My first-ever touchdown on Malaysian soil in December of 2010, could not be counted as a visit. Rather, it was a mere transit to Singapore. Sure, I got two stamps on my passport going in and out of Kuala Lumpur but the traveler in me could not accept it as a formal visit. It was like cheating on your travel checklist.
So I decided to visit this city once and for all. Not only to get away from that guilty feeling, but also, to experience its culture, and see what it has to offer.
My first impression of Malaysia was marred by the God-awful 1 1/2 hours queue at the KL LCCT immigration. Imagine, after more than 3:30 hours of plane travel from Manila, I had to endure standing up that long just to be stamped and be given access to the city.
Alright, I must admit that the the wait could somehow be attributed to OFWs, most of whom had to present numerous documents to show that they are in fact, legitimate workers. Processing of each OFW lasted for about 10 minutes.
After hurdling the immigration roadblock, travelling to Kuala Lumpur was surprisingly easy. I just purchased a star shuttle ticket for a measly 8 Malaysian Ringgit (8RM) at the airport lobby, transferred to the bus loading platform number 3 and I was on my way. By the way, 1 US dollar is about 2.98 ringgit.
|ticket vending machine at Pasar Seni station
It took about an hour to get to Puduraya/Chinatown, the backpackers ghetto in Kuala Lumpur but the 8RM fare was a lot cheaper than the 35 KLIA express train that would have brought me to my destination for 35RM in about 28 minutes.
Chinatown wasn’t considered as the backpacker’s central for nothing. Its major streets such as Jalan Petaling and Jalan Thun H.S. Lee are teeming with stores, stalls, restaurants and hotels. Too many if you ask me but there is definitely enough market for them.
If I were to make an honest comparison between KL’s Chinatown and Khao San Road in Thailand, I can say that KSR is more packed with tourist friendly establishments. The hotel rates in Chinatown are kinda steep on the average compared to KSR and the beers are way too expensive, no thanks to high taxes on alcohol.
There aren’t many tattoo shops in Chinatown and I can’t see stalls for hair braids. When it comes to stores selling knock-offs, I think Chinatown is good place.
|KLCC LRT station
With no prior reservation, I knocked on the two branches of Reggaehouse in Chinatown but found both of them overflowing with guests. I could have chosen to stay in their mixed rooms with about 10 to 15 others but I was too tired and I wanna stretch my legs and I couldn’t do that in the mini single beds they were offering.
I settled on the Hotel Petaling which charged me 66RM, which was reasonable considering the private bathroom, good aircon and clean enough room. After all, I wasn’t planning on staying in bed all day.
I took a quick shower and headed straight to Malaysia’s most famous landmark, the Petronas Towers I was having some hesitations before I flew in, because I didn’t have any map with me. But as it turned out, KL is one of the most easiest cities to navigate, thanks to their very efficient railway system.
I walked around Chinatown and I was surprised to see the Pasar Seni LRT station very close to Chinatown. The ticket vending machine was difficult since the instructions were written in Malaysian but a good citizen helped me out and taught me how to pay the 1.60 RM fare to KL City Central where Petronas is located, and soon I was standing on platform 1, waiting for my train.
For first-timers, KL’s railway system was kinda complex but as most travelers often do, they use their charm and seek assistance from the locals. I used my charm to great effect and I was escorted by three Malaysian teenagers outside the train labyrinth into the warm Malaysian night.
Seeing Petronas Towers from the subway, was literally shocking. The KLCC subway terminal exits directly as the base of these two enormous brightly lit towers made up of concrete and steel. Everywhere you look, there are people, tourists and locals alike, taking pictures in front of the towers.
Im not ashamed to say that I was awestruck by the towers. After all, there was once a time where they were the tallest towers in the world.
Petronas Towers were definitely a major attraction but I was even more impressed by the friendly locals who offered to take my pictures in front of the tower. Okay, I was kinda hesitant at first, thinking that maybe there were after my camera, my Canon Powershot SX30. but they seemed genuinely okay so I gave in.
I marveled at the towers for an hour before deciding to explore the shops inside it and at the train basement.
After a sumptuous dinner, I made my way back to Chinatown as easily as I went to KLCC.
Still on a high, I explored the streets around Chinatown and found a Hindu temple so gorgeous I couldn’t stop looking at it. The temple top was made of hundreds of colorful Hindu statuettes of Shiva (I think) and even late in the evening, tens of people were still praying inside.
I’ve been walking since morning and I decided to wash up at my hotel. The airconditioned room felt arctic compared to the humid Malaysian night.
I rested for an hour and then I was ready to party……..
|Jalan Petaling street in Chinatown