Return To New Zealand Via South-East Asia - dswphoto
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  • Return To New Zealand Via South-East Asia

My trip back to New Zealand via South-East Asia, climbing to the top of 4,096 metre tall Mount Kinabalu in the East Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, walking around the water village of Kampong Ayer in Brunei's capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, attending my sister's wedding in Cambridge, New Zealand, and enjoying an authentic Singaporean breakfast at a hawker centre in Tiong Bahru.


Day 0.

Rianda outside Dubai Airport's Terminal 1 on Wednesday afternoon, ready to check-in for our flight to Kuala Lumpur. We normally travel with carry-on luggage only, but with the need to carry gear for the mountain climb and a wedding to attend, we opted to share a suitcase as well for the trip.


Grabbing a shawarma and coffee at a fast food place in the new Terminal 1 Concourse D.


Our flights for this trip were on five different airlines, flying 9 segments:

Day 0: Flying Qatar Airways (QR) from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur via Doha (DXB-DOH-KUL).
Day 2: Flying Malaysian Airlines (MH) from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (KUL-BKI).
Day 7: Flying AirAsia (AK) from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuala Lumpur (BWN-KUL).
Flying AirAsia X (D7) from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland via Gold Coast (KUL-OOL-AKL).
Day 16: Flying Air New Zealand (NZ) from Auckland to Singapore (AKL-SIN).
Day 17: Flying Qatar Airways (QR) from Singapore to Dubai via Doha (SIN-DOH-DWC).



For my two previous trips back to New Zealand I had stopped off in South Korea and Japan. For this trip I wanted to stop over and visit Malaysia and Brunei for the first time as well as quick visit to Singapore, the first country I had visited outside of New Zealand. It was also Rianda's first time to all four countries we would be visiting too.


The QR A320 for the short hop to Doha.


Walking down the jet bridge.


Chicken sandwich, cake and OJ served on the 30 minute flight.


And at our gate at Hamad International Airport. Luckily we were allowed to skip security and our gate for our Kuala Lumpur flight was only ~100 metres from our arrival gate so we were through to the departure area in no time for our 7:40pm flight to KUL.


Chicken and rice served for dinner soon after take-off.


Watching the 'Deadpool' movie. Although R-rated due to blood and gore, there didn't seem to be any major cuts! After dinner and film, I got a few hours sleep on the overnight flight.



Day 1.

The sun peaking below the horizon as we got closer to Kuala Lumpur


And not looking too bleary-eyed in the early-morning.


Preparing for landing.


We were through immigration in only a few minutes and off to wait for our suitcase at baggage claim.


After getting some Malaysian ringgit we caught the train into the city.


After changing to the metro at KL Sentral we got off at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). It was about 9am and a little too early to check into our hotel, so we stopped at a place called Nyonya Colors for some breakfast.


For about 25 ringgit (~$6.20) we enjoyed some soft-boiled eggs, honey toast, noodles, sweets and Nescafe coffee.


After a short walk from Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), we checked into our hotel for our one night in Kuala Lumpur, Traders Hotel by Shangri-La. It was only 10am, but luckily our suite was ready for us.


And the amazing view of the Petronas Towers out our window.


The 4-star Traders Hotel is one of the more popular hotels in Kuala Lumpur for visitors, no doubt in part because it has the best views of the Petronas Towers.


After a quick shower to shake off the jetlag, we walked back to the metro for the short ride to Masjid Jamek Station.


Some locals queueing up to get some lunch. My Lonelyplanet guidebook had a walking tour for Chinatown so we ventured off to see some of the local sights.


Medan Pasar, KL's original market square, with a clock tower built in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George IV.


The OCBC building, built in Art Deco style in 1938 for the Overseas Chinese banking company.


Next stop with the Central Market. The market was first constructed by the British in 1888.


Colourful fabric for sale. The market was orginally a wet market. In the 1970's there were plans to demolish the site. Instead it was saved, renovated, and is now a Malaysian Heritage site.


#Mywonderfilled.


A poster of the former and longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad.


The Art-Deco Lee Rubber Building.


Hundreds of golden Buddha at Guandi Temple.


Sri Mahamariamman Temple, founded in 1873 and is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur.


After the interesting walk we then retreated back to the cool airconditioning in the Central Market and went to a local restaurant for lunch. We shared the Nasi Kuning Rendang Set with tumeric rice served with beef rendang, pickle, bolinjo cracker and potato patty.


And the Nasi Liwet Set with steamed spiced coconut rice with chicken sate, sweet bean curd and gulai cassava leaves. Very tasty local dishes and very filling!


We then caught the meto back to KLCC and walked back to the hotel before promptly crashing out for an afternoon nap.


After awaking at 5pm from a very restful sleep, we caught the elevator up to the 32nd floor to the Traders Lounge.


The afternoon tea service was still operating so we had a cappuccino and some snacks to tame the hunger until dinner.


A great place to relax, refuel and recaffeinate with the amazing view across to the Petronas Towers.


We then headed out for the short walk to the Heli Lounge Bar.


Situated on the 36th floor, it had an amazing and fully open view over Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately soon after we arrived though the skies opened up and the rain came down, with thunder and lightning soon arriving too!


We retreated downstairs to the indoor bar, which featured a side panel of a Boeing 737 and a Boeing-747 engine cowling turned into a DJ console.


And a seaplane model hanging from the ceiling.


Despite the rain and lightning, it was a great place to watch the city slowly come alight as the night began.


Our original plan was to head to the Alor Road in Bukit Bintang to get some hawker food for dinner. With rain and thunderstoms however, we decided to head back to the hotel instead.


Catching the elevator up to our room for a change of clothes after getting drenched during our mad dash in the rain back to the hotel!


Admiring the view from our room after putting on some dry clothes.


The rain gradually cleared up and the amazing view got even better.


Too lazy to head out again, we went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. I used to have laksa almost every day for lunch back when I was at university studying for my PhD in Sydney, and it was really great to enjoy a big spicy bowl again. It was Rianda's first time having Laksa too and she immediately took a liking to it as well!


And some tasty satay chicken to share too.


After dinner we headed up to the lounge again for a hot drink.


And then got some sleep after our great first day in Malaysia.



Day 2.

With the dark curtains pulled we had a decent sleep-in and managed to get up at 8:30am and head down to the park below for a run to wake myself up.

After a quick shower, we headed downstairs for breakfast. They had a great spread, with everything from sushi and korean to donuts and fresh fruit.


Walking through the KLCC mall on the way to the metro.


And at KL Sentral to catch the commuter train for our trip out to the Batu Caves.


Rianda standing outside the caves, with the giant 42.7 metre tall statue of the Hindu deity, Murugan, in the background. The 272 steps were also a good warm-up for our climb up Mount Kinabalu in two days time.


And a second set of stairs to the main temple at Cathedral Cave.


The main temple of Murugan. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India.


After a walk up and down the 272 stairs we bought a coconut to share for 5 ringgit. Perfect way to rehydrate in the heat and humidity!


And a big tour group I couldn't resist getting a photo of in front of the caves.


Some Hindu statues inside the Ramayana Cave, one of the secondary caves. This cave was definitely the most colourful, with lots of statues narrating the life of Rāma, a legendary rāja-kumāra (prince).


We then caught the train back into the city, and after switching to the mono-rail, headed to Alor Road and had some tasty roast pork, duck and steamed dumplings for a late lunch.


It was only a ~2 kilometres to the hotel, so we braved the heat and humidity to walk back through the local neighbourhoods.


Although we had checked out of the hotel in the morning, we were welcome to use the Traders lounge, so we enjoyed a coffee while savouring the view.


And some cheese, crackers and red wine before heading off to the airport for our flight to Kota Kinabalu.


Rush hour on the metro on our way to KL Sentral.


And back at Kuala Lumpur Airport to check in for our 9pm flight.


When booking this flight we initally looked at Air Asia, Malaysia's low cost carrier. But for some reason this particular flight on Malaysian Airlines was a very reasonable all-inclusive $35 each, so we booked this instead.


The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu was about 1,000 miles / 1,600 kilometres, or just over 2 hours flight time.


I was a little thirsty, so grabbed a can of 'Kickapoo' from the vending machine for 1 ringgit.


A couple of the apparently 'lost property' 747's on the tarmac. Back in January, Kuala Lumpur airport placed an advert in the local newspaper asking for help for identifying the owner of these abandoned planes.


Reading the inflight magazine just after boarding. I had previously done the photography for a couple of articles for this magazine, but it was my first time seeing the magazine itself so it was a bit of a thrill.


Dinner of chicken and rice with some apple juice.


Watching the Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence movie, Joy.


And on arrival at Kota Kinabalu. As it was only a domestic flight, I was surprised we had to go through immigration and get our passports stamped with our date of entry into the Malaysian state of Sabah.


And after organising our ride at the taxi booth, we were off to our hotel in the city.


And our room for the next two nights at the Ming Garden Hotel. Only 280 ringgit (~$70) a night including breakfast so very reasonable.



Day 3.

We went down to breakfast at the hotel and there were quite a few Chinese tourists. We managed to find a spare table though and had something to eat.


After a ~2 kilometre walk into the city centre, we checked in for our dive today at Scuba Junkie.


We then met up with our instructor for the short walk to Jesselton Point, where we split up into two groups.


And following the other group on the boat ride out to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park


Arriving at our first dive spot.


Rianda doing a backward roll entry into the water.


And our dive guide for myself and Rianda, Jan.


An orange and white striped fish hiding under some coral.


Looking up at Rianda. It was her first dive since completing her PADI openwater course in April.


A Bluespotted ribbontail stingray having a rest under some coral.


I had just bought a Nikon AW130, an underwater camera to upgrade from my Gopro Hero. Rated to 30 metres, it displayed the water depth on the LCD screen which was handier to read than the BCD gauge.


While I was zooming about chasing fish and sucking down my air while trying out my new camera, Rianda was happy to finetune her buoyancy and breathing control with her newly learned scuba skills.


A Cinnamon clownfish posing for the camera.


A blue Borneo sea star.


A trio of Ocellaris clownfish.


And Rianda just after surfacing. She had done a discover dive in Vietnam last year, but her dive in Malaysia was much more relaxed and enjoyable now that she was a certified diver.


We then docked and headed ashore at Gaya Island to rest and relax before our second dive of the morning.


After a 30 minute break ashore, we then headed out again to do some more underwater exploring.


Rianda heading over backwards again into the water.


A shy Spotfin lionfish afraid to show its face.


Jan was from the UK but had Malaysian roots.


An amazing and very trippy pattern on this grouper.


Choriaster granulatus, or also known as the doughboy star.


After the raw excitement of her first discover dive in Vietnam last year, Rianda had since gained alot of confidence and was able to really enjoy her first diving experience since completing her PADI openwater course.


A warm water blue crayfish sticking out its antennae under the rock.


A school of Lunar fusilier.


As Rianda had openwater certification, our maximum depth was 15-16 metres.


And back on the boat and heading back to shore with Manukan Island just ahead.


Back on Gaya Island we enjoyed a tasty lunch of curry and sweet n' sour chicken.


The other guys then headed out for a third dive while we relaxed on the beach. We had only opted for two morning dives to save much needed energy for our big climb tommorrow up Mount Kinabalu.


After a lazy afternoon, the boat came to pick us up for the short ride back to the mainland.


And back at Jesselton Point after a great day out diving and lazing on the beach.


Stopping to enjoy some carrot juice and fried banana as we walked back to the hotel.


And some tasty curry, laksa and ice tea before having an early night to rest up for our big mountain climb tomorrow.




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