After experiencing the sheer paradise that is the beaches of Australia, I was reminded of my first experience of what I felt to be a beach paradise – Langkawi. But first, we stopped in Kuala Lumpur for a swift visit before making our way to the small Malaysian island.
This was where we experienced a real taste of the backpacking style of travel. In an attempt to save a few shekels, I had so cleverly thought ahead and found a direct train linking the airport to the city centre. After a long hot tedious wait at passport control, we headed through the airport security line, slightly concerned about an unattended bag left mid-queue, and peered around for the train station sign. As the proliferation of English signs was already shrinking, we asked a member of staff. Oh dear, we had flew to the wrong airport for that train, and needed a bus to get to the right airport. Standing, choking on the car fumes and amidst a group of hot travellers, we waited for out 40p bus in the sticky heat, unsure if we were even at the right stand. Assuming the right bus arrived, we got aboard and sat with our bags next to us, no room for manoeuvring, and endured the swaying and jerking from the temperamental bus driver. A flight, bus, train, a long 45 minute taxi and a short walk later, we arrived at our hotel. 8 hours in total for the journey which we assumed would be less than half that.
As I opened the door to our room, I peered into the darkness squinting to see the back wall. It appeared to be about the size of our Singapore hotel. Oh well, we were used to shoe box living and this was half the price anyway. Slipping the key into the holder, the room was illuminated to reveal no bed, but a table and chairs, a sofa and tv. It took us a second look to notice at the end of the room, a set of double doors. Feeling the way contestants on Star In Their Eyes do as they stand eagerly behind the doors, we slid then open to reveal a large luxury suite complete with another tv, queen size bed, chesterfield arm chair with footstool and another desk, accompanied by a large bathroom with two sinks. Tonight Matthew, were going to be living in style!
The only problem with the fortunate complimentary upgrade was that the better the facilities at the hotel, the less eager you may feel to get the hell out of there.
We decided a night in was needed to overcome our tormented travel that day, and a trip to a local 7/11 produced a few tiger beers and we relaxed in our exorbitant suite.
Petronas Towers was on the agenda the following day. The skies were much clearer than Singapore, meaning more direct sunlight beaming down and getting around was a hotter affair. Walking past shopping malls and activating the automatic doors allowed brief abatement from the swelter as the icy wave of cool air conditioned air rolled over you.
The towers themselves are a stupendous showcase of design and engineering. Hiding in their shadow from the unrelenting sun, I was amazed. I could look at feats like this all day long. A feeling of insignificance starts to flourish which enhances the respect for this monument.
We headed to Chinatown that evening, filled with a sense this city was just a smaller version of Singapore. The amazing architecture mixed with culture, the welcoming atmosphere and ease of exploration. All those feelings would be knocked out of us by poorly spoken words of wisdom from our taxi driver.
“No passport or money in Chinatown. They steal. They no like tourist English”
Thanks mate, I will just have a nice romantic meal with an inevitable mugging for desert.
Walking through the melee of people that littered these small streets, we perused stalls of knock-off goods. With trainers sporting both Nike and Adidas logos on the same shoe, these were not passable counterfeits.
The smell of food pulled us to the culinary part of town where we sat at the first restaurant, with a table in the street. A few beers later we relaxed and felt comfortable we would leave with all our belongs. Judging everyone that passed turned to judgement of the food as our meal came out. A tenfold increase in flavour intensity that we get at home, and a price tag that was more than agreeable.
After a brief excursion on the surrounding streets the safety of our beer armour evaporated as the dark night took over and the unsavoury characters appeared from the shadows. A romantic stroll was not an option now, so we stumped up for a cab, relieved to be in the safety of his back seat.
A day of relaxation was in hand the following day. After nearly a week of being enthusiastic tourists, we were exhausted and deserved our day by the pool. It felt weird being in the centre of a city, sunbathing on the third floor by a pool. It was sad to feel that we could potentially be missing out on seeing the city so we decided to get an extra night in our room to accommodate our lazy day.
That night we went to Jalan Alor, a street known for its food vendors, charisma and popularity. Another street table would prove a mistake. With cars accessing the street, a side of smog was served with every meal and petrol fumes complimented out garlic vegetables.
Sadly, disaster struck. One of us fell horribly poorly with sickness and diarrhea (it wasn’t me).
The next two days were spent caring for those needing it, thankful to be shacked up in our palace. A few brief jaunts to get sustenance and water was all we could handle.
We woke up on our last day in Kuala Lumpur with a sour taste in our mouth, a wonderful city tainted by a disastrous meal. As we left to head north, we smiled and remembered this place for what it was, a remarkable city, complete with culture blended with modernism. And the place where Holly got the squirts.