Tag Archives: travel

Great Cheap Cell Phone Plan

I did a bit of research trying to find the right cell phone plan for myself in Malaysia. I actually was looking at different options. One was for a fancy smart phone (iPhone or Android) largely to use when I travel and to be able to stay up with some business. Both looking at the phone options and the plan options. And the also looking at a cheap phone with a cheap plan. The truth is it was quite hard to get to a decision with so many options. I used the soon to be iPhone 4s as a good enough excuse to wait on the fancy phone option.

I really don’t use a phone much. Frankly the biggest use I have for it is in getting taxis and ordering food – plus other errands but what I can do by email, I do. It is also convenient when you are meeting people somewhere to catch up with each other. Mainly I prefer email and other internet communication and don’t find most cell phone conversation of much value (it just seems like people think they have to talk since they can or some people seem to think they seem important if they ignore whoever they are with to talk on the phone). I would rather take in where I am, talk to who I am with, think, or just relax.

So I keep looking for the best plan for someone that hardly uses a phone at all. It wasn’t easy to find. Partially, I imagine you don’t make much money off such cheapskates so the service providers don’t waste much time marketing to them. Anyway I thought I found something good with Digi. And when I was talking with the person to buy my phone I thought I had it clear I could get the phone and pay some minimal amount and then just top it up and be charged for use.

But once I bought it they seemed to not understand such an option. Oh well, I sometimes seem to not quite communicate perfectly so I guessed I mis-remembered and didn’t understand what they said at first. So then essentially I needed to pay RM 30 a month for service and that amount would be charged against as I talked (or IMed). But I needed to pay RM 1 everyday to maintain the ability to make calls. This was annoying but seemed to be the only option. So I just kept piling on the RM balance since I don’t use close to 1 RM a day on average.

Well I found the offer again earlier this week and it is perfect if you hardly use the phone, like me. You pay just RM 30 for a year. Then you still get charged for all your calls but it isn’t much at all.

So if you want a low use, cheap, cell phone plan option in Malaysia, get the Digi Super Long Life plan: a feature where you can extend your talktime validity to 1 year for just RM30. That means your phone number stays valid, you can make and receive calls and texts (to make outgoing calls and texts you also need a balance, but you can add to your balance whenever you want). Remember the plan name, so when you go to buy your plan you can make sure you can get it setup right from the start. It is really a fantastic option for someone like me, that uses the phone very little. My guess is if you use it less than an hour a week, on average, this is a good option. I am really not sure the exact breakpoint, whatever it is, I am nowhere near it.

Continue reading

Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur

photo of a beautiful chess set

Beautiful chess set at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

I visited the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia while staying in Kuala Lumpor a few months back. It is a modern museum with clean lines and lots of open space.

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses more than 7,000 artefacts, as well has an exceptional library of Islamic-art books. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The aim is to create a collection that is truly representative of the Islamic world. Instead of concentrating on works from the heartlands of Persia and the Middle East, IAMM also puts the emphasis on Asia. China and Southeast Asia are especially well represented. The third component of the Malaysian melting pot is India, which is also given special status.

View of gallery inside Islamic Arts Museum

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia has a open and attractive floorplan

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, it did not seem as large as you might expect. If you are like me and enjoy visiting museums and learning I think it is worth a visit when you are in Kuala Lumpor.

You might also enjoy the bird park (which is nearby). The bird park isn’t really fantastic: in my opinion, it could be skipped without missing too much (but I like seeing animals and did enjoy it though it did seem a bit overpriced and under maintained).

Related: Tourist Stuff in Kuala LumpurDreams and Reality: Museum D’Orsay Exhibit at the National Museum of SingaporeHotels and Accomations for Travelers in Malaysia

Continue reading

Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

photo CIQ building in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru CIQ

The Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) is a very large complex at the causeway to Singapore that accommodates Malaysian customs check for cars, trucks, buses and the JB Sentral train station. The CIQ was opened in 2008. The complex is know as CIQ – if you tell a taxi for example they will know where you mean to go if you say CIQ.

photo of Johor Bahru CIQ

Looking up to Johor Bahru CIQ from the street (all photos by John Hunter)

Queues are often reasonable but at rush hour (especially leaving Singapore on Friday’s and near public holidays) can be long. In several ways taking the bus is quite appealing (costs of bringing a car into Singapore plus tolls and there are significant restrictions on taxis that make that option difficult) but the walking from the entrance to the custom lines is quite a distance so that will add 5 minutes to your time. And waiting for a bus once you clear customs can add another 5 – 10 minutes. [update – given all the long delays and complaints from people they reopened walking over the causway as an option. A newspaper story in 2016 claimed 300,000 people walk across each day, that surprises me and I am not 100% sure the number is accurate]

The 2nd link (to the West) has shorter queues currently (these are the only 2 links between Singapore and Johor Bahru now). That is one of the reasons many people have been buying out near the 2nd link. Also that is a focus area for the Iskandar economic development initiative and the available of housing estates with integrated security and new bungalows is another attraction.

JB Sentral, which opened in 2010, is located in the same area and includes the train station and a large bus terminal.

Singapore and Malaysia have been taking recently about extending the MRT (light rail) from Singapore into Johor Bahru before the end of this decade and the likely location of the first stop is JB Sentral. This MRT (and extending 5 to 7 more stops in Johor Bahru will be a welcome improvement to mass transit and continue to build the economic ties between the two cities. Currently you have to take the long walk through Malaysian customs, then walk to the bus, take it over the causeway, walk through Singapore customs, catch the bus again and then got to the MRT (which for some reason isn’t the closer Woodlands MRT but the Kranji MRT). So just getting on the MRT in JB and clearing customs and getting right back on will be a big improvement. Of course they will have to add quite a few more customs staff to prevent long queues.

Related: Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsPenang Condo Market

Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to Singapore

Taking the bus from Johor Bahru, Malaysia to Singapore is easy once you know what to do.

First go to the Custom and Immigration Quarantine Complex (CIQ) in downtown Johor Bahru right near the causeway to Singapore. Walk through the complex to leave Malaysia (you need your passport, obviously). Once you clear Malaysian passport control you follow the signs to Singapore/Woodlands for the bus (on your left after you leave the passport area). You go downstairs and catch your bus. You pay for the bus, on the bus.

photo of people standing in lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ

Lines for bus to Singapore at Malaysia CIQ. On the signs (and the ground) they list what buses the queues are for.

There are various options but the 3 most common are:

  • Queen Street (this gets you to downtown Singapore). You can take the CW2 (direct) of the 160 (many stops – so really you probably don’t want to chose this unless you want to get off before queen street). The Queen street stop lets you off right near Little India. Cost is under RM 4 (update 2014 – with increases in tolls the busses hiked fares by under 1 RM, they are a much better value now, since car and taxi tolls increases so much).
  • MRT – if you want to go to the Singapore MRT you can take the 170 or CW1 to Kranji station. Woodlands is the closest station but there isn’t a bus to there (that I know of). Cost is under RM 3 (after 2014 increase).
  • Airport – the airport bus takes you directly to the Changi Airport in Singapore and costs RM 7 (from Singapore to JB it costs SGD 7 – I am not sure of the prices after the 2014 increase). The bus is a small bus (seats about 20 maximum) – asking people where it is, will be the easiest way to find it. This bus only runs once an hour. This bus works great but you should be aware if you get stuck in customs trying to get into Singapore it is possible the bus will leave without you. If that happens catch the 170 to Kranji and take the MRT to the airport. I think the bus will wait 20 minutes for people to clear customs (and if several of you are not back yet the bus may wait, but missing it is something to consider).
  • photo of Kranji MRT in Singapore

    Kranji MRT in Singapore. There is a bakery right where the bus lets you off. To catch the bus back to Customs you have to cross over the road so you are on the opposite side from the MRT.

    The busses will take you across the causeway to Singapore and then you will disembark (with any luggage and belongings) and go through Singapore customs and then go back downstairs and catch your bus. The CW1, CW2, 170 and 160 run frequently during the day and evening (every few minutes to every 15 minutes for some).

    Overall it is an easy process and doesn’t take too long. But at rush hours (especially Friday night or on holidays) it can get very busy and backed up. I hear the morning rush from JB into Singapore is pretty bad, but I have gone a bit later (9:30 AM) when I have gone, and it has been fine (most of the time).

    The prices are from Singapore to JB are the same number but in SGD which means about 2.5 times as much money. So, for example, from Queen Street to JB is $3.30 (versus 3.30 RM).

    Related: Bus to Jusco in Permas JayaPlaza Pelangi in Johor Bahru Townresources for living in Johor Bahru

    Continue reading

    Vaccinations and Medical Services from the Clinic Australia

    photo of strip mall and Klinik Australia fascade

    External view the the Clinic Australia

    I needed a vaccination booster and so looked for a place to get such services in Johor Bahru. I tried the Clinic Australia, near Plaza Pelangi, and was happy with the results. The clinic is located behind the Plaza Pelangi in the strip mall that hosts a few popular restaurants including: Rosmarino (Italian), Warakuya (Japanese) and Mulligan’s Irish Pub.

    The clinic is a small operation in a strip of shops. I don’t think you can make reservations, I didn’t anyway, you just show up and wait as people are taken care of. They offer vaccinations and check ups (for visa, pre-employment and insurance). They also offer flu shots.

    photo of the waiting room for the Clinic Austrailia

    The waiting room is half of the available space (I think).

    Related: Getting a Voltage Transformer in Johor BahruNursery in Johor BahruJohor Bahru shopping directory

    Address: 37 Jalan Kuning 2, Taman Peangi, 80400 Johor Bahru.
    Phone: 07-3319380
    No website or email.

    Hotels and Accommodations in Malaysia

    I have added a page on the site with links to good hotels and accommodations in Malaysia. At this time it covers 4 areas: Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Penang and Johor Bahru. Different people have different desires for a hotel room. And at different times even the same person does. In general I prefer to save my money by using discount lodging, but I splurge occasionally – especially if I can get a great deal. I did that, when I stayed at the Prince Hotel & Residence Kuala Lumpur and it was wonderful.

    I also have found nice discount places and some in-between. I really nice place in Johor Bahru is Bliss Boutique Hotel that has very distinctive room designs. They also have great staff. If you don’t mind small rooms it is a great choice for Johor Bahru.

    photo of the beach at the Sunset Resort

    Beach, Sunset Resort in Langkawi, Malaysia by John Hunter

    Langkawi is a wonderful place to vacation and relax at the beach. I stayed at the Sunset Beach Resort which had very simple and well maintained bungalows. One of the best “features” was a great Indian restaurant on the beach – right next store to the hotel.

    A great hotel in Penang is the G Hotel on Gurney Drive.

    Related: Good, Cheap, Johor Bahru HotelsTourist Stuff in Kuala LumpurNice Ocean View from Langkawi, Malaysia

    Tourist Stuff in Kuala Lumpur

    Today I went to the Islamic Art Museum, Bird Park, Little India and the Aquarium in Kuala Lumpur. I am staying at a great hotel, with a very nice view (even free internet in your room). You can book for great rates using Agoda – I am becoming a big fan of Agoda as I use it on my travels. Here are some photos from the day (and one from last night).

    photo of Petronas towers at night, Kuala Lumpur

    Petronas Towers at night, Kuala Lumpur, from my hotel room.

    photos of jellies at the Kuala Lumpur aquarium

    Jellies at the Kuala Lumpur aquarium by John Hunter


    Watch a cool webcast on jellies that I posted to my Curious Cat Science blog.
    Continue reading

    Looking into Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

    Recently I have been looking into Kuching in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Boreno. So far I am very impressed. Kuching is the capital of Sarawak with a population of 600,000. Malaysia’s portion of Borneo is about the same size as peninsular Malaysia. As an added bonus Kuching is also know as cat city (Kucing is cat in old western Malay, I read, though from what I have found it may be more likely the city got the name from the Chinese word for port (“cochin”) coupled with the Malay name mata kucing (cat’s-eye) for the longan fruit, a popular trade item.

    Kushing is a popular point for tourists to use as a base for visiting the Borneo rain forests full of many wonders one of which is the orangutan. Kuching is the largest city in Borneo and the 4th largest city in Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpor, Penang and Johor Bahru.

    Related: Living Life in Malaysia as an ExpatriotOrangutan Attempts to Hunt Fish with SpearBornean Clouded LeopardFirst Lungless Frog Found
    Continue reading

    Good, Cheap, Johor Bahru Hotels

    I spent some time researching hotels in Johor Bahru, Malaysia that are reasonable/cheap priced and provide good value.

    [updated Aug 29th, 2011]

    Related: Hotels and Accommodations in Malaysia