After two wonderful days in beautiful Langkawi, it was now time for the last leg of our journey. We reached Langkawi airport for our morning flight to Kuala Lumpur. After having our breakfast at Kenny Rogers Roasters (not a whole lot of options at the airport), we checked in and waited for our 11:45am flight.
We all sat together but Ramesh chose the window seat. The following are his photographs.
We landed at Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Terminal nearing 1pm and was out in 30 minutes. There were plenty of buses from KL LCCT to KL Sentral, which is the main transportation hub in Kuala Lumpur city.
After reaching KL Sentral, we then hired a taxi to where were staying.
After a 15 minute journey, we reached Berjaya Times Square. There is a metro service from KL Sentral to Berjaya Times Square, but with our luggage, we decided to just take a cab.
We chose Irsia after much deliberation and researching on the location. We made our booking for a triple room.
Berjaya Times Square is relatively old but still remains one of Malaysia’s biggest and popular shopping destinations. It’s pretty huge, with 7 floors of shopping — high ends brands in the lower floors and more affordable stuff in the higher up floors. There’s also a 5-star hotel, Berjaya Hotel — among other things.
We headed all the way up to the 10th floor to the food court. We chose our meals from a place selling ‘mock non-veg’ food.
By that I mean, stuff that looks like chicken and fish but are actually vegetarian because they are essentially soya-filled made to look like non-veg items.
When I mentioned “among other things” earlier…
We chose to stay at Irsia because it was close to a lot of places we wanted to go. One among them being Low Yat Plaza, Kuala Lumpur’s famous IT mall.
After crossing the road, it was a short walk to Low Yat
I couldn’t get to spend much time in Singapore’s IT malls to pick up the things I wanted, so I consoled myself assuming I could get them at Low Yat.
Sadly, the selection of camera tripods weren’t very exhaustive and I couldn’t really find everything I wanted. Also, more importantly, the prices we found for some items were far more than what we saw in Singapore. There isn’t an incentive for tourists either via a tax refund scheme like Singapore has with its GST refund and Thailand has with its VAT refund scheme.
After lingering around for nearly 30 minutes, we left.
We were soon on Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur’s popular shopping district.
A short walk from here is Jalan Alor, also nicknamed ‘Food Street’.
We walked into Suria but there was a sign saying at certain sections of the mall, photography is prohibited. So we just kept our cameras in and walked through the mall and out the main entrance of Petronas Towers.
Petronas is the Malaysia’s national oil company — and one of Asia’s largest companies. Petronas Towers is the company’s headquarters, thought I’m not sure if all 88 floors are Petronas’ offices.
The reason why we we didn’t want to go up to the skybridge is because, one, we were already late as the skybridge closes at 5pm and two, there is a particular method to which you need to get the tickets to visit the observation deck — which I’ll get to in a later post.
We attempted a portrait shot of all three of us in front of the Petronas Towes, but because we didn’t have a tripod with us, Ramesh fit the tripod on his camera and used his Kata bag to stand the camera.
The Malaysian MotoGP was happening the following week, and they had some competing superbikes on display.
After nearly an hour just staring at this beautiful building, we finally left the base of Petronas Towers.
The Petronas Towers are a symbol of modern day Malaysia. Just like Burj-Al-Arab signifies Dubai, and now Burj Khalifa, the Petronas Towers are an architectural icon. Inaugurated in 1998, even to this day, the Petronas Towers design stands as ‘modern’ – and yet, truly Asian in its influence as it can be. No visit to Malaysia is complete without having seen what was once the tallest building(s) in the world.
Even though Taipei 101 took over the throne of “Tallest building in the world” in 2004 (until Burj Khalifa did the same in 2010), the Petronas Towers are still one of the best looking skyscrapers in the world in my opinion. It shows how important good architecture is in creating a true global landmark. You can play the game of attempting to build the tallest structure in the world, but unless it looks good, the investment is futile.
If you disagree, just go around and ask people if they are aware of ‘Taipei 101’.
We walked back and through some of the malls in Bukit Bintang district.
While myself and Loiyumba found enough options for dinner, as was the norm on this trip, Ramesh didn’t. So I ordered what I wanted to eat, so that we could head to some place Ramesh could get his dinner.
It maybe a bustling place by night, but if you feel like staying amidst all the food, here are some hotels on Jalan Alor:
Once I got my takeaway, we headed back to our rooms only to stop at the 24-hour Subway store on Bukit Bintang where Ramesh picked up his dinner. (There’s also a 24-hour KFC on the same road)
We also pick up a few drinks from a convenience store on the way and had our dinner outside our hotel, where Irsia had put up a few tables for its guests.
Dinner over, we hit the bed early. Our plans were to go see the famous Batu Caves tomorrow, which we knew were on the outskirts of KL… which meant getting up a bit early.
So what was our first impression of KL? Not so good, to be honest. In fact, after a whirlwind 3 days in Singapore during a buzzing F1 weekend, it’s understandable we were a bit disappointed with Kuala Lumpur. But the fact is, things are a lot cheaper in KL, so it’s no surprise Malaysia’s capital city isn’t as glamourous as glitzy Singapore. Unfair comparison I’d say.
Oh well, we still had two more days in the city to change our minds about the place.
Thought I’d get that out of the way first. After a tiring first day (with barely any sleep), we made up for it by only getting up around 10:30am. And by the time we were out, it was already noon.
But today, the skies were clear and sunny.
But despite the plethora of eateries and cafes, ‘the vegetarian’ (my friend Ramesh) found nothing to his taste. So we decided to go to Little India.
While the guys headed to Little India, I instead went to Sim Lim Square – Singapore’s famous IT mall.
Being a Sunday, few stores were closed but you still had plenty open.
I was looking for a good tripod and the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS USM I lens. Most stores didn’t have the latter in stock anymore but I did get a chance to try out the non-IS variant.
Several shops I entered asked me why I needed the IS version and suggested that I simply go in for the non-IS version and buy a good tripod instead. Something I did give deep consideration later.
A few smaller shops did say they had the lens and it “could be arranged,” but I decided not to deal with them. After all, Sim Lim is equivalent to Bangkok’s Pantip Plaza — you have tread carefully when shopping here. You can get ripped off, at the same while scoring some really good deals.
I had only made it to the second floor before my friends called and told me they were done with lunch. Since I had to catch up with them, I had to leave Sim Lim. Just like yesterday, I left disappointed knowing I couldn’t explore the mall in its entirety.
I grabbed a quick bite and made my way out.
As I stepped out and crossed the road in front of Sim Lim Square, I noticed crowds and street shops ahead of me.
Bugis Street Shopping is the largest street shopping market in Singapore.
For me, it wasn’t really impressive. Not after you have visited Bangkok’s Chatuchak Weekend Market (or JJ Market). In fact, a lot of the merchandise sold here was from Thailand — which obviously meant it was slightly more pricier here.
I had to get to Suntec City to meet up with my friends, but instead of taking of the MRT, I just walked.
I passed through another mall, this time — Bugis Junction.
After catching up with my friends, Ramesh made his way to the F1 tracks to begin his evening. While myself & Loi pondered what to do next. I had plans of going to Marina Bay Sand Casino to go up to the sky deck. When I had called them up earlier in the day, I was informed it was only open to visitors until 4pm, after which it would be off limits to non-guests.
We were inside CityLink Mall (yes, another mall in the area) when we decided to check out the HMV store.
By the time we stepped out of the HMV store, we already spent SGD150 (around Rs. 5,100) on official band t-shirts — and it was past 4pm. So I pushed Marina Bay Sands for tomorrow and headed to Suntec City mall instead.
After shopping some more at Suntec, we made our way back to Victoria Street where I had plans to show Loi the Bugis Street shopping centre.
But lay before us was Iluma — the alluding building which I assumed was a boutique hotel.
But a funky one at that. Iluma is a pretty cool mall mostly targeting a younger crowd. Despite its appearance, we didn’t find the usual selection of high-end designer brands. Instead, we came across stores like this:
The merchandise on display was good enough to draw me & Loi in. Nearly half-an-hour later, we step out after having spent some dime on anime merchandise.
Inside the Otaku House was more anime merchandise; more necklaces and keychains (like the ones we bought from Comics Connection), to cosplay outfits and other props for rent or purchase.
But we sighed… and quietly walked out, reminding ourselves that we had already spent enough and would soon run of Singapore currency at this rate.
It didn’t stop us from exploring the mall still.
The top-most floor houses what they claim to be Singapore’s largest arcade. And then there is the open roof top.
As we made our way down, I realized iluma was one of the more unique malls in Singapore. Not only does it look cool, it really manages to cater to a young crowd with more affordable options compared to the rest of Singapore’s malls.
After we stepped out of iluma, I took Loi to the Bugis Street Chopping centre.
And by the time we were done with that, we were hungry. So we popped into the near by Burger King for a good ol’ beef burger
(Note: Beef burgers are a rarity in India due to religious sentiments so even McDs are too ‘chicken’ to serve beef burgers here).
After this, we took the MRT to Orchard Road, our next destination.
I actually wanted to go back to Sim Lim Square, but Loi needed to meet his cousin — and since he didn’t have a local SIM, I had to tag along with him.
When we got to Orchard Road, we stepped right out to Ion Orchard mall.
Orchard Road is Singapore’s famous shopping stretch (as if the rest of the city didn’t offer enough already), home to many star hotels and a very popular stop for tourists.
And boy, does this one-way road live up to its reputation!
Once Loi met up with his cousin, I was on my own to explore the rest of Orchard Road for some time.
I got back to the other side to continue from where I left off.
After this point, the malls slowly disappeared.
After catching up with my friend Loi, we decided to see off his cousin at the bus stop and take one ourselves as we hadn’t done so yet.
Since we didn’t really know where to get down, we just got off at the end of Orchard Road.
As I looked at the map, we realized that Victoria Street wasn’t very far from where we were currently, so I asked Loi if we could just keep walking.
It was nearing 11pm, so we stepped into a food court to have dinner and to quench our thirst with some beer.
After ‘dinner,’ we resumed our walk towards our hostel.
I couldn’t help but remind ourselves how good a location we chose to be stay in, given how close we were to a lot of what Singapore has to offer (especially if you a re shopaholic!).
We were finally back in our room…. oh wait, we ran out of drinking water.
(Steps out again)
Once back from the nearby 7-Eleven I was finally done with day 2! As we checked out out our merchandise, we also counted how much we had already spent and soon realized we were running out of Singapore dollars.
We just had one more day left in Singapore, so it was either going to be Sentosa or the Singapore Zoo. I also wanted to hit the sky deck at Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino.
Since our flight was at 11:35pm (24/09/2010), we decided to leave directly from office and being a Friday evening, we had plans to leave earlier than usual. We checked the timings for the Vaayu Vajra airport shuttle buses & planned on taking bus number 8 or 8A in front of our offices on Sarjapur Road.
After just missing BIAL 8, we got BIAL 8A at around 5:35pm and made our way to Devanahalli. The ticket cost Rs. 180 (per person) and the journey took 2 hours. Once we reached Bangalore International Airport, it began to drizzle. We made our way in and then sat waiting for the Tiger Airways terminal to open.
Once the terminal did open, we were kind of surprised to see our boarding passes to be ones from Air India! Puzzled whether we were on the right flight or not, we did joke about how cheap an airline Tiger Airways was that they used leftover Air India boarding passes. 🙂
Since we were early, we had plenty of time to kill at the airport. We checked out the duty free, had a snack from the expensive options at BIAL and then tried going online using the free wi-fi… which didn’t work. Thankfully, I had my TATA Indicom Photon thumb drive and so I went online to do some more research on places we planned on seeing in Singapore, where to eat and what not.
It was also raining heavily outside but our flight wasn’t delayed by much nor was it cancelled, which was good news. By 11:35pm, we were in our seats. Now, we knew Tiger Airways was a budget carrier and wasn’t expecting much.
And it wasn’t much.
Seats were quite old and looked untidy, some push-back buttons wouldn’t work but hey… we reminded ourselves that we only paid around Rs. 4,500 ($100/€74) for this one way direct flight to Singapore. So we smiled to ourselves and sat back.
We were also quite hungry by this time and waited for the (paid) meals to be served. Though they had a menu with a few notable hot meal options, by the time the air hostesses arrived at our row we were only left with 2 options. In vegetarian – chana (chick peas) curry and rice and in non-veg – beef stew and bun. Since we were quite famished, we asked for both.
We avoided eating a complete meal at the Kingfisher Lounge at the airport because of how expensive it is but after having shelled out Rs. 500+ for the above food, it made better sense to eat from the airport itself before boarding the flight.
Anyway, our flight would land in 2 hours time and we thought about grabbing a bite at Changi Airport.
Yeah, about that.
When we landed, we did land at ‘Changi,’ but just like being told you would arrive at the pearly gates of heaven — and then take a swift left turn into hell, we actually disembarked at the budget terminal of Changi Airport. Okay it wasn’t hell or anything but it wasn’t much to write about either.
Basically a big warehouse turned airport terminal, the budget terminal at Changi had just about enough counters to cater to us “cheap” travellers. I was disappointed I couldn’t see one of the best airports in Asia but once again: Rs. 4,500… direct… we reached Singapore, safe and on-time.
We made our way out of the budget terminal and headed for the free shuttle bus to the main terminal to avail the MRT into the city.
We boarded the bus and got down at Terminal 2…
… which obviously didn’t look like a warehouse.
We bought our MRT cards which cost SGD12 (Rs. 400/US$9) — SGD5 for the card and the remaining is credit — which is SGD7 (if you are that bad at math).
We knew we had to switch trains at Tanah Merah station which is an interchange (we studied the MRT map during our research).
We got down at Victoria station and walked straight towards the Bugis station (our hostel was in between the two). After asking a few passersby for directions, we walked past a blue mosque (which was a given landmark) and arrived at Jalan Kubor (‘jalan’ means ‘road’).
We were staying at ABC Backpackers Hostel, a conveniently located and affordable hostel serving the essentials as far as we were concerned – great location, breakfast, internet, clean beds and clean bathrooms.
How much did it cost us? We booked in May, and for the F1 weekend it cost us Rs. 5200 ($116/€84). That’s for 3 people in a private room for 3 days and 2 nights in the heart of the city (pretty much) — around Rs. 1700 ($38/€27) per person for 2 nights at ABC Hostel.
We couldn’t check in to our room as it wasn’t available yet. So we kept our bags on the shelf rack, freshened up, had breakfast and then stepped out so as not to waste any time.
We first thought of heading to Sim Lim Square and then Little India, so after getting some directions, made our way down Victoria Street.
We took a right and stepped in to a convenience store to try and take a local SIM.
After getting our prepaid SIMs, we tried finding Sim Lim Square — Singapore’s famous electronics mall.
We did find it but given it was still 10am, most shops were yet to open. So we made our way to Little India instead.
We stopped by the famous Mustafa Centre shopping complex (which is open 24 hours) to see what they had on offer. Mustafa sells just about everything, from electronics to clothing and also houses a supermarket and a pharmacy. But we did find quite a lot of fake goods — mostly shoes — being sold at exorbitantly high prices. The Nikes were all wrapped in plastic and sorted based on size, and one look at them gave away their faux pas. Appalling how this “famous” store was getting away with fooling their customers.
After half-an-hour or so, and after checking from basement to the top floors, we left without buying anything.
And with that, Little India was done.
I wasn’t very happy with the photos I took. Granted the skies were grey but I never really had a chance to wait and click, it was all hurried. A lot of times I had to play catch-up as my friends would be ahead of me.
But we had to move on. Ramesh had to go pick up his F1 pass and we still had things to buy.
So we headed to the Farrer Park MRT station which is one of the two MRT stations that connect Little India.
Ramesh bought the Premier Walkabout ticket which cost him around Rs. 10,000. The ‘ticket’ is actually three badges (one for each day) and comes in a nice framed box, just so you can remind yourself how expensive it is to witness a Formula 1 event live.
After collecting the ticket, we stepped out.
We checked out the official merchandise store, which had apparel from all the major racing teams — all of which was very, very expensive. Like Rs. 3000-plus for a Ferrari t-shirt and such.
We also noticed Funan IT Mall, the other major electronics shopping destination, right ahead of us. So we went there next.
Unlike Sim Lim Square, Funan is newer and lot more posh. That is not to say everything is a lot more expensive here, look around and you’re sure to find a lot good deals.
We had noted down a few good stores in Funan IT Mall, so we first went to TK Photo. I was in the market for a good tripod, an intervelometer and Ramesh wanted to pick up a Kata camera bag. Ramesh found what he wanted but I was spoilt by choice and realized I needed to do a bit more research before I could decide which model to go in for.
After TK Photo, we checked out a few more stores before heading up to the food court for lunch.
When we were done with our lunch, ‘the vegetarian’ had to go down to Subway to have his. This gave me some time to check out some more shops on the higher floors.
The first thing that caught my eye was a window full of Totoro plush toys!
The store had many more inside.
I spoke to the owner who told me he has his sources in Japan for the goods and makes the pilgrimage to nerd-heaven quite often.
If you love anime and video games, you’ll find a lot of stores catering to your geekdom on the top most floors of Funan IT mall.
I then went down to John 3:16 Photo Supplies, a photography store I heard was one of the best in Singapore. It was quite busy and the guy running the place seemed like a really cool guy to talk to. He had a lot of the things I was planning on buying. But, my friends call and said they were done.
So I left, disappointed I couldn’t spend more time there. Actually, I was disappointed I could spend lot more time in Funan which seemed a lot better than Sim Lim Square.
Yes, Funan DigitalLife mall is a newer compared to Sim Lim Square but don’t assume it’s more expensive. It’s also managed by Capital Land, the Singapore-based real estate major that owns pretty much all the biggest malls in Singapore and other venues like Clarke Quay. So you’re not going to find a whole lot of grey market dealers like you would in Sim Lim Square.
After I caught up with my friends, we made our way back. We had yet to check in to our rooms.
Once we got back to ABC Hostel, we checked in to our private room which was cosy and clean enough for us to crash and trash with our luggage.
While we rested, Ramesh got ready to begin his F1 experience. Me & Loi didn’t have a lot of day left so we made our way out again.
This time, I suggested we just walk and check out our surroundings.
We took a left off the main road after we asked a traffic policeman how to get to the marina, and walked across the bridge just to see where it would take us.
Ultimately we hit a dead end… and the whole section was blocked off for F1 events. So we walked back.
After walking by some impressive office buildings (which we were later asked not to photograph by the security personnel) we headed towards Suntec City.
Though not new, Suntec City is a major real estate venture comprising of one of Singapore’s biggest malls (even today), several high-rise office towers and a huge convention and exhibition centre.
We walked out of Suntec City by this point still in search of the MRT station.
Realizing we were nowhere near the MRT, we headed back into Suntec City Mall.
We sat down for evening tea at this awesome-looking food court.
Once we did find City Hall MRT, we got down at Clarke Quay station to head to Singapore river where we planned to take the river cruise by boat.
After a bit of walking and asking around, we reached Singapore river.
The race was happening in the distance and one could hear the deafening sound of the engines. They were so loud (and so good) that I had to call up my friend back in India to give him the experience! (video coming soon)
We walked towards the bridge where lots of people were trying to catch a glimpse of the cars zipping past.
We got to the other side to get to the ticket counter for the River Cruise.
It’s only after getting on this boat did I realize how much there was to Clarke Quay. I know the photos may not show much (video coming later) but the number of restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs are just too many to mention. It’s no wonder Clarke Quay area is the night hotspot in Singapore.
The boat then took a turn and made its way back towards the marina.
I had the look of sheer disappointment at this point. Not that the building was ugly or anything. Just 2 nights ago, my favourite trance outfit Above & Beyond performed here, more specifically at the Avalon club — on top of those three towers — and I missed it because I only heard about it that prior weekend. I seriously considered preponing my flight to arrive in Singapore earlier just to see them at such an awesome venue! But the pains of cancelling and re-scheduling a flight at such short notice, that too with Tiger Airways’ non-existent customer support in India made me drop it. It wasn’t just Above & Beyond. Flo Rida, Steve Aoki, The Chemical Brothers, with many more and the ticket for one night was just Rs. 3k.
Anyway, back to the photos…
There are three pick-up points (& ticket counters) for the river cruise along Singapore river and you can take mine and Loi’s word for it — taking the cruise at night is a must-do when in Singapore!
Back on land, it was time to head to Chinatown for dinner.
Chinatown wasn’t far from Clarke Quay.
We straightaway headed to the ‘food street’ as we were hungry and thirsty!
Scores of hawkers & restaurants on either side, we finally sat down and first, ordered some chilled beers.
We placed our orders from multiple vendors.
It was around 11pm by the time we were done. We could have explored more of Chinatown but we were tired as hell, so we decided to head back ‘home’.
We took the MRT from Chinatown and got back to Kampong Glam.
Once back in the room and a quick hot shower later, I hit the sack. Recalling how much we covered on just our first day, it was a good, albeit a very tiring start to our trip.
I wasn’t thoroughly pleased with all the photos I took today. A lot of them came out blurry which made me want to pick up a good tripod all the more a bigger priority.
Regardless, this was day 1. 155 images (used out of 360 taken), slightly over 3000 words and more than a week to finish. Trying to complete this was as tiring as the day itself.
Now only 9 more days and 3600 more photos to go through.