The final week of our 6 month journey! When we started this overland trip in Istanbul back in April, we thought that 6 months was a super long time and the trip would go on forever. But here we are now and the trip seems to have been on warp speed because we keep pinching ourselves in disbelief that our epic adventure is now over. The last few stops of our adventure included Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, and the border crossing from Malaysia to Singapore where the trip culminated.
Our stay in Kuala Lumpur (KL) was only 2 nights which everyone felt was sufficient in retrospect. Our hotel was the excellent Mingle Hostel in Chinatown which was an upscale hostel housed in an old colonial building. We spent the majority of our time in KL eating some fabulous food – the standouts being roasted duck, dim sum, braised pork ribs, and chicken/lamb/beef satay! We love the food in Malaysia as it is always tasty, fresh, and delicious. The highlight of our 2 nights in KL was undoubtedly a visit to the Sky Bar (33rd floor of the Trader’s Hotel) for phenomenal cocktails and the absolute best view of the Petronas Towers at dusk. Best street food goes hands down to Jalan Alor – do not pass go! Head directly there for some of the best food you will find in Malaysia. In fact, we thought the night market of Jalan Alor was the best one out of the 14 countries we visited these past 6 months. It might even be enough to lure us back to KL for a future trip!
From KL, we made our way down to the colonial heritage city of Malacca. Back in 2012, we enjoyed visiting this city and our return trip did not disappoint, especially since we were here for the weekend and Jonker Street was in full swing on Saturday and Sunday night. And then it was with a heavy heart that we loaded up for the final push into Singapore – last stop on our 14 country tour! Crossing the border was a breeze and we reached our hotel (Hotel 81 Premier Star) in no time. Then it was off to one of the few Michelin Star hawker stalls in the world, the Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles Stall. Locals were patiently waiting in queue for over 30 minutes for a bowl of their pork noodles so we figured they knew what was up. Verdict? OK but highly overrated. We’ve had much tastier meals in almost every hawker stall in Malaysia! After a brief siesta, it was off to the Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar where we had a celebratory Singapore Sling to toast the end of our journey together. Fantastic cocktail but thank goodness Oasis Overland was picking up the tab! Priced at about $25 a drink, those Slings certainly weren’t cheap! Dinner was at Makansutra Gluttons Bay (hawker stalls) where the real draw card was the view of Marina Bay Sands. Afterwards, we watched a free sound/light show at the Marina Bay Sands and took a final group pic. Boy we are gonna miss our fellow travelers! After spending so much time on the road together, its a bit surreal to imagine that we are all going to be headed our separate ways. This was our second overland trip with Oasis and this trip was even better than the first (Trans Africa, 40 weeks), something that was unimaginable when we started this trip because we thought nothing would ever beat Africa! The sheer variety of the Istanbul to Singapore trip cannot be understated – this trip had it all, from minarets to churches, headscarves to bikinis, cold and warm climes, mountains to beaches, freezing cold to sweltering humidity. We’ve slept in tent, yurts, dorms, sleeper trains, hostels, buses…we’ve drank raki, vodka, rice wine, arak, whiskey, rum, etc. We’ve eaten better than we ever imagined we would and are now looking forward to working out to lose a few pounds! 25 weeks, 14 countries, over 30,000 Km through the Silk Road and Indochina…it will take a while for everything to sink in. This has truly been the trip of a lifetime and thanks for joining us on it!
06 Oct – After a super long bus ride, we finally pulled into the Kuala Lumpur bus station (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan – BTS). Tig arranged for a taxi van to take us to the Mingle Hostel in Chinatown, where we were staying for 2 nights. Since Denise was flying to Singapore tomorrow to meet a friend, she was keen on hitting the Sky Bar tonight for a view of the iconic Petronas Towers. Lars, Tig and Gill joined her but we weren’t feeling the urge to rush over there tonight and wanted to hit the night market instead. Jalan Petaling street was packed with souvenir vendors but we were keen on food instead, so we wandered around Chinatown until we found roasted duck (surprise, surprise) at a street restaurant near our hotel.
07 Oct – Our plan was to sleep in today but there was heavy rain hitting the tin roof so the downpour woke us up. Breakfast was included at the hostel so we grabbed a bite to eat before relaxing back in our room. By 11 am, the rain had eased up so we decided to hit the streets for a walkabout. But first we wanted to grab some food. The Fong Yuan restaurant in Chinatown was packed with locals and that is always a good sign. Our lunch was amazing…boy do we like the food in Malaysia! After our awesome eats, we did a walking tour of the Kasturi Walk, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, Central Market and the Masjid Jamek just as the call to prayer was starting. From there we walked around to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (for the “I Love KL” photo), and the National Textile Museum. There was a lot of road construction going on, so the Merdeka area wasn’t as scenic as we remembered from our previous visit in 2012. A light rain cut our sightseeing a little short as we didn’t want to get caught out in a downpour. Our only real goal today was to check out the Petronas towers from the Sky Bar (33rd floor of the Traders Hotel). Everyone raved that the views were worth it and boy were they right! We arrived just before sunset, so we got to see the towers transform from day to night over some fabulous drinks…definitely a “must do” while in Kuala Lumpur! After catching the metro back to our hostel, we dropped off our cameras and walked over to Jalan Alor night market. Hands down, this was the best night food market we’ve been to on this 6 month odyssey! Dinner consisted of satay and dim sum…did we say we love the food in Malaysia yet? Its hard to find a bad meal here! Back at the hostel, we had a bit of admin to do (skype, sort out mail and credit cards) before calling it a night.
08 Oct – Onward to our last city in Malaysia before we cross into Singapore and bring this 6 month expedition to an end! We left the hostel at 9 am and walked over to the nearby Pasar Seni MRT where we caught a metro to KL Sentral and onward to Bandar Tasek Selatan (BTS) bus station. By 11 am, we were on a bus to Malacca. It was a short 2 hour ride and before we knew it, we pulled into the Melaka Sentral Bus Station where Tig went to sort out our final bus tickets to Singapore in a couple of days. We hopped into taxis to the Travellers Planet Hotel & Guesthouse but they didn’t have the twin rooms that Tig booked, telling her to make do with double rooms instead. She wasn’t having it and had to scramble to find a last minute deal on booking.com to accommodate us. Meanwhile, we decided to have lunch at a nearby food court area (cheap eats). After lunch, we struggled to hail 2 taxis from the street but were eventually successful. Tig managed to find room for us at the Warisan Eco Lodge which was across town. After checking in, we decided to squeeze in a visit to Christ Church before it closed at 5 pm but no such luck. The church was closed to visitors so we walked up the hill to the ruins of St Paul’s Church, down to Proclamation of Independence Memorial Building, Dataran Pahlawan Melaka Megamall and Mahkota Parade Mall. After stumbling upon an underground shopping center, we bought a tub of ice-cream and sat in the mall’s green open square to enjoy. It was dusk when we made our way to Jonker Street’s night market which was packed with visitors and souvenir vendors. Robby scored some dim sum for dinner so our awesome Malaysia eating streak has been kept alive! It was a TUF (the ultimate fighter) marathon tonight for the 2 of us while everyone else was our trying durian ice-cream for the first time (Tig & Lars).
09 Oct: Relaxing day today since we had no real plans. After breakfast, we decided to chill until lunch with a few more episodes of TUF. Then it was off to the Jonker Street Hawker Center, which ironically is not located on Jonker Street. Enroute, we stumbled upon Lars and since he was keen on lunch, he joined us. But the hawker center was closed for lunch so that was a bust. Since Lars was intent on finding a gift for his mom and we were on a quest for food, we split up. Our meanderings brought us down to the Malacca River where we stumbled upon a fantastic local eatery called the Lineclear Restaurant in Kampung Jawa. It was packed with locals so we knew their satay had to be cheap and good. It was! We ordered a plateful of chicken and beef satay with peanut dipping sauce…bliss! The waterfront had colorful murals on most of the buildings so we walked off lunch while discovering this section of Malacca. Then it was onward to a local flea market (near the Discovery Café) which was chock-a-block with antiques. From there, we visited the mall for some snacks for our last bus ride to Singapore tomorrow. While at the mall, we checked on a couple of smart phones to replace the one damaged during our bike ride at Lake Toba and found a couple of reasonable options. Becky also managed to score a couple of cheap tank tops which will come in handy during our future stay in Vietnam. Back at the hostel, we researched the smart phones (reviews, price) before determining that a couple of the models on display here were quite competitive with what is available in the US. So we backtracked to the mall for some phone shopping and ended up with a pretty decent deal for a phone, case and protective screen cover. Then it was dinner time at Jonker Street where we found a food stall with cheap noodles. Back at the hostel we ran into Tig, Lars and Gill chilling on the back porch so we joined them for a bit. Hard to imagine this is our penultimate night together!
10 Oct – After an early breakfast, we were packed and ready to go by 8 am. Our taxis were on time and took us to the Melaka Sentral Bus Station where we had to wait an hour for the bus to Singapore. Our last long distance bus ride of the trip! We arrived at the Johor Bahru border around 12:30 pm and were efficiently stamped out of Malaysia. Back on the bus we crossed the border and entered Singapore at the Woodlands Checkpoint. Then it was a short drive to City Plaza where we were dropped off. We didn’t need much money for Singapore since we only have a day here, and luckily the City Plaza had plenty of money changers willing to exchange our extra Malaysian Ringgit into Singapore Dollars. A short bus ride later found us at Hotel 81 – Premier Star at the edge of what felt like the red light district. After checking in we took the metro to the Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles Stall, a Michelin Star joint. There was a long line of locals patiently waiting to place their orders but the line moved quickly. We followed suit and ordered large bowls of minced pork noodles with a bowl of dumpling soup to share with the group. Honestly, with all the hype about this noodle shack beforehand, we were expecting great things. Verdict? Our group consensus was that our meals were just OK…we definitely felt this place was way overrated simply because it had earned a Michelin Star. It was super hot out so we agreed to head back to the hotel to chill in the AC for a while. Denise found her way to our hotel (she had left Kuala Lumpur early to join some friends in Singapore) so it was a happy reunion. At 6:30 pm, the moment we had all been waiting for! Singapore slings at the Raffles to celebrate the momentous occasion of completing our 6 month overland adventure together! So we threw on our best and caught the metro over to the Raffles Hotel. The Long Bar is somewhat of an institution in Singapore since it was where the sling was invented in 1915. Despite its posh atmosphere, patrons are encouraged to throw their peanut shells on the floor while drinking here. This iconic experience doesn’t come cheap though as each cocktail retails for about $25 USD, making for a pricey drink for the 7 of us. It was obvious we were on the backpacker end of the visitors’ scale when we eyeballed a guy at the neighboring table order a drink, take a sip, pay for it and walk out. Without a moment’s hesitation, Lars scooped it up and triumphantly brought the drink to our table for all to enjoy….minesweeping at its best! You bet we didn’t waste a second enjoying some random stranger’s unattended drink, ha. After Raffles we walked over to Makansutra Gluttons Bay for dinner followed by a group photo session at the esplanade waterfront with our group t-shirts. Thanks to Lars, Gill, Connie, Denise, (Helen & Ant) and Tig for the memories…what an awesome trip we experienced together! An esplanade light show followed before we strolled along the Singapore River to the Merlion and Clarke Quay. Then we hopped on one of the last metros for the night. Back at the hotel, we said our goodbyes since we’ll be the first ones to leave tomorrow with everyone else spending at least a day or two to check out Singapore. Lars surprised us with one last beer in our room…hard to believe we’ve been traveling with him for over 1.25 years of our lives (10 month Africa and 6 months Central Asia & Indochina)!!!
11 Oct – We knew Lars would be out and about sightseeing this morning so we were glad to have said our goodbyes already. Denise and Tig were still around so we bid them farewell before walking over towards the metro.En route, we ran into Gill and Connie (who had just come from mailing some of their gear home) so we had another session of goodbye hugs. Catching the MRT to the airport was super simple and convenient. After checking in and doing some duty free shopping, we sat back and reflected at how amazing this trip was. What a massive adventure although it will take some time before it all sinks in and we can appreciate the magnitude of what we experienced. After being on the go since mid-March, we are looking forward to some “down time” in Saigon!