Published: March 2nd 2011February 15th 2011
Street kids, beggars, hagglers, hawkers and rip-off merchants shaped our entrance into Kuala Lumpar. 'It is how it is', we were told, and so we tried instead to see the charm hiding behind the poverty, but you cannot completely ignore and not be affected by it.
We had opted for taking the local bus from Singapore across the border- the tourist bus cost 30 SGD direct to Kuala Lumpar, but the local bus only 2.40 SGD to get to the border town in Malaysia where we could apparently get another bus onwards to the capital. We were informed by the helpful lady in our hostel that we should take the local bus if we 'fancied an adventure' which of course we did. As it turned out the local bus was completely adequate; an air conditioned carriage with plently of legroom, padded seats and flat screen TVs, great for the hours journey to cross the border.
Immigration leaving Singapore was as expected; incredibly efficient with around 50 counters, no queuing- we were through in seconds. The building deserves a mention too as it was really quite spectacular for an immigration office. Obviously as we got back on the bus towards
Malaysia we were a little surprised to see that immigration there tried to trump Singapore, and it was similar, with an impressive structure and numerous counters. But that is where it stopped, Malaysia was a world apart, and this was apparent pretty much immediately as we pulled up at the bus terminal in Johor Bahru and were hounded by groups of men fighting between themselves for our custom, trying to carry our bags and grabbing us, practically pushing us over to the ticketing offices to buy tickets at their companies. We asked a lady in a ticket booth what the standard price was for a ticket to Kuala Lumpar as the men behind us desperately waved their fingers at her.
The culture change didn't stop there. We met a Malaysian man on the bus who kept asking questions about where we were from and what we do. When we told him we both had degrees and were intending to work, he questioned Katie on who would clean and cook. He was serious and could not fathom that women have just as equal right to work as men. This opinion was strange considering how many women we saw working when
we reached KL, both in high end jobs in offices in KL Sentral, and in the markets and as street vendors.
We pulled up at a service station for a break, and Katie had her first experience of a squat toilet. She couldn't understand why the floor was flooded and there was a hosepipe hooked up next to her. We later realised that this hose pipe contraption was meant to be used instead of toilet paper. She soon forgot about this when she saw the prices of things in the station; only around 15p for a bottle of water. This was a welcome surprise.
We arrived into Kuala Lumpar around 10pm in the dark, to a parking lot filled with hawkers and stray dogs. We shunned the taxi drivers trying to rip us off as we made to find out where we were. We found a metro line filled with names we could not read nor understand, so took our chances and headed towards KL Sentral. We had to change metro lines, and as we did we saw a McDonalds outside. Luke needed to check his emails to see if his friend had send him the address of
his apartment, as we were hoping to stay with him for the duration of our stay. We were completely astounded at the prices of Mcdonald's meals; 10 ringgits for a meal (4.8 ringgits to the pound). We had a quick fix and were relieved to find that we could stay with Luke's friend. A short metro ride later we were in KL Sentral and heading towards his apartment that he shared with his girlfriend. We were a little lost as the area is built up very high but fortunately a Dutch and Malaysian gay couple lead the way for us.
Wow- and what a luxurious place. The first time in four months where we were in homely surroundings, with a real bed. We introduced ourselves (as the girls had not met) and Cathal took us to see what the complex had to offer. He explained to us that the number 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese, so there was no floor 14, or 24 etc only 13a and 23a. KONE probably had a right laugh at that nonsense. Cathal took us to the top foor which was called 38, but was probably more like the 42nd, and therefore the
same height as the Latino Tower in Mexico City. On the top floor it was really swanky with well landscaped areas and glass ballustrades overlooking the whole of the city. There was also a gym with floor to ceiling windows, 270 degree views. We were mega impressed. We were then shown the 7th floor which housed a 50m swimming pool, decking area, sunbeds, and another gym. After being completely wowed we headed to bed completely delighted at the kindness of Cathal and his girlfriend, and planning the following day.
The next day we decided to try out the top floor gym, but were both extremely disappointed in how unfit we have become. We had already read the same on various other blogs but didn't want to believe it would happen to us. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we couldn't work the air conditioning! After we took a nice swim in the pool where we found that the burkini (Sex and the City 2) actually does exist, and is used in Malaysia. We showered and headed out, not wanting to lock ourselves away from the sights, but at the same time reluctant to leave the
luxury. We first headed to the Chinese Embassy to find out everything about applying abroad, as we would have to apply for our visas next time we were in the city. We were pretty happy to find out it was a lot cheaper to buy here than back in the UK, and that processing only takes 4 days. After we decided to stop by Central Market which was near one of the main metro hubs. On the way we discovered GroovyGrape the most amazing fizzy pop ever! Anyway, we made it to the market which seemed a bit touristy and well-kept, but was worth a look around. We walked around the area a bit and saw we were near to the local Chinatown, also known as Jalan Petaling, however we were not able to look around as we needed to head back and meet Cathal fo dinner.
Cathal took us our to the main centre of KL, which is characterised by Bintang Walk. We took a road off Bintang to a street of food vendors where we finally felt we were in the true Asia. People were calling us over left right and centre, but we finally settled on
a place that Cathal frequents. We ordered sting ray, chicken satays, sweet and sour pork, and another beef dish, all from different restaurants who were fighting to get their menus on our table. Dinner was served with chopsticks. We were also served beers by scantily clad girls, although they were pretty expensive being in a Muslim country. Dinner was really good although we suspected we were heavily overcharged for the food. After a few more beers we headed back to the apartment for a good night sleep.
The following day we spent mostly using the wifi trying to sort out a massive problem with the bank who seem to be constantly updating security so much so that you can't even access your own accounts. After a stressful afternoon we took the metro over to Chinatown, where we browsed in the markets and shops. We noticed a fair few beggars with missing limbs/ deformities in the street which was a bit upsetting, but other than that the market was pretty good. After we decided to head to Bintang for dinner and a proper wander round. Foot massaging places lined pretty much the whole of the Bintang street which we found
a bit weird; after all, at home not many people like either touching feet or having their feet touched. After the market we headed back to the apartment for a nighttime swim which was pretty nice.
The following day we didn't do a lot, we just ran some errands, then went out for dinner with Cathal to the 'soho' of Kuala Lumpar. We went to a traditional fish and chip place where we had battered chicken sausage (no pork) with delicious mash. The next day we had our first Air Asia flight to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, which we were in anticipation of. After a few more beers we called it a night and headed back.
We were intending to wake early to visit the Petronas Towers but couldn't get up, so decided to leave it until next time we were in the city. We took the 8 ringgit bus to the Air Asia terminal, eagerly awaiting the beaches to come.
There are more photos below