We left Singapore in style riding a comfortable bus to Kuala Lumpur; the kids were happy because it had a movie screen in each seat. The experience was quite unique for us, but nicer than going through the maddening security lines at airports. We stopped at Singapore immigration and then at the Malaysia border for passport processing. No problems except for the one bottle of wine we brought as a gift for our host (they let us through) and a few hours later we arrived in Kuala Lumpur to meet our new friend, Wai Fung.
One of the best things about our trip is all the people we meet and KL was no different. My friend, Kin, who is from Malaysia but lives in San Francisco, introduced us to her dear sister, Wai Fung, and her lovely family. They were incredible hosts! We really felt at home thanks to Wai Fung and her husband, Derrick, who lent us their beautiful apartment and welcomed us into their lives. We shared many meals together including Italian, Japanese, and a delicious Chinese dinner with friends. Just as in life, it is the friends that made this a very special stay in KL! Thanks to Wai Fung and her family.
KL turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for us. We enjoyed visiting the Batu Caves and hiking up the stairs to see the huge cave. Wai Fung also booked the tour for us to go up the Petronas Twin Towers, the highest twin tours in the world. It was a clear day and it was pretty cool to be in the Observation Deck at level 86. These towers are the tallest twin towers in the world (only to have been eclipsed by the World Trade Center Towers). The surrounding area has this really cool mall – Suria KLCC – where we had lunch and did some window shopping as well as a beautiful garden with this amazing playground that the kids let some energy go while we chilled. At night there is a colorful water show that reminds me of Las Vegas.
Petronas Twin Towers
View from the Petronas
86th floor at Petronas Twin Towers
We also took a day trip to Malacca, which is about 2 1/2 hours from KL. As much as I don’t like organized tours, it was a convenient way to visit Malacca, the bus was comfortable and it took us to the main sites. Malacca is a UNESCO heritage site, the Portuguese took control of it in 1511, when Afonso de Albuquerque sailed from Goa to Malacca. It remained a Portuguese trading center until 1641 when the Dutch took control. A vital port and given the same name as the crucial Malacca Straits that is the sea between Malaysia and Indonesia’s western island of Sumatra; Malacca is named after the Sultanate that ruled the area in the 15th century. We visited the main sites that included churches and forts before a nice lunch with our fellow bus tourists – an engineer from Chennai, India, and a dentist couple from Barcelona – before heading back for our final night in Kuala Lumpur. We all thought we could have stayed longer in Kuala Lumpur to explore more sites and visit the southern part of Malaysia, certainly a great place to visit.
Malacca – restaurant Keng Dom (!)
St Paul’s Church, Malacca
Japanese lunch with Wai Fung and Derrick
Tomorrow we wrap up our first 2 weeks in New South Wales and head to Cairns, in Queensland. Looking back it feels that we have been in Australia a lot longer, yet we already feel that we will miss it. The last week in Sydney was a lot of fun. We spent a true “carioca” day at Bronte beach. I call it a carioca day because it felt just like the warm days of going to the beach in Rio. Bronte was certainly our favorite city beach, it had the crowds but there were a lot more families laying around. And we had 3 options on where to swim: jump in the ocean, dive into the natural ocean pools, and the salt-water swimming pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Surfers, lots of surfers around, and a mix of beautiful people, families, kids, tourists, all blending in together. Not even the chilly Pacific Ocean water deterred us from jumping in, it was a perfectly warm day after all. I chatted with a Brazilian guy playing with his son of how wonderful it must be to live in Sydney. In his own words: “É o melhor lugar do mundo. A Australia é um Brasil que deu certo.” Interesting! The following day we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is to the right to the Opera House overlooking the Sydney Harbour. We brought a picnic and had a relaxing time walking around the beautiful gardens (free entry!), enjoying the fantastic views and checking out an afternoon wedding party at the gardens. Sydney residents are fortunate to have the Royal Botanic Gardens right on their backyard.
Royal Botanic Gardens
View from the Botanic Gardens
Happy Family, Gorgeous View
We decided as a family that on Monday we would split up and Sebastian and I would have a mommy-son day. We researched some activities a few days before and decided on 2 attractions. Took the bus in the morning to Sydney CBD to do the Escape Hunt Experience, which is a new attraction that started only 2 months ago in Sydney. I had a blast with my boy as we tried to solve a robbery in less than 90 min through various clues and codes. In the afternoon, we went to the Sydney Aquarium, on Darling Harbour. The Aquarium has a nice sample of the marine life from the Sydney Harbour and the Great Barrier Reef. We all met at home at the end of the day to share our adventures and agreed that it was a nice family break. Look forward to trying it again in another city, next time it will be a mommy-daughter day.
Mommy-Son day at Escape Hunt
We spent Tuesday with our wonderful airbnb hostess and new friend Sue as she took us to Watson’s Bay, which is a ferry ride from CBD. Watson’s Bay is a fishermen town where we had a delicious lunch: fish and chips and seafood chowder. We then headed to Shark Beach, on Nielsen Park, where we all went in the bay for a swim. The water was warmer than the ocean and the beach has a net to protect against sharks (!). I am not kidding! Sue made a delicious farewell dinner for us and the 4 of us know that we now have a good friend in Sydney. We enjoyed her house and playing with her dog Bronte. We will certainly miss Sydney and Sue!
With Sue, at Watson’s Bay
Our final farewells to Florida were this past weekend. Our daughter, Louisa, wished for an early birthday celebration so we threw a surprise party that completely shocked her; friends gave her photos to hold onto for her travels. So sweet and that is what friendship is all about. We already miss our friends and saved champagne to celebrate our return in June.
While I wish for smooth sailing, of course it was not to be. We stuffed our bags late into the night for a 5am ride to the airport. We knew right away that we had a problem. On the positive side, Sebastian and Louisa are fine with their packs – great job kids! The bad news is the parents that don’t practice what they preach; ugh, our stuff is too much and too heavy. To give you an idea, the handle on Leticia’s carry on broke as soon as we boarded the plane. We will correct this in San Francisco when we get our bags. Problem #2: AA forgot our bags along with 35 other passengers on the nonstop flight from Miami! Let’s hope that this is a one-time experience.
Nonetheless, we arrived safely in San Francisco and I have to say, we are already feeling like seasoned travelers thanks to the bumps. We have a week to regroup, say hellos and goodbyes to family and friends in California. Leticia is finalizing the tech side of travels like phones and computers; the funny part is that AT&T (phone) and Comcast (internet) are awful here – knock on wood for the future!