Our February Trip To Kuala Lumpur

Last weekend (the weekend of the 5th – 7th), we went to Kuala Lumpur and over the last week I’ve been posting about stuff that we saw while we were up there.  We weren’t in KL for very long and we’d intended to try to make the most of our time to go see Putrajaya and the museums and art galleries if possible.

We got there on Friday afternoon and dropped our bags at the hostel.  We stayed at Hostel Cosmopolitan again.  It’s by no means fancy, but it’s cozy, it’s got cats (which my wife enjoys) and it’s close to the monorail and good food.  Thankfully, that weird smell was gone from the air conditioner this time!

The first thing we had to take care of was stuffing our faces.  We’ve been keeping an eye on what we eat lately but since we were sort of on vacation we decided to pig out.  We went to an eatery in Kampung Baru that we enjoyed the last time we were in Kuala Lumpur.  It didn’t disappoint!

 

 

Another thing I really love about this place is that all that food in the photos, plus two large soft drinks, only cost 19.40 RM, which is 8.00 SGD or 5.65 USD.  That’s a real deal!  The same meal in Singapore would’ve cost about 14 SGD I think.

Friday night was spent being lazy, watching TV and reading.  We went to bed at a decent hour though because we’d planned on getting some sightseeing done on Saturday.

Well, as Saturday morning rolled around, dragging ourselves out of bed was very, very difficult.  And after eating breakfast we sat down in the common room area to watch TV, read and surf the net.  Well, my wife got distracted with a John Grisham book she found on the shelf and I was absorbed in Google Reader until I dozed off for about an hour.  Ya, the couch was pretty comfortable!

Anyway, by the time we managed to get washed up and get out of the hostel the only thing we could think about was getting something to eat, and that’s when we went to KLCC and California Pizza Kitchen.  We sat around in Kinokuniya bookstore until around 8 PM, took some night photos of the Petronas Towers, and then headed back to the hostel.

We continued being lazy, enjoying the TV until the wee hours of the morning.  Heck, we even watched one of the audition episodes of the latest American Idol season.  It was really fun watching people get up there and embarrass themselves!

Our last day was short.  It wasn’t really a day since we spent most of it sleeping in and then traveling to the airport.  Everything went smoothly though with no problems so I’m glad about that.

All in all, we didn’t really do much of anything at all except eat.  That’s fine by me.  Sometimes you have to just relax and let your body and mind rest.  Besides, we’ve seen quite a bit of Kuala Lumpur in previous trips.

Anyhow, it was nice to get back home in Singapore.  There’s really no place like home, regardless of how much you enjoy the place you go to visit.

Kuala Lumpur’s Monorail and Pickpockets

In addition to a train system, Kuala Lumpur has a monorail system.  It’s fun to ride, but it’s really slow in comparison to a train, which makes me wonder why they bothered to build it at all.  I suppose the answer is that the distance between the stops is so short that having a train run that route wouldn’t make sense.  Also, the route is very curvy.

The stations are almost identical to train stations.  You have to get in line and buy your ticket, then you insert the ticket into the turn-style, wait for it to pop up from the center of the machine and grab it as you walk through.

The ticketing system that Kuala Lumpur uses for its trains and monorail is absolutely ridiculous.  The lines of people waiting to buy a ticket are sometimes incredibly long to the point that they block other pedestrians trying to use the sidewalks outside the station.  They need to get with the times and do what Singapore does and just use a prepaid transit card.  It’s much, much more efficient.

Anyhow, you go up to the platform, wait for the monorail to show up and then go about your business.

The monorail cars themselves are nice.  There’s plenty of seating and space to stand.  It also has a lot of windows so you can see the area around you.  When the monorail takes a sharp turn, the track and the whole monorail tilts, which is a little unnerving.  Better than walking or taking the cab though.

Some interesting things to note are that the train platforms don’t have what I like to call “dummy doors” around the tracks.  There is a waist-high railing, but they expect people to use common sense when it comes to standing to close to openings where the monorail doors open.  I guess they don’t have any issues with people trying to leap in front of the monorail to kill themselves.  The actual train stations, on the other hand, which are underground, do have the extra doors.  I think that’s more for keeping the air conditioning in the station than anything else.  New York City should follow that example.  It gets hotter than Satan’s anus in those train stations in the summer.

There are signs on the platforms warning you to be wary of pickpockets.  As the monorail train approaches people have a tendency to push towards the openings where the doors will open.  When people start packing close together like that, it’s a great opportunity for people to get pickpocketed.

I know that from personal experience.  Some little punk ass kid tried to pick my pocket while I was waiting for the monorail this past trip.  He was wearing a coat draped over his shoulders to hide the fact that his opposite hand was reaching from under the edge of the coat to try to get into my pocket.  Tough luck for the bastard that I’m not an oblivious idiot… and that I wore shorts with pockets that button.

I knew something was up with the kid because when I moved he kept moving up next to me.  When I felt the tug at my pocket I pushed him away from me.  He should feel glad that I didn’t accidentally push him in front of the monorail while trying to get him away from me.  Even if the monorail hadn’t hit him it’s a long way down to the ground.

So, ya, keep an eye on your belongings while you’re there.  Most of KL is pretty safe looking, but so is Singapore and people are getting stabbed in broad daylight here now.

Chinese New Year 2010: KLCC Suria Decorations

KLCC Suria Mall had some decorations set up for the Chinese New Year.  There were these neat looking decorations hanging from the ceiling:

As well as a stage set up with a woman playing a song on an instrument.

Also, near the rear exit by the fountain they had this screen set up.  Groups of people were posing in front of it to get their pictures taken.

The decorations look nice, but they seem a bit sterile to me.  I think Singapore will do it better.  I’m looking forward to seeing the Chinese New Year festivities later this month.

The Best Way To Get From LCCT (Or KLIA) To Kuala Lumpur

This is assuming you care about how thick your wallet is when you do get to the city.  If your only concern is speed then your best bet would be to just get the RapidKL train that goes from KLIA to KL Sentral.  I don’t think that train stops by the LCCT, but if you’re flying into the LCCT I doubt you’re going to want to ride that train anyway.  The last time I checked I think the tickets were 35 RM per person, per trip.

So, if you’re looking for the best way to get to Kuala Lumpur without paying excessively high fees, just use the bus.

LCCT

As you’re walking out of the LCCT terminal, just past customs, you’ll see some booths on the left with people selling tickets.  If you go through the sliding glass doors and see the sign for the toilet, you’ve gone too far.

You can get a round trip ticket, good for one month, on the Aerobus for 14 RM.  That’s a damn good deal and the ride isn’t bad at all.  The train gets you to KL Sentral in about 20 minutes.  The bus does it in 50 minutes for a fraction of the cost.

After you buy your tickets, exit through the sliding doors, walk forward until you see the McDonald’s, then make a right and follow the sidewalk down past the Mary Brown and the Coffee Bean (or Mr Bean?  forget which).  You’ll see buses pulled up along the sidewalk.  You need to find berth number 4.

The buses you’re looking for will look like this:

KLIA

There are similar buses going out of KLIA.  It may be the same operator, but I don’t remember for sure.  I’ve only flown into KLIA once, whereas I’ve gone through LCCT twice.  I can’t remember exactly how to get to the buses but there are signs.  The costs are nearly the same as well.  I think the tickets are 9 RM apiece.  I don’t know if there’s a deal for getting a round trip ticket.  Regardless, it’s still cheaper than a train and definitely cheaper than a taxi.

Bus Service Quality

If you’re wondering about the bus quality, they’re in good shape.  Depending on what countries you’ve been in you might be used to seeing beaten up buses.  That’s not the case with the buses shuttling between KLCC / KLIA and KL Sentral.

The buses are clean.  There’s no eating or drinking allowed onboard.  The seats are pretty comfortable and they recline.  It’s a luxury type bus with cushioned seats, rather than a city bus with hard plastic seats.  So, you get to really relax.  There’s no TV or radio in them but they are air conditioned.

KL Sentral

The buses all drop you off on the lower level of KL Sentral.  That’s good because most hotels / hostels / etc. are along the train or monorail routes and you can easily get to the train or monorail from the drop off point.

For the train, you just go up the stairs and into the building.  You can’t miss it.

For the monorail you have to go around the block that’s adjacent to KL Sentral.  Depending on how soon you go (relative to this post) you’ll notice that the area you have to go around is under construction. It’ll be to the right of the bus as it pulls in.  Your best bet is to just follow the crowd.  A lot of people will follow the sidewalk around to where the monorail is as they get off the bus.

Here’s a map to give you an idea:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=KL+Sentral&sll=1.352083,103.819836&sspn=1.022803,1.245575&ie=UTF8&hq=KL+Sentral&hnear=&radius=15000&ll=3.134088,101.686696&spn=0.071946,0.071946&output=embed
View Larger Map

(Zoom in to the see the building and the train, monorail and RapidKL drop off points.)

The bus will drop you off on the road that’s just below the RapidKL marker on this map.

Remembering Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur (Pictures)

Just down the steps from the Chow Kit monorail station.

The busy Chow Kit wet market.

This photo was also taken in the Chow Kit wet market. The man is using a machine to shred coconut meat.

A neighborhood in the Chow Kit area.  The houses seem to be arranged in such a way that some don’t front the street at all.  You can see the blue house in the background which only has access to the road using a driveway.

Chow Kit street cats.

I took this photo from a bus when we were on our way back from the Batu Caves.  Mangay’s.  I just thought it was an interesting sign.  We saw a McCurry and a McBath along the same road.
I’m still very much looking forward to the next time we’ll get to visit Kuala Lumpur.  I miss the food and the excitement there.

Kuala Lumpur Trip: Day 3

The last day of our trip was still an eventful one.  But, before I get into that I’d like to share this with you:

The previous day, after we got back from the Batu Caves and waited out the rain, we went downstairs and walked to the monorail station.  On our way we thought we saw a cat that had gotten run over in the street.  Turns out it wasn’t a cat!  I put my foot next to it for a frame of reference.  I wear a US 9 and I think a UK 43.  After seeing that rat we’d stopped to smoke and saw two more running around on a window sill on the building across from us.  I guess there are a lot of them in that area.

Anyhow, we got up on the third day with no clear goal in mind.  We had to check out at 11 am that morning.  We were able to leave our bags in the lobby area so that wasn’t a problem, but we wanted to go somewhere close by so it wouldn’t take us long to come back and get them before heading to the airport.  I wanted to go see the museums and art galleries, but decided it was a bit far away.  Then our stomachs made the choice for us.

On the small map we were given at Hostel Cosmopolitan we saw a place marked Kampung Baru.  It was close by and the description said it was a food center.  So, we went downstairs and headed in that direction.  I wound up leading us to the wrong street at first and thought the place wasn’t there anymore.  Luckily, we found it by accident!  I suggested we go down a side street and then we stumbled into Kampung Baru.

The place must be more lively at night because the map said that there are hundreds of stalls.  We only saw a few and wound up picking a really big one that had a huge crowd.  It’s always good to follow the crowd when it comes to eating establishments.

It doesn’t look like much, but the food was really good and it was really well priced.  When you walk in you get in line and self-serve yourself from the buffet tables.  There are a lot of selections available.  After you take your seat a guy (or girl) will come around and take your drink order.  They’ll also write you out a receipt that you take the counter when you’re done.  It seems to be a sort of honor system, but I guess they’ve had problems because I saw a sign that said theft would be prosecuted.  I think we paid about 16 ringgit total for the two of us, including our drinks.

After eating we decided to walk around and explore the area a bit.  We headed off into the neighborhood thinking we could walk straight to downtown.  Well, that turned out to be a minor disaster.  We wound up hitting an elevated highway.  We thought that at some point we’d be able to cross over or under it, but the road we were on kept going until it turned left and went further into the neighborhood.  We had to double back and get on the RapidKL train at Kampung Baru station.   It was good exercise though and we got to see a regular Kuala Lumpur neighborhood which was nice.

Speaking of the RapidKL station… it looks familiar doesn’t it?  People who’ve been to Singapore will know what I mean.

We took the train over to KLCC.  We were hot and tired after walking around, not to mention we were still a bit worn out from all the walking and stair climbing we did the day before, so we figured a good cool mall would be just the place to relax.  Suria KLCC looked pretty much the same as I remembered it.  The only thing that had changed was the central display area.  Instead of a Lego competition there was a huge, garish set-up for some perfume.  I don’t remember what brand.  The Legos were cooler in my opinion.

We sat around for a bit at Starbucks.  I had one of those toffee nut lattes and surfed the net on my iPhone for a while using the free wi-fi.  We also spent some time in the huge Kinokuniya bookstore.  I’ve always loved bookstores and I could get lost in that one for days!

We didn’t have much time left before we had to go get our bags, so we spent the last few minutes of our time in Kuala Lumpur enjoying the area outside the Suria KLCC mall (which is below the Petronas Twin Towers if you don’t know).  The last time we were in Kuala Lumpur the weather wasn’t as nice and it was raining while we were there.  This time we got a chance to look around.

The area is really nice.  There were a lot of people sitting around talking and smoking.  If you look at that second picture you’ll see there’s even a pool area.  The statues of the whale and dolphins was a nice touch too.

After that we took the RapidKL to KL Sentral, then switched to the monorail and went to Chow Kit, then… went back to KL Sentral and got there just in time for the 6:30 PM bus back to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. We realized on the way to Chow Kit just how roundabout of a way we took.  It looked like one of the stations (Bukit Nanas I think it was) was almost right behind the pool area we’d seen. We’ll just keep that in mind for next time.

The bus ride back to KLIA wasn’t too bad at all.  The air conditioning was cold and the total ride time was only an hour.  It didn’t take us long at all to get through the check-in line and immigration check-point.  A short flight later we were back in Singapore.

Tomorrow: A review of Hostel Cosmopolitan, the guest house we stayed at during our trip.