Shah Alam

Trip Start Feb 07, 1993
Trip End Mar 19, 1993

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Flag of Malaysia  , Selangor,
Sunday, February 7, 1993

February 7
Arrived in Kuala Lumpur (Subang Airport) about 9pm. As we had a 24 hour stopover the airfare included a night's accommodations at the Shah Alam Holiday Inn plus two way transfers. We discovered on arriving at the hotel that our package also supplied a welcome drink, breakfast and lunch the following day. I suppose the whole thing was worth about $100, which when you consider our airfares cost only $1,260 in total made the whole package seem very attractive.

The Holiday Inn -  billed as the "official place for family fun" - is pretty good; a big room (which we had to share) with panoramic views of numerous construction sites and assorted holes in the ground. The whole city was started from scratch after independence and apparently still has a long way to go before it's completed. The magnificent State Mosque is right next to the hotel and cost $16.5 million to complete according to our taxi driver, but more of that later.

Had our welcome drink in the Gardenia Restaurant (pink guava juice)  then a meal - Mee Mee something which appeared to be Hokkien noodles in an egg based soup with seafood and chicken. Whatever it was, it tasted delicious. The staff all dress in orange and yellow, which Ian pointed out matched well with their natural colouring. The meal was reasonably priced at $20.25 M (the AUD is is worth $1.6 Malaysian at the moment). We had a couple of beers which came to about $10 each - booze seems to be quite expensive here.

Returned to our twin share accommodation and watched a documentary channel called Vision 4 for a while. A restless night followed starting with Ian sitting bolt upright in bed, shouting "Boom" and then falling back onto his pillow again. No idea what he was dreaming about - a war zone possibly.

February 8
I was awake at dawn so went up to the roof and took a few shots of the sunrise. The superb blue and white Sultan Salahuddin Mosque - the largest in Asia - was right below me. I took the lift down to reception and then walked around it in the early morning light. The sun had just risen and hung above the horizon like a huge red beach ball. Although not yet hot it was already very humid and I was sweating after only a couple of minutes.

Not many people around, just a few joggers running through the gardens that run by the side of the artificial lake next to the mosque. Tessellated brick and bridges. Waterside pavilions of dark red wood. Quite lovely. Prayers were just finishing and a couple of friendly locals posed for a photo in front of the building. The main door behind them was open and I could see a huge window of deep blue stained glass. I really wanted to have a look inside but the locals told me that's forbidden to non-Muslims.

Had breakfast at the hotel around 10am - omlette, sausages, chip beef and rice followed by fresh guava, rock melon and yellow star fruit. Went for a walk around the local shopping centre which is a little run down but fairly comprehensive. Surprised to find the prices were much the same as home - Malaysia is no shopper's paradise apparently. The light was still deceptively diffuse, lying over the landscape like a fuzzy orange-brown blanket and making it seem much earlier than it was.

Had a swim in the pool on the roof which was great. Only problem was the hotel has no dryer, at least none that guests can use, so I had to pack my shorts wet. Had lunch and lay around the room watching videos until it was time to get the taxi back to Subang. Our Chinese taxi driver pointed out a whole street of identical white houses on a hill above the road that he said had been built for "friends of the Sultan". We also passed the huge concrete and spiderweb-girder shell of the sports stadium they're building for the Commonwealth Games in 1998. It's still humid but just bearable enough for jeans. We watched the sky blacken in the east through the taxi windshield and the rain come down over KL, and then over us.

Changed $50 US for $M and paid Ian the $30 I owed him - $20 for departure tax and another $10 for my half share in the Banyo "Water Resist" watch we bought to facilitate catching trains on time and generally keeping at least a tenuous tie to reality. Ian was keen to drink but at $10 a beer we decided on coffee instead (Kopi susu the locals call it - coffee made with condensed milk). I tried to write some diary notes but Ian was in chat mode so I soon gave up and we started talking about industrial relations until the plane boarded.

Mostly Indians on the plane (no surprising I suppose as we are actually going to India). I have deserted Ian for the non-smoking section and am sitting next to a large Indian-Malaysian solicitor who joked that either airplane seats are getting narrower or he was getting fatter. We talked for about 20 minutes and he told me about Malaysia - the ethnic mix of the country (40% Chinese, 40% Malay, 12% Indian and 8% other) and its pros and cons (mostly pros).

He's eating peanuts and drinking campari and orange and to date is the only person I've see on the plane wearing a suit. Most of the other men on the plane are wearing slacks and open neck shirts - although a few are wearing turbans only the women seem to be dressed in what I conceive to be traditional dress.

It's 10.36pm Malaysian time - 8.06pm in India my solicitor friend informs me. I have control of the communal watch at the moment and have reset it to destination time. Madras is about 2.5 hours away. Apart from a couple of pineapple juices and the ubiquitous peanuts we are yet to be fed, however the menu handed out by the stewardess at the beginning of the flight suggests that we will be at some stage. As we have spent most of the last 24 hours eating huge amounts of predominantly free food I'm not particularly fussed at the moment, but of course if more food is placed in front of me I will eat it. Health remains unimpaired so far, though Ian is already complaining about a dose of diarrhea. If we can get sick in a 5 Star hotel in Malaysia we will doubtless die a horrible death in India.

They've handed out little folders of stationery and postcards with a complimentary pen attached. The postcards are of Malaysian Airlines passenger planes and not particularly exciting or worth sending home to anyone. The guidebook speaks highly of a hotel in Madras called the Broadlands so I have that as my local address on the immigration card.
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