Kuala Lumpur and Singapore
27.07.2012 - 31.07.2012 32 °C
My last few days in Southeast Asia were spent in the modern metropolis' of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Singapore. A couple of days in KL was a nice change from the other cities I've visited, it is much smaller and compact, much quieter and orderly, and combines a good mix of the old, the new and the natural. The new comes in the form of the incredible number of skyscrapers and shopping malls, the epitome of this being the Petronas Towers, formerly the highest buildings in the world, and its attached shopping centre boasting every western shop you could imagine from Prada and Harrods to M&S and Topshop. Despite the impressive height of the towers, this area doesn't really feel like the Asia I've come to love so I didn't spend too much time here. Much more to my liking where the bustling China Town and Little India, plus the old colonial sites.
Another impressive thing about KL is the amount of green space and even areas of virgin rainforest within the city centre. Surely this is the only capital city in the world where you would find monkeys living wild within a stones throw of some of the tallest buildings in the world.
Despite these great things, the highlight for me once again was the food - the same kind of Chinese/Indian influenced fare as everywhere else in Malaysia, and just as tasty and cheap as everywhere else.
So after KL I had my last bus journey in Asia (and the best - featuring big leather seats and airplane style movies, and it actually arrived on time!), to the tiny city/nation of Singapore which was my sixth and final country in Asia. Much like KL, Singapore is a nice mix of the super modern and fantastically restored colonial past.
It was just a flying visit of 24 hours before my flight. For me this was enough, not through any fault of Singapore's but after 3 months of South East Asia I was just templed and China towned out. The modern business areas are impressive from a distance but up close you could be in any modern city in the world with homogenised steel and glass office buildings interspersed with Starbucks. On top of that the prices in Singapore suddenly took a meteoric rise upwards. So I spent most of my time doing the one thing which was still cheap and great - eating at hawker food stalls. However there was one small and strange incident as I tucked into a plate of spicy fried black pepper beef and rice in the communal and sociable seating area. A local started asking me a few questions, nothing strange there (one of the delights of my trip has been the friendly locals). But before I knew it he had bought us 2 beers and wouldn't accept my protestations that I didn't want it, so to be polite I thought what harm can it do? Oh I should have learnt by now, the conversation quickly turned to his sister studying in England and her lack of money (of course). I quickly ate and drank up but before I could get away another 2 beers arrived. At that point I politely but firmly said no, goodbye and walked away whilst checking over my shoulder. Anyway it obviously turned out fine as I'm still alive, and I got a free beer out of it and an interesting tale.
Obviously while in Singapore I had to take a visit to Raffles, the world famous hotel. I got some nice photo's to show that I was there, but that's all I got, with the famous Singapore Slings starting at $24, I decided to give it a miss and treat myself to several great hawker meals instead at the much less snooty food court markets.
So with a full belly I headed to the airport to end my incredible travels around Asia, and to begin a brand new adventure down under in Australia.
I can't actually believe that 3 months have passed by already, it doesn't seem like 2 minutes ago that I was back in rainy England planning everything. But then looking back at all the amazing things I've had the privilege of doing I can't quite believe how much I managed to cram into the last 3 months.
In terms of highlights it's almost impossible to sum up because the whole experience has been so incredible. The Gibbon Experience in Laos and volunteering in Cambodia certainly stand out as 2 of the best things I've ever done. The food everywhere has been insanely good, but if I had to chose I'd say northern Thailand just tipped Malaysia. I've seen some great beaches with my favourite being Soa beach on P island, Vietnam. I've done so many things for the first time such as riding a motorbike, snorkelling, teaching etc, and seen some great wildlife and scenery on my various jungle treks. Then there's the historic and cultural sites topped by the amazing Angkor temples. Then there are the people I've met, the locals who almost always have been incredibly friendly and welcoming, then the fellow travellers I've met, many of whom I hope to stay very good friends with.
So in summary it really has been the best experience I could have every wished for.
So after all that Australia certainly has a lot to live up to ... I've actually been in Oz for a week now (just got a bit behind with the blog). There have already been a few adventures but I'll save those for a different blog as I know Mark and Sarah don't like doing too much reading at once.