A Few Things You Should Know Before Visiting Kuala Lumpur

Asia, Malaysia

Malaysia is a dream destination for a lot of people. It is easy to see why it is on the travel bucket list for many people. I have been to the country before and I can see why people would want to visit it. Despite the awfully long queue at the airport immigration! A lot of people that aren’t native to Asia think that they won’t speak a lick of English. So that can put a lot of people off. The thing is, nearly everyone does speak English. So it is a great place to start off travel adventures. It doesn’t make it too ‘foreign’ in that way.

You can get around using English and asking the locals. On the whole, they are a lovely nation and seem happy to help in my experience. Just don’t talk too fast or go off in an in-depth conversation with them. Keep it simple and they will be able to understand and help.

You don’t need to worry about taxis or hiring a car when you are in Kuala Lumpur. The train system is amazing there. You can get a train from one of the airports and it will take you right into the heart of the city. You sometimes think that everything was built around the train system as it works so well. So when you are making a Kuala Lumpur hotel booking, choose one that has good access to a train station.

KL2

Then you can get around to the see the sights and visit all of the amazing markets. They run every couple of minutes, and they are super cheap. It makes it so easy to get around. So you can feel like you are able to fit in a lot on your trip. As you will be able to get around and see it all easily.

On that note, markets are life in Malaysia. They are so vibrant and full of life. They are great to visit for a self-esteem boost too. Want to be told you are a handsome man that needs a handsome looking watch, then they are the places to be. Be fully prepared to haggle at the markets too. The stall owners are prepared for this and will go in with a high price. It is a good idea to go for at least half of the first price they give. Then go from there until you are at a price you are happy with.

One thing that you need to do in Kuala Lumpur is to try lots of the street food. As the name suggests, it is pretty cheap but truly amazing. You get to try all of the tastes of Malaysia. If you aren’t sure what to try first, it is a good idea to ask the locals. Maybe check with the hotel staff of where you are staying of where they would advise. They will have a better idea of the places that are popular and which areas might make you feel unwell.

Enjoy your trip!

Advertisements

24 Hours in Kuala Lumpur

Asia, Malaysia

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.

Petronas lobby

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

Traveling from Malaysia to Thailand By Overnight Train

Asia, Malaysia, Thailand

Believe me.

It is really impossible to feel good about yourself when you haven’t taken a shower for the past 24 hours. And then you won’t get that dream luxurious bath until after completing another 8-hour bus ride and another 2-hour ferry ride to your destination.

It was 10am and the sweltering heat from the Thailand sun, was making me all the more sweaty and shitty (pardon me, for the word).

I just arrived in the town of Hat Yai in southern Thailand after withstanding a grueling 13-hours train ride from the city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

094

Being cramped in the semi comfortable recliner seat aboard the KTMB intercity train was not exactly my idea of a perfect holiday. But since it was the cheapest way to Koh Pangan from Malaysia, I took a risky gamble.

Even before I began my trip, I was really decided in visiting Koh Pangan to experience the world-famous Full Moon party at Haad Rin beach once and for all.

Straight from my hotel room in Chinatown, I took the LRT train in Pasar Seni station in Malaysia and purchased the 1RM fare to KL Sentral, the main transportation hub in the city.  It is where the rapid KL (LRT), KLIA Express and KTMB Intercity trains converge.

Day 3 016

The KTMB rules say that you have to purchase a ticket prior to your scheduled departure so I went to KL Sentral very early in the morning to make sure that I make a reservation. I was able to secure a ticket, all right but as it turned out, the intercity train between Kuala Lumpur and Thailand won’t leave until 9:10 that evening and will arrive at its final destination of Hat Yai at around 10:12 am the next day, (9:12 in Thailand because of the one-hour time difference.

Fortunately, the train was on time. Passengers from all walks of life took the train ranging from elderly Malaysians to employees hoping to get to their provinces. The huge number of foreign passengers was also noticeable.

It was the night before the full moon party and numerous travelers, most of whom are on a tight budget, took the train for its low rate, rather than flying from KL to Hat Yai, which would have easily cost them 300RM at least.

The duration of the train ride was uneventful except for the loud snoring of some of the passengers.  There were also passengers who were playing cards and other board games to pass the time.

It would have been a very comfortable travel if not for the fact that the coach toilet is shared by 59 other passengers. And when you have that many passengers using it, you can’t expect it to be clean.

It made me realize that a nice hot shower is one luxury we often take for granted just because it’s almost always readily available when we want them.

Day 3 019

But for budget travelers crossing the Malaysia-Thailand border, it is one luxury we definitely wished for.

Granted, the air conditioned coaches won’t make you sweat, but the sticky feeling and that grime you accumulated from the day’s wandering are things you want off your body when you sleep. But no such luck.

We filled up exit forms from the Malaysian side and entry forms into Thailand at the Padar Besar station, during which, the train took its mandatory rest. After an hour, all passengers were asked to get on the train and traveled the final leg of the trip to Hat Yai.

Now as I’ve said, almost all passengers , looked like a train wreck (pun intended) the morning after the 13-hour ride. Sure some of us were able to wash our faces and brushed our teeth inside the train but not all of us were lucky.

What’s worse is that, you won’t get to clean yourself up until after you take another eight hours of bus ride from Hat Yai town proper to the Donsak Ferry terminal in Surat Thani, where you will take another two hour ferry ride to Koh Pangan.

Day 3 029

I paid 750 Thai baht for the bus and ferry combo but I was disheartened to hear that some of the others paid only 600 baht. I was ripped off but I couldn’t care less.  The 750 baht or $25 fare was still very cheap.

Upon hearing the next transits we have to complete to get to Koh Pangan, I started to feel sad, not because of the long journey, I’m used to that, but because of the hot shower I have dreaming since the night before.

I looked around the bus terminal and somehow, I was comforted by the fact that all of us, and I mean all, looked like a total mess. Ladies haven’t brushed their hair, and everyone’s eyes were pluffy from the meager sleep.  Men already have one-day stubbles.

It struck me though that despite the messy appearance of most of my fellow passengers, not one of them feels down about the long journey. In fact, they looked like they were readying themselves for the long journey ahead of us.

I checked myself again in the mirror. It has been a day since I last took a luxurious shower at my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur. I looked a bit messy and really tired. But what the heck, my journey isn’t even complete.

I wore my sun glasses, lifted my heavy backpack and joined my fellow passengers for yet another part of our very long journey.

Hearty Meals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Asia, Food and Dining, Malaysia, Weekend Food Trips

With so many ethnic races calling it home, Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia has been a melting pot of different beliefs, traditions, and culture.

Even the gastronomic preference of its people is far too diverse.

In my very brief stay in this remarkable city, I was able to enjoy the dishes that somehow represent the different groups that comprise Kuala Lumpur.

In the heart of the city’s Chinatown district, near Puduraya, in the middle of the Tang Yang food district, I enjoyed a sumptuous Loh Mee Yee soup that was so rich, I couldn’t help myself but order another bowl.

For a meager 5 Malaysian ringgit (RM), I tremendously enjoyed this noodle soup cooked in generous servings of egg, squid, and prawn. There’s also a lot of vegetables thrown into the mix. The dish also has deep-fried scrambled eggs (does that make sense, hahaha)

And yes, the lowly lomi soup in the Philippines might have been a great descendant, though of this Loh Mee Yee soup. Loh Mee simply means fried noodles.

I think one major difference between Loh Mee Yee and the Pinoy lomi is that the latter gives you the option to make it real spicy. (take note of the chili sauce).

Nasi Ayam

Meanwhile, In one of the food stalls along Thun H. S. Lee street, just a block away from Chinatown and very close to Pasar Seni station, I discovered the wonders of Nasi Ayam. or Roasted chicken poured with some very spicy sauce.

And just before you think I am slowing down on spending, I gave myself a real treat and dined in one of the authentic restaurants near Petronas Towers, called The Coffee and Spice Company for dinner. This cozy restaurant, in my opinion, serves truly sumptuous Malaysian cuisines.

Though I paid a pricey 20RM, I enjoyed the restaurant’s Nasi Lemak, which I learned is actually considered a national heritage of Malaysia.

This dish is basically curried chicken served with rice soaked in coconut cream, anchovies (ikan bilis), boiled egg, cucumber slices, nuts and prawns. In short, a very heavy meal enough to satisfy anyone’s hunger pangs.

I didn’t eat the nuts since it makes my face really oily the next day, but I decimated the entire order with gusto. After all, it is not everyday that you eat the national dish of Malaysia in Malaysia.

Nasi Lemak

After two days of indulging in the rich and tasty Malaysian culinary world, I decided to take a break during my travel from Kuala Lumpur to Thailand by going back to my comfort food: sausages, eggs and toasted bread. Yummy!

I know, I know, I should have enjoyed more Malaysian food while I was at it, but you know, it also pays to enjoy very basic meals to tell the difference between your average meals and the ones that you will truly enjoy and remember.

And believe, days after my initial encounter with Malaysian’s dishes, I know that I will have to come back and enjoy some more,