Jungle to Jungle

Trip Start Sep 11, 2010
Trip End Aug 19, 2011

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Flag of Malaysia  , Kuala Lumpur,
Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Malays seriously know what they are doing when it comes to bus transport. The buses have only 3 seats abreast (one row of two and one single row), which not only recline but have inclining leg supports.  It was comfort in transit the like I probably have not seen.  The 250km journey from Penang to Kuala Lumpur took us through the densest jungle I have ever seen.  Of course we were traveling on a motorway that would make the Irish roads authority blush which was punctuated with large petrol stations and food court pit stops.  In between those pockets of development it felt like we could have been going through the Amazon.  It wasn't like to 'forests’ of Thailand which appear meticulously planned with different trees planted in a perfect grid.  No this was true wilderness.  We winded around the hill side roads gazing out as the sun was setting and the mists were rising from the lush canopy.  That was until we were distracted by the in flight movie, Predators.  It was rubbish but I was still chuffed to be watching a real English movie on a real TV.  We arrived in KL at 9 and were deposited outside KL Sentral station.  We took a couple of minutes to compose ourselves peering up at the Hilton hotel and other sky scrapers in the area.  We turn to each other and said ‘well this is a long way from Ao Luk’.  I was wearing my beloved fisherman’s pants and equally beloved woven shirt.  Looking around at the locals in their designer treads made me feel like a Thai farmer boy who’d come from the hills to visit the big smoke.  Inside KL Sentral looked a lot like and airport, apparently you can check in for your flight drop your bags and take a rail shuttle to the terminal 18km from the city.  We easily figured out the excellent light rail system and with a little less ease navigated our way through the market maze of Chinatown to find our hotel.  The hotel was nice; the rooms were equipped with AC and TVs with star movies.  We decided to relax there for the night before taking on the Malaysian capital in the morning.

Before we could do any sightseeing I had an important mission to accomplish… getting a visa for Myanmar.  The first few hours were spent getting together all the various material before making my way to the embassy.  Of course the embassy was closed, apparently for the prophet Mohammad’s birthday, so the visa application would have to wait until the following day.  The KL icon; Petronas towers were near by so they were the first thing on the itinerary for the day.   For sure they were impressive although no comparison to the Bur Khalifa in Dubai.  Inside there was a Petronas F1 car, which was quite cool.  We were semi interested in going up them but tickets to visit the sky bridge were sold out.  After an expensive coffee inside we headed on to the Malaysia Tourist Center, which according to my guidebook was an attraction in itself.  Indeed it was an impressive center with very friendly and helpful staff.  We took a go on one of massage chairs there, it was lovely actually although obviously no match for a Thai massage.  Next we headed on to the KL tower; a 450 meter telecoms structure.  From its observation platform there was an outstanding panoramic view of the city, much better than from the Petronas towers I would think.  There was also a Malaysian cultural village as part of the visit.  It had some traditional village houses, some Malay games and a dance performance… it was interesting.  We had to rush on from there to collect our reserved train tickets from KL Sentral before the deadline time of 5pm.  After a quick late lunch we headed back to the hotel for freshen up for the evening.

We met with Robert, a fellow volunteer from Ao Luk for the evening.  He had finished at the same time we had and was visiting KL for a few days after a week or so in Bangkok.  We went to a place called Bintang, the commercial center which seemed a lot like Piccadilly Circus.  We had dinner together in a huge Asian food market where we tried everything from local cuisine, Chinese food and Japanese sushi.  After dinner we had a drink in a local bar.  It was a rounded bar with a palapa style roof in the middle of a pedestrian street.  It seemed to be trying hard to imitate a beach bar in Thailand but having difficulty pulling it off being in the middle of a busy metropolis.  There was little buzz in that part of town later on so we jumped on the monorail a couple of stops to the party centre.  There we found a few clubs who had a pretty high cover fee; instead we opted for an ok looking bar in the area.  Just after we had paid for our exorbitant drinks we noticed that about have the people in there were prostitutes.  They didn’t hassle us or anything but still it was a bit weird and uncomfortable.  Anyway we ignored them and stayed there reminiscing about all the good times we had back on base and exchanged travel stories since leaving base. It was a bit sad really and in away felt like the end for me since we would be bidding Rob goodbye that night and Chloe would be on her way the following night.  Still it was a nice night and lovely to have a little GVI reunion in the big smoke.

The following day started with another attempt at the Myanmar embassy.  Success, at least in the application for my visa.  Next we went to Medraka square (Independence square) as it was supposedly the center of historical building.  The square is where the union jack was lowered in 1957.  In its place they have built what they call the biggest flagpole in the world for their national flag.  We chilled (or more accurately sweated in the heat and humidity) in the square for a while before moving on to Central Market.  The market is really not what you expect from an Asian market.  It’s clean, modern, not smelly, not too busy and full of handicrafts…. It’s far removed from it’s more humble and authentic roots but still it was a nice place to pick up a few souvenirs.  Next we headed for Times Square shopping complex.  This was the most ridiculously over the top shopping centre I have ever seen.  It has 13 stories, each one a huge shopping complex in its own right.  Actually I would challenge Dubai’s title of having the biggest shopping center in the world.  We didn’t go there for the shopping (thank God!) but instead we were drawn by the indoor theme park.  We had heard of this indoor rollercoaster and were excited at the idea of whizzing past all the shoppers below.  The park was almost entirely empty which made it a bit less fun. Still it was great to be able to walk straight onto the rides.  The rollercoaster was quite fun too although not the most insane one I have been on.  They did have a ride called the DNA Mixer which was pretty insane; I think it left both our tummies a bit uneasy for about an hour afterwards.  After we stumbled dizzily out of the park we headed to another Asian food market for dinner.  We ticked three more unique Malay dishes off our city guides list and were very happy to have tried pretty much everything on it.  That night it was time for Chloe to begin her 3 day journey home; she was catching a train to Singapore, and flying to New Zealand with a night stopover in Sydney.  It was sad to wave goodbye to one more of the GVI gang and as I mentioned made it feel like the experience was well and truly over (although I am probably going to visit base again in the next few weeks) … and then there was one.

I didn’t do much else in KL after Chloe left.  I just had an early night in the hotel enjoying the TV and the AC.  Early the following day I was heading to Melaka about 150 km south of KL
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