Kuala Lumpur and Singapore
Heat. Humid, sweltering, suffocating heat. We have arrived in Southeast Asia, and it is only 4am, but the first description is mind-blowingly accurate.
We accidentally mixed up our dates and thought our flight left one day earlier, although we were bummed out that we wasted money booking accomodation one day before our arrival, it ended up working out quite nicely as we could go straight to our room and back to sleep rather than try to waste time until check-in–whew. We made it to our room at 6am, just in time to hear the Salah or prayer being called from the nearby mosque (Malaysia is a Muslim country). We had experience with this while we were in India, and while Megan finds the call to prayer relaxing, Markus was not amused. After a short sleep we headed out into the blistering heat. It’s hard to ignore the fact that KL appears to be in the middle of a construction boom. Everywhere you look it feels like “build baby, build” there’s high rises plopping up all over the place. We also quickly discovered that the city was not built for walkability, although perhaps that may be changing in the coming years. We went to the Jurong Bird Park on our first day, which was interesting, but Megan didn’t particularly care for it. The highlight was witnessing a pelican rightfully bite a tourist who was harassing it. The general upkeep of the birds just felt a bit lacking and made for a pretty depressing stroll. As we picked a room in a high rise with an infinity pool overlooking the skyline, we made sure to return home early enough to enjoy it. The view was absolutely phenominal. We had originally hoped to book something similar in Singapore because we heard great things, but accomodations there were pricey. At approximately $30 USD for a shared apartment on AirBnb, we felt like we got a great deal.
The next day we visited the National Mosque. Megan made sure to wear long pants and bring a scarf to cover her shoulders since she wore a tank top, however, unlike other mosques we’ve visited, Megan had to also cover her head to access this one. The mosque is open and airy, but compared to others doesn’t quite have beautiful architectural details. Rather it’s understated and sleek. From the mosque it’s a short walk to the Islamic Arts Museum. This should be a must do while in Kuala Lumpur. The architecture of the building itself is beautiful, let alone all of the treasures inside. We particularly liked the section on the Qur’an–the Arabic calligraphy is stunning. In the evening we visited the focal point of KL’s skyline, the Petronas Towers. If there is one thing every tourist does while in KL, it’s the Petronas Towers. We booked our tickets to visit the observation tower in advance and that was a great idea. They tend to book up pretty early. They take you up first to the bridge that connects the two towers, here you have 10 minutes until you go to the observation room on the 86th floor. We had hoped to be able to have free time here, but they limit your time to only 20 minutes. The views are outstanding, but I think our view from the infinity pool looking at the towers is much better.
It was a short one hour flight from KL to Singapore. We fell in love pretty quickly with Singapore and honestly don’t know how to feel about it. Singapore appears on the surface to be too perfect. It’s a melting pot of people from various ethnicities and religions all seemingly coexisting in harmony. While the national language is Malay, singapore has four official languages, Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, and English. Essentially though, English is the main language. Their underground transportation system, MRT, is incredibly efficient and easy to use and despite the fact that we stayed in a suburban location, we had no problem getting into the city center. We also never felt unsafe, in fact, I think Singapore is the largest city we’ve ever felt this safe in. That being said, our immigration form was stamped with “Death For Drug Traffickers,” so there is that.
For our first night we decided to do some rooftop bar hoping including a brewery that has fantastic views, LeVel 33. We then visited one of the amazing Hawker Centres, essentially an open air market with various cheap and delicious food options, for dinner and some more cheap beer. We chose a local soup dish called Laksa. In general, Singapore is a foody mecca, everywhere you look people are eating. It feels like you could spend forever here and never eat at the same place twice. One major downside of Singapore is the cost of drinking with a pint of beer costing around $10 USD.
The following day we explored the Indian and Arabic neighborhoods, stopping for lunch at another Hawker Centre, before continuing on. One can’t help but notice that at times Singapore feels like it contains endless high end shopping centres (really, how many Louis Vuitton stores do you need?). We began to incorporate passing through these block long centres to take refuge from the heat with their air conditioning. We visited a free viewing deck of the city at ION Orchard. Similar to public spaces in San Francisco based on zoning laws, this free viewing center was a treat with very strict opening hours, only 3-5:30pm, so you need to plan in advance. As the sun began to set we made our way to the Singapore Waterfront Promenade. We were very lucky with the time of our visit because they were hosting a sustainable light festival called “i Light Marina Bay”. The highlight was of our walk was the Supertree Grove which has huge man-made trees with a free show of them lighting up and with music.