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Archive for August, 2017

Bali by Bus… and other forms of transportation

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 30, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – July 4th, 2017

Transportation in Bali can be a little daunting. Who can you trust to get you there without ripping you off? Who will deliver you quickly? Who will show up on time? These are all great questions. When it comes to Bali, I don’t know for sure. But, I have opinions.

It was so much of a scam, my camera couldn’t focus.

State Sanctioned Scam

We learned the hard way that the taxi ride from the airport was a legal scam. Our flight landed after midnight and we saw signs warning us not to use any unproved taxi companies. The sign should have continued, “so we can rip you off.”

The taxi company with the best reputation for ethical fares, legit drivers, and a real customer service office is not allowed to pick anyone up from the airport. You are instead thrown to the wolves of price gouging taxi barons. They will happily charge you 8 times what they really should knowing that you have no other choice. But you do have another choice.

If I were to go back to Bali, I would do things differently. First off, I would ignore all the signs and the overly aggressive taxi drivers. They are all scam artists whether they work independently or with a company. I would never get into any of their cars.

Instead I would walk past the airport witch and through the parking lot. I would walk about 5 minutes and make my way to a street away from the airport. Then I would hail a Blue Bird taxi.

Hiring a Car

Mark and I hired one driver for a day, but we spent many days in a privately hired car. Don’t worry, we weren’t kidnapped or anything. Mark’s cousin and the cousin’s new wife just happened to be in Bali for about a week when we were there. They hired a driver and asked us to join. They paid for the driver, we paid for lunches and dinners.

Having a hired driver is great. You go where you want when you want. You can plan out your day, or leave it up to the driver. When we were with Mark’s cousin they would just ask the driver, Katut, to take them to the nicest beach, or the oldest temple, or some other thing. Then he would plan a whole day around it. At lunch they would ask for a pizza place, a Balinese place, or a place that doesn’t serve fish for example. Katut would usually find a nice place for them.

When Mark and I were alone Mark planned out our whole day, except for lunch. We left that up to the driver. We trusted him and he did not let us down. We had a wonderful meal in a rice field at a splendid restaurant.

Although we had nothing but great experiences with two different drivers, I wouldn’t assume that one could just be picked off the street. We were approached by countlessly many drivers. Most of them come off as pushy, slimy, and a few were down right intimidating. When a driver made us feel uncomfortable we would take their business card, if one was offered, and give vague promises to contact them in the future. Then we would just not follow through.

The Taxi Mafia

Throughout Bali you see many signs like the one above. There is what is called a “taxi mafia”. These are drivers who go out of their way to intimidate Uber and Grab drivers. The effect is that when you call an Uber, on your phone you will see the car get close and then the ride is cancelled. We found one driver, who I think forgot to cancel, pretending to be asleep in his car. His plate number match the one we were supposed to look out for. When we asked him if he was ready to go, he acted like he didn’t know what we were talking about. “I’m not an Uber driver.”

It’s best if you can call for a Uber, Grab, or GoJek away from the highly touristed areas. But this can sometimes be hard if you walk past some taxi drivers. I don’t mean the drivers in the Blue Bird taxis that use a meter, have a photo ID, and ID number where you can see them. The ones I’m talking about are just people with cars. They stand on the side of the road and yell at tourists. “Where you go!?”

I had a conversation with one where he kept yelling, “Want taxi!?”. I tried to ignore him, but he walked along side me screaming at me.

“No,” I told him and kept walking.

He shouted “Where you go!?”

I didn’t think it was any of his business, so I went back to ignoring him. He continued following me. It was a constant “Where you go!? Where you go!? Where you go!?”

By the end of the block I had had enough. I turned around and told him that it was none of his concern where I was going. I recommended that he should find something else to occupy his time and some other place to do it, but I did not put it so politely. I went on a little rant and when it ended all he said was, “But where you go!?”

Never make this mistake

Never ask your hotel to call you a taxi. We did this once when our 10th Uber cancelled on us by pretending to be asleep. We tried to walk away from the Tanah Lot area where we were staying to call an Uber there, but then we ran into Mr. WhereYouGo. We thought that maybe the hotel could help us get a better deal than what we would get with Mr. WhereYouGo.

The guy that showed up to drive us kept asking about our future plans. “How long are you staying? What have you seen already? You know, I just happen to know of many things to see here in Bali.” He danced around the topic of us hiring him for a day. We dodged any definite plans. He handed us a brochure. He offered to take us to a new restaurant. He offered to show us some sights right then and there because traffic where we wanted to go would be heavy. “Instead of waiting in traffic, let’s go see a temple.”

He tried so hard, it was almost entertaining. He came off very much like a used car salesman. We didn’t want to be in his car any longer than we needed, but we didn’t want to offend him. We were afraid if we told him we wouldn’t hire him for a day, outright, he would kick us out his car in the middle of no where.

Blue Bird

We tried hailing a Blue Bird once or twice. Blue Birds cannot always be found everywhere. In some places, like at the airport or Tanah Lot Temple, they are banned. Other places, like Ubud, you can only find them if you are very lucky or you called them ahead of time.

In the Kuta area there are plenty of them to be found. Mark and I just had bad luck. Every one we tried to hail either had a passenger or the driver didn’t look our way. After the 4th cab, we called an Uber. The 3rd Uber actually showed up.

Despite our bad luck, I hear that Blue Bird taxis are safe and have fare rates. They have such a good reputation that there are a few imitators. So watch out for the fake Blue Birds.

Kura Kura

These turtle buses mainly stay in the touristy areas. They are very cheap and easy to use. They don’t really go to sights or attractions. They go to some beaches, but they have a lot of stops aimed at making you spend money. One stop is a coffee shop. That’s it, just a coffee shop. Another is a wine shop and there are a few malls.

The Kura Kura is great for going up and down the Kuta and Legian areas. If that’s what you’re going to do, the Kura Kura is for you. It’s okay for going to some beaches and some areas of Ubud. Taking a non-Blue Bird taxi there can be very expensive. But, don’t miss the last bus back to town.

The downside is that you spend a lot of time waiting for the bus. If you’re waiting at a stop that is not a main stop, like the bus bay or one of the malls, and you cannot be seen from the road, there is a chance that the Kura Kura will just drive past you. This really sucks on the Ubud line that only comes by once an hour. They have a tracker app, to let you know how close the next bus is, but this app only works about 20% of the time.

I would recommend using the Kura Kura once or even getting the 3-day pass. But a 7-day pass is too much waiting.

Overall

  1. Hire a driver for a day to go off the beaten path. Pick a day and see Tanah Lot, visit Ubud, visit far away spots. Plan ahead and tell your driver about your check-list.
  2. Get an Uber when you can. This is the cheapest way to get around one ride at a time.
  3. Hail a Blue Bird when you can’t get an Uber.
  4. Use the Kura Kura if you are going to a Kura Kura stop, especially if it’s a stop in Kuta or Legian.
  5. Never hire some random taxi driver yelling at you on the side of the road.

Indonesia
(Republic of Indonesia)

How to get there:

You can enter Indonesia by plane, boat, or bus.

Most people can enter Indonesia visa-free for 30 (technically 29) days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to get a visa before entering. The visa-free stay cannot be extended. Check the DGI website for more information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110 & 112
    • Ambulance 118
    • Medical Emergencies 119
    • Fire 113
    • Search and rescue 115

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Indonesia. The penalty is death.
  • Do not confuse Bali with the rest of Indonesia. Bali is like the Las Vegas of Indonesia.
    • (Outside Bali) Indonesia is a conservative country. Dress modestly. Act respectfully.

Bali

How to get there:

  • by way of the Ngurah Rai International Airport
    • Also know as the Denpasar International Airport
  • by bus via a ferry
  • by boat

Phone:

  • Tourism information centre 166
  • Bali Taksi/Blue Bird +62 361 701111
  • free ambulance service +62 361 480282
  • Tourist Police +62 361 754599 or +62 361 763753

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • Known as Island of Gods, Island of Peace, Morning of The World, Island of Hinduism, and Island of Love.
  • You will need to wear a sarong to enter any and all temples.
    • This applies to both men and women.
    • Some temples will lend or rent a sarong to you.
    • You could also buy a sarong (for about 45,000IDR (less than 4USD)) and use that instead of renting.
    • Never buy a sarong from vendors near a temple. They will charge far more than the cost of renting a sarong, which is sometimes free.
  • Women on their period are not permitted entry to any temples. (However, there is no “period police” and no one checks. It’s just the honor system.)
  • There are tons of people trying to sell you drugs. Just walking down the street in Kuta men will ask in the most unsubtle way, “Marijuana?”
    • DO NOT buy any thing from them. Indonesia has a death penalty for drug possession.
    • Sometimes these “sellers” and scouting for the police who are looking for brides at best and promotions at worst.
  • Do not swim near red flags. They warn of rip currents.
  • Don’t drink the tap water! You’ll get Bali Belly.
    • Ask at your hotel’s reception if you can brush your teeth with the tap water.
    • If you hotel places bottles of water in the bathroom, that means that you shouldn’t brush your teeth with the tap water. Use the bottled water instead.
    • The ice in the drinks at restaurants are okay.
      • Most restaurants do not make their own ice. The ice is delivered daily and is safe.
  • There is a complimentary airport shuttle from Lippo Mall. (From the mall to the airport, not from the airport to Lippo Mall.)
    • First ask the concierge.
    • Spend 150,000IDR, total among your party.
    • You will have access to a free Luggage deposit, free charging outlet, and free wi-fi. (The wi-fi at Lippo Mall is always free.)
    • If you chose not to use this serve and you don’t have too much baggage, remember that Lippo Mall is less than a 30 minute walk from the airport.
  • Blue Bird taxis (+62 361 701111) are the most honest cab company you’ll find on Bali.
    • The trick is there are many fake blue bird taxis and no way to know which is which.
    • Either way, if the cab driver refuses to use the meter, don’t ride.
  • Any taxi from the airport will overcharge you.
    • There are signs in the airport that warn you not to use any unauthorized taxis, but what they don’t mention is that the authorized taxis have paid for a license to charge you 4 times what the normal fee should cost.
    • Blue Bird taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. They can only drop off.
    • Walk away from the airport and catch/ or call a cab from the road.
      • Look for a witch on a rope.
      • She is near a path that leads to a parking lot.
      • Walk through that parking lot and keep going straight until you get to a brick side walk.
      • Turn left and keep going until you find a path to turn right.
      • Once on a main road, hail a metered taxi.
    • You could also find the airport hotel and perhaps you can call a taxi from there.
    • The airport has free and open wi-fi. (It’s in Indonesian. You have to click on a yellow button, I think.)
      • You can use it to get walking directions to Lippo Mall or call an Uber.

The Kura-Kura Bus

How to get there:

  • They are mostly where backpackers hang out.

Address:

  • Jl. ByPass Ngurah Rai, Kuta, Ground Floor, DFS Galleria, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80362, Indonesia

Phone:

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Single Fare Varies
  • 3-day pass   Rp. 150,000
  • 7-day pass   Rp. 250,000
  • Discounts:
  • You can buy a pass or single ticket on the bus.

Hours:

  • Varies by line

Videos:

Notes:

  • Pros:
    • It’s not expensive.
    • This is the cheapest transportation option.
    • It’s easy to use.
    • The vans have outlets you can use to charge your phone.
    • Goes to many beaches
  • Cons:
    • The buses are often late.
    • The bus driver sometimes doesn’t see you and will drive past you.
    • You will spend a lot of time waiting.
  • Advice:
    • Get a 3-day pass and plan your 3 days well.
    • Remember that for the Ubud line, you don’t have to do the whole loop to get back. Cross the street for a return bus.
    • When there is traffic in the evenings (like during Indonesian holidays), be on you return Kuta or Legian line bus by 17:00. Otherwise it could take 2 hours to get back to your hotel from the Bus Bay.

Blue Bird Taxi

Phone:

  • +62 (0) 361 701 111
    +62 361 8498008

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • From what I hear, it’s reasonably priced.
  • Not as cheap as Uber.

e-mail:

Notes:

  • Be aware that there are blue taxis going around trying to get tourist into their cars by claiming to be Blue Bird taxis.
  • Blue Bird Taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport. You can, however, take a Blue Bird to the airport.
    • To take a Blue Bird from the airport, walk away from the airport and hale a Blue Bird on the street.

Not actual taxis

Random Taxi

Cost:

  • Way more that it should cost.
  • There is no doubt that you are being ripped off.

Websites:

Notes:

  • These are the cars with drivers that ask you if you want a taxi.
  • You will end up in one of these if you ask your hotel to get you a taxi.
    • NEVER ask your hotel to call you a taxi.
    • If your hotel has a shuttle bus, ask about the price before you get in.
  • Get your own taxi.

Hire a Driver

Websites:

Cost:

  • It varies.
  • 50-100 USD per day
    • You might be expected to pay for parking if and when it comes up.
  • Settle the cost and everything before hand

Hours:

  • It’s up to you and your driver.

Notes:

  • Some drivers will have a route to take tourists and will happily just do his thing if you don’t have any plans.
  • If you do have plans, tell the driver before hand and discus all the things you expect to do the day.
  • The driver can give you a tour or just driver you around.
  • You might want to find a restaurant before the day and tell the driver.
    • If you ask the driver to pick a restaurant, he may choose a nearby place or somewhere where he gets a commission.
    • If you trust your driver, then it might be okay to just let him find you a nice restaurant.
  • In the photo above are two drivers we used while in Bali.
    • As far as I know, they were both really good drivers and nice people.
    • With Kadek we had a set plan, but we did ask him to choose our restaurant.
    • With Ketut, we suggested one or two places and he took us to other spots in the area as well.

Additional Notes:

  • It is recommended that you do not rent a car and drive yourself, unless you are used to driving in Indonesia.

Not actual Uber cars

Uber / Go Jek / Etc

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • The only thing cheaper is the Kura-Kura, but this is way more convenient.

Hours:

  • Whenever you want

Notes:

  • There is a “taxi mafia” who intimidates Uber drivers.
  • The best way around the “taxi mafia” is to not call an Uber is a heavily touristed area.
    • Walk a few blocks down the road, then call.
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Travel Tips for Singapore

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 25, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Everything else can be bought in Singapore.

Do not bring illegal drugs into Singapore!

90% of Singaporean space is made up of shopping malls.

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack. A Backpack gives you a little more mobility, but it’s not a must-have here.
  2. Clothes:
    • Singapore is mainly a series of interconnected malls. There’s really no need to ever go outdoors.
    • You can buy any and everything here.
    • The prices of stuff might be better back home, though.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
    • You are never given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here, but the brand selection is limited.
      • It’s mostly Dove, Nivea, and other brands I’ve never heard of.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • It’s mostly Banana Boat and Nivea.
    • Many (not he Banana Boat brand) come with “skin whitening” (whatever that means).
    • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and suncreen at a convenience store, but they will be cheaper at grocery stores. Grocery stores will have more variety, too.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone

Free art gallery at a mall.

General Tips:

Food:

  • Singaporean food is delicious, but expensive. To save money:
    • Go to Malaysia and try the food there before or after going to Singapore.
      • It’s essentially the same thing at a fraction of the cost.
  • While in Singapore, here is how to eat cheaply:
    • Go to a mall. Not a super fancy mall, just a regular mall that would have a Uniqlo or a Gap.
    • Go to the lowest floor. B1, B3, whatever the lowest floor is.
    • This is where they keep the more affordable food courts.
      • You can find a good meal for about 5-6 SGD.
    • Look for hawker stalls around Little India.
      • Some, not all are quite affordable.

Transportation:

  • Completely unlike Malaysia, taxis are no problem in Singapore, though taking the subway might be cheaper.
  • Use a single-trip ticket to use the LRT.
    • Do not get the Adult Stored Value Card since the 5$ deposit is not refundable.
    • When you get the credit on the card returned (ie. You have $6.75 left on the card and now you are leaving Singapore) you cannot keep the card.

Money:

  • Banks do not change money in Singapore.
  • You have to go to a money changers.
  • Or, get cash from ATMs.
    • HSBC has no ATM fees.

Scams:

  • Not many scams to look out for, just use common sense.

Singapore
(Republic of Singapore)

How to get there:

You can enter Singapore by bus, train, plane or boat. Though, as of 2017 the train from Malaysia is a bit of a hassle requiring multiple transfers at the border.

Most can get 90-day visas to enter Singapore. Check with the ICA website for visa information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 999
    • Ambulance and Fire 995

Website:

Downloads:

Data:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Singapore!
  • Do not carry the luggage of someone who might have drugs into Singapore.
  • In most countries, it’s best to change money at a bank. For some reason, banks do not change money in Singapore. You must use a money changer’s.
  • Use a single-trip ticket to use the LRT.
    • Do not get the Adult Stored Value Card since the 5$ deposit is not refundable.
    • When you get the credit on the card returned (ie. You have $6.75 left on the card and now you are leaving Singapore) you cannot keep the card.

 

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The Malls of Singapore

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2017

Thursday, June 8th – 12th, 2017

Singapore is known for being quite expensive, but Mark and I managed to not spend a lot of money by planning ahead of time. We packing everything we wanted to do in just four days. Everyday we got up early and did lots of things before heading back to our hostel at night. We would rest in a more economical country.

The good thing about Singapore is that there is a cheaper version of almost everything you want to do. You could visit the Gardens by the Bay and pay to see everything, pay to see somethings, or you could just stay in the free areas. A majority of the Gardens by the Bay is free. The same is true for Sentosa Island. You could pay to enter Universal Studios or any of the many other attractions. But you could also just walk around then head to the areas with free activities. You’ll still have a great day.

Ritz Art

Mark and I packed our schedule with as many free things as we could. We were going to pick a few non-free things to do, but we didn’t feel the need or have the time. If you love art, Singapore is for you! There were a few free displays of artwork at hotels and malls. Some of them, like at the Ritz-Carlton, came with a pamphlet with explanations. Others came with art experts just dying to talk about the works.

There are many malls in Singapore. You can go from subway station to mall to another mall and back to a new subway station all without going outdoors. At times it seemed that Singapore was just a bunch of interconnected malls that came together and declared itself to be a country. It’s so easy to just spend all your time, and your money, in the really nice malls of Singapore.

Try hard to resist the shopping urge and go outside.


Singapore
(Republic of Singapore)

How to get there:

You can enter Singapore by bus, train, plane or boat. Though, as of 2017 the train from Malaysia is a bit of a hassle requiring multiple transfers at the boarder.

Most can get 90-day visas to enter Singapore. Check with the ICA website for visa information.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 999
    • Ambulance and Fire 995

Website:

Downloads:

Data:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Do not bring illegal drugs into Singapore!
  • Do not carry the luggage of someone who might have drugs into Singapore.
  • In most countries, it’s best to change money at a bank. For some reason, banks do not change money in Singapore. You must use a money changer’s.
  • Use a single-trip ticket to use the LRT.
    • Do not get the Adult Stored Value Card since the 5$ deposit is not refundable.
    • When you get the credit on the card returned (ie. You have $6.75 left on the card and now you are leaving Singapore.) you cannot keep the card.

The 5 Merlions of Singapore

How to get there:

  • Coordinates:
    • The Merlion on Sentosa – 1.253475, 103.818908
    • The Merlion on Mt. Faber – 1.273339, 103.817764
    • The Merlion at Merlion Park – 1.286797, 103.854504
    • The Mercub at Merlion Park – 1.286814, 103.854143
    • The Merlion at Tourism Court –  1.303755, 103.824061

Address:

  • 2 at Merlion Park
  • 1 on Sentosa Island
  • 1 up Mt. Paber
  • 1 at Tourism Court

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Some are always available, some are not

Videos:

Notes:

  • Technically there are 7 Merlions, but 2 shall never be spoken of. They know what they did.
  • One merlion has survived a lighting strike.

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.281400, 103.844291

Address:

  • 288 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058840

Phone:

  • +65 6220 0220

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free
  • Donations are welcomed.

Hours:

  • 7:00 – 19:00

Notes:

  • No shorts or sleeveless shirts.
  • If you are wearing shorts or a sleeveless shirts you can borrow a scarf and skirt.

Gardens by the Bay

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.281702, 103.863678

Address:

  • 18 Marina Gardens Dr, Singapore 018953

Phone:

  • +65 6420 6848

Websites:

Downloads:

e-mail: 

Cost:

Hours:

  • 5:00AM – 2:00AM

Videos:

Notes:

  • Watch Garden Rhapsody, a light and music show.
    • Free
    • everyday at 19:45 & 20:45

ION Art Gallery

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.304003, 103.831540

Address:

  • 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801

Phone:

  • +65 6238 8228.

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • 10am – 10pm

Notes:

  • Some of the pieces are for sale.

Artwork at the Ritz-Carlton

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.290441, 103.860147

Address:

  • 7 Raffles Ave, Singapore 039799

Phone:

  • +65 6337 8888

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Notes:

  • Ask for a pamphlet on the art. It’s helpful and free.

Sentosa Island

How to get there:

Address:

Phone:

  • 1800-SENTOSA (7368672)
  • +65 6736 8672

Websites:

Notes:


Botanic Gardens

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.314097, 103.815871

Address:

  • 1 Cluny Rd, Singapore 259569

Phone:

  • +65 6471 7138

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00

Mt. Faber

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 1.273831, 103.817513

Address:

  • Mount Faber Rd, Singapore

Phone:

  • +65 6377 9688

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 24h

Notes:

Map:

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Travel Tips for Malaysia

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 15, 2017

2017

You have to bring:

  • Prescription medication.

Everything else can be bought in Malaysia. (I know I say this a lot, but it’s true. All you really NEED to bring is your meds.)

Things you can buy here or bring with you:

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack. A Backpack gives you a little more mobility, but it’s not a must-have here.
  2. Clothes:
    • Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia in general have a lot of tourists. There are many, many shops here with western sizes.
    • There are many malls in KL with prices that rage from cheap to normally priced.
    • There are also many upscale malls too.
  3. Towel:
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel.
    • Some hotels allow their towels to be used at the beach.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash:
    • All hotels provided guests with shampoo and body wash.
      • When I didn’t like the shampoo I was given, I bought my own.
    • You are never given conditioner.
    • You should bring your own toiletries if you are staying at a hostel.
      • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, and body wash at any convenience store.
      • You can find many popular brands like Dove, Pantene, Finesse, and Lux.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • You can find this here, but the brand selection is limited.
      • It’s mostly Dove, Nivea, and other brands I’ve never heard of.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • It’s mostly Banana Boat and Nivea.
    • Many (not he Banana Boat brand) come with “skin whitening” (whatever that means).
    • You can buy shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, and suncreen at a convenience store, but they will be cheaper at grocery stores. Grocery stores will have more variety, too.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • There are lots of pharmacies where you can buy cold medicine and pain killers like aspirin.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s always tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Rentals & Rides: (Mostly at Langkawi)
    • You can rent:
      • surf boards.
      • Boogie boards
      • Scooters
    • You can do:
      • Banana Boats
      • Parasailing
      • other various water activities
  9. Other things you should bring:
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flips
    • Smartphone
      • You will need this to use Uber.

General Tips:

Food:

  • Try not to over eat too much.
  • The food is very delicious and not expensive at all.
  • It’s easy to over do it.

Taxis:

Money:

  • Get cash from ATMs.
    • HSBC has no ATM fees.
  • Exchange money at banks.

Scams:

  • It’s mostly taxis you have to watch out for.

Swimming:

  • NEVER swim at any beach alone.

Malaysia

How to get there:

You can enter by plane, train, bus, boat, and even on foot (from Thailand only).

Most people can get there visas when they arrive for no charge or paperwork. The length of stay differs by the visitor’s nationality. Please check the IDM website.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police and Ambulance 999
    •  Fire 994

Website:

Downloads:

  • Travel Guides
  • Uber
    • If you don’t have an account already, get one before you go to Malaysia.

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

Posted in Malaysia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Sunway Lagoon

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 10, 2017

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

We’re laughing because our plane tickets were so cheap. That kid is jealous because he flew to KL on a non-discount airline.

On our trip, Mark and I fly with Air Asia. The tickets are ridiculously inexpensive especially because we have no check-in baggage, we don’t buy the meals on the plane, and we choose the cheapest days to fly.  Even after finding the cheapest ticket on the cheapest day, Mark runs that flight through google to look for discount codes or sites selling the very same tickets for slightly less. We also do the online self-check in which saves us some extra money because… reasons?

I have a sudden urge to go to Malaysia.

We saw the above ad on a flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi. Up to that point, I had only the vaguest notions about visiting Malaysia. But, this display got me to go to Kuala Lumpur.

Once in Vietnam, we did some research on Sunway Lagoon. We found that the cheapest day to go was on the silly named “Quack-tastic Tuesday” when the tickets are more than half off when purchased online.

Why is it called quack-tastic? I have no idea. Their fast pass, was called the Quack-Xpress. But there are no ducks or duck-like mascots. The whole thing is a bit weird.

There is about 1 of these Quack-tastic Tuesdays (I hate this name) each month. To get the discount you have to buy your tickets online. Once we picked the date, we saw that the fast pass for the QT was also heavily reduced. So we got that too. Buying our tickets online meant that we didn’t have to stand in the super long line at the entrance.

The ticket that is usually 170 ringgets ($40), we got for RM60. The fast past which is normally RM70, we got for RM40. We paid RM100 ($23) each for our tickets and fast pass. Which means that the people standing in line, most of whom paid full price at RM170, paid more than we did. And, we skipped them in line all day long.

Don’t try to sneak in food, they check your bags quite thoroughly.

The lines were long, but we fast-passed our way through all the rides we wanted. The fast pass has no limit; you can use it all day on almost all the rides. Even on some of the ride where there was no fast pass line, people just let us go by. The whole day I thought, “This must be what it’s like to be rich and privileged.”

As a fast passer, I get the first pick of seats before the non-fast-passers are let in.

Most of the time the fast pass holders didn’t even stand in the same area as the other people. Not only did we not have to stand in the line, at times we didn’t even see the line. Around noon I remarked about how the park was not crowded at all. I wondered if it was worth it to get the fast pass. Then I had to use the bathroom, a part of the park where my fast pass had no power. The park was in fact, very, very crowded.

Thinking about signing up for courses at Sunway University. Does the fast pass work there too?

My favorite part of the whole park was the huge pool. I could have stayed there all day. But Mark wanted to be entertained and ride all the rides. Mostly, I think, he wanted to invoke his fast pass powers. So I let him drag me out of the pool to go do things, like cross the scary, creaky bridge of foreboding. I drew the line at the Vuvuzela.


Malaysia

How to get there:

You can enter by plane, train, bus, boat, and even on foot (from Thailand only).

Most people can get there visas when they arrive for no charge or paperwork. The length of stay differs by the visitor’s nationality. Please check the IDM website.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police and Ambulance 999
    •  Fire 994

Website:

Downloads:

  • Travel Guides
  • Uber
    • If you don’t have an account already, get one before you go to Malaysia.

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Sunway Lagoon

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 3.071727, 101.605237

Address:

  • 3, Jalan PJS 11/11, Bandar Sunway, 47500 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

Phone:

  • +60 3-5639 0000

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Notes:

  • Go on the Quack-tastic Tuesday for the cheapest ticket price.
  • Get there early.
  • It’s best if you don’t use a locker, but that might not be very realistic since you have to wear a swimsuit in the pool and you can’t wear a wet swimsuit on the roller coasters.
    • There are 2 types of lockers.
      • Big lockers RM43 – Can only be opened twice; once to put stuff in and then to take them out.
      • Small lockers RM22 – Can be opened as many times as you like. It’s yours all day.
    • Most of the locker rooms are very crowded. It might even seem that some people go to the park just to hang out at the lockers.
    • Old men, who just don’t care anymore, will change in the locker rooms, which have no curtains and are not separated by gender.
      • You will see at least one naked old man every time you enter the locker area.
    • The lockers at the Nickelodeon section were the least crowded.
      • They they get into the park, everyone just heads to the lockers nearest to the entrances.
      • The Nick area is not near any of the entrances.
    • Wear your swimsuit under your clothes when you enter the park.
      • Ride the dry rides first.
      • Take off your clothes at the pool (since you have your swimsuit on already).
    • Change back into your dry clothes at least an hour before the 18:00 deadline or just go home in damp clothes.
      • You actually have until way past 19:oo to leave, but it’s very stressful as everyone is freaking out by that time.
      • All the bathrooms are at a stand-still with everyone and their moms taking showers, doing their hair and make-up, and getting all dolled up. (I’m not joking. All the ladies in the bathroom I saw looked like they had hot dates later that evening.)
  • Bring flip-flops or sandals to walk around in the water park.
    • The ground gets very hot during the day.
  • If you wear a skimpy bikini, you will stick out.
    • Most women wear tankinis and/ or boy shorts.
    • Some even wear rashgaurds and yoga pants.
    • The only people wearing teeny tiny swimsuits are old men. (The same old men from the locker rooms.)
  • If you have rented any floating tubes, be sure to return them before 18:00 to get your deposit back.
    • The returned money will be in cash, even if you paid the deposit with the cashless eLoad thing.
    • Keep an eye on any tube you have rented.
      • It has a unique number. Remember it.
      • Kids take them either because they think it’s for anyone, they think it’s theirs, or they’re just thieves.
      • You do not get your deposit back if you do not return your tube.
    • You don’t need a tube for any of the rides.
      • The rides provide their own tubes.
      • You only use the rented tube for the lazy river and the pool.
      • It’s more of a nuisance, really.
  • Make sure to get the money remaining on your cashless eLoad thing before 19:00.
    • This means you have to leave the park by 19:00.
    • You don’t have to use the eLoad, but it’s better than carrying around a wet wallet.
      • All the shops and restaurants take cash or eLoad.
  • You can’t bring your own food into the park, but don’t worry.
    • The food in the park is not crazy expensive, just mildly overpriced at worst.
    • The food is not too bad with many options from Subway, Burger King, and some none fast food places too.
    • Eat early or late after the rush is over.
    • You can bring in water. Bring as much water as you can, because the drinks are the most overpriced things.
  • Pay attention to the times and places of events and shows, such as Slime Time.
    • They are very punctual and they last for 15 minutes or less.

Map:

Posted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Langkawi: Hotel D’Lima

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 5, 2017

Monday, May 29th – Jun 5th, 2017

When Mark picks accommodations there is a process he goes through. If he knows exactly where he wants to stay, he will first check google maps. There he can see all the hotels in an area along with the price of accommodations and some websites like agoda or bookings where you can make reservations.

If he doesn’t know where he wants to stay or he doesn’t care, he will go straight to agoda. Agoda usually has the lowest prices or the best deals, but not always. Overall agoda is a good starting point. After that there is a quick check at hostelworld, airbnb, and whatever website google recommends for that area.

He looks for things like nice views, central location, breakfast, and free laundry service. Though, for a good price some of these can be left out. Photos of the accommodations are nice, but not much weight is put on good pictures. If the photos are bad, that means the hotel will definitely be bad. If mold and dirt show up in photos it means that the hotel manager has no idea what he or she is doing. But good photos do not mean the opposite of what a bad photo means.

Many hotels will have great pics, but when you get to the hotel you realize that the photos were taken 20 years ago when the hotel was new and in its prime. Since then cracks have appeared and the hotel doesn’t look anything like it used to. The grand pool is now just a big storage area.

That’s why you must read all the reviews you can find. Check the reviews on all the websites and google maps too. Be highly wary of places that have 3 or fewer reviews, especially when they are all too glowing with nothing but positive ratings. Also, look out for copied and pasted reviews. A guest might use the same review for 2 websites, but it’s very unlikely that anyone would paste it on more than that. Who has that kind of time? Hotel owners, that’s who.

Sometimes a hotel will have no reviews yet, because its new. If that’s the case, it might be okay. If the hotel is new, how bad can it be? But, another reason for having no reviews could be a change in name and ownership. If that’s the reason for no reviews, then it’s probably a crappy hotel. Good hotels will never change names.

The plan for Langkawi was for us to get a hotel near the beach, but not so near that it broke our budget. Then we would spend a week swimming and doing very little else. It was going to be a very relaxing week.

The first sign that things were going wrong was when our Uber driver couldn’t find the hotel. He was from another part of the island, so we didn’t worry too much about it at the time. We asked to be dropped off near where google said the hotel was and asked around.

No one had ever heard of the hotel. “Where is D’Lima Inn?” we asked. We weren’t sure how to pronounce the name, but if it was pronounced the way we thought it might be pronounced… “This could be a problem.”

Mark walked into hotel after hotel to asked receptionists for directions. He asked taxi drivers, security guards, shop keepers, and other tourists. No one had ever heard of the “Dilemma Inn”.  Watching Mark try to find this place, I stood on the sidewalk and pulled at my hair. A huge part of me thought we had given a fake hotel our money for one weeks accommodations and now we would have no place to sleep.

Mark seemed a bit more hopeful. “It might be new. That’s why no one knows where it is,” he told me. “It didn’t have very many reviews and the ones it did have weren’t from too long ago.”

“Did the hotel look new in its photos?” I asked.

“Yes, but all hotels look new in the photos,” he responded.

We had an address for the place, but it could not possibly be right. We had a pin on google, but when we went there it was just a field of grass. We had a map from the hotel’s Facebook page. That could not be it either; it was a building that was torn down. I looked online and found a few phone numbers for the hotel.

We took the numbers to a tourist information booth. We didn’t have a sim card on our phone so, we couldn’t make calls ourselves. But the lady at the booth was kind enough to call for us. She called the first number, but no one picked up. Then she tried the second number; it was disconnected. So she kept calling the first number until, after 5 calls, someone picked up the phone.

She asked the guy on the phone to send someone over to pick us up and show us the way to the hotel. It was over 2 hours after getting out of the Uber driver’s car, that we got to the hotel. I was so mad and irritated. The hotel was not pinned properly on google maps. On all the maps the hotel provided online, not one of them had the correct location. And, the address the hotel gave was of a place that could not possibly exist. Once on the island and on the correct road, the hotel had no signs posted until you got almost to the hotel itself on some shady back road. Then the idiot receptionist wouldn’t answer the damn phone.

“Don’t mind us. We’re just building this hotel.”

At the hotel, I could see that there was a possibility that the place was new. Hell they were still building the thing. There was construction going on right by the pool. And the work on the third floor had yet to commence. We were handed a key and walked over to a room next to the pool.

“No,” we said. There was one window in the ground-floor room and it was in plain view of the construction crew. It was also very noisy from the work being done and the screaming kids in the water. “This will not do. Show us another room.”

We were given another room. It had brown globby fluids leaking from the ceiling in the bathroom. “No,” we said. “Show us another room.”

We were given another room. It had mold covering the bathroom from floor to ceiling. “No,” we said. “Show us another room.”

We were given another room. It had random holes in the wall and wires sticking out in odd places. We could tell that it had recently been remodeled because it had new furniture and the room smelt slightly of paint. There was no mold in the bathroom, though there were wires sticking out there too. “I guess this will do…” we sighed.

One night a cat got in our room. We had to chase it, catch it, and throw it out.

The room we got in the end was not too terrible. It was big and newly refurbished. But it wasn’t good either. There was no wifi or any kind of internet. The paint job was not done well. They clearly ran out of whatever paint they were using and finished the job with another paint that was a few shades off. Some of the electrical appliances were oddly mounted or installed, like the TV placed in a corner or the water heater plugged into the wall in the shower where water ran over the socket.

The staff didn’t know the first thing about running a hotel. They never cleaned the room. We begged them to several times, but were always given excuses why it wasn’t done. Once they claimed to have done house keeping, but the only noticeable change was that the floors were swept. They didn’t even take out the trash, give us new towels, or replace the shampoo, soap, or toilet paper.

Are they ever going to start on that 3rd floor?

To prevent myself from losing my mind, I had to get passively aggressive. Since they didn’t change my towels, I started just taking towels. Of course when there was someone at the reception, I asked, but 80% of the time no one was there. They left the laundry area open with all the clean towels folded on a table. I would take a clean one for me and one for Mark and leave our dirty towels on a pile on the other side of the table. I did this twice a day, in the morning for showers and the afternoon for beach towels. The dirty towel pile in their own laundry room went untouched the whole time I was there. They probably wondered who this towel fairy was that kept delivering damp towels.

That bottle of water and that chair was there when we checked in and it sat there for the whole week. It might still be there now.

The trash annoyed me. Since they never cleaned the room, it never got emptied. Eventually it started to attract ants. There were always ants crawling around this hotel, but with the trash full, even more were stamping around our room. I took the trash can and put it in the hall one morning. By evening there were 4 more trash cans placed in the hall by 4 other guests. The next day, all the trash had been emptied and the bags replaced. I, and most other guests, kept our trash in the hall after that.

“One day, there will be a 3rd floor…”

The hotel itself wasn’t bad. I don’t think it was a new hotel. It might have been in the process of being remodeled. I can appreciate that. But the staff had no idea how to run a hotel. There was a cleaning staff that never cleaned and a receptionist who almost never answered the phone and was out of the office most of the time. The only people who were consistently on the job were the construction workers by the pool and I have no idea what they were building.

I spent one afternoon by the pool looking at them work. I couldn’t tell what they were building. It might have been a BBQ pit or a shed… maybe a garden?

The staff themselves had no interpersonal skills. The few times they were there for me to request (beg for) house keeping and toiletries they would just sit there staring at me. They would have vacant looks in their eyes like they were stunned by what they saw. I would repeat my request several times because they couldn’t hear me on account of their focused gawking.

One of them had a 12-year-old daughter who seemed quite normal. She would go in the office or laundry room and come back with soap, shampoo, and towels. “Here,” she would say and smile at me.” “Thanks kid!” I would tell her and she would giggle.

The adults would then stare at her thinking that she was so brave to interact with a creature who had been replacing their clean towels with damp ones.

Getting my 5-a-day

Other than the hotel, Mark and I had a good time on Langkawi when it wasn’t raining. Actually even when it was raining, we had a pretty good time.


Malaysia

How to get there:

You can enter by plane, train, bus, boat, and even on foot (from Thailand only).

Most people can get their visas when they arrive for no charge or paperwork. The length of stay differs by the visitor’s nationality. Please check the IDM website.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police and Ambulance 999
    •  Fire 994

Website:

Downloads:

  • Travel Guides
  • Uber
    • If you don’t have an account already, get one before you go to Malaysia.

Videos:

Books:

Notes:


Langkawi

How to get there:

  • From Penang:
    • Ferry: RM 60/ 2hours
    • Plane: 16-30USD (RM64-120)/ 35 minutes
    • Bus: RM18 / feels like all afternoon
  • There are plenty of taxis around town.
    • They charge a flat rate that’s a bit high.
    • Your alternative is Uber.

Websites:

Downloads:

Notes:

  • This island can probably be fully enjoyed after renting a scooter.

Map:

Posted in Langkawi, Malaysia | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

 
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