Archive for July, 2013

Ipoh

Getting There

We decided to get a train to Ipoh (pronounced EE-POH) as a change from the bus and I’m glad we did. It was fast and clean and only took just under 2.5 hours. They even played a movie and Mr Bean cartoons.

Train to Ipoh. Nicer than Australian trains!

Practically empty train to Ipoh

The train cost 92MYR (about $AUD30) total which is probably a bit more than the bus would have been but this was fun.

Accommodation

In Ipoh we stayed at the Ipoh Boutique Hotel which I found and booked through Agoda. It’s only a year old and we paid $AUD55 for a big family room with a double and single bed, couch, fridge, nice bathroom and free wifi.

Our room

Our room

Activities

We had two full days in Ipoh. On the first we visited Perak Tong Cave Temple just north of the city (12MYR each way in taxi, temple by donation.) The temple has some beautiful paintings on the cave walls and four hundred and something steps to climb to the top of the mountain.

Lil and painting

Cave painting

heading up

Starting the climb

The view on the way up was not so attractive.

beautiful view of cement factory

Ugly view

But improved at the top!

mountain top

Nice view

It’s a pity it was such a hazy day as we couldn’t really see the surrounding karst mountains.

On our second day in Ipoh we did some exploring on foot with a walk along the river path into the old part of town.

street art

Random street art

We came across Burps and Giggles cafe, which wouldn’t look out of place in Newcastle, and had some good coffee and pastries.

happy coffee

Happy coffee

Ipoh has some lovely old buildings. I’m not sure what this one was!

Mad and Lil

Nice building, tired Lil

Eating in Ipoh

Ipoh is known for good food (and coffee) and these are the places we ate diner each night:

Vnam Kitchen Restaurant – good Vietnamese food, especially yummy spring rolls.

Restaurant Yum Yum – This place was packed on a Saturday night with lots of big family groups and lots of little kids.

First Coffee House – we ate here for convenience because it was right near the hotel but the food was very good. The owner insisted we try her homemade creme caramels which were yummy.

Breakfast was not included at the hotel (they have no restaurant but it looks like they might be putting one in) so each morning we gave the kids a muesli bar to tide them over and went on the hunt for food. We found a place that did noodles, peanut butter toast, and coffee so everyone was happy.

coffee and peanut butter toast

Noodles, Toast and Coffee

Where Are We Now?

We’re in Georgetown, Penang and plan to stay here until Sunday. After that it’s all a bit up in the air. We’ve organised our Thai tourist visas today that give us 60 days upon entry to Thailand. We’ll probably go from here straight to Thailand but you never know. We’ve got a week to fill in before we arrive on Koh Phangan for wedding festivities. We might end up arriving there a little earlier than planned. I think the kids would appreciate staying put on a beach for a while. We will see!

List 30/52 – Things The Kids Will Eat

1. Bread – plain or with peanut butter

2. Toast – plain or with peanut butter

3. Chips

4. Fish (as in ‘and chips’)

5. Plain rice

6. Tomato sauce

7. Cornflakes – plain or chocolate. With milk or without.

8. Apples

9. Pear

10. Spring rolls (Lil – sometimes)

11. Satay chicken (Lil – sometimes)

12. Croissants

13. Biscuits

14. Muesli bars

15. Ice-cream

 

Kuala Lumpur (and a bit about now)

Dave and I came to Kuala Lumpur for the last few nights of our honeymoon in 2004. This time round, with two kids, was a different kind of experience!

The Hotel

I had been promising the kids a swimming pool in KL and had booked a hotel that was a bit of a splurge. But two days before we were due to arrive I happened to check their website and discovered that the swimming pool was closed for repairs this month. Disaster! I managed to get a full refund through the booking website I had used and went on the search for another hotel with a pool. We ended up splurging even more and stayed at the Berjaya Times Square Hotel.

bedroom

The bedroom and bathroom

I think cities are good places for a splurge because they can get a bit overwhelming and it’s nice to have a comfortable place to retreat to. We paid $AUD146 a night (so still cheaper than the ‘budget’ place in Singapore!) and this included:

– a superior room that had a separate bedroom, living area, and kitchenette (Kitchenette only had a kettle, fridge and sink. No plates, cutlery or anything to cook with but it was still handy.)

– an extra bed for Lil

– full buffet breakfast for four each day

– entry tickets for all of us to the theme park inside Times Square shopping centre (attached to the hotel.)

– four bottles of water a day

– fruit plate on arrival

other side

The living area

There were actually three pools – two kiddy ones and a big one in the middle. There was also a kids playground near the pool. The kids were very happy! The hotel is attached to a shopping centre that had handy things like a supermarket (we ate sandwiches for lunch) and laundry and lots of shops and places to eat. Not to mention the theme park!

Activities

We didn’t do a lot of traditional site-seeing this visit as we’d seen most of the main places on our previous trip. We focused instead on things the kids would enjoy along with some solo shopping time for me to buy clothes for us to wear to the wedding in Thailand.

We spent one morning at the Times Square theme park. They have a floor dedicated to little kids which kept our two happy for a while. Compared to Legoland it was not nearly as good and Lil was a bit bored with some of the rides but overall they had fun there. Lil wasn’t big enough for any of the adult rides but Dave and I took turns in going on the big roller coaster.

bumper cars

Lil driving the bumper cars

tunnel!

In the tunnel!

Another day we visited the Petrosains Science Discovery Centre (50MYR for family) at KLCC shopping centre. This place was entertaining for all of us and we could have spent a lot longer there if we didn’t need to eat and sleep.

play area

Ed in a play area at the science centre

Also at KLCC we watched the free nightly fountain and light symphony. Ed kept asking to see it again for the rest of the stay so it was a hit. The fact that we ate dinner nearby at a cafe with babycinos on the menu probably helped.

twin towers

The twin towers

Lil fountains

Fountains and Lil

Vaccinations

While we were in Melaka we found out where we’ll be spending our month teaching in Thailand in September. I emailed the Thai Travel Clinic in Bangkok to ask them about vaccinations needed for this area and they recommended we get Japanese Encephalitis. So it was back to KLCC to visit the medical centre there for the first of two shots. (We’ll get the 2nd in Penang.) The clinic was very efficient and it ended up costing about $AUD40 each. Much cheaper than if we had gotten this one in Australia. The kids were then treated to the most enormous ice-creams ever.

A Little Update About This Moment Right Now

Since I wrote the last list post Ed has been fighting his nap hard. He hasn’t napped for the past three days and then takes hours to go to sleep at night. He is driving us crazy. I wrote this post while trying for rest time. The kids are chasing each other around the room. Ed is swinging my bra around (I took it off because it was soaked with sweat from our outing this morning) and Lil is pretending to be a dog. At times like this we wonder what we are doing here. I think it’s time for a walk. Better put the bra back on.

Melaka

We spent four nights in Melaka at the Old Town Guesthouse which was a great place to stay. There were lots of families there, mostly French, and the kids were soon very relaxed and running around having fun. We chose a room with an internal window and shared bathroom (for $AUD27 a night inc. toast and coffee breakfast) as I had read that the rooms at the front facing the street could be noisy. Our room was big, clean, and quiet and opened onto the common area. This was handy for Edward’s nap times as it meant once he was asleep we didn’t have to stay in the room with him. The rate also included air-con and wifi.

our room and common room

Our room at Old Town Guesthouse

common room Old Town Guesthouse

Making themselves at home

In Melaka we visited the maritime museum, went on a boat trip along the river, did a short rickshaw tour and spent a lot of time just wandering and eating in between rests at the guesthouse.

heave ho

Portuguese Boat

taken by random man

Boat trip along the river

rickshaw tour

Fancy rickshaw

spiral potato!

Spiral Potato!

We happened across a great cafe called Calanthe Art Cafe on our first night in Melaka and returned there once more for dinner and another time for lunch. If they hadn’t been closed on Thursdays I’m sure it would have been more times! This cafe ticked all our food boxes. Amazing milkshakes for the kids, good coffee for the grown-ups, plain toast for Edward, satay sticks and spring rolls for Lillian, and a good selection of yummy dishes for us, as well as beer, all at very reasonable prices. Plus friendly staff who didn’t mind our slightly crazy (at times) kids.

So that was our time in Melaka! We’re now living it up in Kuala Lumpur but more on that another time.

List 29/52 – Things We’ve Learned So Far About Travelling With (Our) Kids

1. Rest times are important each day. Ed still has a nap most days. I think he’s only totally missed his nap once on the trip so far. He slept on the plane, he’s slept on the two longer bus trips, he’s slept in the stroller.

2. Whole rest days are also needed. Today was one of those days. We ate breakfast, Dave took the kids to the hotel pool, I bought food for sandwiches for lunch, and we spent the afternoon resting and relaxing. We don’t have to be ‘doing’ or site-seeing every day.

3. Ice-cream is always a winner.

4. Accommodation that includes breakfast certainly makes life easier.

5. The same movie can apparently be watched over and over and over and still be funny. (Despicable Me.)

6. Always double check before leaving somewhere that you have all precious items. (We nearly forgot Lil’s pillow.)

7. Playing chasies needs no common language.

8. Neither does Star Wars.

9. They don’t like random people taking their photos. (Most of the time. At Singapore Zoo while waiting for the rain to stop they were totally hamming it up for some people taking photos and video.)

10. Time to play is important. Sometimes our site-seeing revolves around finding a playground.

11. Sun-cream application is never fun.

12. They are remarkably good on bus trips.

13. Late nights are ok sometimes. We can browse shoes at 8:30pm if we want to because the shops are still open and we’re on holidays.

Got to the bus station and realised we'd left Lil's precious pillow at the guesthouse. So kids are enjoying their first ever McDonald's ice-creams while Dave goes back in a taxi to get it. Yay free wifi.

Maccas ice-cream and free wifi saves the day when Dave has to go and rescue pillow.

 

Singapore to Melaka via Legoland!

We left Singapore last Sunday and headed for Johor Bahru, just over the causeway in Malaysia. In pre-kid travel days we probably would have walked to the bus station but we are learning our limitations and the taxi that drove us the few minutes trip was well worth the money! (about $SGD8). There was a bus there waiting so we quickly bought the tickets ($SGD2.40 for adults and half for kids) and clambered up to the back seat with our bags and stroller. The bus was a smooth ride of about 30-40mins to the border. We got off at the Singapore Immigration checkpoint and were stamped out and then lined up for the next bus that took us a few minutes down the road to the Malaysian checkpoint. Easy!

Bus to Malaysia.

Bus to Malaysia!

We stopped there for a bit and had some coffee and snacks, changed money, etc before heading down to the pre-paid taxi stand to get a taxi to our hostel. When looking for accommodation in Johor Bahru I found it all quite expensive and with not terribly good reviews. Our whole purpose in stopping over in JB was to visit Legoland so instead of staying in the town centre I chose a cheap place (with good reviews) close to Legoland. This meant a 20min taxi ride from the city which cost us 26MYR (about $AUD9.)

In hindsight I’m not sure I would have chosen this option. It might have been better to stay in JB proper and have better access to food options and sight-seeing. However, for the money spent on the hostel ($AUD21) and considering we didn’t spend a lot of time there it was pretty good value. It’s just that it was in a suburban strip-mall type place with not a lot around. It was fairly close to a giant Tesco and mall but too far to walk and we didn’t feel like getting another taxi just for that.

Here’s our quad room at the Warm Blanket Hostel:

warm blanket hostel

Quad Room Warm Blanket Hostel

We had a big double bunk bed, a bedside table and not much more room! The shared bathrooms were just down the hall and good and clean. So pros for the hostel: comfy bed, clean, close to Legoland, cheap. Cons: small room, thin walls (someone down the hall was having a LOT more fun than we were that night. Ed’s crying didn’t seem to put them off), staff not particularly friendly but maybe just not good English, location not so good without your own transport.

The next day it was time for LEGOLAND! Just a five minute drive from the hotel the guy on reception gave us a lift there for 16MYR. Legoland was awesome. We got there a bit before opening time so went to a cafe in the little mall opposite the theme park and had coffee and breakfast. Then it was time to go in! (Tickets were 140MYR adult, 110MYR child and under 3 free, yay for Ed!)

excited Lil

Legoland!

We spent the whole day here. We had lunch inside the park and then when Ed fell asleep in the stroller and it got very hot we went back to the mall (open air but covered and with big fans) and parked him there to nap while we ate ice-cream and rested. Once Ed was awake we went back in to Legoland and did the rides we had missed the first time and our favourite ones again. We were there till 6pm when the park closed and then we had dinner in the mall before getting a taxi back to the hostel.

mall across from legoland

Mall Across From Legoland

Our kids (Lil especially) are pretty much the perfect ages for Legoland. Lil was tall enough and old enough for all the rides and there was plenty that Ed could go on too. I think our family favourite ride was the Egyptian ghost train type one where we got to shoot laser guns at things. We could all go on that one together. Lil and I had fun and got very wet on the water roller-coaster and Lil discovered a love of roller-coasters in general. It’s the first time we’ve taken the kids to a theme park like this and it was the perfect introduction.

Ed and Dave boating

Boats!

building

Building!

Many more Legoland photos on flickr.

So after one more night at the Warm Blanket Hostel it was time to get a taxi back into JB to the bus station and on to Melaka. This taxi was a little cheaper than the pre-paid one we got to the hostel. The bus to Melaka (77MYR total) took 3hrs and was practically empty. Ed slept part of the way and before we knew it we were there. Taxi to our next guesthouse cost 20MYR. I’ll write more about this place another time.

We’re enjoying Melaka and have gotten into a nice routine of doing something in the morning, returning to the guesthouse for nap/rest time in the afternoon and then heading out again for dinner. Melaka is on a river which is stinky but quite pretty. Today we did a boat trip up the river and back again.

River walk Melaka

Melaka River Walk

So that’s the last few days! We all seem to be getting into the swing of this travel thing now. Ed is a lot more relaxed, Lil is trying new foods (a little), Dave even went for a run this morning and my cough is slowly getting better. We’re here till Saturday and then on to Kuala Lumpur.

List 28/52 – The Good and Not So Good About Staying at the Hangout @ Mt Emily in Singapore

Today we’re moving on from Singapore. We’ve realised that when travelling with kids the place you choose to stay is even more important than ever. This place, Hangout @ Mt Emily,  was pretty much perfect for our needs. First the good:

1. There was a good size room with four single beds and a private bathroom with a huge shower.

Edward in the hotel room. We're moving on from here tomorrow.

2. The breakfast was included and was much better than I had expected. Hot and cold buffet, juice, toast, coffee.

3. The rooftop area had great views over Singapore and a ‘standing’ pool that was perfect for the kids to splash in.

Perfect shallow pool for the kids

4. The ‘veg out’ common area was great for hanging out in with Lil while Ed napped in the room. It had a tv, computers, pool table, bean bags, cushions, tea and coffee.

5. The location was quite central and it was a pretty easy walk to the start of Orchard Rd or down to Little India on the other side of the hill.

view from hotel roof

The Not So Good:

1. The hotel is at the top of a hill and reached by a steep flight of stairs if walking. It wasn’t a big deal but was a bit of a hassle with tired kids and sometimes with a stroller.

2. For a budget hotel the restaurant downstairs at night time is quite fancy and expensive. Not somewhere we were comfortable taking two tired kids.

I would definitely stay here again. We booked it through agoda.com and paid $AUD155 a night. Singapore is expensive for accommodation by Asian standards but this was a great starting base for our trip.

rooftop