Thursday, 14 February 2008

A couple of days in Kuala Lumpur

The early morning flight to Singapore on JetStar ($191 return) was pleasant. The leather seats were impressive and comfortable and the legspace was ok. Even though we were going to spend Tet holiday in Malaysia I was heading for Singapore because it was the cheapest way to get to Kuala Lumpur (KL). Fiona and Julian were travelling straight to KL from Hanoi. After arriving in Singapore I had to work out how to catch the bus to KL. To get to KL I had read you can get a bus from Lavender Road that goes directly there. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Lavender Rd on the MRT (overhead railway), which itself was quite difficult to work out. There is an overhead railway between air terminals, but that isn't the MRT, you have to catch that from terminal one to terminal two and then catch the MRT from there. So once I had found the MRT I headed for Queen Street. From Queen St. you can catch a bus to Johor Bahru (JB) and then a bus onto KL.

The bus from Queen St was the bright yellow Causeway Link and was a reasonable S$2.40. This takes you to the Singapore side of the border (making sure you keep your bus ticket) where you get off with your luggage and pass through the Singapore passport necessities, wait for the next bus, which takes you to the Malaysian border. You exit the bus with your luggage and pass through the Malaysian border controls, before catching the next yellow canary which takes you to Larkin JB, where you can catch a bus to KL. At Larkin I was charged 30 Ringgit for the bus to KL. I had read it should have been 24 Ringgits, but was just too tired to argue and paid the money and got on. It was two minutes to 3pm by this time and the bus was said to be leaving at 3. I had not had any food and little water by then, as every time I got through customs the yellow bus was leaving and I had to rush to get on it. The guy who sold me the bus ticket took some money off me and went to buy me a large bottle of water. He returned with two small bottles, one for me and one for him! Too tired to argue I just accepted it. When the bus didn't go immediately I asked if I had time to get some food and was told ok if I was quick... I quickly bought three sweet bread with filling things that you get in Asian bus stops, not great but food... So after this rush I expected the bus to fly off to KL, but waited til 3.30 for it eventually to fill up and head off. If I had known I could have had KFC or found some decent food. GGGRRRrrrrrrrrr!!

I slept like a baby for the first two hours of the bus journey and upon awakening I looked out of the window to see more of the oil palm trees I had seen covering Cambodia. For the next two hours it was pretty much the same sight. What is supposed to be an environmental benefit and saving oil is turning most of Asia into a single species plantation with no bio-diversity whatsoever. I read somewhere during the holiday that even Sabah, one of the most beautiful, natural and forested parts of Malaysia/Borneo is now covered with 16.6% palm oil, surely the ugliest and least environmentally friendly plant ever seen.

After 4 hours I arrived in KL and headed for Chinatown which was pretty close to the bus station. I then spent from 7.30 to 9pm looking for a reasonable priced room. The ones I had read about on the internet were not as cheap as advertised and the cheaper ones I looked at were totally manky, fairly manky or diabolical shitholes, but luckily when I arrived at the bus station a tout had given me a card for Wheelers guest house, which said it had a rooftop sunbathing place (only open after 6pm!), bar, restaurant, and reasonably priced rooms. So I eventually found it and was told they had an air-conditioned room with en-suite, but only for one night as it was booked from then on (by this time I was sweating my nuts off and would have given my anal virginity for AC) I paid 55 Ringitts, which is about $18. They had single matchboxes with a bed with shared bathroom for 28 Ringitts.

It turned out I was on the next road to Chinatown so in a good position for sightseeing, as I waited for Fiona and Julian. I wandered around and looked for some food and beer and found a restaurant within Chinatown. Noodles were reasonably priced and delicious, but beer was 15 Ringitts a small bottle, which is around $5! As a glass of beer in Vietnam can be had for 2000 Dong (8 for a dollar) and a bottle for 10,000 Dong, this came as a bit of a shock! But there was no getting away from it. Almost everywhere we went in Malaysia beer was expensive and unavailable except in Chinese owned places.

Fiona turned up next day, we booked the trip to Taman Nagara National Park with a company called Han, through the guesthouse, and waited for Julian to arrive on the 2nd. Unfortunately his flight was cancelled and he eventually arrived on the 3rd, but we had to leave for the forest and left him a message to follow us, which he did.

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