Singapore to KL

Tue, 06 May 2008 11:00:48 +0000

A Couple of Chores Index Mad Dogs and Englishmen

I woke up at about quarter past five in the morning, and there didn't seem much point going back to sleep. So I had plenty of time in the morning. I made my way down to the train station and exchanged my e-ticket for a real ticket. I hadn't figured out a way to print out my e-ticket, since of course it only works with internet explorer, and once the window's closed you can't get it back again. But the guy behind the counter was happy to accept the saved version on my nokia. Another blow for paperless commerce!

I had some fairly mediocre chicken and rice from the stall at the station, although the kecap was tasty. And then it was time to board the train. Train travel evidently isn't very popular among Singaporeans, with only a couple of trains departing each day. That meant that there wasn't a lot invested in directing people the right way, and I went to the arrival platform instead of the departure platform. But I figured it out soon enough.

Malaysian trains don't appear to be a model of luxury. The tracks are bumpy, the carriages sparse and run-down, and there's no way to get food during the 6 1/2 hour journey. Also, the toilets are squat toilets. That's the first time I've had to use one this journey, and a violently swaying train is not the ideal introduction to the concept. At least there was a helpful diagram showing which way round to squat. I wish there was a diagram showing where you're supposed to scrunch up your shorts so that they're out of the way but still allow you to see what you're doing.

I was pretty nervous arriving in Kuala Lumpur. I had nowhere to stay booked, and only a postage-stamp sized map showing where google believes a hostel is located. The streets of Kuala Lumpur, at least this part of Kuala Lumpur, are fiendisly tangled and complicated to navigate. I did eventually find this place, "Le Village", despite the fact that it's just a single door in a wall with a tiny sign pinned to a column out the front. And they had a spare room, so that worked out OK.

25 ringit for a double room is incredibly cheap. In this case, you get what you pay for. You can't lock your room from the inside, since they just give you a padlock. No breakfast or anything, and while theoretically there's tea and coffee, the kitchen is in such a state of chaos and disrepair that I haven't worked up the nerve to try to make some. The bathrooms are worse: the've combined the toilets and the shower stalls into one enclosure, so the toilet seat is always wet from someone's shower. Of the two showers I tried, one doesn't seem to have any water pressure, and the other doesn't have any hot water. So it's OK in my room, but otherwise very uncomfortable. I should get used to this though. I won't always have access to the luxury of a hot shower.

For dinner I went to a vegetarian Indian place I saw while walking around. I was pretty confused as to what to order, since the menu was in latin script, but didn't have any kind of English translation. I thought I was ordering a main, rice, and sauce to go on the rice. In fact I got a stuffed pancake with three sauces, and then my rice and a potato curry. So basically I had two meals. That's OK, I didn't have any lunch, just a croissant from Dunkin Donuts when I arrived in KL.

I'm a little worried about what I'm going to do next. First priority is to get my Iranian visa, but this has to be coordinated with the travel agent in Iran, and that's hard to do via email. I also have to figure out if, and how, I can get to Sumatra. I have no idea if ferries run on a sensible daily schedule, or if it's another of these once-a-week things. And I need to phone the Syrian embassy in Canberra to figure out how I can get my passport to them. In the gaps, I should try to see the sights of Kuala Lumpur. This could get complicated.

A Couple of Chores Index Mad Dogs and Englishmen