I took a few photos during the 2015 Malaysian F1 Grand Prix. A “small” selection is below.
In the middle of March (just over 3 weeks from now) I head off to Malaysia to watch the 2015 Petronas Malaysian Formula1 Grand Prix. But with a couple of days in the itinerary spare I figure I’ll do some other stuff. We all know that I’m heading to Penang and Johor Bahru during the trip, so naturally Legoland is on the cards but what else could I be doing?
Target Activities in and around Malaysia
- Petronas Towers – I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur something like 4 times and never been up the Petronas Towers, unfortunately the Online Booking System is offline due to the impending implementation of GST in Malaysia.
I can’t wait to have some pics from the Skybridge!
- Singapore – When in Johor Bahru it would be silly to not “hop” the border and count around Singapore. It’s also essential to one of my other plans!
- PANDAS – By now you’ll have read the Panda Story and by travelling to Singapore Zoo River Safari and Malaysias Zoo Negara I have the opportunity to take my Panda Tally to from 4 (Hong Kong 2012) to a massive 8! That means 8/49 Pandas out of China spotted!
- Monkey Beach – It’s in Penang and not far from Georgetown where I’ll be staying. It’s got lots of these guys, and I’m not the greatest fan of them, but it’s also an opportunity to tick off a “No Reservations” location.
- Royal Malaysian Airforce Museum – This is apparently by many reviews to be considered a fairly rough and ready affair but I’m still keen to take a look.
- Mall Crawling – Visit the 4th, 8th, 11th, 19th, 40th and 56th largest Malls in the world (Australias biggest ranks at around 70th) – Yes I’ve already been to the 8th and 19th largest before)
This left me with one last accommodation puzzle to complete. Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur for the 4 nights over the F1, and how to ensure the total expenditure fell in under AUD1500.
About the planning Process
As a reasonably active member of the TripAdvisor community I have started taking a few steps to post things actually related to Bargain Travel in the Bargain Travel forum. So to open with I created a thread that largely talked about the planning for this years F1 trip and some of the methods I’ve used.
Back to my accommodation choice
I switched back to using Hotels.com because there was simply no difference in price using any other site, and this way with the exception of the Tune Hotel at Danga Bay I’ve got all my bookings in one place. So we shall see how the oddly named 12fly works out.
So how are those Formula1 plans?
When Sepang Circuit slipped the tickets on-sale last Monday I quickly secured some Topaz (Upper level, back straight) Grandstand tickets at an exceptionally good value 50% discount. For me this was an essential part of the trip plan as my travel insurance includes event cancellation and changes in its cover. Now if the Formula1 race is cancelled, postponed or moved I have some insurance to deal with it.
This has also meant that I’ve started feeling more comfortable about locking in the side-trips to LegoLand (yes I know I’ve been before) and for something different a couple of nights in Penang.
LegoLand Side Trip
LegoLand is located down in Southern Peninsular Malaysia and a short distance from Singapore. So after a few days in Kuala Lumpur I’ll board my flight to Johor Bahru and spend 4-nights checking things out in a bit more detail. Flights were cheap, I initially tried searching using a few different engines like Zuji, Bravofly, Expedia and the trusty Skyscanner only to realise that sometimes making an effort to check directly with airlines pays off. Onto the Malaysia Airlines website I went!
So for 120RM I had return flights from KUL to JHB, including checked and carry on luggage. Even the normally competitive AirAsia couldn’t match that!
I’ve yet to book the accommodation for this side-trip. Naturally I’ll be resorting to my favoured standby of Hotels.com but this time will also add LastMinute, Expedia and a few others into the mix. Heck it may be time to forget my aversion to bad spelling at check out Otel.com!
Penang Side Trip
The planning for my trip to Penang was a little different. With only a couple of nights “spare” in the itinerary and a desire to go somewhere different I hit up the usual suspects (Zuji, Bravofly, Expedia, Skyscanner) and once again settled on going direct with a twist.
Yes readers, I booked a flight on a smart phone via an airlines app! It was with Malaysia Airline again, and amazingly for the same 120RM Return that I was already paying to fly KUL to JHB. The MHMobile App worked very well right down to scanning my Credit Card!
A small “glitch” was having to populate all of my details into the App, I would have thought these would be imported from the profile I have with Malaysia Airlines Enrich Frequent Flyer Program. Still it’s not too hard to set put details in and make bookings.
To push the boat out in experience even further I used the Hotels.com App to book corresponding accommodation in Penang!
All done while enjoying a coffee with a work colleague!
Where or rather what next?
The world of travel has come a long way in just a few short years and as I’ve now locked in some 6 nights outside of Kuala Lumpur it’s time to hit TripAdvisor and start to get some more ideas on what to do with the remaining 4 nights in KL.
We are heading for a month since I wrote my last entry, at the time I was just 7 days away from departing for Malaysia onboard AirAsias A330 for the 2014 Malaysian GP.
Well considering part of the goal was to travel light I ended up taking just an iPhone 4S, a Kindle and the Panasonic TZ40 to capture the moments of the trip.
So first lets answer the question of accommodation; I stayed at The Victory Exclusive in Bukit Bintang. Rather than write yet another review here’s what I said on TripAdvisor. In summary though – the room had no windows a comfortable bed and was generally clean and functional and for the price I’m not complaining.
As with my previous visits Malaysia had me captivated with the pace of development and the friendliness of the people. In Australia we often like to think of our country as being “multicultural” – and for a anglo-dominated 1st world country that may be the case – but Malaysia seems to incorporate a greater mix of cultures, languages and lifestyles with a ease that I don’t feel back home.
For me this trip was all about trying to have a good time without simply throwing money at the experience. So I grabbed a Touch’n’Go MyPass and got around like a local on the Trains, Buses and Monorail. The added advantage was the massive cost saving compared to taxis, in 10 days I went through about 70RM (about AUD25) on the card and was on some form of mass-transit at least once! I can’t speak highly enough of the convenience of the system and wholeheartedly recommend any traveller to Malaysia pick one up as soon as they can.
With my budget drained by picking up options on airfares and the travel insurance I was now in the difficult position of trying to make the accommodation fit.
As I knew I’d be travelling with minimal luggage and only staying a short time I wouldn’t need the largest room, but I did want my own room, and own bathroom. At 39 years of age I don’t think I need to do hostel style anymore.
So I hit Hotels.com – we’ve been using it with moderate success to get good deals and to be honest the aggregators always have some sting in their tail – whether it is pricing only the cheapest night in the date range, forgetting about the taxes and fees or worst still having the links swapped in bait & switch fashion.
I’m familiar the “Golden Triangle” and Bit Bintang so that’s where I focussed attention.
My Hotels.com Search was delivering a good mix of results, and in the end after a lot of reading I settled on a choice between 3 places, chosen for their price, the reviews on Hotels.com and on TripAdvisor and the pictures.
The finalists were;
- Hotel Al Jafs which offers a great price and fair reviews. The advantage here was being basically a hundred or so metres from where we’d stayed previously in Kuala Lumpur, within stumbling distance of Paper + Toast for the morning brew and great light meals.
- Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang, again the price was great, moreso for the stated size of the rooms and there were some stunning discounts on offer. Location wise it’s basically on the same block as the Low Yat Plaza of electronics and gadgets – a plus – but also a wallet risking minus.
- Victory Exclusive, buried in the Fahrenheit88 complex the key attributes are location nestled amongst malls and food courts and price that approached the upper end of my budget (I needed a good discount to get over the line).
I’ve made my booking – missing out on some of the deeper discounting – and choosing a room spec which will hopefully offer a little more comfort than the base level.
I killed my budget though. AUD652.50 spent.
For now I won’t say where – you can do the reading about each of the three candidates and when I check-in I’ll put up some reviews of the space then.
In my next post I’ll write a bit about all the things I’m going to do in the 7 days I won’t be at Sepang Circuit!
Key to this was getting some killer airfares – I needed to book 4 legs at least, either in a single booking or a cluster of bookings linked together by myself.
Turning to any of the regular travel aggregators gets some decent joined rates; Helloworld (formerly Bestflights) shows pricing of around AUD1000 and that’s pretty good, but I knew I could do better.
In the end I settled on using AirAsia and making a booking with my choice of service level, carry-on luggage only to KL, 20kg Return luggage, a seat in the Quiet Zone of my choice and so on. Total spent including all fees – AUD425. The problem is this flight left from Sydney meaning either two 3 hour drives from Canberra or a linking flight.
Turning to Virgin Australia and lining up matching flight times put me a further AUD247.70 down but I now had dates of travel locked in.
Its all getting very real now
With flights locked in on the cheapest virtually non-refundable, non-changeable fares this trip was going to happen. I’d previously sketched out a rough budget while looking at airfares and now it was getting tight…
|Flights (SYD – KUL)||$ 368.00|
|Flights (CBR – SYD)||$ 240.00|
|Travel Insurance||$ 90.00|
|F1 Ticket||$ 250.00|
OK in reality the budget crept a bit when I added in the base cost of the AirAsia flights and the real (no discount) internal flights. But at this point I was still allowing myself a generous 3 star accommodation budget and a pretty good range of ticket options for the F1.
Working a bit backwards I contacted our usual travel insurer for a quote – it came back a bit higher than expected, but not much, and a chunk of the increase was selecting the “no excess” option. Always worthwhile when travelling and while my Credit Card offers complimentary insurance a dedicated policy is always much more generous.
Time to get serious and book some more stuff, with the flights already over budget I was hoping to downgrade costs a bit, so hitting the Sepang Circuit website I started the arduous choice of selecting my F1 tickets.
Sepang Circuit ticket prices are some of the better prices – and buying direct from the circuit online cut out some of the costs that other ticket sellers impose including mandatory postage of tickets. Not to mention it’s not like the racetrack is a fraudulent operator!
In the end I’ve settled for a covered grandstand on the back straight – it was basically the best combination of allocated seat – I’ve grabbed one right on the railing so should have a great clear view. It was cheap, at a smidge over AUD195 for the three days.
There is a bonus with booking through Sepang Circuit – that is the inclusion of tickets to the post-race party (Calvin Harris in 2014) and other things.
So now I had flights, insurance, and an F1 ticket and nowhere to sleep!
There’s about AUD600 to spend
This year I’m attending the Formula1 at Malaysia, and I’m doing it “cheap”.
I’ve never been to an F1 race before and despite being in Malaysia at the same time as the 2012 race I never quite made it down to Sepang Circuit to have a look. This year I’m making a dedicated trip, on a budget.
The budget was “open” to interpretation as I’m always a sucker for toxic option syndrome, but to meet all the initial costs upfront from cash reserves and limit myself from up-speccing accommodation etc I elected to cap fixed costs of airfares, accommodation and F1 ticket at AUD1500.
I started out in January with a very simple plan, book some fares on the worlds best low-cost carrier and use the dates of the cheapest fares to determine the duration of the trip. I wanted some time on the ground to visit some attractions as well as relax and generally “have a break”.
Canberra is not an international travel hub so my flight costs had to get blown out by the duopoly that is the Australian domestic airline industry.
F1 tickets for Malaysia are cheap, there’s no other way to put it and this was the most flexible part of my budget, I could spend next to nothing for a walking paddock pass or extend into Grandstand seats from around AUD100.
Accommodation was going to be part of the make-or-break equation, I knew spending AUD100-AUD150 a night would deliver a good room in a international hotel chain, but it would also significantly dent my meagre budget. Thankfully Kuala Lumpur has a myriad of options and really the trick was seeing how much was left after the airlines took their share.
So the plan was:
1. Book flights to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) – ensure domestic flights could be matched up and book those too.
2. Lock in F1 ticket booking.
3. Decide on any side-trips, book Kuala Lumpur accommodation.
4. Do stuff I forgot to do first… (Like Travel Insurance)