Trolls head for dinner: Our Second week in SE Asia and what it cost: Kuala Lumpur and Malacca

Our second week in Malaysia was spent in Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. We stayed at the lovely Invito Hotel in KL and The Settlement Hotel in Malacca. I had heard that KL was not that great a city to visit. I disagree, there is so much to see we decided to come back and spend an extra four days here after Malacca.

Batu Caves

The Batu Caves are one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and dedicated to Lord Murugan. The Batu caves are 8 miles (13km) from central KL at the end of a train line. It cost for the two of us RG8 for a return trip from KL Central station in air-conditioned comfort. The train ride takes around 25 minutes. On arrival, the caves are a short walk from the station. We decided to do the main cave first and after 272 steps reached the top. Not sure why people say it is so hard. At the top there are nice views back to KL and several small temples along with monkeys, pigeons and a couple of roosters. At the bottom of the steps is a Hindu Temple. We did not go into it. There is a Hindu music show ongoing all day and a small pleasant garden to walk around. I am glad we waited to see the Ramayana Cave last. The Ramayana cave is near the exit of the train station. It cost RM5 each to enter. The cave is relatively recent in being developed as an attraction and the statues were built only a few years ago and there are some interesting ones to see. An English translation of the meaning of the statues would have been useful. All in all we had a great morning spending around an hour and a half exploring the caves.

Islamic Arts Museum

The Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia is an excellent museum. From the outside water fountains to the exquisite detailed models of mosques from around the world. The history and development in the Islamic world of textiles, glass, weaponry, calligraphy and clothes from different regions of the world. The two floors are well laid out with English translations throughout. There are also some nice views of the surrounding area. Well worth the 12 RG entry price. All housed in a beautiful air-conditioned building. The cafe was good to with the beautiful glass panelling.

Other Kuala Lumpur Activities

We ate at several restaurants recommended on tripadvisor including Opium and Black Forest. All were excellent including my trolls head at Opium or what they called black squid rice. Another activity we went to was a Japanese Magic Show. Highly recommended for a fun night, they serve a four course Italian meal which was delicious and the Japanese magicians come to your table and do card tricks as well as a stage show. It did cost us £52 pounds or US$76 and was well worth it for the food and entertainment. We also visited the centre of KL with views of Petronas Towers and surrounding area. The other great thing we did was go to Mud the musical in the centre of KL. This was a great show, it was only an hour-long with a passionate and talented cast. Highly recommended to go and see it in KL if you are there. They do a matinée show at 3pm and ideal to escape the heat of the day or in the evening.

Malacca

Malacca was so easy to get to. We took the metro and train to arrive at Bandar Tasik Selatan bus station where you can purchase a one way ticket for 10 ringgets to Malacca. The metrobus we took was comfortable and it took two hours to get there. At the bus station we took a taxi to The Settlement Hotel our home for the next three nights. We certainly timed our visit to the hotel well at it was their grand opening and we got invited to the celebration which included meeting the Chief Minister of Malacca and partaking of some yummy food and great music. The staff at the hotel were brilliant and for the first time since I have been in Malaysia I found a place where they made drinkable coffee. We had several meals at the hotel and all were excellent. It is a little away from the centre of Malacca and the hotel provides a shuttle service three times a day or you can get a taxi.

In Malacca we visited all the well trod tourist sites, Jonker Street, the Malacca river cruise, St Paul’s Hill, Red Square and the lone Portuguese gate as well as once again eat delicious food.

What did our week cost?

I suspect we have crossed the line from backpacking to glampacking. We did manage to keep within our US$150 per day for both of us this week which was nice.

Kuala Lumpur accommodation cost £180 or US$265 for four nights at the Invito Hotel
Malacca hotel accommodation £125 or US$185 for three nights at the Settlement Hotel
Spending for the week for
food, transport, attractions £365 or US$538 or 2001 ringget

Total Spend for one week: £670 or US$990 which works out at US$142 per day for two people.

This week we are back in KL before heading to Ipoh to try out the food and the Cameroon Highlands to try out the tea.

Our first week in SE Asia: Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and what it cost

Singapore

After a 7 hour flight with Emirates we arrived in Singapore. We were through customs in 15 minutes and at our hotel by midnight. We stayed two nights at the Santa Grand Bugis Hotel. Our room was in a basement windowless room. It was clean with a separate bathroom and brilliant shower. Breakfast was excellent with the exception of the coffee it tasted awful. Having a pool on the top was a bonus. Would definitely stay again. We were only really back at the hotel at night to sleep so having no windows did not bother us. During our time in Singapore we explored the Botanic Gardens which were lovely and visited a cat cafe as well as eating at different food courts. We also managed an evening visit to the Water Gardens near Marina Sands.

If you visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens do make sure to pick up a map of the 53 acres of gardens. I liked the rainforest walk the most as it showed what Singapore may have once looked like with a few giant trees left. The garden has different areas including orchids, ginger garden and even some bonsai trees. Great place to come and escape the hustle and bustle of Singapore. One innovative trail was the reflexology path which you have to do barefoot. Near our hotel was a cat cafe which we decided to visit. It cost S$15 entry with a complimentary soft drink. Great to play with the cats and see them so well looked after. If your interested in any of the places mentioned you can always visit tripadvisor and just look up kiwiinbrigton where I do reviews of the places we stay and visit.

Johor Bahru

After leaving Singapore we arrived at Johan Bahru for a few days to acclimatize to the humidity and heat. I am glad we took the taxi from Singapore to Johan Bahru direct to the hotel for a cost of S$55. It took two hours and it was quick to go through immigration and customs. I pushed the budget out for our first stay at a Doubletree Hilton Hotel. It was well worth it especially to have a comfortable room and the pool. We also found out that several Sultans were staying at the hotel for the coronation of the Sultan of Johor Bahru. The city is decorated with flags, signs and lots of people in anticipation of the crowning which we were lucky to see on the Monday as well as the parade.

It was a lazy few days of eating lots of lovely food, going to the cinema for 3 quid each and watching Insurgents and having a massage. We also made good use of the swimming pool at the hotel.

Kuala Lumpur

Our next stop by train was Kuala Lumpur. The first class train tickets for two people cost £24 or US$35. The train took 6 and a half hours and stopped at a lot of stations. We had the first class carriage to ourselves and we even got a free banana bread snack with a bottle of water. On arrival at the KL train central station I went to the taxi booth and paid for a coupon of 14 Ringet and 15 minutes later we were at our next stop the Hotel Invito.

What did our week cost?

We did scrimp on anything this week as we wanted to have a nice start to our four months in Asia and we were only US$4 over budget per day for our daily spend.

Singapore accommodation cost £118 or US$177 two nights at the Hotel Santa Grand Bugis
Singapore food, transport cost £79 or US$118
Malaysia accommodation
Doubletree Hilton Johor Bahru £243 or US$364 four nights
Hotel Invito Kuala Lumpur £45 or US$68 one night
Malaysia spending £238 or US$356 or 1300 Ringgets

Total Spend for one week: £723 or US$1083 which works out at US$154 per day for two people.

Devils and Delights: A Tasmanian Adventure

After a stopover in Melbourne for one night we headed for the Southern most state of Australia, Tasmania, flying into the capital Hobart. We were here for six days to explore a little of what Tasmania has to offer. The accommodation we decided to use was mostly AirBnb and boy was that a great decision. The first two nights we spent at Paul’s in Hobart, his place is literally a few minutes walk from Elizabeth Street and its many restaurants. A bit of a theme was that we seemed stay at people’s places who had dogs which was fun. Hobart was a great city and we mostly just walked around and visited the two highest points to enjoy the views. Luckily, the days we were there the weather was kind. I also visited the Cascade brewery and did a tasting.

The next day we visited the Tahune Air walk. We did the walk and enjoyed the views from the air walk. The loop track over the swing bridges was also fun. The times given to walk the tracks are generous. It cost A$54 entry for the two of us. The cafe was excellent and not to expensive. There is a film about the history of logging Huon Pine and why it is one of the most valuable and desirable woods in the world. It would have been nice to see a film on the reason, making and future of the air walk. Perhaps in the future this will be developed. The road to the air walk is 26 km from Geeveston and at the beginning there were a few potholes. However, 6km in it is a lot better and sealed all the way.

Bruny Island

We also visited Bruny Island. The return ferry was A$35. We visited Adventurea Bay where Tasman and Cook both visited. There is a lovely two hour walk we did that took us out to the point and up to the top of the Cape with great views. On the way back we visited a whisky tasting place near the ferry and also tasted half a dozen Bruny oysters.

A vist to the Tasman Peninsula

We drove down to visit Port Arthur, the Unzoo and explore the area. One of our stops was the Unzoo which was previously called the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park. The Unzoo is one of the few places where you can see Tasmanian Devils feeding. Situated on the Port Arthur highway and not far from Port Arthur is the Unzoo. We visited Unzoo for three hours in the morning and really enjoyed it. Sarah the guide was excellent, bubbly, articulate and knowledgeable about the Tasmanian devils. We saw two feedings and if was great to see. The Unzoo is also educational in that I never knew the devils live only six years and the Tasman peninsula is only one of two places in Tasmanian the face cancer which decimated the wild population killing up to 90% has not reached. It was also fun to feed the forest kangaroo and wallabies. Bird show was entertaining. Not to crowded. On cost we used a 25% discount voucher for second adult and it cost us A$58, money well spent as some goes back to the conservation of the Tasmanian Devils. Ticket also valid for two days.

Our visit to Port Arthur was relatively short as we had limited time and arrived around 4pm. We were able to buy half price tickets which allows access till 7.30pm. Instead of paying A$36 our tickets were half price. You do not get the cruise with this ticket and unlike the full price ticket is not valid for two days. We were lucky to catch one of the last guiding tours where the guide was excellent giving the history of the site and people who were sentenced to the prison. Afterwards we explored the buildings and exhibition to find out about the convicts and their life in this remote part of the world. You can do the main site in 3 hours but will need longer for the cruise and if you want a visit to the Isle of the Dead where the dead convicts are buried. The memorial to the 35 people slaughtered by a madman in 1996 was also tastefully done.

Our last day was Launceston where we did a walk at the Cataract Gorge.

What it cost?

Tasmania is not cheap but for our five nights we paid A$500. Rental car with petrol for 900kms was for five days A$240. Food, drinks and visiting attractions was A$1100. In total A$1840. I am sure the trip could have been cheaper but we decided to splurge and had some lovely meals.

Wellington and the magic of Zealandia

Wellington and the magic of Zealandia

A visit to Wellington

After saying farewell to my brother and his wife Yvonne in Auckland we flew on Jetstar to Wellington. It cost NZ$157 one way and included our 50 kilos of luggage. In Wellington we met up with my old flatmate Joanne at the airport and headed for her house in Ngaio a suburb of Wellington. We spent a great week with Joanne and managed to have a barbecue on a windy day catching up with old friends. During the week we managed to visit Zealandia twice, see a movie at the Embassy theatre, visit the Museum Te Papa and ate at some nice restaurants.

Zealandia the place to see native birds or a kiwi

One of the attractions to New Zealand is its unique native wildlife. Thanks to the hard work of mostly volunteers and a fence you too can enjoy seeing what New Zealand used to look and sound like near the centre of Wellington. There is a wildlife sanctuary called Zealandia with rare native birds and tuatara. It is easy to get to via the Wellington cable car where at the top a free shuttle van takes you to the sanctuary. It cost NZ$17.50 which covers you for two days. We went twice. There are free guided tours and you get to see Kaka, Stitchbird, saddleback and takahe as well as other rare native birds. There is also an interesting exhibition and lovely cafe. If you want to see a kiwi at night in the bush then this is the place to do it, you can book an evening visit at the attraction. There are some lovely bush walks in the sanctuary up to the dam and several spots along the way to enjoy views of native birds feeding on bird feeders.

Other places to visit in Wellington

You have to visit Te Papa the Museum of New Zealand and arguably the best museum in New Zealand. A walk along the waterfront will be rewarded with lots of places to eat and some nice views of the harbour. The best view is from Mt Victoria or take the cable car up to the Wellington Botanic Gardens which also has great views. Cuba street has some nice cafes but is looking a bit run down these days. Peter Jackson fans can visit the Embassy theatre, Weta studios or do a tour of some of the Lord of the Ring film locations in and around Wellington.

The best part in visiting Wellington was catching up with old friends. I also wish I had taken more flaming photos. Our next stop is Tasmania.