SIN/KL 2014: Finally doctors & seeing KL!

December 02, 2014

After returning from Batu Caves, Nasir suggested we stay in Sentral Station food court for lunch. Mike and I love cheap, every day food, so it was perfect choice!

We wandered around the small cafeteria trying to make up our minds but eventually settled on Nasi Ayam, also known as chicken rice. Rice was super fragrant having been cooked in chicken broth with succulent, melt in your mouth roasted chicken.


Other dishes at our table included rice with a selection of curries.


Now for some most exciting news! We had been waiting days for the results of our final exams, aka OSCEs that you can read about HERE. Our graduation was contingent on passing these clinical exams and although we were enjoying ourselves traveling, we didn’t fail to check for the release of our marks a few times a day.

There happened to be free wifi at Sentral Station Food Court and Mike checked his Facebook only to see his newsfeed flooded with updates from our friends saying they had passed medical school. That only meant one thing: OSCE results had been released! I still vividly remember Michael holding his tray of chicken rice with one hand and trying to log onto Blackboard with the other hand, shuffling at a snails pace to our table and hoping he wouldn’t lose his internet connection.

My mom and I waited with bated breath until he finally proclaimed, “I passed!” After quick congratulations, I immediately grabbed the phone to check my results.

Marks released

And we both had passed! We were officially doctors! Well, not really I guess until we graduate, but we did it! We had successfully completed medical school! For the first time since starting our trip, we were finally and completely carefree, woo hoo!

The (terrible quality) photo Michael posted to his Instagram with the caption, “Officially done med school! Celebrating with some Chicken Rice in Malaysia of course!”


For the rest of the day, we enjoyed ourselves walking around KL and taking in some of the sights.

Environmentally friendly Christmas trees!


Love the palm trees lining the roads


Monorail, monorail! Can always find some sort of new development going on



Petronas Twin Towers in the distance. “According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH)’s official definition and ranking, they were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 and remain the tallest twin towers in the world replacing the World Trade Center in New York. The buildings are a landmark of Kuala Lumpur, along with nearby Kuala Lumpur Tower.”

We decided not to pay RM 80 ($26 CAD) just to walk the Skybridge and visit the Observation Deck, but you could if you wanted!


Walked through the peaceful KLCC Park towards Lake Symphony which faces the Suria KLCC Mall. Gigantic Christmas tree out front with lots of passersby taking photos or sitting down by the water and enjoying the scenery.


Suria Mall with Petronas Twin Towers in the distance


Looking out at Lake Symphony, waiting for night fall to watch the light and water show…




After a few teases, the Suria KLCC Lake Symphony Light and Sound Show eventually started! Loud music with whimsical light and water dancing – not bad!


Towers light up so nicely at night!





We were having so much fun enjoying the views that we didn’t realize it was getting late and we were hungry!

Perhaps not the most authentic Malaysian food we could’ve chosen, but this double decker at Pizza Hut (although not nearly as good looking as the menu photo) was pretty darn tasty!



Long day! We headed back to the hotel after dinner and called it a night. Adventures ahead tomorrow!

SIN/KL 2014: Batu Caves

December 02, 2014

Arrived from Singapore at Sentral Station in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! The first thing we did – have McDonald’s for breakfast. My first time visiting a predominantly Muslim country and an interesting fact was learned immediately: no pork products are offered on McDonald’s menus as their kitchens are certified Halal. We enjoyed breakfast sandwiches with chicken sausages for the first time, super tasty!

After breakfast, Nasir (my mom’s friend’s nephew) came to meet us. Always nice to have a friend join you in an unfamiliar country! We grabbed a taxi to Sky Hotel, where we would be staying for a night. The rooms are cheap and very spacious, however, would we recommend staying there? Likely not, One of the main reasons we chose Sky Hotel was its advertised free wifi, which did not work the entire time we were there. Luckily they had desktops downstairs we could use. Unfortunately, we were quite stressed awaiting the results of final exams and not having wireless internet that we paid for didn’t help!

We dropped our luggage at the hotel and immediately headed to Batu Caves, nearly an hour (13km) north of KL via the Komuter train.

(Quoted information taken from Wikipedia)

“The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India,and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. The 42.7-metre (140 ft) high statue of Lord Murugan was unveiled in January 2006, having taken 3 years to construct. It is the tallest Lord Murugan statue in the world.”


“Rising almost 100 m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.”


“At the base of the hill are two more cave temples, Art Gallery Cave and Museum Cave, both of which are full of Hindu statues and paintings.”


Some more photos taken at the bottom of the stairs.

I feel like I would never put myself in such a situation, unless I really wanted pigeons to poop on me.


Many sweets and snacks to try


“There are various undeveloped caves which contain a diverse range of cave fauna, including some unique species, such as Liphistiidae spiders and Eonycteris and fruit bats. The site is also well known for its numerous macaques, which visitors feed — sometimes involuntarily.”




Try and visit early in the morning so the sun isn’t at its peak! And bring water 🙂


Appropriate attire should be worn, especially for ladies – shoulders and knees covered!


Halfway up, looking back over the statue of Lord Murugan at KL



On the way up, we stopped to visit the Dark Cave. “Below the Temple Cave is the Dark Cave, with rock formations and a number of animals found nowhere else. It is a two-kilometer network of relatively untouched caverns. Stalactites jutting from the cave’s ceiling and stalagmites rising from the floor form intricate formations such as cave curtains, flow stones, cave pearls and scallops which took thousands of years to form. In order to maintain the cave’s ecology, access is restricted. The Malaysian Nature Society organises regular educational and adventure trips to the Dark Caves.”

Entrance to Dark Cave, about 3/4 of the way up the main flight of stairs, on the right. Please visit their website for more information about the cave, its conservation and tours.



Some of the cave formations at the entrance to Dark Cave



Nasir and my mom… chickening out of the tour of Dark Cave.


Micheal and I paid RM 35 ($11 CAD) to take part in a 45-minute guided Educational Tour. The tour takes place with a small group and education officer who guides us through a talks about “cave history, the unique guano driven ecosystem and the geological formations as you marvel at the sights and sounds of the Dark Cave.”  Don’t worry, you are provided with hard hats (protection against guano/bat poop!) and flashlights. Our guide, Faiz, was knowledgeable, experienced and had a great sense of humour. He made sure everyone followed the rules (no flash photography, no shining torches above shoulder level, no veering off the pathway, etc), stayed together and didn’t get left out.

It was hard to take photos in the pitch black cave, but here are a few of the animal life we encountered.

The yellow blob is guano (bat poop) with nearby worms feasting on it


Not your average centipede. As you can see, these ones have evolved extra long legs to allow them better accommodation in the darkness of the cave.


Other animal life we saw but couldn’t take photos of included bats, cave cockroaches, and spiders (though not the trapdoor spider). We weren’t fortunate enough to sight the Cave Racer snake! We also saw numerous unique cave structures including: stalactites, stalagmites, cave curtains, cave pearls, and more!

Cave selfies!



Unlike the majority of the tour, closer to the end you reach an area where some sunlight streams through. A great opportunity to take a memorable photo!



From here, the tour ends and you are guided back out the way you come. Opportunities for further questions are available at the end, and if you want, you could even sign up for the Adventure Tour, a 3-4 hour guided tour that takes you further into the caves with elements of crawling, climbing and sliding 😉 Unfortunately for us, this tour is only offered on the weekends or we would’ve participated!

After visiting the Dark Cave, we continued up the 272 steps to reach the Temple Cave



The interior of Batu Caves



Main temple of Murugan inside Temple Cave


Closer view of the main temple’s roof


Regular inhabitants include not only monkeys but also pigeons!


It was sad to see such a visited site so filthy. Garbage strewn all around, didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a long time. Such a shame.


The cave is extremely tall with pockets of sunlight shining through


We ended our trip to Batu Caves with refreshing fresh coconuts and a small snack to hold us over until we got back into KL 🙂



If you have a few hours, I would definitely recommend a visit to Batu Caves! Extremely easy and cheap in terms of transportation from KL and we would definitely recommend a visit to the Dark Cave! A great educational opportunity and your fee will go towards conservation.

SIN/KL 2014: Overnight sleeper train SIN to KL

December 01, 2014

For $50ish or less, you can purchase a return trip on the overnight sleeper train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Mike and I enjoy this method of traveling because not only does the price pay for your transportation there and back, but also for your accommodation over 2 nights.



Getting to the train station is very easy. We were staying in Little India and simply grabbed a bus to Woodlands station. Woodlands is a point of entry/departure so if you were planning to take one of the buses that go straight through to Johor, you need to alight and proceed through Customs and Immigration. Once completed, you hop back on your bus and carry on. If, like us, you are going to grab the train into Malaysia, you need to walk over to the train station (follow the signs, very easy). You will queue outside the gate until it is boarding time. Once the gate opens, you will proceed through a separate Customs and Immigration and then board the train.


We were hoping to experience a 1st class sleeper (private cabin with 2 berths) or even a deluxe sleeper with private shower and toilet, but unfortunately, those cabins were being renovated at the time. Instead, we booked 2nd class sleepers. There are two rows (lower and upper) of bunks on either side of the cabin. They are less private but still spacious (Mike is tall and did not feel cramped at all) and comfortable.



Some tips for taking the train from Singapore to KL:

  • Buy your tickets in advance, in person or online. They can and do sell out.
  • Don’t forget or lose your passport and your disembarkation/embarkation card, you need these to leave and enter the country.
  • Bring water and snacks. They do sell food on board but always nice to have brought something you like.
  • Toilets are available but can be filthy and there’s no soap – always carry hand sanitizer when you’re traveling!
  • There are no specific luggage compartments that are secure and within view. Most passengers keep their bags with them on their bed. This is easiest and most comfortable if you are not traveling with anything larger than the size of a carry-on piece.
  • Bring an eye cover/sleep mask, especially if you’re in the top bunk. The curtains do not sit flush with the ceiling so the lights will shine through.
  • Bring an Ipod, listen to music, and sleep. If you’re worried about missing your stop, don’t worry the staff will walk through the cabins and yell loud enough to wake everyone up. Otherwise, set an alarm on your phone!
  • The cabins will have large garbage bags hanging off selected bunks, please use them and dispose of your garbage responsibly!
  • If you book your train ticket originating from Singapore, you will be charged in SGD, this makes your overall trip more expensive. The cheapest way to get to Singapore to KL is to grab a bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru (few dollars max) and then get on the train to KL (RM 45, $15 CAD). This is compared to $46 SGD or $40 CAD to travel straight from Singapore. The trip back from KL to Singapore should cost around RM 43 or $14 CAD. Can be as cheap as $30 CAD or closer to $55! I do find, however, that is simply less hassle if you get on the train in Singapore.

Left Singapore at 11:30pm and arrived in KL around 7am the next day. Very similar times on the way back as well. It was an enjoyable experience, we would definitely do it again if traveling to Malaysia!

SIN/KL 2014: Dinner at Gardens by Bay

December 01, 2014

After our visit to the domes at Gardens by the Bay, we walked around and enjoyed the nearby sights, including the Supertrees in daytime.



Here are a few facts regarding the Supertrees, taken from the Gardens by the Bay website:

  • These unique trees of up to 16 storeys in height can be found all around the Gardens – twelve at the Supertree Grove, while the remaining six are placed in clusters of threes at the Golden and Silver Gardens.
  • 11 Supertrees are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions like photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy.
  • Supertrees are made of four parts: reinforcement concrete core, trunk, planting panels of the living skin, and canopy.
  • Over 162,900 plants comprising more than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees.
  • Garden Rhapsody – When night falls, watch as the Supertrees come alive with a dazzling myriad of light displays bursting across the sky.

At 6pm, we met with my Aunt Tam at Supertree Dining for a casual dinner and catching up! Aunt Tam grew up in Australia and is currently working in Singapore. Michael and I have been lucky, this is now the second time we’ve been able to meet up with her in Singapore!

We decided on dinner at Hill Street Coffee Shop, one of the numerous options within Supertree Dining. Other options include: American diner food, Italian and even Texas Chicken.

A simple but tasty dinner of satay, laksa and nasi lemak. Even better was the company 🙂




With Aunt Tam!



After dinner, we enjoyed the lit up Supertrees and there was even fake snow (in the form of little soap foam bubbles) within the large lit up castle-like structure! Everyone was loving and it was be the closest thing to snow we would enjoy this year 😛




Our timing was great and we got to sit and enjoy the Garden Rhapsody light show!






Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang out too late. Aunt Tam had work the next morning, and we had an overnight train to catch to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

SIN/KL 2014: Flower Dome & Cloud Forest

December 01, 2014

What is a great thing to do on a very hot summer day? Spending it admiring nature in glorious air conditioning of course!

Take the MRT to Bayfront station and take the short walk over to Gardens by Bay for a few hours to enjoy the park’s peaceful greenery as well as the two domes.

On the walk to Gardens by the Bay, take some silly photos in the MRT tunnel! Lots of nature backdrops and mirrors to choose from 😛


Once you exit to the walkway, you will see the Supertree Grove. From there, it is about a 15-20 minute walk to the domes. Or you can pay $2 for a shuttle ride in!


For $28, you can visit both the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. As we have visited the domes once already, Michael opted to pay an additional $4 for an audio tour, which he thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends!


“The Flower Dome replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and parts of Spain and Italy. Home to a collection of plants from deserts all over the world, it showcases the adaptations of plants to arid environments. Stop and smell the flowers in the colourful changing displays of the Flower Field, which reflects different seasons, festivals and themes.” 

Enjoy some of our photos from the Flower Dome!










The Cloud Forest houses “A 35-metre tall mountain covered in lush vegetation shrouding the world’s tallest indoor waterfall showcases plant life from tropical highlands up to 2,000-metres above sea level.”


The Cloud Forest has an amazing selection of beautiful orchids, take a close look around!






My favourite, Venus Flytraps


A couple was doing a wedding photo shoot during our visit – very cute and wish I could get this photo to them!



I recommend visiting Gardens by the Bay in the late afternoon after lunch. After your visit, you have time to check out the Supertree Grove while there’s still daylight. Grab some dinner at one of the restaurants on site, then check out the lit up Supertrees, take a walk on the OCBC skyway, “a 128-metre long walkway with a height of 22-metres that connects two Supertrees at the Supertree Grove, and take in a different view of the Gardens” and watch the Garden Rhapsody light show. A whole day of fun, especially if you love nature!

SIN/KL 2014: Cheese & Chocolate Bar at Marina Bay Sands

November 30, 2014

[Note: Sorry everyone, I’ve come to learn that the Chocolate & Cheese Bar is now closed until January 5th when it will reopen at Tower 2 on Level 55. It’s too bad because you won’t have the opportunity to visit the rooftop as part of your dining experience :(]

We highly recommend booking yourselves an indulging late night buffet at The Cheese & Chocolate Bar on the top (57th) floor of Marina Bay Sands Hotel if you have time during your visit to Singapore. Yes, it is pricey ($48/person + service charge and without wine pairings) but is a great experience! Mike and I went last year when it was still only a chocolate buffet, imagine our excitement not only for the opportunity to take my mom, but that it’s now also a cheese buffet!

On arrival to Marina Bay Sands, you need to see the hostess of RISE Restaurant in the lobby to get your pass up to the 57th floor. You need this pass not to use the elevator but to be let onto the roof terrace once you reach the top. As you walk towards the restaurant, don’t forget to take your time and enjoy the amazing unobstructed night view of Singapore and the renowned infinity pool.

We were warmly greeted at the entrance and escorted into the restaurant. The wonderful aroma of chocolate welcomes you as you enter the dining area and shown to your table. You can request to sit inside where it’s air conditioned or outside to enjoy the view. The ambiance is warm, the decor rich in shades of brown, and service friendly.

You can have optional wine pairings which are an additional $19 or $27, we opted for just teas and coffees, which were quite good! No time was wasted and we were quickly checking out the tasty delights and filling our plates.


The set up is quite compact and small, however, lots of different presentations of chocolate on every bench.






There is also a manned station with its featured dish made to order. Last visit, they were chocolate donuts with your choice of flavoured sugars. This time it was a chocolate banana gallette with vanilla ice cream.



Mike and I have a system. We share one item between the two of us – that way, we don’t eat as much and get to try as many dishes as possible 😉 As you can see and imagine, there were lots of delectables!



Such a wonderful variety of flavours, textures and presentations, really something for everyone. There were too many good ones to choose a favourite!






These were our only 2 misses: ginger chocolate poached pear with a flake of gold on top (ou, fancy) and macarons. The macarons looked good, but had a terrible texture to them, not at all what they should be like.



We started with chocolate, but don’t forget this is also a cheese buffet! From their info page, “The newly added cheese buffet offers 12 types of the finest cheese brought in from France, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom. Cheese lovers will be treated to a spread of hard cheese, soft cheese, blue cheese and goat cheese along with accompaniments. Round up the evening from a selection of six wines specially paired with each type of cheese for a divine experience.”


Accompaniments included a range of breads, crackers, crisps, chutneys, honeys, nuts and dried fruit.




A great selection of blue cheeses to Michael’s enjoyment! I’m trying to acquire a taste for blue cheese, but I think I need a lot more work 😛


Dress up, come hungry and enjoy a great night out above the city of Singapore.


Also, don’t forget to take in the views! My pretty mom enjoyed it!


The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, as well as the Supertree grove of Gardens by the Bay.


Looking out from the infinity pool on the other side of Marina Bay Sands is Singapore’s skyline – beautiful!




After dinner, enjoy a walk around Marina Bay Sands, take in the decor, enjoy the views and maybe even watch the light show! Until next time! 🙂


SIN/KL 2014: Singapore Zoo & River Safari

November 30, 2014

After breakfast at the hotel, we hopped on a bus and headed for Singapore Zoo. It would be the first of the 3 parks we chose to visit as part of our 3-in-1 Park Hopper ticket for $89.

As usual, it was hot but the weather was quite bearable. We spent a few hours checking out all the different animals and actually covered the whole zoo, except for Kidzworld. You can click HERE to look at a map of the zoo.

Here are only some of the animals we saw… some of which I’ve posted a couple times already from our previous visits… but they’re so cute!

Since our first visit to Singaore Zoo, Mike’s favourite animal has been the Lesser Mouse Deer, seen here.


This time, we saw the Greater Mouse Deer for the first time and now Michael has changed his mind. The Greater one doesn’t look as frail and sickly 😛


Playful Asian Otter


Huge flying foxes



Babirusa with tusks/upper canines that penetrate through its face. If they don’t grind their husks, through regular activity, they can continue to grow and penetrate their skull!


My mom had a lot of additional fun checking out the different flora at the zoo. We often poke fun of her for taking so many photos of trees!


We saw some Red River Hogs for the first time… my conclusion is they are the ugliest friendly looking creatures I’ve ever met.



Another first for us, Tree-kangaroos! They are pretty cute. Can you believe in our 4 years of living in Australia, we have never heard of this marsupial? Apparently they are quite slow on the ground, clumsy and walk awkwardly at a human’s pace. In the trees, however, they are agile climbers and leapers.


Some Hamadryas Baboons. There are quite of a few of these in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia and it is such fun watching the interaction in their troops. Grooming, little ones being taken care of by older baboons and fights breaking out between the males are a common sight.



Big butt tumour


Mongoose looking very serious


Celebes Crested Macaque. I always find these apes always look so proper and elegant, you?


Capuchins have tails that can be as long as their bodies and are considered to be the most intelligent New World Monkey. They are often used in laboratories and noted for their long term use of tools, one of the few primates aside from apes to do so.


Asian elephants


My love at the zoo!


There are only 2 species of orangutans, exclusively Asian and are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and currently found only in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

A Bornean orangutan hoarding food and climbing tree tops.


Some Sumatran orangutans pigging out and looking pensive.




A Sun Bear hiding behind a tree and being silly


I’ve never seen these before, White Faced Saki, they have such thick luscious hair!


The female White Faced Saki has shorter brown/grey fur with pale stripes around the corners of its nose and mouth. This one even had a little one!


Red Lories playing… or maybe being bullied


A lion enjoying the sunshine


The cute meerkats!



After the Singapore Zoo, we took a break and had some lunch. The most expensive (although good) nasi lemak we’ve ever had in Singapore, coming in at $9.90! That’s what you get for eating at an attraction!


We then moved on to the second park – River Safari, a completely separate enclosure next door to the Singapore Zoo. The River Safari is more guided, one continuous pathway to follow as you can see HERE on the map.


We started with Rivers of the World, travelling through and seeing animals from all the major rivers including: Congo, Mekong, Nile, Mississippi, Gangee, and Yangtze. Some very interesting fish and amphibians!

Two of the prettier fish I photographed, unfortunately can’t remember names!



My favourite exhibit – the Red Pandas! They are so cute but can be very active, making it very hard to get these photos!





Great pandas! Both Kai Kai and Jia Jia were super shy today, hard to get pictures!


FYI, there are a number of animals you can only see (giant anteaters, capybaras, jaguars, etc) if you go on the Amazon River Quest ride, which we didn’t do.

Lastly, we stopped in the Amazon Flooded Forest where we sat and peacefully watched manatees, freshwater stingrays and other creatures gracefully swim…




Until next time!