Tuesday, December 7, 2010

(Planning Notes - 1) Oriental Outings: Destinations

Going to Far East? Then Kuala Lumpur is the destination of choice, no argument! Not only because the city has lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and not only because the place is tourist friendly but more because it has become a launch pad to surrounding tourist attractions, in a pocket friendly way, especially with the advent of magical Air Asia. The city itself requires at least four to five nights to appreciate the hospitality including a day trip to Batu Caves and Genting Highland. The cultural epicenter of Malaysia, Penang, is few hours away from KL and requires at least two to three nights to experience the diversity. Langkawi is a heaven for beach lovers while Melaka and Cameron Highlands are for people who want more than just scratching the Malayan surface. And if one wants to traverse away the beaten paths, then East Malaysia, i.e. Kota Kinabalu, is a go where lies world’s most impressive and virgin rain forest jungles, coral reefs, fresh water rivers, and green valleys.

Singapore is next door to Malaysia; 6 hours train ride and you are there. Also, buses between the two countries are frequent, economical, comfortable, and mode of choice among locals. Three nights are enough to cover major attractions of the modern city state including the famous night safari, Santosa Island, Universal Studio, street hawkers and the clinical city life. Hanging out at Little India, China Town, and Arab Street is also popular among tourists. Four nights are good enough while five nights require appropriate justification and deep pockets! Frankly speaking, if the place would not be that close to KL and if a friend of mine could not sponsor my visa I would not bother to include Singapore in my itinerary!

If Singapore is in the South of Malaysia, then Thailand is in the North, both literally and figuratively. Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, and Phi Phi are some of the ultra-modern retreats which are inundated by suppressed Westerners to bring out their frustrations! Your choice!

Including Bali, Indonesia can make an itinerary a little less cliché. One may say that Bali is to Australians what Thailand is to Europeans! True, but Bali is Bali if you are not an Aussie! Balinese hospitality and food is comparable to other Far Eastern societies, if not superior, I understand. Water sports; easily available in various varieties and in various price ranges. There are beaches, jungles, mountains, volcanoes, green fields, and what not. Good news: hundred Indonesian Rupiah in one Pakistani Rupee so it appears cheap. Tough Job: keep track of zeros in currency notes after every transaction! Hindu dominated Bali is culturally rich with all kinds of festivities happening all year round. I hope to catch the Nyepi Day, the Day of Silence, when Balinese invite evil forces to the isle through colours and sounds in the preceding evening. The very next, actually the New Year day, inhabitants duck inside their houses to show those satanic forces that the island is uninhabited. Spared for the following year! So I am going for Bali against Bangkok, but that’s my choice.

Thanks to Air Asia, other Far Eastern countries like Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Macao, and Myanmar are a few bucks away from KL, should you want to see some off-the-beaten path and should you book well in advance. And if you book through Sri Lankan Airlines, then you may choose to take a stopover in Colombo for nominal additional cost to your airfare.

My Sri Lankan Airlines ticket covers Karachi – Singapore; Kuala Lumpur – Colombo; and Colombo - Karachi while I have booked separate tickets for Singapore - Bali and Bali - Kuala Lumpur through Air Asia. One can easily make various variations are per their preferences without disturbing the budget much.

More to Come:
Ticketing Secrets
Arranging Visas


  1. (Comments from a friend, Haris Tohid, who has lost his gmail password, no surprise!)

    "Oriental outings"!!! places where u can hang out with family... looking forward to hearing stories from ur recent travel.
    is far-east accessible in all weathers. any tip??
    moreover, roads less traveled atleast by Pakistani travellers like Laos, vietnam, cambodia might turn out to be more adventurous and innovative. good workout for backpackers and hitchhikers i think.

  2. The best season to visit the Far East is December to May avoiding Monsoon months.
    And yes, places like Cambodia, Vietnam, parts of China, etc are popular among backpackers more because of thier relatively untouched natural beauty.

  3. taking a cure from my personal experience i believe a trip to Malaysia is incomplete if you dont go Langkawi and spend at least 2 nights. As far KL is concerned, i guess even 2 nights are good enough and the same is true for Singapore as well.i further believe that you have taken the right decision of not going to bangkok as it is a sheer waste of time and energy unless you dont have business oriented reasons.

  4. Thanks Rehan for sharing your experience. "bangkok ... is a sheer waste of time" specially when one is not interested in the 'business' around :)