Loving the monorail – Kuala Lumpur

The bus to Kuala Lumpur took 6 hours. We had expected Singaporean transport to be efficient, but we left 15 minutes late and did a second pick up where we seemed to wait for late passengers before finally hitting the road an hour later. The border crossings were very easy and efficient, we figure that the Malaysian speed limits are higher as the driver seemed to put his foot down after we crossed. That would also explain why the Singaporean Ferrari owners club were out – we counted 16 in the convoy. We overtook them shortly after crossing, they’d all been pulled over by the Malaysian police and there seemed to be a bit of a discussion going on.

IMG_0638The bus dropped us somewhere in the city centre, not where we thought we were going to be dropped. It took us a minute to figure out that we were under a monorail station, then we quickly found on the map where we were. As luck would have it there was a monorail station within walking distance of our accommodation so we hopped on. It was easy to figure out the ticketing system as it was basically the same as Singaore’s MRT. The map in the Lonely Planet was missing some major street names so from the station it took us a while, and some asking around to be sure we were walking in the right direction, but after 10 minutes we were there.

KL is the last of our pre-booked accommodation, before leaving we’d booked the night in Darwin, the first 2 nights in Dili, our 2 nights in Singapore and 2 of our 3 nights in KL. Primarily because we knew when we’d be getting into town and having somewhere to head to, particularly when its hot, takes the pressure off. The downside is that you’re booking on the basis of the info on their websites and don’t get chance to check them out first. We lucked out this time, sure the room had an ensuite, a fan and aircon and a sofa, the place did good cheap breakfasts, had a roof terrace bar, laundry service and internet but it was a bit of a dive and not somewhere we’d stay if we could have checked it out first, particularly when options are plentiful.

IMG_0680The heat and humidity while still not the easiest conditions are better than in Singapore, so we dumped the bags off and headed out to find food. The hostel was in Chinatown and we’d passed the end of a street full of market stalls. It didn’t take us long to bump into the other end. Harassment from the stall holders and copied DVD sellers was constant but mild, they didn’t persist. We passed a hotel with a nice restaurant and decided that would do nicely. Our late lunch bust the budget but it was really good and we didn’t need dinner. We’d love to eat from some of the many food stalls but our desire to avoid getting sick is stronger at the moment. Emma’s decided that it not what’s cooked or how its cooked, it the washing up that bothers her. We took our time and planned what we wanted to see in KL and wrote the Singapore blog entry, before exploring the rest of the market stalls.

Saturday night is night market night in Little India, a short walk from Chinatown so after a brief respite at the hostel we headed there. We found it and explored some of it before there was a big flash followed by a heavy shower. Our first rain in weeks. We waited it out with the locals then headed back as it was getting late.

IMG_0704The next morning we had breakfast and jumped on the monorail to the central station. When we’d booked our flights from KL to Kota Kinabalu (in the east of Malaysian Borneo) we’d selected the option to buy tickets for the skybus that runs from the station to the airport. The walk from the monorail to the station took us straight past the skybus stop, so that was easy, then we went into the station and located the carrier’s office as our online check in paperwork made no mention of the skybus so we couldn’t prove we’d already paid for it. A guy looked up our booking, printed a piece of paper and stamped it with some official stamp. The we scored a skybus timetable. Sorted.

Next on the list was to find somewhere to stay nearby as we needed to get up early to catch our flight so for our last night in KL we just wanted to be a short stroll from the bus. It only took 10 minutes to find an affordable but spotless hotel only a 2 minute walk away. We rewarded ourselves with a lazy drink at a nice cafe before heading back to the monorail to go to Petronas Towers.

The streets between the station and the Towers were quiet since it was a Sunday. Eventually we found a raised air-conditioned walkway to the convention centre and from there found our way to the Towers. After taking the mandatory tourist photos we got lost in the mall underneath before finding the gallery we were looking for. Our lonely mis-guidebook said it had contemporary art, it didn’t, it had an exhibition on the Sultans of Perwak. Still it was our kind of place (free). We had a long lunch and on the way back found some really nice loos in the convention centre, Emma spent a worrying amount of time giggling and playing with the bidet.

IMG_0715We caught the monorail north again and walked to Lake Titiwangsa. We gathered a lost Pakistani family on the way who were also trying to find the way there. We were no less lost than them but we did have a rubbish map. We ended up asking the locals. The mis-guidebook said the lake was the place to go to get picture postcard photos of KL’s skyline. The lake was stagnant, round its banks was full of people and the skyline was pretty rubbish. We didn’t hang around for too long, before we headed back towards our accommodation.

Monday after breakfast we shipped out to the new hotel, bumped the bags and hopped back on the monorail north to Chow Kit market. It’s a big market but the fruit, veg and meat section was enough to knock any ideas of lunch on the head. We headed east from there to the traditional Malay area, with the city as the backdrop it couldn’t have been a greater contrast. It’s divided from the city by the elevated highway, which was effectively like hitting a wall. They haven’t thought to put a pedestrian tunnel underneath, so even though we could see the city we had to walk down to the light rail (basically an underground system) station and catch it 1 stop to the city centre. We scored Emma some earrings from the mall and had lunch at a nice cafe beneath the Towers. We’re being really unadventurous eaters and making the most of being able to get familiar food as we know that after Malaysia our only options will be the weird and wonderful for quite a while.

IMG_0738The afternoon was spent visiting the other things we wanted to see. The Jamek Mosque was fantastic with its many spires and brick facade and a huge gong that Emma really wished she could have hit! Independence Square with its 100m flagpole was dwarfed by the surroundings. We headed downhill to the National Mosque via the Dayabuni Complex which has to be the most impressive piece of architecture in KL with the white geometric islamic patters covering the entire skyscraper – its a real standout. The National Mosque is also stunning with its shiny blue and green star shaped roof with well maintained grass stars and pavings around the entrance and immaculate paint job.

We came upon the old KL railway station as we headed to get to a light rail station that would take us back towards our hotel. It reminded us of the old stations in Europe on the inside but was very Malaysian on the outside with the Islamic influence.

Back at KL Sentral we sat at a cafe by our hotel for a cold drink. Its a bit like Chinatown in that the place is much busier early evening than in the day. Its not as seedy as you might expect being near the major train station but its probably to early in the evening to really tell.

Observations:

  • When the lights at crossings turn red traffic generally ignores it and the green man literally runs which is about what you have to do to get across in time.
  • KL is quite compact- if it wasn’t so hot you could walk everywhere.
  • Since we’re not in a malaria area we have both worn shorts in KL- as a result have both been bitten more than anywhere else

Click on any image to enlarge and scroll through


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