Image courtesy of Prince Hotel, used with permission.
2am is the absolute worst time to fly into Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. From about 1am to 5am, all transportation options between the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) and Kuala Lumpur proper are closed, save for the pricey taxis, which jack up prices by 40 percent in the wee hours of the morning.
2am is also a major imposition on any hotel, though I was fortunate enough to have a reservation at the Prince Hotel (buy direct) in Bukit Bintang, whose 24-hour concierge desk thinks nothing of welcoming a bedraggled guest in the dead of night.
As it happens, there's much more to the Prince Hotel experience than just a chirpy welcome in the very early morning hours. For more on this establishment in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, proceed to our review of the Prince Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or check out this gallery of images of the Prince Hotel.
Image of Hue Royal Citadel in Vietnam © Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.
Cruising to Southeast Asia would be a waste of money if you weren't allowed to go deeper into the countries you're visiting. Deluxe cruise provider Crystal Cruises takes care of that little problem with a new collection of Overland Adventures launching between February and April 2014. Read More...
Image courtesy of Ian Stevenson Photography, used with permission.
If you've been to Lombok or the Gili Islands, you've probably been to the East Bali town of Padangbai, though you probably didn't pay it any mind. Most travelers treat Padangbai as a stopover, spending most of their time at the pier that services ferries traveling between Bali and the islands to the immediate east.
If Lombok or the Gilis are on your itinerary, then try (if you can) extending your stay in Padangbai for a night. Then you can see what surprises the port town has up its sleeve: nice unspoiled beaches and a laid-back nightlife that serves as a cool counterpoint to Kuta's drink-until-you-hurl scene.
Check out our Travel Guide to Padangbai, East Bali... and explore the possibilities that await when you Spend a Day in Padangbai, East Bali. Both guides are provided to us courtesy of our new guest contributor Andrea Ellickson. As the Balinese say: terimah kasi, Andrea!
Image © Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.
If the Governor of Bali has his way, the island's magnificent temples may soon be deprived of foreign visitors. During a seminar held last week, Governor Made Mangku Pastika acknowledged the controversial inclusion of the "mother temple" Pura Besakih on Bali's sacred Gunung Agung in a list of Indonesia's national strategic tourist destinations, and suggested it was time for a change.
"It is high time for us to limit access to our temples," said the Governor. "Please use the temples to worship the creator."
The Governor is mainly worried about a rush of tourists making worship in temples difficult, but there's always worst-case-scenarios like that presented by Urmas and Katrin Silman, who were caught having sex in the Pura Mengening bathing temple in Tampaksiring earlier this year.
Other voices have suggested that the tourist tide might do some good: Indonesian Tour Guides Association (HPI) Bali representative Amos Lilo says he appreciates the Governor's sentiments, but...
"But we have to remember that many foreign tourists come to Bali to learn more about the religion and culture of the Balinese people. Worship places like Besakih Temple are among the most attractive tourist destinations in Bali," Lilo said [...] "Clear regulations and information are needed to avoid misunderstanding. Tourists mostly respect the religious code of ethics applied here in Bali."
Christmas in Singapore just wouldn't be the same without a lit-up Marina Bay, and this year, Community Chest and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) are stepping up with the Christmas ChariTrees @ Marina Bay 2013, which will enjoy its debut light-up on November 15 at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade.
A total of 30 LED-equipped ChariTrees will illuminate the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade for six weeks after the launch from 7pm to 1am, finally switching off on December 27. 20 of these trees are "Story Trees" whose designs tell the stories of beneficiaries, as interpreted by design students from LASALLE College of the Arts. Read More...
All images courtesy of Qunci Villas, used with permission.
Lombok, Indonesia is opening up ever wider to tourists - new direct flights from Perth, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur let tourists visit this off-the-beaten-track island without having to go through Indonesia's capital Jakarta or neighboring Bali.
Image © Mike Aquino, licensed to About.com.
The legal drinking situation in Indonesia is, shall we say, fluid - a conservative Islamic party is supporting legislation that would prohibit the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks throughout the country. From the New York Times:
A draft bill submitted to Indonesia's Parliament earlier this year that called for a ban on alcohol in the world's largest Muslim-majority country has stirred unease among the country's predominantly moderate Muslims and fear among those who make their living in tourism, from upscale hotels in the capital, Jakarta, to beach bars and theme restaurants on the resort island of Bali....
The draft bill was quietly submitted to Parliament in January by the P.P.P. ["United Development Party", an Islamic party], whose platform includes banning alcohol.
"It's the aspiration of many regions, due to criminality, and health and social problems because of alcohol," said Ahmad Yani, a P.P.P. lawmaker, who denied in an interview that the bill was related to the 2014 election season.
Not all countries in Southeast Asia share the P.P.P.'s strict attitude to alcohol. The laws throughout the region vary from lax in the extreme (Cambodia) to absolute prohibition (Brunei). Even countries with a Muslim majority - Indonesia and Malaysia - allow foreigners and non-Muslims to drink, within some strictly drawn lines.
Looking for guidance on the laws about alcohol in the Southeast Asian country you're headed to? Check out this Short Guide to Getting Drunk in Southeast Asia.
Bureau of Fire Protection volunteers pack relief goods bound for hard-hit areas of the southern Philippines at a government warehouse on November 9, 2013 in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images.
The prospects for Philippines provinces affected by Haiyan are grim. Conservative estimates put it at 1,000 dead, while others fear that 10,000 is closer to the truth. The numbers are still trickling in; many far-flung areas were cut off after the storm passed through. All in all, over 4 million Filipinos were affected by this, the strongest storm to emerge this year.
Typhoon Haiyan was a doozy: packing maximum sustained winds of 195 mph, the superstorm slammed into the Visayas islands south of Manila, leaving a massive trail of destruction in its wake. My wife was choking back tears when she saw this news report about a storm surge reaching an evacuation center in Tacloban, killing an undetermined number of elderly and children. I was wrong to be optimistic about a low casualty count; the situation looks dire throughout Central Visayas.
The Philippine government is already on the ground repairing the damage, but they can't handle this alone. If you want to do your part to help, you can call or visit the charities in this list. Your help will be much appreciated: Read More...
Image courtesy of Getty Images.
Your humble guide lives in the Philippines - ground zero for typhoons in Southeast Asia. The Philippines has been particularly badly hit in the past few years, with typhoons like Bopha (Pablo) causing up to a billion dollars in damage and hundreds of deaths.
I've followed some of the worst typhoons on these pages, including super-typhoon Megi that was the record-holding storm three years ago. Even that storm now pales before the one bearing down on my location as of this minute, super-typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Read More...
Habitat Room; image courtesy of Naumi Hotel, used with permission.
You don't finish a multi-million dollar renovation to get the "same old same old", and so it is with the newly-refurbished Naumi Hotel Singapore, which reopens its doors to the public this month. We've talked about the Naumi before - its women-only floor made waves, as the first of its kind in Singapore - and its new innards are bound to get people talking again. Read More...