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Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Following the same formalities to exist Singapore as when we went to Johore Bahru we were out in no time and on our way to Malacca or (Melaka in Malaysian). Unlike Johore Bahru which is the state directly across the bridge Malacca is a ways away from Singapore at about an hour and a half drive. We had a buffet lunch at a high class restaurant before heading to the main area of Malacca. The bus dropped our tour group off at the beginning of the ‘China town like area’ and we were guided through the busy streets in a direction heading towards Malaccas famous land marks. Our tour guide had obviously conducted this tour several times before as she knew most of the shop owners on a first name basis and took us around explaining different parts of Malaccan history and lifestyle. One notable store was small elf like shoes that were once used to bind female royalty so that they couldn’t move. The theory behind this is: because they have everything (maids, butlers etc) they don’t need to move and therefore are there to serve the King or Prince. (Don’t quote me on this as this trip was quite a while ago, before I started taking down all the important information) As we continued to walk towards the Dutch canals we were passed by several tricycles with immense decoration. This reminded me of our wonderful tricycle trip through China down the year before this trip. At least this time we weren’t on the flower laden tricycles.

After a quick explanation of a few more local industries here we made our way to a Chinese Buddhist temple and the guide thoroughly explained more facets of this religion and how it affects the local people here in Malaysia. The temple itself was quite elegant inside and out and no expense was spared on the details that went into the constructed. The temple itself was intricately designed with ornaments layering the outside of the building. As I had seen too many of these temples on my trips through Japan I wasn’t too interested but was more eager to make our way to the famous red buildings of Malacca.

We were given a bit of time to roam around the streets before finally meeting up again with the rest of the group and making our way over to the Dutch canals and famous buildings of Malacca. If you’ve seen any of the TV advertising on Malacca you can more or less bet that the advertisements include the Red Church of Malacca, the clock tower and the statue of a famous priest. The state of Malacca has been under several different rules of the last few hundred years and as such as strong influence from many foreign cultures. More notable the Dutch; The Dutch had strongly influenced the city and because of this a good portion of the buildings are red, and there is even city canals running through a good portion of Malacca. We took some photos with the clock tower and followed the guide into the church. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos in here but it was nothing special anyway. As usual there were souvenir stores selling goods here if you wanted to pay overpriced amounts. We headed out and took some last pictures with the church before heading to the top of the Malacca hill to see a famous area which houses a famous statue (again forgot the name sorry. Please check google). We had accomplished the greater portion of what Malacca has to offer. We took some last minute photos, picked up a few souvenir purchases and began walking down the hill towards the pick up hotel. We said goodbye to Malacca for which we probably wouldn’t be returning anytime soon.

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Malaysia is just one bridge away from the bustling city of Singapore, and can be conveniently reached by several means of transport. The tour that I had booked was to pick us up from a nominated hotel then take us through customs and immigration to Johore Bahru and then back to Singapore. Of course stopping at some sights during the day. Before leaving we knew that we were changing country so it was important for us to bring our passports. Malaysia being slightly more dangerous than Singapore I took off my Mont Blanc passport holder which contained my Singapore exit paperwork. A taxi came after we called and head to our pick up address, the Ibis hotel on Bencoolen. We had arrived a bit early just to make sure that we would have enough time to make our tour, so we ended up having a coffee while waiting for our pickup. Thinking to ourselves that we had plenty of time to spare. The driver eventually came as scheduled and informed me that I needed that exit pass. Now I was thinking how could I be so stupid, but the driver kindly asked us where we were staying and took us back to the backpackers so that I could pick it up. Singapore hospitality at its fullest! Soon enough I had everything I needed and we were on our way to the meeting point at the tour office. Leaving Singapore, Entering Malaysia, Leaving Malaysia, Entering Singapore all in one day – there’s a bit of paperwork to say the least. Before we could depart we had to fill out the majority of the immigration paperwork before boarding the bus that would take us to Johore Bahru. We met our fellow traveler’s of whom were pretty much all Filipino’s, introduced ourselves and were on our way into Malaysia. Passing down the main highway that connects Malaysia to Singapore you might notice several signs saying that the fuel tanks need to be 3/4 full before leaving. If your wonder why this is, it’s because the fuel levy and taxes in Singapore are significantly higher than in Malaysia and in the past people would cross the border just to fill up their car. Nowadays there are severe fines for attempting to do this if your caught. Once all our immigration formalities were completed to exit Singapore and then again to enter Malaysia we were on our way to the first stop of the day: A local Batik painting outlet.

The Batik Painting outlet showcased some of Malaysia’s fine arts. The staff here were highly skilled in Batik painting of which they turn into clothes. We watched as she maneuvered her hands over the stencil to create an amazing work of art. They are able to do Disney characters or more traditional Malaysian designs. After observing for a bit longer we were guided inside were we got to watch some traditional music played by some locals before hitting up the souvenir shop. Traveling a lot I know that you shouldn’t buy souvenirs from a tour bus stop, unless you have no choice, as these are normally inflated just for tourists. Most of the goods here are at least half the price if you buy them from a non-tourist location, markets are always a good option. My girlfriend ended up grabbing a scarf as a souvenir for the day before we headed onto a famous mosque. The Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque is a famous landmark of Johore Bahru with its blue and white exterior and is must see if heading into Johore Bahru. Not only is the building quite amazing but the surrounding areas are equally as amazing. Unless you are a practicing Muslim you are not actually allowed to enter the Mosque but the Muslims here are more than welcoming to the outside premises. Outside the mosque there were several people selling tourist items for a fraction of the cost of the last stop. I was able to pick up a few hand made rugs here for less than 5 dollars Australian each. We took several photos of the outlying view and had a good chat to our guide who could speak bits and pieces of several languages. I suppose this is what happens when you take several different nationalities on your tours.

After the mosque we were taken to a traditional display Malaysian home, that included a traditional dance from a couple of locals. The dance was quite flamboyant and the male danced in a very elegant way – definitely not something that I would be doing any time soon. After giving a small tip which was customary we took our shoes off and went inside the house. First impressions were that it looked just like a house in the Philippine’s, so for the majority of the tour group being Filipino it didn’t seem that special. Around the back there was a Pewter shop were I could finally pick myself up a shot glass. (I collect shot glasses) Malaysia is mainly Muslim so they don’t consume alcohol and because of this finding shot glasses here can be quite hard. The man demonstrated how to make these shot glasses behind the safety glass of which I guess is because of the fumes that are emitted from smelting pewter – but i’m only guessing. Most of the things in this souvenir store were way too expensive and the pewter shot glass was no exception, costing me about 20 Australian dollars, and to this day it still remains one of the more expensive shot glasses that I have purchased. The tour was coming to an end and we were taken to our final stop at a local chocolate outlet. By now most of the Filipino’s on the bus were saying to themselves that the only thing we had done all day was go shopping. This was more or less true, but from further research it seems there isn’t that much to do in Johore Bahru anyway. So in the end I guess it didn’t matter. The chocolate here was quite nice as it wasn’t too sweet and the free tour of how they make the chocolate was quite welcome. Our tour guide was kind knowledgeable and handy to have and being in a group in Johore Bahru made everything seem a little bit more safe. I probably wouldn’t backpack Johore but I have formulated this opinion based on Australia’s Smart Traveller website whom usually over exaggerates a bit. Before we knew it we were going through customs and immigration out of Malaysia and back into Singapore. Another couple of stamps in my passport and we back on Singapore land. All in all it was easier for us to take this tour to see Johore Bahru and our group was quite friendly and talkative. This made things a bit more bare able considering the only places we were taken were pretty much tourist shops. (This day continues in the Singapore section, Day Three Part B)

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