I took a few photos during the 2015 Malaysian F1 Grand Prix. A “small” selection is below.
Zoo Negara – Pandas in Malaysia!
It may be becoming clear to readers of this blog that I’m a fan of Pandas. Not obsessively, but lets just say I think they’re awesome.
While Bukit Bintang may be more centrally located in Kuala Lumpur Zoo Negara certainly feels a little out of the way. I used the MyTeksi “GrabCar” Service which hustled me to the Zoo for 30RM. The car was clean, driver friendly and the trip was a little quicker and more comfortable than the Mono-rail-Train-Taxi combination recommended by some.
I was dropped off at the carpark entrance so a short walk up to the main entrance was in order.
Zoo Negara – Addressing the TripAdvisor Forum Posts
After paying the 85RM entry fee I pushed through the turnstiles and entered the zoo. It was finally my chance to form my own impression after reading hundreds of reviews and forum posts on TripAdvisor which were less than complimentary.
Malaysias Zoo Negara is not the most modern zoo, not is it the best maintained “old style” Zoo I have seen but I would not say boycotting attendance over this facts is in any way an effective strategy, I would counter that more International Visitors, more support and more encouragement are in order.
You’ll still find some of the animals in small exhibits, you’ll still see “pacing” and other traits of boredom, but to be honest you can see that at just about every zoo in the world. A rare exception may be the open range zoos where the sheer size of exhibits counteracts it. There are signs throughout the zoo indicating that there are changes underway, and I certainly saw no signs of outright abuse that some of the TripAdvisor forum posts talk about.
Like most zoos you end up walking along a number of paths that loop and wind around the park, it’s not a massive zoo so you can take time to look at the animals, take photos at a relaxed pace and still not consume a full day. Starting early – closer to the 9am opening time – will give you an hour of two in the relatively “cool” part of the day. As the sun starts warming up there’s adequate shade but the animals are also keen on staying out of the heat.
The standard exhibits are all there, many looking a little ramshackle or run down, the usual array of big-cats, African savannah “game”, Malaysian & Asian Locals as well as some representatives from Australia. My pictures certainly don’t cover all the animals, but I was there for one of the most exotic animals, the Giant Panda.
How ’bout them Pandas?
After I saw my first Giant Pandas in Hong Kong I hadn’t really expected to see more (well maybe the pair in Adelaide) until we’d be able to make the journey to Chengdu in China. So when I made my trip to Kuala Lumpur in 2014 I kind of overlooked the opportunity,so this year I was going to set that right.
The Giant Panda “enclosure” is built at the back of the Zoo and is a completely separate building/exhibit which has it own entry fee that can be purchased either at the Zoo entrance (as I did – making my total entry fee 85RM) or at the Panda exhibit.
Around the exterior are a number of less life-like Pandas you can use as photo props, a wandering Panda suited photo opportunity and the typical stands of bamboo to complete the very panda-centric environment.
Once you’ve been scanned in, you enter a “briefing” area where groups are given an introduction to the exhibit, reminders of the rules (no loud noise, no flash photography). The intent seems to be groups run through the exhibit in 30 minute blocks, however thanks to my early start I was able to stay much longer in the air-conditioned exhibit, as the crowds never built up to a point where the staff had a need to move on groups.
The exhibit itself is small, and follows the pattern of a raised walkway dividing the exhibits with the Pandas relaxing on either side.
After I’d taken and sent a bunch of Selfies around to people back home the path through the exhibit enters a small gift-shop of Panda Merchandise and finally a cafeteria where I had to try a Panda CupCake.
Last stop is picking up the souvenir photo with the suited Panda out the front before emerging back in Zoo Negara to wind back to the front of the park.
Zoo Negara is not the most impressive zoo I’ve been to, some visitors may find the exhibits run-down and in the style of zoos of old. The range of exotic animals is fairly typical, however the addition of the Giant Panda exhibit makes this a “must do” activity in Kuala Lumpur. There’s only ~51 Pandas on exhibit outside China and this is on of the best value opportunities to see two of them!
Petronas Towers Tour (Finally)
Since 2012 I’ve made a few journeys to Kuala Lumpur and on every occasion I’ve completely failed at making my way to Petronas Towers and joining one of the tours to the top. For my 2015 Formula 1 trip I decided I was going to book ahead and make sure I got to finally tick off the experience.
What’s the big deal?
Petronas Towers are the icon of the Kuala Lumpur skyline, probably the architectural feature of the city that will be remembered most frequently and the least likely to be “just like the one in xxxx”.
Unlike the KL Tower a short distance away the tours of Petronas Towers need to be booked in advance as there’s almost no chance of walking into the visitor centre and getting on the next tour.
Starting in the visitor centre below the Twin Towers you collect your ticket and await the set meeting time. There’s some displays and a gift-shop to browse before you pass through a basic security check (x-ray and metal detection) passing into a lobby where you’re given a safety briefing. The briefings are offered in a couple of languages – but are also visually self explanatory, in short they amount to “Follow Instructions”, “Don’t be stupid”, “It’s really high, don’t look down if you don’t like heights”.
From the briefing we’re loaded into the elevator to ride up to the SkyBridge, be warned the elevators are loaded to capacity so it can be a little cozy, however a smile and a joke with my fellow riders broke some of the awkwardness.
At the Skybridge you’re given a quick introduction to the area and left to wander the bridge taking photos.
Thanks to the small group sizes and well managed timings it never feels crowded and there’s more than adequate time to take photos.
On the day of my visit (19th March 2015) there was a heavy haze – while it detracts from the view it’s a very real aspect of Kuala Lumpur and a good reason to come back again in the hope of a different weather condition!
After you’re shepherded off the SkyBridge (you are given a coloured lanyard so the staff can identify you as part of the group) it’s onwards and upwards.
Effectively at the peak of Tower 2 there’s a few models of Kuala Lumpur, videos and that stunning view.
As your time on the tour winds down the guides gently advise it’s time to return to ground level.
The courtesy and competence of the staff need to be commended, with multiple tours overlapping slightly as a visitor I never felt rushed. There’s no calling out for groups to reassemble, just a personal approach, almost apologetically, that it’s time to move on.
The Petronas Towers tour isn’t the cheapest attraction in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s good value with limited numbers ensuring that there’s no crowding for photo opportunities. It offers a view that is both spectacular and ever changing.
I can see this visit being the first of many.
Flying as a part of any trip is pretty easy; turn up at the airport, wander through security, be tested for explosives, sit about, get herded onto a plane, sit about, get herded off a plane and emerge from the casino like environs of the airport in a new locale.
If only it really worked out like that.
Leg 1: CBR-MEL
For me every international flight involves taking a short hop on one of the two domestic airlines (Virgin Australia or Qantas), deplaning, scurrying from a domestic terminal to international and going through the same motions again.
For the flight to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Airlines had me riding with their Oneworld Alliance partner Qantas.
As I’d been able to select the departure timing from Canberra I had very consciously made sure I selected flights to Melbourne on Qantas that utilised their jet service, these tend to fly on schedule irrespective of the Canberra weather and also make the journey a little quicker than the Dash-8 or ATR72s do.
Unfortunately over the months between me buying the ticket and the flights happening my seats were bumped to the bug-smasher.
This left me sitting in Canberra Airport for quite some time – eating up precious minutes I had to transfer to International in Melbourne. At least I was already checked-in for the flight to KUL so they’d at least try to find me.
As it turns out I was “this close” to missing the flight to KUL!
If you’ve ever had one of those “tight” connections you’ll know the fear that floods through your body as you hear your name being butchered via the airport PA. In my case I had made it through security of the International terminal and had just entered the twilight zone of Duty Free. While I may have been walking briskly at that point I broke into a run to the farthest reaches of the terminal to present myself to the staff at the Gate. 10 minutes to boarding, and if I had’t run, I probably wouldn’t have made it!
Leg 2: MEL-KUL
With the crazy rush over and my heart slowing to a more sedate pace I quickly snapped a picture of the Boeing 777-200 that was to be my ride to Kuala Lumpur. Grabbed a bottle of water and waited 10 minutes to board.
My seat, 12A, was comfortable enough without being generous in the allotment of space. Without a doubt it’s an economy class seat but it doesn’t feel like being crushed into cattle class like some can.
Once flying the weather was largely clear with only a few minutes of bumps and thumps of turbulence.
The inflight service was efficient and friendly – a generous meal was served along with enough beverages to meet my needs. Some may feel that the beverage service is not generous enough but I did see other passengers requesting and receiving additional drinks over the flights duration.
On the Ground
The end of every journey is the wait for baggage, the queues for Customs/Immigration and finally emerging into the destination. Here I tend to find Kuala Lumpur International Airport to be pretty good. There’s plenty of space so you don’t feel crowded in, and even the longer walks through the terminal are appreciated after the flight.
As one of the worlds best airports it does a good job of being efficient and welcoming, without many of the annoyances that can be found elsewhere.
I’m less into shopping than this post makes me look, however the “Megamall” can be a fascinating adventure for travellers.
On my upcoming Malaysia trip I’ll be trying to hit some of the largest in the world!
Malaysia is well represented in the Wikipedia List of Megamalls playing host to 8 in the list while Australia has a single entry. I’ve already visited a couple on past trips and this time I’m hoping to chalk up a few more!
- 1Utama – The largest in Malaysia and the =5th largest in the world
- Mid-Valley Megamall – 8th Largest in the world and visited in 2014. At the time I just thought it was big, now I understand just how big!
- Sunway Pyramid – 11th largest and maybe a little out of my way for this trip – but you never know!
- Berjaya Times Square – Visited in 2012, 2014 and as it’s almost “over the road” from my accommodation will be visited again in 2015. In 18th position it’s a sizeable effort to cover! This is also the 8th largest building in the world!
Berjaya Times Square
- Queensbay Mall – Located in Penang this may be a stretch to fit into my short stay in the area. However to hit the equal 39th in the worlds largest malls it may be worth the effort!
- IOI City Mall – Taking 49th position this mall is in an area that I’ll be trying to visit at least once this trip. It may be an even adventure after the F1 practice!
- AEON Bukit Tingii Shopping Centre – I don’t like my chances of making it to the 55th largest mall, but as my KLIA Ekpres will pass it a few times I may jump off!
- Aman Central is oping this year, unfortunately I won’t make it there.
It seems I wrote too soon about the Petronas Towers eBookings not being available due to the upcoming (1st April 2015) GST implementation.
Booking a Petronas Towers Tour
I jumped onto the Petronas Towers website a couple of days ago and tried a date in March 2015 and “bam” it worked.
So I’ve made a booking!
Here’s hoping for good weather on Thursday the 19th of March! Why not watch the official Petronas Towers Milestones video for some information about this feat of engineering!
Some extra background:
It turns out that while you can book the Tours online, they’re not really set up for booking the same time as you’d normally book your holiday. The best you’re probably going to manage is 28-45 days in advance – although this does seem to vary at some parts of the year.
I would say popping a diary entry in to do a weekly check in the lead up to your visit would be wisest. In some 4 years of looking at these tours they’re still as “in demand” as ever!
About the Tour!
Around 8am on the 19th of March I shook off the lack of sleep from my late arrival in Kuala Lumpur and walked from the Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang to the Pavillion Mall and onto the covered walkway to KLCC. By the time I’d enjoyed a coffee in the Suria KLCC mall I was still comfortably early for my tour.
Making my way through the mall to the
Having stayed at the excellent Casa del Mar I felt it was time to add my own views of this amazing resort. It’s situated in the middle of a long beach, giving you a meaningfully long walk either on sand or the road that parallels, along the road you’ll find shops, resorts, hotels and hostels.
We stayed in a Seaview Suite and yes, as you can see from my pictures they are virtually a match of those on the website. There’s no trick photography at play. The suite is very well sized with a private courtyard to the front giving you that extra bit of seclusion from resort life when you want it.
The staff are friendly and we spent many an hour sitting at the poolside bar chatting and inventing new cocktails or adapting old ones. A Pina Colada made from 100% fresh fruit is amazing!
As the sun sets – and it does so in spectacular fashion – the rest comes back to life with the couples filling the tables for drinks and dinner. It’s never raucous like some resorts can be and no matter how busy you think it may be the personal service remains.
Being a “bit” of a Survivor fan we took a Castaway Picnic with a stop at the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. The boat ride from the beach was amazing, essentially a small runabout, takes you out into the archipelago and onto other islands.
Overall Casa del Mar offers a unique personalised experience that is easily enjoyed. Why don’t you check it out for your next luxury escape
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.
Formula1 is Expensive
No, it’s not, if you’ve followed a few of these posts you’ll have seen that I managed to get to the Formula1 in Malaysia for a very small cost, and am repeating again in 2015.
To highlight the low cost I’ve shamelessly “stolen” one of the Trip-Ideas from TheBookingSpots Reservation Destination suggestions. While the site is still under development the links do work and provide easy access to price quotes for airfares and accommodation ex-Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Canberra & Darwin). You’ll still need to add in some tickets which are cheap when bought through Sepang Circuit direct.
If Malaysia isn’t your speed you can check out the costs for the first 6 races of the 2015 Season with the rest to come soon!
Malaysian Formula1 – Sepang International Circuit
27th-29th March 2015
The second race of the 2015 Formula1 season will challenge the durability of the cars in the Malaysian climate. From searing heat to tropical rains the F1 circus faces it all!
Kuala Lumpur represents one of the most cost-effective races to attend with tickets available directly from Sepang Circuit at great prices, accommodation is plentiful and available to suit every budget.
Our quick search links below will help you find flights and accommodation for the Race, we’ve aimed to have you arrive a day or two before the F1 Friday practice sessions and fly out on the Monday after the race. Naturally you can adjust these dates to add on some extra time for sightseeing!
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