Everyone that´s traveling wanna know the best way getting from A to B. Not necessarily meaning the fastest or more efficient way. I will here try to share some of my own travel tips. Look for the country and then the city and hopefully I made your trip a little better.
Airport: Most people arrives at the airport Soekarno-Hatta, a good hours drive away from centre of Jakarta. Prepare 25 USD for the visa on arrival and walk to the counter to pay for the visa and then proceed to the immigration counter. Best way to get to the city is by taxi. Best reputation has the company Blue Bird and your find their stand just outside the arrival hall. You are also offered taxi inside the arrival hall but these are normally luxury taxies and more expensive. If you are in a real hurry, this might be a better option, because the waiting time outside can be about ½ an hour or so, depending at the time of day. With a Blue Bird you pay between 100.000 and 150.000 Rupiah (rp)and the highway tax about 12.000 rp. Remember traffic in Jakarta is hell.
Hotels: You get your self a real nice treat at the Hotel Borobudur, but it is expensive. You get the best rate by calling to make a reservation. Jakarta however is full of good and less expensive budget hotels. I often stay at one from the Ibis chain on Jalan Cikini Raya no. 75.
I only travel to Jakarta for reporting on news or making features and I haven´t really been sight seeing the city, so no advice on clubs, places, museums or things like that. Just outside Jakarta, you can visit a few resorts in the mountains and I´ve heard they should be amazing. In Jakarta remember: Traffic is hell. Really.
Airport: You arrive at Adicuciptu International airport, from where you have a 15 minutes drive into the city. Taxis is just outside the arrival hall and most are on meter fares.
Hotels: Yogyakarta offers hotels for every budget and you want to stay in the city centre for sure. Thats what Yogakarta is all about. Me and my wife stayed two nights at the Tulips Hotel which was ok lah, but make sure you take the de Luxe rooms.
The City: Yogyakarta is the cultural capital of Indonesia and there´s a lot of “must see”. Top of the list is the Water castle, Taman Sari, and a walk in the ruins of the old fort from the dutch colonial time. Nearby you find lots of shops selling all kinds of things you don´t need, but that you buy anyhow 😉
However, the big shopping experience you get by walking down Malioboro Street and best after sunset. You easily spend two nights there shopping around, eating and listening to street bands and artists.
Hint: Real batik is not cheap and not common on Malioboro Street.
Then of course there´s the Borobudur Temple outside Yogakarta. This old buddhist temple is an amazing sight and is worth the trip. As a foreigner you pay about 25 USD to enter and to get out, you´ve to pass the stalls, a true tourist trap, before you are home free. But things can be bargain about, and you might end up with something you like to bring home.
Do you have the time, then take a 1 day trip to Mount Bromo, one of Indonesia many active volcanos. Let the hotel arrange the trip or buy a packet from one of the agents near the train station. For a shared mini-van, one night at a hotel/guesthouse you pay from 100 USD. It´s a 10 hours drive from Yogakarta and the next morning you have to get up around 3 AM again. A jeep will pick you and bring you to the mountain upper sit Mount Bromo, so you can see the sunrise. You have to walk the last part your self, and it´s pretty steep. If you are in a real bad shape, do yourself the favour and hire a horse to bring you to the viewpoint. it´s about 50.000 RP, something similar to 5 USD. And you´re high up in the mountain: It´s really cold in the morning. After all the trouble: It´s an amazing view and you will just sit there and think: I´m really happy I experience this.
Then it´s time to find your jeep again, that will bring you to Mount Bromo, passing the fascinating black sand dessert called “The Sea of Sand” surrounding the volcano. Then you again have a steep climb to do, and again: hire the horse. And even if you do not need it, do it anyhow. It´s a very nice way just to enjoy the trip up and down.
Tip: The very fine grain of the sand from the dessert is hard to your throat and electric devices. Protection is advisable.
These highlands are one of Malaysias oldest tourist spots, developed by the british in the 30´s and onward. Located in the highlands of Pehang this is one of the most beautiful areas in Malaysia and a climate refugium when Asias sun and heat is just to much. The temperature is seldom more than 25C at day and lower than 9C at night.
Hotel in Cameron Highlands
I´ve only visited the highlands once, but felt some kind of obliged to stay at one of the original british colonial style black and white hotels. Me and my wife picked The Smokehouse Hotel as our choice and we were not disappointed: The place was all that and little bit more. Quite an experience I must say.
Besides that, the highlands is crawling with hotels and resorts and there something for all size of budgets.
Kuala Lumpur, og just KL, has several airports but most likely you´ll arrive at KLIA, KLIA2 or the budget terminal LCCT if flying international flights. From KLIA and KLIA2 the easiest way to get to the centre of KL is by taking the Express Train. It will cost you 35 Rm one way and it takes about 20 minutes before you arrive at KL Sentral train station.
From LCCT you can take a bus for 10 Rm to KL Sentral (you buy the ticket just out side the arrival exit) and the same going back to LCCT (buy the ticket at the bus). The trip from and to LCCT takes about an hour depending on the traffic. (Rush our traffic is Hell on Earth in KL).
TIP: KL covers a huge area, and if you are not going to the centre of KL, it might be more convenient for you to get off at one of the train stations on the way to KL Sentral and then by taxi from there. There´s a bus from LCCT to a nearby train station too or ells take a bus to KLIA and then the train from there.
Hotel in KL:
As being the capital of Malaysia you can find hotels for every budget. I enjoy staying at the Berjaya Hotel on Times Square, but a good budget hotel is My Hotel in Bricksfield. It´s clean, free wifi, cable tv, coffee in the room, but no room service.
KL, The City:
KL is interesting and you´ll meet lots of friendly people, but in many ways it´s also a chaotic city, destroyed by bad city planning and to many roads and highways. However, there´s a few things on the “must see” – list while you´re there.
The Petronas Twin Towers is the icon building of Kuala Lumpur. Just remember to book your ticket a few days in advance if you wanna go to the top for the view.
The Batu Caves, a little outside KL, is definitely a “must see”. You get there most easily by taxi. It´s a pretty steep walk up the stairs to the caves and don´t for moment think that the monkeys are cute and want to play or having their picture taken with you. You have been warned 😉
KL also have a Chinatown and some beautiful buildings like the old Jamek Mosque, but as I mostly travel here for work I might have missed others “must see”-attractions. So, please explore this city your self, and let me know, if you find something ells of interest, ok?
I actually never tried to arrive in Langkawi International Airport and therefore don´t have much experience with this airport. But it´s far the easiest way to get to this beautiful island.
You can get to Langkawi from different ports by jetty. This is most likely here you will be put off if you travel by bus from somewhere ells in Malaysia. It takes about an hour to reach the island and at the ferry terminal you can get a taxi to your hotel or resort.
Hotels and resorts on Langkawi:
There´s a lot of beautiful beaches on Langkawi. Some are more developed than others and not all of them belongs to luxury resorts. However I would not recommend to choose the cheapest place you can find, if this is the only vacation you will spend this year. Spend the money and upgrade to a resort like Berjaya Langkawi Resort.
However, If this is just a stop on the Grand South East Asia Tour you might want a cheaper stay, and I heard that the tree top chalets at Malibest Resort should be a memorable stay.
Langkawi, The island:
Langkawi is a rather big island and you can (and should) rent a car or a bike. The rental is quite cheap. Besides the diving trip, trekking, beach bars and sea food restaurants there´s all sorts of activities and attractions. Visit the Black Sand Beach or take the tree top walk e.g. There´s also som favourable shopping to do because Langkawi has (or at least had) a tax-redemtion arrangement, so many things is just a little cheaper. Just remember that you have to pay GST and taxex if you bring it with you back to Malaysia.
The first time I arrived in Yangon Airport was eight years ago. Then the airport was nothing more than a shag and inside sat six officials alongside a table and gave you six different stamps in you passport.
Today Yangon International Airport is a modern facility and you clear immigration in no time. You can get a business visa on arrival if you got an invitation letter, but as a tourist you need to apply for visa at a Myanmar embassy in your country of residence.
You properly need to change some money in the airport as money changers outside Myanmar normally don´t sell Myanmar Kyat. However, you can only change more than 100 dollars at the time. Outside the airport it´s a good idea to carry either US dollars or Singapore dollars. I prefer Sing dollars because they are made of some sort of “plastic paper” and therefor seldom scratched or written on like the US dollar. If you carry USD make sure the notes a new, no scratches and no drawings on them. Locals will refuse to take them then. In 2014 you get about 10.000 kyat for 100 USD.
Getting from the airport: Yangon got no tuktuk or other motorbikes, so main transportation is taxi. You get a taxi easily and pay around 10.000 Kyat for trip to the city centre. In general you pay 2.000 kyat for short trips and 6-8.000 for long trips by taxi.
Hotels in Yangon:
My impression is, that cheap hotels is still hard to come by in Yangon, but some locals has established inns in their privat homes, and they should provide excellent stays.
A midrange hotel like Panda Hotel is about 100 USD in 2014 and in the higher end you get good treatment at the Chatrium Hotel from 160++ USD. You can pay with VISA and Master and at least at Chatrium there´s a ATM-mashine just outside the lobby.
Yangon, the city
Yangon is a city that´s changing fast. But it´s still a very charming with a history. I surely will recommend a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda, that is said to contain hair from Buddha him self and brought back to an ancient kingdom in Myanmar by two brothers.
Every fifth year all the gold plates on the pagoda, each with a weight of one pound, is taken down and remelted and then believers can buy a new one for 400 USD with their name engraved and blessed by the monks and then have the plate is reinstalled on the pagoda.
During my last visit a friend showed me the old Nagar Glass Factory. Once a factory renewed for its quality craft mansship , but the factory was destroyed by the cyclone Nagris in 2008, and today the classes is chattered all over place. The family still keeps the place open though, and here you can walk around on the huge compound and find all kind of class that you then pay 4-10 USD for per piece.
There´s also a few “beentheredonethatgotthetshirt” in Yangon. Don´t miss a visit to Chinatown and the markets such as the Bogyoke Market also called Scott Market. And at least one dinner should be taken by the lakeside of one of the lakes of Yangon.
Naipyidaw (also called Nay Pyi Taw)
This must be the most boring capital in the world for tourists. I cannot think of anything remotely interesting to say about Naypyidaw except this is the place to go if you wanna do business and need to talk to politicians and officials. The hole city is more or less just government buildings and the parliament.
There´s a 10 lane road leading up to the parliament but almost zero cars. Everything is in North Korea style. Gigantic, enormous doors, pillows, windows, paintings and very, very not interesting.
You can fly to the city airport from Yangon for 160 USD. I used FMI Air which gives a good service. Try to buy the tickets in the airport or at their office in Yangon as it is ridicules expensive to buy via bank transfer to their account in Hong Kong.
There´s absolutely no doubt about that Myanmar is a beautiful country. Driving through the landscape of Kayin State is an absolutely staggering experience and there´s quite some places I would love to visit my self. Unfortunately I only could stay one night in state capital Hpa An before going back to Yangon, but exactly that drive gave me the wish to one day travel Myanmar as a tourist and not as a working journalist.
Changi Airport is one of the top three airports in the world and you will know why when you arrive and depart. Everything just works smoothly here and there´s lots of shops and entertainment to pass waiting time. Most importantly: immigration is cleared in no time. Just make sure you´ve filled out the immigration card correctly ( you get an immigration card on the airplane). Singaporean officials are quite strict about this. Make sure to check if you need visa.
It´s easy to get to the city from the airport. Find the taxi stand and pay about 25 SGD (about 20 USD) for a trip the city centre, but do note that Singapore has a very well developed public transportation system. The train, MRT (Mass Rapid Transportation) from Terminal Two (on the East/West Line also called green line) will bring you to city centre too. and for little more the two SGD only. Are you going to stay for some days, buy a Eazylink Card, a electronic top up e-ticket card, and use it for all trains and busses though out your stay. Even some taxies and shops like 7Eleven take the Eazylink Card. You buy these at the counter on the train station and here you can also top up easily.
Singapore yearly attracts millions of visitors who mainly comes for shopping and/or to participate in one of the many congress or exhibitions the city hosts. It might therefor be difficult to find really cheap budget hotels, but there are quite a few that offer rates below 100 SGD. You find them in places like Little India or Geylang. In the more expensive end you find the five star Fullerton Bay Hotel or Marina Bay Sand, both Iconic buildings. You can visit the roof top of Marina Bay Sand or enjoy high tea at Fullerton even if you not guest at the hotels.
Singapore, the city
Singapore is a young city in every sense. Founded by Sir Thomas Raffle in 1819 as an british colony and trade centrum and it gained independence in 1965 when it was expelled from the Malaysia Federation who got their independence in 1959. So even that the island can date it´s history back to at least the third century, the city it self has no ancient building, not even remotely. When you visit Singapore as a tourist you come for the threat, entertainment and the shopping the city can offer you.
The absoulty most famous shopping street is Ochard Road. Here you find the top brand shops but even if you do not intend to bye a Patek Phillip watch, a Chanel bag or jewellery from Cartier a stroll along Ochard Road is quite a sight.
I also got a few friends who always visit Sim Lim Square when in town. It´s huge mall for electronics. However, know your prices: It´s notorious known for exploding innocent tourists 😉 If you want fixed but reasonable prizes you should go to Funan Centre and for that special electronic thingy that you just cannot find in any normal shop, visit Sim Lim Tower (upper sit Sim Lim Square), that also excels in sound systems, record players. light systems and such. The true hifi-mall however is definitely The Adelphi (upper sit Funan Centre).
Now, with all that shopping it´s time to see something ells. I alway recommend at one day trip to Pulau Ubin, a small island with the last real village (kampung) in Singapore. Here you can rent bikes to tour the island and back in the kampung try to find the garden of spices. Just beside that there´s little resort with a fish spa, and the food there is just delicious. To get to Pulau Ubin, on the Singapore side, you go to Changi Point Ferry Terminal. With public transportation you can take bus no. two from e.g. Tenah Merah MRT (East West Line/Green Line)
Another day trip is to take the jetty to Sankt John Island and have a beach day. There´s no small kiosks on the island, so bring water, snack or food. Also, the small ferry/jetty terminal is newly build at the Marina South Pier and still a little tricky to find for many taxi drivers. You can also take bus no. 402 from e.g. opposite Marina MRT Station (North South Line/Red Line) but from late 2014 Marina South Pier will have its own MRT station.
Singapore still have quite some nature reservoirs. Most popular are Bukit Timah Reservoir that connects to a few other reservoirs. They are big enough for a good hike.
Because that nature is limited in Singapore (only 0,25 per sent wild nature is left) the government has invested in parks all over the country. Some are quite big like East Coast Park, where you can rent roller blades and bikes or just take a long stroll by the beach looking at the ships waiting to enter the big industrial harbour of Singapore.
There´s also still some farmland in Singapore too and you can take a farm tour in the Kranji countryside and visit the different farms. It´s kinda remote area, so bring a car or bikes if you wanna do the farm tour. You will have a serious problem ordering a taxi to here.
There´s actually many things to do in Singapore. There´s the leisure island Sentosa that among other attractions hosts Universal Theme Park. Singapore is also known for it´s zoo, especially the Night Safari is a hit for families.
However, for many of my friends from Denmark and Europe that comes to Singapore to experience the “Mystical East”, all this can seem a little bit artificial and very western like. But a visit to Little India or Chinatown is something that they don´t have back home and they really enjoy these places. Especially the local expats like to hang out in the night life district behind Chinatown beginning at Club Street and Singapore has quite some gay bars too in that area. If you´re on that team just have in mind that many singaporeans find homosexuality offensive and it is actually illegal according to law.
Another local district is Singapores red light district in Geylang. The red light is mainly from lorong 9 to 25, but the rest of Geylang is filled with eating places and bars that attracts singaporeans from all over the island. It is strangely enough also a centre for the religious societies and you find lots of especially buddhist temples in Geylang.
But of course: You never truly been to Singapore if you haven´t been at Raffles Hotel in the Long Bar and got you self a Singapore Gin Sling.
There´s two main airports for Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Muang Airport. I actually never been at Don Muang, so for now this is just about Suvarnabhumi. It´s a huge airport, so if you´re suppose to catch a connecting flight bear in mind that it easily takes 20 minutes to get from one gate to another.
Getting to Bangkok has become easy with the Skytrain Link, that you find in the basement of the airport, but in need of a taxi, there´s plenty to catch outside. Traffic in Bangkok can be a challenge so make time in your schedule for traffic jams.
Getting to Hua Hin:
I only been in Hua Hin once, where me and my wife took at bus from the Suvarnabhumi Airport. Go to the lower level of the airport ,where you find the public taxies. In the left end you´ll find the service counter for the bus to Hua Hin and other places. A ticket is 305 Bt and the bus is with sleeping seats, air con and bring you to Hua Hin in three hours time.