Southeast Asia (Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bali)
Our first trip to Asia, or to be more specific to Southeast Asia, was meant to stick in our memory for a long time and strongly influenced our subsequent travel destinations. To start at the beginning, we were looking for a place to travel at the end of September. Quickly, Thailand came into our focus. However, the thought of travelling to Thailand did not grow on us yet. Our view wandered over the map and came to a first halt at Malaysia. Just a few inches from there: Singapore. Why not visit Malaysia, Singapore and keep traveling to Indonesia when we are basically already there? Makes sense, right?! The vague idea of the trip became a tangible action plan for our journey. Bali was determined as our destination in Indonesia. The order of travel was set in stone, so we were ready to start the trip.
Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – The first contact
We started in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is often referred to, which was the perfect beginning to our trip through Southeast Asia. This city, that has so much character and let us dive immediately into the Asian lifestyle, impressed us at first sight. All human senses are triggered at once here, to put this into a positive context. Back then in 2019, KL welcomed us with the world’s worst air quality at that time.
Late in the evening we arrived in KL after a short stop-over in Singapore and took a taxi to the hotel. For 150 MYR (Malaysian Ringgit) – about 30 Euro at that time – we were taken to the City Comfort Hotel Kuala Lumpur City Centre, conveniently located just west of Bukit Bintang.
This hotel fulfilled our expectations, which were not that high to be honest with you. It was clean and quite modern. The staff was very friendly and the location, which was most important for us (as always), was perfect for our intentions. To sum it up: for the price the hotel was ideal.
In the middle of the hot mist
Our first day started, as usual, by foot, exploring the city. Not far from our hotel was the Petaling Street Market in Chinatown. There is literally nothing that you cannot find there. From all kind of different “brand” stuff, to household goods and food. We walked down this street and turned around to go to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. The oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur. After taking our picture we went on.
Two blocks north of this temple we visited the next one: Sin Sze Si Ya Temple. This Chinese temple, however, is the oldest Taoist temple in town and worth the free visit. Already after a few minutes in KL it is obvious that all religions in the world are present here. Buddhists, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. In Kuala Lumpur (and other parts of Southeast Asia) they are all living door to door.
Just a stone’s throw west of the temple you will find the Central Market of Kuala Lumpur. It is a market hall with shops and restaurants. Easily, you can spend some time here. Next to the Central Market is the Kasturi Walk. A covered market street where you are likely to spend some of your money.
Across the Klang river, past the River of Life and the Masjiid Jamek Mosque, we went on to the Merdeka Square. That is where the flag of Malaysia was raised for the first time. This square is therefore also known as the place of independence. It is not just this square that is impressive because of its size. Also, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, a government office building, stands out.
Kampung Baru or: Beyond the skyscrapers
The heat and haze increased mercilessly – another characteristic of Southeast Asia. It was time to turn to the underground, so we took the subway (for about 0,40 Euro per person) to get to the next stage. Kampung Baru. This quarter is a more traditional neighborhood with wooden houses and a rural or rustic flair, located just a little outside the busy big city life.
We just wandered through the little streets and enjoyed the contrast. To be honest, without seeing KL’s skyline in the background, it would have felt like being in the Malaysian country side. People there went after their daily lives. Working in the household, grocery shopping or going to school – this was like walking inside a documentary.
In the heart of Kuala Lumpur
After that we took the subway to get to the ultimate landmark of KL – the Petronas Twin Towers. This impressive building, that used to be the highest building in the world, is definitely worth a visit. A photo from the outside was enough for us though and so we kept walking through the extensive KLCC Park.
As we do so often, we kept walking for a long time. This time until we reached Bukit Bintang. This quarter hosts numerous shopping possibilities, restaurants and bars. It feels like the main artery of town vibrantly running through this district. A mixture of Times Square and Piccadilly Circus awaits you here. After a late lunch (or early dinner) at the Greyhound Café we went back to the hotel. The day left its marks and we really felt like washing off the dirt of the day. As great as this first day had been. The climate as well as the distances we had walked that day kind of drained our batteries. Southeast Asia was demanding. Besides, we wanted to be fit for the ultimate highlight of the first day of our trip.
Before starting our trip, we already picked out the Heli Lounge Bar to end this exciting day above KL’s roofs. This rooftop bar is out of this world! Entrance is free of charge and the drinks are still affordable. Great service, atmospheric music and the extraordinary view from up there complete the overall perfect location. A great place to spend a Monday evening.
The great thing about this bar is, as its name already reveals, that it is a former helipad that was turned into a bar. There are no high glass walls or fences that would secure the edges to the abyss. Just a knee-high rope along the edge of the helipad. This give you the opportunity for great, unobstructed pictures. However, it might also lead to unobstructed death. But also, to great pictures, however.
Batu Caves & Genting Highlands
It is interesting to see which imaginations you have and which approaches you make when planning a trip from your safe couch at home. Also, which ideas and expectations inspired us. Even more interesting the fact, which decision you finally made and how it all eventually turned out.
Originally, for the second day in Kuala Lumpur we planned a tour on public transportation or alternatively taking a rental car. Our destination, that we originally planned to drive to on our own, was 50km north of Kuala Lumpur. The Genting Highland Resorts, located 1.700m high in the mountains which is a mixture of Las Vegas and Disney World. And the Batu Caves, a limestone cave with a Hindu temple, located halfway between KL and Genting Highlands.
Luckily, we decided to book a tour that stopped at both sights. On GetYourGuide we booked the daytour “Batu Caves & Genting Highlands” including pick-up at the hotel. The tour started at 9.00h by bus. First, the bus took the other tourists and us to Genting Highlands. A note on the side: Tours from GetYour Guide were very useful in Southeast Asia as we were about to experience in the future.
In total we had pretty much exactly 4 hours to explore the resort. Looking back on it, this seems like very little time for all that is offered there. To get an overview it is sufficient though. However, try to make up your mind about what you want to see beforehand or where you want to spend your time.
We got off the bus at Genting Highlands Premium Outlets. From here we took the cable car (Awana SkyWay) to the Chin Swee Caves Temple and then further up to the Genting Highlands Resort. We would recommend to visit the temple first, then the resort, and afterwards the Outlet Mall, if time allows it.
The Chin Swee Caves Temple is already a great place with many different corners to discover. From up there you can enjoy the great view over the country. You can also take a walk along the Buddhist Ten Chambers of Hell on the “Journey of Enlightenment”.
We were good kiddos so we went off to the sky. At least it felt that way, when we hopped back into the cable car that took us even further up the mountains to the resort. The fog-blanket spectacularly breaks open and you can admire the fun-world beneath. At this point we will not list all the entertainment possibilities that await you there. Just check out their webpage. The resort hosts multiple hotels, like the worlds’ largest hotel First World Hotel, (indoor)-amusement parks and casinos. No matter what, we had an awesome time up there in the mountains.
After taking the cable car down again, there was just enough time to grab a quick snack on the go and hop back on the bus. Next stop: Batu Caves. Before we reached the caves, the bus stopped at a local shop where we had the possibility to shop for some local delicacies.
We had about one hour to explore the Batu Caves when we arrived. Some needed that time, to climb the 300 colorful stairs to the forecourt of the main cave. And some others needed that time to catch the perfect angle for the picture of the 40m high golden statue of Lord Murugan. No matter what you focus on, time flies – fast. Apart from the great picture in front of the cave, the impressive inside is definitely worth exploring. At the end of the tour, we had the option of being dropped off at the hotel again, or alternatively somewhere else along the way. And with that, a perfect tour with a perfect guide came to an end.
To celebrate the second successful day, we decided on the SkyBar in der Traders Hotel. And again, no entry fee. In contrast to the Heli Lounge Bar, this bar is inside. A special flair is created through the indoor pool in the center of the bar. And most important: it offers the perfect view on the Petronas Twin Towers. On the 33rd level we enjoyed our drinks and thought about that great day again. Keep in mind that the Twin Towers are only illuminated until midnight.
This was the point where our lights went out as well and we went back to the hotel. Two exiting and adventurous days in Kuala Lumpur were behind us. Our first contact with Southeast Asia was right on point. The next day, we were off to Singapore. By the way, the cab back to the airport was 75 MYR (approx. 15,00 Euro) that time.
Singapore – Contact No 2
This island city state was our second stop on our trip through Southeast Asia. After our first, let’s say slightly chaotic, contact with Kuala Lumpur, Singapore seemed like KL’s nerdy sibling. But first things first. After the one-hour flight we checked in the hotel and went for a first get-to-know walk.
To reach the hotel from the airport, we used public transportation, which was quite comfortable. With the EZ-Link-Card (contact-less, rechargeable value card) the ride from the airport cost only 1,65 Singapore Dollar (compared to a single-ride ticket at 2,50 SGD).
Our hotel was the chic, boutique-style Hotel Clover (769 North Bridge Road). The room was spacious, clean and modern with a nice bathroom. Breakfast was served very fresh and à-la-carte, in the neighboring restaurant Brine. We only spend little time at the hotel, but the time there was great. This second hotel on our trip hit the nail on the head for us – again. Our first fear of not finding adequate hotels in Southeast Asia was completely irrational.
Powernapping and Powerwalking
After check-in and a quick stop at the grocery store we were ready for a short nap. After three hours then, we were done powernapping (it seemed like Kuala Lumpur took more out of us than we thought). With new strength we were ready for our little excursion-walk through our neighborhood.
The decision on the location of our hotel was not by chance. We were in the middle of multiculturalism (another positive factor in Southeast Asia). Our walk took us by the Masjid Sultan Mosque; we experienced Little India by night; peeked through the fence at the catholic Our Lady of Lourdes Church; saw the Buddhist temple Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho and finally found ourselves in the Indie-quarter around Haji Lane.
That was where we also called it a day. This quarter is full of colorful restaurants, bars and people, and is great for a night out. Live music on every corner and basically endless possibilities to eat and letting yourself get entertained. Our first day in Singapore came to an appropriate end.
Marina Bay – The heart of Singapore
Early the following morning, we were up and ready to check out Singapore’s famous landmark and the area around it. Off to Marina Bay. The first stop was at Singapore’s mascot – the Merlion. A statue with the body of a fish and a lion’s head. From here you can also enjoy a nice view on the city and its skyline.
Walking across the famous Helix Bridge we reached the Marina Bay Sands – one of the most luxurious hotels and also landmark of Singapore. As a visitor you reach the Gardens by the Bay through the shopping center located beneath the hotel. A huge park with many different attractions, like Supertrees, the Cloud Forrest, OCBC Skywalk or the Planet. Calling it a botanical garden would be the understatement of the century. On top, this park area demonstrates Singapore’s efforts in regards to sustainability. Thumbs up for that! This is not to be taken for granted in Southeast Asia.
You can plan to spend a whole day there to explore the entire park with all its attractions. Don’t just be prepared to wait in lines in front of the attractions, also be prepared to buy individual tickets for them. There is no All-Inclusive ticket. You will also find many restaurants and places to rest though. No discussion necessary – A visit to Gardens by the Bay is a must for tourists.
Towards the end of the day we went to Chinatown and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. This magnificent building is in the middle of town. Entrance is free of charge. However, check your outfit before entering (e.g. no short pants for women). We strolled through the quarter and had dinner at the (working title) Burger Bar, not far from our hotel.
Genting ISLAND – Sentosa
There is was already… Our last day in Singapore we spent on Sentosa Island. A huge amusement-park-like island just south of the city center. Plan for a whole day here as well. If you spend your time in the resort with hotels, amusement parks or museums; with flippers on your feet in the waterparks or on the sandy beach; carrying a helmet in a soapbox derby; or even on a Segway exploring the area – there is literally something to do for everyone (as well as the most southern point of Asia).
The way to the island is by cable car which we also used to get to Mount Faber. We enjoyed the view from up there and ordered the most expansive toast bread sandwich ever (or at least in Southeast Asia). Afterwards we checked out Orchard Road – a luxurious shopping street. Don’t miss the crossing with Scotts Road.
For our delicious dinner we went to the previously mentioned restaurant Brine, next to our hotel. This was our last night in Singapore, so we had to celebrate. Which we did at the 1-Altitude Rooftop Bar. 65 levels above the ground with an amazing view on the Marina Bay Sands. Entrance was 45,- SGD per person and included two drinks. The time up there was the perfect finale to our stay in Singapore. Just amazing. The second, perfect contact with Southeast Asia.
Bali (Indonesia) – The third contact
After two city trips we were ready for some nature. Ready for the Indonesian island Bali. With Kuala Lumpur and Singapore being dissimilar siblings, Bali is definitely their weird cousin. And the great finale to our trip through Southeast Asia. Read in this third, and last, big paragraph of our tour through Southeast Asia, why Bali is worth the long trip and why it is the Instagram-Island.
The flight from Singapore to Bali was about three hours and we touched ground in Bali in the afternoon. We took a taxi for the 40km trip to our hotel in Ubud. We chose Ubud for our hotel location primarily for two reasons: First, we wanted to avoid the south from Denpasar on. Secondly, we wanted to be more or less in the center of the island to have the most flexibility. The cab ride was 500.000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and took about two hours, due to the heavy traffic.
When we reached the hotel, we were stunned and almost speechless. The paradise-like area, the great atmosphere and the hospitality that awaited us there was overwhelming. Which might have irritated the staff at first. Multiple times per day we were asked if everything is fine and to our liking. We just managed to nod disbelievingly. Those 7 nights and 6 days did not leave anything to wish for. The amazing customer service and unique friendliness are still peerless.
To be honest with you, the search for the perfect hotel in Bali was not an easy one. It was time consuming and frustrating at times. Hence, we were even happier and so relieved, when we found the Jannata Resort & Spa on Check24 and did not experience any negative surprises. Au contraire! Our room (Nr. 13 – Deluxe Suite 810) was amazing with a magnificent view into the jungle. Getting up in the morning was no struggle at all. The infinity pool, the Spa and Yoga classes complemented the already perfect picture. On top, the hotel restaurant was exquisite. There were 18 Deluxe Suites and two Pool Villas. A perfect intimate size for a hotel in Bali.
To reach the city center of Ubud, the hotel offered a free shuttle service at certain times a day. Every afternoon, there was tea time with little delicacies from the restaurant. The fruit plate in the room was re-filled every day as well. We booked the hotel for seven nights, which included a trip to the Spa for us (special thanks to Rini and Rahayu) as well as a floating breakfast. In short: It was like being in paradise.
From the jungle into the jungle
We started out our first day in paradise pretty relaxed and enjoyed the sun at the pool. After the daily tea-time at 16.30h we decided to check out Ubud’s city center. Ubud had absolutely nothing in common with the calm and peaceful hotel atmosphere. Au contraire. It was chaotic and touristic hustle and bustle awaited us there.
However, we enjoyed walking through the streets, over markets and peeking inside some of the little shops. On top, you will find numerous possibilities to stop for food and drinks. The crossroads Jalan Suweta and Jalan Raya Ubud basically form the starting point for almost all sights of Ubud. The Ubud Palace is right there at the crossing as well.
Before our trip to Bali we booked two day-tours through GetYourGuide and, were, once more, positively surprised. Both tours were private tours. Just our driver and the two of us. Further, the driver was also our guide and photographer, all in one person. Those two tours were absolutely amazing. Perfect organization and enough flexibility to respond to special requests of the guests. Everywhere we went, Bali’s people welcomed us with kindness, respectful aloofness and treated us with great regard. As we also experienced in the rest of Southeast Asia.
Pura Lempuyang and Pura Besakih
Our first tour started early in the morning, over-punctual, when our guide of the day picked us up at 06.30h. Artawan (contact: email@example.com) made this a very special and unforgettable day for us, not least because of his dedication to the job and his pleasant personality. We would like to say a big Thank You! at this point.
The main destination of the tour was Lempuyang temple, better known as Gate to Heaven. On our way there we stopped at Taman Tirta Gangga, a temple complex in eastern Bali. At this Water Palace you can feed the Koi fish which was a beautiful start to this great day. Artawan organized the fish-food for us beforehand. Very thoughtful!
We drove by rice fields and just enjoyed the beautiful countryside. Along the road we stopped to try exotic fruit, like passionfruit or Jackfruit. It was not a boring drive at all.
We finally arrived at Lempuyang temple. Our guide provided the proper clothing (Sarong) and also took care of the entry fee. As expected, there were quite a few people already at the temple. Of course, everyone wanted a picture with the Heavens Gate. However, you do not want everyone else on your picture, right? Therefore, a number is assigned to you, and then you wait until it is your turn. Once your number is called out you hand your phone or camera over to the photographer. Hurry to the gate and position yourself, because your time is running. All I can say now is: “Pose!”
When we were there, the estimated waiting time for the picture was up to 2 hours. Our guide said, that even waiting for 4 hours is not unusual. What all you go through for a hype-photo… And that is why Bali is the Instagram-Island. Locals pushed a clever marketing strategy for their sights and everyone wants those pictures on their accounts. But more on that topic later on.
At this temple complex, there are more spots for great pictures (for some more cash). With those secured on our camera we were off to a restaurant for lunch, which was included in the tour price. The restaurant did not only serve lunch, there was also the next famous attraction Bali has to offer: the Bali Swing. For 150.000 IDR you could take a seat on the swing, “fly” over the Bali’s trees and take more amazing pictures.
The last stop on this tour was at Besakih Temple. This huge Hindu temple complex, also called Mother Temple, is very impressive. The complex is subdivided into multiple areas with different meanings. Every important family has its own area within the complex. Our guide Artawan walked us through the temple grounds, explaining further details on the area and its history. One thing is for sure, Southeast Asia is not short of temples.
On the way back to the hotel, Artawan offered to stop at a coffee plantation to enjoy the sunset from their patio. We gladly accepted his offer and went to Kumulilir (Br. Pujung Kelod, Tegallalang, Gianyar). Here, we spontaneously decided on a coffee tasting (also sampling the most expansive coffee in the world “Kopi Luwak”), got a short introduction on the harvesting and roasting process and finally enjoyed the breathtaking view on the setting sun over the jungle.
Our first tour was to the east of the island. We wanted to avoid the south, so our next tour was to the north of this beautiful island (maybe we will do the west sometime in the future). Again, this early-bird tour started at 06.45h when our guide Komang Wirawan (Instagram: Komang8980) picked us up at the hotel. Thanks Komang for our perfect, second tour on Bali!
After a two hour drive we reached our first stop: the Sekumpul Waterfall. Arriving there this early in the morning had the big advantage of basically being the first ones and almost alone. The tourist wave was yet to arrive. On site, we were handed over to another local guide who hiked to the waterfall with us. Thanks to our hiking buddy Cawis! (Instagram: Cawis_87).
Just a hint on the side. For that hike bring solid shoes, but also flip flops and bathing attire. The hike through nature was amazing, and after about 260 steps we reached the 80m-high waterfall, dropping down multiple cascades. There was enough time to rest and take pictures. Cawis also assisted in taking pictures and was a great photographer was well.
From there we walked another 10 minutes to the Fiji Waterfall. Here, we could also rest a little bit and just enjoy nature. The Fiji waterfall is not as high as the Sekumpul waterfall, with only three cascades, but it is just as beautiful and worth seeing! Afterwards, we walked back up to the car. The hiking tour took about 3 hours.
The tour went on to the water temple complex Pura Ulum Danu Beratan. On our way there we made a short stop to feed the monkeys. One of them was especially ungrateful, so we escaped to the car and went on. The water temple is located on lake Beratan and is, again, a perfect location for great pictures. To be honest, we would not have thought of visiting this temple on our own. Therefore, we were even more happy that it was included in our tour.
With this tour, we had the choice to take a break for lunch, which was not included this time, or keep going. We decided to keep going. Next stop was at the coffee plantation Baturiti. Similar to the first coffee plantation, there was a short informative tour regarding the production process of Luwak coffee. Followed by a coffee tasting, which included five coffee and tea samples, that we enjoyed with a beautiful view on the rice fields.
The Kopi Luwak coffee, that you might also know by the name civet coffee, costs around 50.000 IDR per cup and was served with three other coffee types. The specialty of this coffee is its “production”. Coffee cherries are partially digested and defecated by civets. The undigested beans are protected by a thin skin-like shell which is removed before the beans get roasted. A digesting process of the cherries gives that coffee its special taste.
There were two things that were important for the locals when explaining the production process: First, the civets live in the woods freely, and not in cages, where they do their “business” privately (which creates great effort to look for their excrements in the woods). Secondly, that the coffee bean itself is protected by this skin, and is therefore not in direct contact with the not so pleasant carrier material of the animals. The Kopi Luwak is known in all of Southeast Asia, not only Indonesia.
At this point our tour theoretically ended, but we asked our guide to take to the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, which he agreed to without hesitation. The next highlight and also Instagram-hot-spot on our tour that we did not want to miss out on. For 10.000 IDR per person and another 5.000 IDR donation, we were allowed to move around freely in the rice terrace area. The rice terraces are a must-see on Bali, but there are multiple ones to visit and immerge in the green fields.
Around 17.00h, this amazing day came to an end and we were dropped off at the hotel by our driver/guide. We had dinner at the hotel, as we almost did every evening, because it was just so delicious and convenient.
Pleasure until the last moment
The remaining days we relaxed at the pool, took yoga classes, went to the SPA and never skipped our tea time. To Ubud we only went one more time. After all those amazing things we had seen the previous days it was just not that appealing anymore. However, there were two more highlights that deserve to be mentioned.
One was the floating breakfast (another Instagram motive) which we did on our last day. People, that were not even staying at the hotel, booked a special tour that included this floating breakfast, or floating lunch, at our hotel. We would not have booked it as an extra, but it was included in our stay, and we have to admit, it was super cool.
Another highlight (and a bit more sustainable than an Instagram-post) was the performance show of orphans from the Bali Orphan Day Centre (Yayasan Taman Permata Hati) that we were able to enjoy with a dinner special at the hotel. The kids performed traditional Balinese dances like the Panyembrahma (welcome dance), the Wira Yuda (young warriors dance) and the Kembang Girang (happiness dance) to the beautiful sounds of the Gamelan Gender Wayang, a traditional instrument.
That is how our first contact with Asia came to an end. Happy and content we faced our flight home (with wanderlust feelings rising even before we had left). A taxi from the hotel took us to the airport in Denpasar for 450.000 IDR, and we could not wait to tell everyone at home about our great adventures in Southeast Asia.