kuala lumpur - Where's Byrne?

kuala lumpur

17.07.2011 – 26.07.2011 Sunny 30°C

We’re off. Finally. Four years looking forward to it and two years saving and this is what it has come down to. We left to the predicted tears at Stansted and were bound for KL. The flight wasn’t great. Well in a word. Bad. OK, my girlfriend, (I’ll call her B for anonymity reasons) is nudging me saying it wasn’t that bad. But it was. I now know why people refer to Air Asia as the ‘Asian Ryanair’. Our flight was delayed for 2 hours before we had even set off, but to Air Asia’s credit they did email us to let us know when we were at home and give us a fiver voucher which we put to good use on a Boots meal deal! But the seats were uncomfortable, there were no TVs, something I’ve never experienced on a long haul flight, we paid for extra leg room but didn’t get it, no blankets, absolutely nothing to drink or eat and a constant queue for the toilet – which was less than a foot away from our seats. Fantastic. I didn’t get much sleep either. B kept waking me up, she insists by accident, and she nicked the window seat so had the side of the plane to lean on. Still for £300, can’t complain too much I suppose? Got off the plane and through immigration, slipped through customs, which was nice having been pulled at Stansted due to B’s bag being checked, something she did warn me about because of her terrorist-esque last name. Stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and some Wi-Fi, which I thought was very cheap but having worked it out after, was about the same price as in the UK. Queued for a cab for about fifteen minutes in the 26°C heat (it’s midnight ish now) when the porter – guy informed me we need a ticket. I replied with a ‘na – you’re alright thanks mate’ as I thought it was some scam, when he explained if we didn’t have a ticket from the airport we weren’t going to get a taxi. Begrudgingly I left ‘er in the queue (as collateral) and went to get one. 74RM for one to the centre, I didn’t think that was too bad, (5RM to the £ approximately, so about £15?) Forty-five minutes and some white knuckles later we arrived at our hotel. The guy managed a ‘Hello’ and that was the extent of his English, still, better than my Malaysian I suppose!

Hotel was great, shame it was now knocking on 1am. They stuck us on the 14th floor but the lifts were sharpish. I was starving as the last thing I ate was the tasty Boots sarnie back at Stansted so we went out in search of grub. Found a real traditional ‘restaurant’, I would later find out this is referred to as a ‘Hawker’ (garden chairs and plastic cutlery) but it was fantastic. Rice, Chicken, Pork, Veggies and some stock, oh and a can of Coke. 18RM (£4).

Got sorted in the morning and moved to another hotel as the last one was fully booked for the rest of the week. It was 100RM per night (£20). Free Wi-Fi and air con so not bad, or so we thought.

Peculiar mix in KL that time of year. It’s a bit like being in the middle east, what with the amount of women (I presume they are woman) walking about in Burka’s. It’s Arab peak season and it shows. B and I stopped to take some pictures of each other with a busy crossroads in the background of a busy KL (think Piccadilly) when this guy and his ‘pillar-box’ came up and asked if I could take a photo of them too. I agreed. They stood in place and I snapped away. After the camera went off you usually get a preview of the picture you just took don’t you? Hilarious. I was trying not to laugh but I’d just taken a snap of a middle eastern guy and a black suited Iron Man. What’s the point? He could have stood with a cardboard cutout for all anyone who sees the picture would know. I thought when you wear these things you’re allowed to see, I.E. exposing the eyes but this poor woman didn’t even have the luxury of that. She had a slit to look out of. I was going to ask her if B could borrow it as she’s so concerned about burning!

Petronas Towers. First attempt at the Petronas Towers didn’t go well, they had let their limit of people in for the day. 1600 max. Bit weird limiting it as there were loads of tourists wanting to go up with us. Consoled ourselves with a nice doughnut (or six) on the way home at J Co’s Coffee and Donut. Bloody lovely. I do love a doughnut. Tiramisu, an Oreo, a Berry, a Chocolate oozie one, an almond one and something else that was so nice I didn’t even taste it! I didn’t have them all though, old dustbin chipped in with her paws ‘helping me out’. Will try the Petronas again.

We went to see Transformers 3 at the cinema, (£1.60 each) which was good. Their popcorn leaves a lot to be desired though. The cinema behind the Petronas is in a massive shopping centre which means I would get caught for a Starbucks on the way out by B.

By now we’d seen places to stay a lot cheaper than our £20 a night room we were in so thought we’d better move, and what better place than to Chinatown? Off we went hunting for a new hotel. There were plenty to choose from but we stumbled across one run by an Indian fella for 70RM (£14) a night bang in the centre of Chinatown. We booked two nights and declined to see the room when he asked us, schoolboy error and we certainly learned our lesson. Up we went to the 6th floor and down the corridor only to find a broom cupboard with our door number on it. We opened the door to show a 5 x 7 foot space with an attached 4 x 3 bathroom. The bed was a 4 footer and I could just about touch both walls just by stretching my arms out. The TV didn’t work and the plug sparked when you touched it, the toilet didn’t flush properly and that night was bloody noisy from all the piss heads getting in late. To top it off B went for a shower in the morning, successfully but when it was my turn there was no hot water. Great. We vowed there and then to never book more than one night at a time without seeing the room. The name of the place slips my mind but it was something like Anthurya and it had a vertical red and white sign on the balcony of floor four to make it easily seen by tourists. Avoid.

The next night we went to see a friendly between Chelsea and a Malaysian XI which was good. Although B was right about the locals being way too excited, clapping everything, from throw-ins to random appearances on the big screen. They also couldn’t make up their minds who to support as they were applauding all chances at both ends. Torres was as sharp as a rubber. We were lucky to even get in actually with us only having 200RM (£40) on us, I thought that would be more than enough but when we arrived they only had 108RM (£21) tickets left. We’d had it. I hung about the ticket office when by complete chance and of all people an English guy – from London, who said he was a Spurs season ticket holder, offered us a spare he had for 60RM (£12). We had 175RM (£35) on us after the train, dinner and other bits and bobs. The seats were a free for all he told me too (I am now thinking this is too good to be true) but snap up the ticket anyway as this was our only chance to both get in and go to buy a 108RM one. We now have two tickets for 168RM leaving us with 7RM (£1.40). Sure enough the bar codes on our tickets scanned OK and in we went. Splendid. What are the chances? Meant to be, that. Far too many coincidences in that chain of events.

The following day we moved to a new hostel, The Red Dragon, for 60RM a night (£12) which has washing facilities! You give them your dirty gear, they weigh it and charge you £1.20 per kilo, then they wash it, dry it, iron it, fold it and deliver it back to your room. It’s like being back at home.

KL Tower. Good to say you went up it but that’s about it. It’s a bit like the London Eye or the Spinaker in Portsmouth in that respect because although it’s a fantastic piece of architecture, if you went on a cloudy day like we did, it looks better from the ground. Once you’ve done it, you wouldn’t want to do it again. Advice to anyone else (if you happen to be in KL) would be go at night as I’d imagine it’d be a lot better then. The ticket, strangely included admission to a small zoo after which I think was better than the tower itself. There was a pukka Raccoon kipping on a branch in there, I was thinking he’s great, love to have one as a pet, as I found myself getting closer and closer to the cage. Then I remembered what the nurse who gave me my vaccinations told me about Rabies. ‘Stay away from anything that’s furry with teeth’. Hmmmmm… Fur. Check. Teeth. Check. I kinda went off him a bit after that. B was obsessed with this ‘orrible two headed turtle thing. I don’t know why. It had two heads and it was a turtle. Gives you some insight into her odd personality though. Verdict: Worth it if you have a spare afternoon.

We checked out Dunkin Donuts to make sure their establishment is of a good standard. A good result for DD. The eight donuts we polished off and 2 coffees I had were of satisfactory quality. Had gut ache after. Got wet in our first tropical storm too on the way home too. It hammered down for ages and we made a dash for it during a spitting/rain stage. I say dash for it, more like a quick walk. OK, a walk. A slow walk. With stomach ache. I nearly didn’t make it back alive…

Had a good Chinese/Malaysian late that night at a Jamaican Reggae Bar which was over-run with Westerners, odd mix huh! – (£7 with drinks). Westerners in cities seem bloody ignorant. We was sitting next to two backpacker girls and I kept looking up for an opportunity to say ‘hi’ but they either didn’t stop talking or didn’t look in our direction, you can tell when people don’t really want to chat can’t you. As our food arrived, they both lit up cigarettes. A bit later two Malaysian guys joined them, instantly the loud and brash, boastful sentences come out and you know, they’re Yanks. Can’t wait for America… When I first got to KL I was saying hello to fellow traveler’s or at least acknowledging them with a tip of the head but I had so little response I stopped. A bit unfair to just pick on the Yanks so we’ll include the Krauts and the Ozzie’s in too as along with the British we seem the most prominent nationalities here.

Drinking in Malaysia as is a bit out of our budget. £2 for a glass of Carslberg which looks just over half a pint to me – and that’s happy hour. After nine it goes up to £3. Most of the bars happy hours go all day from midday to 9pm but who wants to drink loads then? Cocktails are vast, all the bars seem to have a big choice but again they are £3 ish in happy hour and over a fiver after 9pm. We’ll wait for Thailand I think.

After nearly a week in KL we moved on to Penang which is north – west. The KL bus station is unreal, it is better than some of our airports. It puts Stansted to shame. At the time of writing it had only been open two months so yes, that’s why it looked all shiny but it is smart. Huge place with digital, at least 60″ monitors and automated announcements when your bus leaves. Then there are walkways/escalators down to each particular terminals, numbered one – twenty-four. Nice.

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