SE Asia is great for holidays – its close – very reasonably priced and the quality of service is excellent. This year we planned a 9 day holiday across Malaysia & Cambodia – 3 nights at KL, 3 Nights at Seam Reap and the last 3 nights at Langkawi ( back to Malaysia). This was the best itinerary ensuring that we did not waste too much time at the airport.
As usual I had my holidays for April planned by January end. Getting a Malaysia Visa is easy – all you need is the hotel booking and Tickets. Cambodia is Visa on arrival – but we still got it done from India. Udaan is a new agency in Bangalore that does Visas for all countries – they are efficient and I was happy with their service. I got my tickets from MakeMyTrip (Disappointing service) and did the hotels on my own.
MH 105 is a very convenient flight from Bangalore to Malaysia. Leaves in the afternoon at 12.15 and reaches KL at 18.55 in the evening. Bangalore airport is empty at this time. The flight was also empty , we whizzed past immigration at KL and were in our car by 19.30 – its a 60 min drive to KL city – about 50 Km freeway traffic as we zipped past and reached our hotel the DoubleTree Hilton by 8 PM. Lovely hotel – great service, nice rooms, good food – we were surprised to see Indian Options at dinner and breakfast (Breakfast had Idli, Dosa, Vada, Sambar, Chutney, Puri , Chole etc) – rates are reasonable and comparable with 5 Star Hotels in India. We had booked two rooms for the 4 of us and I was able to use my points to get a 50% reduction.
DoubleTre Hilton is centrally located at Ampang – a 10 min walk from Petronas Tower. And that was our first stop the next day. Getting a ticket for the ride up the worlds tallest twin towers can be dicey during the rush tourist season. We took a precaution and got the tickets from the Concierge by paying a 50% premium – but when we visited the next day we found enough tickets available at the counter. Normal tickets are about 88 Malaysian Ringitt (1 Ringitt = 16 INR approximately). The ride up takes about 45 minutes – and is worth the effort. You go all the way up to the 86th floor observatory and get a peaceful 15 minutes to view the city.
The Petronas Tower also houses the Suria Mall – a large luxury mall and the Petronas Science Centre. The KLCC (Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre) is a small walk away and that houses the Aquaria – all of this can easily take you from morning 10 to 3 to cover. I guess we were fast – most people would have spent the whole day here . The Science centre is wonderful – very interactive and the kids enjoyed it. I would rate this better than the science centre at Singapore. The Aquaria is nice – but the one at Bangkok was better. We had lunch at the Suria Mall food court – and were pleasantly surprised to see a Saravana Bhawan Counter there.
Around 3 we took a cab and headed to the Bird Park – its a 15 min drive (everything in KL is 10 – 15 min drive) and Taxis are very reasonable. (A small tip – the Blue Taxis are Executive Cabs and they charge you double what the regular red ones charge). The Bird park is very well maintained and houses a wide variety of Birds – over 2000. Its a must see – budget 90 minutes. Close to this are the Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Garden , Orchid Garden and the Planetarium. We visited the Orchid Garden – it was not in full bloom. By the time we reached the Butterfly Park it was 5.30 PM and they were closing for the day. The lakes and Botanical garden also looked nice and inviting – but it had been a long day, the humidity was tiring and the park and lakes looked inviting but lonely, the sky was getting cloudy and we could sense the evening showers of the Equator were round the corner – we decided to give it a pass and headed back to the hotel.
A quick shower and some rest and we were ready to leave by 7.30 PM – and now we made the mistake of the day heading to Little India for Dinner. Noisy, messy, the place was sad – and the food at Saravana Bhawan was equally dissapointing – it was dirty, AC not working , no water in the washroom- clearly you can avoid this place in KL.
I am told that there is a place called Masjid India – where a Sangeetha and Saravana Bhawan is located – hope thats better, did not get the time to check it out.
Day 2 – kept an alarm at 5 – but the Jet lag hits you (KL like Singapore is 2 1/2 hrs ahead of India) so even at 7 its like 5.30 in India – and it does take a few days to get used to this lag. After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel we headed out to the MRT. The Ampang station is a few minutes walk from our hotel. We wanted to go to the Batu Caves – its a 450 Million year old Limestone Cave formation that is home to a lot of rare flora & fauna. It also houses a temple of Lord Karthik – or Muruga. Malaysia has a lot of Hindus – 8 % , many of them Tamilians who came here 200 – 300 years back as traders and plantation workers.
Batu Caves is just 15 Km from KL City – and we could have taken a Cab for 50 Ringitt (750 Rs) – but we wanted to try out the MRT. We changed two Trains and reached the place by 11 AM. Walked up the 270 odd steps to the Murugan temple – this is very Indian – crowded, noisy, a little dirty.
On the way back we took a guided tour of the Caves – these Caves are a research site an are home to some very rare species of animals not found anywhere else in the world. Its a well organised trek that takes you about 2 Km into 3 caves – the last one is pitch dark. There are massive limestone formations – caves are full of Bats, scorpios, millipedes, cockroaches, spiders and even snakes. Fortunately we saw many of them but none troubled us.
On the return we took a cab that took less than 45 min to reach KL and went straight to the Times Square Berjaya Mall – a big busy crowded mall. This has shops for the middle class. A few hrs here and then we headed to Sogo – which is a lot nicer. And finally we were back in the hotel by 6 PM. A few hrs of rest then a lovely dinner at the Italian restaurant by the poolside. A meal for 4 in a lovely 5 star hotel costs you less than INR 4500 – thats a lot cheaper than what you would pay at Bangalore. Through the 2 days I realised that KL is actually cheeper than Bangalore. The cost of Petrol is 50% , food is cheaper, cabs are cheaper – and the city is world class.
We head to Siem Reap for the 2nd leg of the tour tomorrow – our flight is at a convenient time of 12 Noon and will reach Cambodia in an hr. Seam Reap promises to be exciting – a visit to the world famous Angkor Wat temples has been on my list for long. But more of that later.
We will come back to Malaysia – Langkawi in 3 days, but for a minute what else could one do at KL. Not much at KL – but yes there are few places 2- 3 hrs drive away that attracts tourists – these include Genting Islands (Most people told us to avoid), Melaka – which looks like a nice place, Putrajaya, Cameroon Highlands , Kuala Selangkor Fireflies, Berjaya Hills & Port Dickson.