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Published: April 17th 2011
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Phuket on our Air Asia flight about 2 hours behind schedule, which put us on the tarmak around 1:30am. As Air Asia is a 'discount' carrier, we landed at the 'discount' terminal, which means we got to literally walk about 2km across the tarmack of the airport to get to immigration and our luggage.
Once we're all settled and through customs, the bus to the city is easily availalbe for about 8 'Malaysians'. We don't know what 'Malaysians' are called yet! We found out later they are called Ringgets 😉 the bus ride is about 75 km, or 1.5 hours driving on the great and plentiful highways in KL.
The bus drops us off at KL Sentral, which is supposed to be the main 'downtown' station for the subway, bus system and metro lines. We manage to catch a cab for a ridculous amount of 35 Malaysians (about $10) We find out it takes 10 Ringgets to cross the city, we went about 5 blocks for 35. Anyways, at 3am, the cab takes us direct to our hotel that we booked the day before on Agoda.com, a South-Asian hotel booking
website. Luckily, the front desk is still open and we can check-in.
After a sleep-in for a few hours, we start out on our Lonely Planet-aided adventure. Neither of us know much about KL because we've been so busy at our previous destinations to do much research so the Lonely Planet "South East Asia on a Shoestring" that we bought a good photocopy of in Vietnam comes in handy.
Our first stop is Chinatown, which is just next to the hotel. As we step out the front door, we instantly melt down to the sidewalk, it's about 40 degrees with 100% humidity. It's going to be a sweaty day. Scratch that, our first stop is a ridiculously air conditioned 7/11 for a large bottle of water.
The main street in Chinatown, which is also a very large market, is ingeniously covered by a sunroof, which works very well at keeping the blazing sun out of the shops. My big score is a Casio digital watch, complete with alarm, flashy lighting and stopwatch, all for about $1.50CAD. It reminds me of a watch I had as a kid, which is cool. I was going to get 'gold' but
Trung convinced me to get 'Silver'. Parenthesis because it's silver covered plastic, but still good!
After our little Chinatown adventure which included delish $1.50 Mee soup lunch in a VERY local soup stand, we headed over to KL Sentral again (turns out to be 1 stop on the train, which is only 1 Ringget, not 35, as the cab the previous night charged us...
At KL Sentral we find the inter-city train station and book our outgoing tickets to Singapore on a premium class sleeper for $19CAD, the train will travel the 750km from 11pm to 7am in three days time.
When we leave KL Sentral, we decide to walk to the large park in the middle of the city to see Parliament, the Independence Monument, the Bird Park and generally wander in the (hopefully) cool park on a hot day. On the way out of KL Sentral, Trung and I find ourselves on a highway exit ramp somehow, which goes to show just how pedestrian-unfriendly this city is. It's all highways, subways and parks, and there really isn't any way to get from one to the other by walking.
The park is amazing, everything is
well manicured and it goes on forever. At one point there's a water cistern on the side of the road with a few dozen monkeys playing in the water, amazing!
The first stop is the largest covered free-flight bird park in the world, something I'd seen in the lonely planet, and also in the blog of some people I'd been following. It's about $11CAD, so Trung decides to skip it, but I jump in to see the birds.
To enter, I travel through a double set of doors and a curtain of chains, to keep the birds from escaping. The park is about 10 acres, covered by tall poles and netting. The birds are allowed to roam free and fly all over, it's really amazing to see the different types of tropical birds flying all around me. At one point there is a flock of whooping cranes eating a pile of fish on the trail in front of me. Around the corner is a peacock with it's feathers in full show, doing a mating dance for another peacock.
After the bird park, Trung and I walk to the Independance Monument, which is more like a war memorial.
Street around Chinatown
Thank God for 7-11! Air Conditioning!!!
It is designed beautifully, and gives us a nice place to sit and get out of the blazing heat of the city.
By this time, it's about 6pm, so we head back to Chinatown to get some amazing street food. There is a 'food court' with vendors all around. For about $4CAD we have dinner, I get a delish mutton curry with roti and a naan and decide to eat like the locals, picking up the rice and mutton with with naan, no knives and forks! Sometime I'm going to have to practice for Southern India and just eat the rice with my hands...maybe later 😉
After such an amazingly hot day, Trung and I end up falling asleep early from heat stroke and wake up early for another adventure. Today we're going to do as the Lonely Planet describes: 'eating and shopping are the two most popular things to do in KL.'
We head down to the subway station and catch a train to KLCC, the subway stop beneath the Petronas Towers. I'm excited because I've learned about these amazing towers in Uni (still the world's tallest twins). Upon exiting to the street level I turn
180 and look up, up, way up at the shiney stainless steel and glass cladding. So cool.
The buildings have an impressive, 7 storey mall that connect them, so Trung and I (after our photo shoot in front) go inside to cool off. Remember, it's still 40 degrees, especially in the concrete jungle in front of the towers, with the sun reflected into our eyes.
After we get our fill of the Petronas towers, we head to the monorail station to head south to the main entertainment district. The monorail takes us around and through the neighbourhood, and we exit at 'Times Square' mall, the 13th larges mall in the world. When you walk into this mall, there is a Center, East and West wing, each with about a 15 storey atrium with stores around the ring. On the 1st and 5th floor, the floor space is continuous, so the atrium is split into two. When Trung and I finish the first 4 floors and come up to the 5th, we're greeted with a huge marketplace of booths selling watches, wallets, belts, t-shirts and whatever else. Also, as we look up to the additional 10 floors of shopping,
we're both equally exhausted from the sight.
At the same time as discovering this shopping extravaganza on the 5th floor, I hear a distant rumbling and screaming. That's right, theres a roller-coaster in this mall! We head over to the theme park that extends from the 5th to 12th floor, and gaze at the maze of rides and playground equipment, surrounded by a twisting mass of bright orange steel.
There's a swedish couple eyeing the front entrance to the coaster. Given that Trung doesn't want to go and the girlfriend in the Swedish couple doesn't want to go either, the Swedish guy and I pay the fee ($10) and try to make our way to the start of the coaster. After two elevators and an escalator, we find the start and hop on. It's a dizzying ride around and through the other rides, but only lasts about 45 seconds, but it's pretty cool anyways. Never have been on a roller coaster in a mall, so check that off the list of things to do on the trip!
That evening after dinner, I decide to take a stroll to KL Tower, which rises above the rest of the
city on a large hill downtown. The hill is actually a national park and is very nice to walk through. The tower is similar to the CN Tower in Toronto, with a distinctive Malaysian flair, it looks like a traditional Malay spinning top.
After the KL Tower, which I walked around the base of because it was closed, I headed over to KLCC to see Petronas again, this time glittering under the gigantic spotlights that surround the building. The sight is pretty beautiful, the buildings look like two jewels in the night, however, all I can think about is the amount of power the spotlights must be wasting in a country of brown-outs and drowning ancient rainforests for hydro power... anyways, I digress, it was a great night to wander, and much cooler than the daytime!
The following day we reserve for cultural experiences, and head over to the National Mosque. Apparently because we were wearing shorts, a nice lady at the entrance gives both Trung and I bright purple floor-length robes with long wizard sleeves and hoods. Amazing.
The mosque is beautiful with gleaming white foors and sky-blue ceilings. It's huge inside, with space for thousands
of people. The mosque was designed in the 60's, and the main sanctuary is made to look like a gigantic umbrella, pretty cool.
Our train leaves at 11pm, so after the mosque we head over to Chinatown for one last early dinner before getting our bags at the hotel and catching the subway to KL Sentral. We had found our platform earlier, so it wasn't a big deal getting there, however after announcement upon announcement, we discover that our train is an hour late departing. At 12:30am we're on the train and it's finally moving! The bunks are huge, about 1m wide, and longer than 6ft long, which is nice. There are no cabins, just double bunks running the length of the train with an aisle in the middle. Each bunk gets a personal curtain which you can attach to the ends of the bunk from the inside. All in all it's not too shabby! At some points in the night, I'm woken up by the extremely fast sections of train track, apparently there are hills between KL and Singapore!
At about 6am we stop at the Malay side of the border and a customs officer boards the
train. They lock the bathrooms and then work their way down the train. The 'stamp' on my passport is simple red ink from a pen, by a man writing "LIB 03-27-11". Which isn't really a stamp at all, is it!?
On the Singapore side, 20 minutes later, we have to get out of the train into the newish customs office. The passport controller asks me a few simple questions, which is more than anyone has said to me during any customs experience thus far.
The train continues on for another hour to cross the island country of Singapore and drops us at the vintage Singapore train station. It's soon to be demolished in favour of another station, so I'm glad we came when we did... until we left the station and realized we were in the middle of knowhere!
After some wandering, which I'm sure I'll describe in detail in the next blog, we eventually found a good budget hotel and explored the brilliant city-state of Singapore! But otherwise, that's all for now!
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