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If I'm going to spend 24 hours flying there, I might as well stop somewhere on the way
February 21, 2011 4:07 PM   Subscribe

If you had five nights to spend on stopovers en route to Australia, and your options were Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Auckland, how would you apportion your time?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Where are you starting from? How long are you in Australia for?
posted by mdonley at 4:10 PM on February 21, 2011


Zero nights in Dubai or Singapore - both places are amongst the most soulless, depressing and devoid-of-culture cities on earth. KL would be far preferable and in a fairly sensible place while Auckland is again infinitely preferable but, geographically, not terribly useful as a stopover point.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:33 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disagreeing with tukeyphant; if you do some research and stay in the old town, Dubai can be a great place for a couple of days, double ditto if you'd like some downtime on the beach. (And I say this as someone whose radar for soulless places is set on high.) KL would probably be preferable to Singapore, and Auckland is much like Australia so my recommendation is half the time in UAE and half the time in Kuala Lumpur as interesting counterpoints to Australia.
posted by braemar at 5:47 PM on February 21, 2011


Oh man, I liked Singapore! Very modern and clean, there's that big fountain in the city you can walk under, lots of shopping for electronics and such, and a pretty good zoo (not to mention the "Night Safari"). Depends how you like your "culture", I guess. :)
posted by web-goddess at 5:48 PM on February 21, 2011


Like Singapore. Great food and interesting pockets of culture, and the zoo is terrific. But you don't really need more than two nights there.
posted by missmobtown at 6:05 PM on February 21, 2011


Singapore has a vast array of fantastic food. However, both times I have been there, it has been hotter than (fill in your favorite metaphor) and I couldn't wait to leave. It also (I hear) has areas of ethnic concentration which are full of character and full of more good places to eat.

Haven't been to the other places.
posted by bluesky78987 at 6:12 PM on February 21, 2011


Be aware that the "center" of Auckland is a pretty hefty drive to the airport. (I think like 30 or 45 minutes?)

It does have a very nice nightlight, however, and if you get in at an obnoxious time, you can easily find a hostel (cheap! under $20) at anytime of night/day. There isn't that much to do within Auckland, but there is a sweet folkclub called Devonport Folk Music Club Inc. that plays every Monday night at 8 in a legit bunker inside Mt. Victoria across the harbor from Auckland. Anyone is welcome! You get gorgeous night views and you can play on the beach as you wait for the ferry. Its a fun area to explore.

I lived in downtown Auckland for a couple months, and that's all I got. ha.

Although, if you are going in the beginning of September and could secure tickets (if any are left) to one of the All Black's (NZ's rugby team) play, that would be mind blowing. Or, you could see the University of Auckland's team play which is still pretty awesome and cool if you haven't ever seen a Kiwi play rugby before! (Also a reasonable price)

In the wider scheme, Auckland will be more similar to Australia than the others, so if you are looking for a more stark variety, I'd say pick one of the others that is not Auckland.
posted by fuzzysoft at 6:56 PM on February 21, 2011


Are you a grimy, sweaty, slinging your backpack onto the roofs of buses and fighting the bedbugs at night kind of.. furry orange stuffed dinosaur head.. or are you more into kicking back in a nice hotel, eating good food, shopping, etc?

Either way, I'd write Auckland off. New Zealand really is like Australia, only smaller, and everyone's nicer, and more intelligent, and more adventurous, and the service is excellent, and the maritime museum rocks, and if you can swing it, sailing out on the bay is fun fun fun. So there's no reason to go there at all. None at all.

Singapore's about the food and the shopping and the nice places to stay. And if you want a taste of Malaysia, it's easy enough to head across the causeway to Johor Bahru. Check visa situation for your nationality of.. dinosaur? Should be an on arrival short visit pass of some kind for most, IIRC.

KL's a bit less western, which makes the local markets more interesting, and the luxury shopping/hotel aspects aren't quite as high end. There's quite a few places in town where it's still possible to feel like you're in the grimy beating heart of Asia. Depending on time of year, the climate can be a little less uniformly sticky than Singapore.

But for my money, a nice hotel in Singapore, and a trip across to Johor for some different shopping and Malay food would be the way to go.

Dunno about Dubai.
posted by Ahab at 7:11 PM on February 21, 2011


I was in KL for about a week and I would not recommend it for you.

Public transportation is slow and there are many separate systems (trains, metro and I think another one) that require inconvenient and lengthy transfers. Our experience with cabs was bad as well; drivers don't use the meter, traffic is terrible, and I found the cab drivers to be very hostile (but then I'm a girl and my bf didn't get the same eyeballing). Airport is a two hour bus ride and then I think an hour cab ride from KL. Not pleasant getting around.

I don't know if you're planning on hostels, but beware of bed bugs. I'd check wikitravel for updates on hostels with known bed bug problems.

As far as sight seeing in KL goes, there isn't too much going on. Seeing the Petronas Twin Towers doesn't take very long. We tried to make a day trip to see Batu caves but that ended up taking just a morning. There's really nothing to do unless you're into malls, but even the mall we checked out wasn't that special.

We ended up getting so bored that we attempted a bus ride to the nearby beach town Penang, but the bus ride ended up being the worst thing about the trip. We were sold fake tickets by an angry Malay woman, eventually got on a bus, but then ten hours later were stranded about an hour-long harrowing cab drive away from Penang.

Good luck with your layover!
posted by pluot at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2011


Don't bother with Dubai unless you love hotels and shopping malls surrounded by sand and immigrant workers being exploited.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:59 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a left-field idea. Use all your stopover nights in one go in Auckland and instead of staying in Auckland have a mini-tour around those parts of New Zealand not too far from Auckland. You don't say when but if it's before May the weather will probably be OK - you can do some short walks (unless you want to do some long ones) in the New Zealand bush and find some empty beaches. Perhaps visit the Bay of Islands or some of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf

If your stopover would be during the Rugby World Cup (sep/oct - google for exact dates) then I would suggest you just avoid Auckland altogether.

Having suggested Auckland I would say that I've been to Singapore a few times on stopovers and always enjoyed the food, tiger beer and lounging by the hotel pool.

Wherever you're starting from I can't imagine what itenary (sp?) you're on that allows stopovers in all these places and you still end up in Australia !
posted by southof40 at 2:12 AM on February 22, 2011


I've never visited Auckland or Dubai (unless you count the airport), but I've spent a week exploring Singapore and been to KL twice for a week each time. It really depends on what you prefer and your ability to deal with the downsides of each place, as you can see from the divergent opinions above.

Personally, I didn't love Singapore. Even the Indian and Chinese neighbourhoods seemed to lack life and while there was plenty of good food, it wasn't noticeably better than other countries in the region. There were a lot of shopping malls, but I don't like malls and I didn't find any stand-out markets. I think of it as like Hong Kong with all the bits I like taken out. It's certainly very safe and clean, for those with young families etc.

I much preferred KL (and my parents enjoyed visiting it on their own a year later). I found it a fascinating mixture of old & new, rich & poor, Malay, Chinese & Indian. The food was excellent & cheap (I had the best Persian meal of my life) and the accommodation very good value. It doesn't have many attractions per se, it's more about wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere, which I happened to love.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 5:03 AM on February 22, 2011


Ha, none of these seem to really be absolute winners. KL is doing better than I thought though, and Singapore worse.

Wherever you're starting from I can't imagine what itenary (sp?) you're on that allows stopovers in all these places and you still end up in Australia !

NYC to Melbourne on Emirates, who always have a stop in Dubai and they also fly to Melbourne via KL and Singapore (o direct). Auckland would be via Air New Zealand, flying the other way around.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 AM on February 22, 2011


Any chance you can describe what sort of places you like and what sort of tourist you are? These cities appeal to very different types of people.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:02 AM on February 22, 2011


Where are you starting from? How long are you in Australia for?

Going for a wedding, but have already done Australia so I don't want to spend my whole two week holidays there.

Any chance you can describe what sort of places you like and what sort of tourist you are?

Sure. Do not like overly touristy / fake places, especially if there are a lot of tourists there. Have done the backpacker hostel thing around Europe and Thailand and Mexico. Like old stuff and architecture and good food.
posted by smackfu at 6:44 AM on February 23, 2011


Given your clarification, you'd definitely hate Dubai.

As EndsOfInvention said, it's for those who "love hotels and shopping malls surrounded by sand and immigrant workers being exploited".

pluot's discussion of KL doesn't really make sense especially if you've travelled in Asia before. Taxis in KL are dead simple.

Still, I quite like southof40's idea to "have a mini-tour around those parts of New Zealand not too far from Auckland".

As for these comments about Singapore:
Ahab: "Singapore's about the food and the shopping and the nice places to stay"

missmobtown: "Great food and interesting pockets of culture, and the zoo is terrific"

web-goddess: "Very modern and clean, there's that big fountain in the city you can walk under, lots of shopping for electronics and such, and a pretty good zoo"
I'm bemused how a zoo can now be deemed "culture" (and let's not forget, a fountain!!!!11one). Singapore is a monoculture that consists solely of designer label shopping and manufactured pop music. The food in Singapore is beaten by just about everywhere else in Asia and definitely by KL. And electrical goods aren't exactly culture either but again, there's more choice for much cheaper almost anywhere else.

So I would also argue against Singapore once again. KL is better in every way. If you enjoyed Europe, Thailand and Mexico, you'll prefer it to the other cities on your list.
posted by turkeyphant at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2011


The food in Singapore is beaten by just about everywhere else in Asia and definitely by KL.

I beg to differ. Singapore is a veritable gastronomic paradise.

Those four links are a good start, but check the blogrolls of each for more. In amongst those blogs, you'll find some truly great directories to stuff like suburban hawkers centers as well as to upmarket restaurants.

I think the mistake made by many who think Singapore is a monoculture is not really getting away from Orchard Rd. The suburbs are where a lot of the interesting stuff is - eg food halls in suburban markets. A lot of those places cater to locals who are still living much as they did 40 years ago, and expect the food to be pretty much as it was then.

But if eating well is what you want to do, and given that you don't have a lot of time, might I suggest doing some research before you go and setting up a plan of attack on where and what you're going to eat. Ie. Read the links above, go from there. ;)
posted by Ahab at 8:41 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more vote for Singapore. I don't know why people are so snobby and downright rude about it. It's a fascinating place. It'd be an even more fascinating place if it genuinely was as soulless and corporate and devoid of culture as people say.

The key thing about Singapore and food is that you can confidently eat anything from any shop or stall because of their stringent food inspection and regulation regime. Not so true of KL and Dubai, I'd suggest.

But it seems like Singapore isn't going to be what you want, so I'd say KL is top of the list. Not KL itself which is polluted and busy and noisy, but there must be somewhere nearby where people go for weekend breaks from KL itself?

Random thought: get off your plane in KL, take a train to Singapore, get back on.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:25 PM on February 23, 2011


Given your clarification, my comments about KL vs. Sinagpore pretty much stand. Mind you, AmbroseChapel is right that you could see both by using the train. There's even a sleeper service which has ensuite toilet and shower in the (affordable) deluxe carriages.

One other anecdotal data point - neither my friend who lived in KL, nor me (two week-long visits there) had any problem with food safety and we're both big fans of street food.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 4:26 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, so I ended up spending a long day in Dubai, and three nights in Singapore.

Dubai: You can see almost everything in one day, from the Burj Khalifa to the various malls, to the old souks. Fun but not very deep, unless you want to go to all the theme parks. Weather was surprisingly temperate, upper 70s-lower 80s with a nice breeze. I would not suggest anyone try to do what I did, where I flew in at 6 AM and flew out at 2 AM. I would highly suggest getting a hotel room and flying out at 8 AM the next day. I was dead tired at around 9 PM.

Singapore: I thought the hawker centers were excellent and had great food and were manageable. It was very easy to get around via the bus and metro. Also liked that it was very clean and proper but then a block away it could get pretty seedy. The malls on Orchard Road and downtown didn't really impress me after seeing Dubai's giant new ones. I stayed at a pretty amazing hostel called Prince of Wales in Boat Quay that was right in the middle of the tourist area and had an amazing view over the river. Oh, and the humidity in April made me want to die, or at least find A/C. At the end of my time, I was ready to leave, and probably wouldn't go back.
posted by smackfu at 11:07 AM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


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