Part 1 – Malaysia on our Around the World Voyage with Niko.

Christmas –  Far away from home yet enjoyable on our around the world trip.

Our around the world voyage brought us to the kingdom of Malaysia, a country that exemplifies beauty in diversity. You’ll see a riot of differences in dress, cuisine, music and rituals yet there’s an underlying bond that brings different ethnic groups together to truly reflect their motto ‘Unity is Strength’.

Kuala Lumpur - New and Old together - Merdeka Square

Malaysia is a perfect fusion of ethnicities, cultures, religions and landscapes and we thoroughly enjoyed every aspect that makes this country truly Asia! Once under colonial influence of Portugal, Holland and Britain, today, Malaysia stands free and houses close to 30 million people.

The Exciting Capital City of Kuala Lumpur

We were happy to spend our Christmas holidays in Kuala Lumpur on our around the world trip. As one of the Top 10 most visited cities in the world with almost two million people, we came across different ethnic groups such as Malaysian, Chinese and Indian;

Highest twin buildings in the world Petronas Towers

all living in harmony. Once a young tin mining town, Kuala Lumpur has grown to become a huge metropolis, popular for its towering skyscrapers like the Petronas Towers. The largest in Southeast Asia, these towers were inspired by Muslim architecture.

The name of the city comes from its two Gombak Klang Rivers and you’ll see the beautiful Jamek Mosque at its confluence. When you travel with kids, you’re almost always looking for places to eat! We headed to Jalan Alor for a grand Christmas feast, which featured delicious Thai style fried fish. Simply awesome! The street food is affordable and very tasty. If you’re in the city, do take a stroll through the central market and visit Masjid Negara (National Mosque), which can hold up to 15,000 people.

The Architectural Delight of Georgetown and Penang

A world heritage site showcasing colonial architecture and unique cultural diversity, Georgetown is one of Malaysia’s richest regions and is well-developed and very tourist friendly. Penang (Malaysia) Temple You can easily get around town using local transportation, or walk (as we like to do) taking in the historical and architectural sites around town. You’ll find it easy and economical to travel with children as many of the attractions are highly subsidized.

If you’re looking for scrumptious cuisine, head to Little India. We loved the naan!

Amazing Indian cuisine in Kuala Lumpur

The city has other equally good places to dine out and the food at hawker stalls is especially tasty and cheap. Many tourists come here to enjoy the sun and sand but we didn’t think the beaches were that big of an attraction. However, a real sight to behold would be the Kek Lok Si Buddhist temple, which is not only the largest in Southeast Asia but also one of the most interesting and beautiful.

Malaysia offers plenty of things to see and do for kids

Travel with kids is easy if you can keep them occupied! In Kuala Lumpur, Niko loved the Planetarium and especially the walk in a ‘no gravity room’. The Christmas festivities included as always a happy Santa, plenty of presents and balloons that lasted for days! The temples at Penang were equally entertaining and Niko was very impressed!

Kuala Lumpur Planetarium (Malaysia)

A Well-Developed Malaysia with So Much to Offer

If you’re planning to travel with children, take the free tourist bus in Penang which takes you by all the major attractions. However, if you want to take your time at the attractions, you can opt for public transportation or buses which are quite inexpensive.

Malaysia welcomed us with true Asian hospitality. Even when so far away from home we managed to celebrate Christmas and truly enjoy it with a mini Christmas tree and symbolic gifts. The country’s friendly locals and delicious cuisine made this location a home away from home.

If you have similar or relevant around the world with children adventures, please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Malaysia trip:

To see all pictures from our Malaysia voyage, please go to here

Trip Pulse: Bali mesmerized us! An amazing place on our around the world voyage

Bali – Sweet Smells and Soothing Sounds

Our around the world trip brought us to Bali, a paradise filled with exotic and mystical beauty. We were immersed in its unique culture and mesmerized by the ribbon of beaches that surrounds this holiday getaway.

Although Bali’s past was influenced by the Dutch and Japanese rule, it managed to differentiate itself and stay true to its heritage. For instance, a Balinese woman in traditional Balinese sarong, still places an offering or ‘ngejot’ at various places around her house as an offering to God, a way to give thanks, to help expel negative energy and to protect the home from evil.

The Bali God offering

While at a hairdresser, I picked up an English book written by English-speaking expats. It described the Balinese New Year and how, instead of the usual revelry and celebrations, the locals observed a Day of Silence so they could usher in the next year with fasting, meditation and quiet contemplation. This act in itself reflects the nature and mindset of the Balinese people.

The Beachy and Touristy South

Folks from around the world, head to Kuta for its swells. For other tourist oriented spots you can explore Surin or visit Nusa Dua don’t expect the true essence of Bali. There are several kitschy stores where you can buy counterfeit t-shirts and Raybans (I’m already on my second pair!). Street vendors don’t really take ‘No’ for an answer so be prepared to purposefully walk past.

Natasza and Niko playing in Bali waves near Uluwatu

Gili Islands by Lombok may still be a backpackers’ beach paradise destination but Bali still has a few gems of its own. Far from the madding crowd, there are picturesque beaches such as Uluwatu, Blue Point, Dreamland and Jalan Pantai beach, but Ubud really took our breath away. It’s been the most spiritual and exotic spot we have seen so far on our around the world trip.

Spectacular Ubud

In the late 15th century, following the collapse of Majapahit and the rise of Muslim principalities on the northern coast of Java, many Hindu nobilities, artisans and courtiers migrated to Bali. In the 1930’s a number of European artists such as Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet ‘found’ Bali. To say the least, art is the focus of Ubud with hundreds of galleries, art shops, craft stores and handmade fashions. The architecture is inspired by Indian and Javanese designs. Don’t be surprised to find local people labouring away on their paintings and wood carved sculptures, as art is the life and soul of this quaint town. Apart from art, the Balinese reserve a special place in their hearts for dance. We loved the Barong dance which was usually performed only during special rituals. Truly brilliant!

Barong Dancer in Ubud Bali

When you travel with kids, food becomes an intrinsic part of any holiday! Go ahead and try the Bebek Betutu or roast duck which is deliciously prepared with an assortment of spices. Natasza really liked their vegetarian fare as well.

The Majestic North

Our day trip to Kintamaji and Lake Batur was truly memorable. From here you can see the spectacular Mount Agung which stands over 3000 meters high. As you travel here, the temperature and the terrain changes and you can enjoy a view of the Batur Crater and beautiful rice field valleys. Keep a ‘bribe/gift’ ready for the local police as they like to make an extra buck. We would have really enjoyed the amazingly large Balinese temple on Pura Besakih if it wasn’t for the ‘tour guide wanna-bees’ making it really difficul to enjoy. When you travel, especially with children, opt for an organized tour to avoid the hustlers.

Largest Bali temple - Besakih Mother Temple

Fun and frolic when you travel with kids

Apart from the many nice beaches that offer hours of unadulterated fun in the relaxing warm waters, Niko also enjoyed running around in the Monkey Forest watching their antics and play. He also like the Barong dance and seemed completely engrossed watching the mystical characters perform.

Keep in mind…

  • Be careful on the roads, the drivers are quite aggressive and safety may not always be their first priority. Carry your international driver’s license at all times.
  • Check for last minute deals before you walk into any hotel so you can get good prices and bargains.
  • Arak – Bali moonshine coconut made from palm sap can be poisonous if received from questionable sources. I received a few offers from locals but was a bit freaked out by the warnings and parental guilt of being ‘irresponsible’:)
  • Many car rental companies will not have insurance so either pay a big premium to go with the brand names or drive extra carefully – Balinese marketing methods – while leaving an Avis office we were called by a guy hiding in the bushes, yes, the bushes…He was quite convincing and finally talked us into renting a car with him. Talk about competitive tactics
  • To us, Bali seems blessed with the best of art, culture, dance, scenic beauty and architecture and we walked away with an armload of happy memories from Ubud, a destination like no other!Do you have any questions or comments? Do you have any interesting Bali experiences to share with other parents? Please let us know in the comments section below.
    If you have similar or relevant around the world with children adventures, please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

    Here are some of our photos from our Bali visit:

Trip Pulse: Singapore – A Treat for the Senses on our Around the World adventure!

Our Around the World adventure continues in Singapore.

Singapore is yet another Asian delight that we have discovered on our journey around the world. This city has proved to be a beautiful brew of Malay, Chinese, Western and Indian culture. Although most of the folks speak Mandarin at home, you can pretty much manage if you’re familiar with one of the official languages – English, Tamil, Malay or Chinese.

Where East meets West

This ultra modern city lies just 100+ km away from the equator and houses over 5 million people who have collectively made Singapore one of the richest per capita nations in the world. A glimpse into history reveals that this country was ruled by the British till 1963. Although they were briefly reunited with Malaysia, there were several ethnic, linguistic and religious differences that led to their separation towards the mid 60s.

Today, Singapore stands as an economic stronghold and contains both urban confines as well as getaways of natural beauty. Here, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to high quality shopping malls and electronics stores and you’ll find that almost everyone has a mobile phone! In fact, the mobile phone penetration rate stands at 1,400 mobile phone subscribers per 1000 people.

Friendly locals, sizzling cuisine, formidable laws!

You’ll love the locals just as much as the city. They are friendly, polite and well-mannered and they seem to follow all the strict regulations that govern the country. These laws draw heavy penalties so do read up on prevailing rules before you step out.

Don't break any of the many rules in Singapore

All in all, you’ll find that the city is clean, safe, very well-organized and easy to get around especially when you travel with kids.

Singapore offers a grand buffet of mouth-watering cuisine filled with flavour yet amazingly affordable. For less than $10US you can get a whole lot of stuff. On the flip side, accommodations are expensive so you may have to dust off your wallet to get a small room.

Delicious Indian cuisine in Singapore

The perfect playground for your kids!

If you plan to travel with children, then you’ll love the Singapore airport. The child-friendly venue was designed to make parents happy as it comes with custom line-ups, playgrounds and lots of attractions to keep kids entertained.

Niko thoroughly enjoyed the Singapore Zoo. In fact, we did too! This world-class facility follows an open concept so the animals are not kept in sad concrete confines.

Check out Singapore open concept zoo

You’ll find them wandering through beautiful greenery almost like in their natural habitat. The lions and tigers were only separated by specially designed water canals!

Things to watch out for … tips for your Singapore stay:

  • Whether you travel with children or not, do check your luggage thoroughly before you enter the country or you may end up becoming ‘criminals’ like we did, as we unknowingly ‘smuggled’ chewing gum and a bottle of beer! Yes, they thankfully did let us go after a lot of explaining!
  • If you’re looking for a hotel room, book well in advance. A last minute booking comes with a very heavy price tag!

Singapore is the perfect Asian base!

Being centrally located, Singapore is the perfect Asian base from where you can fly to other Asian countries nearby. Visit Singapore, especially if you want to travel with children as there’s plenty for them to see and do. You’ll never have a dull moment in this modern, clean, child-friendly and warm country which promises to be the ‘West’ of the East!

What have your experiences been like in Singapore with your children? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Singapore visit: