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We are now the proud owners of our very own domain!
Please go to catsandbackpacks.com for all our posts from now on!
I thought I’d start a new series on the blog, in order to highlight what I think are the best aspects of different places I’ve visited.
I’m going to start with Kuala Lumpur, partly because I’ve recently been convincing Seb why I think it’s worth adding into our trip in February, and partly because I feel it’s somewhat underrated as a destination.
Side note: Yesterday it transpired that Seb thought KL was a country all of its own- I was showing him pictures of Malayisa and he got annoyed that I was showing him pictures of lovely places that we weren’t going to visit! I think I need to get him reading a bit more!
1. The food-
My time spent in Kuala Lumpur was filled with delicious food. From the street stalls to formal restaurants, it seems there’s something for everyone in the city.
My highlights include roti canai, a type of flatbread often served with a sort of garlic curry and something I regularly ate for breakfast. It’s also extremely cheap, at around RM1 – 1.50, which is around 15p – 25p in British Pounds.
I also got to experience Dining in the Dark KL, a brilliant restaurant in the heart of Bukit Bintang, one of my favourite areas in the city. Take a look at their website to get a true understanding of the experience, but essentially you are taken into a room devoid of light and served a mystery menu. For the wine tasting menu, the cost is RM168 plus tax and service charge, which works out at around £30pp- much more than an ‘ordinary’ meal but so, SO worth it if you can.
There are massage parlours lining the streets on Bukit Bintang, and in many other places in the city. After a long day of walking, climbing and exploring, there’s nothing better than settling down for a foot rub! I’m pretty sure my favourite place was called ‘Bintang Relax’, on Changkat Bukit Bintang, but I’m only going on what Google street view says the name of it is. A 30 minute massage costs around RM30 (£4.65), and is well worth the spend.
3. Batu Caves-
Technically, these caves are about 16km outside of Kuala Lumpur, but it is so easy and cheap (RM2 – £0.15) to get the train there that I’m including them in this list. Most of the caves are free to enter, and the main cave (Cathedral Cave) is reached by a flight of 272 steps. It’s a long climb, but worth the spectacular views and cave network at the top.
4. The heights-
Kuala Lumpur is known for the iconic Petronas Towers, as well as the Menara Tower, both of which allow amazing views of the KL skyline. It seems a shame to visit the city and not do one of these tourist attractions- I went up the Petronas Towers on my last visit to the city and plan to do the Menara Tower when we visit in February.
5. The Accommodation-
Now, I have to admit I haven’t experienced a wide variety of accommodation in KL, however what I will say is there are a massive variety of places to stay. There are cheap, central hostels such as Serenity Hostels at only £4pppn, ‘Glampacker’ hostels like BackHome at £9.60pppn (my accommodation of choice last year), moving up to guesthouses (Sahabat Guesthouse, £17 per night), mid-range hotels (Chaos Hotel, £24 per night) and 5 star havens such as the Mandarin Oriental, £93 per night.
We’ve chosen the Chaos Hotel for our next visit, as it’s in the heart of Bukit Bintang and a reasonable price, but there is so much choice it took us a long time to decide- narrowly missing the cut were Wolo Bukit Bintang (only discounted because the price was double that of Chaos, Invito Hotel Suites and Hotel Maison Boutique (just a bit too fairy tale for us!).
Please note I’ve linked most of the above to Booking.com, as we prefer to book our rooms through the site.
As you will know, I went to Southeast Asia with my friend last December. I had an amazing time and have been desperate to go back, but I didn’t think it would be so soon!
In April I found very cheap return flights with Emirates to Bangkok- £390pp. To compare, similar flight times now are nearly £500pp (the exact flights aren’t available any more). I have searched on Skyscanner and found return flights for £342pp with Air China, however I haven’t travelled with them before so can’t comment on that. It certainly seems a good deal though!
I actually booked the trip without even consulting Seb- a risky decision I know, but luckily he was very excited when I told him. Thailand is somewhere he’s wanted to visit for a very long time and I know he was disappointed when I went with my friend before him. I made an agreement to spend as little time in Thailand as possible- hence why we only did 3 nights in Bangkok and focused much more on Malaysia, and so this time Thailand is our main focus.
I loved Singapore, and it’s a country we’ve discussed living in one day, so we felt it only right to make it a part of our trip so Seb could see what the fuss is about. And once we’d added that into our itinerary, it seemed silly not to make Kuala Lumpur a part of it as well…
So yes, we’re doing the same three countries as I did last year, but in reverse and with most of our time spent in Thailand. Our itinerary is below:
30th Jan – Land in Bangkok
1st Feb – Fly to Chiang Mai
4th Feb – Fly to Krabi, spend time in Ao Nang
8th Feb – Fly to Kuala Lumpur
11th Feb – Fly to Singapore
14th Feb – Fly to Bangkok
16th Feb – Fly home
This gives us 4 nights total in Bangkok, 3 nights in Chiang Mai, 4 nights in Ao Nang to use as a base to explore Railay and the Islands, 3 nights in KL, and 3 nights in Singapore.
I will also be costing everything out before and after our trip to show how much we spent. After this trip perhaps I can let go of my beloved Southeast Asia for a while and explore a new region!
I’ve found a new love- skyscanner. I never realised that little website lets you put in the dates you’d like to go away and come back, and will work it’s magic to find out the cheapest place you can go! This is how we found return flights from London to Gothenburg for only £12pp, and returns from Birmingham to Dublin for £30pp.
So, last weekend we decided to go on a little adventure and go to Gothenburg for the weekend! Our flight left on the Saturday morning and returned on the Sunday afternoon, but we felt that 1 night was enough time to explore the city.
We stayed at Backpackers Gothenburg, a hostel near the Botanical Gardens and Natural History Museum. It was about a 3km walk from the central station and city centre, however the location suited us as it’s near the districts of Haga and Linne, the main area that we were exploring. We also likes it because it was the cheapest place we could stay in the city, however the pictures on booking.com are nothing like the hostel really is. It was very dirty and messy, and is in serious need of an update. I won’t complain too much though, as we didn’t spend much of our time there and it was a comfy bed for the night.
On our first day we wandered through Haga, a beautiful district full of coffee shops and cobbles. We noticed almost straight away that Gothenburg has a lot of vegetarian restaurants, and we stopped for a coffee and a cake at En Deli, which was delicious (we had guessed by the huge queue to get in!).
We also went to Feskekorka, a fish market which is renowned for it’s architecture and resemblance to a Gothic church. If we had been staying for longer, or in an apartment, I definitely would have bought some fresh fish to cook and try! We also heard that they do excellent lunches to take away, so that may well be worth a try.
We ate an early dinner at The Barn, one of the tastiest and nicely designed restaurants I’ve eaten at for a long time. It’s hidden down a side street and we only found it through looking at Restaurants on Trip Advisor. They specialise in burgers, but with buns that taste a bit like brioche, and you can have a variety of side orders including ‘allumettes’, which are chips that are cut as thin as matchsticks. We felt that at 555 SEK (approx. £44) for two meals and two drinks, that the prices were reasonable too for Gothenburg- everything is very expensive (a bottle of water cost upwards of £2 at a supermarket).
Our evening entertainment was what we had most been looking forward to- an escape game. If you haven’t played one before (we hadn’t), it’s a life size version of the computer games you can get where you have to find your way out of a room, finding clues and solving puzzles. We went to Gotescape, and played the Bank Vault game. We had to work our way through a series of rooms in order to steal a diamond from a bank vault and escape within the 60 minute time limit.
The next day was a far more relaxed one. We started the day with a filling breakfast at our hostel (well worth the 70 SEK in our opinion) before making our way to what we thought were the botanical gardens. It’s only now, as I’m sat writing this, that I realise we were actually walking around Slottsskogen Park! We wondered why it wasn’t similar to other gardens we’d been to. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see the Botanical Gardens, as they look really beautiful. We then meandered all the way back through the city to the bus stop in order to catch our transfer back to the airport. We used Flygbussarna Airport Coaches, at a cost of 185 SEK (approx. £14.75) per person. We found it very easy to use, as the stop is right outside the airport entrance, and the coaches are comfortable and have free Wifi. Although the price was quite steep, it was by far the cheapest way to get into the city, and continues the trend of things costing a lot in Sweden!
On that note- don’t buy magazines at the airport! We got there quite early and hadn’t packed any books as we were only gone for the weekend, and I found myself reluctantly handing over the equivalent of £8 for a Lonely Planet magazine (£3.90 in the UK!). Many magazines were around the £10 mark, so I’d recommend bringing something to read with you if possible.
All in all, we had a great weekend, and although the destination wasn’t a normal one, we really enjoyed getting out of the country for a mini adventure.
It’s been so long since I’ve been able to sit down and write, I’m sorry for that!
So much has happened since the middle of May when I last posted. I finished my degree, moved house (across the country), started a full time job and got married! Busy, busy, busy.
However, I’m still very much interested in travelling, and would like to give you an update as well as start writing more regularly again.
It may interest you all to know that we changed our honeymoon plans- again! We spent 3 nights in Amsterdam and then 2 weeks in Salou in Spain in the end. We realised that with everything that was going on, we just wanted to relax and enjoy each other’s company for a couple of weeks.
We’ve also been away to Gothenburg in Sweden for the weekend, and have trips planned to Dublin and Southeast Asia in the next 3-4 months. I’ll be writing more about these trips in the coming posts.
We’re trying to be more realistic now about when we’ll be able to go around the world on a long trip- we think that 2020 will be our year, as Seb may be able to take a year off work at that point and I’ll be established enough in my career then to be able to have a break and come back to it afterwards. I feel sad, because I have such itchy feet, but I know that before we can start saving the serious money it’s going to cost to go away for that long, we need to get ourselves in a better financial position and pay off our debts so our monthly outgoings are minimal.
That’s a mini update done, I’ll write again very soon!
We actually visited Kuala Lumpur next on our trip through South-east Asia, but I feel more inclined to talk about Penang right now.
We dropped our bags off at our hotel- the Chulia Heritage. We were excited to stay here as it looked stunning on the photos and was our first private room (and what we thought was a bargain at £10 per person per night). No such luck. It was in a good location but it was having a lot of renovations- they were painting the floorboards and there was only a narrow walkway for us to walk through. Strangely, there were also coke bottles placed all around the corridors like traffic cones. The bathrooms were shared, but the shower head was over the toilet, so every time you needed to use the toilet you had to wipe away someone else’s shower water with toilet roll. No thank you.
We promptly left in search of food. I had such high hopes for the island- I’m a big foodie and couldn’t wait to try the street food that I had read so much about.
Well, I was very disappointed. I don’t know whether we’d picked a bad day to arrive in Georgetown, but nothing was open. Not a street stall to be found. We tried several hawker centres and eateries- Red Garden Food Paradise and Restoran Sup Hameed included.
We eventually found ourselves at Esplanade Food Centre, which could have been quite a romantic setting by the sea were it not cold and windy that day! It was open, and busy too, but I have to admit: we were disappointed. Maybe we’d been spoilt by the street food of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, but it was dirty, windy and we were being oggled by the locals.
Despite being very hungry, we walked around Georgetown to see the sights and culture and were even more disappointed. Everywhere we saw felt run down and (despite all the people) empty. And I hate to say it, but it smelled…
After a few hours we had made up our minds: we were leaving. I will readily admit that we probably didn’t give the place a good chance- we didn’t leave Georgetown at all- but with so little time on our trip we wanted to spend it as well as we could. We booked our ferry tickets to Langkawi for 7am the next morning and went back to the hotel for a very early night.
Did we find any food? Yes, a Subway!!
Seb and I changed our mind many times about what to do for our honeymoon. At first we planned to go to Thailand, Vietnam and Japan but it’s the wrong time of year weather-wise and the itinerary just didn’t make sense as we were so short on time.
We then decided to book a luxury hotel in Rome for 5 nights, but quickly realised it would cost just as much to do that as something more adventurous. We realised our main stumbling block was the cost of flights to anywhere long-haul, so did some research and found we could get a 22 day Interrail pass for £219pp. This allows us to travel for 10 days out of 22 anywhere in Europe (apart from your home country), and this combined with some cheap flights at the beginning and end of our trip mean we’ve got all our travel sorted for less than one long-haul plane ticket!
We are staying in private rooms all through the trip, though a couple have a shared bathroom. We don’t plan to spend much time in the hotels as we’ll be out exploring, so we’re happy with a mostly basic level of accommodation (plus rooms are far more expensive than in other parts of the world!)
Here is our itinerary as it stands at the moment, but apart from the start and end points everything is flexible. If you have some ideas on how we can improve our trip I’d love to hear them!
Amsterdam- 3 nights
Berlin- 2 nights
Munich- 2 nights
Neuschwanstein Castle- 1 night
Innsbruck- 1 night
Lake Bled- 2 nights
Venice- 2 nights
—- Ca Sole
Riomaggiore- 3 nights
Milan- 2 nights
Singapore is renowned as one of the most expensive countries in Asia. I found it difficult to know how much to take, and mainly relied on my trusty Lonely Planet book for information.
In the end, for two days, I took $190 (approx £92). This was to pay for accommodation, food, drinks and sightseeing. Whilst there I took out another $20 (approx £9.75) which led to a total spend of $210 for two-and-a-bit days. Please see below a breakdown of what I spent.
As mentioned in a previous post (see here) my accommodation for two nights at Bunc@Radius Little India was $48 total. You can certainly get cheaper accommodation in Singapore- I’ve just found two nights at City Backpackers in Kallang for just under $25 total- but we were only travelling for two weeks total and were able to spend a little more on accommodation than we would if we had been going for longer.
Total accommodation cost: $48
Many of the things we did in Singapore were free- the Merlion statue, the Marina Bay Sands light show and the Botanical Gardens to name a few. We paid $29 for the cable car and approx $36 for the Night Safari, and those were our only two sightseeing expenses.
Total sightseeing cost: $65
Food and drink:
It gets a little trickier to breakdown my exact spend from here on, as the trip was in December and I didn’t keep my receipts!
Hawker meals range from around $2 to $6 (there are more expensive ones but I never bought these) and drinks are between $1 (water or a can of juice) and $4 (freshly made fruit and ice drinks).
Total food spend: approx $50
We did a very small amount of shopping in Singapore- mainly buying nail varnishes and nail glue in Sasa after a long hunt! One of my acrylic nails had snapped off on the plane on the way there so needed an emergency fix. I believe my approximate spend in Sasas was $20.
Apart from on foot, the only mode of transport we used in Singapore was the MRT (aside form the bus to the Night Safari!). It is very cheap to use- a one-way trip from Changi Airport to Bugis is $2.30 (£1.10)- and it’s clean and efficient as well. You can find out how much your fare will cost on the MRT website. An approximation of how much my transport cost in Singapore is around $25.
Total miscellaneous spend: approx $45
I was left with a few cents over $2 left, which brings my total spend for 2.5 days to $208 (approx £101.50).
This gives a daily spend of $83.2 (approx £40.50). This is a little over the average ‘backpacker’ spend of $50 – $60 a day, but we didn’t compromise on anything that we wanted and had a fabulous few days!
I began two weeks of backpacking through South-east Asia in Singapore in December 2014. The weather was great- in the high 20°s to early 30°s and sunny the whole time.
We spent 2 days (2 nights) in the city, and easily could have spent a couple more days there if we’d have had the time. Unfortunately, we were on a tight time-scale that didn’t allow for schedule changes!
Our flight from the UK arrived at Singapore Changi airport early in the morning, which was great as it gave us a whole first day. The transport links from the airport into the city were great, and the MRT into the city took us just over half an hour.
We stayed at Bunc@Radius Little India, which was a fabulous hostel costing us the equivalent of £11.70 per person per night. This price gave us a single bed each in a 16-bed mixed dorm, a free breakfast, use of all the facilities and help from the loveliest staff we met on our trip. You can find out more about Bunc@Radius here. We found the hostel to be clean and safe, and the showers were great. The only slight downside was the location- it’s currently a 10 – 15 minute walk from a MRT station which could sometimes be inconvenient, but there was a lot of work going on around the hostel as they build the new Jalan Besar station. It is set to open in 2017 and is very close to the hostel.
^ We both had a top bunc at the hostel, which have convenient table areas for your belongings and lockers underneath! ^
After freshening up at Bunc, we decided to do some sightseeing even though we were very tired. We walked from the hostel to the Merlion statue via some temples, shopping centres and the Raffles hotel. It’s about a 3km walk each way so can get tiring but it’s a great way to see the city and we did this many times over the 3 days rather than use the MRT.
By this point it was early afternoon and we were very tired and hungry so we stopped for some chicken and bee hoon (thin noodles) in one of the shopping centres and then had a sleep at our hostel.
When we woke up that evening we went to see the light show at the Marina Bay Sands hotel. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a free show in the bay that uses water and light to tell a story- you need to walk round to the Marina Bay Sands hotel to see it- we nearly missed it as we were on the wrong side of the bay! You can access the hotel via the Helix Bridge, which is a beauty in itself. 🙂
Finally on our first day we had dinner at Glutton’s Bay, around the other side of the bay. I had chicken, rice, and vegetables, and my best friend had Char Kway Teow. I cannot recommend this hawker centre enough- it is fabulous and the food is incredible- my meal cost less than £2 and it may have been the best street food I ate during the trip. Street food and hawker stalls are, in my opinion, the best places to eat in South-east Asia. They’re very cheap (always good to hear when you’re on a budget) and they provide a real taste of local cuisine.
We then headed back to the hostel and got some much-needed sleep!
After breakfast we got the MRT to the Harbour Front to get the cable car. The cable car goes from the top of Mount Faber (more like a really big hill!) to Sentosa Island via the Harbour Front. This area of the city is very modern and stylish, which is a big juxtaposition to the greenery of Mount Faber. We chose to climb to the top to catch the cable car down again, and although it was a lot of hard work getting to the top it was worth it for the photographs and views! Don’t forget to take lots of water…
The photos just don’t do it justice- there’s so much depth in real life; you feel so tiny in comparison to everything else!
We then got the cable car down to the Harbour Front- it’s approx $15 (£7.50) for a return ticket. We only went the one quick journey down to the Harbour- but for the same price we could have gone all the way down to Sentosa Island and back again, which in hindsight I wish we’d done to make the most of it!
We had lunch in the food court at the Vivo City Mall- a noodle soup with meat, veg and hash browns! There was an assortment of items and you could choose what you wanted to have- a guessing game but very delicious.
Our afternoon was spent walking around the beautiful Botanical Gardens before hopping on the MRT to Farrer Park (I think!) to get the bus to the Night Safari. It was absolutely brilliant- although touristy and pricey at approx $36 (£18) per ticket, the show was amazing and the zoo unlike anything I’ve seen before- the animals roam free and you can get around either by tram or on foot. They also had some amazing fire dancers at the entrance on our way out.
Our evening ended with a late night and drinks at the hostel, and with us wishing we weren’t leaving Singapore in the morning! We could have spent another two full days here at least- one on Sentosa Island and another doing some more sight seeing- it’s a shame we never got to see the Gardens by the Bay, and I would have liked to meander through some different parts of the city.
Verdict: Singapore, you may have a reputation for being strict and boring, but I loved you- you were a perfect introduction into South-east Asia and I can’t wait to come back and explore you some more!
It’s difficult to know where to begin a travel blog- we have many upcoming trips to talk about but have also been to so many places already.
I’ve wanted to start a blog for quite a while now and have come close a few times- it’s only now that I’ve decided to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) and do it.
Forgive me if my timelines flit about a bit for a while- there’s so much I’d like to write about that I might not be able to do it all in order!
The longer Seb and I are together, the more desperate we are to pack up our lives and travel for as long as possible. I hope that we will one day be able to make that a reality- my goal is for us to be gone by the end of 2017. Between then and now we have a few exciting trips planned- most notably our honeymoon this summer! We’ve decided to forgo a ‘normal’ honeymoon and go inter-railing in Europe for 2.5 weeks. We’ll be going to The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy, but I’ll write more about this in future posts.
We have also booked to go to Thailand in February next year- I visited Bangkok very briefly whilst backpacking with my best friend in December, and loved it so much that we’re going to explore the whole country! We’ll be going for almost 3 weeks and I look forward to telling you our plans.
Aside from this we have a few other trip ideas- a weekend away in Moscow towards the end of the year and a European break at Easter- but these aren’t set in stone yet. Watch this space 🙂