Sunday, October 31, 2010

Worst Happy Hour Ever

Drinking isn't much cheaper of a pastime in Malaysia than it is in Singapore.  We did come across this seemingly fantastic happy hour however, in the business district of Kuala Lumpur.

Just 1 Ringgit per beer!  Sweet!!


And then we learned exactly which "terms and conditions apply"... 

All beers are 1 Ringgit, starting with your second.  The first beer, however, is 30 Ringgits.  Ha!  Thanks, but no thanks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We opted to spend the majority of our Malaysian Airways stopover in Singapore, since we know we'll be back to Malaysia in the future (when we do the rest of Southeast Asia properly). A whirlwind visit to Kuala Lumpur is best made in a whirlwind hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We love this ultra touristy option to see a whole lot when we only have a little bit of time. Here are some highlights from our fun-filled forty-eight hours.



Petronas Towers


Few famous landmarks are better in person than they are in the postcards. Petronas Towers was a pleasant surprise. I really didn't expect much from this conspicuous office building. But these second highest skyscrapers in the world proved to be pretty awe-inspiring. We even got a "look at me in front of this" photo that isn't terrible, which is always rare.



Planetarium Negara 


You may not know this, but Reece is a super nerd at heart. There are few things he gets excited about as much as a good planetarium. So when we stumbled upon one en-route to the butterfly park, we opted to bypass our winged friends for some galactic good times.


I challenge you to show me a "your face here" photo that is funnier than this series.




Menara Kuala Lumpur


Drop me in any new city, and I'll make a beehive for the highest look-out point. This massive sky tower offers a 360 degree bird's eye view a staggering 421 meters above the city. The golden sunset and heavy clouds made for some pretty cool shots.



KL Tower Wild Animal Zone

What climb up a sky tower is complete without a visit to a reptile sanctuary? That's why it makes perfect sense that your ticket to the towers also comes with free entry to the mini-zoo at the base of the structure. We got to see the ugliest animal I've ever seen, and Reece got to hold his first snake.




Batu Caves


On the morning of our flight, we rushed to the Batu Caves and consequently checked off another Amazing Race checkpoint. Hindu devotees visit these sacred limestone caves from far and wide, often dangling weights from body peircings for the 272-step ascent to the entrance. The golden statue of Lord Muruga (created from 1,550 cubic meters of concrete, 250 tons of steel bars and 300 liters of gold paint) is as impressive as you would imagine. 


For the rest of our Kuala Lumpur photos, click HERE.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Singapore

Singapore is painfully photogenic (especially at night). In our relatively short visit, we took nearly 700 pictures. I wouldn't say it's an "Omigod you have to go there" destination. But if you've been away from the first world for several months, it's an incredible place to rejuvinate. Your bank account won't enjoy it much. But your camera will.

For photos of Singapore, click HERE.

That's the Marina Bay Sands in the background!







Thursday, October 28, 2010

Geeking Out

We've been pretty isolated from any new technology this year. You just don't see many iPads cruising around India or Africa. Singapore, however, is a technophile's haven. In fact, it's a haven for any kind of shopping you may (or may not) want to do. I've determined that this whole country is built around ways for you to spend your money. No more apparent than the chock full 'o malls city center. Walk out of a subway station - You're in a mall. Step into a public restroom - Step out into a mall. Ask for directions - It'll lead you through a mall. No joke, this country is one big shopping center.

While it tends to be a bit much, it was super awesome checking out the latest in television innovation at one of Singapore's many electronics superstores. Giant paper thin flat screens? Awesome! 3D TVs?? NO WAY!!!!

The look on Reece's face = Priceless.

Love at first sight.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why? Cause you look like a dork.


Thank you Singapore. I couldn't agree more.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bottoms up!

You know a bar is full of trannies when the toilet seats in the women's restroom are all up.

The Orchard Towers. Ideally located on Singapore's most elite shopping strip by day. And home to the infamous "four floors of whores" at night. We met a nice business fellow in a nearby Irish pub, who generously offered to give us a little tour of the area. You may have wondered what could be stranger than a country line dancing bar in Singapore where all of the staff are donning cowboy hats. The answer is, a country line dancing bar in Singapore full of old white men and about a hundred of the prettiest tranny prostitutes you have ever seen. Seriously, these "girls" are good. I have a pretty keen eye, and even I couldn't tell who was smuggling a penis in this place.

The drinks were strong, the dancing was rowdy, and the people watching was absolutely fascinating. Within a half hour, our host inexplicably had to run. Apparently he had an early morning or something.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food!

It's been a long time since I've featured a post about regional cuisine. But food is such a huge part of the culture here, you just can't neglect it. Giant hawker centers with hundreds of tantalizing options. Mall food courts with an adorable selection of stalls. Carts on the street selling mysterious goodies. We seriously can't get enough of eating in Singapore.

Hot and sour and scrumptious.

Tiny pockets of heaven.

Food court temptations.

Note the informative dessert diagram.

I don't know what they are, but I want ten of them.

Sweet and savory fish-shaped waffles!

Food = Art

Spicy udon noodle goodness, deep fried treats, chicken meatballs and stuff wrapped in bacon.

Quadruple stuffed waffle sandwiches.

So adorable, I almost want to start drinking soda.

Ice cream sandwiches wrapped in actual bread.
Sounds terrible.  Is in fact the best thing you have ever tasted.

Singapore's famous black pepper crab!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pop Quiz

Please identify the following:
















A) A modern mega-mall
B) A subway station
___















A) A fine dining restaurant
B) A mall food court
___















A) A posh hotel restroom
B) A typical public toilet
___

Answer: They are all B!

Man, Singapore is fancy. We are hard pressed to find anything here that isn't shiny, new, clean or sparkly. Coming from India, it's the kinda thing that makes you wanna drop to your knees and kiss the ground you walk on. And you could, without getting hepatitis! Funny enough, it's probably the most extreme culture shock we have experienced on this trip.

It's a real shock to the wallet too. We're paying almost $50 a night to share a dorm room with 13 people. A pitcher of beer? The same price. FIFTY DOLLARS!! It's enough to bring a tear to my eye.

What's especially offensive is seeing Indian food for a fortune. We were JUST THERE! We KNOW how much it should cost! Over the past two months, we have never paid more than $2 for a Thali. Here, they want $20. Amazing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

7-Eleven Heaven

If this isn't one of the coolest things you have ever seen in your life, I don't know what to tell you.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's our anniversary. Our anniversary.

On October 20th, Reece and I rang in five years of non-marital bliss. What better way to celebrate than at the finest hotel that credit card points can buy?? They say go big or go home - And well, we aren't ready to go home yet.

The Marina Bay Sands is an architectural behemoth, towering over Singapore's skyline and topped by what must be the highest infinity pool in the world.


Dressed in our backpacking finest, we enjoyed a fancy three course lunch at pretty garden restaurant in the city, then waltzed up to the reception desk like real VIPs. Only our room wasn't actually going to be ready until 6pm.

Excuse me?

"Well, the check out time is noon, but most people don't really leave till 2 or 3."

Sweet, so can we have a late check out tomorrow?

"No.  The latest I can allow you to check out is 12pm."

Ummm... Okay, can we use the pool after we check out? We have an evening flight.

"Well, you actually can't use the pool without your room key, which you must return when you check out."

Hmm.  Well, can we wait by the pool now until our room is ready?

"Sorry. Not until you have checked in."

Now, let me tell you.  After poking around their elaborate website, we had really high expectations for this place. World famous chefs, top-notch nightlife, luxury and decadence to the extreme. Instead, the evening continued a little something like this...

Hey, do you have a drink menu? We heard there is an amazing mixologist by the pool.

"Oh, that won't be happening until next year."

Okay. Well it's our anniversary, can we get a bucket of ice for our bottle of champagne?

"No, you can't drink that here. The glass is too dangerous."

Alright. Well, where do we find that nightclub where the DJ is playing tonight?

"Actually, you need reservations for that two weeks in advance."

Perfect. Can we see the food menu?

"Yes. We have turkey wraps or chicken flavored chips."

Of course you do.

The best part about it, is that we were prepared to spend a lot of money at this place! It's not every day you celebrate 1,825 days with your dearest whilst on a trip around the world. Our motto was, "Charge it, and pay it off with points." But they could not get it together enough to even allow us to splurge.

To be honest, we kinda couldn't wait to get back to our 13-bed dorm room at the Beary Good Hostel, where the employees consistently aimed to please. I suppose the moral of this story is - Just because it costs more, doesn't mean it's better.

The view, however, was pretty freaking amazing.

video

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Singapore is commonly known as the "fine city". Meaning it is a fine place to live, and they fine you for just about everything. No joke. The country is beautiful, spotlessly clean, and chock full of fine dining, shopping and entertainment. It also boasts a laundry list of offenses that carry hefty fines.

Jaywalking, spitting, chewing gum, littering, drinking/eating on public transport, smoking, and forgetting to flush a toilet - Just to name a few.

Just about the only thing they DON'T fine you for is drug trafficking.

Nope. For that they kill you.


Thank god we didn't overstay our visa. The penalty for that is caning. For real.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

India Accommodation Wrap-up

I bet you are just dying to hear about the rest of the places we stayed in India. So, before I move on to my (LONG overdue) posts about Singapore, here is the round-up.

#66
Hotel Sidhartha
Agra, India
800 Rupees (approx $18)/night


It was a five minute walk to the main entrance of the Taj Majal. That's pretty much all that needs to be known about this place. They also had a really nice old man running the joint, a restaurant serving up embarrassingly simple fare (is that ketchup on my spaghetti??), and a cow who slept in the front entryway every night.


#67
Goverdhan Hotel
Fathepur Sikri
900 Rupees (approx $20)/night


Just about an hour outside of Agra, Fathepur Sikri could easily be visited in a daytrip. But we decided to shake things up a bit and spend the night. Crazy! This purple cutey was right at the bus stop, and we had a great little room with a table and chairs outside the door to enjoy breakfast al fresco.


#68
Alka Hotel
Varanasi, India
850 Rupees (approx $19)/night

Thanks Google.
This guesthouse is said to have one of the best views of the Ganges in all of Varanasi. Which is clearly why I chose it. And while the view was just alright, the spacious courtyard/deck area was a relaxing place to enjoy a few beers away from the insanity that is Varanasi.


#69
YMCA
Mumbai, India
1800 Rupees (approx $40)/night


It's really, really difficult to find an affordable place to stay in Mumbai. Which totally blows my mind. It's INDIA for Pete's sake! The best deal we could find was at the YMCA (yes, that's the Young Men's Christian Association) who offered us a spotless room with two twin beds at the peak of our budget.

It was in a perfect location, on a quite tree-lined street in the heart of the backpacker hub. Within walking distance were some great little restaurants and bars and plenty of the sites we wanted to see. We grew to really like our little home-base, despite the children's marching band and karate classes that took place in our courtyard every morning.


#70
Baga Oyster
Baga, India
1600 Rupees (approx $36)/night


This was probably the most modern, legit hotel room we have had the pleasure of sleeping in. Flat screen TV, sleek furniture, a shower WITH a shower curtain (you'd be amazed how rare that is). We knew it was gonna be more than we wanted to pay, but after taking one look at the room it was hard to walk out. Luckily, I am an incredible negotiator, and managed to talk the price down from a steep 2500 Rupees. If there's one thing I wish I had learned earlier in this trip, it's that EVERYTHING is negotiable.


#71
Alcove Beach Resort
Vagator, India
1600 Rupees (approx $36)/night



As I mentioned before, staying in this little gem was like being on a real vacation. As budget-minded backpackers, we decided to forego the privelage of an A/C. But the pool (complete with restaurant and bar service) totally made up for it. The food was surprisingly fantastic, the view was great, and we had our own access steps leading right down to the beach. Fancy pants.


#72
Sheila Guesthouse
Arambol, India
350 Rupees (approx $8)/night



Another place I mentioned previously, here is where we finally found the 'cheap as chips' hut on the beach we were hoping for. Well, less of a hut really and more of a hotel room. Steps from the sand, a clean bathroom with plentiful hot water, and a balcony with an almost-view. The unbeatable price kinda made us wanna stay, well, forever.

#73
Hotel Olivia
Mumbai, India
1200 Rupees (approx $27)/night

We returned to Mumbai for one night before our flight to Singapore. And when the YMCA would not grant us a late check out the following day, I decided to boycott them. We were here two weeks ago, we're practically family!! So I stomped down the street in fury until we found a dingy little place that saved us a few hundred rupees and weren't so stringent in their policies. We ended up checking out at noon anyway, but it's the principal that counts.