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Malaysia

Langkawi, Malaysia

 

Langkawi, Malaysia was once a quiet fishing and farming island that has blossomed into quite the vacation paradise! The government declared Langkawi duty free of tax and they set up a development committee to help draw attention in hopes to transform the island for tourism. Every bit must have helped cause now Langkawi is named The Princess Jewel of South East Asia!

Langkawi can be done on any type of budget. In general I find it a hair more expensive then neighboring Thailand but still very affordable. But due to it being a duty free island the booze is much cheaper then the other places I visited in Malaysia.

The best way to explore Langkawi is by scooter. You can get a first hand look at all of the amazing wildlife, beaches and nature via scooter. You can pick on up in town from 30-55 ringgit per day. ($7-$12) Make sure you download the offline map Maps.me! It is brilliant for traveling without a sim and it has all of the beaches, lookouts and waterfalls on the map!

Langkawi has something to offer on every budget but for me and my long time travel plan, I chose the budget options. This time I booked a few nights at the Tubotel. As far as hostels in Langkawi go it doesn’t get any better then this place!

The price was about $11 per night (50 ringgit) and that includes one of the best hostel breakfasts I have had. You get a choice between 4 different options that change daily. The views from the hostel and the sun sets are also amazing!

Pantai Cenang Beach is as amazing as I remembered it but the town is now just a dust cloud of construction and traffic. The last time I was here the Main Street was full of local shops and tiki bars with cheap cocktails. But those small tiki bars have been long torn down and replaces with hotels and resorts. I didn’t even recognize the place! But if you stay out of the town and plan to explore the island on your own you are in for a treat!

Pretty much everything else is exactly where I left it three years ago. The Island has many waterfalls worth visiting depending on the time of year and amount of rain. The Durian Perangin falls is always a good place to start!

My first day on the island I got myself a scooter and took a lap around the island. It takes about an hour and a half to make the loop around. One thing that stuck out in my memory from last time was this amazing little Hindu temple in the middle of the jungle so that was my first plan. To find this temple.

An hour of wandering around later and just as bright and beautiful as ever I found it! I pulled up and parked the scooter. There were a hand full of people here setting up for a wedding. Cars and scooters of people pulling up with trays of sweets and gifts. I just sat outside of the fence and watched.

An Indian man in traditional attire walked past me and invited me inside. I thanked him and continued to watch from the side lines. Beautiful women dressed in bright colors, gold jewelry barefoot walking into the temple. Before the ceremony began a woman from the wedding walked outside of the temple and grabbed me by the hand. She walked me inside of the temple to the very front row! In front of the friends and family. A girl came to me with a pot full of red dye. She marked my forehead and told me she was glad that I could make it. As if I was meant to be there.

I stayed for the remainder of the ceremony. They were all so happy that I could join them and be a part of it. It was an amazing experience! Afterwards I was invited to dinner and the reception the following day. Great people!

 

 

Now let’s talk about a little lesson in living the dream. Say you’re in a place like Langkawi and you want to completely live the dream. But you don’t want to pay for it. Understandable. This is what I do.

1. Get yourself a smokin hot french girl.

(Photo-The Andaman Resort)

2. Go to the fanciest resort that you can find on the map.

(Photo-The Andaman)

3. Go to said resort and ask to see the manager.

(Photo-Tanjung Rhu Resort)

4. Tell the manager how you and your hot French girlfriend plan to get married and you would like to bring all of your friends and family to stay at their resort. And ask for a tour.

(Photo-The Four Seasons)

5. If the manager is doing half their job he or she will do as they have done for me. A complete tour of the property along with some free appetizers at the restaurant and access to the beach and pool for the afternoon while we waited for our lunch. So that we could “get a feel for things.”

(Photo-The Four Seasons)

That little fib will get you 8 hours of entertainment like a King! We spent this day at the Four Seasons wandering this empty perfect beach. Swimming pools and lounge chairs for the using and had a 5 star meal all for about $25! If that’s not livin the dream I don’t know what is!

Between the Four Seasons, The Tanjung Rhu and the Andaman, I would have to say the service and experience crashing the Four Seasons was definitely the best. (As it should be for a room starting at $800 per night!) But the food and cocktail prices at the Andaman were number one by far! We were having mixed drinks here for the same price as they are in town at the local bars!

Tanjung Rhu is also the name of the area where some of these resorts are. There is a really good public beach here as well. And do your self a favor a skip Black Sand beach. It is not even worth the 30 minutes of circles you will be driving to try to find it. I have been there twice now and both times I wondered why I even went.

 

Getting to and from-

You can fly into Langkawi or if traveling by land as I was you can arrange a boat from Penang. That boat was full so I took the free ferry to the mainland and took a bus north to Kuala Kedah. From there I took the 1 hour 45 min ferry boat to Langkawi. This is by far the cheapest way. I think I saved about $20 going this route and it was only an extra hour.

From Langkawi I took the ferry boat to Koh Lipe which is not that long of a trip for the nearly $30 I paid but it was the only way. The also take your passport in Malaysia and do not give it back to you until it is stamped in Thailand. So prepare for an hour of shitting your pants thinking your passport is not going to come back. It will. And also be sure if you are traveling to Koh Lipe to get a bottle of your favorite booze at the Duty Free port in Langkawi. Koh Lipe is expensive!

Where to stay-

If youre on a budget you can find cheaper places in the town but for me Tubotel was as good as it gets for $11 per night including a great breakfast and AC. They also have a cheap laundry service if you’re in need of clean clothes.

Singapore

Singapore

The little red dot as they call it is the only island city-state in the world. Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company. During WW2 Singapore was occupied by Japan. In 1963 it gained independence from Britain and in 65 became a sovereign nation. Now it is one of the biggest financial hubs of the world!

As the flight was descending a recording came on to remind everyone that drug trafficking in Singapore is a mandatory death sentence. So I figured I should read up on other laws I might want to know about. Here is what I came up with. It is illegal to smoke in public, not flushing the toilet will run you $150 and spitting gets you cool $1000 fine. If you get caught selling gum it’s 2 years in jail! Oh yea and if you get caught singing in public you can go to jail for up to 3 years! I did most of those things before I read the rules of fight club.

But with that said Singapore is the cleanest place I have ever been in my life! Singapore is the most Technology ready nation, city with best investment potential, second-most competitive country, third largest foreign exchange market, third largest financial center, third largest oil refining and trading center, and the second busiest container port in the world! It is also known as a tax haven..

After arriving to “The best airport in the world” I did a lap around to check it out. I had been hearing about how great this airport is for years. Massage parlors, free wifi, fine foods, lots of shopping, there is foot massage machines at every terminal for free! There is charging ports where you can charge your device for free and there is lockers so you can safely store and charge your phone while you walk around the terminal! There is a butterfly garden, a waterfall, two movie theaters and even snooze lounges to sleep in for free! The bathrooms have a full time attendant and they are spotless. And you can’t walk far without seeing smiling employees waiting ready to help you get where you need to go.

My other immediate favorite thing about Singapore was the public transportation system. Most airports that I land in are out in the middle of a field on the outside of town and it is usually a $20 taxi ride to get to the city. In Singapore you can take the tram from the terminal to the Mass Rapid Transit (train). After a few transfers the MRT train took me from the airport to China town for about $2.30.

I booked two nights at the Bohemian Chic Hostel that goes for $23-$28 a night. This is the most money I have ever paid for a nights stay at a hostel in my years of traveling but I have to say it was worth it! I booked the cheaper bed option but they upgraded me to the pod for free. I asked why and they said Chinese New Years. In the past any asian counties that I had been that celebrated Chinese New Years, the price usually doubles or triples and I ask why and the only response is Chinese New Years. My luck had changed. The bunks were pods with your own charging ports, lights, curtain for privacy and your own flat screen tv with internet access and free movies! It was insane!

Soon after arriving I asked what I needed to see in my three days in Singapore and ofcoure the first suggestion was the Garden By the Bay light show. I had about an hour to get there before the show started. I locked up my bags and hit the street! And that was when I began to realize how under dressed I was and how fancy Singapore is. Chinatown is right outside of the financial district and that was where I had to walk to get to see the Garden. The streets were full of men wearing slacks and button up shirts with dress shoes, women wearing gold LV belt buckles on their dress suits. Local people from every part of the world and they all seemed to have one thing in common. Lots of people in work clothes surrounding tables at pubs on the side of the streets with a pint of beer or a cocktail in their hands. I looked down at my dirty shorts and tank top with flip flops on and knew I was a shoes and clean shorts kinda town.

I walked to mile and a half or so to the Marina Bay Sands Resort and followed the signs to the Garden By the Bay. Giant treelike sculptures surrounded by plants and walkways, ponds and sculptures. I was ready to get that epic photo I had been seeing on Instagram. I have been wanting to see this place since they built it! Lights flashing, music playing, the trees turning different colors to the base of the song with an African safari theme. Light shows are daily at 7:45 and 8:45 and it is free to watch.

You can pay $13 and walk the catwalks between the trees during the show. If you wait a bit after the light show is over, the trees are lit up like the photo above for an hour or so and that is prime time to take your photographs. The grounds are pretty quiet by this point. By 9:30 I had the place to myself. As I was leaving I set up to take a long exposure shot over this bridge because I wanted to get a trail of headlights from the cars and the craziest coincidence ever happened. There was no rain, clouds, thunder or lighting that whole night but I got this photo!

After leaving the Garden by the Bay I walked thought Marina Bay Sands and followed a bridge over the road to the Marina Bay Mall. It might have been the fanciest mall I have ever been to! Gucci, Jimi Choo, Armani, Dior. Every designer that was anyone was all here under one roof.

If you loose your energy looking at $10,000 purses maybe you can stop by the pastry shop and have a slice of $15 unicorn cake.

As I was leaving out of the back of the mall to get some photos over the bay I noticed many people sitting on benches and a few minutes later a water show started over the bay. Music, lights, water and bubbles coming from every side! This was the second show that I saw tonight and I didn’t spend a dime.

The next morning I woke up for smiley face toast at and cereal at the hostel and decided that today was the day that I was going to see the pool at the Marina Bay Sands. The building itself is the brainchild of architecture by Moshe Safdie built of three giant columns that hold up the top floor observations deck, pool and restaurants. You can either pay $23 for the entrance to the observation deck orrr you can walk around the corner and pay $20 to enter the bar on the 57th floor rooftop and your receipt is good towards your purchase at the bar. Sooo  you get the same view but better because you get the view of the infinity pool, its 3 dollars cheaper and if comes with a cocktail? Ok you twisted my arm.

For me I went with a Grey Goose pomegranate infused cocktail with a twist. After the service charge and the tax it ran me a cool $28 but for a view like this you gotta pay to play!

I have been known for a lot of things in my life but one cocktail isnt one of the things. If you’re like me and one wasn’t enough there is another bar and restaurant at the other end of the observation area that has $20 beers and a view over the coastline.

If you would like another amazing view go to the city go to Level 33. It is the worlds highest brewery! A beer here will set you back about $15 but this is the view over the bay. That is the Marina Bay Sands on the right and the Ferris wheel in the back.

It doesnt matter how you go about its, there is no cheap way to drink alcohol in Singapore. I tried everything! Even if you happen to find a 7-11, a can of beer will cost you $4 to $5. At most hotels and pubs a beer will run you $9-$15!

On my last free day in Singapore I woke up with a $150 hang over and decided to explore China Town while it was all decorated for Chinese New Years. The Year of the Rooster they tell me. The streets where lined with red lanterns and banners and a giant rooster all lit up on the median of the road.

I took the MRT from China town to Little India to wander a bit. I figure while I am here I might as well check out Sim Lim Square. A 5 story mall filled with only consumer electronics. Almost every store had camera equipment! It was insane and I was loving it. Anything that you could possibly need for you camera, computer or cellphone can be found here at the best prices in Singapore. After a little camera lens window shopping I walked though the streets of Little India. I have not been to India India but I have to assume it is very similar to what I was in Little India. The smell of cooking spices and fresh flowers on the street. The music was loud and I was really digging it!

People buy the flowers, milk and coconuts as an offering to their God when they visit the temples. You can usually buy any offerings within a short distance of the temple.

I have now been to a few Indian neighborhoods in Asia and they are always so welcoming for me to come in and learn about their culture.

The following day I had a flight booked from Singapore to Penang, Malaysia. I really enjoyed my three days in Singapore. After traveling other parts of South East Asia I do have to say this is by far the most expensive of it all! Matter of fact I have spent less money in Manhattan then I did in Singapore but for a few days it is most definitely worth it!

(Side note I flew Air Asia from Singapore to Malaysia and upon booking the flight I paid the $70 for the last minute flight and I paid another $30 for my back pack. I made sure to pay for this as I booked my ticket because I knew that if you pay for baggage at the airport the price is usually double. I didn’t want to make this mistake again so I paid with my flight online but I did not keep the recipt or even a screen shot and upon arrival they had no record of my baggage being paid so I had no choice but to pay another $45 for my backpack to get on the plane. Don’t make this mistake and trust a computer. Screen shot everything! Good luck!)

Getting to and from-

From the airport your commute on the MRT will take you about 45 minutes to an hour and should cost no more then $3 depending on your destination. A taxi will take you about 30 minutes and cost about $30 with a lot less confusion.

Where to stay-

Bohemian Chic Hostel- $23-$28 a night. Toast, cereal, tea and coffee included. Great location!

What to eat-

There is “hawker stalls” near the MRT in China Town where you can get good cheap local food. The meat bone tea pork rib soup is awesome!

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