Malaysia - The overland tour begins (sort of)

Trip Start Aug 03, 2004
Trip End Jan 27, 2005

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

We booked ourselves onto the midday bus from the Lavendar bus terminal in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (known as KL in South East Asia) where we intended to get a quick taste of the Malaysian capital before heading north overland to Thailand. The bus journey was great and included air con, reclining seats, loads of leg room and a boxed lunch. After getting through the border crossing relatively easy (it would have helped if they had given us an immigration card to fill in before we got there) we continued on via the smooth and quite road network to KL, arriving by 6pm.

We picked out a place to stay opposite the bus station called Pudu Hostel and on arrival we went to check it out. The room was ok but the shared bathroom and showers were a bit scummy. This was made up for by the rest of the facilities - large cafe area serving nice cheap food and cold Tiger beer, huge TV with nightly movies and premier league football, and a huge 24 hour internet place in the same building with all the whistles and bells (Windows Xp, USB, web cams, scanners, CD-Drives etc).

Using Pudu as our base we spent a couple of days exploring KL: Visiting the Petronas towers, Merdeka Square, the railway station (nice architecture), Chinatown, Little India, the mosques of Masjid Jamek and Masjid Negara, and the slick suburb of Bangsar.

At Masjid Jamek mosque we had to cover up in robes and headgear which made us look like a bag lady and a quick-fit-fitter respectively (see photos). Thankfully we were spared further embarrassment at Masjid Negara mosque as we got there outside visiting hours.

We nearly missed the chance to go up to the skybridge which links the Petronas Towers as we were unaware that although its free, you must get a ticket, and when we arrived late in the afternoon there were signs saying 'no more tickets for today'. However, after acting dumb, we were told that as there were only two of us they'd squeeze us in - a spectacular building and the views were pretty good.

Chinatown was a great place to shop for cheap t-shirts, watches, bags, footwear etc. It was sweaty, hot and claustrophobic shuffling through the busy market stalls but worth the effort for the bargains to be had. Ig found himself a new t-shirt whilst Mary picked up a nice bag after haggling (you've gotta haggle!)

We tried to make an effort to sample the local cuisine whilst in Malaysia but were scuppered by menus which weren't in English, meaning we had no idea what we'd be eating. However, we resisted the temptation to go for the easy option (McD's KFC etc) and ate one night at an Indian hawker centre where the total bill including soft drinks, curry, rice and naan was RM17 (~ GBP 2.5). A slightly nicer curry, with beer and air conditioned restaurant surroundings was enjoyed at the Garden City Hotel in Little India where the works with multiple beers was RM70 (~ GBP 10), extravagant by Malaysian standards but cheap, even by the standards of Bombay Tandoori back home.

Things got even more extravagant on a night out in Bangsar, a westernised suburb of KL with lots of trendy bars and restaurants. After a couple of beers in Finnegan's Irish pub (ah - a real pub!) we found a nice Mexican restaurant/bar/nightclub called Absolute Chemistry where we enjoyed a nice meal and a few beers. We were then told it was ladies night so Mary could drink for free - or as we interpreted it, Mary could order whatever drinks Ig fancied! After a few drinks Ig made friends with the waiter who insisted on calling him Mr John for the rest of the night and Mary found this most amusing.

We decided that the next stop would be Phuket in Thailand, but after looking into the bus and train options we decided it would be far easier and not much more expensive to fly - so much for the overland adventure!

We enjoyed our time in KL and Malaysia, although we wish we'd had more time to visit the jungle area of Taman Negra and Penang Island off the west coast.
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