Although I’ve realized I don’t have patience in documenting travels in its finest details, I still decided to have this mini-guide as a pay-it-forward post. One key to our safe, fun, and meaningful travel this summer was thorough preparation. And I am thankful to all the blogs I had read prior to the trip. Before our flight, I printed locations and directions for our itineraries and even some translations of common phrases, which I was not able to use because reading and trying to utter them while in a rush were a goal not so easy to achieve. But just like any perfect preparation, a perfect outcome is not always guaranteed. There were bumps and rolls, but they were the ones that really “made” the EXPERIENCE and led us to new learnings about other people, the world, and ourselves.
We got lost. Several times. We walked some kilometers. We were sent to the Immigration office. We got nervous. We waited for delayed trips. We got hungry doing so. We sailed through an unstable boat over a little wavy sea. We screamed of joy. We were glorious. We learned.
Leaving Singapore. Leaving Singapore the night after our travel’s first day, my cousin and I were all chin up taking pride in going around the city with our own effort. After our quick freshening up at the hotel, we were all set to head to Woodlands Train Station for our Malaysia tour. With all the places I took note of, I didn’t know that I was not able to write the exact location of the terminal (Queen Street Bus Terminal) where we would take a bus going to the train station. Despite that, we asked the hotel and gave us directions clear enough to not have any fears of getting lost. We were still proud anyway of our day escapades, thus, the confidence. To cut the story short, we were not able to find it. All those we asked didn’t know, too. Inside, I was already panicking thinking of our train’s departure time even if it was still four hours early. My cousin’s calm disposition convinced me to just take the MRT on top of my contemplating to just take a cab. We still took a short taxi ride from the Woodlands MRT station to Woodlands Checkpoint, the departure/Immigration point. We were thankful we arrived two hours early. We headed to the line we saw we thought was the Immigration line. It was. Unfortunately, when we finally passed it, trains or the railroad was nowhere to be seen. A sight of jam-packed buses welcomed us instead. Although it was not allowed to re-enter the Immigration Exit door, I gathered all my guts and approached the officers already looking toward our direction. We had the wrong checkpoint, and our passports were already stamped on. We were brought to the Immigration office with no idea of what would happen to us. The one thing that was a shock to us was the friendliness and kindness of the Singaporean officers. Throughout the entire time of that nerve-wrecking ordeal, we never felt being looked down or being questioned in a criminal-way-of (the way some of our kababayans reported feeling in the hands of our own Immigration). We were instead assisted in an almost VIP manner. I don’t know if it was God, but I believe it was Him.
Malaysia: Selamat Datang. The checkpoint we went to was apparently for those who would take the bus (labeled Woodlands Checkpoint) to Johor Bahru, the entrance to Malaysia, where the actual train was. We arrived early (2 hours before the 11:30 PM trip) that we didn’t realize we already passed by the departure gate for the train passengers (labeled Woodlands Train Checkpoint) because it was not open and there were no lines yet. Most blogs I read advised taking the bus to Johor Bahru, then the KTM train to Kuala Lumpur because of the ticket’s cost. Taking the train from SG Woodlands to KL Sentral, like what we did, was almost triple the price of the other way (P1530 as opposed to P635). I didn’t take the advice because I was thinking of avoiding the hassles considering the fact that we already commuted a lot during the day. We still took two trains though. The first train, an old-looking and dirty seater train, took us only to Johor Bahru. From there, we took the real one, the comfortable sleeper train I booked for online through Malaysia’s KTM site, and got our passports marked by Malaysia’s Immigration. By the way, they no longer sell the train ticket from Woodlands to JB like what they used to, so one just really has to go to JB by bus. The train tickets can be purchased 60 days prior to the travel. I booked ours 2 weeks before, that was why I wasn’t able to get the Class A deluxe cabin that has its own shower and toilet. Nonetheless, it was a ride that brought us a good sleep.
We arrived at around 7 AM and looked for officers who might want to check our things or passports, but there were none. Although I read that our hotel (MyHotel Sentral) was just a 5-10 minutes walk from the train terminal, we, feeling exhausted still from our previous day’s walks and mishaps, decided to just take a cab (MR8/around P80). They already had an organized system for their terminal cabs, which was good because there were complaints regarding taxi drivers doubling up the fare for tourists. Now, one has to pay for the cab prior to riding it at a booth just beside the exit door of the terminal. We didn’t need to take a cab again going to the KTM terminal/train station once we got to our hotel and learned the way to and from. We utilized ML’s train system a lot. It was similar to Singapore’s, easy to learn.
KL Day Tour. When we arrived at our hotel, their Filipina staff advised us to just take the guided tour they were offering because she said it would be difficult to hop from one place to another. According to her, the tourist spots were not near the MRT stations and that it would take us much time. We agreed to it especially that she also helped us check in earlier (sometimes, it’s great to know someone). Check out Malaysia 2013: Kuala Lumpur to see some of the places (MR25/P250: from 2PM to around 6PM) you might want to visit yourself. However, as expected, we were brought to some shops mandatory to tour drivers. The shops were cool though, especially the Chocolate Factory where we tasted different kinds of chocolate for free.
To Pangkor Island. The part I was looking forward to the most– the beach! This was on our second day in ML. From KL Sentral Station, we headed to Pudu Sentral (Puduraya) for the terminal of the buses going to Lumut, the ferry station to Pangkor. Once in Pudu Sentral, a mall-like terminal, or maybe it’s a mall, some fellows approached us guiding us to their buses’ fare booths. We followed one. The guy was harmless and not a fixer. The ticket cost us MR25/P250 and almost 5 hours of being stuck in the bus, but the scenery was relaxing and my friend and I had the time catching up with the-whats and the-whos in our lives.
Lumut Jetty. The ferry station to Pangkor. One return ticket cost MR13/P130 and a 30-40 minutes refreshing ride. I actually wished it was a longer journey.
Pangkor Island. I still can feel the cool breeze and hear the sound of the soothing sea. But whose eyes would not be caught by the pink cabs? From the Pangkor jetty, a pink cab (MR15/P150; 15-20 minutes) took us to our hotel (Nipah Bay Villa). There were nearer and more luxurious hotels and resorts in the island with activities provided, like the Pangkor Island Beach Resort. But of course, it was beyond our budget.
So, we did it our way again. After we had our things dropped in our hotel, ate, and unwind a little, we walked around, and we were checking out some tarpaulins of offered activities, when a guy approached us and started selling his island services, I mean, island-hopping, snorkeling, etc. (MR15/P150). We said yes. It was already 4PM and we didn’t want to waste any time.
Back to Kuala. I wouldn’t want to leave the island yet especially that there are non-sea/land attractions there that were included in our itineraries like temples and the Dutch Fort ruins, but we still had some places in mind to visit in the city. The next day, after a quick breakfast at a KFC chain somewhere in Pangkor Jetty (we were so excited seeing a KFC there), we hesitantly bid farewell to our short affair with the waters of Pangkor. Back in the city, we were thinking of visiting KLCC’s Aqua Place, the Butterfly Gardens, Lake Gardens, and a mosque to go inside it. Unfortunately, the security officer we asked at the train station told us the mosque was under renovation. We opted not to go, too, to the Oceanarium because of its high cost as we were already leaving the city that night and just having been in the sea. We were left with the gardens. Their place was hard to locate. No near MRT stations or buses. We took the cabs. Thrice. But still, we weren’t able to see the Butterfly Gardens. We were brought to the Bird Park with an expensive entrance fee. In the end, we just took this wooden shuttle to check out the Lake Gardens. The place was promising based on the blogs I read, but for us, there was nothing extra special here. Maybe, it would be fine if you are a resident there having a day to have a literal walk-in-the-park. We enjoyed the cool ride, though, while mocking ourselves for going there.
Leaving Malaysia. My cousin and I took the train back to Singapore that night while my friend had her flight back to Thailand. We had our freshening up at the station after getting our luggage in the hotel and we were also able to charge our batteries for free while waiting for our 11:30 PM trip. The train was delayed for about 30 minutes. One interesting happening was that we met this guy, a backpacker who has traveled some countries already. My cousin
blatantly candidly asked if he was rich. He said he wasn’t but he worked, then saved, then spent his savings on travel, and that he’s happy doing it. Interesting happening because I was trying to think if it was God’s sign for me, His way of making me realize that I had to do something already if I’m not entirely content anymore with my present environment. Lots of risks. Or maybe it wasn’t a sign, just a random incident (?), and I am getting off my topic now.
Summing up my 2013 summer travel, I can say it was humbling. I wouldn’t take the pride of being able to travel as a green light to being reckless. It taught me to be bold by being more careful and by thinking through my actions, to plan but to expect that not everything happens according to plan, and to rise with my values and true identity and with the people beside me. The sights, the walks, the rides– sums up a worthwhile experience which will always remind me of a blessed life no matter how the daily journey seems flat.
Two blogs I over visited during the planning stage (ML):
For me, traveling in a foreign country is not complete without a trip to one of its beaches. Last year, I had the chance to see Pattaya in Thailand. See, because I didn’t swim. It was a refreshing experience, nonetheless. Researching about Malaysia’s beaches during the planning stage of our tour this year, I was overwhelmed with the many mesmerizing ones I discovered. One that I was trying to include in our trip was Langkawi, but it was like a day of travel by land from Kuala Lumpur, and considering our very limited time, it would just eat up our time in this country. The nearest to KL is Pangkor, and I can say, no matter how short our time there was, being in this serene island is the best part of our Malaysia experience. Want some proof? Let me just get visual one more time.
We stayed at Nipah Bay Villa. The streets had this very laid-back feel despite the obvious commercialism in the area.
Of course, a tour won’t be complete without some of these items. We already bought a lot of souvenirs in the city, and we somehow regretted it because the items here were way cheaper.
We had one of this fried for our dinner while listening to some local troubadour. MR28 or PHP380. A bit costly for us, but the cheapest in the bunch.
After our breakfast-slash-lunch-slash-snack when we arrived at the island at around 3PM, we did a little island hopping. For MR15 or PHP200 per person, we were taken to some interesting spots. We had our swimming and picture-taking time in Coral Island. Thanks to our nice boat guy who helped us climb and go down the steep and slippery sea boulders. He also tried teaching us how to snorkel, but I was a little child too scared to swallow some sea water.
See the crocodile?
How about the turtle? The two above are the same rock or boulder. Its front and back sides.
Some fish feeding.
Passing by some scenic views.
My favorite shot.
I wonder how a tree like this can grow on sand.
At dusk, the waves got a little stronger. My friend realized later on that her slippers she left somewhere were already gone.
A friendly hornbill.
Best in rope climbing and swinging.
The child in us.
I thank these two for being the wings in my travel. And we vowed that we would “fly” some more.