After surviving the weather and rough terrain of the Cameron Highlands we headed on down to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve had a very varied experience of buses in Southeast Asia, and the mini buses we took into Malaysia were very much at the bottom of the bus league – just because a mini bus can seat 10 doesn’t mean that it should. For the rest of our time in Malaysia, however, we got proper coaches which was a much nicer experience, even if some of them were shared with the hoi polloi. We even got to ride a night train from Bangkok down to Krabi which was an experience I enjoyed much more than I thought I would. We had seats in the evening which transformed into bunk beds and even got fed a three course meal which wasn’t half bad, even if the dessert featured my old nemesis, bananas.
Being back in a big city after spending a week in the towns and countryside of Thailand and Malaysia was a bit of a shock, but it was nice to be able to have more choice in what to see, do and eat that comes with a capital city. Kuala Lumpur is what I imagine Singapore used to be like, it’s impressive with a lot of potential but doesn’t quite meet up to the standards of its famous neighbour. Still, we got the chance to see, and lark about in front of the Petronas Towers at night before going up to the viewing deck and the top floor of one of the towers the next day. We also got to see a brilliantly cheesy light and water show outside of the towers, which was hilariously bad and lasted for a ridiculous amount of time, somehow the music was completely out of sync with the light and just kept stopping and starting randomly. It was great! There’s loads to see and do in KL but by the time we got there we were all pretty jaded from our whirlwind first week so definitely didn’t make the most of it. Even so we got the chance to experience the central market and chinatown, and wandered down to the KL City Gallery, which gives a fascinating insight into the history of the city and presents a fascinating look into what the government plans for its future. We also finally found a proper sky bar and spent an evening watching the sunset at the Helibar and lounge, a sky bar on a helipad on top of a skyscraper. It’s definitely not the swankiest sky bar in town but the drinks were surprisingly cheap for the setting and we got a brilliant 360 degree view of the city skyline. Kuala Lumpur also meant a trip to a brilliant restaurant that would’ve been three times the price in most other big cities and was the best meal I ate since leaving Bangkok.
I was sad to leave the food and comforts, and food, of the big city but after a few nights we were off again, down to Malacca and the only place on this tour I’d already visited (bar Singapore, of course). It had been almost two years since I’d last been in Malacca and it was fascinating to see how it had changed, the main Jonker Street is now full of souvenir shops and hipster cafes where before it was just a couple of shops and some local food places. Hilariously we ate in the same restaurant Lorna and I had visited the last time I was there, but unfortunately it’s been far too long for me to say if it was as good as I remembered. We only had an afternoon and an evening in Malacca so unfortunately we didn’t really get to do anything. I was lucky that I’d visited before, but I think if it was my first trip I would’ve been a little disappointed that I didn’t have longer. And I can’t comment on the Malacca nightlife because we had to leave at the incredibly painful hour of 6am to cross into Singapore.
As you can imagine, it was a really weird experience to go into Singapore on a tour after having lived there and I think I became the unofficial tour guide for our last day together. But, then again I wasn’t going to let everyone visit my city and not eat at Din Tai Fung, watch the Gardens By The Bay Supertree Lightshow from the best seats or get horribly drunk at karaoke. Well ok, the horribly drunk karaoke bit probably didn’t have to happen but that’s what happens if you end up in Clarke Quay past midnight and make the slightly dubious decision to go to karaoke after 2am with a whole bottle of vodka. Drunk karaoke and the horrible hangover that followed besides it was lovely to be able to be a tourist in Singapore one last time and I got to see all my favourite touristy sights one more time.
After getting drunk at karaoke it was time to say goodbye to the tour, and to my time travelling around Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. It was so weird knowing my trip was finally over after nearly 5 months and that in a mere few days I would be flying back to the UK, after almost a year and a half since my last visit. Even though I was sad to say goodbye to my adventure it was lovely to be back in Singapore and to see everyone again. When I got back my room was still rented out so I got an airbed on the living room floor, but it worked out surprisingly well for me as I got to spread all my luggage across the living room. There was loads I wanted to do when I got back to Singapore, and I managed some of it but packing and clearing out the house took way longer than anyone could have imagined and, unfortunately, Chey and I ended up spending most of the week just on house duty. Still, we managed all the fun friend eating experiences I’d missed – wine and cheese on a sunday night, a trip to Din Tai Fung, so much food ordered from Deliveroo and a couple of visits to Newton. I also got to eat hot dogs at Ikea which, as everyone knows, is the ultimate hybrid food and shopping experience. I also managed one last epic Leah fail which I think really tops off my time in Singapore. I had a list of jobs I knew I needed to do when I got back, one of which was closing my bank account. As I’m sure I’ve ranted before, visiting the bank in Singapore is not one of my favourite jobs and so I decided to give myself plenty of time just in case something went awry. So 5 days before leaving I headed down to the bank, said I needed to close my account as I was leaving the country and before I knew it the bank teller had tapped away on her keyboard and asked me if I wanted my cash in large notes. I wasn’t particularly comfortable with carrying around so much cash, in Singapore dollars and then in pounds, but it made me feel very suave and mysterious to deal only in cash for nearly a week.
I might do one more post saying a final, fond goodbye to Singapore depending on whether or not I can think of anything else to say that hasn’t already been said, but for now…
Leah Out X
Update: I think I’ve written about my time in Singapore enough, and I’m not sure there’s anything extra I could really say on the subject. So instead I will include some of my favourite photos from my two years, with some of my favourite people. Strictly: Singapore will probably be on hiatus for a couple of months now so, until we meet again, Leah Out X