Stay in Melaka & catch the Trade Winds

A ninety-minute drive south of Kuala Lumpur international airport is Melaka (Malacca).

We first visited Melaka for a day trip from Kuala Lumpur – it was a long day, but we liked the look of the place and a few years later, we returned and stayed in a small Chinese hotel. Along the Melaka River bank we saw a hotel called Casa del Rio, being built.

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A year later we had the opportunity of returning to Malacca, and the Casa del Rio was open and had ‘opening offers’, so of course we stayed and loved the hotel, the staff and the service.

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The finished product.

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You’ve guessed it – we have stayed at this hotel more than once. They never seem to get my name the correct way around for a Westerner, but who cares, it is the thought that counts. The cut on my chin was due to me shaving on the aircraft when we hit an air pocket – I bled most of the day – had to replace the lost liquid via the bar.

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The picture above is of the view behind where I was sitting in the foyer. We had cold drinks and cold hand towels while the staff filled in the forms – all we did was sign our names. The pool is not for swimming, but ornamental and is lit up at night. See below.

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Our room was on the third floor of the building facing.
We sat in the corner on the far left, under the awning,  for our arrival drinks etc.

Our room from a couple of angles.

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Photograph taken from inside the bathroom, through the bedroom to the balcony doors.

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View from our balcony – which contained table and chairs and could be lit at night, if we wished to sit out.

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The horizon pool on the roof of the hotel, with bar of course.

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Our hotel is the one with the blue roof, which is the swimming pool. I took this picture from a viewing tower. The building to the left of the hotel contains private apartments, which the hotel manages.

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Corner of Casa del Rio, near the road bridge that crosses the river.

The picture below is the other end of the hotel along the river bank. We preferred this end of the hotel, which was more private.

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Our preferred bar, where we could sit on the veranda and enjoy the evening breeze.

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Even the rain was warm.

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Breakfast area that stretched on to the balcony overlooking the river. Inside was air-conditioned – sometimes we liked outside and other times inside.

Each year the hotel industry has a boat race – waiters, maids etc are all involved and during breakfast one day I saw one of the hotel boats out on the river practicing. For what I saw I don’t think Oxford or Cambridge would have anything to worry about.

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An evening meal with our friends at the River Grill, just what the doctor ordered after a day of sight seeing.

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What more could we want on a warm tropical evening, good food & wine accompanied by the tinkling sound of a piano player in the background. The pianist offered to play  requests, so of course I asked for As time goes by ; don’t we all when the ambiance and the time and place fits?  :- o)

Cost over convienience

I thought I’d drop a line about our experience at Kuala Lumpur airport if you are considering staying in KL for a few days.

On arrival at KLIA should you use the KLIAEkspres train or a taxi?

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Air-conditioned and comfortable – all announcements are in English as well as Malay.

It depends on how many are in your party. Having used both, it comes down to convenience compared to cost, and what is the difference.

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Taxis are large enough for four adults and have plenty of room for four suitcases.

If on a tight budget, and you are young single or a young couple, and healthy, perhaps the Ekspres train is the most cost effective, but you still have to add the cost of a taxi, Monorail or Rapidrail from Sentral (railway station) to your hotel, and you have the inconvenience of manhandling your bags.

For three or more people I found that a taxi is the most cost effective, and the most convenient, but be aware the journey is about forty five minutes to an hour, depending on time of day.

Based on actual costs in 2014, the cost of the Ekspress train was RM 35 / person one way, (it is now RM 55.00), making a total of RM 105 for three people; add RM 40 for a taxi to the major hotel area in the city centre, and you have a total cost of RM 145. (RM 205 for three in 2016)
A taxi from the KLIA cost me RM 134 for four people – door to door. (still around this price in 2016, it all depends on the traffic).

The increase in the Ekspress tickets could make the taxi option a more economical choice today, for two people, compared to three in my example. Overall I doubt that there would be much time saving by using the train – 28 minute ride, find a taxi at Sentral, possible fifteen minute ride to your hotel – compare this to about 45 minutes ride by taxi, door to door in air-conditioned comfort..

If you decide to take a taxi from the airport to the city, buy your voucher from the taxi counter at the airport RM 2.00 (just before you exit in to the meet & greet area – you’ll see other people around the taxi counter) – don’t get involved with touts outside the terminal it’s not worth the exercise.
On existing the terminal a supervisor will take your voucher and direct you to the correct taxi – he will hand back the voucher, which will be split between you and the taxi driver – keep your half just in case you have a problem later (e.g left something behind in his cab). The taxi will be metered, and you pay the metered price.

On departure from Kuala Lumpur  – depending on the airline that you use to depart Kuala Lumpur, the air line check-in at Sentral is a breeze.

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Check-in at Sentral

My wife and I, and our friends used Malaysian Airlines, which allowed us to check-in at Sentral, but recently other airlines have added check-in facilities – Royal Brunei, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Etihad The cost compared to convenience is now reversed.

For a morning flight of 9.00 am from KLIA to Sydney, a check-in of two to two and a half hours before take-off was required.
We left our hotel at 6.30 am for the fifteen minute drive to Sentral, where we checked-in and lodge our checked bags.
The Ekspress train, just after 7.00 am, had us at KLIA in twenty eight minutes, and we strolled through immigration and security with just hand baggage, and missed the stressful airport check-in, the hours drive, and the checked bag lodging system. We arrived stress free at the departure gate, after a short visit to the duty free area.

For early to mid morning flights we consider the extra cost of the Ekspress system worth paying, because of the lack of stress.But then we are no longer young and active . . . . .

Enjoy the journey – with a credit card

Asia has a number of major hubs to Europe – Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and recently with the growth of the Chinese airlines, various Chinese cities such as Shanghai & Guangzhou (old name being Canton).

When checking which transit hub to use to buy your business class ticket consider the economy of the country where the hub is located.

Singapore – an advanced economy, which means airline tickets are expensive.
Bangkok – a very good hub, because of the competition due to the large number airlines using Bangkok airport.
Hong Kong – again an advance economy and expensive to Europe, and the economy tickets from Australia to Hong Kong are more expensive than economy tickets to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok.

Over the years I have bought airline tickets over the internet to fly with Thai Airways in Baht, Malaysian Airlines in Ringgits, Qatar Airlines in Sri Lankan rupees, Air Asia in Singapore dollars, Laos Air in USD, KLM & Iberia in Euros and they were all cheaper than travel agents or the Australian office of the airline that I wanted to use. To purchase the tickets I used a Visa card and they charge a 3% currency conversion fee, but the overall cost has always been cheaper.

A number of times we used Kuala Lumpur as a ‘hub’ to another Asian port i.e Colombo, in Sri Lanka. After doing dummy bookings from various origins such as Seam Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Rangoon, Manila etc I found Colombo to be the cheapest place to purchase business class tickets to Europe, using a quality airline.

Flying from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur to Colombo can be completed in one go, but it would be tiring and take about twelve to thirteen hours. We normally stop over for one night in a hotel near KL airport. The following day, after breakfast, we fly late morning, arriving in Colombo in time for lunch (you fly back in time from KL to Colombo). All very civilised.
Place that my wife and I have stayed during transit stops.

http://www.rumahputih.com/ -a bed and breakfast, run and owned by a Brit married to a Malaysian lady.

http://www.samasamahotels.com/ – right on the airport.
This hotel has two entrances, one is from the transit lounge, you do not enter Malaysia, and the other entrance after you have cleared customs & immigration.

http://www.theyouniqhotel.com/ – free transport to / from airport about ten minutes drive. Not to the same level as the other hotels, but clean and convenient.

http://pullmankualalumpur.com/ – we arrived in KL around 2.00 pm so had time to go in to town via the Express train system ($12 one way). Airline schedule from Sydney has changed and the arrival time is now 8.30 pm, too late to make it worth while to sleep in the city for an overnight transit stop.

We stayed a single night in Colombo after clearing customs and immigration – no visa fee to worry about because we were still in transit, and staying less than 36 hours.
http://www.paradisebeachsrilanka.com/ – about twenty minutes from the airport – hotel will arrange transport. Stayed here twice.
http://www.camelot.lk/ – not far from the Paradise Beach, same arrangements for airport transport.

Our favourite hotel in Sri Lanka is the Mount Lavinia Hotel
http://www.mountlaviniahotel.com/ but this hotel is too far for a single overnight, but a great place to stay for a few nights. The main picture at the top of this blog shows the hotel’s beach at Mount Lavinia.

The following day we leave the hotel at 6.30 am for a light breakfast in the business class lounge. Our flight departs at 9.15 am to the sound of corks popping for our Champagne breakfast.

The cost from Sydney to Europe can be anything from $5000 (via Manila) to $8000 with Qantas (via Dubai or Singapore) – for a combi ticket from Sydney, it would cost around $4000 to $4500 via an Asian port, and you do not get a break at the transit stop, but just keep on flying and this sector is usually a night flight, which means you sleep most of the way and miss out on the business class experience.

DIY – including all airfares and hotel costs, just under $3000 for a combi ticket. We do not like flying at night so we build our trips around daylight flights, and sleep in hotels, all prices are Australian dollars.

For my wife and I, the journey is part of the holiday, so flying business class part of the way is a holiday.