January 19, 2017

Singapore & Malaysia

Shopping on Orchard Road -- Classic Singapore
Our Singapore visit was a typical episode in what I've jokingly started referring to as our Hyatt Asia Tour. We have built up a ton of Hyatt points over the years, and Asia is a good place to deploy them. Each Hyatt we've been, whether it's been purely on points (free!) or on points and cash (super discount) has been wonderful thus far, and we'll likely continue with the pattern until we run out of spare points.
Singapore Marina -- yes, that is a giant ship (casino) on top of those three towers

We took the super cheap/budget airline JetStar from Manila to Singapore.  Booking online didn't go through.  I had to call a call center to get a human who walked me through the booking process and shunted me to a dial-tone interface that charged some annoying additional fee to get the CC authorization to actually clear (but really it was the extra 2 hours on the internet and phone trying to figure out how to make it all work that hurt the most).  Finally, we had reservations, but what we learned was that unlike the high-priced South American airlines, that you can just book online with no problem, the low-price SouthEast Asian airfares definitely extract some pain before you get them to let you travel.

Darn it -- we just missed the Pokemon Run!

We showed up at the Manila airport and were pleased to get seats assigned next to one another despite the warning that since we'd booked the lowest class, we would be assigned at random and most likely not near each other.  I really felt like these folks needed to take the aggressive nickle and diming down a notch and take a page from the Southwest manual -- just let 'em board and sort it out. But that's probably some culturally insensitive feeling on my part.

After arriving and clearing customs, I offered E some gum and made him laugh hysterically (while he took it and joined me in chewing with an evil grin) because, *UMM IT'S SINGAPORE -- IX-NAY ON THE THE UM-GAY!* Oh.  Right.

We took an Uber (have we praised Uber enough on the travels yet?) to our hotel.  It was easy and wonderful.  First Singapore dinner was Din Tai Fung.  Spicy noodles, shrimp/pork soup dumplings, sticky rice with pork, and most importantly, NO WAIT.  I am a happy 2-DTF-visits-in-2-weeks woman.
Saturday afternoon border crossing at Singapore Woodlands.

Morning was yet another visit to yet another glorious Hyatt gym, followed by lunch at level 33, a walk to the Merlion, the National Gallery, Singapore Slings at Raffles, and dinner with parents of a friend at the gorgeous downtown flat they've had for 40 years.  The next day we gorged at the Grand Hyatt buffet breakfast, which was the most ridiculous buffet breakfast we've ever seen including stations for Korean, Japanese, Dim sum, Congee, Noodles, Western egg/meats, Western baked goods and donuts, preserved meats/fish, waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit, juice, cereal, yogurts, grains and more (eventually free, after some annoying fighting with the front desk over communication confusion -- not ideal, we weren't even that hungry, didn't eat that much, and would have skipped it if we thought they were going to charge us, but it worked out in the end and they didn't).
Bit of a culture shock to move from the Singapore Hyatt to a JB mid-range hotel (view out our window).

We spent the afternoon at the pool, and then we cleaned and packed up, and took our backpacks on the SMRT to woodlands, then 950 bus to the woodlands crossing from Singapore into Johor to get stamped out of Singapore immigration, then the 950 bus to Johor Bahru where we did immigration into Malaysia (what country, exactly, were we in between the Singapore Woodlands crossing and the Malaysian Johor crossing?), followed by walking chaos through Johor Bahru to our hotel.
Food hawkers across the street from our hotel in JB, easy walk from the train station.

Hotels lie in this part of the world.  Our hotel in JB had no lounge.  No gym.  No breakfast (which we don't really care about, but coffee is nice.)  Several others in the area the Internet claimed had lounges/bars/places to relax open to public, and yet after traipsing about and trying to gain entrance once we realized our hotel didn't, it turns out, all the others didn't either.  So we made a dinner at the hawkers which was surprisingly good, winning the award of the cheapest meal out of the trip ($1 US for me and $2 US for E), as well as actually being spicy enough to make E comment that his Sambal Squid dish was actually "very spicy."

My delicious $1 Kuey Teow soup from the the hawker stall.
The next morning we took the 5 hour train (2.5+2 with 30 min transfer at Gemas) to Kuala Lumpur --we bought some junk food at the JB train station to sustain us.  Rotiboys were surprisingly buy 4 get 1 free, so despite thinking I'd bought 2 each for the day, we had all you see plus 4 *more* Rotiboys (2 plain, 3 amazing salted/sweet buttermilk custard filled).

I predict Rotiboy (amazing halal roti pastries) will become a worldwide sensation like DTF.

JB and KL were an amazing cultural mix -- It was the first time I've been in a Muslim majority environment where I felt comfortable in my own clothes.  There were plenty of Indian and Chinese women wearing clothes that were close enough to mine (showing neck, shoulders, legs, etc.) that I didn't constantly feel self-conscious or rude.  
Cranes actually do do that crazy 1-leg thing from Karate Kid!
In KL we did the obligatory stuff, got accidentally lost in malls while trying to navigate on foot (this just happens in Asia for us), visited the Petronas towers, ate on Jalan Alor, visited the amazing KL bird park (outdoor netted/doorlocked aviary) and took advantage of the awesome KL Hyatt.

Petronas towers at night from the wonderful park below.
 And then, after 2 nights, it was time to take a plane to Thailand (the $60 AirAsia flight was surprisingly pleasant and much less ghetto than the $90 Jetstar flight from Manila to Singapore).
Pelicans, egrets, and other birds feeding on the post-eagle feeding scraps.


Arvay said...

I am envious of the things you will eat in SE Asia! Eat lots of curry noodles for me!

bt said...

@Arvay -- You are not alone -- They were recommended by our Uber driver in KL as his favorite local dish!

Mark Winstanley said...
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Jen said...

Rotiboys sound amazing!!!