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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

April 5, 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2018 Borneo tour

Joe & Charlotte standing in the Sky Box atop the KL Tower

Joe & Charlotte standing in the Sky Box atop the KL Tower

We arrive at the KL Tower when it opens at 9:30AM, so there are no crowds. Our tour guide Susan waves off the photographers who normally take photos of everyone as they enter the elevator area. We go straight up to the Sky Deck, which offers open air viewing. This is much better for photography than the glassed-in deck I visited in 2016 when I was here on a Holland America shore excursion. There are also two Sky Boxes on this level, which are glass-floored boxes that extend out into the open air clear of the tower superstructure.

We make a stop at the Titiwangsa Lake Gardens for some very nice views of the Petronas Towers and the hospital district with the cityscape reflected in the lake. Our next stop is the Petronas Towers mall for lunch in the Signature Food Court on level 3. The food is cheap and good, but I have to eat quickly and get out of there to escape the noise and crowds.

Thean Hou Temple

Thean Hou Temple

We visit the highly ornate Thean Hou Chinese Buddhist temple, which presents us with lots of photo ops. By the time we get back on the bus, it is after 2PM and getting very hot outside. Some of our group are done for the day, however our tour leader Susan wants us to see two more sights before we return to the hotel. She proposes to finish the original tour, which includes a walk-about Chinatown and two more temples, but only for those in the group who want to go.

So we all go to see the Chan See Shu Yuen clan hall, which is very interesting, but only worth about 15 minutes, and then we go to nearby Merdeka Square, where there are lots of colonial era buildings, including an old English-era church and a cricket field. We cross the street and walk a block to the River of Life area, where two rivers meet and where the historic Masjid Jamek (Friday Mosque) is located.

Susan takes the group who want to see more off on their walkabout to Chinatown, while the rest of us (me included) are driven back to the hotel. I have a shower and a rest before we leave in the bus for a dinner and cultural show at Saloma (now called WoW KL) in the club district of the city. The cultural show is a high-energy affair, which highlights the multi-cultural milieu that makes up the country of Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur (2016 & 2018) – galleryslideshow

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Singapore

Feb 29, 2016 – Singapore

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

We arrive early this morning in Singapore’s cruise ship terminal. We have a day in port and then overnight aboard the ship this evening. Most of the passengers are disembarking tomorrow morning, but I’m one of the 175 who are staying on board for the next cruise segment.

I take the Best of Singapore excursion today. It is an exhausting 8 hour tour, but we cover a great deal of ground, and I take some good photos and video. Our guide takes us to the City Gallery, where there are some wonderful scale models of the city and the whole country of Singapore. It shows just how much of Singapore is dedicated to gardens and other non-developed land, including the reservoir system for their water supply.

We take an electric-powered riverboat ride down the Kallang River and into Marina Bay, past Merlion Park. The Merlion fountain statue was erected as a symbol of welcome to visitors; the lion statue is emblematic of Singapore itself. We also see the historic Fullerton Hotel, on our way to the three towers that make up the Marina Bay Sands hotel and the observation deck, 200 metres (650 feet) above sea level, perched on Tower 3 of the hotel. I manage to photograph the amazing infinity pool (reserved for hotel guests) by leaning out from the observing deck to grab a shot. The view of Gardens by the Bay below the towers, as well as the city and harbour are fantastic from this vantage point. The Marina Bay Sands hotel has one of only two casinos, and a huge number of high end shops in a vast mall under the main hotel.

Our bus takes us to the entrance to Gardens by the Bay – a 100 hectare (250 acre) spectacularly designed park, home to an amazing variety of rare plants housed in giant, innovative domed conservatories. There are several different regions and ecosystems to discover, but we only have time to explore two: the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest.

The Flower Dome replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions, and showcases flora that thrive in these conditions. Oddly enough, cactus and succulents, as well as Baobab trees are included in this ecosystem. True to its name, the Flower Dome showcases massive numbers of flowers from all over the world. As we move into the mist-veiled Cloud Forest, we feel the climate change to warmer and moister conditions. The 35 metre (115 foot) tall mountain showcases the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and presents plant life from tropical ecosystems, and is nothing short of spectacular.

We stop for a family-style Chinese lunch in a restaurant in Chinatown, which offers us a welcome air-conditioned respite from the heat and humidity on Singapore’s streets after seeing the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The gold-domed Masjid Sultan Mosque is the centre of Muslim culture in the city, and nearby Arab Street offers lots of carpet dealers. Shopping in Little India is interesting, and there are bargains to be had here when compared with Singapore’s more upscale (and expensive) shopping areas.

We finish our day at the legendary Raffles Hotel. I have a Singapore Sling cocktail where it was originally invented in Raffles’ Long Bar. Named after the British designer of modern-day Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles, this property is one of the world’s finest and most famous hotels. The high ceilings and colonial architecture reflect the era of British rule (1819-1963). There is no public access to the lobby and other guest areas, however the Long Bar and shops are accessible to the public.

Singapore – photo albumsslideshow

 

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Feb 27, 2016 – Port Klang & Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

Petronas twin towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas twin towers, Kuala Lumpur

There is a giant NCL ship docked beside us this morning at Port Klang. She arrived first with 3,500 passengers aboard, so the shore resources are swamped. This delays the clearance of our ship, and the departure times for the shore excursions end up being almost an hour later than planned. We finally leave to board our buses and start the hour long drive through heavy traffic to Kuala Lumpur (KL).

The first stop on today’s shore excursion is a Hindu shrine, the Batu Caves. It is built into a huge Karst rock sticking up in the small community of Gombak, just north of KL. I take both video and lots of photos of the stairway of 272 steep steps up to the cavern containing religious temples and statutory. Using HDR and my fisheye lens are both helpful to capture this place. There are monkeys everywhere, and people are feeding them bananas of all things! Guess where the monkeys leave the peels…right on the steep steps! The caves at the top are interesting and well-lit, and have some shrines for the faithful.

Since we had a late start, lunch is our next stop: a sumptuous buffet in a local upscale hotel, the Concorde Hotel. We then make our way to the KL Tower, where we have to wait in what seem to be endless lines to take the elevators to the observation deck. Once there, the views of the city are spectacular!

By this time, we are running very late, so we make a quick photo stop at the Petronas twin towers, and can only stop at the Muzium Negara for a half hour. There are some very interesting historical artifacts in the museum, but we really don’t have time to appreciate them. Our last stop of the day is Independence Square, which offers us obstructed views of quite a few colonial buildings, as well as a cricket field, and other old buildings we have no time to explore.

Our tour is supposed to end at the cruise ship terminal at 4:30PM, but is is a full hour later before we finally arrive after battling traffic congestion most of the day. Not that it matters much to us as passengers, since the ship is not scheduled to depart until 10:30PM.

Warisan Seni Budaya are a Malaysian dance troupe who come aboard the ship this evening and perform some fascinating dances reflecting the mixed cultures to be found in Malaysia: Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sarawak, and Sabah. A young dancer struts around the stage in a peacock costume, and their performance ends with a combo of all the ethnic groups dancing together.