Monday, January 6, 2014

Kuala Lumpur With Kids – Cheap and Low Cost

When I searched the net for ideas to entertain us and the kids during our five days in  Kuala Lumpur I found quite a bit of information on the big ticket amusement and water parks, but I believe it's not necessary to spend a lot of money to entertain young children.

Their active imaginations and sense of wonder mean they can be amused by simple and low cost activities. We can save those big ticket excursions for when they're older and more demanding!

By exploring using the rail network and on foot we found some very low cost ways of entertaining and educating the whole family in this big city. We’ve had fun and it has been a very budget friendly week with money left over for a few shopping splurges.

Here are my top picks for family entertainment in Kuala Lumpur:
  • An integrated network of light rail, monorail and commuter trains covers all areas of interest and is surprisingly cheap - the 25 minute trip to Batu caves costs just AU$1 return! Children under 5 are free. Touch screen ticket computers in English make buying tickets easy.
  • We were lucky to win tickets to travel on the Hop-on Hop-off bus for a day (RM45 per adult, children under 5 free). It was an excellent way to travel with young children as it eliminates the walking required from and to stations and keeping track of kids up and down long escalators amongst busy station crowds. Buses stop at all the main sightseeing points and we didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes to hop on the next double-decker bus which also have English commentary on all the areas you pass through.
The hop-on hop-off bus had a 10 minute stop at the National Palace for a quick look and photos.

Petronas Twin Towers

Come and see the famous landmark of Kuala Lumpur. From our hotel it was only 4 stations away and we enjoyed looking around the outside of the building and the boys enjoyed getting splashed by the various fountains (even early it was very hot). Tickets for the viewing deck were expensive and didn’t seem like good value for our family (and there was a long queue to buy them).


Suria KLCC

The huge shopping centre at Petronas Towers was an interesting place to look around – though filled will high end shops. Some had good sales. On the ground floor was a great supermarket/fresh food market which had low cost food perfect for a picnic lunch – sushi/sandwiches/deep fried fish and chicken skewers and fruit and drinks were all reasonably priced.

Cold Storage Supermarket.

KLCC Park – Free!

Adjoining Suria KLCC and Petronas Towers is a large park which is a beautiful place for some fresh air in the heart of the city. There is a huge and fun children’s playground which was largely deserted due to the heat, but best of all a free water-play pool. My boys aged 3 and 5 spent hours here cooling off and asked to come back again – it is shallow and perfect for this age group. It’s an excellent way to entertain kids while one parent (i.e. me!) goes for a bit of a browse at the shops!
Pool with a view!
What a joy to strip off for a swim on a hot day!
From behind the waterfall.
Remy loved the water!

Batu Caves – Free!

It’s an easy and cheap train ride out to the Batu Caves taking about 25 minutes each way. My boys enjoyed seeing the large statues of Hanuman and Lord Murugan and especially the playful and mischievous monkeys that make walking up the 272 steps to the caves less onerous for little legs. At the top you enter some very large caves with temples – and then we stopped for a snack and drink at the bottom. My mouth was watering with all the delicious South Indian food on offer. While Bob and I enjoyed a chai the boys had jalebis (a sweet treat I bought the boys for Halloween in Bhutan!).

Tasty samosas...
sweet treats: jalebis and burfi.

National Museum – Adults 5RM, children under 6 free!

We walked from KL Sentral station to the museum which was a bit tricky but we had a map to point us in the right direction. The museum was of world standard and housed four interesting collections related to different periods in Malaysia’s history. The presentation, lighting and models were engaging for the boys and they particularly enjoyed seeing the skulls and movie of pre-historic life and also armour and swords from more recent history. Inside it was a cool and a pleasant respite from outside. There is a clean and pleasant cafe with good food options for the family at very reasonable prices.

Historical trains interested the boys outside the museum.
Lots of questions about these (replica) skulls!

Botanical Gardens – Free!

The Botanical Gardens are a huge area within central Kuala Lumpur that host a number of attractions for the family. With more time I’m sure these would be enjoyable to explore. We were more than amused spending a morning walking around here looking at the free attractions.

Fantasy Planet – Free!
Apparently the best playground in Malaysia – the kids played here for a sweaty hour and would have stayed much longer if it wasn’t for the stifling heat. So much fun for younger children – lots of bridges and tunnels for imaginative play.

Deer park – Free!

We wandered from playground to deer park (about 5-10mins) to see the deer and mouse deer. The kids liked it (pretty simple – just need a quick look). Golf buggies travel regularly around the gardens and pick up passengers and take you where you want to go - again for free!
Kuala Lumpur City Gallery - Free!
The gallery is quite small and has images of the changes in architecture and growth of Kuala Lumpur city. The best part is the short presentation upstairs of the huge city model that is lit up in the dark. A 3 minute video plays with information about Kuala Lumpur. The boys enjoyed seeing the model and finding famous landmarks. While I was shopping Bob got a caricature picture of the boys drawn by one of the resident artists. The boys were asked what they want to be when they grow up - Remy on the left is a rockstar and Xavier is an astronaut!
Q to take a photo on the famous sign!
The largest model of Kuala Lumpur.
Putting the final touches on the caricature.
We also fitted in some shopping and general sightseeing in the time we were in KL and found ourselves on the go from early in the morning til late at night. We stayed right on Jalan Petaling, the main street of the daily China Town Night Market. Street food options abounded in this area which is the prime place to buy cheap market bargains (including rip-off handbags, label t-shirts and DVDs). Bob and I took it in turns to go shopping at night while the boys were getting ready for bed. Our hotel Swiss Inn offered a 'family' room with three large single beds - ample for us as a travelling family. Breakfast was a varied selection of local and western breakfast favourites. We were only a short walk from Pasar Seni station and Central Market - another great shopping and eating destination.
Jalan Petaling was coming alive day by day as all the Chinese New Year Decorations went up.
China Town comes to life at night.
The Art Deco Central Market selling all sorts of handicrafts, textiles and souvenirs.
At first I wasn't sure about KL- it seemed like just another big city - but we kept busy with a huge variety of things to see in our time and really only scratched the surface. I was won over by the awesome food - all my favourite South Indian foods along with delicious Malay and Chinese - all incredibly cheap, fresh and delicious. I look forward to the chance to come back another time and recommend it as a great stop over point to holidays onward in Asia.
Enjoying dinner in China Town with Bob's sister Amanda and boyfriend Rhys.
Poppy enjoys a beer and Nanna tries a fresh coconut!
We tried claypot chicken and roasted fish.
Banana leaf thali in Little India took me back to happy days in Kerela.
Masala Thosai (Dosa) - a South Indian favourite is available everywhere.
The makings of Roti Chanai - my favourite Malaysian specialty.
It's not all art gallerys and museums: today we travelled south to the border city Johor Bahru to indulge the boys at Asia's first Legoland. We'll spend the day there tomorrow and hopefully it will be everything that two little boys have been dreaming of for a year! I'll post an update soon! 



Friday, January 3, 2014

Photo-a-day December

Looking through the photos for December, it's hard to believe that a month ago I was still finishing my teaching duties at Chumey MSS!

We also travelled through Eastern Bhutan and then onto Thailand and Malaysia. What a month - doing what I love most, travelling! Some of these photos show how we were able to find snippets of Christmas wherever we were, although December had a very different feel to being in Australia- a little refreshing to be honest that it wasn't all about Christmas.

Although I'll continue taking daily photos (and posting in the FMS Facebook group) , I think this will be my last photo-a-day blog post as my blog scales back. Thank you for enjoying my photos this year, it has been a pleasure to show interesting facets of Bhutan through my photos and keep the most wonderful record of our year away. Best wishes for 2014!

1 - Red
Our elf found us, even in Bhutan!
2 - Where I stood
Out the front of Mrs Pema's shop in Chumey.

3 - Silver
A collection of coins from my purse.
4 - Tiny
Pema Choki shows me her tiny stapler.

5 - In the cupboard
The last few things left in our pantry in Chumey.
6 - Shadow
The lovely long tree shadows near Umsang village.
7 - 6 O'Clock
Last night of domestic life like no other in Chumey, Bhutan.
8- I shop here
The vegetable markets in Chamkar where we came every fortnight for fresh produce.

9 - This is the weather today
What a joy to enter eastern Bhutan and feel warm - such a contrast to our home in Bumthang.
10 - R is for
River - the mighty river flowing through Autsho.
11 - Green
A gorgeous garden of green in Autsho.
12 - Joy is
Monks watch on joyfully as my sons joyfully chase pidgeons at Trashigang Dzong.
13 - Composition
Chorten Kora at Trashiyangtse (using rule of thirds).
14 - drinks
A drink for the road? At a bus stop enroute to Thrumsingla.
15 - Lights
This one is out of sequence - of Paro Dzong lit up at night.
16 - Makes you feel merry
A sight you would never see in Queensland in December - snow! It made us feel very merry and in the Christmas spirit to see snow in December.
17 - Trees
Lots of trees in the distance, but centre stage to the Bhutanese flag for National Day.

18 - Big
A gorgeous big bow on the wreath on a friends door in Thimphu.
19 - Tis The Season
Of goodbye dinners - many farewells night after night.

20 - I'm listening to
Young Bhutanese children sing carols at the Taj Tashi - slightly surreal!
21 - On the door
Beautiful decorations at Kichu Monastery, Paro.
22 - Sparkly
A beautiful Christmas scene at our hotel in Bangkok.
23 - Tradition
A Thai tradition I love - Spirit Houses.
24 - Wrapped
Bob's Christmas gifts wrapped in Thai Newspaper and Bhutanese ribbon to be opened in Malaysia!
25 - The best bit
The best part of our non-traditional day was discovering the street art of Penang, Malaysia.
26 - Where you slept
At Hotel Sentral, Georgetown, Malaysia.
27 - What you're doing now
About to get wet! At Langkawi, Malaysia.
29 - Reflect - best bit of 2013
Without a doubt, the best part of 2013 was being Class 2 teacher in Chumey, Bhutan.
30 - You
Feeling relaxed with a sunset cocktail on Langkawi.

31 - Celebrate
Fire ceromonies in Langkawi to bring in the New Year.

Let's see what 2014 has in store: more photos and as of yesterday, a new camera as my trusty phone was dropped and smashed. I think I'm ready for an upgrade!