I’ll be honest. The week-long Singapore-Malaysia trip we did was a Plan B. We were meant to go somewhere cold, we have packs of winter clothes and accessories. But just like the rerouted Guam trip, here we are again, finding ourselves changing plans, canceling reservations and crying over a canceled trip. We tried to avoid Singapore because we thought it was mainstream and there was nothing to see except for the world’s best airport. So we thought it was best only for a long lay-over. I guess now you know we’ve proven ourselves wrong.
And so we divided our week to 3 days in Singapore and 3 days in Malaysia. We divided Malaysia further into Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. If you’d rather watch a video than read, we also have the same itinerary on this video.
LAND TRANSFER – SINGAPORE TO MELAKA
We booked our bus tickets at busonlineticket.com 2 weeks prior to the transfer. There are a lot of terminals in Singapore and luckily, the one I selected was walking distance from the hotel we stayed at. As you know, taxi is expensive, and walking is free 🙂
There are different bus companies since the website is not specific to a bus line. Choose one, choose your date, time and route and after paying with your credit card, you will receive an email confirmation. It’s also possible to buy your tickets in Singapore especially if your itinerary is flexible and you may choose to extend your stay or leave early.
For us, we paid SGD 15 (600 PHP or 11.55 USD) per passenger plus a SGD 2 online booking fee.
The bus was fairly spacious, with a toilet inside, and a huge baggage storage area. Crossing the border by land was also traumatic for us given our Thailand-Cambodia experience but this time, it was hassle and scam-free.
We also had our USD exchanged to MYR at the terminal in Melaka, and we checked their rate against the regular rate that day and it wasn’t that far.
MELAKA – UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
We were choosing between Penang and Melaka as a stop over before Kuala Lumpur. It turned out Penang was much farther and Melaka was kind of along the way, and is usually a day trip from Singapore.
It took about 4 hours, including time in immigration, to reach the terminal in Melaka. I would suggest using Grab in Malaysia as it’s cheaper than metered and un-metered taxis. From the terminal to our hotel in Imperial Heritage Hotel Melaka, we were charged 20 MYR (270 PHP or 5 USD) but when we used Grab from the hotel to the terminal on our way to Kuala Lumpur, it was only 12 MYR.
We did not have a wifi connection nor did we have a local sim so we settled with the ones parked outside the terminal.
Melaka is a small, quiet town bordered by the Strait of Melaka (old, anglicized name is Malacca) and because of its strategic location, it was occupied by the Portuguese, British, and Dutch. So in the town center, in the Red Dutch Square, you’d see the Victoria Fountain (British), the Dutch windmill, and of course the Dutch red square itself.
Famous spots include the Melaka River and the shops and bars along its banks, Jonker Street for its hole in the wall cafes and souvenir shops, their maritime museum which we didn’t have the chance to see, the Red Square and the red ruins which was very near our hotel.
Probably our favorite moment there was when Mary had a bottle of cold beer and I downed a cup of kopi (don’t comment on that okay) that afternoon until early evening. We talked, took pictures, ate, and just relaxed. Opposite us, there were tables set for dinner and a string quartet appeared to serenade a couple who were probably there celebrating.
We were told that Jonker Street is busier on weekend nights and we were there on a Thursday night. I think that was kind of better because we really just wanted to walk without much crowd.
The following morning we went to the ruins, and then to the Calanthe Cafe, the only coffee shop that served all types of coffee from the 13 different Malaysian states; much as we have kapeng barako ng Batangas, or Sagada coffee, Mt. Apo coffee in the Philippines. We ordered Johor and Perak and Mary, because she’s not a heavy coffee drinker (more of tea), chose Johor when we finally tasted it because it was not as strong. I suggest the coffee for its variety but not much the main course. I felt that we’ve had better elsewhere.
The Ruins reminded us of the ruins in Macau, only this one had red bricks that stood out and you can still get inside the structure. Spend some 20 minutes there and then back down where you started.
The hotel we chose was the best one in the week-long trip and we’d gladly pay the price anytime. It was spacious, and exuded luxury if you’re in a small town. The cab driver overpriced us because he knew we were checked in there. That tells a lot. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to go to Melaka. We booked with agoda.com and got the room for only close to PhP 1700 (32.6 USD).
MELAKA TO KUALA LUMPUR LAND TRANSFER
We also booked the tickets prior to the trip, which is cheaper at 14.40 MYR (less than 200 PHP and less than 4 USD) per person for less than a couple of hours worth of travel.
TBS in Kuala Lumpur is a terminal that connects bus lines, taxis, train to virtually anywhere – airport, hotel, city. Again, the dilemma with our phones not connecting to wifi (less shops in Malaysia have free wifi unlike Singapore), we had to get a metered taxi to our hotel, Sun Inns Hotel in Brickfields, very near the Sentral station.
Traffic is also bad in the city – and when you take the metered taxi, and you can’t speak the dialect, it means your trip is bound to be expensive – we know that very much, thanks to our own experience in our own country. If you walk though, you will discover that tourist spots are quite near each other – but we were really tired that day. We woke up early, toured Melaka some more, transferred, almost got left behind by the bus, endured traffic, and more. We ended up finding a few of the spots recommended by our good friend Ahyie, who has been in the country close to three years, but we really just wanted to get ourselves to bed. We ended up ordering Indian food from the hotel via food panda instead.
The following day, we wanted to leave early for Batu Caves but as fate would have it, we were still tired and we wanted to take things slow as the vacation is almost over and we’re going back to bouts in the office. We went to Sentral train station, couldn’t find our way to which train (MRT and LRT) would take us to the caves. Apparently, the train servicing that line was not operational but they offered free shuttle bus to Sentul train station and from there took the train to Batu Caves, which is a terminal station. We paid 5 MYR for a round trip ticket per person, the bus going back to Sentral is free as well.
Batu Caves is a series of caves north of Kuala Lumpur, where Hindu temples were built (one is still being built) a hundred years ago. As I have already been to India and a number of Hindu temples, I was quite familiar with the gods, and their customs (no shorts for women so remember to cover up).
Entrance to the cave complex is free, there are caving activities at 35 or 80 MYR. Since there are 177 steps up the temple, it is best to bring your own refreshment, a fan and maybe a hat or sarong for heat protection.
There are a lot of monkeys there that might try to run away with your glasses, phones, small bags, so be careful.
The last thing we did was buy a few things from Central Market. We wanted to also buy the Old Town White Coffee and ended up eating at their cafe. During the trip I found Kara Toast to be a favorite – it tasted Pinoy to me.
I couldn’t be more impressed when we learned how far the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was from the city, and that Grab has a flat rate of 65 MYR from the airport to the city, vice versa. It took less than an hour to get there on a highway, without traffic (after entering the highway), and at 100 kph or so.
We got dropped off at KLIA 1 and found that Air Asia is serviced on KLIA 2 and thought that it was a big problem, but it wasn’t. We took the KLIA express only for 1.80 MYR (25 PHP or .50 USD) and we were there in a few minutes.
Wish we had that here too, yeah? Connecting NAIA 1 to 4 because taking the cab is just tedious and expensive.
We have not had enough time to get to know our ASEAN neighbor but it was enough to see the similarities and differences, and how, maybe 50 years ago our economy was doing far better than theirs but now 1 Ringgit is 13 pesos. We are, I think, richer in natural resources, our population is 100 million and theirs, 31. Their GDP Per Capita is more than 3 times of ours. So let me just throw this question into the air and hope someone gets it: What happened to the Philippines?
Over-all, I still wouldn’t trade my place here in Manila for Kuala Lumpur. I love the beaches here, food, people. But some people already did. I think it’s about time we caught up with Malaysia and Thailand – we used to be far richer than these countries but their monetary value is higher, Thailand at 31, Malaysia at 3.86 and Philippines at 52 to the (US) dollar.
Let’s do it together!