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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Malaysia: Hop-On Night Excursion Kuala Lumpur


Hop On Hop Off double decker tour bus service doesn’t really need much of an introduction. Whenever you travel to any big cities of the world, especially top tourist destinations, you’re bound to find or bump into one, plying around the city, bringing tourists to various sights and attractions. Kuala Lumpur is no different. I have tried the Hop On Hop Off service in Kuala Lumpur at least a couple of times and have also used & written Why You Should Consider Hop On Hop Off Penang.

They were however not my first experience with Hop On Hop Off. My first time with Hop On Hop Off was in Dubai, UAE, when a friend from Kuala Lumpur came over to visit me for a weekend one summer. This was before the Dubai Metro system was completed so our options to travel around the city were limited to taking taxi rides, which could be quite expensive. Due to this fact, and the time constraint, we decided to take the Hop On Hop Off Dubai Night Tour. It was quite expensive (by our standard, but not so much when we considered the alternative, i.e. taxi rides) but it was easy, convenient, comfortable (sitting in an air-conditioned bus vs. walking around or waiting for taxis in high humidity), informative (as it was a guided tour), and saved us a lot of time too.

In other words, it was just perfect for us.

I was therefore rather pleased to find out recently that there is actually a similar service, i.e. a night tour, with Hop On Hop Off Kuala Lumpur, called Hop-On Night Excursion, and was rather excited to try it out for myself.


Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC)



Hop-On Night Excursion starts at around 4.30 in the afternoon from Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC) in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. The place is within walking distance from Petronas Twin Towers, and easily accessible from other public transport options like the Monorail (Bukit Nanas Station) and LRT (KLCC or Dang Wangi Stations). I was there by 4 and managed to walk around the area for a bit and took some photos too. There is a Tourist Information Centre inside the 80-year old house so if you’d like to find out more about KL or Malaysia in general, this is the place to go too. Hop On Hop Off has an information and ticket counter too in a separate area at MaTiC.


Our double decker bus left MaTiC at 4.30 p.m. and along the way, our English speaking guide shared the stories and anecdotes of some of the places we passed by. We first travelled towards the heritage area of Kuala Lumpur, passing by the old and beautiful KL Railway Station and Masjid Negara (the National Mosque), before stopping at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) where we marvelled at Sultan Abdul Samad Building and other similarly designed heritage buildings in the area like The Textile Museum.

The view from the upper deck of the bus is certainly better from down on the ground.




Kuala Lumpur City Gallery

Our destination here however is Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, located right next to Dataran Merdeka and sandwiched between the Music Museum and Kuala Lumpur Library. One would be hard pressed however to miss the building as there is usually a queue of tourists in front of it waiting to take a photo with the “I Love KL” landmark.


Trivia:
Did you know the meaning of “Kuala Lumpur”?


If you’re a history buff, Kuala Lumpur City Gallery is the place to be. The normal entrance fee, which is already covered in the Hop-On Night Excursion tour price, is RM5. (This however is redeemable against payment at the café inside.) Inside, on the ground floor, you’d learn the history of Kuala Lumpur over the years starting from when it was first established. And then you walk upstairs to watch a quick but interesting show on the city’s past, present and future that is showcased on a long wall next to a 40ft x 50ft KL City Model. As you move back downstairs, you’d pass through a smaller but no less beautiful city model of the heritage area of Kuala Lumpur.

The rest of the place is occupied mainly by a showroom/shop showcasing intricate wood products of Arch (the gallery owner’s business), a café and a small work area where you can see staff working on Arch’s wood models of popular world landmarks. A perfect place if you're looking for some unique & beautiful souvenirs to bring home.





View of Dataran Merdeka, Sultan Abdul Samad Building, and beyond, from the 1st floor


The 40ft x 50ft KL City Model

The stop here at Kuala Lumpur City Gallery took some 20-25 minutes before we hopped onto the bus again for our next destination, which is the Federal Territory Mosque, or locally known as Masjid Wilayah.


Federal Territory Mosque/ Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan



The mosque however wasn’t really a proper stop as we didn’t actually go inside the mosque during the tour. Here, the bus just stopped for around 10 minutes for some photo opp. of the huge mosque with its beautiful Turkish-inspired domes. Personally though, I’d have loved the opportunity to explore more of the architecture of the mosque and take lots of photos of it. Oh well, on another trip, maybe.

When we were there, there were a few school children who have just finished their afternoon religious studies class and were just hanging around, waiting for their parents to pick them up. Some, were curious with foreigners, and some, were more than happy to approach, talk with you and pose for a photo.




Batu Caves



From the mosque, it was quite a drive to Batu Caves, which is located in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, in another state called Selangor. Fret not however, while you enjoy the view of the suburban areas and listening to the guide, you can also spend time online using your smart phone as the bus is equipped with a Wi Fi service. Time for all those check-ins, Facebook status updates, tweets and flooding the timeline of your Instagram followers, folks, haha!


Trivia:
Did you know that Batu Caves is also the place that hosts the world’s largest Thaipusam festival, a Hindu thanksgiving festival, outside of India?


Other than Thaipusam festival, Batu Caves remains popular as a destination throughout the year for the Hindu temples inside the caves as well as the huge Hindu golden statue just outside it. Here we were given some 45 minutes to explore the area and maybe climb the 272-step stairway into the caves. If you decide to climb however, 45 minutes would be just enough time for you to climb up into the caves, see the temples inside and walk down back to the bus. As you walk up and down the stairways though, there’d be plenty of “distractions” that come in the form of monkeys – one would be well advised not to bring any food or loose handbags/purse/jewellery.

They are admittedly however quite photogenic, and you might end up spending more time taking photos of them than walking around inside the caves, heh!



Don't ask me what they're up to here.


While you might get distracted by monkeys on the nearby trees, watch out for those little ones on the stairs too!


Half-way through the climb, I noticed this entrance to Dark Cave, a conservation site & natural history gallery. This is something I didn't notice or know at all despite my previous two visits during Thaipusam. It was however closed already for the day so I'd have to check it out on another visit, soon.



KL Tower/ Menara Kuala Lumpur



From Batu Caves, we headed back to the city centre for our last destination, which is KL Tower. Here however, our first stop was Flavours of Malaysia, a small restaurant located at the bottom of the tower, where we had our dinner buffet, which included some popular Malaysian delicacies like nasi lemak and satay.

While we were enjoying our dinner, we were also entertained with a cultural performance by a trio of Orang Asli, or aborigines, from the Semai tribe in Kuala Pilah in the state of Negeri Sembilan. Truth be told, while I’ve travelled around Malaysia for quite a bit and know/have heard of a few aboriginal tribes, I’ve never heard of Semai tribe before so it was quite an eye-opening dinner for me as well.





After about an hour of dinner and entertainment, we were ready to proceed to The Observation Deck of KL Tower that is located some 276 meters above the ground level.


Trivia:
Did you know that, despite it being shorter than Petronas Twin Towers, KL Tower still ends up taller as it is located on a small hill right in Kuala Lumpur city centre?


Tickets to The Observation Deck are included in the package. We were up there just before 9 p.m. and spent some time above enjoying the night view of the city. It was a bit hazy though that night so the view was not as good as I would have hoped. Couple that with reflection that you get from the glass wall, taking good photos of the city from The Observation Deck in the evening was quite a challenge, especially for me, ha ha! Hop-On Night Excursion however also offers an option if you’d like to go further up and enjoy the view from the open observation deck. This however would cost an additional of RM70 per person.





Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC)


After about 25-30 minutes on KL Tower’s Observation Deck, we went down and hopped on our double decker bus again to head back to MaTiC where our Hop-On Night Excursion ended at around 9.45 p.m.



Further information:
  • Ticket price for Hop-On Night Excursion: Adult – RM220; Children – RM150; Senior Citizen – RM200.
  • Ticket includes tour on the double decker bus, entrance fees to Kuala Lumpur City Gallery & KL Tower Observation Deck, buffet dinner at Flavours of Malaysia and an English speaking tour guide.
  • Check their official website: www.hoponholidays.com where they do have some interesting online promotions from time to time!


Personal thought: At first glance, the ticket price might seem a bit high. The tour is definitely not for everybody. Similar to my experience with Dubai Night Tour as mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I believe the excursion would be a great introduction to Kuala Lumpur for those who are on a quick transit, or short on time to travel around Kuala Lumpur but would still like to take in some of its popular sights. It also provides a great option for those who prefer convenience and comfort (i.e. air-conditioned bus with Wi Fi, no queuing for tickets, no need to get on and off public transportation and walk around in the sun/rain, etc.), easy access to information (as it was a guided tour) and complete with local dinner options alongside a cultural performance.

Have you tried Hop-On Night Excursion Kuala Lumpur before? What do you think about it? Or have you tried something similar elsewhere?


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Going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia? Do check out these Kuala Lumpur hotels for your accommodation requirements there.

For other blog entries on Malaysia, click here.


22 comments:

Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. I didn't use hop-on top-off bus when I was in KL, but I enjoyed exploring the city in the evening. Maybe next time this bus would be a good idea to see what I remember after so many years there.

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    1. I quite like using the HOHO bus, especially on a hot and humid day, heh! This tour is different though although it's by the same company, and I think it's good for those who don't have much time in KL or would like to cover these places in just one go. If you have more time in KL, you can easily cover these places (apart from the mosque, which is quite tricky to get by public transport) at a more leisurely pace.

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  2. My family and I didn't use the hop-on hop-off bus while we were in Kuala Lumpur but we definitely should've. It was so hot to get around, it would've been much more comfortable and the price is worth it because of all the other things included. Next time, we'll definitely give it a try.

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    1. Yes, I think for a family, it's definitely a good idea! I remember you were in town during a very bad haze though. That was very unfortunate. Hope you enjoyed the visit nevertheless.

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  3. Oh wow... beautifully taken photos... pray some day I have that talent to take such breathtakingly gorgeous pics like you....

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    1. Oh man, you're too kind-lah, Miera, haha! Thank you, though!
      :)

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  4. The Hop On-Hop Off buses can certainly be helpful in some cities, especially if the public transportation isn't awesome. We were recently in Malta, and the Hop On/Off buses were extremely popular, and ran on a more consistent schedule than a lot of the city buses!

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    1. Yup, you're right! If the public transportation is good, I'd usually opt to do and explore places on my own. I think in Kuala Lumpur though, it's pretty much balanced. It's more of a matter if you want to walk around in the sun/rain and humidity or in an air-conditioned bus, heh!

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  5. Looks like a fun tour! I've tried the hop-on, hop-off bus in a few places with mixed results. It's great to get an overview of a large place (for example we enjoyed a tour in Lisbon). But in a place with a lot of traffic (like Dublin) its not a great option.

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    Replies
    1. Yup, totally agree with you. In some cities, they work. In some others, not really. Probably why it's a good idea to read some reviews before boarding the bus.

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  6. Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan is a hassle to get to on your own, but totally worth it! It's super quiet and they'll happily show you around and let you take a million photos. It's really beautiful!

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    1. You're exactly right! I've been wanting to go there to take (lots of) photos but have been delaying it because it's quite a hassle to get there using the public transportation. I need to make it a point to do this soon!

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  7. I rode the Hop on Hop Off bus in Panama a couple of years ago. It was really worth the price. I like this Hop on Night Excursion. It is a pretty extensive tour and you get to see a lot. The tour is the right length and yes you have to be on the top deck to get the best view.

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    1. I think HOHO bus could be a good idea and a bad idea as well, depending on which cities you actually use it. Anyways for this excursion, I wouldn't say it's extensive but it does go a bit out of the way, all the to Batu Caves. In general though, it does provide a good introduction to Kuala Lumpur.

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  8. I Have used Hop-on-jop-off buses once in Cambridge and once in Oxford. I learned about the cities. I haven't used it in other cities, But I am sure, people can learned about the attractions and history of them by using the bus. the good point is that you can get on and off as many times you want.

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    1. Yes, the option to hop on and hop off without any limit is one of the main appeals of HOHO. You can explore according to your own time and interests while at the same time have some guides around the city, unlike when you go on a group tour where you have to rush through and follow the tour schedule.

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  9. I think this buses make excellent ways to see the major sights around the world. We have used them in Barcelona, Porto, Tallinn and many other cities in Europe. No doubt we will use them again next trip

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    1. I see you're a hard core HOHO user here, ha ha! ;) But it's true, they do provide excellent ways to see major sights around a city without much of a hassle - unless if you get stuck in the traffic. ;)

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  10. I've never been on a hop on hop off tour, but they do seem like they would be convenient and a great way to see a variety of sites! I would love to check out the Batu Caves and the KL Tower. The views from both look fantastic! Sounds like a great evening!

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    1. HOHO can be very convenient and sometimes, it's the better choice than having to walk around under the hot afternoon sun/in the rain. Batu Caves & KL Tower are definitely a must see whilst in KL, although personally I do prefer going up to the Observation Deck at KL Tower in the morning.

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  11. This looked like real fun. I've never tried the Bus before in KL, but I might the next time.

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