A Travellerspoint blog


Jetlagged KL Stopover

sunny 30 °C

The Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur was brutal - not because of Air Asia, the plane and crew were fine, but because of the timing of the flight. I left Auckland at, I think, 8:30 in the evening and had a not bad meal served to me but then we had to stop at Gold Coast airport. We had obviously gone through security before boarding in Auckland but in Gold Coast, all passengers had to leave the plane and go though a mickey-mouse security setup, hang around in a gate lounge for a bit and then carry on. No meal for me on this leg: although there was a meal service, the website hadn't allowed me to book a second meal. We hit KLIA2 at 4:40 in the morning, nearly an hour early, there was no delay getting through the formalities, so I had a fair amount of time to wait before it was worth heading into the city. I have not actually been to KLIA2 - last time I flew Air Asia, they were still in the LCCT, a big shed-like structure which was pretty chaotic. I took a look around - there are a few food outlets on the second floor, plus space to look at some planes lined up - pretty much a standard sort of airport. Australia and New Zealand have become squeamish about even acknowledging they have tobacco products - here it looks like they've decided to make a feature of them!

I lingered in a hard chair in a quiet recess of the airport, then went to find a bus into town - at the bottom of the shopping mall that has been tacked on to the airport. I was in KL Sentral by around 10:00. There's been quite a bit of construction since I was here last, so I was not entirely sure of the direction to my hotel, so I cheated, and caught the train to the former main KL rail station. This is the site of one of my all time favourite hotels - the Station Heritage - I've stayed there twice, last time for a week. I enjoyed its timbered rooms, its long gloomy corridors, its near emptiness and even the fact that when something went wrong with a room, they'd just move me rather than fix the problem. It was built in 1910, but it obviously needed quite a bit of investment which has not been forthcoming. So now it is closed and the station just has a few commuter trains and a canteen.

Luckily, I had a back-up - the Majestic is just outside the old station but, because it is no longer an important hub, the hotel is ridiculously cheap to stay in for one of this class.

Showing its class, when I showed up all sweaty and dishevelled at 11 in the morning, I was able to check in immediately. This turned out to be a mistake - I had a few ideas of things to do but they transformed into "stay in the room", "have lunch in the Colonial cafe", have a beer in the Smoke House. The Colonial Cafe was almost empty - one person at one table, a group of three at another and then two more came in as I ate my Hainanese Chicken Chop - basically a chicken thigh de-boned and belted flat, with a sauce tasting most strongly of worcestershire sauce and a few chips. Not my best dining experience.
Hotel Majestic - Colonial Cafe

Hotel Majestic - Colonial Cafe

Tempting as it was,

I couldn't spend all day in my room. I had to go back to the station to organise some train tickets. They have one of those queuing systems where you take a ticket and wait to be called - someone had checked the train I wanted as I joined the queue but, by the time my number was called more than two hours later, the train had sold out. The joys of booking a train around Chinese New Year. Luckily I found that I could get as far as Butterworth on one train, then catch another to where I need to go. By this time, I really didn't feel like doing much other than finding some food and then go to my room. I hadn't seen anything very appealing as I looked around the station and its new shopping mall (they're all the rage here), so popped over to the Suria/KLCC mall and just went into the place with the most people - Madam Kwans, for a curry. Since my hotel had a wee bar, I thought I should give it a go, having something they call a Straights Swing. It was an odd experience - I was the only one there, and the barman kept hovering, just across the bar from me.

Posted by NZBarry 10:19 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

A Day in Kuala Lumpur

sunny 30 °C

I have spent quite a lot of time in KL over the years, so feel no urgency to go out and explore when I am here. Still, tempting as it was, I couldn't just spend my day holed up in the hotel so went for a wander, starting with yet another meal in the KL Sentral Station canteen (my hotel was right behind the station):






Spending time in the station was a bit of a mistake, as early versions of this trip involved train travel all the way from Singapore through Malaysia and onwards, and hanging about in the station brought on some regrets. Not that the station is anything to write home about - it looks more like an extremely budget shopping mall


and lacks any of the class of the former KL Sentral Station. In my notes for KL, the only entry I had was "Colonial Cafe, Majestic Hotel". I have no idea where the suggestion came from to go there, but it was a good one. The building itself doesn't look like much from the outside


although it seems to have a fake main entrance down the street


but the Colonial Cafe was well worth the visit - even though it is actually only a year old, you wouldn't know it:




My smoked salmon on bread with mustard didn't quite look as expected


but the Ayam Kunyit was great


Since I had now eaten lunch twice in the space of about 90 minutes, I thought I should take a walk, starting with going past one of my favourite buildings in KL - the former KL Sentral Station, which still houses the Heritage Station Hotel (I have spent more than a week there):




I then made for the area housing the Islamic Art museum, which is on a hill not far from the old station - I didn't want to see that museum in particular, just felt like wandering to see what I would see - that turned out to be the Royal Police Museum, which in amongst all the apparatus used by the Police over time told quite a tale - the Police appear to have been the main force relied upon by the State to quell the communist uprising in the 1940's. One odd thing - either I missed a room, or they didn't have a whole lot to report post 1960 (although there was some police equipment I saw which was much younger then 50 years old). Wandering further, I found myself back at the Merdeka Square, which is where Malaysian independence was declared in 1957. This was the State government and Supreme Court building (and is now the Ministry of Heritage)




The people are gathered to see the World Strongman championship - I arrived just as some dancing girls finished doing their thing, and didn't bother to wait for some chaps holding 66 kg weights with their arms extended in front of them. On the other side of the Square is (I think) the Royal Selangor Club


I needed to find an internet cafe and decided to walk towards the Petronas Towers in the hope of finding one - this was not successful, so after a couple of hours solid walk in the warm and humid air of KL, I finally arrived at the Petronas Twin towers themselves, and collapsed into a long cold drink. On about the third floor, there is a Harley Davidson shop



and then from the fourth floor, there is a pretty good view of proceedings outside




The place was packed, so I retreated to a Vienese cafe, and was not bothered a bit when they said it would take half an hour to produce a molten chocolate lava cake. Oddly enough, it was 8 before I got back to Sentral - just time to collect my bags and catch the train back to my digs near the airport.

Posted by NZBarry 07:18 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Away Again

sunny 30 °C

I took my last sip of beer and zipped my bag just as my friends drove up to take me to the airport. A short delay with my plane gave us a window for another beer, and then it was off to Christchurch where I was collected by another friend, who drove me around and watched on patiently while I had supper (actually the first meal of the day, so maybe I had been busier getting ready to leave than I thought). My last morning in New Zealand was relaxed - a short stroll to the coffee shop around the corner and on to the airport bus. Christchurch has these interesting devices on its bus stops - a list of bus routes, you press one and a wee red light glows to show when the next bus on that route will arrive. A fellow inhabitant of the bus stop was so intrigued by this system that she took numerous photos - I can just imagine how they will go down back home: "Look ma, a bus stop! You push this button and it does this, and.." "Alright, enough about the bus stop - make me some tea".

I had several hours to kill at the airport, and again at Sydney, which I occupied quite easily - mainly by eating. On the flight to Sydney, I was a bit squashed - a bloke sprawled with his legs wide apart to the right and an excitable Chinese woman of indeterminate age to the left who never sat still. In my semi lucid state, I examined the bloke and indulged in the thought that he was pretty scrawny for one taking up so much space and, with the element of surprise in my favour, could probably beat him in a fight. During one of my other neighbour's several absences, a cabin crew member sat in her seat for a bit, and she was using the seat back entertainment system to buy some food. I know the Government is strapped for cash and selling off its assets, but I didn't think it had reached this point. I did ask Paige if it had - she was just buying for another passenger whose screen was not working. In Sydney airport, I was in a cafe, enjoying my food, when I felt the heavy hand of a security guard on my shoulder. Not much of a situation: he had seen me eating, thought it tasty and come over to find out what I was eating (since it was just BBQ chicken on noodles, I thought it was obvious). Finally it was time to get on the Air Asia X flight to KL - a mercilessly dull 8 1/2 hours. No entertainment system (not without paying for it) and I was too tired to read but not sleepy. The only upside was that as soon as the plane levelled out, I could extricate myself from my seat and swap for one in which I had no neighbour.

On the descent, we were told we'd be ready to disembark at 3:15 a.m. and that the temperature was 27 degrees! It didn't seem too bad, and formalities were extremely perfunctory - no landing card to fill in, no questions, waved straight through Customs - I was checked in to the hotel before 4:00, where I had a tiny little room which was no more than a foot bigger on any side than the bed. My first day in KL didn't see me do very much - move into the city, catch up on some more sleep and then go buy the things that I had left behind (a mouse, a memory card, soap). This involved a visit to the malls in Bukit Bintang. Up on the 6th floor of the Sungei Wang Plaza, I enjoyed this sight:


After a heavy dose of shopping, it was time for one of these:



I noted the guys beside me had gone for a 2.5 litre tower of beer: there were only two of them and they were making very slow progress - I doubt they were going to finish. I only wanted the one beer, then it was time to enter the maws of the mall and find some dinner - it was very Christmassy.




Posted by NZBarry 18:10 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)


storm 28 °C
View Europe 2009 on NZBarry's travel map.

An 8:00 a.m. bus is never my idea of fun, and this one, to Melaka, was particularly tedious – straight up the motorway with an unending string of some sort of very frondy but short palm tree. The only interesting feature was crossing the border: in Singapore, they are very keen to stamp out smoking but the change in Malaysia was made evident when even the Immigration Officer was smoking. Another change I noticed fairly quickly was hte increased language barrier. Hanging out at NUS, and many parts of Singapore, it was common to hear English spoken all around me and to have most things signposted in English. In Malaysia, not so much; it was particularly difficult to identify food.

The bus dropped me at a fairly depressing looking mall - not a good look for one of the most recently minted World Heritage areas. My guest house was very nice, Number Twenty, in a minimalistic sort of way; all my room had was a bed, but with nicely polished floors and white walls. It was right in the middle of Melaka’s most famous address, Jonkers Walk, a street which turns into a night market during the weekend. That meant that whenever I wanted to go anywhere, I had to fight against the hordes of meandering sightseers – by the time I was left, I was wondering if I could fit airhorns or use some sort of stick to keep people moving. Probably not the done thing. During the day, Melaka was just hot so after a bit of a walk around on the Saturday I had to retire from the fray. Sunday, I was up to beat the heat, wandered around the waterfront area and the nearby new and very flash mall but something I ate (probably the curried chicken that looked like it might have been simmering for a month or two) caused my system to melt down and again, it was a return to barracks. So, not the most spectacularly successful of visits.

I had originally thought that I might spend quite some time in Melaka, if I was staying somewhere I could work, but it didn’t feel right so I popped up to Kuala Lumpur on the Monday. Good idea. Last time I was there, I stayed at the hotel right on the concourse of the main railway station. Things have changed in the meantime – for a start, it is no longer the main station, but the Heritage Station Hotel
is still there, a bit of a gloomy old pile, but it gave me lots of space and was quiet. Perfect for the work I had to do, so I stayed nearly a week. Breakfast was laid on in the dining room

In the evening, I’d strike out in a different direction to see some sights and find something to eat. The one day I went for a wander at lunch time, there was such a storm it caused a number of landslides around KL. I don't think anyone was killed, but I did hear of 13 cars being trapped.

It is a bit of a cliché, but my favourite area turned out to be Bukit Bintang, the primary destination of tourists in KL. It has a whole bunch of posh hotels, about half a dozen more or less grand shopping malls, bars, cafes, restaurants. Walking up the street sees you have about fifty different placards thrust in your face, offering various massage options. Then there’s the wandering vendors of DVD’s, watches and who knows what else along with the street performers (the silver midget
and the gold gentleman seem to be long-standing features) and throngs of locals and tourists. So, for my last night in KL I decided to move into the area, into the Piccolo Hotel – pretty undistinguished from the outside, but very very nice on the inside.DSC_0137.jpg At the place I went for my dinner,
I had the coldest beer I have ever had; it poured OK but then froze in the glass and started to smoke!

Posted by NZBarry 05:30 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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