day 2: Kuala Lumpur
The flight from SG to KL took just about an hour. Finally, I was relieved to pass the planner crown to E (what with all my incessant obsessing, it’s a wonder the 3 haven’t knocked me out or something). Only half of our SG budget was used so we agreed to exchange our remaining SGD to MYR. Since Malaysia is supposedly cheaper than Singapore, we expected that the money would be enough to last us through the day. After exchanging currencies, we took the train that connects the airport to KL city center. We wanted to leave our stuff in a locker at the city center station and just retrieve ’em later in the day before heading to our hotel for the night. After a bit of looking around, we followed signs pointing to baggage storage. (Interesting fact: it was confusingly labeled as “left baggage”. Changi airport also uses the same sign for luggage storage. I don’t know if this is the internationally accepted sign but I find it rather sounding more like a lost and found area.) All hopes quickly vanished when we saw that the luggage storage office is already out of business. We tried asking around for other luggage storage services in the area but found it hard communicating because most people couldn’t speak English. It didn’t help that we could pass off as Malays so people were inclined to talk to us in Malay. Finally giving up, the group decided to just head to the hotel first since dragging/carrying all our stuff is not an option. We didn’t get to find out if there are such services in the said station. (As an afterthought, it might have been better if we left our luggages at the airport although I didn’t check if they offer such services.)
We took the monorail and made for Prescott Inn where we reserved a room for the night. We got the room for less than ~4k from agoda (or was it hotels.com? We usually check both to get the cheaper rate in case the price varies). The room, ideally for 2 people, has 2 beds and just the basic amenities. The beds were not too small but not big either so 2people/bed was a bit crampy. But since we’re used to sleeping anywhere and everywhere during drunken nights, it wasn’t much of an issue (or were the boys just refraining from complaining? oh well, sucks for them.) The whole building is already dated, the rooms dark and could use a little pimping. It could also use some thorough cleaning every once in a while. The hotel didn’t reach up to my expectations (which weren’t really high, mind you), but it wasn’t that bad either. The biggest letdown for this hotel though is that for an extra towel, they charge 20 freakin’ MYR! It served its purpose providing us a place to sleep for a night but I don’t know if i’d go back there again.
After depositing our things, we headed straight to our first stop for the day-Merdaka Square. Since the hotel is just a few kilometers away, we decided to take a walk. Despite the heat, it was a rather good walk. We passed through a line of shops that sold everything from food to batiks, small trinkets to household goods.
When we finally reached our destination, a barricade of barbed wires and flashy orange fence greeted us.
The Merdaka square was deserted except for a few police officers guarding the area. Several groups of tourists were outside the grounds gawking over the barbed fence. Some were not detered by the fence and were eagerly taking photos from afar, some left as soon as the orange signs came to view.
We joined a group of tourists talking to one of the guards. Oh haven’t I mentioned? Nosy is our middle name. We just had to ask what was up with the fences! The officer was kind enough to quelch our curiosity. There had been a big demonstration in the area the day before (I’ve read about this Bersih movement from the papers… errr ok M might call me on it. not the papers really but google news). The whole square is temporarily inaccessible to the public which was really unfortunate because it was an interesting bunch of structures.
The sweltering heat was at its peak by that time. I could feel my energy slowly dissipating. My soles were tender from the previous day’s walking. But chances for holidays like these are like oases in the Japanese company desert, few and very far in between. Applying for long vacations is almost like waiting for miracles. So seize the day, we did, heat and sore feet notwithstanding. We sauntered along to our next destination-lunch at central market. From Merdaka square, we turned a corner and got sidetracked as we noticed a gated structure where several tourists are heading. We went inside the gate and found a compound of with a mosque and a few other buildings seemingly for worship. (With the help of Mr. Google, I found out that this is the Jame Mosque). We were told that we can go around the area and take photos. But first, we needed to cover ourselves as we were in our summer garb. They provided a kind of robe that reaches the ankles for visitors as well as scarves to cover the face for female guests. Covered from head to toe, we traipsed around taking photos here and there.
With the searing heat and the robe, I felt like I was gonna burst into flames or drop dead from heat stroke any moment.
After about 20 mins, we were all sweaty and exhausted inside the robes. We returned the garbs and went back to our itinerary. By then, we were still just a few steps away from Merdaka Square. Surrounding the square are interesting buildings (one of which was the mosque). We followed a group of Japanese being led by a tour guide. We tried listening to what the tour guide was saying but gave up trying after a while.
We hit the road for Central Market to have our lunch. On our way there, we passed by KL’s chinatown which appeared very busy and crowded.
Just by the entrance of Central Market, we saw a stall selling puto bamboo. I didn’t know then what puto bamboo was. It caught my attention because it looked similar to the Filipino Puto Bumbong. The rice cake was colored green though. Topped with coconut, the rice cake was oh-kay good but I’d still favor puto bumbong over it.
We went straight to the food court inside Central Market. We bought food from this stall that sells different kinds of dishes priced based on quantity. You will be given plates and you have to get your own food. There was no price list displayed so I assumed that all the dishes cost the same. I thought that the system would be similar to Japan’s Origin Bento where the plates are weighed and priced based on a unit price. However, when we were about to pay, the cashier told us that he only needs to look at the plate and estimate how much it’s worth. I don’t know if it’s really done that way or if we got ripped by the cashier. But since there is no way to return the food in our plates (some dishes with sauce have already mixed with others), we had no choice but to pay. Putting the confusion about the payment aside, the food was surprisingly good The rendang was particularly a taste-pleaser. Since we were already starving, we finished the food remarkably fast (even M!).
After lunch, E lead the way to another mosque. With a map in hand, we crossed the busy street in front of the Central Market. The sun was still seething, the noise from cars reminded me of Quiapo where the smoke from the vehicles’ exhaust is almost lethal. We walked along busy streets and empty alleyways. We came upon a major highway and tried looking for pedestrian crossing or footbridge to cross but failed. We then decided to just cross right there sans the zebra or traffic light. We needed to be careful though as our street crossing skills have gone AWOL since we started living in Tokyo where people follow traffic rules like a cult. After crossing, we climbed what looked like a footbridge because it was the only way possible seeing there were no pedestrian lanes. We realized later that it wasn’t a footbridge but a gate to the train station. We though that going down the other side would bring us to the other side of the road. Instead, the stairs lead us to a platform. But lo, we walked towards the end of the platform and realized that it’s a train platform! I don’t know if we’ve missed the gate or if pedestrians just normally pass by train platforms (how then do they collect train fees?). Upon the sight of what looked like a gate, we immediately turned. The gate lead us inside the building which we later found out was the Railway Museum. The museum wasn’t really a museum but a small room with some display about trains. We immediately exited the building and was greeted by the majestic KL railway station. As it was already very hot, we just took a few pictures from outside then hightailed to our next stop. (And oh that mosque that we were supposed to see, well we didn’t get to see it. shame).
From KL railway station, we made our way to KL’s National Museum which from the map appeared to be a good 15 minutes away on foot. Well it could have been 15 minutes in Einstein’s dreams! The walk from the railway station to the museum was a major fail. We trudged along the highway- a freaking highway- under the summer heat! Some parts had no pedestrian lanes so we had to be really careful else we’d end up in a hospital (an adventure I’d rather not take part in. No sir, thank you very much!). After forever, we finally reached the museum which by then was packed with people- tourists and excursionists. Exhausted from all the walking we’ve been doing since SG, we never disappointed at every opportunity to sit down. In front of the entrance was a flight of stairs which only registered in my head as a place to sit. So there we were, finally in our destination, yet we couldn’t find the strength to take those last few steps. For a few minutes, we were plopped by the stairs in all our sweaty glory taking pictures of each other.
After minutes of rest and finally feeling rejuvinated, we entered the museum and paid 5-10 MYR to see the exhibits.
After passing the main entrance, what do i find? Alas, a bench to sit on! We sat down for a few minutes again, then proceeded to see what we payed for (of course finding every excuse to sit down now and then). I haven’t been to a lot of museums so I can’t tell whether this one was good or not. I can tell though that it was a small collection (compared to the ones I’ve been to). There were some artifacts that caught our attention but all in all it was not as impressive as one would expect from a National Museum.
Done with the museum and all the sitting, we made our way to KL City Center which was the nearest station according to the map. Oh another nightmare of a walk that was. We walked along the highway until we saw signs pointing to the station. But since we were in a highway, the signs were for cars and not pedestrians. We saw a group of locals and decided to follow them (which was a good idea) as they crossed the highway and pass through a hotel parking area. Then out of nowhere voila! KL City Center station appeared in front of us! From there, we took the train to Petronas Towers. We took some pictures. Again. Did a lotta sitting down. AGAIN.
M and I sat down while the boys inquired about the free pass to go up the tower. Unfortunately, they limit the number of passes/day and since we went there late in the afternoon, they’ve already reached their quota for the day. (If you really wanna do this, go get the pass first thing in the morning before heading out to other destinations. I don’t know what time they start giving passes though but you can easily find this by googling). We were thinking of catching Avengers (movie) while we rest our tired (really TIRED) feet but the showing time was a bit difficult for us. Instead of going to the movies, we decided to hang out and have our dinner at Chili’s in Petronas Mall. There were no seats available so we had a table reserved. We looked around the mall first and see if there’s anything we could buy. The prices don’t differ much from Tokyo’s though so that meant no shopping for us. While walking, we came upon a stall that sells boba (pearl milk teas), which I love FYI. There was a VERY LONG line in front of the stall but, of course, that really couldn’t go between me and a glass of boba. We talked the boys into trying it too! The line didn’t take long- just enough for us to decide what flavor to choose. I had a glass of Taro milktea with pearls- the best choice among the flavors , imo (E and M would also probably agree but B is bent on sticking with his choice of white melon).
Drink in hand, we headed to the small park beside Petronas mall. There were a few benches facing the mall where you can get a good view of the towers. We took some pictures then rested by the benches.
After about an hour, we went back to Chili’s for dinner- dinner which soon turned into a drinking spree. From just a bottle of beer to BOTTLES of beer (I’ve honestly lost count). We played 20 questions as the bottles kept coming. Pretty cheesy I know. But hey! It was great bonding time with the gang (awwww group hug? anyone?). Oh did I just write bonding there? haha The boys would probably gag when they read this. We stayed there until they closed shop for the night. Oh yeah, 4 long hours of bonding time (cause me and my hommies are tight that way, y’know).
Since we didn’t have enough cash, we decided to split the bill and pay the other half by credit card. Oh the receipt was long! It was almost as expensive as a night of drinking at an Izakaya in Tokyo.
So much for going back to the hotel early. The mall was already closed when we got out. I was running on spare battery which was obvious from the pictures I took. (Maybe from lack of sleep the past days. Maybe from alcohol. Or both). I was damn exhausted.
After some more pictures, we hailed a taxi to take us back to the hotel. The driver asked for 20 MYR. Had I not been too tired, I would have argued to have it metered. But since all of us were already desperate to get to bed, we haggled a bit and took the bait at 15 MYR.
We woke up early the next day and had a taxi take us to the airport (Budget Terminal). We checked in online so we expected things to be easier at the airport. But when we got there, it was almost chaos. (It still wasn’t as bad as NAIA terminal 1). We had a hard time finding where to cue. After the initial confusion though, everything went smoothly. A good way to end our time in KL.
With that we bade goodbye to KL and greeted Siem Reap with a sleepy hello.
This was my second time in KL. I still cannot say that I’ve already seen much of it. Maybe next time I’ll also visit Ipoh and Penang.