A reunion with old friends

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, October 13, 2005

We leave Singapore in a real rush. After collecting so much change for using the public phone I find the only way to relieve myself of my Singapoorean coins is at a drinks vending machine. Armed with 6 cans of various softdrinks we sit at the front of a VIP bus heading for Kuala Lumpur, or KL as it is known by the locals.

Our journey to the capital of Malaysia is really smooth in comparison to all our other experiences. We sit comfortably onboard a huge air conditioned bus, which has fat seats that can recline to allow the passengers to sleep. To my dismay there are signs indicating no food, durian fruits (they have a distinctive odour), nor drinks, may be consumed. However we pretend not to see this (or the fine) and slurp down our beverages with no problems.

After 45 minutes we arrive at the border. The bus drops us off at immigration on the Singapore side and after about 2 minutes, collects everyone from the other side of the building. After driving through no-mans land, the same process, but including customs, is repeated at the Malaysian border.

We arrive in KL quite confused. The coach stops on the roadside near to Puduraya Bus Terminal and everyone gets off. It is hot and humid and we find ourselves lost on a busy street. With no information or maps of the city, or places to stay, John suggests with some urgency that he needs to go to the toilet.

A local guy invites us into his cafe and John waits here whilst I find an ATM and check out the accomodation situation. I am quite hopeful when I learn that the owner studied hotel management at my home University in Leeds and that he has some good rooms available. However it is disappointing to find that his rooms are all small, basic and utterly filthy. The other hostels along this road are pretty much the same, but eventually I find a semi-decent budget room with air conditioning for the night.

The main reason for being in KL is for me to catch up with some old University friends. I suprise Darren Soh on the first evening by calling him out of the blue. He arranges to meet us immediately after work. The Malaysian working hours remind me of Hong Kong as we meet at 10pm. It is great to see Darren. He takes us for a drink of fresh melon juice, efficiently provides us with information on much nicer hostels and gives us a tour of the city in his car. We pass the central business district, the twin towers, the colonial court houses, old chinese temples, several mosques and the city railway station.

The next day we walk a mere ten minutes to Anjung KL, one of the nicest hostels that we have visited. The hostel has only been open for around 2 months and everything has been carefully researched and selected by the owner's wife, Sharon. We leave our shoes by the entrance and enjoy our stay in this refreshingly clean and homey place where we have a comfortable bed, free breakfast and a peaceful communal area which comes complete with a calming water fountain, sophisticated wooden furniture and a good selection of free DVDs. We meet some friendly Swedish guys and have a nice suprise when we see our group photograph on their main webpage.

Click here to open a window for Anjung KL

In the evening we arrange to meet Darren at the Petronas twin towers. We assume that travelling using the public underground and monorail system will be practical but it isn't so easy as all the differnt lines are privatised. We change lines once we find that we have to walk 200m down an un-signposted street and buy another ticket. The ticket counter is empty and the machine does not accept 10 ringet notes (just over 1 GBP). After about 40 minutes we arrive a little frustrated at our destination. Darren cheers us up by treating us to a local Malaysia dinner where we meet his beautiful wife Denise and his 2 year old multilingual son, Ryan.

Next day we dodge heavy thunderstorms and take a taxi to the butterfly centre. The taxi drivers are all a little odd, either refusing to use their meters and only offering a hugely inflated price or claiming that they don't know where it is. After some time we find a taxi driver who agrees to use his meter although I am a little disturbed to see him finger in a 'special' rate for our journey. The driver talks non-stop during the journey and whilst driving he whips out leaflets and brochures on all the different tourist attractions of Malaysia.

The butterfly farm takes some effort to get to but we really enjoy seeing so many butterflies which flutter around in a large enclosed flower paradise. There is a large variety of different sizes and colours and I like the large black butterflies with yellow blotches the most. There is also a fish pond containing giant carp and in the education centre we find a whole series of cabinets containing the biggest dried spiders I have ever seen.

There is a whole variety of different sights to see around the butterfly farm such as the National mosque and bird aviary. However we run out of time and have to rush back into town to meet another university food scientist. We meet Eliza Chee and her husband Ian for a lazy Thai lunch in Time Square building. The shopping mall is pretty modern and we find Borders, Starbucks plus a whole upper floor designated for a roller coaster amusement park area.

One more night spent in Anjung KL and then we wake early for the morning bus to Taman Negara. We pack our rucksacks, walk to a Crown Plaza Hotel and leave KL on another luxurious bus.
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