Monday, January 5, 2009

Wandering around Malaysia

by Ruth
Travel is always more difficult than it seems like it should be. This travel experience started out with our bus breaking down before we even got out of Weinan. I try not to be needlessly superstitious, but this didn’t seem like a good sign. Our flights to Malaysia went okay though, and twelve hours after walking into the Xian airport, bundled up in coats and scarves, we stepped off the plane into the warm Malaysian night. We had plenty of time to enjoy the night as we walked a few hundred yards across the tarmac to the actual terminal. The low cost flight obviously meant we didn’t get to use an actual gate.

I had spent hours looking up information on Kuala Lumpur so we would know where to stay, what to see, and how to get around. After losing the papers where I had written all the information, I spent several more hours looking up more information. Unfortunately, at least half of it wasn’t useful and I left out a lot of things we really needed to know.

First of all, we found out that we had arrived at the “low cost terminal” which was 20km from the rest of the airport (where the train we were planning to take was located). So instead, we sat around in a bus until it filled up and took us to the city. Once we got to the city, when we wanted to take a taxi to our hotel, we realized we didn’t have any idea how much taxis should cost. (They have meters but don’t seem to use them, and one taxi driver told us he could also make the meter run extra fast and cheat you that way.) We finally got to the hotel at 10pm, having eaten very little in the past 12 hours. We were thrilled to find that the Subway conveniently located in the hotel was still open.
We spent most of the first day in our hotel room, very small and only a small sidewalk away from a busy six-lane road – but clean and cheap! After venturing out for lunch I decided I was feeling too sick to stand any longer. The second day I was feeling somewhat better, and now I am okay. My health hasn’t necessarily made traveling easier, however.
We went up this big telecommunication tower (the 4th tallest in the world) to look over the city. Kuala Lumpur is a pretty nice city. It has a lot of interesting architecture, lots of trees, and is surrounded by mountains. The city is also very diverse. Every where we go, we see Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, Indians, and Westerners. Many women wear headscarves and long sleeves. Some wear saris and have “the Hindu dot” (really can’t remember what that’s called) on their foreheads. Some of the public transit stations have prayer rooms. We have seen several mosques, a number of Buddhist spirit houses, and yesterday went to visit a Hindu cave-temple.
Despite all the public transportation, getting around has been quite difficult. Last night we walked all around an area that was supposed to have street food and never found it. Today we tried to go to a rainforest preserve. First, we took two different trains to the outside of town. When we got off, were in the middle of nowhere – not rainforest nowhere, but industrial nowhere. This was the first time we really got stared at for being foreigners. On the map, it really looked like this rainforest place was just off the train stop. After walking and walking and walking through a maze of little streets in midday, tropical sun, we were totally lost and confused. Finally, a kindly McDonalds employee helped us out. He drew a little map and told us to take a taxi since we were still 5km away. The taxi dropped us off at the gate of the Forest Research Institute…and then we walked and walked and walked up hilly roads in the midday, tropical sun. We passed rainforest signs and saw forested areas in the distance but never could find where we were supposed to be going. Finally, exhausted and dehydrated, we turned around and walked back, mosquitoes feasting on our sweaty legs. I still don’t know what we were actually looking for or why it was so hard to find. So our last day in Malaysia basically consisted of walking around for hours and hours in the hot sun and finding nothing. But then tonight we found a Dunkin Donuts, so that makes things a little better, right? :)

Tomorrow our taxi is arriving at 3:45am to take us to the airport. The taxi will cost about as much as the flight (which was pretty darn cheap), and will probably take about as long. Be the time morning hits for real, we’ll be in Cambodia. Malaysia hasn’t been all bad, but hopefully Cambodia will be a little bit easier…

1 comment:

Ginger said...

My brother lives in Chiang Mai and was visiting Malaysia at the same time as y'all. (small world!) I mentioned some of your travails & asked how his trip went. This was his reply:
"Malaysia tip #1: Visit a friend who is from Malaysia.
Malaysia tip #2: Go to a tourist-friendly tropical island instead of KL."
Hope you're having fun in Cambodia! We're really missing Thailand this year. Freezing rain here at the moment :-P