Melaka 

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Melaka 

After our few days in Kuala Lumpur it was time to move on to the very nice town of Melaka. Melaka was a major trading port before Singapore took over, and was the main hub for trade in Maylasia. When you see the quaint narrow streets with its many architectural beautiful houses, along with it’s small narrow canal system it’s hard to imagine the town as a major trading hub. It has now become one of Malaysia’s tourist hotspots. Now you can visit Melaka from Kuala Lumpur, just as a day trip. As the journey from KL is only around one and a half hours to two hours away. I’m sure there are many tour companies in KL that will cater for this, but my suggestion is take the train or a taxi to the TBS bus station and take one of the many luxury buses that run down to Melaka, and for a fraction of the cost of a tour company ” the single journey cost 26 ringetts for two which is just under £3. I would strongly recommend not just to go for the day but to spend at least a couple of nights there, to really enjoy it. There are an abundance of restaurants and street food stalls to choose from, and also many shops. These are mainly along Jonker street and the surrounding area. One thing to mention is that Melaka is a weekend town for tourism, with many people coming in from KL even Singapore of a weekend break. During the week it can be a little quite. But the town comes alive at the weekend. One of its main draws is the weekend night market, which is held on a Fri, Sat and Sunday night.

Top sights

  • Night market, (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
  • River Boat Trip
  • Illuminated Rickshaws
  • Jonker street
  • Reggae Bar

 

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Kuala Lumper

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After our busy few days in China, here we are in Kuala Lumper, Malaysia’s capital for the next stage of our trip. We are staying at Summer Suites which is a 10 minute walk from the Petronas Tower’s and a five minute walk from the monorail. A perfect location for discovering the city. The one tourist attraction that I would recommend when visiting are the Petronas Towers for a great view over the city. We booked our tickets back in the UK which I would recommend doing. As firstly if you are only in the city a few days like we are you are guaranteed to the get the day and the time you want. Also as it is a popular tourist spot it can get pretty booked up, so you may be disappointed if you just turn up. On the visit your first stop is the “Sky Bridge” which is the walkway connecting the two towers. Next stop is the 86 floor and the “Sky Deck” which affords amazing views of the city. There is another tower in KL you can visit, and that’s the Menara tower. My suggestion is go up the Petronos during the day, and visit the Menara at night, this way you get to see the Petronos towers lit up at night in their glory. Other top sights to see in the city are. China Town, Little India and Batu Caves. China town is exactly what it says, lots of Chinese restaurants, shops and street food, a good place to go and explore, and to eat. Next up little India, much the same as China town, but you guessed it ” An Indian slant on things”. Now if it’s shopping you want then you could go to Petaling Market in China town, “it’s where all the guide books say to go” but in my opinion it’s overpriced and you get major hassle. You could try Central Market, but my Top Tip is take the monorail to Chow Kit station, which is in little India, and there is a market there. No hassle and the prices are a fraction of what they want to charge in Petaling street. Next  Batu Caves which is a short drive or train journey out of town. They are a must see. Here you will find a collection of Hindu temples inside. Entrance is free to the main cave, so don’t be enticed into buying a ticket from any of the dubious ticket offices.There is on exception however the cave to the far left of the main cave (just walk along the pathway in front of the car park) does have a small entrance fee, but it is well worth it. Just one thing to mention. The stairs leading up to the main cave are a little steep and in the heat can be a struggle, I did read that there was a cable car but I saw no sign of this. This said there are plenty of places to stop along the way, and I’m sure that the many monkeys which are running around along the way will keep you amused with there antics.

So if Kuala Lumper is a stopover on your way to further afield, don’t just use it as a transit stop give it a look

Taxi Scams One thing I should mention is the many crafty taxi drivers. It was almost impossible to get a taxi driver to put there meter on like all the guide books insist that you do. They all want to charge you a really inflated price to the correct metered fare. Now us on our travels either walk or use public transport. We tried once and he wanted a stupid price, we wasnt  going far, (we only wanted a taxi due to the the fact that we had been walking all day and our feet had, had enough) So I told him ” don’t be so stupid” and walked. So I suggest you download an app on your phone called grab taxi and book a taxi through the app. (You will need a data connection) An example of the price difference is when we arrived at Melaka Central bus station and needed to get to our hotel, we went to the supposedly official taxi office and was immediately descended on by a throng of drivers who all wanted the same price. The fixed price was 20 ringetts, around £4, which we had to pay as I had no data connection to use the app. (Normally I get a local sim) When we got to the hotel and had some wifi I checked the price on Grab Taxi and the official fare was 8 ringetts around £1.50. I have to point out that it wasn’t the cost as £4 would be more than exceptable for the journey we took in the UK but the Malaysian government are trying to clamp down on the taxi syndicates run by local crooks. So beware

 

The Great Wall

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The Great Wall

Our next day in Beijing with another busy day ahead it was tIke to visit the magnificent Great Wall of China. Before we left the uk we did some research on the best place to visit. The main tourist spot is at a place called Badaling, but after looking at a lot of images and also watching the UK’s TV series “An Idiot Abroad”, with Carl Pilkinton, it showed  what looked like a football crowd walking along it, so we decided to give this section a miss . So with some further research we settled on going to a section a little further outside of Beijing at a place called Mùtiányù. This is far less touristy, in fact it was very quite when we went as we were outside the main tourist season.

The Chinese started building the wall some 2000 years ago and the wall covers a distance of 5,500 miles. We sourced “which as it turned out” a very good company on the internet run by a chap called Miles Meng. “In fact he is listed in the Lonely Planet guide book which we discovered later”. The journey takes about 2 hours and cost 700¥ (for the car not per person) this is around £80. If you decide to visit the  Badaling section of the wall you can take the train from Beijing north rail station, but if you decide on Mùtiányù then you need a taxi or private tour. The trip doesn’t include the entrance fees, these will cost 100¥ for the return cable car trip and 45¥ for the entrance totalling around £17

Top Tip instead of taking the cable car back down take the toboggan or luge it’s much more of a fun way to get down.

Visiting the wall in March like we did was perfect, there was no crowds, it was cold “there was still snow on the ground” and there were clear blue sky’s. Seeing the wall in the flesh so to speak was just amazing, in fact it was quite emotional. Another wonder of the world ticked off.

The Forbidden City 

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The Forbidden City 

What a difference a good nights sleep makes. Our attitude today was totally different. After a nice breakfast it was off to discover Tienanmen square and The Forbidden City. We took the metro which is  very simple to navigate. Unlike London’s tube network though there is no one day travel card option, you have to buy a single journey which costs 3¥ ( around 40p UK ). You can buy your ticket at the kiosk, ” just point to where you want to go on the tube map” or use the automatic ticket machines which have a English translation option.

Top Tip  when using the metro be mindful if you are on a time schedule. Because if you are are traveling at peat times, everyone entering the metro has to pass their bags through an airport style security scanner and the queues can get rather long. On arrival at Tienanmen Square we we confronted by another long queue because of yet another security check “Security is very tight in China”. Once inside The Forbidden City it was immediately apparent that all the hassle before hand was most definitely worth it. The complex covers a vast area and took us the whole day to explore. My activity tracker showed that we had took 28,275 steps totalling 12.9 miles over the day. THe Forbidden City is truly a amazing place. Entrance fees are very reasonable too whigh at time of travel was 40¥, which is around £5. Also I would recommend once inside visit the museum as some of the artifacts and intricate jewellery on display are stunning. This will cost you an extra 20¥ but like I said well worth it. When yo enter the city you have to enter the by the Meridian gate, which is where the ticket offices are, but I suggest that once you have explored the city, leave by the North Gate, walk across the road and enter Jingshan Park (small entrance fee) and if you have got the energy after a very busy day walk up to the Wanchun Pavillion to get a great view of the city from up high. A perfect end to a perfect day, we were certainly in the swing of things now.

Footnote

The Chinese don’t do queuing it’s just their way, so there is a little bumping and boring. There is no malice or anger involved, like I said it’s just their way. So stay calm and go with the flow.

 

Beijing “The Initiation” 

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Beijing “The Initiation” 

Well it’s finally here my 60th birthday trip (well birthday’s not until the 26th). Our first stop is in China and the fascinating city of Beijing.

After our ten hour flight and as we were making our final approach into Beijing airport I couldn’t help noticing how flat the area was around the city was. But more amazingly the amount of tall residential blocks you could see, literally thousands of them, mile after mile, all very gray and similar in design. It looked like a scene from a sci-fi film. It’s no wonder though as Beijing 23,000,000 inhabitants have got to live somewhere.

Our transit through immigration was a breeze and we were soon in our taxi on our way to our accommodation “Kelly’s Courtyard” a really lovely small hotel which I would recommend highly, in the heart of one of Beijings Hutong districts and very close to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. After checking in and. dropping our bags We decided to have a walk around the imidiate area to get our bearings also to refrain from taking a sleep owing to the jet lag. It was immediately noticeable that things were not going to be easy on this part of our trip. Firstly we were going to have no idea of the language or even trying to decipher it with the aid of the guide book, and what on earth were we going to do when it came to eating.We didn’t have a clue as to what was on the menus and from what we have read we really did need to know. (As they do eat a multitude of strange things the Chinese, some I’m sure wouldn’t be to appetising), in fact later on in our trip we saw a menu serving hedgehog and also donkey, Mmm lovely. One other big problem was the fact that unlike other countries that I have visited, very few people speak any English at all. It was even a struggle to find a place for a cup of coffee ( I know we are in China they drink tea, but I hate the stuff). Luckily we came across a really a nice place called “1901” a really old establishment steeped in history We settled down and was initially going to have a nice cup of coffee and a cake but after seeing the prices we decided on just coffee which was £4, and £4.75 for just a small piece of cake so we just had coffee. We were beginning to think at this stage perhaps we should have carried onto Kuala Lumper without stopping in Beijing. But we both agreed this was down to the fact that we had just had a long journey and we were extremely tired. John the owner of Kelly’s courtyard recommended us to a really nice restaurant nearby with a menu we could understand “we hadn’t just learnt Chinese it had pictures” although there were some strange looking offerings, there were also some familiar ones “things were looking up”. Our mood was changing. New day tomorrow.