Back in September I boarded a 13 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur. Was the flight comfortable? No, but was it worth it? Yes! When people thing of South East Asia most immediately jump to either Thailand or Bali, and whilst they’re great for their beautiful beaches and wild nightlife it’s important not to overlook the less touristy destinations which can offer you the same thing, if not more, with the added bonus of safety. That’s where Malaysia and Singapore come in.
My favourite thing about Malaysia is its cultural diversity and the acceptance of it. Although most of the population practices Islam, the country is very accepting of other religions and cultures, so you can expect to see Buddhists, Hindus and Christians all living and working alongside one another harmoniously. In one location, for example, there was a mosque, Hindu temple and Catholic church all within the same vicinity as one another. It was truly refreshing to see and is perhaps the way that all countries should handle multiculturalism. My tour guide also informed me that Malaysia has a low risk of natural disasters, unlike it’s other South East Asian counterparts.
The nightlife is also wonderful and diverse and is sure to offer something for everyone. Changkat Bukit Bintang is where you want to go if you want a big night out filled with nightclubs and booze. However, if you want a more chilled night out they also have jazz bars such as No Black Tie. One of my favourite nightlife spots was the Helipad Lounge Bar which is a rooftop bar on top of, yes, a helipad. It offers you unlimited panoramic views of the city which are simply breathtaking, especially at night. You can see the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower lit up all from the same spot.
Whilst I was in Malaysia it was absolutely mandatory that I go and see some wildlife, so when I’d heard that I could go and visit an elephant orphanage, I immediately jumped at the chance. A couple of hours outside the city in a state called Pahang lies the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre. The centre does a fantastic job of taking in injured or homeless elephants whose habitats have been destroyed. They then nurture the elephants back to health and release them back into the wild once revitalised. Unlike some notorious parts of South East Asia, the orphanage does not advocate tourists riding the elephants, only the keepers can do that. You can, however, bathe a baby elephant in the river; this has to be one of the highlights of my trip, but be warned you will get soaked (totally worth it) so bring some spare clothes to change into.
I immediately felt at home in Singapore. As great as Malaysia was, I did miss my Western comforts. So when I arrived in Singapore I was relieved to see flushing toilets and, well, how clean everything was. The country takes great pride in its cleanliness, what with its strict laws against chewing gum and littering, and rightly so.
One of the key attractions in Singapore is Gardens by the Bay. I fell in love with the place and all the different gardens and conservatories that take you to different parts of the world. I also really admire their emphasis on the importance of climate change and looking after the environment. In fact the whole construction of the gardens reflects this. For example, the Supertrees collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the conservatories. How amazing is that?
Now lets talk shopping. For your more high end luxury brands and shopping centres you can head to Orchard Road. However, if you’re looking for great deals and are on a tighter budget, you absolutely need to go to Bugis Street Market where you can pick up tonnes of great clothes starting at around $10 per piece. Remember you can always haggle your way down to a cheaper deal. The place can be a bit of a maze and it’s easy to spend forever getting sucked in to all the bargains, so be sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase! Chinatown and Little India are also must dos for good bargains, especially for touristy souvenirs and interesting paraphernalia. They’re also fantastic places for delicious food at great prices.
There are a few more things that I wanted to do in the city but didn’t have time for, such as go the the top of Marina Bay Sands or take a ride on the Flyer. However, the little taster that I did get has definitely encouraged me to return for more.