Malaysia and Singapore: A Beautiful Introduction to South East Asia 

Photo of Malaysia and Singapore: A Beautiful Introduction to South East Asia by Titli Ghosh

So it finally happened! My first international flight: from Kolkata to Kuala Lumpur. I had crossed the borders earlier, but only by car/bus, on two previous journeys, to the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bhutan. So this was special, and not even the fact that I didn't get any sleep the night our flight was scheduled could dampen my spirit.

Day 1

Reaching Kuala Lumpur

Group trips are fun, and though I am fond of solo travel more, I was upbeat about this trip. Our flight landed in Kuala Lumpur just as the sun had started to rise. We were received at the airport by Zura, who was the sweetest guide I have ever come across.

Zura, being a true-blue Malay, offered to help us choose some awesome delicacies from a local breakfast menu. We had rice cakes, tuna sandwiches, Malaysian sweets, and the very chocolaty Malaysian coffee at the airport itself. Our journey began with a quick round of Putrajaya, which seemed like a squeaky clean and peaceful city. The sweltering heat did not stop us from posing for photos in front of national treasures such as the Putra Mosque and the Seri Wawasan Bridge.

Photo of Malaysia, Putrajaya, Presint 1, Putra Mosque by Titli Ghosh
Photo of Seri Wawasan Bridge, Lebuh Wawasan, Presint 2, Putrajaya, Malaysia by Titli Ghosh
Photo of KL Tower, Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Titli Ghosh
Photo of KL Tower, Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Titli Ghosh

Within an hour or so, we reached our hotel in Kuala Lumpur, which was situated right in the midst of the bustling Bukit Bintang (which reminded me of Park Street in Kolkata). With its wide array of luxury hotels, malls, and souvenir shops, this place seemed like the perfect shopping hub.

Our hotel, the Royal Hotel, was situated right opposite the Sungei Wang Plaza, which offered a wide range of shopping options (from clothes to accessories and even food). The day ended with a shopping spree and a leisurely walk down the Bintang area.

Day 2

Exploring Kuala Lumpur

The second day began with a quick breakfast, followed by a visit to the royal palace and photo ops with the royal guards on their restless horses. Following this, we headed towards the Batu Caves ("Batu" meaning "rock" in Malay). The overwhelming statue of Lord Murugan in front of the caves welcomed us as we reached the venue. The rainbow-coloured flight of steps (270+ steps) was equally awe-inspiring. The hike up the steps was not too difficult, and the natural limestone caves housing the main temple of Lord Murugan was a treat for the eyes (including the monkeys that ran around us). It was the way down that was a little difficult, as one had to look straight down the steep flight of steps.

The Petronas Twin Towers were next, and it was an absolute treat to reach the skybridge on the 41st floor. The view of the surrounding cityscape was mindblowing! We then reached the 86th floor for more astounding views of the city and a brief history of the towers (spread over the walls).

Malaysia is also famous for its chocolate industry and is one of the world's largest cocoa exporters. This meant we had to visit a chocolate shop. Thus, our next stop was Harriston Boutique, a popular chocolate boutique in the city. We went around tasting their unique array of chocolates, including their ruby chocolate, tiramisu chocolate, and coconut chocolate. We were happy to spend quite a lot of Ringgits here.

Photo of Harriston Boutique, Malaysia Tourism Centre, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Titli Ghosh
Photo of Harriston Boutique, Malaysia Tourism Centre, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Titli Ghosh

We also visited the confluence of the two rivers, the Gombak and the Klang, that has given the city its name: Kuala (confluence) + Lumpur (mud).

The rains lashed the city as we headed back to our hotel. We were forced to cut our shopping plans short and head for dinner instead, as our bus took us around Chinatown and the nearby eateries.

Day 3

Malaysia to Singapore:

The next day began with a quick breakfast, after which we left for Singapore by bus. The roads were scenic, and we made a quick stop at the Puteri Harbour for lunch (with pretty yachts around us). We entered Singapore through Johor Bahru. The queues at the immigration counters weren't too encouraging, and we spent a good 1.5 hours there.

By the time we reached the hotel, the Park Hotel (Farrer Park), we were drained. However, we left for the Marina Bay after a quick stop at the hotel, as it had started to drizzle. Marina Bay was perhaps the much-needed energy booster we needed after the long journey that day.

The bustling Clarke Quay, the bumboat cruise on the Singapore River, and the mandatory photos with the Merlion (half mermaid, half lion) made the journey worth it. The sights and sounds of the city enveloped by towering skyscrapers worked like a balm to our senses. The city perhaps comes to life only after dark.

Day 4

Singapore - Great Gardens and Good Food

Our city tour of Singapore began early next day, even as the skies put on a gloomy look. Our first stop was the Gardens by the Bay. I had been fascinated by this place ever since I had seen a photo of one of its domes on Instagram. The gardens didn't disappoint us. The futuristic solar-powered Supertrees, the captivating Flower Dome, and the Cloud Forest seemed like they had come straight out of some sci-fi movie. What I loved best about this place was the canopy walk at the Cloud Forest. Sadly, while walking through the artificial forest, I couldn't help but wonder if we are headed towards a future where we would have to buy tickets to get fresh air.

The pitcher plants (or the flesh-eating plants) were another marvel at this place, as was the artificial waterfall at the entrance.

We then went to the Chinatown, where we visited a Chinese temple. The multiple-handed deity there reminded us of Goddess Durga. We did some quick souvenir shopping at a duty-free shop named Precious Moment. We found a wide array of bags, magnets, chocolates, cookies, mugs, and a host of other things there, which left our wallets a little lighter.

Our next stop was the Singapore Flyer, which unfortunately suspended its rides as soon as we reached, due to bad weather. From the look of the clouds, it seemed it would pour, and it did rain a bit.

We skipped the Flyer and headed towards Sentosa Island, the popular fun zone of Singapore. The Sea Aquarium was a treat, and all we saw around us were awestruck kids screaming at the sharks circling all around us. Poisonous frogs, sea anemones, octopuses, sea horses, star fish, dolphins, jellyfish, sting rays: you name it, they have it!

We then hopped into the Madame Tussauds wax museum. The museum had a short Halloween-themed boat ride, after which we went inside the main museum. So while we posed with DiCaprio, Madonna, Serena, and Beckham, we were stunned by the number of Indian celebrities on display. In fact, the museum had a separate section dedicated to Bollywood, with Sridevi's statue being the highlight. Even the main section had everyone from Modi to Gandhi, and Kajol to Anushka Sharma.

We then went on a cable car ride that offered us stunning views of the island. Following this, we went to Beach Station, where the highlight of our trip, The Wings of Time show, awaited us. This was one of the best laser shows I have seen to date, and the tale depicted through apt music and fireworks was heartwarming.

Thus ended our second day in Singapore, and though we had no energy left to even savour our dinner, we weren't complaining.

The Diwali Bazaar was a bonus for us, as our hotel was situated in the heart of Little India. The streets lit by Diwali lights did not let us miss the celebrations back home. The firecrackers at midnight made Diwali seem a little like New Year celebrations.

Day 5

The Flyer and Jewel

Our last day in Singapore began with a casual stroll along the lanes of Little India. The Hindi, Bangla, and Tamil signages at the shops made us feel as if we were in some cosy corner of India. I had a taste of authentic Singaporean food: chicken rice and fish cake, all from the local roadside stalls.

We had one last spot to cover, which we had skipped the previous day due to rains: the Singapore Flyer. Quite like the London Eye, the Flyer offers mesmerising views of the city. The half-hour ride is totally worth the time, as it offers awesome photo ops with the major landmarks in the background. There is an option to dine in some of the capsules too.

The Flyer was a lovely experience, but we had to rush to the airport soon. We were running short of time, but there was one last thing on my wishlist: The famed Jewel at Changi Airport.

A brisk 10-minute walk from the luggage-drop counter took us to this marvel. We were awestruck by the huge waterfall at the centre of the dome and the trees (reminiscent of the Cloud Forest) surrounding it.

Our journey ended on a sweet note, and while I will always remember this trip because it was my first real international trip, I will also remember it for making me acquainted with some of the most lovely people I met: Riddhi (our tour manager from Kolkata), Zura (our guide in Malaysia), and Vicky (the lovely Sri Lankan-Singaporean lady who was our guide in Singapore). To conclude, I would stress that places are defined by the people who inhabit them, and both Singapore and Malaysia did not disappoint us.

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