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Cheap Thrills

  • Submitted by: Irene Marie C. Bausas, Philippines
  • Submission Date: 16th Aug 2006

Lebaran is an awaited holiday for those living in Indonesia. For the Muslims, it is a festive celebration to end a month of fasting. For non-Muslims, it is a long holiday and a good chance to travel. It is more expensive to travel during this time thus one has to be more innovative in order to keep within a budget.

Our plans started with the click of a mouse. AWAIR budget airline tickets were easily booked online for only $120 (2-way). When most airlines declared that they were fully booked, going budget came into mind. Flights were still available and they were actually cheaper. It was a new experience flying on AWAIR. The plane was 2 hours late and there weren’t any seat numbers given. Thus, those wanting to sit infront needed to join a race to get them. I wanted to sit infront so I pushed and ran for it when the gates finally opened.

I sat comfortably and tried to read. I reminded myself to bring a reading material on my next flight. A menu was soon given but the choices were limited so I opted to just eat when we land. The flight is short anyway, just over an hour.

From the Batam airport, there was a taxi queue to the ferry terminal. Several ferry companies operate the Batam-Singapore route. For $14, we got a 2 way ticket. The ferry ride took 45 minutes. The waves were quite big and strong that it lulled me to sleep. My colleague on the other hand was nauseaus. It was a joy to finally see the bright lights of Harbour Front. It had been a long day.

We took the MRT to Yishun where we stayed with my colleague’s brother. Home stay is a great way to experience the place with much help from those who actually live there. Plus its a great way to save money. Early the next day, we went to Orchard Road to visit Lucky Plaza. I feel like I’m back home whenever I’m there. We went around and had Filipino food at Kabayan Restaurant. We also tried to book coach tickets to Kuala Lumpur but most agencies there said they were sold out. We decided to go straight to the bus station and finally got tickets for $40 (2-way).

The next day, we were at the station early. The 6 hour ride was comfortable although we had to go down twice at the Singapore then Malaysian immigration. The seats had a massager and a mini television. We chose to stay in an inexpensive hotel in Bukit Bintang. The location is great as it is very near malls and eating areas. We enjoyed teh tarik (milk tea) in the morning. Mostly, we ate at local restaurants and tried Malay and Indian food, influenced by the Indian immigrants.

We explored the malls of KL all decorated to celebrate Hari Raya. Not that we had a lot to spend. We just weren’t in for the serious tourist sights like monuments and museums. We just want to get a feel of bustling KL. Sungei Wang is most affordable and bargaining may take place in some stalls. They sell souvenir items like the malay fabric, kain songket with its gold thread. Petaling Street offers a lot of good bargains during the night. After dinner, the place is filled with imitation items at its lowest price.

The most exclusive mall is Suria KLCC at the base of the Petronas Towers. Going up the tower is free. Tickets for different timeslots are issued early in the morning. It wasn’t our luck to see the towers on this trip because it was closed for Lebaran. Just looking at the towers from outside is just as satisfying.

Midvalley Megamall in the Central Business District lives up to its name. It is huge and wide, housing 3 major stores, Carrefour, Jusco and Metrojaya. It also has one of Malaysia's largest Cineplex, gym and a state-of-the-art Bowling Centre and a one-stop IT Centre.

Lot10 is another mall to visit. It is centrally located in Bintang Walk, a shopping and entertainment district. Berjaya Times Square is not the place for the faint hearted. Its tagline reads, all in one. Surely one can find a lot in 10 floors of shopping inlcuding a theme park and IMAX theatre which claims to be the largest movie screen in South East Asia. It is connected to a hotel and convention centre as well.

Sunway Lagoon is a theme park for both children and adults outside KL. As we are not big fans of thrilling ride, we opted for the water park only. We screamed and splashed in the Waters of Africa. We tried Malaysia's only headfirst six-lane racer water ride. It was a heart thumping experience to take the double tube water ride that steeply dropped us to 15 metres, and shot us up again to 8 metres. I had most fun with my colleagues when we all went for the group slide and ended up with water in our noses.

We enjoyed the world's largest man-made surf wave pool, with a man-made erupting volcano at the backdrop. Above us looms the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge, measuring 428m in length, offering an impressive view of the whole Lagoon.

Genting Highlands resort is a cool retreat from KL. It was busy with people when we got there. Several hotels are adjacent to one another. There’s shopping, a theme park, a casino. The best part of the trip was riding the Genting Skyway. These cable cars go through the lush forest. A bus station sits at the end of the skyway with regular trips to different parts of KL.

The Arena of Stars has a wide list of local and international stars who have performed there including Michael Learns To Rock and the Vienna Boys Choir. The amphitheatre can seat 6,000 people at one time. Another venue for performances is the Pavilion Hall. The First World Plaza is divided into six themed areas Times Square, Universal Walk, London, Venice, Champs Elysees and Genting Walk. They also have Karaoke and the First World Cineplex.

We headed back to Singapore, met up with friends and then back to Indonesia. For 9 days of travel under $450, it had been a good trip. We used a lot of public transportation which led us to different alleys and unexpected tours. It was a good trip. A chance to meet new people and experience new things like walking around KL at midnight just to take pictures of the Petronas Towers, sharing a cab with locals, hitch hiking even. While it is true that the best things in life are free, getting things at a cheaper price is just as good.