While at heart I am a backpacker, my adventure comes with a twist. The modern metropolitan cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur aren’t quite so suited to the budgeting traveler exploring backpacker routes. Instead they can provide a buzzing city break or for many a place of business; and if you look in the right places, you can still find heaps of character, culture and history infused within the streets, the food and the people that make these cities what they are. With three incredible and very different hotels as bases, I was free to wander and wonder within the city streets.
One of my favourite places in Singapore, Little India, is also home to the most off-the-wall hotel in the city, Wanderlust. Without a shadow of a doubt those involved with designing Wanderlust had a lot of fun with the project and it shines through in every colourful room, quirky quote and eccentric piece of furniture. From space rooms to barbershop chairs in the lobby to a foosball table, everything just screams fun, it’s a playground for all ages. My room had me planning ways to
redesign my own at home and while I struggled to get out of the bed in the morning, the prospect of pancakes is always enticing. This is the perfect private space to escape hostel life but not find yourself stuck in a boring hotel. They even hold a monthly pop up for 2-3 weeks of every month and not only does the hotel have it’s own restaurant, Little India is where I ate some of my favourite food in Singapore and places to eat are just a few minutes away from Wanderlust.
Little India is alive with character, culture and colour, I can only imagine it to be a microcosm of the country itself. It’s almost impossible to pick somewhere to eat amongst all the stalls and restaurants but a long queue or lack of spare tables is usually a good sign. Also within walking distance of Wanderlust is Arab Street, where once again character, culture and colour surround you. On Haji Lane, the shop fronts and street art are eye catching and at closer inspection you’ll find coffee shops, vintage clothing stores and arts and crafts.
Tiong Bahru has a similarly hip vibe and is just a short train ride away. I spent ages picking up books in Woods in the Books, as well as Books Actually, which also has an awesome antique gifts section out the back full of wonderful finds and some cats that like to sleep amongst the goods. The area is also home to the infamous Tiong Bahru Bakery and some strong competition. I certainly didn’t go hungry while in Singapore, partly thanks to my friend and Singaporean, Melody. She introduced me to the wonders of Singapore’s hawker centres and treated me to a kaya toast and soft boiled egg breakfast, a must-try if visiting the country.
It was with the help of another new friend that I discovered Kuala Lumpur, my next destination, in a way that I couldn’t have done alone. It was at the Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral that I met Chanel, enjoying a cocktail beside the pool of the rooftop bar, I overlooked the city and most impressively, the iconic Petronas Towers. Aloft is another hotel aiming to do something new, it’s location makes it ideal for those visiting the city on business, however they have completely reimagined the traditional business hotel and made it into so much more.
The often unnecessary and uncomfortable formalities are gone, when you walk through the doors here you can take off your tie and relax. The rooms are so spacious that you could literally move in, furniture and all. Aloft do a great job of removing the often unnecessary things you find in hotel rooms and instead leave you with a more open room. Plus, being right next to KL Sentral Railway Station gives you great access to the city. I couldn’t help but make use of the gym as well, after two months of not working out it was a welcomed struggle.
Chanel’s tours of the food markets left me unable to move from overeating; soups, fried squid chicken feet, I tried everything suggested. I hadn’t heard much about Malaysian street food before visiting, like I had the food of some countries, and I really don’t know why. It was easily some of the best I ate in my eighteen weeks of travelling.
While wandering the enormous malls in the city is enjoyable (they are the biggest I’ve ever seen), I wasn’t there to shop, I barely had enough room in my little backpack for what I already owned. I much preferred exploring the markets, like the one in Chinatown, and sampling their delights. I just love food and frequently found myself bonding with fellow foodie travellers. Even being ordered to get up at an immoral 5am for breakfast proved a remarkable decision when I got to eat some of the most delicious pork I’ve ever eaten.
My final days in Kuala Lumpur were by far the most luxurious of my trip. Afternoon tea, a two hour spa treatment, a haircut at Truefitt & Hill (the worlds oldest barbershop) and two nights in a suite that rivalled my entire house. There seemed to be little reason to leave The Majestic Hotel, as I was kept busy between breakfast and dinner. The enormous and heavenly beds made it difficult to even get out from under the sheets, let alone out the front doors.
A two hour body scrub and oil massage left me in a state of ecstasy, refreshed and relaxed despite my hectic schedule. Perhaps most notably, the haircut I received at Truefitt & Hill was like none I had been given before. Never had someone taken such time with my hair, while sharing such a touching life story. He even trimmed my eyebrows, which apparently needed some maintenance.
I wanted to see more of Malaysia, I felt that I just scratched the surface in Kuala Lumpur and that there was so much more to see. However, I was also ready to return to somewhere that my tattered backpacker clothes wouldn’t be looked at with such distain. My flight to Cambodia was booked, the next chapter was about to be written.
If you’re thinking of taking a city break in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, you’re going to want to feel comfortable where you’re staying. A big plus in this part of the world is that you can stay somewhere luxurious for far less money than you would pay in a European city. You won’t be disappointed by the three fabulous hotels I stayed in, I promise! Check them out at the links below.