Three Days in Singapore

Three days in Singapore

Day 1
Airport security and customs:
Once you exit immigration (visa process explained in another post) you come to customs. Unlike other countries where you simply walk out unless you have something to declare, in Singapore every bag is rescanned by a customs officer and they are VERY thorough. Be sure to check what you can and cannot bring into the country. We didn’t do that but we were lucky.
Glenn had bought a knife in Nepal modeled after the traditional knives the military have. At customs they made him take it out of his backpack and they measured it to be sure it was allowed. We were so nervous that they might take it! Apparently you can only take knives into the country that are 10cm long. Glenn’s was right on the edge but they let us through.
They also required me to take my Swiss Army knife out of my bag, but that was not a problem once they saw it.

Metro:
The metro in Singapore is excellent and goes right to the airport. I recommend booking a hotel within short walking distance of a metro station. That way you can save money by avoiding taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel and it makes it easier to get around the city. Metro into the city center takes about 30-45 minutes.
Here is what the trains look like

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We bought the 3-day tourist pass which worked great! Use the metro as much as you want for 3 days – cost $30 (Singapore dollars) per person.
This pass also included a hop on, hop off bus tour with the company FunVee and a boat tour on the river with the company Bubblejet.
Well worth the money.

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There are several rules on the metro. Be sure to follow them or you may face steep fines.

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Hotel/Hostel:
Hotels and hostels are VERY expensive in Singapore. We booked one called Hawaii Hostel. The owners were very sweet and really tried but it was incredibly basic and I do not recommend. They did have air conditioning and private rooms which was good.

Bugis Neighborhood:
The location on the other hand was great. It was in the Bugis neighborhood, just a 10 minute walk to the Bugis Metro station and around the corner from Bugis street (a great area full of shopping and food vendors).

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Bugis station is on the blue and green metro lines and is only 2 stops away from both Chinatown and Bayfront (Singapore Bay Area and Marina Bay Sands hotel).

Singapore Bay Area:
Singapore Bay is home to one of the world’s most famous hotels, the Marina Bay Sands. This hotel opened in 2010. It consists of 3 towers capped by what looks like a large ship. On the roof is a restaurant, 2 bars and the infinity pool they have become famous for.

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Below the hotel you will find the Shops at Marina Bay Sands. This is essentially a designer shopping mall. Very fun to walk around and window shop but not very practical for the average traveler. We did not spend much time here, really just passing through.

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On this side of the bay you will also find:
The Helix Bridge, which is great for photos

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Gardens By The Bay:
After walking around the Bay Area we headed over to Gardens By the Bay (just on the other side of the Marina Bay Sands hotel). This area is a part of the citys plan to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” into a “City in a Garden”. It consists of a variety of gardens and conservatories, some of which require an entrance fee, but much of the area can be visited for FREE which I just love.
For more information here is their website:
http://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/home.html

Though of course this area can be visited during the day, night is when it is really magical. At the center of the gardens is the SuperTree Grove. Every night at 19:45 and 20:45 these supertrees come to life in a beautiful light show reminiscent of the trees in the movie Avatar. This light show is also set to music and is a perfect evening activity during your visit to Singapore.

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Going to the movies:
On our way back to our hostel our first night we passed a movie theatre about 2 blocks from our hostel. We went in to see the times for Interstellar (it had just come out and everyone was talking about how amazing it was). Luckily it was starting in 15 minutes! So we decided to grab some quick dinner at the theatre and went to a movie!

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This was not a cultural experience. The theatre was no different from those of America or Denmark. However, when you are traveling for long periods of time it is important to take breaks from traveling to just do something normal (like going to the movies). It helps you to maintain travel stamina and to just relax for a little while.
And the movie was excellent! If you have not seen it, go see it now!

Day 2
Funvee bus tour:
We started our second day in Singapore with the Funvee hop on hop off bus tour.
I am not normally a fan of these tours because I think you miss experiencing a city when you see it from a bus and I think they are usually overprices (this one included).
However, this tour is included for free with the 3 day tourist metro pass so we decided to do it. I have to say it was a lot of fun. The full circle takes about 45 minutes and will take you past some of the major sights such as Chinatown, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore Flyer (currently the worlds largest ferris wheel), etc. The audio commentary was not great so we didn’t always know what we were looking at but it was a nice way to see the city for an hour.
Definitely NOT worth buying the ticket for this but because it was free, it was a fun hour. I recommend taking advantage if you buy the 3 day metro pass.

Here are some of the views we had from the top deck of the bus:

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Sentosa
After our bus tour we decided to head down to the beach (Yes, Singapore has a beach).
We didn’t know anything about it but most things we read said that the beach was free, it was hot in Singapore and we thought a free beach would be a nice inexpensive way to spend our day. What we found was better than we could have possibly imagined!

Take the metro to Harbor Front station (at the end of the yellow and purple lines – only about 15 min from city center). You emerge in a huge shopping mall, VivoCity (nearly every metro station puts you in a shopping mall in Singapore).

There are three ways to get to Sentosa from here.
1. Take the cable car.
Looked really cool with great views but this costs $29 round trip which we felt was a bit expensive.

2. Take the Sentosa Express Train.
This is a metro car/monorail that costs $4

3. Walk across the Sentosa Boardwalk
This is a garden themed boardwalk with lovely views (an people movers so you don’t actually have to walk most of the way)
If you choose to enter Sentosa via the boardwalk you only pay $1 (free on weekends and public holidays)
This is what we did.

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Once you enter Sentosa, there is a small monorail which takes you through Sentosa and its attractions to the beach (only 4 stops). This monorail is always FREE!

On Sentosa there are many expensive attractions such as Resorts World, Universal Studios, SEAS Aquarium, Madam Tussauds, a waterpark, a zip line and many many restaurants.
At the same time, you can visit Sentosa nearly for free depending on what you want to see and do.

In addition to the free monorail, along the beaches there is a FREE tram which will drive you from one end of the beach to the other making several stops.

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The beaches of Sentosa are also FREE!
The beaches are beautiful and clean, so is the water. We went on a Friday so I can’t say how crowded it would be on a weekend but when we went we were practically the only ones on the beach.

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We found it especially impressive that the water was so clean because just beyond the island and barricades is the giant port of Singapore complete with countless ships of all sizes.

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Southern most point of continental Asia
Another fun thing that Sentosa has to offer is the southern most point of continental Asia! It is just next to the beach across a rope and wood bridge reminiscent of the Swiss Family Robinson to a small island. Definitely worth a few pictures.

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In the evenings there are two different free shows you can enjoy.
21:00 The Crane Dance – the worlds largest animatronic cranes dance in a show of water light and sound.
21:30 Lake of Dreams – 15 minute water, light and fire show.

This time around we did not stay that late because we were sun tired from the beach and we really wanted to have dinner in Chinatown but I think if you stay at Sentosa for the evening these shows would be great to see.

Chinatown
For dinner we took the metro to Chinatown. After walking through the main streets of Chinatown we decided to get off the beaten track a bit. Mostly the main streets in chinatown are touristy full of shops selling souvenirs and restaurants that in our opinion were a bit overpriced for what they were.

After walking only about 2-3 blocks from the main streets we found a great little restaurant. It was packed! and we were the only tourists there.

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The menu was mainly photos and Chinese characters. Of course the dish name was in english but that was not always so helpful. We decided to give it a go and just order. It worked out great!

I ordered the crispy noodles

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Glenn ordered the dish of the day: a spicy noodle soup

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We were sharing a table with two locals and we started talking to them a bit. They were curious where we were from and what we were doing in Singapore. After dinner they told us about a dessert place around the corner where they were going next to get something called “Snow Ice” and they highly recommended it to us.

Of course local tips are always the best so when we finished our dinner we headed over to find it.

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And let me tell you, “Snow Ice” is my new favorite dessert! It is kindof similar to Italian ice or gelato. It is basically shaved ice flavored with a syrup but it is so creamy it almost tastes like ice cream and it comes in so many different flavors.

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We ordered the strawberry.

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This is a MUST DO if you visit Singapore.

Day 3
To start our third day we explored Bugis street a bit.

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Inside Bugis Street

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Bugis Street is also where you can buy some of the best juice I have ever had and most for only $1 (Singapore dollar = approx $0.80 USD)

Then we headed back to the bay area for a boat ride. The 3 day tourist metro pass also includes a FREE boat tour of the bay and river with BubbleJet. Again I would say, similar to the Funvee bus tour, this boat was not necessarily worth it if you bought a ticket (it costs $30 pp) but for free it was great!

We walked along the boardwalk at Clifford Pier, where you pick up the boat and got some more amazing views of the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the Singapore skyline.

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Clifford Pier is also where you will find the statue of the Merlion. This is now the symbol of Singapore. It has the head of a lion and the tail of a fish/mermaid. It was made up in the 1960s to boast tourism. I don’t know about you but I love it!

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Then we got on our boat.

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The boat trip is a nice way to see Singapore in another way.
Here is the Route it takes:

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Here are some of the lovely views you will see along the river.

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After our boat trip we walked along Clark Quay and the river. All along the river there are great restaurants and cafes so we stops for a beer.

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Then we headed back to our hostel and neighborhood to get some dinner and to change for the evening.

We had dinner at this great little place about 2 blocks from our hostel. It was small with plastic tables outside but the food was great. These are the best types of places to eat in Singapore where you get great food and the most bang for your buck.

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After dinner we went to our hostel to change for our big evening plans: we were heading to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel to have drinks at the bar on the roof.

To visit the roof of the Marina Bay Sands you can do a few things.
1. pay $23 pp to visit the SkyPark – basically just a viewing deck, one floor below the roof

2. make reservations to eat at the restaurant Ku De Ta

3. Have a drink at one of the two rooftop bars
– SkyBar: openair bar. no dress code (closes when there is bad weather)
– ClubLounge: this club/bar area has a roof so it remains open regardless of weather.
Dress code for men: no shorts, no tank tops, no open toe shoes
Dress code for women: smart casual (basically no restrictions but look vie)

We decided to opt to go up for a drink. Unfortunately for us (though we worked it out) it was raining a bit when we arrived so they closed the skybar. This meant that the Club Lounge was our only option but Glenn could not enter wearing his Crocs (the only shoes he has!). So we went on an adventure. We headed back to Chinatown in search of shoes and amazingly we managed to find a pair and the whole trip took only 1 hour total!

Then it was time to head up to the 57th floor for a now much needed drink.
Remember the drinks are NOT cheap (a beer was $20 and the cheapest drink on the menu) but it is the view you are really paying for so it is totally worth it.

The views are amazing! from one side you can see the Gardens by the Bay and all of the ships in port. Be sure to remember that at 19:45 and 20:45 there is the SuperTree light show at Gardens by the Bay which you can see from the rooftop.

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On the other side you can see Singapore Bay and the beautiful skyline.

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Here is what the inside of the Club Lounge looks like

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And finally, when you visit the rooftop for a drink you get a glimpse of the famous rooftop infinity pool that made this hotel famous. After seeing it we have decided that we will go back to stay at this hotel someday (despite the $300 per night price tag) because we want the experience of swimming in this pool.

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Singapore Airport
The next morning we headed to the airport to continue on our trip. Had we known in advance what an amazing airport it is we might have gone hours earlier!
Singapore has an amazing airport and because it is also a large hub is a great choice if you have a long layover.

Throughout the airport there are free foot massage machines

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The airport also has so many other amazing amenities including:
– free wifi and computer stations
(to get the wifi password you must either receive an sms or go to an information counter
– if you have a layover of 5 hours or more you can take a FREE city tour of Singapore! (information at terminals 2&3)

Terminal 1
– outdoor deck garden
– cactus garden
– rooftop swimming pool
Yes you read that right. there is a swimming pool at the airport!
Costs $14 per person

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Terminal 2
– Enchanted Garden
– Orchid Garden
– Peranakan Exhibition & Porcelain of Asia Exhibition
– Entertainment deck (complete with XBOX360, Playstation 3 and movie theatre)

Terminal 3
– Koi Pond
– Butterfly Garden
– Movie Theatre (open 24 hours)

Enjoy Singapore!!!

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Singapore Visa

Entering Singapore is incredibly simple.

You simply fill out an arrivals form (available on your airplane or in the arrivals hall) and wait in line to have your passport stamped.

Its as simple as that for residents of most countries.

Double check with this website to see if you will need a visa or not.
http://www.ica.gov.sg/services_centre_overview.aspx?pageid=252&secid=165/www.ica.gov.sg/services_centre_overview.aspx?pageid=252&secid=165

2 weeks in Bali, Indonesia

After about a month of traveling, we found ourselves in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia waiting for our visa to Myanmar to be approved. It was not improved in time for our flight to Myanmar (which we just lost because it was too late to change the flight) so we needed a plan B. As luck would have it, there were good prices for flights to Bali so off we went!

Glenn had been to Bali a few years earlier and loved it but he was not there for very long so we made the decision to stay in Bali for two weeks to really enjoy it and to relax.

We booked two nights in Kuta (the main city next to Denpasar Airport) to start and planned to decide on the rest of the nights as we went. Eventually we decided to spend our entire 2 weeks in Kuta. It is a great city with a ton of restaurants and shopping, excellent hotel deals and a great beach. In the future we would like to come back to Bali to experience more of it but for this trip we were perfectly happy in Kuta and the surrounding areas.

Leaving the airport:
We arrived in Bali in the late evening (about 10pm). The hotel we had booked with did not provide airport pickup so we just took the first taxi driver we found, mostly because we were tired and just wanted to get to our hotel.
I DO NOT recommend this. We were very overcharged.
We were charged 350,000 Indonesian Rupiah, that is about $29.
During the rest of our time in Bali the average taxi in Kuta cost between $5-$10.
At the airport someone also helped us with our bags (and by that I mean he took our cart without asking and took it to the taxi so we really had no choice but to follow him). You must pay this person as well though not much. We gave him $1 and he was very happy with it.

US dollars are worth much more to the locals than their own currency so be sure to bring some small bills with you.

Hotels:
For our first two nights we booked at Sayang Maha Mertha Hotel
This hotel was lovely but nothing special. The rooms were clean and comfortable.

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The air conditioning worked well. Our room had a nice balcony (though there was nothing really to look at. The bathroom was dated but clean and had a large bathtub which was nice. There was also a nice TV and DVD player in the room (great for playing the bootleg movies you can buy all over Kuta, 5 DVDS for $1)
The hotel did have a pool, though it was not as nice as the pictures made it seem.

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The wifi worked fine but the signal was much stronger in public areas than in the rooms.
A very simple breakfast was included: toast, butter, jam and juice or fresh fruit.
The location is great, just 2 blocks from the beach.

After two nights there, we decided to move to another hotel. The room was a bit nicer than the last hotel. It also had a pool and good wifi. It did not include breakfast. The location was nice, not far from the beach and some good restaurants. Nice option.

Then we finally hit the jackpot! Glenn found an amazing deal on Agoda.com (now our go-to hotel booking site). 10 nights at the 4* hotel Bali Kuta Resort for only $400 (total), thats only $40 per night for 2 people including breakfast!
This hotel lived up to the reviews and photos and more.
At check-in we were offered a welcome drink of nice cool fresh fruit juice and were assisted with our bags. We were also given a room upgrade when we mentioned that we were on our honeymoon (score!).
Our room was so amazing!
We had a lovely bedroom and bathroom

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A living room

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A kitchen area

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And and amazing balcony overlooking the pool

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Breakfast was included every morning and the breakfast was amazing. It was a large buffet of western and asian foods served in the open restaurant on the second floor overlooking the pool. There was also a made to order omelet station. (sorry the photo is dark)

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Here are some of our breakfast to give you and idea of the food they offered.

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This hotel also had the most amazing pool, including a swim-up bar.

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Many of our days we just spent sitting moving between the pool and our balcony. We still needed a bit of a rest after our busy time in trekking in Nepal

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In addition to the pool, the beach was only a 15 minute walk away!

Paradise!

The Beach:
The beach is the reason you come to Bali and the reason you stay. The water is clean and beautiful. The beach is simply a wonderful place to be. It is also the perfect place to catch a beautiful sunset.

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You will have to deal with vendors along the beach selling sarongs or jewelry or hair braiding. This can get a bit irritating but we found that most of them will move along after hearing a polite “no thank you”.

The best of both worlds:
A few days into our trip we discovered the best thing ever. Along the beach there was a free swimming pool! All you have to do is order a drink and you can use the lounge chairs and swimming pool for as long as you want with an amazing view of the beach and the ocean. It is called HQ Headquarters and is a MUST for your next trip to Bali.

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The Food:
Food in Bali is amazing! There is a huge variety of food and restaurants available at every price point. Actually, we were shocked by the prices as we had expected Bali to be much more expensive that it actually was.
Of course the very touristy restaurants (i.e. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company) were very ‘expensive’ with main dishes approximately $10.

However, at the local restaurants it is very easy to find many different main dishes for $1-$4 and the food is excellent!
Like this $2 chicken satay

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or this $1.50 Pork Satay

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Be sure to get off the main streets a bit. In Kuta, the Main Street and area is Kuta square. There are tons of shops and restaurants here and the prices are cheap compared with home, but if you want to find the amazing local restaurants with the best prices, get off this street. Luckily you don’t have to go far.
The best restaurant we found was led Gong Corner on Poppies Lane II (just a 10-20 minute walk from Kuta Square – depending on what end you are starting from)
Here is some of the menu
(Note: $1 = approx 12,000 Indonesian Rupiah)

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A few days we also made food in our room (since we had a lovely kitchen area in our room). This served two purposes: we saved a bit of money and it allowed us to not leave our hotel and just keep enjoying the pool and our balcony.
I highly recommend this when you are traveling. Our kitchen had a sink, refrigerator and water boiler so we had food to make sandwiches, salads and ramen noodles.

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One of my lovely homemade salads

We also bought the supplies to make our own cocktails to enjoy on our balcony which was way cheaper than always buying them from the hotel bar.

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Cocktail: vodka, mango juice, orange juice, splash of fanta, fresh lime juice, fresh lime, fresh papaya.

Shopping:
There are some really wonderful things to buy in Bali, traditional souvenirs, cloths, batik fabric and paintings, jewelry, etc. However, we did not do much shopping because the shopping experience is not a nice one. As you walk past the various stands, vendors and shops everyone gets in your face trying to get you to buy something. If you make any effort at all to look at something or ask a price they latch on and are very unwilling to let you go. Some even touched our arms as we walked past to get our attention. We did not like that and ended up not buying much.

We were lucky though. We came upon a grocery store about 1 block from the beach which sold most of the same souvenir type things as the stands with a much more pleasant shopping experience.

Renting a Scooter:
A scooter is a great way to get around Bali. This is how most locals get around and they are very inexpensive. We rented one for a day and it was $7 for the entire day!

I do have to warn you, please be careful. Scooters are not exactly safe, especially if you do not know how to drive one.
We rent scooters a lot when we travel but Glenn has a motorcycle license and he drives a motorcycle back home instead of a car so he is very experienced.
I sit on the back because I would be a disaster driving a scooter.
Also, PLEASE WEAR A HELMET. Most tourists and locals will not be wearing a helmet but that does not mean it is safe. Wear a helmet. Protect your head, it is the only one you have.

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I also recommend wearing a light long sleeved jacket or sweater when you drive. This is mostly to protect you from the sun and you will not feel hot once you start to drive.

The roads in and around Kuta are in good condition and the road signs are excellent so even as a tourist you should be fine driving around the area.

We drove down to Nusa Dua (the next nearest city to the south of Kuta. Renting the scooter was a lot of fun but Nusa Dua was not worth the trip. It is mostly big resorts like Westin and Hyatt and there is not much else to see.

On our way we did visit the temple Uluwatu. This was fun and beautiful but it is not as impressive as some of the other temples and can be skipped.
Remember: knees must be covered for both men and women. This temple had sarongs available for free for visitors to borrow.

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Also: watch the monkeys – they have been known to steal things (though truthfully, the monkeys we say here were very mellow). They were also quite fat – clearly many tourists have been feeding them. Please do not do this. It is not safe for you and not healthy for the monkey.

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If you rent a scooter in Kuta, I recommend just driving around Kuta or maybe north a bit to Seminyak (we didn’t go there but it sounds nice).

A Day of Sightseeing:
As much as were were enjoying our lazy, relaxing beach and pool days we did want to see some of the sights around Bali so we booked a day tour. All of the companies offer essentially the same product at roughly the same price so it really does not matter which company you book through. The tours are private, with a guide and a driver.
Our tour was $45 pp

We started with visits to the artisans an craftsmen (and women) in and around the Ubud area. We saw the artisans at work and had the opportunity to buy their product (none were in our budget for this trip but we have some ideas for the future).

Making Batik Fabric

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Hand Weaving

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Silver work

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Painting

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Wood Carving

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We visited a family temple

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Next stop was a coffee plantation where we enjoyed a lovely coffee and tea tasting

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We also learned more about the famous Kopi Lewak coffee. This is the most expensive coffee in the world. The best coffee berries are chosen and eaten by the native civit cat, digested and the coffee beans are then passed out again. These droppings are then collected, washed and the shells are removed. The beans are then finally roasted and made into coffee. We had the opportunity to try it at the coffee plantation for $5 per cup but we decided not to. we had seen much cheaper prices for Kopi Lewak coffee at the local grocery store so we will try it at home.

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This is the civit cat. They are nocturnal so this is why they look so sleepy.

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The we had a lovely lunch (included in the price) stop with a view of the volcano Mt. Batur

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After lunch we continued on to the Mother Temple, a must see if you visit Bali.
Knees must be covered for both men and women so bring a sarong. You can also buy one there from one of the many vendors.
Entrance to the temple is included in the price of your tour, however, you will then be forced to pay for a local guide to walk you through the temple complex. They try to get as much money out of you as they can but try to be firm, it is your choice what you give. We saw many people before us had been guilted into giving 400,000 rupiah! We gave 100,000 rupiah.

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Finally after a long bumpy drive from the Mother Temple, we reached our last destination for the day – Tanah Lot Temple. This temple can only be reached at low tide and becomes an island at high tide. It is also one of the best places to see sunset in Bali.

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At the temple, we were blessed by holy men before we could enter the area (you have to pay for this but just a token, i think we gave 2,000 each.

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The last thing we did was have dinner not far from Tanah Lot Temple and with a view of the ocean. Dinner was also included in our tour. You could choose between Indonesian food and seafood – we chose seafood.

We started with a fish and vegetable soup

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Our main dish was some of the best seafood I have had in a long time. Squid, fish filet, clams, shrimp, rice and vegetables.

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I HIGHLY recommend booking a tour like this.

Enjoy Bali!!!
We can’t wait to go back!

Indonesian Visa (Bali)

To visit Indonesia I recommend doing the Visa on Arrival in the airport.

Below I will explain the process we went through in Denpasar Airport in Bali but it is safe to assume the process is similar at the many other airports in Indonesia.

Depending on your flight, you might be given an arrival form to fill out while you are still on your flight into Bali. If you do not receive this form on your flight, simply pick one up from one of the officers in the airport and fill it out.

Next you go to the payment counter.
The Visa on Arrival costs $35 per person.
Make sure you have cash! They will not accept credit cards and I did not see an ATM in the visa area.
Once you pay, you will receive a receipt of payment which you then show to the immigration officer with your passport and arrivals form.

Then you will wait in the immigration line to get your passport stamped.
Once completed, the officer will return to you a departure form which you will need to leave the country. DO NOT LOOSE IT.

And welcome to Bali and Indonesia!

NOTE on leaving the country:
in addition to the departure card that you receive when you arrive, there is a $20 per person exit tax to leave Bali. There are ATMs in this area of the airport but it is best to have the cash for this ready so you don’t pay ATM fees for a small withdrawal.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For us Kuala Lumpur was a wonderful surprise. It was not in our original travel plans and we knew basically nothing about it. The reason we went to KL (this is what everyone calls Kuala Lumpur) was that from KL there were cheap flights to Myanmar (Burma) since KL airport is the hub for Air Asia, a discount airline.
Now we did not end up going to Myanmar from KL for visa reasons which I will explain later but we ended up having the best time in Kuala Lumpur!

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Getting from the airport to the city center:
This trip takes some time so plan accordingly. We took a taxi. It took 45 minutes and that was very early morning before traffic so if you are traveling during rush hour it will take longer. A nice thing about the taxis though is that you pay in advance in the airport. It is a flat fee of 100 Malaysian ringgit (about $30).

Hotel/Hostel:
Reggae Guesthouse 1
This was such a nice hostel. It was small, mostly private double and twin rooms and only 1 small dorm for 8 people. We stayed in one of the double rooms.
The air condition works great. There were 4 shared bathroom/showers – they were clean and 4 was plenty (I do not think the hostel was full, might have to wait for bathroom if hostel is completely full).
The internet connection was good and in the common room there was a big TV with several movie channels if you just need to relax.

Technology:
KL is a technology hub and has Malaysia’s largest IT shopping mall, so of course we had to go for Glenn.

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After sharing my iPad for a month he decided that he wanted to buy his own tablet. This mall was heaven for Glenn, 6 huge floors full oh computers, tablets, phones, parts, cables and many things that I had no idea what they were. He loved it!

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After a lot of looking he decided to buy a Lenovo tablet and several accessories to go with it.

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Note: Because many of the products are similar the sales people are quite forward and pushy. Every single one will call out to you as you walk by asking what you need or want to buy – just ignore them as best you can until you get to the store you want.

For me this mall was a bit overwhelming but if you need a piece of technology you will find it here so it is worth it.

KL Tower:
This was a recommendation that we got from a Canadian couple we met along our Everest Base Camp trek. Most people come to KL and go to the twin towers to the observation deck to see the view. The problem with this is then you cannot see the towers because you are in them. This couple told us that it was better to go to KL tower and get a view of the famous twin towers. Also they recommended having afternoon tea in the Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant instead of just visiting the observation deck. They were right.

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We booked our afternoon tea one day in advance (you can make the booking online). We also decided to dress up for this afternoon tea. Dressing up is not necessary but after trekking in Nepal and nearly a month of traveling it feels good to clean up and look fancy.

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Getting there is not hard as it is city center, it was about a 15-20 min walk from our hostel. The tower sits on a hill, at the base of the hill there is a free shuttle bus to tale you to the tower.

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The tea was so nice. It was a small buffet with traditional choices of finger sandwiches and pastries, plus more local specialties like glass noodles and spring rolls. You can have endless hot tea/coffee -or- 1 cold juice/soft drink.

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It restaurant takes about 1 hour to make a full rotation and gives you some amazing views of the city.

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7 Wonders of KL day tour:
This was a day tour offered by our hostel but I recommend it whether you stay there or not. It gives a nice overview of the city and its history. It also takes you to 7 of the main tourist attractions, some of which can be difficult to get to on your own.
http://reggaetoursmalaysia.com/tours-packages/city-discovery/7-wonders-of-kl

Thean Hou Chinese Temple:
– The Chinese temple is so impressive!

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First outside in the gardens there are statues representing the different year animals and we each found ours and took a picture.

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Glenn is year of the Horse.

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I am year of the Dragon.

The temple contains elements from Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Then we entered the temple. It is beautiful, color everywhere. This temple is dedicated to Then Hou, the goddess of the ocean. I also learned that in Chinese culture dragons do not spit fire, the breath water and give life.

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I also had my fortune told by fortune sticks in the temple. You take all the sticks together, life them up and drop them back in to their holder. They bounce and whatever stick is highest is your fortune. You then read the number on the stick and find the corresponding drawer on the side to get a small paper with a fortune on it.

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Note: To enter the temple you must take of your shoes and ladies, your shoulders must be covered.

Little India:
– When you enter this neighborhood it is like entering India. There are indian restaurants, shops selling saris and spices and Bollywood movies. We did not spend too much time here but it is worth a visit. It is also a good area to but inexpensive souvenirs from Malaysia.

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Royal Palace:
– The Royal Palace is very grand and new, only completed in 2011.

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Malaysia follows the British system of a constitutional monarchy, having a monarchy which is more of a figurehead and a Parliment which governs. The interesting thing about the Malaysian royal family is that there is not just one, there are actually 8 royal families (one for each Malaysian state, Borneo does not have a royal family). Every 5 years the royal families convene a Conference of Rulers to elect the new king (and royal family) from among themselves. To be eligible one must be Malay Muslim. They are the only country to have a rotating monarchy. The current king has actually been king twice.

Royal Selangor Pewter factory:
– Next we visited the Royal Selangor Pewter factory, which is one of Malaysia’s best known brands and the largest pewter manufacturer in the world.
Kuala Lumpur the city was actually founded as a tin mining city; the get the tin from the river. In fact Kuala Lumpur actually means muddy river in Malay.
Tin is a major component of pewter and in 1885 Mr Yong Koon came from China to found Royal Selangor. They initially made incense burners and candle holders for alters in Chinese homes and temples. With the arrival of the British however he quickly expanded into tankards (basically beer mugs) and other products.

On the tour you start in the museum section where you can see examples of the factory and company’s work. Two interesting things we saw were early examples of Malaysian money which Royal Selangor used to manufacture.
First they used pewter animals as money like this pewter crocodile.

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When people decided that this system was impractical they moved on to the ‘money tree’. The coins can be broken off to use as currency. The tree trunk is then remelted to make a new money tree.

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Needless to say, they have moved on and now use paper money 🙂

Then you move into the factory section. As you enter the factory you are offered a nice cold drink from a Royal Selangor tankard. That was a lot of fun to use the product!

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We were able to see the process of making the pewter and see the work first hand in the factory.

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One interesting thing I noticed was that most of the factory employees were women.

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Unfortunately we could not buy anything on this trip because pewter is simply too heavy to carry for another 3 months but the products are beautiful and we definitely would like a piece from Royal Selangor someday.

Batu Caves:
– Batu caves is a Hindu temple situated up 272 steps in a 400 million year old cave.
I think that introduction speaks for itself, this is well worth seeing!

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Note: Ladies you knees must be covered. Bring a sarong or a pair of leggings with you if you do not want to wear a long skirt/pants.

National Monument:
– The National Monument is a war memorial. It is also the worlds tallest bronze statue grouping. The Prime Minister of Malaysia was inspired by the Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima) on a trip to the US and requested the artist Felix Weihs de Weldon to creat the National Monument for Malaysia.

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National Mosque:
– Finally we visited the National Mosque. Malaysia is now primarily a Muslim country and this mosque was huge.

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One lovely thing is that this mosque is very tourist friendly. Ladies, they have long robes with head coverings available for you to wear (free) so no need to stress about how to dress appropriately.

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Men, if your knees and shoulders are covered you are fine; if you are wearing shorts you will also have to wear a robe.

Free things to see in KL:
If you look at a map of KL you will see a large green area in the middle of the city. This park area is a lovely place to walk around for an afternoon and is full of great free things to see.

Deer Park – Mouse Deer
– There is a small deer park you can visit. The normal deer are of course fun to see but the jewel of this deer park are the Mouse Deer. These deer are the worlds smallest deer, with a shoulder height of about 20cm! They are native to Malaysia and typically live in the jungle. They are so cute and we were so happy to see them in real life.

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Orchid Garden
– The orchid garden was so beautiful to walk around. It was quiet and beautiful, a nice place to relax, take some pictures and decompress from the busy city. It is also located on top of a hill so there are some nice views of the city from here.

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Hibiscus Garden
– connected to the Orchid Garden is the Hibiscus Garden. The Hibiscus was chosen as the national flower of Malaysia. It is native to tropical areas like Malaysia and this garden is well worth seeing.

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Planetarium
– we did not visit the planetarium because we ran out of time but it is also free according to what we read,

Chinatown:
Our hostel was just around the corner from Chinatown and it is definitely worth a visit. A lot of it is knock off purses, Ray Ban sunglasses, bootleg DVDs, etc, but it is a fun area to walk around, buy some souvenirs, and have some very nice food.

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We found one place in Chinatown where we actually ate twice because it was so good. It looked almost like a cafeteria with several food stalls inside. We chose to order the herbal chicken noodle soup (especially good because our stomachs were a little off from nearly a month in Nepal, this soup was gentle on our stomachs and delicious).

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We also ordered a fresh lime and plum juice. So amazing! I recommend.

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Old China Cafe:

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I read about this restaurant on another blog and in a few guide books. It sounded very authentic so we decided to give it a try. It was GREAT and I recommend it to anyone who visits KL. The food was excellent.
http://www.oldchina.com.my/cafe.html

Though it is only a 5 minute walk from Chinatown, you would NEVER find this restaurant unless you knew it was there. The street it is on does not have much else and looks a bit sketchy (though I do not think it actually is). So have directions or ask your hostel to mark this restaurant on your map before you head over.

Here is what the outside looks like:

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We ordered:
Nasi Lemak

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and

Nyonya Laksa (highly recommend)

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Here is what the inside looks like

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Enjoy your trip to Kuala Lumpur!

Diwali in Nepal

We were very fortunate that our trip to Nepal not only coincided with the holiday Dashain, but also with a few days of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights!

Day 1: worship of the crows

Day 2: worship of the dogs

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Day 3: worship of the cows

Day 4: worship of the oxen

Day 5: Celebration between siblings.
Sisters put a tika on their brothers forehead and then the brothers give their sisters a tika.

The lights of Diwali

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