Back to KL

Tue, 13 May 2008 04:56:01 +0000

Medan Index Kuala Lumpur, Properly

This is what I hate about flying: I took a one-hour flight today, and that was pretty much all I managed to accomplish. If there was a train from Medan to Kuala Lumpur, I would have enjoyed myself so much more.

The first thing was finding breakfast. I had planned to have breakfast at an incredibly dingy place next door which claimed to serve food 24 hours a day, which looked designed for tourists on a budget. But I slightly overslept, and needed something takeaway. In the end, all I managed was a small french fries from McDonalds. Not an ideal breakfast, that.

Back at the hotel, there was actually water pressure this morning, albeit cold. So I did get a shower. Then I checked out and found a motorcycle rickshaw to take me to the airport. It cost 30,000 rupiah, which is probably more than I should pay, but it's only about EUR 2. Also, I had to get rid of my surplus cash anyway.

At the airport, the departure tax turned out to be 75,000 rupiah, instead of the 100,000 Wikitravel had told me to expect. That left me with more rupiah to dispose of. This I did in dunkin donuts, with a beef croissant and two donuts. This is the least healthy, least local breakfast I've had so far. And Wikitravel was also incorrect in its assertion that there was nowhere to buy food past security, so I should have done better. One thing that Wikitravel got perfectly right though: the plane was delayed by an hour.

Air Asia being a budget airline, I fought my way to the head of the queue to secure a good window seat. That was worth doing, there's plenty to see on the journey. Lots of shipping in the straits of Malacca. I was also interested in the palm plantations, which are laid out on a hexagonal grid. This means that the roads through them also wind around on a hexagonal grid, so it looks like someone's been doing geometry experiments with the landscape. Of course, I'm supposed to despise palm plantations, since they're put where the jungle is supposed to be.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is supposed to be brand new, luxurious, and efficient. But we landed at the budget terminal, which is placed as far away from the nice bits as possible. That includes placing it away from the airport express train - I had to take a bus instead. But the bus cost 8 ringgit instead of 35 ringgit for the train, so I guess I can't complain. The bus waits until it's full before departing, and then takes an hour to get to KL Sentral. So yet more delay.

In Sentral Stesen (that's how it's spelled in Bahasa Malaysia, and I feel silly translating it), I was determined to have a proper Malaysian meal for my delayed lunch, since I felt I hadn't really been making enough of an effort on that score. But all I managed to get was another nasi goreng, albeit this time with some fried fish. There are delicious looking buffets nearby, but my problem is I don't know how to place such a complicated order, or what goes with what. I did get an interesting selection of deserts afterwards though.

From Sentral, the hotel I'm staying at is about half a kilometer away. But there's such a tangle of highways and flyovers and a river in the way, it's not really walkable. Instead you pay a ringgit to travel one stop on the light rail, and then pick your way through the concrete spaghetti to reach the hotel itself. But the hotel is worth it: it's the old Kuala Lumpur train station from colonial times, with an over-the-top moorish design.

It's a huge empty palace, rather run-down inside but acceptable. Oh, and the toilet is in the shower again - this is obviously the Malay way. At 90 ringgit a night, it's more than I'd usually pay, but the bedbug bites haven't yet faded from the last time I stayed in Kuala Lumpur.

Again, I was determined to find something interesting for dinner, and decided to go to chinatown and get the KL take on Chinese food. I found a properly run-down looking place. I ordered ginger chicken and boiled rice. When it came, it was a really small portion, so I though I'd order something else. That was claypot tofu, which turned out to be huge. It hadn't been that long since lunch, so it was far too much to eat. But as always, having ordered it, I had to eat it. I kept burning myself on the hotpot food. And overall, it wasn't that interesting a meal. I'll have to keep raising the stakes tomorrow.

Medan Index Kuala Lumpur, Properly