5 days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We flew from Surat Thani into Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia, our first time flying with them. I am known for falling asleep before the plane even takes off but we had pre ordered food and the fight was fairly short and I miraculously stayed awake. We are flying with Air Asia a lot over the next few months, when we finally began arranging our travel, in most instances, flying worked out cheaper than the train and we both decided buses for long journeys were not really an option.
When we land in a country for the first time our new routine is to find a cash machine to get some local money and then get a SIM card, before we leave the airport. Both sorted we were looking around for the taxi voucher concession and came across a uniformed man who when asked, ushered us over to one of those airport people carrying golf carts and proceeded to drive us through the airport to the lifts like we were 80, it was flipping awesome. Voucher bought, loaded into a taxi we were soon on our way into KL, some 45 or so minutes away.
We are staying at The Pacific Express Central Market hotel, chosen for cost, the fact it has a pool on the roof, reviews and location. After some pretty standard airport to city landscape we passed some beautiful buildings before arriving at the hotel. Having been in a lovely bungalow and after the huge room we had for the night in Surat Thani our hotel room was a bit of a shock. Snug is a good word, with twin beds. Which despite the initial reservations have turned out great, I can fidget to my hearts content, no fights for the duvet and we can stretch out blissfully. That’s the upside. The lighting is so poor that in the evening it’s lit like a dodgy bar. The carpet is cleaner the longer we are here and the overpowering stench of durian that emanated from our fridge is finally lessening – both upsides in the long run. Apparently the previous occupants could not read the plentiful signs throughout the hotel wisely forbidding durian on the premises. Sadly we seem to have had at least one stain per towel, some so big we’ve sent for new towels and one of the only 3 power sockets does not work leaving the remaining two for all charging, the kettle and much needed side lamp and worst of all the AC is crapola and the coolest we’ve had it was 23 and that was only once. But there is a pool on the roof and it does have a great location, the staff seem friendly enough and what do we expect the amount we are paying.
We arrived late in the afternoon and with directions from the doorman wandered off to China Town which is a mere five minutes away and had a delicious meal before returning to bed. The China Town here consists of a long cross roads crammed with restaurants and stalls selling fake handbags and watches, T-shirts, dresses and as many selfie sticks as you could ever hope to have. The food was good and the beer was cold and we enjoyed some entertaining people watching while we ate.
On day two we had planned an outing with Food Tours Malaysia which was amazing and you can read about here. We finished the day like true grown ups, with bowls of cereal sitting on our beds in our hotel room.
Day three, my arm was a little swollen still and we had a lazy admin morning in the room before heading off to Jalan Alor, a food street we had been told about. A long, dirty, dusty hot walk later we found it, mostly closed, UGH. Luckily one of those open was serving Hainanese chicken rice, possibly our favourite street food so we sat down for lunch to be joined at the next table by a very chatty man. He told us he runs a large travel agency Golden Destinations and was very keen to know how much everything had cost, our flights, our hotels etc. He also told us not to go back to Jalan Alor in the evening when everything would be open as it was a tourist rip off and only reasonably priced in the day as the workers from nearby ate there, which was a bit disappointing. By the time we walked back to our hotel I felt like I needed an oxygen tank, it’s really hot, and really quite grubby with a lot of traffic. I know it is a capital city and what did I expect. I don’t know really, just not this. We covered a bit more of Central Market before dinner was spent at the Chinese restaurant Charlie had taken us to on our food tour and we had another excellent meal. I think we are putting on a bit of the weight we lost in Thailand and I can’t wait to get out of the city and start eating a little healthier again.
Day four, we were planning to hit the roof terrace, arm well wrapped of course, to catch some sun but it was a bit cloudy so we grabbed a cab to the Islamic Arts Museum instead. Every taxi experience involves telling the driver where you want to go, him giving you a price, you reminding him there is a huge sign on his taxi that says no haggling and that they must use a meter, he grumbles, you wander off and find a driver who will use the meter. A boring and repetitive exercise. We end up paying the honest driver more than the dishonest one wanted on principle. Anyway, back to the museum – what a beautiful experience, we took in a great deal of history and some stunning artefacts, for me it was just the right size. I can’t wander around huge museums all day, I like a few hours then something else, happy to go back and make multiple visits but a whole day of looking at stuff would make my head explode. While we were looking out of the window at something we saw a huge bird, I think it was a crane, soaring around. I’ve never seen a crane/stork/heron or bird of that ilk fly like that, it was so big and graceful and just soaring like an eagle, really lovely to witness. There is a big bird park within a huge botanical garden just next to the museum so we were thinking he had escaped but maybe he was just having a day out. As we left the museum some monkeys were running along the fence, woohoo! we do love a monkey and this was our first Malaysian monkey siting.
After a cab ride to Jalan Telawi, no haggling thankfully and narrowly avoiding being caught in a pile up after a moped that had been swerving in and out of traffic was unsurprisingly hit 2 cars in front of us. Our driver hadn’t seen it and only stopped when Jason was yelling ‘Stop, there’s been an accident!’ the moment it happened as he had been watching the bike weaving. Safely deposited at Jalan Telawi we had a brief fruitless search for a tiny ‘signature’ Swiss Army knife. When we flew from Bangkok to Koh Samui they took mine at customs and I have been looking for a replacement ever since. Lunch consisted of Killer Gourmet Burgers and Inside Scoop Ice cream so we were more than happy. I tried a spoon of the Durian ice cream Fin had recommended, it is such a bizarre flavour, for sure the marmite of fruit but settled on the much tastier salted caramel and Valhrona chocolate. After lunch we headed back to Central Market to finish the top floor, our third and final visit. We had a foot massage at Manjakaki, the room was lovely and JHubz’s was fairly good, the woman doing mine talked to other people the whole time, massively burped and stopped repeatedly to give people money, perpetuating my belief that I always get the duff one.
Next stop was Berjaya Times Square where we were looking for decaffeinated tea for me. I stopped drinking coffee in my mid twenties when after two delicious cappuccinos I noticed my hands visibly shaking and gave up caffeine in tea about five years later. I’ve finished all the decaf tea Ma brought over with her and haven’t been able to find any, until today that is. The supermarket, Cold Storage in the basement of the Berjaya Times Square mall was awesome, we came away with all sorts of ridiculousness, decaf tea, apple jacks cereal, bonne maman cookies, salt and vinegar pringles, ahahaha we are such dorks. We also had a fantastic dinner at Dragon in the basement, a really tasty meal of dimsum before heading back to the hotel. My tattoo is super flakey and I am NOT itching it. We didn’t really shop in the mall but it was HUGE! Ten floors of hundreds of shops, pretty sure you could find just about anything there, except of course a tiny Swiss Army knife.
We have purposefully avoided doing the Petronas Towers and other things, as we are back at the end of September for a week to get our Indonesian visas and will be staying closer to them then.
Day five , this morning, dawned bright and sunny, my arm looks like I have a pretty bad skin disorder, huge flakes of coloured skin peeling away, most attractive, not. You have to let it flake away naturally as peeling it could take off still live skin and affect the colour of the tattoo. I am doing my best to avoid looking at it as the urge to peel and gag is strong. Factor 50 liberally applied and my arm wrapped in a scarf we headed up to the rooftop pool to get some sun for a few hours. It’s a very nice area with not much space around the pool but we managed to snag two of the three chairs and JHubz settled down to write and me to sunbathe. I love love love the feel of the sun on me. For some reason I’ve been thinking about Susan Boyle and watched her audition video poolside, which I cried and laughed through, a great pick me up and a reminder of resilience, for me anyway. I showed it to JHubz when we got back to the room and cried and laughed my way through it again, sigh.
I’m not sure how I feel about KL, I’ve found the taxi haggling tiresome and the way you are followed around in stores a chore. Some of the architecture is breathtaking and if you wanted to shop you would certainly be well catered for. There seem very clear cultural identities. Indian, Chinese and Malay and you pass from areas predominantly one or the other and then into areas where all blend. I’ve also found it to be quite a grubby city with a fair amount of traffic pollution. I’ve witnessed true loveliness in many of the people we’ve met throughout the last week and any return visit in the future would be all about the people.
We leave for Penang tomorrow and will be dining at the first Chinese restaurant we visited tonight, we’ve missed their unbelievably tasty ribs Xx
We’ve had fruit most days for breakfast and the photo above is of a rather spectacular dragon fruit we had one day.