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2015 MAY MALAYSIA - THE ADVENTURE FOR 2015 BEGINS!

flight Coolangatta, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, then free days in KL

Tuesday 5th May 2015 (day one)

Departure day has finally come around. The last week has been somewhat busy. Turning half a century last week and throwing a party before a big trip was a little challenging, but it all seemed to go smoothly. Again thanks to all who helped, contributed and came along to help me celebrate.

With most of our luggage already sent on to Thailand with Michael (Lyn’s son) there did not seem to be the normal last minute packing and repacking panic. All of our bike & camping gear and majority of our clothing has already started the journey towards Europe.

This morning we were up at some still dark hour as our flight was scheduled to depart Coolangatta / Gold Coast airport at 8.40am. This meant we had to be at the airport approximately 2 hours before at 6.40am, which meant we had to depart my home at 5.40am, which meant me getting up around 5am and Lyn (who had to drive from hers to mine) at 4am.

Not many friends or family members were putting up their hands to offer a lift to the airport at this ridiculous hour I can assure you. So it was our good fortune that - we were able to sucker – we could ask my good friend Mandy visiting from New Zealand to drop us down the Gold Coast and then drive herself to the airport later that day for her return flight. Rudely, when our flight had been cancelled a few weeks ago I had changed it to the previous day without a thought for my visiting friend who was flying out the same day but hours later.
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The past week has been great having Mandy over. Think I finally found someone who is on par with me in the talking and drinking coffee department. I reckon we must have clocked up close to 100 cups over the last week!

Check in at the airport was easy as we only had carry-on bags and after a last coffee together we left Mandy with car, gps navman and wishes of good luck finding her way back up to Brisbane airport. I’m sure she will be fine and she has like 10 hours to get lost and found. Thanks Mandy!

On the drive down, sitting in the airport and even when boarding the plane it still had not hit me that we were off on another long holiday. I think it’s the fact that in the last 6 months I have been on several flights having travelled to Melbourne, New Zealand, Darwin, Broome & Adelaide. How privileged am I that flying has become so blasé.

I’m sure it will hit me once the plane doors open and the old familiar aroma of Asia wafts into the cabin. Then I will let out a sign of relief that the adventure I have spent 100’s of internet hours researching and making numerous bookings for is now underway!

Flight as usual was an uneventful 8 hours. I managed to catch a nap.
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We caught the bus (not pictured) from the airport to China Town for a bargain price of 10 ringget each ($3.52), took about just over an hour as the traffic (pictured) was busy as usual.
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Short walk to Petaling Street to our reserved Hotel Chinatown (2). We have never stayed here before, location is perfect for us and as expected the rooms look nothing like they did on the hotel web site. But hey, at 108 ringget ($38.35) per night for air con, flat screen TV, fast internet and hopefully hot shower - for us its a very comfortable start to our holiday.
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After settling into our room, we headed out to find our usual dinner haunt. Chicken satays and a Tiger beer is the meal we usually start every trip with. The price of the satays had risen to 1myr = 35c each, but they were still as good as ever, but of course it’s the peanut sauce accompaniment that really makes this place our favourite. The old lady in the stall next door pushing drinks onto satay diners has also been there as long as we have been coming to KL. Tax on alcohol in Malaysia is high so us having a beer at 17myr = $5.95 is really a treat. But this repeated habit cannot be left off any of our itineraries that include a stopover in Kuala Lumpur.
That was about it for us for today, early to bed after watching a bit of telly (Animal Planet being the only channel in English that worked). Thankfully the shower was hot and pressure pretty good, so we showered and crashed.
It has been a big first day!

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Wednesday 6th May 2015 (day two)

We woke relatively early today. Too early for Asia as the shops here tend not to come awake until 10ish. There are the early morning wet markets which start very early, and people are out and about, but shops and restaurants do not start to open until much later. This suits us fine, as it gives us an excuse not to have to be up and around early in the morning. Hey we are on holidays.

Finally just before 10 we left the room in search of breakfast. We went via Central Market as we had a couple of T-shirts to drop off to the embroidery man, but the centre was not yet open so we found an Indian restaurant to have some food. No western style breakfast here, unless you stay in a flash hotel that offers buffet breakfast, so not much chance of that for us. It always seems to amuse the locals when we pull up a table at these local food outlets. I guess not many tourists eat at these places, but we are up for just about anything food wise. This place looked clean enough and it was displaying newspaper articles which meant it was semi famous for something on the menu. We were seated and served a pulled milky white tea (which to me tastes nothing like tea in any form). It’s very, very sweet, but is hot and just the treat to wash down the oily roti and dahl we were served to eat. All pretty good really and at a bargain price of 8.80myr = $3.08 for the both of us, our hunger was satisfied.

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So what to do when we have visited KL so many times. All the tourist traps & attractions had been visited on one of our many previous visits to this familiar city. We decided to challenge ourselves by going on a public transport excursion to try and find the IKEA store which is located out in the suburbs. You may think this is a lame thing to do, but like I said we have seen every other attraction and being avid IKEA visitors at home, thought this would be a novel public transport challenge. And it was, but a fairly easy one really. We caught the red transit rail line (2.10myr = 74c each) to the very last station Kenlana Jaya, where there was supposed to be a free shuttle bus to take us to the shopping mall where IKEA was located. We sat at the bus station waiting and waiting, finally giving up and catching a bus (2myr = 70c). Good decision as a local lady on the bus told us we just missed the free shuttle as it did drove past the bus stop where is was supposed to pick us up at.

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Of course all IKEA stores are identical everywhere in the world, as is the cafeteria menu. We enjoyed a mushroom soup and shared a plate of the famous IKEA meatballs (which taste the same worldwide) with about 300 other Swedish cuisine eating locals. Prices average out about the same as the prices in Australia, which is pretty high by Malaysian standards, so we were quite surprised that the café was packed to capacity.

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After lunch we had a quick wander around the IKEA shop to confirm they are all identical in products available also. To kill more time before our shuttle bus to take us back to the train station we did a bit of window shopping in the other stores in the mall. Then as we still had time for a coffee, we purchased an overpriced drink in Gloria Jeans Coffee Shop which may just be the worse tasting swill I have ever had served to me, and I think they had a real cheek even calling it anything remotely like coffee!

Boarding the free shuttle just before it departed, we were back at the train station in no time. Usually only a 2 minute wait for the next train we arrived back in Chinatown 20 minutes later, proud of our successful experience on the public transport system.

After collecting our t-shirts from Central Market, we decided to return to our room and celebrate our successful day by drinking our bottle of duty free Amarula! Boy, those litre bottles sure don’t last very long do they?

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Since we’d had a huge lunch and after polishing off the bottle of Amarula, we thought just a small dinner was in order. Earlier at the 7/11 we discovered a vending machine that dispensed mashed potatoes and gravy, which we decided would be a perfect accompaniment to with our chicken satay sticks. Add a bottle of Tiger beer and there we had another well rounded meal.

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The air con in our room is playing up a bit, a lot actually so we are in for a hot humid night. We were offered another room which was half the size and with only a double bed, so we have decided to sweat it out in our original room. After the exciting day we had and with the aid of the bottle of Amarula we drank, I don’t think that sleeping is going to be a problem.

Thursday 7th May 2015 (day three)

First task for today was to find an ATM as we were out of cash. Usually an easy thing to find but after calling into the nearest bank which was just metres away from our hotel I was advised that we needed a 6 digit pin number, not just a 4 digit number as used at home. I have encountered this before and in the past have just added 00 to the beginning and all was fine. Not so this time. The teller in the bank told me the system had changed and we needed a 6 digit pin unless we found an international bank which there of course were none in the China Town area.

We still had about 12 ringgets left which was enough for breakfast so we went to do that and would find a bank later. As usual information was incorrect and the next Malaysian bank we came across I tried my card with a 4 digit pin and it gladly spat out my money to me. I then had to race back to Petaling Street to where our duck lady was as usual selling ducks from a makeshift stall on the foot path. I paid her 25 myr = $8.75 for half a cooked duck and added 2 myr = 70c for a duck foot wrapped in duck liver and kidney as an old man passing had suggested we should try this little treat. Back at our hotel the duck was put in the communal refrigerator for later in the day.

By this time we had missed the breakfast service and as we had returned to the same Indian restaurant as yesterday the waiter and a couple of patrons suggested we have the mee chicken for brunch. Mee = noodles = 2 minute noodles. I find it amusing in Asia where a lot of noodles are eaten everybody uses and all restaurants serve up instant noodles. I don’t think we have ever been anywhere that the noodles have been made fresh. The meal was good enough, noodles with a splash of Maggie and chicken wok fried to within an inch of its life but still moist inside. Highlight for me was again the pulled tea, don’t know why we have never had this before on previous visits, but I’m loving it!

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We covered lots of miles today, seated in the KL Go free buses. There are 4 bus loops that go to various areas around the city. We managed to cover just about every route only getting off to change lines or at the end of a route where we were forced to change buses. Interesting to note these so called free tourist loop bus routes are used by a lot more locals than tourists just to commute to and from work. The buses are pretty good, with most having free WIFI and if you were a first time visitor to KL you certainly could use these buses to get to just about every site and attraction in the city, as well as every major shopping mall, which seems to be a major attraction for most tourists to KL. We are not so much into shopping in this giant shopping centres mainly as they are expensive western brand name shops, but mostly we cannot buy anything as we would have to carry it with us for the rest of our trip and later travelling on a bike extra purchases is the last thing we want.

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It was late afternoon by the time we boarded the last purple line bus which would take us back to Chinatown. We had seen lots of the city today, even a few places we had never been to before. And we were sheltered from the short down pour of rain during the day sitting comfortably in a bus.
Finished the day with a coffee at McCafe in Chinatown, which was half the price of Gloria Jeans coffee yesterday and this one actually did resemble the taste of coffee.

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For dinner we collected the duck from the hotel fridge, grabbed a couple of instant mash potato & gravy from 7/11 and used their tables and chairs to enjoy our feast. The duck was magnificent as usual, we tried the liver and kidney which was inoffensive, but Lyn was a little unsure of how much of the duck foot is actually eaten. Are you supposed to eat the webbing? A mystery we may never know.

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Unfortunately the air con in our room was still not doing much to change the temp so that hotel is going to cop a beating from me on Trip Advisor and we will know better next time. I’m happy to live without air con, but if we have paid for it as we did with this usual upgrade of room, then I bloody well expect it to work! The hotel owner who seemed to live in the room next door to us didn’t really give a shit, he already had our money.

Relatively early night as we have to be up very early for our flight to Thailand tomorrow.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 00:48 Archived in Malaysia Tagged chinatown kuala air duck asia lumpur ikea coolangatta satay Comments (3)

2013 SEPT MALAYSIA - STOPOVER IN ASIA part 3

Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur Free day KL

sunny 26 °C

Thursday 5th Sept 13 (day 5)

Today is a travel day. We are flying from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur. One of the reasons I chose to come to Ayutthaya was to get out of the craziness of Bangkok and it is just as close to the Don Mueang airport as coming from Bangkok. So you can imagine my horror to find that a minivan to the airport from here was quoted at 600 baht ($20.80) per person. This was ridiculous considering a minivan to Khao San Road in Bangkok was only 200 baht ($6.95) per person which is double the distance. Do these people want to really stick it to you for the last trip you have to the airport in their country??

Luckily on the train trip up we passed through a station that was named Don Mueang so it had to be near the airport. And the fact that I had seen a sign on the station platform that pointed to a pedestrian overpass that read to airport terminal. So we decided to take the train instead, we figured if we left early enough we could account for any train delays and still get to the airport on time. For once we had a flight that was at a normal time in the middle of the day scheduled to depart at 1.05pm.

Returning the motorbikes and recovering my passport, we had breakfast and checked out of our hotel. It was a really nice place and the ladies all came out to say goodbye with big smiles and as we left we were handed another bottle of cold water for our journey. Would definitely recommend this place Baan Are Gong Homestay at Ayutthaya in case any of you readers ever make it there.

We were in time at the train station, a mere 3 minutes walk from our hotel, to catch the 9.01am train. I purchased tickets 11 baht (38c) each - far cry from 600 baht each! We were on time but of course the train was not, it was delayed by 15 minutes, but that was ok cause we had allowed enough leeway for train delays.

The train did arrive on time, the new delayed time, and soon we were on our way to the airport. The train was even more basic than the one we came up in. Hard seats this time and again the only air con was the breeze that blew threw the windows. It was an enjoyable journey and a nice way to exit Thailand. Although noisy, grotty and windy it was 100% on the overpriced minivan trip that would have cost 600 times the price.

Turned out we arrived at the airport with lots of time to spare, we were even too early to check in. Patrick caught the same train as us as he was returning to Bangkok and decided to get off at the airport to see us off. We sat around chatting until it was time to check in then still had time to spare. Patrick bid us goodbye when it was time for us to go through immigration and our departure gate. This is when I noticed that our flight had been delayed by 1 hour 10 minutes. He left and we continued to the gate and had no choice but to wait around until our flight was called to board.

Lyn & I killed some time by having an overprice fast food lunch, but you expect crap food at crazy prices when you are a captive audience in an airport.

We boarded, again on time at the new delayed time, and the 2 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur was uneventful. I dozed a little so it went fairly quickly. We were even later landing in KL due to having to circle several time because of heavy air traffic. After landing and disembarking it was the usual 3 kilometre walk from the Air Asia plane steps to the terminal gates. Luggage collected, outside a bus was waiting to take us to KL Sentral. Our Indian bus driver had obviously heard that our flight was delayed as he did his very best to go as fast as possible to make up for lost time. Unfortunately for us, we had a front seat and I had a perfect view of the bus speedo which did not keep in time with the signs posted along the highway. And it seems that if you are a bus and a lot bigger than most vehicles on the highway it's ok to just cross 5 lanes of traffic at the last minute to avoid missing a highway exit turn off. Mental note to look for this bus driver if we are ever running late to get to the airport.

Just one stop on the KL rapid and we were in China town and again in familiar territory. We checked into our hotel and then went out to have satay sticks at our favourite street food stall. No visit to KL is complete without a meal at the satay stall, we have been coming for years, the best bit is the peanut sauce.

A quick walk around the markets, very quiet here tonight. Not many tourists around at all.
The weather seems to be a lot cooler here than Bangkok - no humidity at all.

Back to hotel for a shower and watch a bit of telly before bed.

Friday 6th Sept 13 (day 6)

Because we had an interior windowless room, it was pitch black when we woke and we had no idea what time it was. We had to turn on a light and dodge our laundry which was strung up across the room to see what time it was. Our hotel rooms always take on the appearance of a Chinese laundry, as we wash out the days clothes every night before bed hoping they will dry overnight and serve another day. They usually do as we long since adapted our travel clothes to quick dry fabrics.

Turned out it wasn't that late at all and as today is a free day it would not have mattered anyway. Breakfast on the balcony of our hotel, overlooking the mornings activities of Pedaling Street, turned out to be better than expected. The Chinatown daytime stall holders were just setting up for the days trade and our favourite duck lady was already doing a roaring trade - as per usual.
We have visited Kuala Lumpur many times now and it was a bit of a challenge to find something to do for the day as we have seen the sights and really a visit to a flash shopping mall is not for us. While surfing the net a few months back I stumbled on a site that mentioned KL is now running 2 free bus services, that allow anyone to catch them and to get on and off at your leisure. This sounded like something that would fill our time and a good chance to people watch while moving around the city. Lucky for us one of the loops passed through Chinatown, so after we finished breakfast and had purchased half a duck for later, we set off to the bus stop.

GO-KL buses turned out to be quite nice. Obviously a lot newer than the local buses, air conditioned and with free wifi! And no fares to boot! We took a seat, checked in on the Internet and were off into the always busy traffic. The two bus routes are only short - just over 6 & 7 km's respectively, but due to traffic we sat for almost an hour before we arrived at the loops crossover bus stop and disembarked the purple line to get onto the green line. We were lucky to get seats on both buses as these free rides were very popular. Funny though we seemed to be the only 'tourists' aboard. Perhaps the service is not very well advertised to tourists, but is still getting wide use from locals who were enjoying the free ride to get them to their chosen destination.
After travelling along about half of the green line - about an hour - we got out at the bus stop at the Petronas Twin Towers. Very flash shopping mall here that we were bored with, within 3 minutes of seeing the shop names. All high end stuff, definitely nothing within our back packer budget. So we found a westernised coffee shop and sat with an over priced coffee (overpriced for Malaysia, but same price as home) and watched other tourist, locals and shop workers go about their sight seeing or working movements. And anyway the coffee was on someone else who had given Lyn some left over ringgits. Thanks to that person, you know who you are, but probably not reading this anyway!
After enjoying our coffee and a nice seat watching passing foot traffic, we returned to the mall and found a supermarket that sold real bread, an oddity in Asia and had a picnic lunch outside in the park at the back of the towers.

The two bus loops back to Chinatown took even longer than earlier due to peak hour traffic. We managed to get seats on both buses again so were not too worried about the time it took. Back at the hotel we enjoyed a last beer on the balcony, now watching the new stall holders setting up. In Chinatown there are two shifts for stalls, a daytime shift and a nighttime shift.

We had kept our room for the extra day, cheap enough to do so and gave us somewhere safe to leave our luggage. Also enabling us to have a shower after our day out and before our late night flight. So we showered, packed and ate our duck for dinner before heading off to the airport.
Perfect timing on the metro delivered us to the airport shuttle bus at KL Sentral just 2 minutes before its departure. A little over an hour later - again very heavy traffic - we were entering the airport terminal to be confronted by a very very very long check in line. Seemed to be a lot of Malaysian airways flights leaving between 10 and midnight and we all had to queue up for the same check in counters. Snaking our way in line it was over an hour before it was our turn to check in the luggage, which meant we had to head straight away to immigration and our departure gate to make the flight.

There is nothing exciting to tell you about a 13 hour flight! We watched a few movies, tried our best to get some sleep and managed to survive the journey without too much discomfort.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 08:36 Archived in Malaysia Tagged kuala lumpur Comments (0)

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