Travel Tales: Kuala Lumpur, December 2016

It feels a bit redundant to be typing this blog entry, over eighteen months since we were actually in Kuala Lumpur on holiday. Still, I’ve had the photos edited and uploaded as a draft to the blog for months and months, so I might as well write a few short paragraphs to accompany the photo gallery.

After our visits to Singapore and Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding in December 2016, we (myself, husband, father and brother) spent almost a full week in Kuala Lumpur. We found a marvellous Airbnb right near the famous eating street of Jalan Alor, that was perfectly designed for our needs – three bedrooms each with its own ensuite, with a small living room, mini kitchen and laundry. And at about half the price of staying in a hotel, I really couldn’t fault the apartment at all!

Now the eating. Staying near Jalan Alor, we spent our first evening there in search for dinner and ended up at a hawker-style Chinese restaurant there…which clearly catered for tourists and served up tiny serves of not-particularly-great-food at inflated Australian prices. Disappointing. Much of Jalan Alor was like that – great for tourists who don’t know much about Malaysian food and don’t mind paying a bit more, not so great for us. 

We learned our lesson and from that point onwards, spent our time searching out the small hawker centres on street corners where the locals really eat. There was a lot of wonton mee, laksa, nasi goreng, hokkien noodles, oyster omelettes, roti canai, satay, ais kacang…all the traditional Malaysian dishes you could imagine featured in our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every day.

As always, a highlight was the day we spent in Seremban with hubby’s extended family. These day trips are never complete until we have at least six to eight meals, making visits to all the local hotspots recommended by aunts, uncles, family friends, and cousins. My father amateurishly ordered a whole curry laksa for himself at the first stop, despite my warning that it was best to share dishes so you don’t overstuff yourself too early on. He regretted that decision!

A shout-out also to all the times the heat and humidity of Malaysia simply got the better of us, and we ended up finding a little cafe to sit down with a kopi ais, Milo ais or teh tarik, perhaps with a snack of kaya toast to go with it. Holidays in Malaysia are best spent at a slow and leisurely pace watching the world go by with a cold drink in hand. The humidity doesn’t really let you do much more than that!

It’s obviously been eighteen months since our last visit to Malaysia and at this point, I’m not sure when we might be back. My father-in-law actually told us to not go back until our little one is of an age where she can actually speak and tell us if she’s feeling unwell. I think he’s afraid the heat and humidity might be too much for her otherwise! 

Travel Tales: Singapore, December 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

When we made the decision to go to Sri Lanka for my cousin’s wedding, it was pretty much a no-brainer that we would stopover in other destinations (Singapore and Malaysia) on the way there and back. Breaking up a long flight with two shorter flights makes sense right? 

Well it did. And then it didn’t. The afternoon before we were due to fly out, Jetstar cancelled our flight to Singapore and calling their customer service centre for a replacement flight gave us two options:

  1. A direct flight to Singapore three days after we were supposed to arrive, at which point we would have to leave for Sri Lanka almost immediately and not have time to enjoy Singapore at all
  2. Flights to Singapore on the day that we were supposed to leave….via a layover in Hong Kong. We essentially doubled back to Singapore after flying to Hong Kong, adding around eight hours to the overall journey.

Jetstar are known as Shitstar for a reason.

A crappy start to the holiday was thankfully improved with each day we spent in Singapore. While we all suffered in the humidity (my family are not summer people), it was good that we were able to start acclimatising to the humidity of South-East Asia in the relative comfort of Singapore and its air-conditioned malls – we certainly wouldn’t be able to retreat to air-conditioned comfort quite as easily during our stay in Sri Lanka! 

That’s not to say that we didn’t venture out of the malls of Orchard Road, because we certainly did. We spent one day in the Gardens by the Bay, the futuristic vast nature park that they’ve somehow managed to squeeze into densely-populated Singapore. We went on the Singapore Flyer which I’d never been on before, and managed to time our visit so that we had an entire pod to ourselves, sandwiching in nicely between two overcrowded pods full of Chinese tour groups.

The highlights though, were when we just spent time wandering around different parts of Singapore, sampling local fare at different markets. Having only visited Orchard Road, Chinatown, Little India and Tiong Bahru, I feel as though we’ve only scratched the surface of what those Singaporean districts can offer us…let alone, what the rest of Singapore has to offer! What about areas like Kampong Glam, Katong, Geylang…and I’ve never even been to Sentosa Island!

I guess we’re lucky that Singapore is so (comparatively) close to Australia, and that it would make for a great stopover to wherever we may chose to go on our next trip. Over the course of a couple of years worth of two or three day stays in Singapore, we may finally get to see, and eat, more around the country. Singapore…I’ll always be back.

Eating in Singapore, December 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this entry.

Most travellers who have visited Singapore will cringe when I say this, but one of Dad’s favourite places to eat during our stay was the Food Opera food centre in the ION Orchard mall. I know, it’s not a legitimate hawker centre and you won’t walk out smelling like satay or prawn mee. But importantly, you do walk out feeling cool and refreshed after enjoying a meal in air-conditioned comfort, and that feeling is worth a million dollars in the overwhelming heat and humidity of Singapore.

We visited Food Opera a number of times during our visit, and never ate the same thing once. From chicken rice to bak kuh teh, yong tau foo to beef noodles, there’s enough variety at Food Opera to ensure that you can try something new with every meal. And while prices are slightly higher than what you would find in most outdoor hawker centres, you get your money’s worth in hygiene and comfort. The food isn’t bad either, and consistently reminded Dad of the kind of food he used to eat in the sixties in Hong Kong – truly traditional Cantonese cooking, without fancy modern embellishments. 

We did eat in outdoor hawker centres of course. We had Satay by the Bay after a stroll through the Gardens by the Bay, and cooled off with 2-for-1 weekday cendol from the same hawker centre. We made our way to Little India where we had murtabak and biryani. Kaya toast and roti breakfasts at random kopitiams along the road were not uncommon. 

The Chinatown markets were a hit as well, where we tried popiah, kueh pie tee, and what was literally THE freshest and most delicious wife cake I’ve ever had in my whole life- and I’ve eaten my fair share of wife cake! Shout out to Mini Toast House in Chinatown Markets (Shop #02-105) for their awesome wife cake. The other highlight of Chinatown was of course, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. The meals themselves may be simple, but the execution is brilliant – well worth a visit.

We’re lucky enough to also have the opportunity to catch up with family and friends in Singapore…expats / locals who can take us to fantastic places for dinner like No Signboard Seafood for amazing Singaporean chilli crab, salted egg yolk prawns, and chilli and garlic pippies, before finishing off the meal with some durian from a roadside stall. Or who can take us for delicious steamed buns (bao in Chinese, or strangely, pao in Singaporean) at Tiong Bahru markets before finishing off with matcha and almond croissants from the fancy pants hipster Tiong Bahru bakery.

In the few days we had in Singapore, I can honestly say that we never once had a bad meal. We didn’t plan ahead and book for fancy places, we really just stumbled across places and ate where we saw locals congregating. Our main goal was to always try something new at each meal, so that we could introduce my dad and brother to new dishes and flavours – and I think we succeeded in that as my dad absolutely loved Singapore’s food (though not the humidity!).

Singapore really is a foodie’s paradise, and I just know that the next time we go back, we’ll have just as good a time as we did this time.