Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction

9.8-10.8: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
11.8: KL
12.8: KL
13.8: KL -> Khao Lak
20.8: Bangkok -> Kuala Lumpur -> Kota Kinabalu
21.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Garama river -> Kota Kinabalu
22.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Pulau Tiga -> Kota Kinabalu
23.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Mari Mari cultural village -> Sandakan
24.8: Sandakan -> Sepilok -> Sandakan
25.8: Sandakan -> Pulau Berhala -> Lahad Datu
26.8: Lahad Datu -> Tabin wildlife reserve -> Lahad Datu
27.8: Lahad Datu -> KK -> Mamutik and Sapi -> KK
28.8: KK -> Mantanani island
29.8: Mantanani -> KK -> KL
30.8: KL -> Singapore
31.8: Singapore -> KL
1.9: KL -> Munich via Dubai

Overview and overall impression
The idea for this year's trip to Malaysia was to visit a number of places in Sabah where I had not been before. Essentially the trip consisted of a few days in Kuala Lumpur, followed by nine days in Sabah and one day in Singapore.
In Sabah I explored some islands, such as Mantanani, Tiga, Berhala and the Tunku Abdul Rahman national park. Now, having seen these islands, I wouldn't recommend any for a beach holiday. The only island with nice beaches and seawater is Mantanani, but it lacks good accommodation and there are sandflies.
I visited also a number of wildlife locations: the Garama river area, the Sepilok rehabilitation centre and the Tabin reserve near Lahad Datu. The Tabin reserve could be an interesting place, but the cost of staying there is high and the resort is at the western edge of the reserve, close to the palm tree plantations, i.e. not in the middle of the wilderness.
The trip to Singapore was very interesting, because I visited the now completed Marina bay area. This is a section of Singapore which has been developed over the past years and is now beautifully choreographed and has interesting architecture.

Prices in Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak, but especially Sabah) have skyrocketed over the past 4-5 years. In several cases, prices have tripled since 2008-09. For instance 2D/1N trips to Tabin cost around RM 600 just a few years ago, and RM 1700 now. The same 3D/2N Danum valley trip which I did in December 2008 for RM 1260 now costs around RM 3000 (single occupancy). In 2003 the tour to the Sarawak cultural village cost RM 55 (including transportation from Kuching) while now this tour costs RM 160. The various daytrips and half-day-trips from KK now cost all in the hundreds of RM range. The Mt Kinabalu climb is a similar case. The total cost has gone up from a RM 200-300 to around RM 1000.
Given this price increase, I would advise not to travel to Sabah at the moment, or to avoid locations where prices have increased a lot. That would mean avoiding Tabin and Danum and instead visiting the Kinabatangan river, which can still be accessed even on a very low budget.
Accomodation in Singapore is quite pricey (I paid 81 Euro for a 7mē room with no toilet or windows).

Malaysia and Singapore offer a dazzling array of delicious food specialities. There is an incredible variety of food in Kuala Lumpur, with tons of restaurants and eateries everywhere. In every shopping complex there are one or two floors dedicated to restaurants and food stalls.

In Malaysia I stayed in a number of midrange places, spending between RM 120 and 150 per night. I got the impression that prices have risen again since last year. KK has a good tourist infrastructure, and some new hotels have opened recently. Hotels in Singapore are very expensive, if you want to be not too far from the city centre.
Accomodation in August on Perhentian and Redang was very hard to find. It seems that these islands are overrun with tourists at this time of the year. This is why I ended up booking a few days with the family in southern Thailand instead.

Money  / Exchange rate (August 2013)
1 Euro = 4.35 RM
1 Euro = 1.33 USD 
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. 

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
I used a SIM card from Maxis which cost RM25 with RM10 of airtime on it. A 500MB day Internet flatrate cost RM5, a 200MB flat rate less. Phone calls were around RM 0.30, a bit pricey. But the Internet speed was really very good, both in the downlink and the uplink. Also mobile tethering (using the smartphone as a modem for the computer) worked very well. Coverage was good in all places I visited.

Internet access
I used the WLAN network in the hotel and the smartphone to access the Internet.

Mostly sunny with a blue sky, with some clouds and rain every now and then. Hot and tropical. In Sabah the weather was initially unstable due to the typhoon in the Philippines. Very good weather in Singapore.

Health / Vaccinations
The usual set of tropical vaccinations. I didn't refresh any immunisations for this trip.

VISA / Entry requirements
A visa on arrival allowing a three months stay is available for tourists of most western and developed countries. It is no longer necessary to fill out an arrivals form.

Overall Malaysia and Singapore are very safe places.

Recommended things
Of the places I visited on this trip, I wouldn't recommend any. Tabin could be interesting for a few days, if the prices were much lower. The architecture in Singapore is beautiful, and the area around Marina bay is now well worth visiting.

Things to avoid
At the moment Sabah should be avoided, due to the ridicolously high price increases of the recent years. Some places have tripled their prices over the past few years.

Getting around
I moved around with a mix of flights, long distance taxis and tour operators.

Copyright 2013 Alfred Molon