We had a good flight from Denpasar to Singapore after paying our fine of $160 for overstaying our visa by 4days in Bali. When we wanted to extend our visa before the 30day one expired we were told that it had to be done at least 1week before. We will know for next time that we can get a 60day visa but they will only issue a 30day visa on arrival not a 60day one.

Everyone we dealt with in Singapore was very pleasant from the two taxi drivers we had to the immigration and customs officers. We stayed at a place called Rider’s lodge located to the north of the island – a bit of a faulty towers type of place with horse stables in the grounds. There was no “Manuel” to carry the bags so the receptionist guy doubled as the porter. We had a cold shower as we weren’t advised that the hot water switch was located outside the room – very odd. There was an advertised “French Bistro” on the grounds and I thought we might be underdressed but it was more of a sports club type of place doing BBQ’s and pizzas at high Singapore prices. It was a shock after the restaurant prices in Bali. There was an huge storm in the middle of the night with a lot of thunder, lightning and torrential rain so with that and all the yahooers coming back at all hours from the bistro we didn’t get much sleep.

We stayed there as it was the closest place I could find to Woodland’s checkpoint where we caught the train to Butterworth and had to leave early in the morning to purchase our tickets. The train left at 8.45am so we left ourselves plenty of time and got there about 6.30am.

Everything in Singapore is run so efficiently and with a friendly attitude. The only omission was the lack of any toilet facilities while waiting for the train. They only open the entry to immigration and customs 1/2 hour before the train departs so it you feel the call of nature you have to ask the immigration officers who take your passport and then escort you down the escalators and then about 500mtrs to a toilet in the secured area. They then wait for you outside the door and then escort you back and hand back your passport.

We found 2nd class on the train very comfortable and in better condition than the first class cabin next to us. The scenery for the first 4-5 hours was palm plantations but we didn’t see anyone working there in any of the plantations. Crossing over from Singapore to Malaysia is a bit like crossing over from Switzerland to Italy. From a very ordered and neat country to one which is not so ordered and neat.

There is a lot of construction of electric railways and large flyovers and bridges and a few large new cheap housing estates but there are still a lot of old wooden houses and shacks along the way and some old poor looking towns. The palm plantations gave way to jungle and hills and a few flatter areas where there were some orchards and market gardens. The scenery after Kuala Lumpur city was similar but not so many palm plantations. The buildings looked more cared for and there were many tract housing developments in many areas.





We had a delightful mother Azira and her one year old daughter Kaishe who kept us amused for the whole day trip. She was the cutest little girl and always had a smile ready.





We left Singapore on the dot of 8.45am but got into Butterworth an hour late at 10.30pm.

We went to pay for our overnight train to Bangkok as the ticketing booth was open and they said that there was a situation which turned out to be bad news for us as there had been a derailment in Thailand and they wouldn’t know until the following day if the train would depart Butterworth.





We decided not to take a taxi accross to Georgetown, Penang but the local ferry accross the river which looked fine but didn’t realize until too late that we had to carry our bags up three flights of stairs as they are doing renovations. We took a taxi to the hotel which was a lovely little renovated heritage hotel with high ceilings and big rooms.

The taxis in Penang all have a large sign on the doors of their vehicles saying that all taxis must be metered and not to take an unmetered taxi but you still have to negotiate a price before you can get into a taxi – strange system. It rained all night but not much during the day. Georgetown looks like it did 25years ago in the old town – old and very few renovated buildings. We had a great Indian brunch however at a little restaurant down from the hotel.

We took a hop on hop off bus and had a general look around and a walk on the esplanade down at the river which was brown and a bit of rubbish floating in it.






One of the few colonial buildings in Georgetown.






Lunch being served in Georgetown.






Our delicious tandoori lunch in Georgetown.






More Georgetown buildings







We found out that the train was not going anywhere so decided instead of staying in Penang we would fly to Bangkok – we managed to get an Air Asia flight that afternoon at 5pm and did it all on the net in an hour- even checked in online. We also managed to book another night at  the hotel in Bangkok so all went smoothly including the flight which was only 90minutes.  Air Asia staff are apparently on a bonus for on time performance and it is very evident in the way they turn around their aircraft.  We saw our aircraft land and come in to it’s location and within 20mins passengers were off and passengers on board and the door shut ready for take off 5minutes early.

We got the airport express in from the airport in Bangkok which was excellent, took 20minutes to the last stop in the city and cost about $1.50 which is incredibly cheap for such a service and much more expensive in most other countries.

Our hotel the “Shanghai Mansion” which is in the Chinatown area has an amazing history and a very old building and very Chinese in it’s decoration but quirky at the same time. It looks nothing from the street but goes back a long way and is renovated and fascinating inside with an enormous fish pond in the centre and large hanging lanters everywhere.

The hotel has a live four piece jazz band every evening and the girl singer has got a fantastic voice. Very easy listening during dinner. The hotel has free shuttles to the Grand Palace, shoppping centres and the railway station and if you sit in their lounge they automatically bring you a drink – non alcoholic of course but very welcome anyway.  They are extremely helpful at the hotel and many larger and more expensive hotels could learn from their service.

The property has been owned by the oldest Chinese migrant families in thailand, the Sarasin Dynasty.  the current owner of the property Pong Sarasin – unfortunate first name! was a memeber of the ministry of Thailand and also operates the Coca-Cola franchise in Thailand.  This building was made famous in 1909 when it was converted to a Chinese Opera house and was frequented by the Royal Family. The owners later leased out the building and it was converted to the stock exchange of Thailand. As the business district gradually moved northwards to what is now known as the CBD area, the building was converted into a textile trading center.

When the lease ended, the owners transformed it into one of the most famous department stores in Thailand, known as the Yaowarat Square, which houses various restaurants and the center for Chinese herbal medicine. The Building was then vacated in 1998 and in 2005, it was transformed into what is now known as the Shanghai Mansion.

We took the hotel’s tuk tuk and went to the Grand Palace which is really Grand!





I had seen pictures of the palace in the past and postcards of it but the intricate detail of the glass mosaic tiles and the gilding on the many, many buildings and temples is incredible – much bling! 





Very impressive especially in the sunshine and given the scale of the whole palace.






We then fought our way on to the local ferry back to the nearest pier to the hotel and walked through streets full of small shops selling everything.

We also went to an enormous shopping mall called MBK which sells everything and more again and then caught the MRT – underground first and the BRT – skytrain back to within walking distance of our hotel.