4 Historical Spots To Visit While In Melaka

Melaka is one of Southeast Asia’s most historically rich sites. Founded by a Javanese Hindu prince in the 1400s, it thrived as a port and welcomed traders from as far as China, Arab and India. It was then conquered by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English for hundreds of years. Naturally, old structures and the influence of various cultures remain, making Melaka a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For first-timers in the city, there’s no running away from visiting four important historical hotspots. They’re all within walking distance of each other, so getting to each is just a matter of legwork. Just ready the sunscreen, shades, an umbrella and lots of water – Melaka is scorching at most times of the year.

THE RUINS OF ST PAUL’S CHURCH @ ST PAUL’S HILL 

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The heart of Melaka is centred around a hill (now known as St Paul’s Hill), since the high vantage point affordsgood views of the coastline (ergo, important back then to see ships + invading forces).

Perched on top of this hill are the ruins of St Paul’s Church, a Roman Catholic church built in 1521 by the Portuguese nobleman Duarte Coelho. Originally called the Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of the Annunciation), it was dedicated to St Mary. The church was later deeded to a Jesuit missionary called Francis Xavier, who used it as a base for his missionary trips around Southeast Asia. After his death and ascension to sainthood, his body was interred for a while at the church, before it was sent to Goa. A burial vault was also opened in the 1590s, and many Portuguese nobles and people of distinction were buried here.

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After the Dutch invaded in 1641, the church was re-designated as St Paul’s Church under the Dutch Reformed denomination. For a while, the Dutch community in Melaka used it as their main church, but left it abandoned after the new Christ Church was completed in 1753. Parts of the building were also taken down to help fortify defense structures around Melaka. The church building fell further into disrepair during English occupation, when it was used as a gunpowder depot.

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View of the Straits of Melaka from St Paul’s Hill

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There was a church event going on at the ruins during our visit.

The building itself is just a shell of its former self – four walls, no roof and exposed red brick, lined with elaborately carved stone grave markers. One wonders how it must have been like in its heyday, when both the Portuguese and then later the Dutch came to pray and attend religious sermons and events.

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The stage was set up for a play later in the evening, while the open grave where St Francis Xavier’s body was once interred was littered with flower petals.

PORTA DE SANTIAGO @ A FAMOSA 

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When the Portuguese invaded Melaka in 1511, they established their base at the hill (now St Paul’s Hill), built a fort around it, and called it “The Famous”. The Dutch continued to use it during their occupation, but when the British came, they destroyed almost all but this last gate called the Porta de Santiago. Visitors who visit the site today will find little more than a simple gate, its brick facade blackened and weathered. Over the archway is an inscription, Anno 1670, as well as the logo of the East India Company – both additions by the Dutch. While there isn’t much by way of sights, the historical significance itself makes this place worth a visit. It is, after all, the oldest surviving European remains in Southeast Asia.

MALACCA SULTANATE PALACE MUSEUM 

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Just steps away from the Porta de Santiago is the Malacca Sultanate Palace Museum, a reconstruction of the old palace based on written accounts in the Sejarah Melayu, or Malay Annals. The old palace was said to have sat on the hill where St Paul’s Church is now located, but it was destroyed when Portuguese forces invaded. This modern version tries to stay as true as possible to descriptions from the Malay Annals, and was built with timber wood without the use of nails.

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Inside, visitors will find various exhibits detailing the history of the sultanate, as well as cultural and historical artefacts. Only the main hall is air conditioned; it is very stuffy upstairs and at the outer verandah, so it’s best to visit at a cooler time of day.

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The story of Hang Tuah is told here through a series of paintings.

Hang Tuah is the OG of Malay warriors and features prominently throughout Malay legends and literature, although whether or not he truly existed remains highly debated. He was apparently highly skilled in the martial arts (silat) and was an extraordinary warrior, second to none.

One of the most famous tales is the one where some ministers of the court, jealous of Hang Tuah’s standing with the Sultan, spread slander and lies about him, to which the Sultan ordered him executed. The chief minister who was tasked with this knew that Hang Tuah was innocent and instead hid him in a cave. Hearing of unjust done to his childhood friend, Hang Jebat – who after Hang Tuah was the best fighter in the land – ran amok, seeking to avenge him.

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It was then that the Chief Minister revealed that Hang Tuah was in fact, alive – much to the relief of the Sultan. Jebat was happy that Hang Tuah was alive, but Hang Tuah berated his friend for rebelling against the Sultan. A fight ensued that lasted for seven days, and Tuah emerged the winner after killing his friend. He continued serving Melaka, going on numerous other adventures. Yes, a rather grim ending for Jebat who was only thinking of avenging a friend whom an unjust ruler wronged – but hey, loyalty to the Sultan was paramount to anything else back in the day, even childhood friends whom you grew up with.

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A diorama of the Balairong Seri, or the audience reception hall where the Sultan received political dignitaries, guests and his advisors.

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Costumes worn by the different classes in Malaccan society, including royalty, as well as accessories and jewellery such as hair pins, brooches, belts, etc.

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Another diorama, this one of the Sultan’s bedchamber.

The Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum is open daily from 9AM to 5PM. Entrance is RM3 for Malaysians and RM5 for foreigners.

RED SQUARE / STADTHUYS/ CHRISTCHURCH 

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Last but not least, make your way to the Red Square, where you will find fire-red buildings which include a clocktower, the 18th century Dutch founded Christ Church, and the Stadthuys, which was once used as an administration building and residence for the Dutch Governor and now houses a museum of History and Ethnography. The square is a colourful place, filled with loud and gaudy-looking trishaws that blast techno music and are decorated with pop culture characters. Once the main mode of transportation around Melaka, you can now take a ride around town for a hefty RM25.

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If the Melaka Sultanate Palace Museum detailed the history of the ancient Malay kingdom, the Stadthuys is more focused on the period between the landing of the Portuguese up until Japanese occupation in the days of World War II. Exhibits include a selection of weaponry, including swords, sabres, guns and armour, plus items from trade such as pottery, crystal glasses, silverware and the like.

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Melaka’s four conquering forces – the Portuguese (1511 – 1641), the Dutch (1641 – 1825), the British (1826 – 1942) and the Japanese (1942 – 1945).

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A diorama of Melaka during the Portuguese occupation. notice how the fort was still completely intact, surrounding the city.

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A painting depicting the captain of the Portuguese guard surrendering the keys to the city to the Dutch after the defeat of Portuguese forces.

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Aside from colonial history, the museum also houses exhibits on local culture and practices of the community. Pictured is a diorama of a traditional Malay-Melakan wedding. The bersanding ceremony, where the bride and groom sits on a raised dias, draws from Hindu cultural influences.

The Stadthuys is open from 9.30AM – 5.30PM daily. Entrance is RM5 for Malaysians and RM10 for foreigners.

If there’s one thing Melaka isn’t short of, it’s museums – although I can’t say they’re all impressive. If you like museum-hopping, also worth visiting is the Melaka Maritime Museum (housed in a replica of the Portuguese galleon Flor del Mar), the People’s Museum, the Stamp Museum and the Submarine Museum (housed in a decommissioned submarine by the coast), to name a few.

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Driving The Great Ocean Road Of Australia: A 12-Hour Itinerary

Possibly one of the most scenic coastal driving routes on the planet, the Great Ocean Road is a 243-kilometre stretch on the southwest coast of Australia, passing through deserted beaches, craggy cliffs and lush rainforests. Built by Australian and New Zealand World War I soldiers who returned from the war between 1919 and 1932, it is also the world’s largest war memorial. The most well-known attraction along the route is the 12 Apostles – a collection of 12 (now only seven remain, because they crumbled into the sea from erosion) limestone stacks rising majestically out of the azure blue waters of the sea.

Ideally, three days is perfect to drive and visit the many quaint seaside towns along the route – but since our itinerary was super packed, we had to fit everything into one. If you’re pressed for time, this itinerary might be useful for a small but all-round taste of what the route has to offer.

8.40AM – SEAPORT FERRY

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Most travellers start their journey from Melbourne and make their way to Apollo Bay, but since we departed from the Mornington Peninsula, we took the Seaport Ferry from Sorrento, docking at Queenscliff. The check in + ride took approximately an hour and 15 minutes, and we went up to the rooftop deck for beautiful views of Port Philip Bay dotted by boats and yachts. The inside of the ferry was cosy as well, with a cafeteria selling refreshments.

From Queenscliff, we drove two hours to the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. Along the way, we took in the gorgeous coastal sights of Australia’s southwest coast, dotted with beaches and natural cliffs lined by stunning blue waters.

11 AM – GREAT OCEAN ROAD MEMORIAL ARCH 

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The Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch marks the ‘start’ of the road, and is one of its most photographed attractions. There are plenty of parking spots for a quick stopover, statues of the soldiers labouring on rocks, as well as information boards on the story of how the road was built. Visitors can also walk down to the nearby beach.

Constructed as a tribute to some 3,000 ANZAC soldiers who returned from fighting in World War I, the GORM arch is the third one to be erected after a truck and a fire caused damage to the previous ones, respectively. It is made from wood with sides of stone and cement, and the original wooden sign from 1939 still hangs above the archway.

12 PM – LORNE / TEDDY’s LOOKOUT

If you want an elevated view of part of the Great Ocean Road, Teddy’s Lookout at the small (but touristy) town of Lorne is a good place to stop by. The beach in town is popular with sunbathers, picnickers and surfers. Naturally, where there are tourists, there are also local scavenging wildlife, such as seagulls…

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…literally all over the green near the beach. They’re used to human presence, and are not afraid even if you walk very close to them.

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Thankfully we didn’t have to hike all the way up, as cars are able to access the hill where the lookout point is.

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The top of Teddy’s Lookout features a small viewing platform with sweeping views of the surf breaking at the mouth of the Saint George River, as well as gorgeous emerald green hills and the road snaking at their feet. Not sure how the place got its name but whomever Teddy was sure knew where to get the best views in town!

1.30PM : LUNCH AT LA BIMBA, APOLLO BAY 

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Like Lorne, Apollo Bay is a seaside town, popular among tourists as a base to explore the rest of Ocean Road. As such, you will find lots of restaurants, souvenir shops, hotels and accommodation here. Apollo Bay is big on natural beauty, so apart from its pristine, warm beaches that are great for surfing, angling and swimming, visitors will also find lush rainforest and magnificent waterfalls here. Being a coastal village, the seafood is fresh, but expect prices to reflect its tourist-centric industry.

A good place for lunch is La Bimba, which offers great views of the seafront as you dine on contemporary Australian cuisine with produce sourced locally. Will put a separate post on the food, so stay tuned!

4.15 PM : CALIFORNIAN REDWOODS @ OTWAY RANGES 

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One of my greatest regrets from my trip to San Francisco was the fact that I didn’t manage to see the giant Californian Redwoods. This trip was my second chance, and the experience did not disappoint.

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Located five minutes away from Beech Forest, the Redwoods of the Otway Ranges were planted by the local government some 85 years ago. Today, they tower over 60 metres high, forming a shady canopy with minimal sunlight hitting the forest floor. Staring up with mouth agape, I was struck by just how large and tall these trees are – despite being comparative ‘babies’ to older redwood trees that can live up to 2,000 years old. Redwoods are basically living fossils, and some have survived longer than many human civilisations. When you think of the sheer history and the things these trees have lived through, it’s just… overwhelming.

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The landscape, surrounded by ferns and shrubbery as well as small, flowing streams with crystal clear water, create an enchanting atmosphere.

6 PM: 12 APOSTLES HELICOPTER TOUR

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We finally arrived at the highlight of our trip at Port Campbell National Park – the 12 Apostles. And we had the best seats in the house to catch the most beautiful scenery in Australia – aboard a helicopter!

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It was my first time flying in a heli and what an experience it was! Strapped into the backseat, the roar of the rotors was deafening even with headphones on, so it was difficult to hear what the pilot was saying. Even so, the views spoke for themselves, as we gently swerved over the majestic landscapes of foamy white waves crashing against the cliffs. At certain points, the heli banked sharply, blurring the line between the sky and the sea into an endless blue – it felt like floating in space, but also quite dizzying.

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It was a short ride lasting less than 20 minutes, and we were back on the ground in no time. After some more photos, we departed for our night’s accommodation in Port Campbell.

So there you have it – a 12-hour or so itinerary for those who want an all-round experience of the Great Ocean Road and its awesome sights. I hope this guide and the suggestions of places to visit has been helpful, and Happy Travels!

 

Hotel Review: Manila Marriott Hotel, Manila

Has it only been a month since my Manila trip? It feels like ages ago :’D

Maybe it’s because I can’t wait to go back so I can gorge on Frankie’s buffalo wings spend quality time with the Boy again. LDR isn’t an ideal arrangement, but fingers crossed that we won’t have to do this for much longer.

But I digress.

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While in town recently, the Boy and I stayed for two-nights at the Manila Marriott Hotel, a five-star luxury accommodation located in Pasay, just a stone’s throw away from Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Convenient location aside, the hotel boasts a slew of facilities, including 570 modern guest rooms and suites, several restaurants and bars, a rooftop pool, and the brand’s signature Quan Spa.

One thing in common with many Marriott hotels all over the world is their modern yet elegant decor, as well as connectivity. Apart from having ballrooms and meeting spaces, most of these establishments are linked to malls and/or entertainment centers. Manila Marriott Hotel is accessible via a covered walkway to the Resorts World Manila shopping area and casinos.

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Our premium room was extremely spacious, with a king-sized bed complete with fluffy duvets and pillows, large TV with good selection of channels, coffee-making machine, complimentary tea, mini bar and work table. Furnishings were sleek and modern, employing use of white marble countertop surfaces paired against dark wooden flooring and furniture and grey carpeting.

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What I really liked: international sockets – so you don’t have to bring a travel adapter along! You can also charge your devices using the USB port, without the three or two-pronged charger head.

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Stocked mini bar.

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Bathrobes in the closet all fluffed and ready. They also have complimentary shoe-shining services.

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Another thing I really liked – the bathtub! There was a big glass window separating the bathroom from the bedroom, and a shade you could pull down at the touch of a button if you need privacy.

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Very spacious, branded amenities from Thann in the bathroom.

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Resorts World Manila is just a short walk away through a connecting passageway! Very convenient. Although, if you aren’t planning on dining at the hotel, food options are rather pricey/limited.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to try any of the facilities because we came back late on the second night after getting caught in a flash flood and conked out almost immediately after getting back to our room. There is, however, a nice pool we got to check out, as well as gym facilities.

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More on the breakfast buffet in a separate post!

Rooms start at PHP8,000 (RM612 – USD150) per night.

MANILA MARRIOTT HOTEL 

2 Resort Dr, Manila, 1309 Metro Manila, Philippines

Reservations: +63 2 988 9999

marriott.com 

*erisgoesto was invited as a guest to stay at Manila Marriott Hotel in exchange for a review in Going Places Magazine (goingplacesmagazine.com). Views here, however, are entirely my own.

 

First-time Visit to Thailand: 5 Tips To Keep You Safe

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Last year, I couldn’t believe it when the Moomikins randomly decided that we were going to take a family trip across the border to Thailand. Of course, I love travelling more than anything else in the world (except maybe pizza), so I was pretty excited. Couldn’t believe that we could simply drive from Malaysia to Thailand in just a few hours… but we did!

Thailand immediately stole my heart and allowed me to explore everything from temples to street food, but I soon realised that there are some things about Thailand that first-time travellers have to think about. So, if you are planning your first visit, here are 5 tips to keep you safe:

1) Be wary of the Tuk Tuk

When you travel to Venice, you have to take a ride on a Gondola – and when you travel to Thailand, you just have to travel in a Tuk Tuk. It’s just the way it works! However, Tuk Tuks aren’t the safest vehicles in the world. Some Tuk Tuk drivers take part in scams and crimes that involve taking you to different stores, where they will pressure you to buy things you do not want. To avoid this, be incredibly wary of Tuk Tuk drivers. If you feel unsafe or uneasy with any driver or vehicle, opt for a train – which is the safest way to travel around Thailand.

2) Do as the Thai people do

One of the easiest ways to keep safe during your first-time visit to Thailand is to blend in with their eclectic culture. Many companies and business owners will try to exploit those who stand out as tourists. By dressing appropriately and wearing traditional clothing, you will be able to show that you respect their culture and their social norms, and it will make you seem as if you know the destination inside and out. If you can, also try to learn simple Thai phrases or perfect the traditional wai – a prayer-like gesture that they use as a greeting, a thank you, or even an apology.

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3) Keep your money and passport safe

Thievery is a real problem in Thailand, but that shouldn’t stop you from having an awesome first trip to the country. However, this does mean you have to be more wary about where you keep your money and passport. Before you leave for your Thailand adventure, it is best to take a photocopy of your passport that you can both print off and send to yourself via email. This way, you will always have a copy on you, which means you can leave your passport in the safe in your hotel room. It’s also a good idea to make a note of the address, phone number, and email of your foreign embassy in Thailand, if you ever need their advice.

4) Protect yourself from Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever is a hugely prominent viral disease in Thailand and is spread by those annoying mosquitoes that just love the taste of your blood. While the disease will not cause serious side effects, it may ruin your first-time visit and limit the time you have to explore – so you need to protect yourself. Mosquitoes that carry Dengue Fever are normally attracted to people who wear strong-smelling deodorant or perfume, as well as those who wear darker colours. So, wear light and loose fitting clothing that covers exposed skin, and cover yourself with insect repellent!

5) Never trust a stranger

Although we all like to think that every single person on this planet is as nice and friendly as we are, it’s just not the case. Most people in Thailand do simply want to be your friend, but there are others who have ulterior motives. It’s important to never fully trust a stranger. If you can, always travel with a buddy, don’t follow someone you don’t know who is offering discounted attraction tickets, and don’t take your eyes off your drink.

It’s best to stay safe during your first-time visit to Thailand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

Do you have any more tips to keep travellers safe in Thailand? Share them with me below!

Travel Guide: How to Cross the Malaysian-Thai Border at Betong Immigration Checkpoint

A couple of months ago, the Moomikins hatched an ambitious plan for our family trip: to drive from Malaysia to Thailand. Her colleagues had told her about Betong, a Thai border town where bird’s nest and petai (stink beans) aplenty, and it was apparently accessible by car from Pengkalan Hulu in Perak – about a five hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

Cue me arguing in disbelief: “You sure or not? No way Perak borders Thailand! Isn’t it only Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis?”

Mum: 

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/mapsonline/base-maps/malaysia-thailand-border
Credit: College of Asia and the Pacific

….. okay, I rest my case.

Took the necessarily leaves, booked hotels, bundled into the car early morning on a Friday, and off we went!

CHECKLIST: Documents To Bring if Driving through the Malaysian-Thailand Border 

  • Original vehicle registration card. If you’re bringing a photocopy,  ensure it has been verified by a Malaysian police station. If you are not the owner, prepare a letter from the owner authorising you to use the vehicle.
  • Passport. Same as when you’re traveling by plane, needs to be valid for at least 6 months.
  • Driving license. If you’re Malaysian, there is no need to register for an international license (btw Thailand’s driver seat is also on the right)
  • Insurance. If you’re just traveling around Betong there is no need but to go beyond (like to Hatyai, etc) you will need Thai car insurance. This can be bought before or after crossing immigration. More on this later.

MALAYSIAN BORDER 

From Ipoh, follow the North-South highway in the direction of Taiping-Gerik-Pengkalan Hulu. Once at PH, proceed to the immigration checkpoint in your car and get your passports ready. You don’t have to get down from the car – just drive through the window. The officer stamped our passports and we were through in less than 10 minutes. Further along was a police checkpoint, where the police also checked our passports. Once through, we headed for the Betong Immigration Checkpoint.

THAI BORDER 

Unlike the Malaysian checkpoint, you can’t just drive straight through the Betong one, so park your car at the compound and get down. On the right is a counter where you can get the country’s Arrival/Departure forms: Name, passport number, etc. (like the ones they usually give out when you’re on the airplane) You can either fill that in yourself, or have the counter staff do so for RM2. 

Once that’s done, bring it inside this building. The immigration officer will check your passport and clip the earlier form inside the passport. Don’t lose the form! You’ll need it when you’re coming back to Malaysia.

Here they asked for RM3. Idk what that is, processing fee maybe?

Once that’s done, visitors can take one of the tuktuks (they look like Filipino jeepneys, not the small ones you see in Bangkok) into Betong, or if you’re driving like us, then walk down to the drive through point, where there is another counter. Here is where you’ll get the ‘import’ form to bring your car in. This is very important so don’t lose it ! Otherwise your car will be left in Thailand when you come back 😛

The form was an additional RM16, but I think this varies because there were many blogposts with different prices.

Once that has been stamped and signed, walk back to your car and now you can drive through. Welcome to Thailand!

The whole process took less than an hour. But then again it was a Friday and not peak season. Heard it’s crazy on festivals like Songkran.

Since we didn’t buy insurance before the border, we stopped at some shops by the road. There are many signboards with ‘insurance’ on them so you won’t miss it.

Can’t remember the exact price of the insurance, but I think it was around RM20 (?) Not that expensive. They have free drinks for travelers at the shop. 🙂

Finally arrived in Betong town! Feels almost like a small Malaysian town, except for the the tangled-looking electrical wires. The town is about 10 minutes drive from the checkpoint.

Extra notes:

Internet

Most hotels will probably have Wifi, but if you’re driving and need to use Waze to find spots, I’d recommend getting a data plan. Digi was supposed to have the Roaming Pass for Thailand but I couldn’t activate it for some reason. 😦 Ended up buying Simcards in town for 150 baht (about Rm20)

Language

No need to learn Thai just yet. There are many ethnic Malays and Chinese living in Betong, so most of them speak either Malay or some Chinese dialects, like Mandarin or Cantonese.

Getting Around 

You can hire tuktuks to take you to tourist spots, if not driving. We didn’t see any conventional taxis.

Accommodation 

The highest starred hotel in town is 3 stars. They do business with (mostly) Malaysian tourists.  Even so, most places are well equipped with facilities and there’s the usual Wifi, coffee making facilities, etc.

Places to Eat 

The three main ethnic groups in Betong are Thai, Malay and Chinese so food is a reflection of these three. You can get really cheap dimsum in town for 20baht per plate, and the 7-11 has lots of cheap and convenient meals to go. Halal options are available from the Malay shops. Chinese restaurants are similar to the dai chows you find in KL, but prices are about average/on par with Malaysia. There are also street food stalls at night.

More of Betong to come soon. Happy travels! 🙂

Travel Blog: Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur – Once Upon A Chinatown

You’re probably wondering why I chose to call it ‘once upon’, like it’s not anymore.

Well, that’s because it’s not. Not really.

Tourists may know it as Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Chinatown’, but the truth is that Petaling Street has long ceased to be one. The grand archway may have tiny red lanterns and a curved green-tiled rooftop, but the authenticity of the place ends there; having made way for a cheap flea-market-esque atmosphere. Bangladeshis, Myanmarese, Indian nationals, etc., are employed by Chinese bosses to peddle their wares. Some of the food stalls are still manned by the Chinese, but even these are slowly being replaced by foreign labour.

I’m not saying its a bad thing per se – many of Chinatown’s businesspeople have worked hard over the years and they deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labour in their twilight years, since many youngsters no longer want to continue the fam biz – but it is still sad all the same that this once glorious Chinatown’s culture and spirit have been eroded in favour of commercialisation.

Listen to me rambling! That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t drop by Petaling Street – there’s plenty to see and do if bargaining and shopping for (overpriced lol)ripoffs are your thing. And the place does have a rich history. You just have to dig a little deeper.

Before Kuala Lumpur became the metropolis it is today, it was just another muddy ol’ spot with rich tin deposits. Seeking riches, the Chinese (mostly Hokkien and Hakka clansmen) came to work as coolies in the tin mines in the late 1800s. They were governed by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, a rich Chinese businessman and prominent figure in the early founding days of KL. It was around this time that Chinatown was founded, playing host to tradesmen, farmers, restaurants and other businesses. If you go hunting around, you might still find some hidden gems like the Yook Woo Hin dim sum restaurant, which was founded in 1928 !

Lots of stalls set up all along the pedestrian pathways sell ‘bargain’ bags, clothes, toys, handphone accessories, etc.

This shop that sold fancy fidget spinners for RM15 uncle nei mou hui cheong

For me, the only authentic part of Petaling Street left are the food shops, which sell various local and Chinese favourites, like pastries, biscuits and baked buns. There is, of course, the famous air mata kucing shop (literally cat’s eye tears) which is a blend of monk’s fruit juice with longan.

Stalls selling bakchang (glutinous rice dumplings) for the Mid Autumn Festival.

An old uncle still making a living from his pushcart selling ‘dai gau meen’ (big face dough?) or apam balik, filled with bits of peanut and sweet corn.

Fresh sugar cane juice and coconuts.

So is Petaling Street worth a visit?

If you’re a first timer to KL, the place is within close proximity to all the attractions like Pasar Seni (Central Market) and Kasturi Walk (similar concept to Chinatown, but with more Malay traders). Bargain hunters or people who like to shop for cheap imitations might find a few gems here, that or food hunters, might also find the place good for a visit. If you’re looking for a slice of Chinese culture though, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Opening hours: 10AM – late

Getting There 

Convenient if you’re taking the train; just alight at Pasar Seni LRT. Petaling Street is about 5 minutes walk away (next to Central Market).

Also read my other Chinatown experiences in: 

Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia 

Singapore

Los Angeles, California 

San Francisco, California 

Binondo, Manila 

 

 

 

 

Best Paris Airport Transfers for Taxi and Shuttle – Which to Choose? A Comparison

You’ve done it. You’ve booked a flight to Paris. The trip of a lifetime is finally coming true. Now you’re faced with that daunting task everyone hates, but has to do – research. Proper research before any trip is essential to avoid hassle, especially if you’re going with family or a group of friends, and have lots of luggage to carry. If you’re not part of a tour group, a big part of your travel will involve shuttling back and forth: from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to the attractions, and vice versa.

Those on a budget can opt for cheaper choices like the train or bus, but these tend to take up more time and will be difficult to navigate if you have luggage + small kids in tow, or seniors. Personally, I’d pay a little extra for a taxi/shuttle, since I’ll be chauffeured to the doorstep of my destination in comfort, worry-free. I wouldn’t want to spend my first day on a holiday stressing out about the commute. Sometimes it might even be better to pick a taxi: bus ride for one can cost up to 12€, while 4pax by taxi averages about 60€.

OVERVIEW OF PARIS AIRPORT TRANSFERS 

There are three airports in and around Paris, namely the Roissy-Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) that serves international flights, the Orly Airport in the south that serves domestic and European flights, as well as the northwest Beauvais Airport for mainly European flights, about 90 minutes drive from central Paris. There are numerous taxi and shuttle services available, so here I’ve narrowed them down to three choices, with comparisons, to help you make the best decision. 🙂

Piyo Cab 

image credit: http://www.piyocab.com/blog

Piyo Cab is a private budget/low-cost taxi and shuttle provider that services all three airports to places such as Disneyland Paris and its hotels, railway stations, the major business district of La Defense, Park Asterix, and more. All cars are air-conditioned and non-smoking, with professional drivers who know the ins-and-outs of Paris, to ensure a safe and comfortable journey. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting with your name board, and they will also monitor flight schedules in case of delays, so a driver may be despatched at the right time. Drivers will wait up to 1 hour for free, but beyond the hour between 9PM to 6AM, a 15% surcharge of the booking amount is applicable.

As they are a private taxi/shuttle service, you’ll never have to worry about sharing the ride with others. Larger vehicles can seat up to eight passengers. For groups, you might even get discounts !

Bookings can be made online or via smartphone. If changes need to be made or you need to cancel the reservation, simply do so 24 hours before by emailing or calling them at the 24-hour hotline provided.

Traveling with the little ones? Request for a baby seat in the order form and they’ll happily accommodate! 🙂 Payment is by cash when you get to your destination.

Pros: air conditioned and non smoking private cabs/shuttles that cater up to 8 passengers, online booking available, 24 hour hotline and customer service, baby seat, free delayed arrival waiting for up to one hour.

Cons: Payment via cash only; some passengers might prefer using their cards/online payment. So get some cash ready if you’re booking their service.

Top Paris Transfer 

image credit: topparistransfers.com

One of the older taxi/shuttle services on this list, Top Paris Transfer has been in the industry for over 15 years and are accredited by the French Transport Ministry. Like Piyo Cab, they service all three airports and adopt a non-sharing policy. Bookings can be done up to 24 hours before your trip by filling up a reservation form online, or through the phone via 24-hour hotline.

Upon arrival at the airport, a chauffeur will be waiting with your name card and if the flight gets delayed, they have a one-hour waiting period free of charge, with an additional 15% surcharge for anything beyond the time limit.

The company goes the extra mile by not only chauffeuring you to the destination, but also offering packages for trips around Paris during your stay, be it to the Versailles or a Giverny Garden Tour. Another major plus? They offer services to areas beyond Paris: so you can go on that day trip to Normandy to enjoy the local cuisine, or walk in the gardens of the Loire Valley Chateaux.

Pros: air-conditioned and non-smoking vehicles up to 8 passengers, booking online or through phone, 24 hour hotline, baby seat, free delayed waiting for an hour, services available for travel beyond Paris, tour packages

Cons: Cash payment only (might be a hassle for those who prefer cashless methods or travelers cheques), extra charge for night services between 9PM – 6.30AM

T2 Transfer 

I’ve spoken a bit about T2 Transfer in my previous post on attractions in Paris and the different transport options available, but here’s another breakdown.

The company provides private taxi and shuttle transfers to and from Paris and any of the three airports. They service attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, the city centre and more. They have air conditioned vehicles that can fit up to eight people, as well as smaller taxis that fit three (additional charge for fourth rider). Taxi or shuttles have to be booked 48 hours before arrival either online or via phone call to their 24 hour hotline. This is a longer period than the earlier two services mentioned, but the plus point is that they allow payment online via credit cards so you don’t have to handle any cash! For those who want to, there is the option of paying the driver after you’ve arrived at the destination.

The follow real-time flight changes to adjust for delayed flights, and drivers will be waiting at arrivals with a namecard. One thing to mention is that they claim to have drivers who can communicate in English, so that might be something to consider for English-speaking travelers.

Pros: air conditioned rides, online booking and payment with option for cash on delivery, 24 hour hotline, English-speaking drivers, baby seat available on request

Cons: booking must be done 48 hours prior.

PRICES

All three have competitive prices and rates are pretty standard. Here are the rates:

Piyo Cab: RATES 

Top Paris Transfer: RATES 

T2 Transfer: RATES 

 

I hope this guide has been useful in helping you to pick the best Paris airport transfers available, and Happy travels!

Travel Tips: Top Attractions in Paris and Best Paris Airport Transfers

Ah, Paris. The City of Light and Love. It’s a must visit on (nearly) everyone’s bucket list, and no wonder: the city has been a global hub of finance, arts, science, fashion and commerce since the 17th century. Every year, millions of tourists flock to Paris for a taste of its amazingly rich history, culture, food and architecture.

Here are some of my top Paris attractions that visitors should not miss!

DISNEYLAND PARIS / EURODISNEY 

As the only Disneyland in Europe, Disneyland Paris or EuroDisney is a major draw for tourists coming to Paris, and is one of the most visited theme parks in the region. There are two areas: one dedicated to ‘old school’ Disney with characters such as Aladdin, the classic Disney Princesses and Jungle Book, and the other to newer Disney films such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, as well as thrilling rides like Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror. At set times, there are parades over at the central avenue featuring all the well-loved Disney friends, such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy and the gang.

THE LOURVE 

The world’s largest art museum needs no introduction. Opened in the 18th century from a converted fortress and palace, The Lourve has been featured in countless stories, poems, songs, and in modern times, movies. Housing over 30,000 artifacts and art pieces, its most popular ‘resident’ is perhaps the lady with the mysterious smile, the Mona Lisa. The main building sports stunning old architecture, although in recent years, the glass pyramid, dubbed the Lourve Pyramid has stolen some of the limelight. Either way, the place is a must visit for photos, even if you’re not lining up for a date with Mona Lisa.

THE EIFFEL TOWER 

This iconic metal structure is now a symbol of Paris, but did you know that when the Eiffel Tower was first built as the entrance to Paris’ 1889 World’s Fair, it was criticised as an ‘ugly abomination’ by France’s leading artists and intellectuals? Today, close to 7million people ascend it every year, and it has become one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city of Paris. Standing tall at 324 metres (about 81 storeys), the tower has three platforms, with the first and second levels housing restaurants and shops.

ARC DE TRIOMPHE

Another one of Paris’ iconic architectural pieces is the Arc de Triomphe, or the Triumphal Arch of the Stars. Built in 1806, it stands at the west end of the Champs Elysees and is the world’s biggest arch, constructed at a monumental sum (for that era) of 9.3million francs. The grand monument honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Names of French victories and generals are inscribed into the arch, with six reliefs of battles, decorated with characters from Roman mythology. Underneath the arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. Visitors who wish to know more about its history can visit the museum, located within the arch.

TOUR DOWN THE RIVER SEINE 

Cutting through the city is the Seine, a 777km-long river that starts from northeastern France, flowing through Paris, before ending into the English Channel at Le Havre. Most of Paris’ 37 bridges span the river, including the Pont Alexandre III and Pont Neuf. The best way to get a quick glimpse of everything is via boat tours down the river, which will pass by such attractions such as Notre Dame and the Grand Palace.

HOW TO GET AROUND 

If you’re a first timer to Paris, navigating a new city can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Thankfully, Paris has an intricate transportation network and various options to fit every traveler’s needs.

Upon Arrival 

There are two major airports in Paris, the largest being the Roissy-Charles De Gaulle (CDG) which serves international flights, and Orly, which serves domestic and European flights. A third airport, the Beauvais-Tille Airport, is located further away, in the Northwest of Paris, and receives travellers from European destinations. From the airports, travelers can choose to take the train, car, bus, taxi or shuttle to get around. Here are some tips on the best Paris airport transfers to and from the city:

TAXI/SHUTTLE 

FRANCE/

Photo Credit: Jean Pierre Gallot/Flickr 

If you’re travelling in a family with small children or seniors, a taxi or a shuttle is the best option. It’s safe and convenient, and you don’t have to worry about missing the schedule, unlike with trains or buses. It’s also hassle-free, since you won’t have to lug heavy luggage up and down stairs at the various stations.

But what if I can’t speak French and the driver can’t understand me?

Well, there’s T2 Transfer,which provides private taxi and group shuttle airport transfers to and from Paris. Their drivers are able to communicate well in English, and the service covers all three airports (namely CDG, Orly and Beauvais) to destinations such as the Paris City Centre, Eiffel Tower, Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord train stations, as well as all Euro Disneyland hotels. Taxis are able to fit three people (additional charges for extra passengers) while the van shuttles are able to fit a maximum of 8 people. Rates are competitive, especially if you are sharing the cab/van with other family members or fellow travellers.

For a seamless experience, book your taxi or shuttle online 48 hours before arrival, and either pay online through Visa and Mastercard, or by cash to the driver once you’ve arrived at your destination safely. The team follows real-time flight changes so be rest assured that your driver will be waiting (at arrivals holding a placard with your name, so you won’t miss it!), even if your flight is delayed.

BUS

RATP Bus Route 87 in Paris, France

Credit: Moovit App /flickr 

Buses are no doubt one of the cheaper options available, suitable for those on a tight budget or young travellers, since it might involve having to carry heavy luggage on and off the buses and while waiting at bus stops. From CDG, there is the RoissyBus that runs daily from 5.45am-11pm, departing every 15-20 minutes, for €12 (one way). Meanwhile, Bus Direct offers regular bus services from Paris to Orly, as well as attractions like Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower every 15 minutes (between 5am – 11.40pm). However, due to the stops, it may take a longer time compared to a shuttle or a taxi.

For night travellers, there is a night bus service line called Noctilien (N31 & N120), which operates every 30 – 60 minutes : a little risky if you’re taking a dawn flight and you miss the bus. For peace of mind, I’d recommend just booking the taxi or shuttle from T2 Transfer since they literally pick you up from your doorstep and drop you off at the airport, and vice versa.

TRAIN 

RER Train in Paris, France

Picture credit: Moovit App/Flickr 

Another wallet-friendly option is the train. In Paris, the local trains are called RER (Réseau Express Régional), providing connectivity from the airports to the city and attractions such as Disneyland. Again, it might be difficult for families travelling with young ones or seniors due to luggage.  European travelers making connecting international flights from Orly airport to CDG may also use the train as it takes about 60 minutes at a cost of just €17.90.

 

Happy travels!