THREE MONTHS DOWN – Entering Malaysia to “KL”

EVERYONE here (and even in Fort Smith, just ask your friendly neighborhood reporter) calls their capital city, “KL” with affectioate reverence.

We arrived in Johur Bahru a little after lunch on Tuesday and weren’t due to leave for Kuala Lumpor (KL) until almost midnight. Thus we had several hours with nothing to do but go shopping!!! Luckily this city on the edge of the border with Singapore had some pretty impressive shopping options. The mall we hit had five floors up, a ground floor, and one basement floor. The ground floors are considered G here, and the first floor is pically the second story up. Thus, in our current hotel, while the elevator says floor nineteen, we are actually up on the twentieth story. This mall was huge! It seemed to stretch back into far corners that were not even fathomable from the central court. There were numerous electronic stores offering all sorts of camera equipment, personal audio players, ten tonnes of cell phones, computer gear, console & portable gaming, and of course all kinds of software… And what prices!!! Unbelievable they were… $5000 plus AutoCAD for only $3, and the latest $80 computer games for $5. All vendors assured me that they were perfectly legal legitimate copies, and so I indulged with a few titles that would be handy later once we bought a computer.

We also are fortunate that I had alreaady hacked our two PSP’s with an open version of the operating system. There were tonnes of PSP games for sale as playable image files on large sized DVD as well as UMD’s. The image files allow the games to be played directly from the flash card instead of having to carry the PSP designed UMD around, and having to physically swap them out. Most outlets also sell already hacked PSP consoles for the same equivelent price as what they are sold for in Canada ($200).

Our train ride was not quite as we expected since all of the first class bed suites were sold out. Thus we were stuck with second class beds down a long hallway. It was an OK experience and interesting to experience at least once we figured. The price of the First Class cabins are so disgustingly cheap that they are easily worthwhile though. The second shock came today when we tried to book first class bed cabins to the next town (7 hrs) near Penang and were told that all were long since booked. Even worse though was the fact that the second class lower beds (down the long hall with individual curtains) were booked as well. The upper bunks are slightly less money, but we would have to load our suitcases up there as well as us two Forty year old’s having to clamber up there!

Speaking of bags, we saw another caucasian couple (much younger of course, and no kids) travelling with just a small, carry-on size, hard sided suitcase and a small rucksack each. The contents of these four bags combined would probably have easily fit into Alex’s suitcase I think. Both Claudette and I stared at them in open mouthed wonderment, admiration and not a little jealousy. Clearly they had no electronics, (with associated chargers and converters), mosquito nets, and sleeping bags for hostels, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

The hotel we ended up booking in KL was quite a bit nicer than we could afford, but we didn’t really make arrangements before arriving. The Concord is walking distance to all the major sights right downtown though. It also has very good rates for an upper class type business hotel. We’re paying CAN $100 per night for a very large room on the top floor with a king sized bed (and cots) and it was highly recamended in the Aisia Frommer’s book we have. Hopefully we’ll make up for this higher price in Thailand. Food prices here are quite reasonable though. Rotten Ronnie’s today cost us CAN $15 for lunch and desert for four. Plus it helps a bit that a huge breakfast every morning is included with our room price.

Our first day we went to the KL tower, a single structure similar to (and slightly smaller than) the CN tower for cityscape viewing. It offered a spectacular view all around and we could easily see all of the Petronas twin towers several blocks away. he smog here was noticeable at that height, but we could easily see about 8 km, before it started to become pretty hazy at +10 km. We went yesterday to the twin towers for the free tour of the linking bridge, but the available tickets for the day were sold out long before lunchtime apparently. So, after breakfast today we went right to the ticket booth at the site and only goy 5:15 PM tickets! When we finally made it up the view and feeling was very cool. The “Eye of Malaysia” ferris wheel was a tiny dot in the distance and we quickly realized that it wasn’t worth going to after being in both tall KL landmarks. The Petronas twins are named for the Government owned Multinational oil and gas corporation which operates in Malaysia. Sadly this means that when I would say Pet-ron-as thinking it was some exotic Malay word, I was completely wrong. Turns out that it is Pet-ro-nas, simply derrived from “petrol” like seemingly all other aspects of our world these days.

Compared to the Malaysia & London tourist ferris Wheels, the “Eye of Singapore” was huge though, and sadly wasn’t opened yet when we passed by there. It is larger than London’s and is slated to be open in mid 2000. The KL Tower is the currenty the third tallest tower in the world, after the CN tower in Toronta and one in China. The display downstairs had a very nice gallery and displays on all of the worlds 20 tallest towers. The Petronas twin towers were actually the tallest buildings in the world for several years until Taipe 101 opened a few years back. Now, those crazy, “money growing out of their ears” guys in Dubai are building the hugest of all! It will be open in about 20 months I think I read, and once finished will not only be the tallest building, it will exceed the CN tower as the tallest tower, and also will take the coup de grace over some (unmanned) TV tower in the midwest States somewhere as the tallest manmade structure on the EARTH! While the Taipae building is 101 stories, the Dubai one is about 160!!! These guys don’t want anyone breaking their record anytime soon it would seem.

We killed the day waiting for our free bridge tour with some other errands and attractions. The best was a 30 minute demonstration of Malaysian dancing put on at the Tourism Information center halfway between the twin towers and our hotel. A dozen men and women in extravagantly colorful outfits (which changed multiple times throught) gave wonderful displays of various regional dances. Most were all very lively and upbeat, and Luke even joined them for one dance when audience members were invited up. Sadly, his extreme caucasionness came through loud and clear as they tried to teach him the steps to the national dance in under 300 seconds. At the end the MC invited audience members to come up on stage for pictures with the troup, and said that she would give “The Foreigners” the first opportunity. I nodded yes, and she invited us up immediately. So, I stood up and strted going to the end of the isle only to find that Claudette was sitting there calmly waiting for all the other foreigners to go up first. When I pointed out that we were the only “whity’s” among a packed gallery of about 100 school kids, and other Asian (Chinese, Indians, etc) tourists. She and the kids joined me after Claudette stood up and looked around at the rest of the crowd.

We have to stay one extra day in order to catch the Saturday train to Butterworth (near Penang). Saturday is the only day that there is a daytime train sceduled. Then we plan on spending almost a week luxuriating on the beaches in Penang before heading accross the border to Thailand. We have amost confirmed our GAP tour from Northern Thailand, through Laos and ending in Hanoi on our flight date. We (half of us anyways) just thought it would be easier than stumbling along in a country which isn’t quite touristy and organized with that focus yet.

2 Responses to “THREE MONTHS DOWN – Entering Malaysia to “KL””

  1. Leesa-Maree says:

    Hello whitey’s!
    I understand what you mean about the train – we experienced something similar in Thailand. Rob’s problem was he is so tall he couldn’t even lie straight on the bed. And the toilets were very interesting 2nd class!
    Good idea about the tour – in these circumstances it is usually the best, especially when you are travelling tough with kids!
    Riley is over the moon with his email… thanks so much. He has a bath super fast on my work days so he can then go check his email. People he has told his email address to ask him to repeat it. They think he has it wrong cos it ends in .ca. But he is a smart little cookie and explains why!
    Sounds like you are having fun. Am very jealous. I am very busy with work and have picked up another day, so I know work Mon – Fri.
    The cricket is on at the Gabba on Thursday – some kids will be singing the anthem with the cricketers (not me sadly). But I will be with the kids interviewing a radio announcer to go on air. And after a lot of nagging, my boss has decided to take pity on me and is giving me free tickets to a day/night test (cricket for the uneducated). I am playing with the kids at morning tea (while on playground duty). This morning I bowled like the biggest woos in the world. I redeemed myself by catching a kid out!
    Hope you are having a wonderful relaxing time.
    lol Leesie and co.

  2. Rick says:

    Hah! Now it’s my turn to evision your description… OK, I’m back now from rolling over laughing! POOR Robert!!! I can just so see him scrunched up in a fetal position (knees still sticking out a bit of course) trying to get some rest down that long hallway of curtained beds… Sadly, I doubt the first class sleepers beds would be any longer. We were too late to get a first class sleeper out of penang to Phuket as well, so it’ll be back in the hallway for us in a few days sadly… We bought three kids bunks this time (one for luggage) but they are all on the top! (which are cheaper mind you) since everyone seems to book the bottom ones first.
    .
    That’s very cool that Riley enjoys his customized address. We’ll have him brainwashed to move to Canada in no time! That is, until he experiences the first winter I guess… Make sure that you let Emile know she can have one too, as soon as she is ready! I wouldn’t dream of leaving her out…
    .
    What’s with the extra day of work?!?! You weren’t busy enough already? I hope that’s just for another six weeks ’till the end of the current school year, and not into next year as well…
    .
    We never did get to watch a Criket game in OZ, which I kinda wanted to do in the back of my mind… Even though you don’t get to sing, at least you’ll get to be there and watch right? Never mind doing celeb. interviews to go on air. C’mon! What an awesome glamorous life you lead… 😀 Those poor twelve year olds don’t stand a chance against the mighty LACIE!