I know I haven’t posted anything new in over a week, but that’s because I was travelling. This time, it was a 10 day trip to Singapore and Malaysia – both first time visits for me.
While the next few posts are going to document what I saw and feature some of the 3,900+ photos I took, I thought I’d make a post first on how much planning and research went into this trip, which itself was a process I enjoyed.
When I got back from my Thailand trip last year, the friends I travelled with in India in the past said we should do an international trip. Ramesh, the gearhead of the group said he would like to go for the Malaysian Formula 1, but this was in March. As it was too soon – and I still had my credit card dues to clear – I said I couldn’t do it.
So I suggested we plan for the Singapore F1 instead, to be held in September. This would give us a good 6 months to prepare. We soon figured there wouldn’t be much to see in Singapore and since we were going all the way there, we might as well see another destination as well. Hong Kong was in consideration but given how expensive the city was, we chose Malaysia instead.
First up was booking our flights. We set the dates for Formula 1 weekend, and since we figured it was going to a busy period, we decided to book early.
We were going to do this trip on a budget and since it was only going to be a one way journey to Singapore, flying Singapore Airlines was out of the question as the one-way fares were too high. We instead opted for the budget carrier Tiger Airways. I got my one way ticket for around Rs. 4,500 (US$101/€73) when booked late March and this was for direct flight which leaves Bangalore at 11:30pm and arrives at Singapore at 6:30am. Seemed convenient to us.
We initially wanted to fly straight from Singapore to Langkawi but unfortunately, tickets were sold out. So we decided to fly to Penang instead and then take a ferry from Penang to Langkawi.
From Langkawi we would then fly to Kuala Lumpur. After spending a few days in Malaysia’s capital city, we would fly back to Bangalore via Air Asia. The return ticket cost me around Rs. 3,625 (US$82/€59) including a pre-booked meal, up-sized baggage limit (20kgs) and a selected seat.
Since we were going to be three people, we made our hotel reservations well in advance. Most of our rooms were booked using Hostels.com, hostelsworld.com and only the Langkawi booking was made using agoda.com. Just about every flight and stay booking was made months before our journey, saving us a lot of money and giving us enough time to plan our itinerary.
When calculating how much cash we needed to carry, we considered the entry fees, daily food expenses and the balance amount we’d have to pay at all the hotels we booked via hostels.com and hostelsworld.com (both only accept 10% of the amount at the time of booking and the remaining 90% have to be paid in cash on at the time of check in). I also decided that all large purchases would be made on the credit card, so in the end, all three of us converted around Rs. 20,000 in Singapore dollars, Malaysian Ringits and the rest in US dollars.
We also needed to plan our luggage and what all we were going to carry. The thing with budget carriers (at least in the case of both Tiger and Air Asia), you have to pay for check-in luggage. We paid for the minimum of 15kgs for our onward journey but opted for 20kgs for our return. We also planned it in such a way that we wouldn’t carry 3 different deodorants or shaving creams, thereby minimizing space used as much as possible. In fact, Loiyumba, the third friend on this journey had the least luggage (one backpack) while going since he said he wouldn’t be shopping much. Of course, I told him all that would change while coming back.
We knew this being our first trip – and due to time and money restrictions – we wouldn’t have been able to do everything. As for our planned itinerary, it went something like this:
Day 1 (Singapore)
Arrive at hostel 8am approx. – rest for some time – go to Sim Lim Square by 10am for camera equipment shopping – head to Little India – from Little India to Arab Street/Kampong Glam – then head to Geylang Serai – from Geylang, by sunset, head to city for River Cruise – watch the F1 pre-race show, head to Clark Quay for dinner
Day 2 (Singapore)
First head to Singapore Zoo – then check out Orchard Road, have lunch from the hawker centers – photo session at Merlion Park – check out Marina Bay/Raffles Hotel & Marina Bay Sands hotel – Chinatown, from where we’d have dinner
Day 3 (Singapore)
Pack up and keep things ready – head to Vivo City Mall, take monorail (SGD$3) to Sentosa – Sentosa cable car and other attractions – Jurong Bird Park – be at Changi airport by 6pm for flight to Penang
Day 3 (Penang)
Check in to hotel at 10pm and then head to Gurney Drive for dinner – buy ferry ticket to Langkawi (if still open)
Day 4 (Penang)
Buy ferry ticket to Langkawi – visit Kek Lok Si (largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia) – Bukit Bendera, the tram ride up to hill-top – drive on Penang Bridge and then come back – head to Batu Ferrenghi till sunset – drive back to Gurney drive at night for dinner
Day 5 (Langkawi)
Go to Eagle Square as it is in Kuah, where the ferry docks – head to hotel and check in – post lunch, try and rent bikes to go to Gunung Raya, the Langkawi Sky Bridge
Day 6 (Langkawi)
Island-hopping tour – drive around post lunch – hit the beach and relax
Day 7 (Kuala Lumpur)
Catch morning flight to Kuala Lampur – check in by noon – check out Bukit Bintang area – head to KL tower in the evening to get a view of Petronas and the city lit up – China Town for dinner
Day 8 (Kuala Lumpur)
Wait in line for Petronas Towers tickets at 7am – depending on when our time slot is, plan the rest of the day – visit Batu Caves – if there is time, check out National Mosque, Masjid Negara
Day 9 (Kuala Lumpur)
Day 10 (Kuala Lumpur)
Shopping – depart for airport by noon
Well, that was what we thought of doing. But did we accomplish all the above? For that, tune in to my blog the next few weeks
Read the series here: