Out of the Haze and Home Again


When I last posted, you saw the terrible air quality in Kuala Lumpur.  Well, I’m happy to report that on the following day things got dramatically better.  The readings were back to normal levels, and I didn’t need my face mask again on the trip!

The same view from my hotel room, this time revealing not only the buildings beyond the immediate vicinity but also hills that magically appeared in the background!

The same view from my hotel room, this time revealing not only the buildings beyond the immediate vicinity but also hills that magically appeared in the background!

To avoid any other air quality problems, we wound up flying from KL to Singapore – a very short flight scheduled for 1:10 over the 213 miles, the same exact distance as from Washington National Airport (I refuse to call it Reagan) to LaGuardia in New York.

Another new airline - JetStar Asia is based in Singapore and is the Asian branch of the Qantas low-cost subsidiary JetStar in Australia.

Another new airline – JetStar Asia is based in Singapore and is the Asian branch of the Qantas low-cost subsidiary JetStar in Australia.

I was then in Singapore for 7 nights, but the time just flew by – with work commitments I hardly got to see any of the city!

The view from my room - Singapore is a really lovely city that is very clean, safe, and green - but just too hot and humid every day of the year!

The view from my room – Singapore is a really lovely city that is very clean, safe, and green – but just too hot and humid every day of the year!

 

We did manage to get out for dinner on Friday night, along the Singapore River (actually a canal).  There were tons of restaurants lining the canal, with some aggressive barkers!

We did manage to get out for dinner on Friday night, along the Singapore River (actually a canal). There were tons of restaurants lining the canal, with some aggressive barkers!

On Saturday, it was time for my couple days of vacation before my flight home.  So, I headed back to the airport to fly north to Penang, one of the thirteen states of Malaysia and primarily an island off the western coast of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea.  The island has about 750,000 people.  The flight to Penang was 373 miles, passing back over KL to go further north.

Another new airline!  The other major low-cost carrier in the region, AirAsia.  Based in KL, AirAsia is claimed to be the world's best low-cost airline.

Another new airline! The other major low-cost carrier in the region, AirAsia. Based in KL, AirAsia is claimed to be the world’s best low-cost airline.

I spent the night in George Town, a colonial city that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, at the amazing Eastern & Oriental Hotel.

I will try to do a separate post on this hotel, which is possibly the nicest hotel I've ever stayed at!

I will try to do a separate post on this hotel, which is possibly the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at!

The next day it was off to the jetty for the quick ferry hop over to the mainland town of Butterworth (surely, no British influence in that sort of name :)), where I boarded Train 36, the International Express.  This is a Thai train that operates from Butterworth in Malaysia all the way to Bangkok – a distance of approximately 1200km (~750 miles, or similar to New York to Chicago) and is scheduled to take about 22 hours.  I was surprised to find that it is the entry for International Express on Wikipedia, which seems pretty prominent!

The portion of the train that starts in Malaysia has just two second-class sleeper coaches at the moment - apparently the poor track quality and slow ride in Southern Thailand has limited demand.

The portion of the train that starts in Malaysia has just two second-class sleeper coaches at the moment – apparently the poor track quality and slow ride in Southern Thailand has limited demand.

 

Once into Thailand, the train grows much larger!  I boarded the train at 2:30pm on Sunday in Malaysia and got off at about 7:30am at Hua Hin, Thailand - a beach resort town about 130 miles south of Bangkok.

Once into Thailand, the train grows much larger! I boarded the train at 2:30pm on Sunday in Malaysia and got off at about 7:30am at Hua Hin, Thailand – a beach resort town about 130 miles south of Bangkok.

 

Hua Hin Railway Station, supposedly the most beautiful in Thailand, was a welcome sight after more than 18 hours on the train!

Hua Hin Railway Station, supposedly the most beautiful in Thailand, was a welcome sight after more than 18 hours on the train!

After a night at a beach resort there, and a hotel shuttle journey up to Bangkok (complete with a German family of 5 with screaming infant and diaper changes en-route!), I ended up in Bangkok for a few hours before heading to the airport and starting the long journey home, via Singapore.

My chariot for the way home - a Singapore Airlines A380 super jumbo.  Even though the plane has been flying since 2007 (and Singapore Airlines was the first to do so), this was my first time on it, as there are only about 100 in service around the world so far.  British Airways is putting its first two into action later this year, so I will likely see more of it.

My chariot for the way home – a Singapore Airlines A380 super jumbo. Even though the plane has been flying since 2007 (and Singapore Airlines was the first to do so), this was my first time on it, as there are only about 100 in service around the world so far. British Airways is putting its first two into action later this year, so I will likely see more of it.  This plane ONLY seated 409 passengers, as the upper deck is all business class (with a whopping 86 seats) – but some other airlines have 500 or more seats (and apparently the plane is designed for more than 800 seats if all coach).

 

I was in seat 93K.  In my whole section of 24 seats, there were only about 6 people, so the service was very attentive.  The plane is also much quieter than other widebody planes, which is nice.  Since they use separate doors on each level to board and alight, you could easily not realize that you were on a full double-decker plane!

I was in seat 93K. In my whole section of 24 seats, there were only about 6 people, so the service was very attentive. The plane is also much quieter than other widebody planes, which is nice. Since they use separate doors on each level to board and alight, you could easily not realize that you were on a full double-decker plane!

Now I’m back home just for two nights, before we head for a long weekend to Warsaw.  Tomorrow morning very early we’ll head to the airport for the short 2.5 hour flight to the Polish capital.  More on that when we get back!  I will try to post a bit more about the trip as well, including my journey up to the top of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

PS: A belated happy 4th of July to everyone out there!  There wasn’t much celebration in Singapore, although the hosts did make a toast to it at dinner that night.

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Posted on 12/07/2013, in Logistics, travel, Travel to Asia. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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