Snapshot: Kuala Lumpur

I’m back in Malaysia to attend the Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards 2011. The event is only happening tomorrow, but I requested to fly in early so I can meet with my brother and his family who are also in KL this week.

KL must-do: chicken rice.

On the flight over, I realized this is the first time I’m traveling solo this year. I love my friends and I also love the opportunities I got to travel to places I never would have thought to visit, but traveling solo is something that I equally love.

This is also the first time that I’m in KL with lots of time to veg. I had nothing planned for this trip, except to eat some char kway teow, go to Kinokuniya and maybe head out to Ikea. I’ve done all but for Ikea, as the rain is making me want to just burrow under the covers all day.

I’m staying at Bukit Bintang – right smack in the middle of the shopping district and just a couple of steps from the foodie paradise of Jalan Alor. Tourists and locals alike come here to shop and dine. This place is so alive and there seem to be a never ending stream of people walking in the streets. Cars also fills its streets, but there’s a monorail to help you get to other parts of Kuala Lumpur easily.

Tomorrow I pack my bags once more to head to Putrajaya, where I’ll join the rest of the group for the weekend.

Travel Budget: Kota Kinabalu

One of the reasons why I was having second thoughts about going to Sabah was money. I had some unexpected expenses last January and I have several trips lined up in the coming weeks, so I figured it’d be better to cut my losses at Php 1,289 (my airfare) instead of spending so much more on the trip. However, in the end I threw caution to the wind and went to have an awesome trip.

Kota Kinabalu is pretty cheap compared to other Malaysian cities. Sure, the taxi drivers are averse to using the meter, but KK is so small you can just walk anywhere (except to the Mount Kinabalu Park and other attractions because it’s FAR). I’ve had a couple of expensive meals over the weekend, and I was surprised that my end total is just Php 1,337. Shopping in Kota Kinabalu is not too exciting, except if there are sales I suppose. Some of the items sold in Peninsular Malaysia is also available in Sabah, but there are also a number of brands and products that are locally produced like teas and cigarettes.

There are a number of souvenir shops in the shopping centers, but if you’re looking to buy Sabah tea, it’s best to check the supermarket, as the prices are much cheaper. There’s also the handicraft market, or the former Pasar Filipino (Filipino market), where local souvenirs are sold (batik, wood carvings, anything and everything made with sea shells).

A final note on Sabah: if you’re bringing US dollars, make sure that they are series 2006 or more recent. Money changers do not accept dollars from earlier years, which is a real pain. There are plenty of ATMs that accept VISA and Mastercards, so you can make a cash advance if needed (some hostels, like the Lavender Lodge does not accept credit card payments).
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Recharging my batteries in Sabah

I’m writing this from the dining area of the Lavender Lodge in downtown Kota Kinabalu. I’ve been here since Saturday, and if it weren’t the start of the week, I probably wouldn’t be blogging this early.

I meant to write a day to day update, as I did for previous trips, but I figured I owe it to myself to have a break from blogging and to travel just for the love of it, and not because it’s a great material for my blog. The daily recaps of my travels take a lot of discipline and energy and somehow made it seem as if everyday should be interesting just so I would have something to write about. I’ve done a lot of interesting things this weekend, though I wouldn’t write about it until the coming days or weeks.
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Travel Budget: Singapore and Malacca Birthday Trip

I honestly wasn’t looking forward to tallying up my expenses for my last trip, yet at the same time, I was eager to see just how much damage I did. And if I really spent enough to buy the 50mm f1.4 lens I wanted. I didn’t, but a couple more thousands and I could’ve bought the 35mm f1.8. I’m just consoling myself that at least I’ve finished my Christmas shopping in one go and bought some things I really wanted for myself.

Also, I realized how relatively cheap Malacca is for a daytrip from Singapore. The drive from the island to the heritage town is more than double the time it takes to drive down from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca, but it’s a better alternative to Johor Bahru, where most Filipinos go for a visa run. For about Php 2,000, you can do this day trip from Singapore. That already include the bus (public bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru, domestic bus from Larkin Terminal to Malacca), admission fees, meals and transport within Malacca. Melaka is compact enough that you can just walk to see the main attractions. I’m definitely heading back there when I go to Singapore.

Oh, I’ve omitted my personal shopping expenses from this travel budget. It’s certainly not for public consumption.
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One birthday, two countries

Like most blog posts, I started writing my birthday entry in my head. However, I was in such a state earlier that everything came out sounding like a eulogy.

Rui at the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum

I suppose it is something like a parting — me parting with my much loved youth and heading towards a new phase in life. Eeew.
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