November 28, 2010
Malaysia Day 8: Kuala Lumpur, Markets
After a busy day yesterday and lots of transportation-related mishaps like getting stuck in the rainforest, we decided to keep the "off the grid" travel to a minimum to make sure we'd actually get back to the airport in time for our flight.
We started off with an early morning wakeup in an attempt to go up the Petronas Towers. We got up at 7 and walked to the Petronas Towers for a ticket pickup, and we arrived about 7:20 or so. It was a long line already and we made the most of it by making friends with some British dudes. They were just in Thailand and Laos and said Thailand was good, but they were upset with the vibe in Laos. They went to a river where you could do tubing down the river ("We could do that kind of thing at home", they said), and there were many restaurants that were all carbon-copies of each other, with the same menus. They saw kids helping to sell drugs and this was very upsetting, they said. It was interesting to hear their perspectives. They were stopping by KL for a few days before heading to Australia for 6 months - I suggested a bunch of cool things they could do in Australia.
We were in line for about 2.5hrs and it was still at least 45 min wait before we got to the front. The line was moving excruciatingly slow as there were only 1 or 2 ticket booths open and each transaction took 3-5 minutes. Matt calculated in his head how long we'd have to wait but we decided to try our luck anyway. At the 2.5 hr mark though we decided it was definitely a "sunk cost" and we might not even end up with a ticket that let us go up before we'd have to leave for the airport (they were selling tickets for specific times in the afternoon, and the longer you were there, the later your time slot would be.) We decided the potential trip up the Petronas Towers was not worth missing the obvious win of the included hotel breakfast. So we dumped the line and hauled it back to our hotel for breakfast!!
That turned out to be an excellent choice, and it was awesome food again. I had some weird fruit (I think it was Jackfruit) and it was pretty gross, but the Starfruit was amazing. I tried Kiwi juice, Mango juice, and an orange/graprefruit/banana smoothie. I tried something dipped in the orange-chocolate fountain, a mini samosa, a made-to-order omelet, some smoked macarel, and a yellow, spiced, grilled tomato. I'm really glad we chose to forgo the huge line and potentially missing both the towers AND the breakfast and just went for the breakfast. SO GOOD!!!!
We then packed up and checked out. I took a few silly "Perspective Photos" of me and the Petronas Towers, inspired by Sarah Evans and her similar photos. We took a quick visit to the mall and Matt looked at some Quiksilver KL shirts too. We then took the train to one stop away from KL Sentral to "Central Market". Lonely Planet was wrong AGAIN! The book made it sound like Central Market was super dodgy and you had to really watch out for pickpockets and people were ready to rip you off at every store, which wasn't really the case at all. It was fun, nice, and most things had pretty reasonable prices. Once you told someone you weren't interested, they left you alone. It was pretty good there and was not "essential to bargain" as Lonely Planet had suggested. Weird. Anyway we had a great time! I got a funny "Happy Cat" figure for my shelf at home and a nice hand-made pottery necklace. I found a bubble tea place and got a passionfruit/mango smoothie. I also saw some street vendors selling juice "to go" in plastic bags with a straw poked into the bag - I'd heard that existed and it was very funny to see it.
We then headed back to KL Sentral and found an email place where we could check our messages. Facebook had some FIERCE verification steps!! This was the first time we'd logged in from Malaysia and it was really intense, you had to successfully guess friends names in photos of them from their albums - lots of extra security I guess.
There was a KLIA Express train/bus ticket we could buy and it worked out well to jump on the train and then switch to the bus to get back to the airport. We found a small McDonalds and got a Milo McFlurry which was great. The KLIA express was amazingly nice and also very comfortable and had free WiFi. We switched to the bus transfer that was waiting for us at one of the stations and it took us to the LCC-T terminal where our plane was leaving from.
We were nice and early to the terminal so we wandered and got a cheese sandwich. I also found a Cadbury Top Deck at the chocolate store. We converted our leftover money back to Singapore Dollars and checked in. We headed to the gate area and hung out there for a while, spending the last amount of change on candy. The plane ride back was very quick - we got into the plane quite early and we were back to Singapore in 40 minutes!! Amazing.
It was a great trip to Kuala Lumpur and especially interesting to compare and contrast Singapore and Malaysia. The biggest difference I noticed in a couple of days (note to the reader, this is obviously a generalization and just based on an initial impression), is epitomized in the shirt I saw at the Quiksilver store which said, "Malaysia says 'Relax-lah'". There was generally a pretty chill attitude which was OK - as long as you're not in a rush or need to get somewhere during a Monsoon storm!! In general it felt like Malaysia (surprisingly, even in KL itself) was running at a different pace than Singapore and western nations. In general, the transport and infrastructure was way behind Singapore. The regular train was not all that efficient or a fast mode of transportation - for the trip to FRIM we should have just taken a cab there from downtown instead of a train and then a cab. For some reason, the KLIA express train from the airport was very modern and very organized - it seemed like probably a lot of investment had gone into that project.
On the way back to the airport I saw a sign for the town of "Shah Alam" which is hilariously close to the name of my friend Shahana from work, so I took a photo for her. That was awesome. And then we headed back to Singapore! I was excited to see Jess from work as she had just arrived and she is also going to be teaching in the Singapore office. As it turns out she is also staying in the same hotel as us!
Starting off the day right, with a Thai Red Bull :)
Another amazing breakfast at the hotel. The Papaya was the best I've ever tasted and so ripe and awesome.
Wow best French Toast ever!! Not exactly Malaysian food, but WHOA it was good.
Great times at the hotel
Close-up of the Petronas Towers
Haha silly shot taken for Sarah... good call Sarah - these "perspective shots" were fun :)
Another silly shot of me and the Petronas Towers
Christmas and Star Wars decorations at the Adidas Originals Store
Haha this "Santa" was just a fat mannequin with a beard!
A man at the subway station and a KFC traincar
Central Kuala Lumpur
I really like this photo. Seems like some sort of abandoned parking lot with pending construction signs on it. It was so close to the KLCC but again, another stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of KLCC.
Some street graffiti
More street art
Then we stumbled upon some sort of Malaysian wedding expo, I think?!
Some amazing clothes
Loved that this guy with the spear was talking on his cell phone
Strange and cool building
Probably my favourite photo of the whole trip. These two held their pose so politely for me while I took 3 or 4 photos of them.
People checking out the displays at what I think was a bridal expo!!
I was trying the whole trip to get a photo of one of these street signs. Shahana - this one's for you :)
Awesome huge mosque on the way back to the airport
We got Milo McFlurries at the airport before heading back to Singapore. This menu shows the funny things I bought the night before: "Ayam Goreng McD" and the "Shaker Fries". Awesome!!