Dear fellow travelers,
I am beside myself with excitement about my upcoming trip! I will try my best to keep it together and be coherent as I ask for your help and suggestions but if I should fail to make much sense, I apologize ahead of time and don’t mind you saying I’m not making sense.
A friend and I are traveling together and have a very loose itinerary and can use all the help I can get because we’re rather late with my research. We were planning and researching a trip to East Timor but as it turns out the trip that materialized is as follows:
Dec. 23rd flight: Tokyo to Taipei to Kuala Lumpur. These are the lose points we have discussed and considered thus far.
• 3 hours layover in Taipei. We guess it’s only enough time to scour the airport information kiosks and gather some literature since we will return at the end of our trip for a day and a half.
• Christmas in Malaysia. (Should be interesting since the country is predominantly Muslim).
• Maybe stay in Malaysia a couple of days after Christmas and leave around the 27th.
• Make our way to Singapore overland via train or bus –Recommendations needed here, please.
• Welcome the New Year in Singapore and depart the day after.
January 2nd flight: Singapore to Taipei.
• We arrive in Taipei just before 6 PM and plan to make a night of it since we only have the following full day in country.
January 4th flight: Taipei to Tokyo which is currently home for us.
Any and all suggestions are welcomed. Things to do, budget accommodations, places to see, foods to eat and any warnings you may want to share. The only things we can’t change are our flights but how we fill the time in-between should be great fun. Neither of us is into shopping, we like to experience the culture of a place and get as close to the locals as possible.
Christmas is just another day in a muslim country though some malls and such may have xmas trees.
Kuala Lumpur doesn't really have that much if you are not into shopping. I always thought of markets and even malls as part of a country's culture.
Taipei has a great national Palace Museum and a small film studios nearby, amongst other attractions.
Singapore has a number of places you can visit like Sentosa, Jurong Bird Park, Tiger Balm Gardens, Underwater World, etc.
You could get a bus, train or plane to Singapore.
K/L is a cosmopolitan city that has plenty of people celebrating Christmas and there will be little plastic trees everywhere! If you are spending a few days there, be sure to take a local bus up to Batu Caves and a night trip over to the base of Petronas Towers. Chinatown and Buket Bintang are the main shopping and tourist centers.
With a few days, I'd probably do a trip to Malacca. Its my favorite town in Malaysia. It's easy to catch the bus there, takes less than a couple of hours, so you can make it a day trip and still get to see most of the historic town sites. If you have two days maybe a trip to Cameron Highlands to see the tea plantations and cool off. From K/L the train is really easy to catch down to Singapore, the bus is a little cheaper, but maybe less comfort.
Taipei's great, but then if you're living in Tokyo perhaps some of it won't be so novel for you. :-)
Taipei 101, once the world's tallest building. Elevator ride to viewing gallery, an interesting twist is viewing the giant spherical mass dampener. Fun at day or night.
If you like night markets head to Longshan Temple. I think Snake Alley was off here too, if that's your bag.
The Chiang Kai Shek memorial is impressive.
The Grand Hotel is iconic, nearest MRT is Jiantan. Walk in for free, or buy afternoon tea.
If you like hot springs, take the MRT to Beitou (Xinbeitou station) where five minutes walk takes you to look at the steam valley, there's the Hot Springs Museum, and an open air public hot spring baths which is very inexpensive.
Not many people find the rather bizarre revolving restaurant atop the Beitou incinerator tower - from Beitou you'll find it south a bit, by the river and next to the Zhoumei Expressway. Open for lunch and dinner, we went in for tea and cake, but there's no English spoken. Admission was free, unusually for a revolving restaurant! It's a bit out of the way, half an hour walk from Chlian MRT.
You can also use the MRT to get out to the tea gardens in Wenshan. MRT to Taipei Zoo then there's a cable car across the valley, the midway stop takes you to Zhinan Temple, very nice, then the final stop at Maokong sees you surrounded by tea plantations and tea gardens - lovely on a sunny day.
Getting around - we bought EasyCard and loaded it with credit, and you can get unused credit refunded. Works on MRT, cable car, 7Eleven stores, etc. Very easy. (By contrast the KL system isn't so great, the card readers often don't work, and forget refunds as they deduct so much it isn't worth the bother.)
In Singapore I'd be heading to the Skylane hotel for their viewing platform tours - as well as the viewing platform access, a couple of times a day they allow 50 people (first-come, first-served on the bookings diary - I think they opened at 9 for a tour at 9.30?) through into the rooftop spa area for a look. The Skylane is basically built to look like a cruise ship resting on the top of three skyscrapers and the spa area is the deck of the cruise ship, complete with infinity pool 1000' up looking down over the Merlion and the city sights.
In KL the KL Tower is geared for visitors and the park around it is very nice too. By contrast the viewing gallery up the Petronas Towers is hard work to get tickets, and in fact you only get half way up the towers that way. The national museum is good, if you like segway riding the operator in the grounds there is the cheapest I've seen anywhere. The metro now goes all the way out to Batu Caves, making it easy. If you like architecture the central market is very art deco and has a nice locals' food court upstairs.
Enjoy your trip! :-)
I think you are a mind reader of sorts! I worried about how long my request for help was but you seem to have captured my essence as your suggestions seem tailor-made for my personality.
The tallest building, night market, hot springs, revolving restaurant with free admission!
The tip on using easy card is great! I love the ease of just loading and not having to figure out fares. Too bad the KL system does not follow suit.
I’m traveling with a new friend after several years of solo travel so that puts a bit of a different spin on things as both our tastes and interests must be accommodated.
I am really excited about the suggestions you all have made since there is such variety that I think we will both find things that are fulfilling.
Than you so much
Cyberia and Dodger Thank you so much for your responses.
What I gather from your responses is that although Malaysia is a Muslim country, in Kuala Lumpur there may still be a bit of Christmas cheer to be had.
I am now beginning research for my three countries based on the tips you’ve shared.
In Malaysia, Batu Caves, Petronas Towers, Malacca, Cameron Highlands Chinatown and Buket Bintang. Though not a diehard shopper, I do enjoy going to markets in every country I visit. I feel close to the locals there as market going is not an artificially commercial experience but one that is part of their daily life. I think that going to Singapore by train will probably be our best bet.
In Singapore, Sentosa, Jurong Bird Park, Tiger Balm Gardens, Underwater World.
Thank you both for your help!