Finally after my 67th B'day the day has come to the second leg of the journey. While the South American trip was a novice experience with all its surprises I am expecting nothing like that from this trip. The good thing is that as I am expecting less there will be less of a disappointment if it does not turn out to be as fantastic. Who knows this trip may still hold some revelations. I had one most pleasant surprise already; on my B'day a long lost friend who was my best mate at the primary school managed to track me down after 50 years. The wonders of modern technology !. We had been catching up with each others life stories over the web for the last couple of days. Thanks PJ for looking me up.
The Emirates flight from Dublin was very pleasant and was one of the most comfortable of my flights todate. The Boing 777 was quite and spacious with sufficient leg and elbow room (at least for me) and if the 787 is an improvement on this it shoud be a good challenger to the A380 even though that is targetting a different market segment. As
there was a couple of seats vacant beside me I could also stretch out and take a nap for a couple of hours after a tasty meal and two small bottles of red. Even though they started half an hour late and had to hover over Dubai due to traffic congestion they still managed to get us to Dubai almost on time. The stop in Dubai was less than 2 hours. Most of that time was taken with getting off the flight, negotiating a route to the the new flight gate and having a small browse through the famous "duty free". It was soon time for the flight to Chennai. This was a shorter affair of less than 4 hours. Again the aircraft was a Boing 777 but a slightly older version given away only by the size of the seat video screens and related software. This time there was a scrambled egg breakfast and fruit juice and after another small nap we were ready for landing in Chennai by 0745hrs, half an hour ahead of schedule. As usual there were long queues at the immigration, but were moving fairly fast and went through customs without incident. Francis and Akhil
(driving) came to pick me up in their new VW which is a quality car by Indian standards. The problem with a/c cars in places like Chennai is the thermal shock when you get out of them, especially if you have a temperature difference of more than 10º C between inside and out. After a day in Chennai with some rest and a couple of showers and some good food by Sicy we started early for the airport to catch the flight to Kuolalumpur , KL as locals refer to.
This is the first time I am going to the east of India and also the first time with AirAsia. The flying experience was good for a budget airline. They even had reclining seats !. It was on time and it was better than Ryanair in the treatment of passengers. The ambience in the A320-200 was more akin to similar Aerlingus flights. Was served a delicious meal which was had been bought along with the ticket. Coming down to land in KL the ground looked as a dark green carpet. As we got closer to the ground I thought the vegitation was coconut trees (memories of landing in the
old Kochi airport). I realised they were planted oil palm trees only when we were heading to the city center on the bus. In KL the heat of the Sun was mitigated by the cool breeze from the sea and it turned cool and cloudy towards the evening. After the oppressing heat of Chennai this was a welcome relief. The international airport was more than one hour away from the city by bus. A comboination of bus and a taxi to the hotel was the most economical and efficient way of getting to the city center hotel from the airport. I was some what disappointed with the hostel as it had no windows to the outside and was reeking of cigarette smoke.
In the hotel I met Niall a An Post employee from Dublin. We decided to go out and have a couple of beers. We walked a couple of blocks looking for a bar, found none, so, decided to get a couple of cans and use the chairs in front of an office (use was consented by the office). Here we were sitting on the roadside in KL drinking cans of Heinekin and taking about life in Ireland
as two old chums. As Niall had to get the flight back home early in the morning and I had very little sleep the previous night we had to call it a day early.
I could buy a ticket for the hop-on-hop-off city tour at the hotel a couple of ringits cheaper than in the bus. They also gave me directions to the nearest stop and a map. The walk took me by the China Town. I did two rounds of the city in the bus. For the first round I stayed on the bus, for the second I got down in the more interesting places where I could have one hour before the next bus arrived. By the time of the second round it was getting very hot. Even the a/c in the bus could not handle the heat and it was pleasant to get of the bus, at least there was a breeze outside. At the end of the first round I went back into the China Town market which of course was a bustling place and continued to one of the more important Hindu temples in Malaysia. The temple towers were decorated with a lot of
statues of gods and goddesses. A couple of stops later we had chance to go to the National Palace for about 15 minutes and continue on the same bus. The areas around Botanic Garden and the Bird Park were very green and beautiful as being in a conservation areas. I also visited the National Art Gallery with some interesting paintings and sculptures. It is housed in an Malayan version of the Sydney Opera House. The last place was TM tower which is the second tallest after Montreal. From the observation deck you could see the whole of KL. I, along with a lot of people waited on the deck until the Sun went down and we had a beautiful view of "KL by night". As all the people would be trying to get into the few buses available, I decided to walk to the hotel which was only two KM away.
Next morning on the advice of the hostel owner decided to visit Batu Caves. These were just outside the city limits and only requited a 75p bus ride. I could have been really missed something worthwhile if I had not done it. The major cave housed a Muruga
temple and there was a huge golden statue of Murugan on the outside (was the biggest statue of a hindu diety in the world i am told).Then there were about 350 steep steps leading to the cave. Going a further few stepsdown and up again there was the main temple. There were also temples of minor dieties inside the cave and outside. It is a shame that nobody is taking enough care and maketting
it to its potential. The place was left to venders to ply their trade and does not induce the repect it deserves. I also went to the "dark cave" which was conservation area to protect its lightless eco system. Here you need to wear a helmet (to protect the head from bat droppings). The guide gave us a lot of info and there were a lot of stalactites etc formed in particular beautiful shapes.
For lunch there was a South Indian Veg restaurant at the bottom of the hill where I had a meal on banana leaves for about €1.80. While we were inside the cave it had rained but, the humidity was still making you sweat. Caught the bus back, got down before
the terminus and walked to the twin towers for a few pictures. I did not go up to the gallery of the tower as I was already been to the top of the Telecom tower which had at least the same height and probably a better view. Walking back to the hostel called into the Irish Pub on the way for a pint of guinness. It was not bad at all and tasted like in Ireland. I met Jason here who was from near Belfast and he insisted on buying me the pint. He had started working here in the oil industry only three months ago and is still looking for a flat to stay in. Collected the luggage from the hostel, again used the taxi and bus option to get to the airport early.
Kualalumpur was not exactly what I thought it would be. It is a cosmopolitan city. The ethnic mix of Malays, Tamils and the Chinese made it a liberal city in a Muslim country. It must be this diversity that helped Malaysia not to become a hotbed for Islamism and helped it to progress better than most of her neighbours. The land itself is fertile
beatiful and green, the daily rains almost all around the year must be the reason. There is good diversity between the two coastlines and the backbone of hills. I was worrying sick that I had a mistake in the stop over but looking back it was well worth it. Looking forward to New Zealand...
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