Sunday November 18 2007
Sunday-Monday, November 18 -19 – Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
We caught our bus to KL at about 2:00p.m for the 7 hour ride. The bus was comfortable, air conditioned and before too long we figured out that the driver was a crazy fast driver and loved to sing to the radio or cds. To get out of Singapore by car, you just drive across a causeway about a half mile in length and then you are in Malaysia. Once across you visit Singapore customs to check out of Singapore. It was a simple process of hopping off the bus with your passport and getting things stamped and hopping back on the bus. Another 2 minutes down the road is Malaysia immigration and customs. We figured it was the same process and hopped off and headed up to the window for the stamping of passports ritual. As we were standing there, one of our busmates (a man from Delhi, India) came up to us and said “you have to get your bags.” Okay, we figured out this one is different, so Sheree headed back while Ted stayed at the customs window. Our bags were sitting in the road with no bus and no one anywhere around. The driver had unloaded all the bags on the road and headed up past customs to pick up the passengers again. If the Indian guy hadn’t told us, our bags would have been left on the road and we wouldn’t have discovered them until we got to KL. This guy apparently had experienced the same thing on his way into Singapore and had to go back to the customs point after he got off the bus in Singapore to get his bags back from the police. He thought this could happen and was thoughtful enough to look back to see if any bags were left. A good guy! Along the way our driver tailgated all the little cars on the road and passed everyone. We were in the front seats and looked over at the speedometer. It only went to 120km, but he had it buried most of the time. Our first stop in Malaysia was at a roadside rest stop. Not like those in the US or Europe. They did have a restaurant and bathrooms, but most of it was occupied by fruit stands. We saw more varieties of fruit that we haven’t seen before all in one place. It was cool. We tried dragon fruit, dragon eyes, and apple/pear things that tasted like a melon. We arrived in KL at about 9 p.m., more or less on time, but as we got closer to the bus station the driver became more and more frustrated with the traffic and finally pulled over and said “bus station that way – you walk.” We didn’t know how far and fortunately it was only about 10 minutes walk, but it was kind of sketchy and we weren’t sure where we were. We walked on and found our hotel across the street from the bus station as we had expected. We weren’t crazy about the place. It was dirty and worn, but the bed was at least clean and we weren’t about to go looking for another place, so we checked in, dropped our bags and headed out to find something to eat. We were located right by Chinatown, an area of KL that has street markets and tons of food vendors going until late evening. We bought some chicken sate with great peanut sauce from a guy bbqing on the street and that did the trick. We walked around the vendors stalls for a little while and hit the sack. Our first impressions of KL weren’t all that great, but the next day would bring some exploring and other perspectives.
The next morning we did some internet stuff to get ready for the next few days and set out to explore KL. We got around mostly on the LRT (metro), which is efficient and modern. The metro was a bit hard to find, but once in the system, we were good. It cost only 7 ringgits (about $2 US) for a full day ticket. We stopped by one of the famous mosques and a Sultan’s palace. Malaysia is a predominantly moslem country and there are quite a few mosques in prominent places in KL. Many women are dressed with head scarves very conservative dress. We didn’t notice the call to prayer from the mosques as we have heard in previous visits to moslem countries and we weren’t sure if this was because we just weren’t in the right places at those times or if they didn’t do it here. Next we headed to Petronas Towers. This is the famous twin highrise with the connecting bridge about half way up. It was in a recent James Bond film and has been in one of the Die Hard films too. It was the tallest building in the world until something else was finished last year. The base of these buildings is a multistorey mall with all the most expensive brand name shops in the world housed within. Every kind of franchise food too. KFC is big here, but they had Kenny Rogers roasters, Dunkin Donuts, A&W, Starbucks and more. It was hard to believe we were in Malaysia. We could have been anywhere in the US (only totally upscale). All we could afford to do there was mail our post cards and head off for more site seeing. We saw the beautiful old train station (now abandoned) and before long found ourselves in Chinatown again with sore feet. We ate and headed back to the hotel.
posted Sunday November 2007