A Life Engaged

Spur of the Moment – Singapore & Malaysia


We had just arrived back in Bangkok from Chaing Mai and had 7 days with no plans until we had to meet a friend in the islands. We headed to a coffee shop outside of the train station at 6:30 am and began frantically searching for our next adventure. A few hours later, we found a cheap flight heading to Singapore that afternoon and were on our way. This was a first for both of us…booking a flight the same day as leaving! Adrenaline flowed through both of us as we rushed from the train station to the airport.

Arriving in Singapore, we dropped our bags at the hostel and immediately headed out for a light show at the bayfront. After a few wrong turns, we arrived at the bayfront just minutes late to the show and were both delighted at what we had found. It was similar to the show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, only there were soap-like images of local people in love which brought tears Jess’ eyes (she can get pretty sappy). The most impressive part of the light show was the setting. The skyline at the bayfront is mesmerizing and recalled memories of our trip to Sydney in September.

Singapore bayfront

Singapore bay front

lightshow at the bayfront in Singapore

Light show at the bay front in Singapore

We made our way through Marina Bay Sands Hotel and listened to the quiet clinking of glasses and serving ware as rich folks dined. We took the elevator to 57th floor where we were presented with an AMAZING infinity pool and views of the city. Our attempt at class, however, ended with the $35 appetizers.

Early the next day we visited The 10 Stages in the Court of Hell in Haw Par Village. Haw Par Village is a unique theme park that was built by the heirs of the Tiger Balm fortune and was intended to teach youth traditional Chinese values. We were very curious about the park and were not let down. With over 1,000 statues, the park depicts the various punishments that one would receive as the result of very specific sins such as disrespect to elders=heart cut out. This park ws fascinating and could evoke a week of good behavior from any child unlucky enough to be dragged through.

Haw Par Villa 10 stages in the court of hell

Depiction of aggressors being “tied to a red hot copper pillar and grilled” and having their “heart cut-out”

After a morbid experience, we were seeking some fun and hopped on the metro to Sentosa Island, a small island just south of Singapore and accessible by boardwalk. We walked along the boardwalk, admiring the view and the ships coming in. Sentosa is a newly developed entertainment hub that houses two casinos, Universal Studios Theme Park, and many other expensive and kitschy attractions. Dan found his way to the Reese’s Hershey’s Store section (it was calling his name). All in all, we discovered that Sentosa had very little to offer for our tastes and budget.

Dan and the Leaning Tower of Reeses

Dan and the Leaning Tower of Reeses

Singapore is a beautiful city and was a refreshing dose of western culture. Dan, however, began to get cranky at the $14 beers and we knew Singapore was not the city to see on a tight budget.


Kuala Lumpur

We woke up the next morning, packed our bags and made our way to the train station to catch a day train to Kuala Lumpur. After our 7-hour ride, we arrived with no place to stay and no local currency. With it getting late we finally found a hostel in the sometimes dodgy Chinatown. We went up the street to do laundry, which surprisingly enough, our laundry came out dirtier than when we put them in, as we found mysterious brown stains all over our clothes.

The next day, we had time to do a little more research and found a hostel in a better location for a much better price. After dropping our bags off, we took the metro straight to the impressive Petronas Twin Towers, which are the tallest twin towers in the world. In the first few levels of the towers is a massive mall called the Suria KLCC. Southeast Asia is filled with high-class malls and Dan has spent a considerable amount of time peeling Jess away from strategically designed storefronts.

Petronis Towers

Petronas Towers

We ended our time at the towers at the Galeri Petronas, a free contemporary art gallery. There were a lot of political cartoons and more than a few that poked fun at U.S. politicians. We had a pretty good time and even got to see one of the artists start a new comic on the wall!

Artist at work at the Galerie Petronas

Artist at work at the Galeri Petronas

We next went to the National Mosque of Malaysia. The National Mosque of Malaysia has 15,000-person capacity and a very modern design. This is the country’s main mosque and is full on Friday ceremonies. It was very impressive and a Muslim spent about 20 minutes explaining the 5 pillars of Islam, the origins, and the differences with Christianity and Judaism to us. It was a very interesting and insightful experience.

Learning about Islam @ The National Mosque of Malaysia

Learning about Islam @ The National Mosque of Malaysia

Our last day in KL we went to visit the Batu Caves. At the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple is situated among a very large cave and has the world’s largest statue of Lord Murugan at 140 feet. About ¼ of the way up the 272 stairs to the temple, we noticed a few monkeys and stopped to take several pictures.

Famous Hindu Statue at the Batu Caves

Famous Hindu Statue at the Batu Caves

Batu Caves

About to climb the stairs at the Batu Caves

Once at the top of the staircase, we were awe stricken at the size of the caves and began to become weary of the growing number of monkeys. Jess made eye contact with one of the monkeys and it lunged towards her trying to grab onto her dress. Moments later, there was another woman standing at the top of the stairs that was holding a bag of food. We realized this might be how it is traveling with children… while you are trying to enjoy the natural wonders, they are biting your ankles and stealing your food (sorry mom and dad, I owe you a trip to the Grand Canyon).

Now done with our time in Kuala Lumpur we were both ready to leave the big city and head for the islands. But first, we had to endure a 14 hour train ride sitting upright in chairs (rather than a sleeper car) while waves of people entered and left the train, each less cognizant of their volume than the group before them. Get us to the beach NOW!