Thursday, May 6, 2010

Malaysia Holiday Day 1-2: Kuala Lumpur

Sorry for the delay in my update, we had some internet access issues in the hotel but they're sorted now :)

Our holiday got off to a bit of a rocky start.  When we arrived at the airport (early, because the airport transfer was early), we were told there "might be a delay due to weather": it was pouring with rain and there was really low cloud over Coolangatta.  Waiting at our gate, about the time we should have been boarding, we realised the plane we should have been leaving on hadn't landed yet.  Every half an hour or so after that, they told us it would be another half an hour.  After 3 hours, they gave us a $10 food voucher, which of course doesn't buy much in the airport cafe.  I waited in line behind most of the rest of the people who were also on our flight for nearly an hour, and was right near the front of the queue when our plane FINALLY landed.  The whole crowd waiting cheered and burst into applause.  But of course I couldn't order anything with my $10 vouchers, so I had to just grab muffins.  Later on, when we finally arrived at the hotel, we discovered that our luggage had been left sitting in the rain at Coolangatta, because everything inside it was damp.

So anyway, we got to Kuala Lumpur international airport and the dude waiting to pick us up said our hotel (the Dorsett Regency) driver had already left because the wait was so long, and that he was from another hotel, but he was going to take us anyway, but if the police at the checkpoint asked, we were staying at the Concorde, because that was where he was registered.  Then  he put his seatbelt on and  drove up to the police checkpoint on the way out of the airport.  Luckily we didn't get asked because I didn't really want to lie!  After we were through the checkpoint, he took off his seatbelt.  And then drove at 140km/h most of the way to KL.  Apparently road rules are more suggestions than rules here.  He sped, he tailgated, he didn't indicate, he didn't wear his seatbelt, he wove in and out of traffic: I was trying not to stress out but there were some very harrying moments!  But we made it to the hotel in one piece.  When we got here I said, "Oh, this is it here," and he said "Uh huh, fast ah?" to which I didn't respond :P

By now it was nearly 10pm and we had been up for 18 hours and lost our afternoon of shopping, so we walked out of the hotel and found a street vendor area nearby and bought char kway teow.  The guy thought we were American and wanted us to pay $7 US, but I insisted we pay in Ringgit and paid just under RM8 for both of us.  Which is about $2.50 AUD or US.  $2.50 for both of us for a delicious, filling dinner!  I have no idea what was in it and don't want to know - we both survived with no ill effects and that's all that matters :)

This morning (Wednesday) we got up at 6am and had breakfast in the hotel, which was pretty average, before getting a taxi to the Petronas Towers to get our free ticket to the Skybridge, the bridge that connects the towers about halfway up.  We got there just before 8am and the queue was already really long.  The counter opened at 8:30am and by the time we got to the front it was around 9am and we couldn't get any tickets before 2pm.  So we bought them for 4:45pm.  If you want to get into the Skybridge early in the day, you need to get there really early!

We had most of a day to kill so we decided to do the China Town walk in our Lonely Planet Malaysia book. We took the subway around to where the walk started (my first ever subway ride!) and promptly got lost when we got off at our station.  We walked back and forth a bit before we figured out where we were, but while we were doing that this old guy stopped us and asked if we needed help, but of course we said no because we would have had to pay him.  There are beggars everywhere, but almost as bad are the people trying to sell you stuff or charge you for services.  It's very competitive and we keep getting asked if we want a taxi, or to eat, or to buy something, or whatever.

Wandering through China Town was amazing: we started in a little street filled with Indian shops and the smells and sounds were overwhelming.  There are sewer and subway vents everywhere but over the top of those smells are the incense, the food, the flowers: so many smells!  Partway through the walking tour the book told us to duck down an alley to get to the Sze Ya Temple, the oldest Taoist temple in KL.  It really was an alley and we would never have known it was there if we hadn't had the book.  The temple was gorgeous and ornate and we were really happy we had the book!  We made a donation inside and then on the way out a guy sitting by the gate tried to tell us we had to pay him RM1 admission, nice try dude, we told him we'd paid inside :)

After that we went into the central market and wandered around the stalls and got some local crafts including a headscarf and pin for me.  There were so many stalls, some of them trashy (like Vic Park in Auckland), but also lots of local crafts, batik, saris, cheongsams, and hijabs.  Carrying on the walking tour, on the way to the next temple we spotted a tea shop and ducked in.  The tea sets were beautiful and the sample of tea they gave us was so delicious we bought some to go with our new tea set.  It's locally made and very pretty, with teeny little cups.  Then we visited a couple more temples, including one that had a sign that specifically said that entrance to the temple was free, and that anyone trying to charge us something outside was a scammer.

Our walking tour over, we went to the Purple Cane Tea Restaurant and had beef and dragonfruit with green tea sauce and iced lemon black tea for lunch, both of which were delicious.  Then we jumped on the monorail to go to the Tourism Centre.  The monorail was packed, I was pushed right in between a group of people and we got separated, and as people got on we slowly got pushed further away from each other and the doors and I started getting worried.  But then one stop before we were getting off, a whole crowd got off (I think it was the stop near one of the big malls), and we could move back together to the door so we didn't miss our stop.

We wandered over to the Malaysian Tourist Centre which is in an old mansion and beautiful, and picked up some maps and used the clean, modern, Western-style bathrooms!  Then we realised that we were not really that far from the Petronas Towers, and decided to just walk there instead of heading back to the train.  We explored the Suria KLCC (the shopping centre below the towers) but didn't really buy much, because it was almost all international brands and international prices.  There were some very high-class stores there, but I was scared to even look because I knew we wouldn't buy anything!

By now we were both getting pretty footsore and so we sat down for an iced chocolate (for me) and iced green tea (for him) and relaxed for a bit.  Then we went down to the Skybridge souvenir shop and picked up some postcards and playing cards.  By now it was time to go to our Skybridge tour.  When we went into the waiting area this creepy guy asked Dave something, I think he was asking if we wanted to sell him our ticket, but I'm not sure and that seemed odd because a) he already had a ticket for himself, and b) the ticket has your nationality on it and he was Indian, not Australian.  But anyway, we just moved away from him and looked around the displays before they called us for the tour, which of course started with a promotional video for Petronas.  Then it was up in the 40-second elevator ride to the Skybridge, about 175m above street level.  The view was pretty good but also pretty smoggy, it was still pretty neat though.  But the creepy guy kind of followed us as we moved around and asked Dave to take photos of him a few times.  Once our tour was over we went back down and looked at the Tesla coil display, which basically has this huge model of the towers and a big Tesla coil to simulate a lightning storm over the towers,  It was neat, but the creepy guy got Dave to take a photo of him again, which kind of spoiled the enjoyment.

After all this we were pretty tired, so we got a taxi back to the hotel and tried to book for the revolving restaurant at the top of the Menara KL, but unfortunately they were booked out, so we booked for tomorrow and decided to go to Bijan instead, which was recommended in our Lonely Planet book and serves Durian Cheesecake.  Bijan was fantastic: Malaysian food in a fancy restaurant but still not too expensive.  We had satay for entree, lamb for one main and chicken and jackfruit for the other, and wild fern for the vegetable.  The fern was interesting and quite good.  There was plenty of food and we couldn't finish it all, but Dave was determined to eat his Durian Cheesecake, so we got a slice to share.  Neither of us have had Durian before and I'm yet to find one here, so we weren't sure what to expect.  It was edible, but totally different from anything we'd eaten before and we decided that we didn't really like it.  So we're in no hurry to have raw Durian now :)

Now we're back at the hotel and exhausted and footsore, with another big day tomorrow!  There's still so much to see in KL that we've decided not to go to Melaka, we'll have to do that next trip, because I'm sure we'll be back.  Tomorrow we're going to go to the Lake Gardens, where there is a butterfly garden, bird garden, orchid garden, and hibuscus garden, as well as the National Monument and Islamic Arts Museum.  After that we'll head out to the Batu Caves and explore the Hindu shrine there, before heading back into KL for dinner at Menara KL.  Then Friday we do some more shopping before it's off to Penang!

KL is amazing: pockets of beauty intermixed with pockets of ugly, pockets of history mixed with pockets of shiny-new.  There is trash, police, smells, beggars, and pushy sales people everywhere.  I love it!


  1. This thing ate my comment!!!

    Brain worm food! Can't believe you ate from a street vendor! Next you'll jump in the river.

    Tell the people hucking stuff you want to eat a taxi and see what they do.

    "There is trash, police, smells, beggars, and pushy sales people everywhere. I love it!" You are totally failing at listing positives in that sentence. Those are reasons to HATE it. Just thought I'd point it out :P The prior wont works better. :)

  2. I'm so happy you are enjoying your honeymoon/asian adventure! I'm also glad you have slowed down the blogging for a lil bit & hopefully enjoying yourself way too much..enjoy & cant wait to see all your photos!!!!!