We missed the bus or flight in 2012, in fact we wanted to take off on 12/2/2012 but unfortunately the prices of ticket started sky rocketing and we could not board the flight literally, all plans for my 50th birthday was down the drain. In fact we would have saved literally a lakh if we had to undertake the trip in 2012
Inorder to ensure we will not miss another opportunity for want of planning we ensured that we obtained visa in advance to Singapore and Malaysia. For thailand it is visa on arrival, so no issues at all for visiting Bangkok. Even Sri Lanka has transit visa and stop over visa on arrival. But one should be extremely careful while visiting all these destinations we were reasonably cautioned but we never expected that tragedy can strike from unknown quarters. I shall dwell upon it later.
One of the important safety factor is to have a shoulder purse hanging into your shirt with your passport and wallet tucked into it. Other frills such as travel documents, tickets, currency, travel adaptor or charger, camera chargers etc Some even suggest you carry a mug for cleaning purpose. Humidity is sapping in Far East one needs to consume lot of water and probably replenish salt and sugar to avoid de hydration.
After ensuring visa we had to ensure the right travel agents, who invariably tend to squeeze every penny of your purse irrespective of big brand or otherwise. First precaution we had to take was to ensure that all meals and basic sight seeing is covered by the itineary. It has its pitfall though one might not get to taste the local cuisine and specialities. Most of the Indian tour operators cut corners and tie up with local restaurants to serve Indian food. The purpose of undertaking foreign trip is to taste at least one local cusine otherwise what difference does it make whether you are in India or abroad.
We took it for granted that our stay at Genting Highland was assured as per travel itineary of the tour operator, suddenly he cancels the arrangement and makes an up and down trip to the destination. Some take the excuse of weather permitting and ensure that they profit heavily from the group trip. Extreme humid conditions are bad for your camera, so one needs to protect their mobile phones, camera and passports from getting damaged other things can be salvaged, but any one of these goes wrong one is bound to get disappointed in the entire trip. In our eagerness we tend to loose our specs and goggles too.
We shortlisted Anand Vihari after checking out Ramakrishna Travels, Kesari, Cox & Kings & Thomas Cook. We got our visa through Thomas Cook though, we ruled them out because they did not offer the AP, all meals taken care of. We avoided travelling by flight at the neck of the moment and instead used sleeper coach bus to reach Blore from Mangalore on 13th April, which happened to be Vasanthi’s birthday. We had a good lunch after collecting tickets from the travel agent. Suresh joined us for lunch at Sukh Sagar and it was pleasant to have somebody seeing you off for Bon Voyage.
We took Volvo from Majestic direct to Airport. We reported early and had masala dosa at MTR Cafe outside the cafe. The guide who asked us to report at 5 pm was no where to be seen till 6 pm and we had to kill time either outside the airport or just check in. We decide to take the bull by its horn and checked in are BIAL airport. The lobby provided cooling comfort from searing heat outside. Anyways our flight was scheduled to depart at 8 PM. We went through the formality of baggage checking which took us almost 30 minutes standing the queue. We had been booked vide Sri Lankan Airline which happens to offer a cheap priced ticket, we had an excruciating stopover for 3 hours in the midnight at Colombo airport. We boarded the onward flight to Kaula Lumpur at 2 am. It lands at the magnificient airport which we were not able to enjoy because of the jet lag, lack of sleep, hunger pangs and the most horrible part of the trip we had to wash up at the airport itself. This is where the travel agents come into the picture to make the trip comfortable.
The saga of horror continued with the group being taken around to Puttaraja Grand Mosque and with breakfast in Putra Palace near the parliament at around 10 AM. The breakfast was just palatable with lImited south Indian cuisine’s served. Interesting Exteme humidity started taking its toll and guys we were wondering whether we were being taken for a jolly good ride.
Our local tour guide was very interesting personality, he started reeling out stastics and interesting anecdotes about the Royalty and the economy of Malaysia. It lightened our cracking skull. When we land in Peninsula hotel another horrific wait for 2 hours in the lobby was a real downer. Guys had cancelled the Genting Isle stay and instead that travelling time was utilised with useless program fillers. I did not blow my fuse out just because of courtsey of maintaining decorum. Any tour operator who does not command respect with the hotel as a customer is not doing his job properly. I believe by cutting corners they compromise the safety and comfort of the tourists.
Early tamil visitors to the peninsula called the area as Malaydweep later it was known as Malai or mountain land or city. Thus the roots of Indian sub continent is present in Malaysia. A significant portion of populace almost 7% of them are Indians and majority are from South India. I know two such families who belong to Malaysia but now settled in Bangalore with their friends and relatives still abroad.
Our tour guide Lingam was reeling out many interesting statistics regard Malaysian Economy. He mentioned that mineral water is costlier than Petrol which is the case in most Petroleum producing economy. Further public transportation is highly subsidised due to excellent roadways. The administrative capital Puttaraja is connected with Commercial centre Kaula Lumpur with plenty of transportation facility. It is almost 3 hours drive from international airport to city.
Currently the economy of Malaysia is striving on Petroleum, Cotton, Cocoa, Jewellry, Medical tourism, etc. Being a Islamic country with majority populace being Muslim, it is ruled according to strict laws. The monarchy is on rotating basis from one of 13 states once in 4 years.
Details of the Trip @ Malaysia :
Peninsula hotel is a 3 star hotel with well maintained rooms and a good panaromic view of the city. The buffet breakfast served by this hotel was one of the best spread possible. We were offered with Indian and Western buffet with plenty of sausages and egg burgi’s. Dessert and salad spread too was quite suffice. We were taken to Genting Highlands by an AC bus with approximately 2 hours journey. We were taken by ropeway a 30 minutes ride across the entire valley upto the resort. The weather was top class when compared to the plain. History has it that a Chinese guy converted the entire place into a luxury resort filled with games and Casino. Sky Drop and Roller Coaster rides are specialities of this theme park. These rides are not advisable for Obese and unfit guys. World 1 is the best lodging facility in the world with various check in options and dynamic pricing. The buffet Lunch too was one of the best, except for sea food which was not upto the standard in terms of freshness and cooking. On the return trip we were taken near the Petronas towers wherein we clicked pictures from far away point, literally a night mode pics. On the first day we were supposed to be taken to Batu caves which was postponed to 2nd day since Genting Highland stay was cancelled.
We were supposed to visit Batu Caves on Thaipusam day but due to anticipated crowd the guide seems to have postponed the trip. This Murgan temple is revered by the local populace and most of the tamilians come here to pray to their favourite diety. One has to climb more than 150 steps to reach the top. There is a bat cave at the enterance where they have an entry fee, without a guide it can be clausterphobic. We did taste their local cusine in Masala dosa. In the noon we were taken to a non descript Indian hotel which served limited thali of sorts near the King s Palace. After Lunch we were taken to Kings Palace, we were given to understand that the old Sultan was not keeping in good health. Stories of multiple queen and conspiracies were floating around. The heat was searing however we managed to take some good pictures. Next we were taken to a liberty garden, which had free enterance. Most of these group trips are eventually to places where there is no entry fee. If one needs to visit certain landmark or additional spots one needs to cough up between $ 50 to 100. Imagine even to enter Petrnos tower apart from the shopping floor one needs to cough up currency. We had dinner once again outside in some remote Indian restaurant.
Next day we were taken around the Petronas tower for shopping and enroute we were taken to a Chocolate factory which they called it a boutique one. The guide had cautioned us that the chocolates are boutique type so they may seem expensive but worth it. We were asked to partake as much as free samples. I was literally taken back by the inferior finish of the products, the sales girls were dishing out history and literally enticing the group to go and buy it. Having worked in a Chocolate factory in the initial days of my Career i was certain that it was definitely not worth buying even a single unit of it. I did not want to appear as spoilsport for the rest of the group who were relishing the samples and packing it as if there is no tomorrow. Of the guides must be getting some commission too on the purchases. Some of the guys really did make bulk purchase as gifts. I reserved my purchase for Mustafa market in Singapore and my brand was Hershey. We were moved towards Singapore which is almost 4 hours drive and in between we were halted near a motel and given a lunch parcel. At this place we had the first taste of the dragon fruit which was all cleaned up.
SINGAPORE EXPERIENCE :
Wiki mentions that Singapore was expelled from the confederation of 14 states of Malaysia in 1965 probably it was because they were Chinese majority. A small landmass was developed into 700 kms by reclaimation. Singham in tamil means Lion, so the name revolves around it probably signifying the land of the Lions.
Our tour guides were warning us not to carry sealed liquor bottles or cigarettes probably because they are not to be smuggled into their land. The taxes are high in Singapore when compared to Malaysia and Thailand. However for purchases by tourist they have a policy of refund of taxes at the airport on production of bill.
We were checked the border check post for visa and passport to enter Singapore. Singapore is supposed to be tourist friendly and they generally issue 2 years Visa, so if tourist feel that they have not covered the city or its tourist destination can come back later next year, inviting revenue inflow into the country. I wonder why they have not adopted the policy of tourist on arrival like Bangkok. Our first impression was that laws in Singapore are very strict that one should not throw cigarette butts openly or chewing gum on the streets. But one does find people are smoking outside their offices with dustbins around which makes it easier for people to maintain the public place clean. The most important discipline which i really appreciate is the concern for pedestrians crossing the road at Zebra points. Any vehicle which spot a lonely pedestrian trying to cross the road even at 11pm in the night will stop and proceed till he or she crosses over.
The hazy atmosphere around the city of Singapore with cloud and smoke prevalent either due vehicle pollution or Jhooming in the neighborhood does not enable to take good photography at all. One would probably be very lucky to have bright photographs of the landscape or scenery in Singapore.
Our hotel stay experience at Cherry Loft was the worst in the entire trip. First of all once again the waiting time of more than 1 hour to check in after room allotment. I was in for a rude shock that we were allotted rooms in the pent house which did not have direct access by lift. Our floor had spiral staircase. I immediately came down to complain our tour guide anticipating trouble vanished from the place and checked in into his room. How the hell can we carry such huge suitcases in a spiral staircase was our concern. It was addressed by our receptionist who was working for Taj Group earlier, who said that bell boys would bring the luggage into the rooms no issue.
We had indeed asked for a change of room inorder to avoid spiral staircase experience which was denied by one lady receptionist. We had a shock of our life when she uttered that Customer does not have a choice. My entire impression of hospitality of the nation came down to naught. For a marketing person to hear this comment, probably prompted by our tour operator was the height of customer disservice. I had to register my protest in the register of Cherry Loft hotel in the name of Civil Defence to claim immunity.
Next day morning breakfast was a shocker of an experience at Cherry Loft. It was supposed to be a buffet breakfast, there was a limited spread of items particularly south Indian, with Sandwich and Noodles on two different days. Never mind the spread of dishes but the shocker was we were served on a thermocol plate, which was so brittle that more than 300 gms it will crack the plate and the entire filling will dirty not only the floor but also one’s clothes. I REFUSED bluntly to partake breakfast on this plate fearing the same, which came true in front of everybody when somebody spilled the beans as it were, the floor was splattered with breakfast. One lady supervisor was kind enough to get me melamine plate to have breakfast. Somehow the food was palatable probably because they engaged a good cook. The saga unfortunately did not end here. While having my breakfast and conversing with my group members, suddenly a tall Chinese guy turns up and enquires how is the food etc. He notices my plate and gets furious who gave you this plate ? I said one of your steward ? He was rushing to enquire in the kitchen which nobody accepted. Than he came menacingly rushing towards me and than demanded to know who gave me the plate. He said it was against the hotel policy. My Foot ! What a strange guy who after seeing the spilt breakfast being cleaned by his staff he utters something foolish. Than when I spotted the lady who served me the plate I pointed towards her and he blew his fuse on her. I felt sorry for her, in fact I had to apologise on her behalf and take the flak off her. Guys if at all you all manage to visit this hotel in a group boycott the breakfast if it is served on Thermocol plate, a 3 star hotel cutting corners in such a manner. Added to this they don t provide buckets for bathing in the bathroom, only on special request they provide. It is also mentioned with abundant caution CONSERVE WATER. Luckily they provided jet spray for cleansing.
This episode at Cherry Loft left us a bad taste in our mouth, the rooms were cramped probably illegal on penthouse, only saving grace was it had a huge terrace as balcony. We experienced the downpour in the morning hours which gave us relief from the searing heat.
Our Guide a Chinese lady was witty and quick footed to guide us through the essence of Singapore. The highlight of the first day over shadowed our sordid experience at the hotel when we went out refreshed to explore Quale Bay, Marina, Lions fountain and boating on the backwaters. Luckily we were taken to an Indian restaurant and got to taste the same old rasam sambar, roti and some south indian stuffs. We were getting sick of Basa fish after getting to have same stuff which maybe probably cheaper abroad. The fish preparation is very ordinary even though it is a boneless variety of fish.
Next day our trip to Sentosa Island was really filled with some stuff. Many of the rides seemed unenticing we avoided the same. A museum showcasing the history and cultural background of Singapore was great exhibition. The rope way ride across the sea was really astounding. We were taken to Sky Ride or Birds eye gaint wheel ride for 20 minutes it is so smooth and gives a panaromic view of Singapore with a view spread across the race circuit, Marina building, Opera house etc. We were asked to Shell out $ 30 per pax which approximately turns out to be 1300 per pax which i thought was tad expensive considering a tourist destination. Maybe they offer some cut to the tour operator and guide.
The high point of the Singapore trip was the Laser Show on the remote beach near the Singapore Harbour. It was almost one hour spectacle of sound and prythonics and dance drama. We were really impressed by the finesse of the laser show. We missed on the Universal Studios which is supposed to be superb and Underwater Acquarium.
Disclaimer : This blog is created as a personal diary for the benefit of sharing it among friends and relatives, not with an intention of defaming anybody. It may also serve as a guideline for us to pick and choose our travel agents in future so that we don t end up as being loosers or being short changed in critical areas. The idea is to frankly share our views which may not be palatable for somebody. Our premise is that travelers are willing to go an extra mile when they travel abroad for sight seeing getting up early from morning 6 am to 6 pm ideally. Some far east destinations the sun is up almost at 4.30 am which means the window of visiting time increases. We should know how to squeeze in our private agenda or visit so as to extract every penny s worth.