Archive for the 'Malaysia' Category

List 43/52 – Family Accommodation in Singapore and Malaysia

I’ve been writing about each place we stay in as we go along but I thought it might be handy to have a list all in one spot. So here are the places we stayed in Singapore and Malaysia in July 2013 including costs, links and photos. Finding good family accommodation can be tricky so I hope this helps someone! I’ll do another list for Thailand when we’ve left.

1. Singapore – Hangout @ Mt Emily – $AUD155 – big room with four single beds, aircon, wifi, bathroom and breakfast included. Paddle pool on the roof and great common areas. Read more here.

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

Hangout @ Mt Emily, Singapore

2. Johor Bahru – Warm Blanket Hotel – MYR 60 ($AUD21) – internal room with double bunk bed, shared bathroom, aircon and wifi. Read more here.

warm blanket hostel

Warm Blanket Hotel, Johor Bahru

3. Melaka – Old Town Guesthouse – MYR 80 ($AUD28) – room with internal window, double bed and two single beds, aircon, wifi, shared bathroom and toast and coffee included. Great common area. Read more here.

our room and common room

Old Town Guesthouse, Melaka

4. Kuala Lumpur – Berjaya Times Square Hotel – $AUD146 – one bedroom suite with separate living area and kitchenette. One king size bed and one extra single bed, bathroom, aircon,tv, wifi for four devices and entry tickets to the Times Square theme park. Big buffet breakfast for four included. Read more here.

bedroom

Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur

5. Ipoh – Ipoh Boutique Hotel – $AUD55 – one double bed and one single, fridge, aircon, wifi, tv, couch. Read more here.

Our room

Ipoh Boutique Hotel, Ipoh

6. Georgetown, Penang – The Small Inn – MYR70 ($AUD27) – one double bed and one single, aircon, wifi, tv. Read more here.

The Small Inn room

The Small Inn, Georgetown, Penang

 

Penang to Koh Phangan Via Hat Yai

While we were in Penang we made the decision to push on through and arrive in Koh Phangan earlier than originally planned. Our original idea was to spend a few nights in a series of places along the way but we thought the kids would be better off just getting to the beach and staying put for a while. And to be honest, none of the places along the way were jumping out as places we had to visit. So decision made, the obvious place to break the journey was Hat Yai in Thailand which is quite a transport hub for the area and the first major town after the border with Malaysia. We booked minibus tickets from Penang and were picked up directly from our hotel at noon.

Thailand ⬆! (Through dirty bus window).

Road sign to Thailand!

The minibus was old and had barely any suspension (I was seated over the back wheel and felt every bump) but the aircon worked and we were comfy enough for the trip to Thailand. The border crossing went smoothly and despite a false alarm nappy change between Malaysia and Thailand we were soon stamped in to Thailand. At about 4.30pm the minibus delivered us directly to our hotel in Hat Yai which was a nice surprise, the hotel, however, was not.

The only good thing I can say about the Laemthong Hotel is that it is in a good location in the centre of town. I had booked the hotel through Agoda and if I’d seen the room first we probably would have kept looking. I read all the reviews and thought we knew what to expect but I don’t think parts of this room had been cleaned since the 70s. The mattress on one bed was rock hard, and on the other felt like it was disintegrating under the sheet. The whole room stank of mildew and mustiness and there was a square hole in the bathroom ceiling, covered with a metal grill, that led who knows where. Ok, a few other positives: the hot water worked, the aircon worked, there was a fridge and tv, but for $AUD25 we have stayed in much cleaner and nicer places. That night was not a very good sleep.

bad photo bad hotel

It actually doesn’t look too bad in this photo

Hat Yai wasn’t all bad though. We found a nice coffee shop for an afternoon drink and a good Thai place for dinner. Our main task that afternoon was to book our tickets for the next day’s journey to the ferry to Koh Phangan. We tried around the train station there but were hounded by a tout and quoted way too much by the first agent we asked. We ended up booking the tickets through Cathay Guesthouse who were friendly and fair.

At 8.00am the next morning we gladly left our hotel and walked around the corner to Cathay Guesthouse to get picked up by the minibus. This minibus was from the same era as the day before. The suspension was much better but the aircon struggled. It was a hot drive on vinyl seats. The driver also appeared to be running a courier business and we made multiple stops along the way to pick up or drop off parcels and luggage that he squeezed into any available cranny.

Four and a half hours later we were deposited at the pier at Don Sak. We spent two and a half hours in the cafe there waiting for the 4pm ferry to Koh Phangan. The kids to this point had done pretty well. Ed had fallen asleep about 20mins before we arrived at the pier which was unfortunate timing. We fed them during the wait and they ran around a bit but they were tired.

Finally we were on the ferry and heading to Koh Phangan. The views were lovely.

Lil and Dave on ferry

Lil and Dave on ferry

The ferry took about three hours and was mostly uneventful except for the last hour when it absolutely poured with rain. There was water flowing down the decks and we couldn’t see a thing around us. The boat slowed right down and by the time we arrived the rain had pretty much stopped and this was the view.

Arriving on Koh Phangan at sunset. 4.5hr minibus, 2.5hr wait for ferry, 3hr ferry. Icy (literally, on ice) beer in hand right now. Beyond tired kids but we are here!

Sunset arrival on Koh Phangan

We were last off the boat, not wanting to hold people up as we struggled with the bags, Ed (too slippery for him to walk down the stairs alone), and the stroller. We were bundled to a sangthaew and charged too much for the short trip to the resort, but we were there, and soon had a cold beer in hand.

More about our first week on the island next week!

Our Time in Penang

street art

Penang Street Art

Getting there from Ipoh

Ipoh seems to have a few different bus stations and it was a little confusing trying to work out which one the Penang buses left from. There is a new bus station north of town, plus one south of town, and one near the train station. I also found out that the bus company Sri Maju have their own station in town so we decided to go there as it was closer. The taxi driver didn’t think the buses actually left from there and insisted on coming in with me to check that we could actually get the bus (I think he was also hoping for the fare out to the new station) but my research was correct and we got the noon bus to Penang. It took 2.5 hours and cost MYR68 total. From the bus station in Penang the taxi to Georgetown was MYR25.

Accommodation

We stayed at The Small Inn which was a bit of a step down from Ipoh and KL standards but perfectly adequate. We paid MYR78 ($AUD27) for a room with a double bed, a single bed, bathroom, aircon, tv (only the movie channel worked but at east it was English), and wifi. The room was clean and although there was no daily room cleaning each day they gave us three bottles of water, a new bin bag, toilet paper, and, when requested, clean towels.

The Small Inn room

Our room

I did a lot of searching for accommodation in Georgetown and this seems to be a pretty good deal. The location is also good, a few blocks walk to Chulia St in one direction, Armenian St (the arty historic area) in the other, and the shopping centres around Komtar in the other. The owner was very friendly and we paid day by day which was handy when we decided to leave a day early.

The Sights

Kek Lok Si Temple is high up on a hill overlooking the city. We caught taxi there (MYR30) and bus back (MYR4) and had a fun afternoon exploring the temple. There are turtles, wishing trees, an inclined lift ride to the top, a pagoda to climb to the top of and lots of concrete animals. The kids had a great time and Ed fell asleep in the carrier on the walk back down the hill. Catching the bus back to Georgetown worked out well because Ed was able to stay asleep on Dave’s back as Dave stood up on the bus. The bus took about 40mins and was quite an interesting, though certainly not direct, ride.

choosing a wish

Choosing a wish

Edward all templed out on a local Penang bus today.

Snoozing on the bus

Penang Museum was not too interesting for the kids but entry is cheap (MYR1) and we timed our visit with a downpour so it was a good place to escape the rain. The one interactive area was a traditional games corner and Dave and Lil had fun playing checkers there.

Fort Cornwallis is not too far from the museum and a good spot for some exploring. It was very hot when we visited so there was more wilting than running around but again, entry was cheap.

Fort Cornwallis

Fort Cornwallis entry

We visited the Clan Jetties on our last day. Ed was in a bit of a mood and Lil spent the whole time asking for ice-cream so it wasn’t the most pleasant excursion. It must be a strange place to live with tourists walking past all the time peering into your house.

Chew Jetty

Chew Jetty

Vaccinations

We got our second Japanese Encephalitis shots in Penang at Gleneagles Private Hospital. It cost a bit more than in KL and was a lot more involved, but still cheaper than Australia. The kids had to be seen by a pediatrician who did a thorough examination (ears, throat chest, history from birth) before giving them the shot. Dave and I got our shots in accident and emergency!

Eating!

For breakfast most days we went to a corner roti canai man and ate delicious fresh roti with hot coffee. Yum and cheap at only MYR6 for four roti and two coffees.

Roti canai breakfast

Breakfast time

Our favourite dinner venue was Teksen Restaurant which was popular with locals and tourists and always very busy. Lil liked the fried chicken pieces (no sauce) and Ed liked the plain rice. Dave and I tried different things each time and they were all good. Here’s a video from Nomadic Samuel of Teksen Restaurant.

Teksen Restaurant

Teksen Restaurant

Another good dinner place was Kapitan Restaurant in Little India. We had delicious tandoori chicken and naan and it was cheap cheap cheap. Here’s another video of the restaurant from Nomadic Samuel. Seems we ate at all the same places!

After visiting the museum we happened to walk by a cafe called 32 Light Street and went inside for a light lunch. There was aircon, free wifi and games to play too! We quite happily settled in here for a while.

Where are we now?

Right now I’m writing this from the restaurant of our resort on Koh Phangan overlooking the pool, where Lil is swimming with Dave, and the sea. There’ll be more posts over the next few days about our journey here from Penang. We’re here until Sunday when Dave’s family arrives on the island and we move to the resort where the wedding will be held. Very excited to see everybody! Until then we plan to swim, rest, eat, repeat.

Good morning!

My View

 

PS. All Penang photos are on flickr.

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!

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.

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.