Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hotel Pudu Plaza - Kuala Lumpur City

We visited Kuala Lumpur for 2 days during our recent family trip to Singapore. An overnight bus trip from Singapore provided us barely enough time to roam around KL the following day. We’re able to have selfie shots at KLCC and Petronas Towers, Batu and Ramayana Caves and stroll around Central Market, Merdeka Square and Bukit Bintang area. On our way back to Singapore, we passed at Legoland, Joho Bahru.

To make this possible, we opted to stay in the middle of KL city. We found Hotel Pudu Plaza an ideal place to stay during our side trip due to its competitive price compared with other 3 star hotels in KL. Our bus from Singapore arrived at almost 5 am at Times Square mall; we boarded a waiting cab for 30 RM after haggling. In less than 10 minutes we were at the hotel and expecting that we would be shoved into our rooms immediately since our booking started on the day before our arrival. However, the sole lady at the reception asked us to wait for half an hour before releasing our room keys.

Though the hotel is quite huge for a 3 star hotel the facilities are obviously dated. Our room has some sort of receiving area with walk-in cabinet and tea/coffee making facility; we booked one double and one triple excluding breakfast. Wifi connection is acceptable and a flat screen is mounted on the wall. We stayed for a couple hours only to arrange our things before exploring KL on our first day. The following day, we only had a few hours of sleep as well since we need to catch our bus going to Legoland, Johor Bahru. The night time view of the city from our small window was quite stunning.

This hotel seems a mainstay for throngs of Chinese tourists. They arrive in huge buses and can easily fill the whole lobby during their check in and out.

There is nothing especial about the hotel except the small shopping mall at the ground floor. The vicinity is dotted with local eateries and small shops. It is actually very far from KL Sentral but a few blocks away from Bukit Bintang area. It seemed the place wasn’t located along normal taxi routes because it took us several minutes a couple of times before we're able to hire a cab.

There were two reasons that the wife and I decided to book this hotel. The first one was its proximity to Times Square; our bus from Singapore was supposed to arrive at 4 am so we have to find a hotel near the area. The second reason was to have ample time in catching our bus to Legoland, Malaysia knowing that our kids usually take long time in using the bathroom. Legoland (Causeway Link) bus leaves at 7 am from Bukit Bintang Royale Bintang Hotel which is a few blocks away from our hotel. Hence, on the following day, we checked out at 5:30 am. Tough the same lady took ages to process our check out we still had enough time to catch our bus.

In case you’re planning to visit Legoland, Johor Bahru after your stint in KL City then I recommend this hotel for its price, shopping mall at the ground floor and proximity to Royale Bintang Hotel. Otherwise better stay at other 3 star hotels near KL Sentral or LRT train stations in Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Couldn't climb up Batu Caves? Then try Ramayana Cave.

If you have visited Batu Cave then you’d be aware how arduous it is to explore this place. In fact, my wife, daughter, and youngest won’t dare climb it on our recent trip. My eldest wasn’t with us during our first visit a couple of years back so I accompanied him to the top; the rest of the gang surveyed the different souvenir shops below.

Ground level entrance

Ms. "Happy Stripes" exploring Ramayana Cave

Fortunately we noticed Ramayana Cave at the back of Hanuman (monkey god) statue near Batu Cave train station. It has ground level entrance perfect for the whole family. Admission fee is 5 RM for adult and free for children.

Inside are the usual Hindu altars dotted with images of different Hindu Gods and characters illuminated by brightly colored lamps. My favorite among them is the giant sleeping statue surrounded by different smaller statues. Upon seeing it reminds me of Wat Po Temple in Bangkok where you’ll find the giant Reclining Buddha.

Unlike in Batu Cave where you’d immediately notice strong breeze at the entrance here it was dank probably due to lack of ventilation and a small water falls inside.

View from top

On our way down

Going deeper into the cave we reached a narrow stone stairs leading to higher level. Be careful when you climb these steps since some of them are slippery. Though you’ll find nothing exceptional on top, the view of the ground with brightly colored Hindu altars are stunning. Not to mention that this is the first closed cave that the family has explored. Batu Cave is different because of the open crater at the middle which provide enough lights and ventilation inside.

Waterfall at the back
Exploring a cave is something new to my family thus I can say that our trip to Batu and Ramayana Cave is unforgettable. By the way, added attraction are wild monkeys living along the forested slope of the cave.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Going back to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur with side trip to Legoland

One of the factors that cross-border tourists must always consider is how to visit a place in a different country and return back to his/her original entry point or another country.

On our recent side trip to Kuala Lumpur, originating from Singapore, the wife and I have researched on how to travel back to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur with side trip to Legoland, Johor Bahru. We learned that only Causeway Bus is providing a direct trip from KL to Legoland with pick-up point at Bukit Royale Bintang Hotel. The bus colorfully marked with Legoland logo leaves the hotel at exactly 7 AM daily.

On our last day in KL, we checked out from our hotel at 5:30 AM and taxied to Bukit Royale Bintang Hotel. Hence, we had ample time to wait for the bus and linger at the hotel lobby.

Beforehand, we booked online for 5 adult one-way and paid 57 RM per person. The entire trip took 5 hours including one stop-over. The bus has two comfortable seats on both sides while huge luggage are to be stowed at the bottom compartment. We brought some snacks since we didn’t have the time to have breakfast in the hotel. One of the advantages of daytime land travel is you enjoy the scenery for free; this is the main reason why we opted to travel at daytime rather than avail the overnight train trip.

During stop-over

The bus stops at Mall of Medini; Legoland ilocated at the back of this mall. To save money, we took our lunch in one of the restaurants in the mall before entering Legoland. Using our smartphone, we simply showed to the staff our admission voucher emailed by Klook Travel.

Read my review about Klook Travel: Klook Travel

Upon entering Legoland we realized that it attracts less visitors compared with other global theme parks such as Universal Studio and Disneyland. This could be a plus if you have smaller kids with you since you’ll have less queue time at different attractions and rides.

We dumped our bags inside a rented large locker then explored the place. We decided to call it a day after 5 hours and prepared ourselves to travel back to Singapore.

While inside Mall of Medini, we started searching for any available transportation that can ferry us back to Singapore. I saw one bus counter and inquired how we can go back to Singapore. The guy pointed towards a parked Causeway Link Bus along the main road and instructed us to wait at the nearby bus station since the bus would leave after 30 minutes; Causeway Link has regular daily trip to Legoland. I have no idea whether this bus is connected to Causeway Link bus that ferried us from KL to Legoland.

In short, we’re on our way back to Singapore. We used our EZ Link card for bus fare. Upon reaching Malaysian border, we alighted for immigration departure procedure. Take note that the bus won’t wait for the passengers but would pick-up those passengers that have completed the immigration procedure at the other sideHence, after immigration we proceeded to a marked Causeway Link bus station to wait for another bus to arrive. No worries since Causeway Link buses are regularly plying Johor Bahru area thus after around 15 minutes another bus has arrived. The same thing when we reached Singapore border, everybody has to undergo immigration arrival procedure. The only difference is that you have longer queue here. After the immigration, we lined-up again at Causeway Link bus station and waited. Be aware that aside from bringing all your belongings when alighting the bus there are several bus companies plying the same route so ensure that you are queuing at the correct bus station. 

Causeway Link bus ends its trip at Jurong East. From here you can now take the MRT train to reach your destination inside Singapore.

Though tired and famished, we were extremely delighted to have experienced another cross-border trip without any hassle or any untoward incidents; we’ve done this before between Macau, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. I am sure that my kids are gaining confidence in cross-border travelling and hopefully they’ll be able to use that experience when they themselves start to travel with their own families without my wife and I guiding them.