Trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur - November 2000

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Boat race on Singapore riverOnce again it turns out that it is great having friends around the world. The trip to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur was triggered by an invitation to a wedding in Kuala Lumpur (called KL from now on). We didn’t get that much time to plan the trip because we got the invitation on pretty short notice. We did manage to get tickets round trip from Stavanger to Singapore for about 6000 Norwegian kroner (about 650 US dollars) and that is not bad. Maybe the price is related to the time of year when we went on the trip. We started from Stavanger on November 9th 2000. As usual we flew to Amsterdam to catch the next flight from there to Singapore. When I say we I’m referring to my love Nikki and myself. For the first time we had decided to bring a video camera. I also had to bring a laptop and it can get pretty heavy to carry all these items around. My advice is to bring as little as possible with you to carry around.

Schipol airport ( in Amsterdam has gotten a little facelift since the last time I was there. I like this airport because it has quite a lot of nice shopping and the whole airport is in one terminal so you don’t have to take buses around. It even has an Internet “café” on level 2 in the main shopping area. The price for 45 minutes was about 9 Dutch gylder.

The Merlion at Sentosa IslandThe flight to Singapore took about 11 hours and 30 minutes and that is a pretty long time. We flew KLM and I have to say that their service and quality has lowered in the years after I started travelling. They seem a bit old fashion now since they don’t have little screens in each seat but keep on using the small TV’s hanging in the ceiling. The first part of the trip was freezing by the way and even when we tried to ask them what was wrong we just got the answer “it will get warmer”. In the end most people had put on all the clothes that they had brought along and it did get warmer eventual.

Yen Ping took us around in ChinatownWe landed at Changi aiport ( at about 4 pm. This airport has a reputation for being one of the best airports in the world and I must say that I was impressed when I went to the toilet and I saw the toilet paper was folded just like it is folded in a bathroom in a hotel room. Singapore gave us a hot and humid welcome. It was about 26 degrees Celsius when we landed and it seemed like it had rained. I like the climate and it reminds me a lot of the trip to Thailand in 1998. Talking about Thailand. We flew right over the island of Koh Samui when we were flying to Singapore. We spent the night in Singapore at a friend’s house and it was so nice to sleep in a bed again after sitting on the plane the previous night.

Bus trip to Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Bukit Bintang in KLThe following day we took the bus to Kuala Lumpur. The round trip ticket to KL cost 46 Singapore dollars. The ride itself takes about 4-5 hours and on the bus they show a movie. There are normally a few stops on the way where you can buy something to eat and drink. I have taken this bus before but I took it by night the last time. It doesn’t really matter cause there is not that much to see apart from green, thick “jungle”. The roads are nice and all you have to make sure of is that you have money to get through the toll stations if you drive a car. Coming to the Puduraya bus station in KL was a “traumatic” experience btw. It was like 30 degrees and it was packed with people. We didn’t have any money so the first thing that we had to look for was an ATM. We found that eventually and then we had to find a taxi. We were in an extreme hurry because we were going to a wedding on the same day as the arrival. So when a guy came up to us and said that he would drive us to the hotel for 25 Ringgit we said yes even if it sounded a bit expensive. It turned out that the hotel was not very far away so if we had taken a regular taxi we would only have paid 5-10 Ringgit.

Nikki at Batu cavesI have been to KL before and I used Asia travels ( to book a hotel the last time. We did the same this time and the hotel in KL was “only” 110 RM pr. night. The hotel that we stayed at was the Federal hotel on Jalan Bukit Bintang. This is where you will find large shopping malls like Isetan, Lot 10 and so on. The hotel is a pretty nice 4 star hotel that offers pretty good service. The only drawback is that there is a construction site right outside and the busy street can get kinda noisy too. But at least we got a room with a view and we could even see the Petronas Twin Towers.

Talking about getting around in KL: The taxis in KL are pretty good and pretty cheap at least compared to what I’m used to. The cabs seem to have rules to stick to and the name of the driver is available if you want to file a complaint. We did run into some taxi’s that wanted to drive us to our destination using a fixed price but we just said no when that happened and waited for the next taxi.

The lovely bride Meena and myselfAs I have mentioned we were lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in KL. When we got to the hotel we had not much time to shower and change and then we jumped into a taxi and drove of to the church. The wedding was a wedding between an Indian couple but they are both Christian and the wedding was influenced by that. My love Nikki at the weddingThe ceremony lasted longer that what I’m used to from back home in Norway. After that there was a reception/dinner for the relatives/friends/family and 650 people had been invited. It was a surprise to us to find out that this dinner was very short (but good) and the party didn’t last all night as we thought it would. And some of the guests were also very informally dressed for the occasion. Of course I have to add that there was another dinner the next night for friends of the couple and we went through a long menu of Chinese dishes and there were also dancing.

Nikki and Gard with our "guide" Choo at Batu cavesWe arrived in KL on Saturday afternoon and went back again to Singapore the following Wednesday so we did have that much time there. But thanks to Choo (a friend of the bride) we really got a chance to go around in KL. She was an excellent local guide for us. First of all we went out to visit Batu caves that is located right outside KL. To get up to the cave itself you have to climb the 272 steps and they are steep. And the monkeys can get kinda aggressive at least if they find out that you have some food and you don’t want to share it with them. The cave is where the Thaipusam parade ends every year by the way. I think that it is held in February.

Walking up to Batu cavesWe also went out to a place called Sunway Logoon near Petaling Jaya. This is a combination between shopping mall, hotel, theme parks and so on. It is basically built on the same model as Sun City in South Africa. The shopping mall itself was quite nice and it includes a bowling ally, ice rink and cinema. And the exterior is also amazing because they have built a whole pyramid and a sphinx in front of it. We also tried out the water theme park but even though it was very big it wasn’t really that great. It only cost 25 Ringgit to enter it but there were cost involved to rent boards and rings. The lagoon is huge but there is really not that much to do even if they brag about having the largest surf pool in the world. There was not that many slides and some of them were closed and on some you needed a ring.

The world largest buildings are located in KL. This twin tower is called Petronas Twin Towers, named after the oil company that house one of the towers. The building are just amazing and you can get some feeling of this if you go on the tour to cross the sky bridge on the 42nd floor. At the bottom you have a shopping mall called KLCC. Another tall building worth mentioning in the KL tower. This is a 270-meter high tower that provides an excellent view of the KL area and there is also a revolving restaurant in this building.

KL is not really that big. I went out jogging one morning and I jogged from the hotel on Jalan Bukit Bintang over to the twin towers. I also jogged around the KL Tower and to Merdeka square and then back to the hotel. And I did this within an hour and a half.

Chinatown should not be missed either. Again it is within walking distance from the hotel district on Jalan Bukit Bintang. The Chinatown area provides a big marked of fake stuff like sunglasses, watches and t-shirts. The people selling the stuff are nagging all the time and it is said that bargaining is part of the game.

Other sites that might be worth visiting are:
Lake Gardens that contains museums parks and so on. I did go to this the last time I was in KL and it was very cheap to get into the different attractions.

Genting highlands is a casino combined with a theme park in the mountains outside KL. I was quite surprised when I read that it is located in 2000 meters altitude. The air was a lot cooler and a lot fresher there compared to in KL itself.

Apart from that you shouldn’t miss out on Malay food. It is rich in flavors and it is hot and spicy. The problem is that in the more touristified areas there are only western food restaurants. So on Jalan Bukit Bintang we found a lot of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and on but not so many restaurants serving local food.

aught in the rain somewhere in ChinatownNovember is a part of the wet season in KL by the way and we found out that it can get really wet. On afternoon when we were out walking in Chinatown we could see dark clouds building up. When you feel the first drop you know that it is time to run and find cover cause it really pours when it starts. We got stuck for about an hour before we could move on.

If you want to keep updated by using the Internet there are many internet cafes around in KL. I used one on the street were the hotel was located (Jalan Bukit Bintang) and the price was only 4 Ringgit for an hour.

Nikki at Puduraya bus stationOn Wednesday it was time to leave again and we went back to the chaotic Puduraya bus station. We did find our way to the bus but this bus station is in no way a practical bus station. I even had the pleasure of helping push a bus to get it started because there was something wrong with it. We started the bus ride at about 10.30 and we came to Singapore at 16.30. It takes a bit of time as you go over the border because you have to fill in an immigration form. And Nikki got a bit scared when it said on the form that drug smuggling would be punished with the death penalty. So we did use a bit of time just to see that no one had slipped something into our bags.

Back in Singapore
Nikki and Gard at the night safariWe were a bit tired after the bus ride but after a nice meal we were ready to go to the night safari ( The night safari is a nice concept were you go around and look at animals in a more natural environment (at least for nocturnal animals) which means that it is only open at night. I think the place opens at about 7 PM and close at about 12 midnight. We first took the tram around and we also walked on some of the trails. There were lots of animals to see and the guides on the trams give a lot of information. It costs about 20 Singapore dollars to get a ticket for the night safari (it is cheaper if you don’t go for the tram option).

The polar bear at the zooAfter a few days in Singapore we also went to the zoo during daytime ( It is a pretty nice zoo but I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the animals that are “contained”. Most of them seem to be very bored and I don’t like seeing animals that are trained to do stuff for our amusement. Lions at the zooIf you go to the zoo be sure to plan the day according to the shows that are held and the feeding times. When they feed the animals you also get some information about the animals from one of the zookeepers. We got pretty close to the elephantsWe only went to the reptile show but we got our money worth on that cause Nikki was picked as a “volunteer” from the audience to help out with all the snakes. But she is not very fond of snakes so she had to back out after a little while. Anyway, to get into the zoo you have to pay about 12 Singapore dollars per ticket. It is a bit out of town but we managed to get there by using MRT combined with a bus.

Bike rental at Ubin...we are trying to bring the price downThe following day we found out that it was time to get out of the city and get some exercise. We were brought along by our hosts Yen Ping and Edwin to Changi village (near the airport) were we took a little boat over to Pualu Ubin a small island only minutes away from Singapore island. Pualu Ubin is a tiny island and it is more or less used as a place where Singaporeans leave their “leftovers”. Stopping for a drinkWhen we walked around we could see plenty of cars that were more or less falling apart because of rust. The boat itself is pretty cheap (about 2 Sing dollar) and you can rent a bike for 8-10 dollars. I didn’t really think that it was a great bike but it got me around on the island. We just biked around for a few hours until we were all wet from sweat. In the end it started raining a bit and we just managed to get back to the center where the ferries/boats come in. In this center you’ll find the places that rent out the bikes and there are also some restaurants. On the island you can see durians hanging on trees and apparently they fall down when they are ripe. In other words: keep an eye on them so that you don’t get hit cause they are pretty big. For those who wonder…durian is one of the fruits that Asians love and everybody else hate. It doesn’t smell good and I can’t say it tasted good either.

Dining at a Japanese resturantThe Singaporeans are well known for their eating habits and they have many interesting dishes. Cooking our own foodOne night we were taking to Raffles Marina to eat at the restaurant there and we must have gone through like 20 courses and everybody was stuffed in the end. We had scallop, clamp, jellyfish, salmon, crab, chicken, pork, beef.and so on. We also had a local dish called chicken rich another night and that was pretty good. It is basically what the name indicates: one boiled chicken (served cold) with rice that has been boiled in the same water as the chicken was boiled in. Other dishes not to be missed are Prata (fluffy-crisp fried “bread” served in different manners) and Satay (marinated meat on a stick that has been barbecued over charcoal and it is served with a thick peanut sauce.)

Gard at a hawker storeThe hawker store is also a must when you go to Singapore. It is basically a lot of small food stalls that has gathered together in one place and they all see to have their own specialty. You can order food from all the different stores and you sit in the middle of the stalls. At Newton CircusMany of the dishes that I have described already will be served at Hawker centers. We went to the Hawker center near Newton Circus and that was great. But I have to admit that the Chinese dinner dishes are a lot better than the desserts. Many of the desserts include crushed ice, red beans, starch, syrup and so on and that is very different from the dessert we are used to. Highlights from the dinner must be the oyster omelet, satay and fish bowl.

Eating outThe restaurants have ratings by the way according to their “standard”. When I say standard I don’t mean how good the food it. It more comes down to how clean the place is. A is the best of course and D is the worst. I’m really glad that we had some local guides in Singapore because if not we would have eaten a lot of Western food instead of trying out some of the Chinese/Indian/Malay dishes that we tried out. Some of the places that we went to looked pretty shady compared to what I am used to from back home and a name of a dish doesn’t really give you much information what the dish taste like.

The best part is the petting aquariumSentosa island is a little island located just to the south of Singapore. The island contains beaches, hotels, golf courses and all sorts of entertainment. You can reach the island several ways: by bus (the cheapest way), by cable car from Mount Faber or by a ferry. We choose to take the bus since it is also useful to use the bus when going around on the island. So we parked the car at the world trade center and took the bus from there. The price was 7 Sing dollars. Once on the island there were lots to do and their website provide more information. Close encounter with a rayWe tried one of the miniature golf courses at Wondergolf and that was pretty fun. The Asian village is not really that interesting and the same goes for the Dolphin Lagoon. It cost like 17 dollar to get into the Dolphin Lagoon and you get to see the pink dolphin close up and a few lucky ones get to pet them. But these 17 dollars also gives you access to the underwater world and that is a nice aquarium. Playing around at SentosaThere is a little petting aquarium where you get to touch the fish and there is a tunnel that you go through where you are surrounded by the aquarium and it is fun to see stingrays and sharks swim right over your head. We also had to try Fantasy island which is the water theme park at Sentosa. According to the brochure they are open until 10 pm but the night when we went there, there were so few people that they would close earlier. We also found out that some of the slides close at 6.30 cause they are not allowed to operate in the dark. And with to slides closed due to maintenance there were not much left to do.

Clark quay is an area that has been turned into restaurants, pubs, shops and so on. We went there on a Friday night to get something to eat and there were lots of people there. It seemed like most of the people were either foreigners (either tourists or expatriates).

Getting ready to take care of the frogsIf you like to walk there is also the option of walking around in Chinatown during the day. You will find Chinese temples, Indian temples and lots of little shops. We also went into a local wet market and it was quite and experience to walk around and look at all the people working on chopping up fish and so on. We even found a few cages of frogs and I was impressed by the speed of the guy that was removing the skin from the frogs.

Monument in the business areaIf you walk a bit further you’ll reach Singapore river and boat quay is located here. This is something like Clark quay but you won’t find that many shops in this area. But it is filled with bars and restaurants. If you walk a bit further you are in the downtown business area where you will find some of the skyscrapers and big banks. On the opposite side of the river is the place where Raffles landed his boat originally and there are a couple of statues of him. Many of the older buildings are located here including the old parliament, theater, courts and so on. But there are also new buildings such as the new parliament and Raffles City Shopping Center.

Mount Faber is the highest mountain in Singapore but that doesn’t really say much cause it is pretty flat. And it is not very high at least to Norwegian standard. But we drove to the top and the view from the top at night is pretty nice and there is even a restaurant on top. And this is also where the first cable car station can be found (the one that leads to Sentosa).

Orchard Road with Christmas decorationsI think many people are familiar with the word Orchard road and I think most people associate it with shopping. And the shopping possibilities is almost endless in this street cause one mall follows the next. If you pick up information pamphlets in the malls\hotel\airport you will find some sort of description on the different malls. We spent a couple of days on Orchard road and we found a few good bargains. When we are on the topic of shopping I guess I have to mention Sim Lim Square where locals shop their electronics. The mall is dedicated to cameras, video cameras, TV, videos and so on and I think it is like 6 floors. It is quite overwhelming to walk around in this place and what bugs me is that you have to ask for all the prices. I’m used to looking at things without being “bothered” by sales personnel.

The botanical gardenIf you want to get away from the city noise then a good option would be to go to the Botanic gardens. It is nice and quiet and people go there to go on picnics, go jogging, play football with their kids and so on. The garden also includes the National Orchid Garden where you have to pay about 2 Singapore dollars to get in. And as the name indicates it is filled with all sorts of orchids.

We never really got used to the squatting toiletOn November 22nd it was time to go back to Norway again. Again I have to say that Changi is a very nice airport and there are shopping possibilities here too if you missed something in town but according to our local guides it is never cheaper at the airport. But getting tax refunds for things that I had bought went swiftly and of we went. The flight back from Singapore to Amsterdam took about 12 hours and 30 minutes. I’m glad that Nikki and me had 3 seats to share because it made it a bit easier to sleep. It was not very nice to get back to Norway where it was raining at it was about 8 degrees Celsius. But to look on the bright side of it: I won’t get anymore mosquito bites this year :-) It was a great trip and we got to see a lot and do a lot and most of this is because we had local guides. The next time we go to Malaysia I think that we must try and see more of the country itself. I have heard that the east coast is great with many small islands that are worth visiting.

In the end I would just like to send thanks to the following people:
Our hosts in Singapore: Yen Ping and EdwinMeena & Timmy for inviting us to the their wedding, to Mr. and Mrs. Yeo for being so kind and letting us stay with them, to Yen Ping and Edwin for taking such good care of us and taking us around so much, to Choo for being such an excellent guide for us in KL and thanks to Marie and Knut for letting us borrow the video camera.


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