Asia 2013 in short

It appears that 30,000 words is too many for most people to read, so here’s a summary of our recent trip to Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. It’s okay, I write this blog mainly to record my trips for myself, if anyone else finds it interesting then that’s just a bonus.


We flew to Singapore on Scoot. I found their seats hard and uncomfortable, B not so much. We stayed at the Parkroyal on Beach Road, which was nice. Our main purpose of visiting Singapore was to eat, and we had great food at the Maxwell and Old Airport Road food centres, but the best was chilli crab and Haron 30’s satay at the East Coast Lagoon Hawker Centre. We also visited the Gardens by the Bay, enjoying the great glass Flower and Cloud Forest conservatories. Best of all were the lights of the Supertrees.



AirAsia took us to B’s birthplace of Penang Island, where we stayed at the lovely Parkroyal Penang resort in Batu Ferringhi, along with Mother-in-Law and friend. Greatly enjoyed the waterslides, kids facilities and sunsets across the beach, though the snake show with a live king cobra was scary! Went on a personal tour of the markets in old Georgetown with the head chef and had way  too much boring Cantonese food with M-i-L, along with some great local cuisine. Visited the Butterfly Farm and the Penang Hill Railway.


A very early morning flight with the decent AirAsia flew us up to Kuching, which is in the state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo. The Hilton had wonderful views of the river that divides this lazy post-colonial town. We drove out to the Semenggoh Wildlife Reserve to see the semi-wild orang utans in the jungle. The next day it was the tall and long houses of the Sarawak Cultural Village.


MASWings turboprops flew us from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu, via Bintulu, where we changed to a Malaysia Airlines flight to Taipei. We stayed in the comfortable budget hotel CityInn II near Taipei’s main station. During our time in Taiwan we caught the world’s fastest lift up Taipei 101, previously’s the world’s tallest building, saw the Chinese artworks of the National Palace Museum, wandered night markets, ate seafood in Tamsui and caught the packed scenic Pingxi Line train through old mining towns. We also dined at Modern Toilet.



Barry the Scoot plane flew us from Taiwan to Tokyo, where we stayed at our second home: The Shinjuku Prince Hotel. In Tokyo we reintroduced Alex to sushi, caught upside down monorails and Tokyo’s last streetcars to three amusement parks, including Tokyo Disneyland. The unseasonably warm weather also meant the cherry blossoms were out.

Oigawa Railway

We stayed two nights at Toyohashi as a base for a day trip up the Oigawa Railway. A steam train and historic carriages took us up to Senzu, where we changed to a small diesel train up into the mountains. The tracks are so steep that at one point an extra locomotive capable of using the Abt rack system is attached. The gorgeous river and mountain scenery rates amongst the best I have ever seen from a train.


A small diesel railcar chugged us up into the town of Gujo-Hachiman, famous for its very pure cold spring water and as the source of 80% of plastic replica food in Japan. The river scenery around the town is stunning and we had the best sleeps of the trip in the Ryokan Azumaya near the station.


Just an overnight stop, but we travelled down to Rinku Town near the airport for cheap kids shops and the playground. Dinner was all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu.

Kinosaki Onsen

We all dressed up in yukatas to wander around between bathhouses in this historic and beautiful onsen town. Alex rated the Ryokan Morizuya the best accommodation ever thanks to its playroom of toys and the automatic toilets and we loved it too. The hot baths were wonderful too, as was the crab and quality beef dinner in our room.


Kyoto was a shopping stopover, as well as more shabu-shabu. No cultural sights unfortunately this time.

Takasaki and Yokokawa

Takasaki is a quiet rural city an hour from Tokyo. On our final day we caught the train up to Yokokawa, which has a railway museum with kids rides, trains up what’s left of the Usui Pass track and the opportunity to drive your own train. Then it was back to Ueno for last minute shopping for B, before our luggage caused an escalator accident and we caught the train back to Narita Airport.

Flying home

Our Jetstar flight home was delayed by computer system issues and a stupid smoker who made us return to the gate. A rough couple of flights home via the Gold Coast, but still my pick of the budget airlines in comfort. We made it back in time to watch the latest episode of Doctor Who.
One of the best holidays we’ve had in a while. Alex got a bit homesick but also enjoyed himself greatly and talks about going back (as do I). Definitely want to see more of Taiwan and there are always more railway lines in Japan to catch. Singapore and Malaysia are a given, just for the food. Can’t wait for the next trip.
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