MALAYSIA; MORE DIVERSE THAN YOU WOULD THINK
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
195Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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Where I stayed
The Explorers Guesthouse Kuala Lumpur
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH783
The Explorers Guesthouse (88 MR $27.50)
Our flight from Hanoi was at 1:30PM which gave us plenty of time to pack and have breakfast at our leisure. Dave went out for a few last minute purchases, Vietnamese coffee and an India LP!!
The girls at the front desk were eager to help us with online check-in and printed our boarding passes. And because we had spent minimum 3 nights at the hotel, the transport to the airport was complimentary! We just can't get over how accommodating and friendly the hotel staff was. They work hard to make your stay a most pleasant and memorable experience.
1 Malaysian ringgit = 0.317 U.S. dollars
1 U.S. dollar = 3.154 Malaysian ringgits
Malaysian Airlines. Our packs were the allowable 20 kilograms, exactly!! It was here where the airline rep asked about an onward ticket from Malaysia. Technically, the visa rules required one. But we explained that we planned to leave Malaysia over land and wouldn't be flying out. This satisfied her and she issued our tickets. We weren’t asked about this again. We had read stories of the requirement being strictly enforced only on rare occasions, such as if you look like an undesirable.
Dave got waterlogged trying to empty all our water bottles before we went through security. Stupidly, neither of us had given our pocket knives, and my favorite larger sheathed knife, a second thought, and we left those in our carry-on luggage. All three knives were confiscated. We were sick about it and so ticked off at ourselves for not having thought about it before. Oh well....lessons learned....I hope!
The plane’s door closed 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we were off. The flight is only 3.5 hours so we were expecting to be charged for drinks and lunch we were surprised to get both complimentary. The plane was new looking and the crew highly professional. We’d recommend this Sky Miles partner airline highly. We set our clock ahead one hour to Malaysia time.
WELCOME TO MALAYSIA
Malaysia immigration procedures went smooth and fast. We were not asked about an onward ticket and were stamped in for the usual 90 days.
As soon as we cleared customs, we were accosted by a few taxi, bus and hotel touts. But we had a plan and found our way to the 10 Ringgit ($3.50) bus to Sentral station (a 1 hour drive) in central KL and take the LRT skytrain one stop (1 Ringgit) to the Chinatown area where it would be just a 3 minute walk to our guest house.
We thought we needed to first go to the Low Cost Terminal (LCT). But we had arrived at the new KL terminal and we were able to take an elevator to level 3 and find a waiting bus easily.
We were immediately impressed with the wide seats and ample leg room on the well air-conditioned bus, the 4 lane smooth freeway, and the orderly of traffic. Drivers actually stop at red lights!!! The only danger we have here is that we look the wrong way when crossing the road since they drive on the left side!
Malaysia ranks number 80 in terms of GDP Income per capita, adjusted for purchase power parity, right near the global average. Income is 5 times above Vietnam (162), Cambodia (175) and Laos (168). That wealth gap is dramatically obvious. We passed large new condominium developments that could have belonged along any freeway in America. We have returned to a comparatively high level of economic development.
The Explorers Guesthouse was indeed just a 3 minute walk from the LRT near Central Market and Chinatown. Our guest house has a cozy and social communal sitting area in the reception area with WiFi, instant coffee, tea and a hot water dispenser. Our room was charm and windowless but was super clean as were the bathroom with showers down the hall. We had our first windowless room experience in Tianjin China and found we sleep great in the quiet cave-like darkness. Good ventilation and AC is a requirement though and here we were happy here.
By the time we got settled in, it was time for dinner. We didn't have to go far to the recommended street stall where we tried our first Malaysian food. It tends to be spicy. But I found a nice chicken and shrimp with noodle dish.
6/05 to 6/13 KUALA LUMPUR - ☀
Today it is a relative cool day by Malaysia standards...still 89F. We blamed the lack of windows in our room for our 10 am wake-up.
The Explorers Guesthouse breakfast consists of white bread (I call balloon bread), peanut butter, assortment of jams, and instant coffee and Lipton tea. After breakfast we began to get some ideas from fellow travelers as where to go next. The average age of guests here is 30 something.
We strolled through Chinatown where the streets are lined with cheap goods for sale: bags, flashlights, cheap trinkets and plenty of knock-offs. By knock-off market standards, this seems to be super low-end with nothing I want to own.
We had lunch at the Subway Sandwich shop then took bus 12 from right in front of our guesthouse to the swanky "Mid Valley Mall". Carrefour is located here and we picked up a few things were have been missing lately; a new knife, granola, whole bran cereal, salad and dressing, sushi and 'real’ yogurt.
We mostly stay out of heat and are able crank out a few blog posts. The slow internet connection at the guesthouse has been upgraded during our stay and the increased speed is readily apparent.
I’m now within the 7 month sign up window for Medicare and talked at length with hotline in US. They wanted me to send my US Naturalization Certificate as proof of citizenship! I don’t carry that with me while traveling but they were willing to accept my Passport as proof. With both being impossible for me to send, I was directed to sign up for Medicare at US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. After emailing with the KL office, they put me in contact with Mr. Dennis Eusebio at US Embassy in Manila, Philippines. I emailed him a copy of my passport and told him approximate date of my naturalization. We arranged an interview over the phone, and voila, my application is accepted and in process. Now catching me long enough in one place to send the card is going to be the next challenge. They cannot send the card to a US address if I apply off-shore. Medicare does not cover care outside the US and its territories and they have a 10% perpetual penalty for signing up late. So it behooves me to sign up on time knowing that I won't use it unless something big enough happens to cause me to make a special trip home for care. Travel insurance has restrictive requirement so I will go without international coverage starting July 1.
SUNDAY BRUNCH SPLURGE
Al Amar One of our favorite cuisines is Middle Eastern and Al Amar restaurant in the Pavilion Mall here in KL puts on a Sunday Buffet with a selection to die for. It set us back five days of food budget for just the one meal and sooooo worth it. All my favorites: baba ghanoush the delicate smoky eggplant/tahini dip, velvety hummus the chick pea/ tahini dip, also tabouli my all-time favorite parsley, tomato, onion and bulgur salad. And they have a tasty shrimp salad. Pitas hot out of the oven, olives, smoked and baked salmon, soup, roast beef, a dish that looked and tasted a lot like paella, a cheesy seafood dish, and delicate chunks of grouper. By the time I was ready for dessert, I was so full that I only had a few small bites of the flan, my favorite and honey drenched treats from the Middle East. A few hours after we sat down for lunch we waddled through the cool Pavilion Mall in the hopes of burning a few calories.
We found "Little Tokyo" right inside the mall lined with wonderful little Japanese restaurants and shops. Even a Daigo store or hyaku yen "100 yen" or in the US, "Dollar Store". We found a thin plastic cutting board replacement we had been looking for, zip lock baggies, one of my favorite Japanese teas, HoJiCha, and a few other odds and ends we couldn't live without.
Babylon. As if we hadn't had our fill of Middle Eastern food, the next 2 days we tried Babylon restaurant for fantastic lamb kebab wrap and appetizer plate with all our favorites: tabouli, fattoush, hummus and baba ghanoush. All so healthy too.
The clientele in the restaurant consisted solely of women clad in black burkas always escorted (more likely chaperoned) by male. The woman mostly conversed with each other and the men played with an electronic toy or studied menu.
Water Lilly. And for something completely vegetarian, how about veggie chicken pork or beef? Water Lilly is a small Chinese run place a few hundred meters from our guesthouse. It is amazing what they can do with bean curd.
Yup, KL has food options galore!
MORE DIVERSE THAN YOU WOULD THINK
The city streets of KL are a cacophony of noise from traffic, music, and a Babylon of languages. Malaysia is a Muslim country but is clearly a melting pot of cultures with Indian and Chinese being the most obvious. Amidst the chaos of the crowded streets one can see colorful turbans headscarves; niqabs, jilbabs, chadors, hijabs, full length black burqas, and the odd baseball cap. Conservative western dress is popular too. Most people know English. All can feel at home in KL.