Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia

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Seeking suggestion for our trip to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. We are two semi-retired and well traveled females and are planning this trip for January,2012. We would most appreciate any suggestions, especially regarding places to see, nice and reasonably priced hotels and/or appropriate names of reccomended tour companies. Thank you , Zofia

Indonesia and Malaysia are large countries with a lot of diversity. Do you want to laze on a beach on Bali, or commune with the Buddha at Borobudur? Shop till you drop on Orchard Street or the Petronas Tower's mall, or visit a tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands? Hang out with Komodo dragons, or visit with the orangutans? Suggest spending some time with some guidebooks - the picture book ones like Eyewitness and Exploring at this stage - and then asking about the places that interest you.

Also, can't advise about tour companies without knowing your budget. I'm a fully retired and fairly well-traveled woman, and I used Intrepid for Lombok (did the rest on my own), but they may well be too bare bones for you.

Hi, I very much appreciate your response. We have been studying all sorts of guide books and the internet sites already but obviously it is difficult just to judge from the print. We have always been more interested in culture/local religions/customs/tradition, ancient and present, rather then geography/biology with many parks and for sure not beaches. Though my friend would also like to see a true jungle ( I did see it in Brazil) and orangutans in wild :) so we need to go to Borneo also. No shopping unless just for souvenirs perhaps :).
We also both pay attention to the budget, as we need single rooms anyhow, and as I'd rather take more trips then one very expensive one. Past January we went for 5 weeks, with the OAT organized tour, to Vietnam, Burma,Laos and Cambodia, but 4 yrs ago I went by myself for 4 weeks, private/assisted tour to India. I loved both but I knew much more about those parts of the world then about Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore .
I was thinking about creating a base in eg. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta and then taking locally arranged trips/tour to a key places in the remaining part and all major temples for sure :).
Thus suggestion of moderately expensive ( eg. 2 or 3 stars) hotels in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta ( with obviously day trips to each Borbudur and Prambanan) would also be appreciated or suggestions how to move between the places : boats ? rail ? flights ?taxis ?
Thanks so much again.

I think you need to reconsider the day trip thing. For instance, Borobudur, which sounds just the kind of place for you, is 42 km from Yogyakarta, which according to Lonely Planet is nine hours by train from Jakarta, or 12 hours by bus. Admittedly, my copy of Lonely Planet is several years out of date, but I doubt the times have changed much. I flew from Jakarta, which I thought had little to recommend it, to Yogyakarta, where I stayed in one of the Ibis hotels. Equally, you don't day trip to the Cameron Highlands from K.L., never mind Singapore.

I suggest you make a list of all the places you want to see, and then see how they connect geographically. The long distance buses in Malaysia are fine, as are the trains, although they may be less reliable (on my recent trip my train from Butterworth to Bangkok was canceled).

You pointed out a very important thing to me ,that one does not appreciate if one cannot relate to some area the....distances.. I will follow exactly what you advice. You points about transportation were precious also. Thank you very much for your time and help :)

Tour East Singapore offers a number of day and half-day sightseeing tours of Singapore. Several years ago I spent 7 or 8 nights in Singapore and took almost all of the tours they offer. These included the city tour, afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel, East Coast and Changi, Sentosa Island, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Chinatown by Night, Peranakan Trail, and Jurang Bird Park. Since you prefer to focus on history and culture as opposed to nature, I would especially recommend the Peranakan Trail tour for a fascinating insight into Nonya culture. Afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel is also recommended, as it is better than the tea experience at either the Grand Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC or the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. To find all the tours that Tour East Singapore offers, go to the aforementioned website and underneath the words "Sightseeing Tours" click on the grey tab marked "Overview", which is all the way to the right.

Tour East also offers day and half-day sightseeing tours in Malaysia and Indonesia, amongst other Asian countries, which you can access through the Singapore website by clicking on the tab for the appropriate country.

Immediately following my week in Singapore, I took a 10-day tour of Malaysia arranged by Pacific Bestours that began and ended in Singapore. It included Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Cameroon Highlands, Penang, and several places in the Eastern part of Malaysia that are no longer offered (Pangkor Island and Port Dickson have been substituted instead). The 10-day tour can be customized where it can be done in shorter segments if you so choose or lengthened where you can spend a week in one particular destination and can proceed on with the tour the following week when the next group comes along (the tour operates every week). Peter of Pacific Bestours did a great job in putting the entire trip together for me, including the week in Singapore, and I would recommend his tour company.

If you want to tour that's certainly your choice, but Singapore and Malaysia are incredibly easy to do on your own. Singapore has excellent public transport, and the long distance buses in Malaysia are very comfortable. I agree that tea at the Raffles is magnificent, but I can't imagine paying to join a tour group to go enjoy it. You can take a bus (or a train) from Singapore to Melaka, to K.L., to the Cameron Highlands and to Penang/Georgetown - although instead I went on to Kuala Kangsar and Kota Bharu, where I took a boat to Perhentian Besar.

Hi Ada, Thank you very much. You kindly confirmed what I thought, that is that we can arrange various tours locally once we get to Singapore.
Thank you also very muh for the links. For sure will use all your suggestions :)

Thanks for your suggestions. Had I been 20 yrs younger , I would have loved to travel just with the back pack, by local buses and local trains. I still do it occasionally even now but mostly in Europe. My last train experience in India, a few years ago, was not that hot .
I guess, as some of us get older the spirit still remains strong and adventurous but but the body.... no so much any longer :)
Thanks for taking time to respond :) Zofia

Malaysia Airlines used to have an All Asia Pass based out of KL and it was the equivalent of good old "Eurail Pass" except by air all over Asia. Sigh, don't see that offer any longer. Malaysia and KL are now 'on the map" and they don't have to entice anyone to come to this part of the world with cheap offers.

Bencoolan Street still has the cheaper hotels in Singapore. Singapore is so easy to get around by superb public transit - to airport and back easily and safe day and night, I would pick it as your home base.

Out of nostalgia I went looking to see if there was still an All Asia Pass and found that now it is offered by Cathay Pacific - Hong Kong based. Good for them. Everyone in asia now wants to be the major "hub" and HK has to offer something to keep it competitive now that so many other asia centers have run circles around it as major commercial centers instead of her long protected exclusivity for that role.