around south east Asia”

 

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Reference:

http://www.panoramalangkawi.com/skybridge/

A Small Circuit Around South East Asia

My first trip of 2019 and its a pretty big one. I visited 4 places of different characteristics. Kuala Lumpur which is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, Siem Reap a majestic Cambodian Province, Langkawi a large adventurous island and Finally Koh Lipe a calm relaxing Thai island.

All were great and had its own approach

First Stop Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The First stop and my base city for this trip. For the first part in Kuala Lumpur I stayed in popular KL hostel Backhome. An eye opener with lots of different things to see and do.

Second Stop Siem Reap (Cambodia)

One of the main reasons to venture in this part of the world was to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have to admit the fact that Angkor Wat is consistently top 3 must visit places in various websites, made visiting this city a must.

Then Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Venture to one of Malaysia’s popular island. Travelled by plane instead of boat due to work perks. Quieter than the usual islands I visit like Boracay, Crete, Cebu and others but Langkawi didn’t fail to impress.

Fourth Stop in Koh Lipe (Thailand)

A short venture to another small nearby island. Koh Lipe happens to be crossing the boarder to Thailand. An interesting experience with a beach immigration system.

Finale, Back to Kuala Lumpur

A rest back in Kuala Lumpur, this time a more chilled and comfortable accommodation, ready to fly back to London.

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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

Cotswold (Bibury, Gloucestershire)

Type : Countryside, National Park
Best Date : Jun-Aug
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Fishing, Sightseeing, Afternoon Tea ect
Points of Interest: Bibury Trout farm, St Mary’s church, Arlington Row ect
The Good: Peaceful and beautiful British countryside
The Bad:
Very small, no ATM, limited shops and restaurants

Brief

The Cotswold is a 800 square miles area in the English countryside which centres between 5 counties (Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire). Cotswold is a large place and would take several days to visit every beautiful areas. Here I will talk about the small village of Bibury in Gloucestershire.

Bibury is a typical Cotswold village known to be one of the worlds most picturesque villages. Bibury which runs along the river Coln only has a few attractions but its peaceful scenic charm would make you want to stay for a whole day.

The Place

Bibury is a very small village within the Cotswold area in Gloucestershire. I visited this place in a nice summers for the purpose of fishing and having a picnic, in their trout farm in a nice summers day. However little did I know I visited one of the most special area in the Cotswold.

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The first place of interest in the village and maybe the central tourist spot is the ‘Bibury Trout Farm’ which is popular with families and children. The farm is a great place for a picnic and you are able to barbeque by the ponds. There is an entrance fee and you may have to pay for a table or a tent if you are planning to barbeque depending on availability. Nonetheless within their complex there is a beautiful café if a picnic is not your thing. To do some fishing there is a beginners pond and a more skilled one, the equipment is free and you may catch however many you want but you will pay for the fish depending on its weight.

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Another place to see in Bibury is ‘Arlington Row’ which is a 10 minute walk from the farm. It is beautiful collection of traditional British cottages a great area to roam and take photos.

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The ‘River Coln’ runs right in the centre of this village, it creates a beautiful environment and views of the landscapes. Again another place to unwind and take photographs.

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A traditional ‘St Mary’s church’ is also in the area, it is a operational church of England diocese.

Other than that Bibury as a whole is a reason to visit, the landscapes, traditional stone buildings and surroundings is just a pleasure in a warm summers day. There are various different wildlife that are seen here, some more welcome than others. Furthermore depending on the season flowers and plants also vary making the village an incredible sight to see.

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Conclusion

Bibury was small and you could walk from one end to the other. There was not plenty to do but fish trout, picnic, have a walk or go for an afternoon tea. However the surroundings cottages, river and greenery is why Bibury is a definite place to stay or visit whilst in the Cotswold.

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Reference:

https://www.cotswolds.com/
http://www.bibury.com/

 

A Quick Tour of Japan

This was my first trip to one of the richest and most powerful country in Asia, one which has rich history and best preserved tradition. I expected a very busy working country and also the most technologically advanced. My trip consisted of three of Japans most notable cities or prefectures (as its known) in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. I only had a total of 6 days and took the local trains to travel around except for a flight to Tokyo. I saw the most modern side of Japan but also its magical history and culture all whilst experiencing Japans world famous dishes.

Please click on the cities below to see how my journey went.

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First Stop Osaka

First part and entry point of my Japan trip was Osaka, starting with a busy airport and a confusing transport to our hotel. City looked industrial with many modern amusements.

Next Stop Kyoto

 A tiring start to the Kyoto experience, as we used a very busy commuter train to travel from Osaka. Although it rained on our Kyoto visit, the city definitely had character.

The Finale in Tokyo

The last city on my Japan trip, a bustling mega city.

 

 

 

How do you travel?

Do you buy cheap airfares or pay the price for the experience?

There is now the popular arguments between family, friends and even oneself on whether to travel cheaply or pay more for the added perks on flights. We know there are two types of carriers, “standard or premium airliners” which we recognize as flag carriers and even somewhat being the symbol of aviation in its country, secondly the increasing popularity of “budget or low cost airlines” the companies giving passengers very cheap tickets for bare necessities (no thrills as its known). I work for an airline and I know that the battle of the skies is difficult for every carrier out there. Its simple the more passengers the higher profitability which will also illustrate its reputation. Wealthy carriers are consistently advertising, upgrading seats, product and services, lowering prices also comes to the equation but only to an extent and with unfavourable consequences. Budget airlines spend less which enables them to lower tickets, this results in no food (buy on-board), less legroom (more row of sellable seats), undesirable airports and many more. Standard and budget airliners are now far apart on the service it offers, for us as passengers there is now a huge choice and it is something that divides opinions. So what is your method in flying?

Budget/ Low cost Airlines (Flying Cheaply)

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Advantages

Spend less money (more for the holiday itself)

One of two reasons I believe people travel with budget low cost airlines, is the price. There are many people who believe that air transport is only a small part of the holiday and would rather spend more on hotels and activities than a simple flight. Furthermore if the flight is only 1-2 hours there is no real effect on sitting in a budget airline than that of a more luxurious one.

Only pay for what you need

There is plenty of aspects on a standard airline company that an individual traveller doesn’t desire, such as insurance, food and even baggage weight. This is something budget airliners capitalises on and gives passengers the choice to pay for only the services you require, which is popular amongst many youthful travellers who aren’t swayed by insurance protection or seat choices, this is normally known in aviation as ‘no thrills’ flights.

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Disadvantages

Less Comfort

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Everybody has heard the saying that ‘you get what you pay for’, which is true when it comes to spending on flights. Easily seen when you book economy, business and first class within a single carrier and somewhat true when choosing between standard and budget flights. Cheap airlines usually only incorporate the essentials (the product required by law) which are very basic seats, a stowage and a toilet (no thrills as they call it). Take note low cost airlines have also been looking at the possibility of charging to use toilets but were unsuccessful due to various laws. Leg space is also affected and many (not all) budget carriers give the bare minimum required by the law, in order to increase the number of rows which will fit more people

No Baggage Allowance

If you know about aircrafts, you would know that weight is a big issue. The heavier the plane the more expensive fuel it uses resulting in higher costs, reason why many airliners are strict on baggage weight. Cheaper budget airlines do not give complimentary baggage weight as these need to be purchased, usually at a high cost.

Undesirable Airports

Getting away from huge costs and taxes reputable airports demand are something low cost carriers prefer to get away from. This enables them to avoid charges such as parking and facilities, overall lowering ticket prices to sell to customers. However although very attractable to customers at first (due to prices), these airports may be further and somewhat difficult to get to, resulting in further costs and unnecessary journeys to and from the airport.

Less protection

Many have experienced the undesirable event of delays, cancellations, overbooking, missing a flight and even damaged luggage’s. Many budget carriers do not include protection for these in your ticket bill, and again would require to purchase if you want one, some being very expensive.

Standard/ Premium Airlines (Pay for the experience)

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Advantages

Better products, comfier and more convenient

Standard or more premium airlines attract their customers for the product and service they offer. Leg space and recline are usually the simple advantages from budget to premium airliners, however the seats itself could be more comfier (leather, foam, ect). Long-haul flights (on standard/ premium flights) usually have IFEs (In-Flight Entertainment) which budget carriers do not equip themselves with due to its initial and running costs. Simpler products such as storage, tables and arm rests are also usually enhanced (depending on airline carrier) and probably the most important in the modern world are charging points which are now being increasingly introduced in all tiers on these airline companies. Furthermore these airlines also lend blankets and pillows for extra comfort something that low cost carriers do not.

Meals and giveaways

Depending on the journey and duration of flight the airline would offer complimentary meals, it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack depending on the time of the flight. Two meals may be offered for longer long-haul flights depending on the carrier. Amenity kits are sometimes offered on standard airlines but on budget carriers food and amenities must be purchased.

However take note that even premium/ standard carriers are starting to roll out a buy on board system (buy your meals) on short haul routes this is a model that may increasingly be popular and even the norm in the future.

Higher Standards

For premium and standard carriers, their brand is most precious, to attract customers means to give customers the best they can give. Usually the products on more expensive carriers are steadier and more robust, generally made from better quality materials. Inflight meals are also of better quality than what you can get in low cost carriers as their budgets for these would be paid for in the ticket prices. Furthermore Staff appearance (uniforms) are usually better and more fashionable than that of budget carriers and their training are far better which would results in better customer service.

Standard Baggage

Depending on the airline you travel with, there will be complimentary baggage weight for you to use (usually 20kg-40kg), this is something that is not included in cheaper carriers and thus an advantage for premium and standard airliners.

Choice of classes

If money is not a big barrier for you, standard airliners offer different classes and tiers, these have different products, services and food, something that budget airlines don’t offer. Depending on your standard of life, to be able to choose your tier and how much money you want to spend is another advantage over cheaper airlines with only one standard cabin and layout.

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Disadvantages

More expensive

Probably the only big disadvantage of standard and premium airlines, is the cost of their tickets. Usually double or sometimes triple of that on a budget airline the price is usually the big reason why many turn away from high end carriers.

Overall

There are positives and negatives flying both budget/ low cost and standard/ premium airlines, it just depends on the type of traveller and travel you are or having.

On a personal view, I am content to fly with both low-cost and standard airline companies for shorthaul flights but would edge more in favour for expensive carriers for long-haul flights as long as I am happy with the service I can get.

I wouldn’t mind flying budget/ low cost for Journeys less than 2 hours (short-haul) such as domestic routes or flights to neighbouring countries. These routes are too short for me to care about the service I receive as I usually just fall asleep for the duration of the flight without needing to eat, drink or entertain myself. My only disadvantage would be the airports I may likely be arriving or departing from as it may be too far and inconvenient for my target destination. However if the price difference from budget to standard are not too great then I would spend that bit more for the extra perks.

On longer (long-haul) flights I would pay the price for the extra service and comfort provided by standard/premium carriers. This is because travelling to the likes of Dubai which is 8hrs or Hong Kong 13hrs (from London), is just way too long for no thrills. Simple aspects such as blankets, pillows and meals would benefit largely in a long flight, likewise a big advantage are the IFEs (In Flight Entertainment) which would largely entertain anyone for many hours. Furthermore to be able to eliminate the fuss of further spending before , during and after the flight (on long journeys) would make travels so much better knowing everything is paid for in advance and all you need to think about is the holiday ahead.

So in conclusion, the most important aspect of the flight for me is the experience and not the money I spend as I’ve always seen the flight as a part of your holiday (the beginning). However if there is very little to no difference on the flight experience I am choosing from, then why should I spend just for the sake of a brand.

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