Packing for out-of-season holidays and vacations

sorting my carry-on bag on a previous trip

Taking a break, vacation or holiday – whatever you may call it – in the opposite hemisphere to your home can be an advantage when packing. Out-of-season sorting can also be a pain. For me it’s a mix of both.

Living in an apartment, and with too many clothes, means twice a year I either store, or unpack, my winter or summer clothes. The disadvantage of this is that in our New Zealand winter it’s those thicker clothes that are hanging in my wardrobe (or closet as Americans call them) and I’m needing some summer clothes for travelling in the northern hemisphere – in their summer.

I’m in the middle of this process now, and as I begin to put some light clothes aside, now that it’s mid-autumn, (fall) I’m also considering what I need for 5 weeks of travel in Mongolia and Malaysia – Penang, Sabah, KL, and Sarawak.

This means a shelf in my wardrobe for possibles and/or essentials and, at the end of one railing, coat hangers of the same – possibles, probable, or definite. The advantage for this sorting – about 3 months before my travels – is that, when the time comes to pack my bag, I have fewer options to consider. And, as it will be close to travelling time it will be easier to make quick decisions and of course, not overpack.

On the shelf, along with ‘must take’ items like aqua shoes, swimming gear and sarong, will be a list that I can add to as I think of things. Once again it means my packing will be considered, rather than rushed, and therefore lighter, rather than heavier. As I have said in other blogs about packing, take anything out that has been put in your bag for ‘just in case’.

As always, my travels will be a mix of conditions. Business meetings, a rainforest music festival, Mongolia’s National festival, hiking in national parks, snorkelling at a resort and, exploring city streets and restaurants: my clothes need to be suitable for a range of activities. They also need to be, for me, easily washable in my room. I also expect my check in luggage – on my outward journey – to be 15kgs (about 33lb) or under.

My carry-on bag will have my electronic gear, and e-reader and eye mask, travel docs etc for on the plane, and a few items in case of an unexpected stopover, or for me in this case, a 13-hour layover in Beijing.

So, while Wellington airport is closed because of fog, on this dull day I’m sorting summer clothes for winter travel. Just checked the calendar – it’s exactly 13 weeks today that I fly out, and most of my gear is sorted!

Time to apply for my visa.

 

 

 

Hop-on hop-off bus in Kuala Lumpur – a good choice

hoponhopoffbus (28)WEBThe concierge at Berjaya Times Square  (this link is to my blog about the hotel) told me how to get to the closest stop for the Hop-on Hop off bus and off I set for my last day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – it was a good choice of ‘things to do’. If time is short, this is an ideal way to get an overview; however,  if you are time-rich it gives a good idea of where things are and will help you decide on what to do over the next few days – and this is plenty to do in KL – including . . .

 

But back to the jump on jump off bus. This tour is by double-decker bus and runs on a half-hourly schedule (it would help if bus stops had real-time info as I waited 25 minutes for a bus after dinner – I had obviously just missed one  – but you can’t leave the stop for fear of missing the next one 😦 .  Still it was good people-watching time!

The good thing about getting off was the first bus was a closed top one, my next one was an open deck top which was good for photos and viewing, (others prefer the air-con I guess!)

Lunch in Little India was great too.

The stop I started/finished at was stop 6 – which was hard to find as its hidden from the footpath by a large restaurant at the side of the road. I asked locals 3 times and then found another couple searching and asking – we joined our search talents and found it. The stop needs moving or a big sign needs to be on the footpath between the food place and the shops.

As I only had the day I only hopped-off for lunch (in Little India) and my fellow passengers seemed a mix of staying on for the full length or were hopping off at favourite spots.

Tickets can be bought on the bus, its website or authorised agents.

I think its best for the pictures to tell the story …  so, sit back and relax and spend some time in Kuala Lumpur with me.

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No shark-fin soup in this five star hotel!

After 11 hours and some 9 thousand kilometres I arrive in Kuala Lumpur, (KL) Malaysia. An express rail link runs from the KLIA airport(s) to KL SENTRAL and for the first time I take it: arriving in the city more ecologically, and faster, than a taxi.  From Sentral I caught the monorail for the last 6 mins to the hotel. The punctual rail system runs to and from the airport every 20 minutes.

My destination was Times Square, well the hotel Berjaya Times Square to be exact: the hotel was hosting me for a night while I took a bike trip in Malaysia’s capital and checked out a couple of other ‘things to do’.

View of the 15th floor pool from my room
View of the 15th floor pool from my west tower room

In the heart of the city, the twin tower building is ideally placed in the entertainment and shopping district of this city. Playing on the ‘times square’ location it embraces the New York theme with Central Park being located on the 15th floor (pool, children’s playground, fitness centre, squash courts, sauna and steam room).

Central Park links the two towers and has great views of the city including the impressive Petronas Twin Towers and is a great place to relax … not that I had much time to enjoy relaxing by the gazebo! However, I did relax with a wonderful relaxing massage on the same level and can recommend the ‘wellness centre’ – Bunga Raya Spa – to rejuvenate your mind and body. I had their signature massage, which the masseuse said combines old traditions with modern elements. It used kneading strokes focusing on muscles and pressure points.

Some facts about this 5-star hotel: 650 rooms and suites with all the usual comforts to be expected at such a hotel.  It’s worth noting they are also well set up for conventions of many sizes too with the Manhattan Ballroom holding 2000. (See their website, above, for more information about convention or conference facilities). As a travel writer I particularly valued the free Wi-Fi to update Facebook and Instagram as I don’t blog while travelling – too busy experiencing.  After many hours in the air, relaxing in the full-size bath was wonderful too. (I recommend either KL, or Malaysian Borneo, as great stopovers on long-haul flights.)

Food-wise they cater to all tastes (American, Western, and Asian) and when I met with staff in the Broadway Lounge for a briefing then tour through the hotel, I tried their signature drink: Berjaya Kool. This was a refreshing drink of rose syrup, lemon grass, sugar syrup and sour red plum. The glass was rimmed with a granulated powder that I recognised but couldn’t place … it was the sour red plum and I just loved it. Try it!

Berjaya Kool
Berjaya Kool

I ate in three of the hotel’s restaurants: fine dining in Samplings on the Fourteenth, local and western food for lunch and breakfast in The Big Apple, and breakfast in a smaller restaurant which I believe was just for people on the club floor where my room was.  All were impeccable.

As well as their excellent amenities, another bonus is that the hotel’s attached to 900-retail shops in the Berjaya Times Square Shopping (BTS) Mall –which is also home to movie theatres, bowling alley, and for adrenaline junkies, 14 rides at the BTS Theme Park. As I’m a wimp of the first order, and rides with names like Space Attack, Dizzy Izzy, and the Haunted Chamber,  I did not ride any of them! If you have, or do, please leave comments below so others know what they’re like.

One of the many things I liked about the Berjaya were  cards I saw that said (in part) that they will not serve shark-fin soup in their restaurants, a company wide policy made some years ago. It also says “Because sharks are at the top of the marine food web they serve a vital purpose to maintain the precious balance of species in the sea.”

By-the-way: I enjoyed my hosted stay at Berjaya so much I paid for, and stayed, another night – sort of says it all doesn’t it!

Check out some of the food options – and their award-wining Thai Chef, one of  their many specialist chefs.

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Go ride a bike!

I’ve taken bike rides in Laos, Cambodia, Christchurch, NZ; and Bangkok, Thailand – sometimes as a  guided day tour, mostly just hiring or borrowing bikes and doing my own thing. I’ve now also taken a bike tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and despite being caught in a tropical downpour it was fun. I’d not been on a bike for sometime so my nether regions where very aware of the saddle by the end of my time 🙂

As a guest of KL tourism I had a guide to myself, but groups of travellers can also have a guide – if booked beforehand – or you can just grab a map and enjoy the day stopping and  starting as it suits – which is ideal especially for photographers – and of course it’s quick getting from place to places. The bikes have baskets (on the ‘women’s’ bikes) and a bell to warn pedestrians of your approach.

Many of the connections between footpaths and roads need you to get off as footpaths are often raised – I believe the council is looking at smoothing the way where possible. It was not a car-free time when I took the tour, but my guide was very aware of the traffic and car-drivers seemed considerate of us. I enjoyed the garden area in particular as it was mostly vehicle-free.

Beginning and ending at Merdeka Square, with bike route signs along  the way,  the  ride showcased some of the city’s attractions such as the Perdana Botanical Park, KL Bird Park, the National Mosque, Merdeka Square and a number of other monuments and museums.


use IMG_0248Mederka Square
 is full of  historical sites and I believe you could spend a day here alone. It has buildings which date from the late 1800s This was where the British flag was lowered in 1957 and the Malayan flag raised for the first time – signalling the end of British rule and the beginning of  the country being a sovereign nation member of the Commonwealth.

Before the ride I visited the interesting, and free, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (just opposite the bike hire place and home to ARCH ) which is a beautiful Mogul-India inspired building and the amazing miniature model of the city certainly helps get your bearings.

Cycling is being promoted by the city council to encourage visitors and residents to explore this captivating city. In January, Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib led more than 300 cyclists along closed public roads to give them a taste of what they could enjoy under their own steam. The ride followed the launch of “Kuala Lumpur by Cycle” in February last year (2013) and now KL has monthly Car-Free Days during which 6 kilometres  city roads are closed to traffic for two hours on the first Sunday of every month. A cycling track on roads along the Gombak River is also planned so watch for more cycle routes.

“This is a very imaginative idea,” says Zalina Ahmad, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Zealand. “Cycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around and this will give people the opportunity to explore KL. Cycling is one of the best ways to get to know a city.”

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So if you are eco-friendly or just want an enjoyable way to get around this often ignored city go ride a bike and visit KLs oldest parks and heritage buildings. Just remember no matter the season, in Asia make sure you have sunblock, umbrellas and waterproof gear in your bag at all times – and a plastic bag for your camera!

Other great ways to explore this city are:

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Horse and Carriage ride

FREE Dataran Mederka Heritage Guided Tour (Mon, Wed, Sat)

FREE Little India Walking Guided Tour (Saturday)

And, soon I’ll bog about my day of travel on the jump on jump off bus 

While in KL I stayed at the Berjaya Times Square hotel … Read about my experiences there and the Theme Park

Malaysia Airlines’ has daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland (and every other part of the world)  For information about visiting Malaysia  – and do a search in my Malaysia category on this blog page for many more stories about my favourite Asian country.

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Cycling in KL … spinning your wheels by night or day!

FANCY SPINNING YOUR WHEELS BY MOONLIGHT?

I’ve taken bike rides in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand – some as a day tour, mostly just hiring or borrowing a bike and doing my own thing. this is one I’d like to do too.

Night cycling around Kuala Lumpur is being promoted by the council to encourage visitors and residents to explore this captivating city. In January, Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib led more than 300 cyclists on a 5.4km route along closed public roads around KL to give them a taste of what they could enjoy under their own steam.

Starting and ending at Merdeka Square, the 45-minute night ride showcased some of the city’s attractions such as the Perdana Botanical Park, KL Bird Park, the National Mosque, Merdeka Square and a number of other monuments and museums.

The night ride follows the launch of “Kuala Lumpur by Cycle” in February last year and KL’s first Car-Free Day recently. Under the programme, a 6km stretch of city roads will be closed to traffic for two hours on the first Sunday of every month. A cycling track on roads along the Gombak River is also planned.

“This is a very imaginative idea,” says Zalina Ahmad, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Zealand. “Cycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around and this will give people the opportunity to explore KL at night, without the bustling crowds the city attracts during the day. Cycling is one of the best ways to get to know a city and fewer cars on the roads is better for everyone.”

And, of course, you can do it all again in the daylight for a totally different but no less magical experience!

Malaysia Airlines’ introduction of daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland in March will make it even easier to get to Malaysia and start exploring.

For information about visiting Malaysia go to http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/intl and do a search in my Malaysia category on the this blog page for many more stories about the country.

Borneo adventures – setting the scene

map malaysia

Malaysia in green

East Malaysia, Borneo.

Sarawak covers 124,449 sq km (48,050 sq mi), on the northwest coast of Borneo and is bounded by Brunei to the North, Sabah to its North-East, Indonesia on the East and South, and by the South China Sea on its west, separating it from peninsula Malaysia.

Sabah has an area of 74,398 sq km (28,725 sq mi) and its watery boundaries are the Balabac Strait, Sulu Sea, South China Sea, and the Celebes Sea. Land wise, to its south is Indonesia, and south-west, is Sarawak.

That’s a combined total of 198,847 sq km (76,775 sq miles).

The whole island of Borneo is 743,330 km – the sixth largest island in the world.  The island is divided among three countries, Brunei Indonesia and Malaysia. Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory and the  Malaysian states  occupy about 26% of the island while the sovereign state of Brunei comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area. Borneo is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world.

For comparison:

  • New Zealand is 268,680 sq km
  • UK is 243,610 sq km
  • California  is 423,970 sq km

FYI: I’m flying from Auckland to Kuala Lumpur and then onto Kuching, Sarawak with Malaysian Airlines and to follow my adventures see here for my social media links

Sunset in Parit Jawa, East Coast, peninsula Malaysia
Sunset in Parit Jawa, East Coast, peninsula Malaysia – taken about 2002

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia: KL

When in Kuala Lumper I can recommend a visit to the very beautiful Islamic Arts Museum

The permanent galleries are categorised by artefact material or field of study. Located on level 3 of the IAMM are some exceptions, the India Gallery, China Gallery and Malay World Gallery. These three galleries serve as representations of the diversity of Islamic peoples and the multi-cultural heritage of Malaysia. Also located on level 3 are the Architecture Gallery, the Qurans & Manuscripts Gallery and the Ottoman Room – a reconstructed interior of an Ottoman Syrian room dated 1820 – 1821 AD, sponsored by the Standard Chartered bank.

It includes Ceramics & Glass Gallery, Metalwork Gallery, Woodwork Gallery, Arms & Armour Gallery, Jewellery Gallery, and Textiles Gallery; exhibits collections displayed thematically, according to chronology, region or technique of production.  read more here