Monday, November 30, 2015

Weekend Escape to Batam Island

If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, then Batam Island is the perfect destination. It is the answer to real beach, sun and sea for a few days or in my case just a day trip. Maybe not the best island vacation but it is so near and worth a weekend visit. It's just 45 minutes by ferry from Singapore.

May not have a great spectacular destination, it is a decent getaway for family and friends who are looking to have fun with watersports, eating fresh seafood, affordable shopping and massage centers. Aside from that, there are a few good spots for attractions too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Malaysia on a Shoestring

Malaysia - the first ever international destination I landed. It was almost dark when I started boarding the Bus bound to Kuala Lumpur. It took me almost two hours before I reached my destination. 

Coming from the Philippines where I used to seeing left hand driven vehicles, it's quite amusing to see a reverse lane of cars and public transportation. I can get used to this though. It was a fine afternoon when we arrived but in the middle of the trip bound to Kuala Lumpur, the rain started to pour. It will be a wet walk along the streets of Kuala Lumpur tonight.

Right Hand Driven Bus bound to Kuala Lumpur
A week before the trip, I booked my accommodation at Step Inn Guest House. According to the reviews, this is quite accessible from the highway and across almost all spots especially the bus terminals and trains. Without hesitations, I clicked 'Confirm' Leave it to fate and experience of other travelers. 

The bus dropped me of as suggested in Pudu Sentral, I had to walk across to find the Hindu Temple where I can find the Guest House. It took me a while though to find it under a drizzling night. After some 20 minutes of walking, I finally found it. Thanks to the helpful GPS.

As expected, the guest house is very homey. Also, I would expect a Malaysian receptionist but to my surprise, the guy in charge the moment I arrived was a Polish. I realized that Step Inn is accepting interns in exchange for a place to stay in Kuala Lumpur, interesting! I forgot his name though but he was very welcoming.

He explained some of the house rules and we did a quick tour of the place wherein he showed the common place, dining and kitchen area and finally my room. 

He endorsed the key and off I go to freshen up and prepare myself to roam the streets with a little drizzle. 

My Home in Kuala Lumpur
A little exhausted from walking, paired with a hunger soul, I walked towards the temple to grab something to eat. I found one Indian Restaurant. The smell of the spices... yeah, welcome to Malaysia!

Kuala Lumpur is both a feast for the eyes and tummy. Being Malaysia's capital, it is not only packed with historic monuments but also a home to steel clad skyscrapers, lush parks and mega sized shopping malls with bustling street markets and trendy night spots.  Also, an essential part of the vibrant mix are the incense-wreathed, colorfully adorned mosques and temples of the country's Malay, Chinese and Indian communities.  

Found this spicy food near the Hindu Temple few steps away from Step Inn Guest House
After a spicy dinner at the Indian eatery nearby, I grabbed my bag and camera and started strolling the streets starting in Pudu Raya. I don't have any idea how to get to Petronas Towers, I just grabbed my Map and then off I go. The goal is to see the streets of Kuala Lumpur by foot and end the night with a photo taken with the Petronas Towers (one of the item listed in my 'must see places in the world')

Along with the Petronas Twin Towers, Menara KL Tower is easily Malaysia’s most recognizable and popular landmark. Constructed in 1994, the tower stands at 421 metres and effortlessly trumps the Petronas Twin Towers with the highest and most spectacular view of the city. This gleaming tower’s spindle-like apex is visible from almost anywhere in Kuala Lumpur. 

A wet night stroll along Pudu Raya Streets

Menara KL Tower as seen in Pudu Raya Streets

So near yet so far Menara KL Tower
Menara KL’s viewing deck is, at 276 metres, at least 100 metres higher than the Petronas Twin Towers’ Skybridge. I would love to see the city skyline at night but too many things to do and too little time. Another valid reason to go back to Kuala Lumpur. 

The goal for this night is to see the twin towers up close. The endless walking continues,I  passed by several streets, still struggling to see the towers the way I wanted. I will not settle for anything less, giving up is not an option nor taking a cab. hehehe!

The Blue Rider at The Petronas Twin Towers
 Yes, finally, after almost 2 hours of walking under the not so hard pouring rain. I got the chance to see the twins. It was beautiful, stunning and dazzling: yes it's a feast to my eyes.  This is the crown jewel of Kuala Lumpur. 

In this spot, the highlight is the twin towers but the streets is also lively because of this.
Building just across the Petronas Towers
From extraordinary sights that will captivate you, to exotic flavours to surprise your taste buds – Malaysia offers a full on sensorial experience. When you get here, it doesn’t just open your eyes, it manages to open up all your senses to different and new adventures. And trust us, your senses will be forever grateful.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The International Departure Experience

Exploring South East Asia is on the radar but I never expected to be given an opportunity to do one before this year comes to a close.

There's always a first time: traveling outside of the country can be easy, but for newbie like me, I have to learn the loops on how to go about the departing the Philippines.  With the immigration process, paying of travel taxes, etc.

So, it's my first time, I packed my things a week as usual to ensure that nothing well be left behind. I made a checklist and did a lot of research as well. Ignorance of the law excuses no one, and I don't wanna do an amazing race in order to catch my flight. I have learned that departing or check in process for international flight is very similar to domestic in many ways but there are also many differences. To start with, you need to be at the airport at least 3 hours before the scheduled departure time for international flights as opposed to one hour for domestic.  This will give you ample time for additional steps and paperwork that needs to be done before anyone can board.

I took an earlier time off to prep myself and get some rest before this milestone kicks off. It was a Tuesday when I finally said, "I am ready for this next level of adventure"

Came  Wednesday, I woke up early as the flight is scheduled to depart at 12 noon.  Since I am still not fully equipped on how to go about with this type of travel I arrived at the airport 8 in the morning. but still paranoid with the 'laglag-bala' scam, I made sure that my stuff were fully wrapped covering all possible holes (hehehe)

The check in counter is still close when I arrived, I had to wait close to an hour to start the process. Little did I know, that I can actually pay the travel tax in advance. (ting! one lesson learned)

After I checked in, I proceed to the terminal fee counter to pay. Next is clearance and stamp from the immigration office. I filled out an immigration card and line up for the departure stamp. Then the final baggage passage, another dilemma but thank God, nothing bad happened. One happy heart to finally depart the country and off to another level of adventure.

Malaysia - Singapore - Indonesia, here I come!

The flight is just nothing extraordinary, though I should admit,I would have prepared myself more. It's a 4-hour flight and I am starving on board, hehe! Nevertheless, it was a smooth ride. Touch down,  Kuala Lumpur past 5 in the afternoon. WELCOME TO MALAYSIA (Thank God)