22 April – Easter Monday
We are dozing off and on in the airport, the sleep pods here were expensive at AU$17/hour each, so we give that a miss, especially as we are only allowed one person per pod. We get up around 4am, and head for the showers to freshen up, we are surprised to find that they are free. We check our bags (19kg, 24kg – still no room for shopping!), and head up to immigration where all goes smoothly. Tony goes to get the GST refund on his camera, but they are closed so we have to leave applications and hope it gets processed. Through security and we make our way to the gate. We have a bit of a snack, but not too worried about food as we have meals on the plane.
There is an announcement to advise the flight is delayed due to a medical emergency. Our 0650 flight is delayed until “after 10am”. We are going to be fair shattered when we arrive, and Jeff will most likely miss his connecting flights to Bangkok, and on to Khon Kaen.
There is quite a delay still, and we are tiring of the constant messages from Air Asia, always the same information, what little they will tell us. We notice that there are police at the plane as well as the ambulance crew. It doesn’t look good for the patient, as the ambulance is in no hurry to leave. We turn to the news media and see that a two month old baby died on the inbound flight. So very sad for the family, and the other passengers on board.
We are boarding by 1030, Tony gets frustrated by the bloody people who ignored the instructions from the airline to board in groups as they are called. Instead of everyone sitting down until called, they all get up and queue, blocking the way for those that should be boarding. He has a crack at one ignorant bloody woman, and thankfully doesn’t see her again. With our luck she will be on our tour!
We are in the air by 11am, the Airbus A330-300 will take about 5 ½ hours to get to Kuala Lumpur. The meal is vegetarian, and Tony is hoping that there is neither tofu nor fungus as part of it (they could not specify what would be in the meal!). As it turns out, it is vegetarian chicken… ummm, well there was “chicken”, so not really sure how that worked, perhaps something made to look and taste (feel like) you are eating chicken. Whatever… it was very nice. Tony is looking forward to a coffee, but we hit turbulence and all service is suspended. Hot drinks are off the menu for the rest of the flight. Jeff reckons it was bloody awful coffee (he was up the sharp end, and managed to get one before turbulence hit). As far as prices go, the costs are very reasonable, and there are even more savings to be had if you pre-book on line before the flight.
We both manage to snooze during the flight, not a lot to see as we are over the sea most of it. A few bumps in places, but nothing too bad. The five and a half hours passes very quickly. We manage to get up the front to see Jeff to say goodbye before we land. He will be away like a cut cat as soon as the doors open, he has to try and get a flight to Bangkok tonight, and hopefully on to Khon Kaen.
There is a long hike to immigration, and it is absolutely heaving with people all the way. The queue for foreigners is also long, but it doesn’t take too long to clear. Photos and fingerprints taken, passport stamped, and we are done. Through to collect bags. Tony spots an ad for a sim card that works in Malaysia and Singapore, and decides it will be worth the $10 (NZ) for the next couple of weeks. We also need to change the AU$ to the local currency, Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). We have some that Karen gave us, but it is a RM50 note, and we need a bit more, in smaller notes too. The queue here is long, so we decide to leave it until after we have collected the bags. By now all the backs are ready for collection, so we will only have to wait for one circuit of the belt, if we are lucky it will be even less. And we do not have to wait long at all, and we head for customs. Our two packs are x-rayed, and we are through without any questions, or any forms to fill out!
We are met by a tour rep, who tells us not to change money here, and the sim cards we can also get in town. We are quickly ushered through to the car taking us to the hotel, a relief driver he says, as the usual chap couldn’t make it. The heat and humidity outside the terminal is like an oven, even though it is only about 32 degrees. We stop at Maccas to use the loo, and get a coffee. We cannot get over how cheap it is here, two lattes MYR14.00 – that’s NZ$5. A bit of a language barrier, but we manage to make ourselves understood. Most signs are dual language, so we can always just point of we need to.
It takes about an hour to get in, we are roughly 60km from the city. Kuala Lumpur has a population of around 1.8 million. It takes a bit of getting used to the traffic. It flows very well for peak hour, at the start we have a few concerns, and Tony finds himself using the “passenger brakes” a wee bit. We soon realise that there is not a lot to worry about, everyone is very patient, if someone needs to change lanes ahead it just happens, almost seamlessly, and without the accompanying chorus of horns we would hear elsewhere. In fact we hardly hear any at all, and just once from our driver to politely let the car in front know he is blocking our way. We do not see a single accident on the way in. Gobsmacked. We ask what the huge rumble strips are for on some corners, and are told that it is to slow drivers down and provide a bit of grip, the roads can get pretty slippery when it rains. Further into the city the traffic is much heavier, but still just works. Tony comments on the pollution, and is told a lot comes from burning in Indonesia, but we do wonder how much the city contributes to this as well. Our driver tells us that it will rain soon, and to expect it to be heavy and brief. Heavy is right, we can hardly see where we are going when it hits. But it doesn’t last, a couple of decent showers and it is all over.
We are dropped off at the hotel, our driver tells us to try the mall across the road for sim cards and money exchange. The hotel looks fantastic, and the lobby is very smart, our room is on the 10th floor. We are a little disappointed as the lift opens on our floor, the furnishings are a tad worn. The room is not that much better, the carpet is lifting where it meets the tiles, and the towels look more like rags. At reception we ask about the facilities in the hotel, as there are no details in the room. We are told that the pool is on the 5th floor – and that the one we see from our room is not attached to the hotel. Bugger. No gym either, haha. Breakfast is on until 10am, buffet style, included in the room price. We have to pay a tourist tax of MYR10.00 (NZ$7.43) per room/night while in Malaysia. Tony wonders why this cannot just be paid with the tour to save any hassle of collecting it separately…
We are in need of a feed, and also need to find money exchange and get a sim card. The mall across the road has lots of restaurants, and a Harvey Norman store. We find a couple of places that sell sim cards, but nothing that has the one we saw at the airport. We don’t find anywhere to change money here either. Our Malaysia meal is nice, MYR39 (NZ$15) for an entrée and two mains. There is a Baskin Robbins next door, so we head there for an icecream in a waffle cone – there is an April Fool’s special of a free upgrade to a king size cone. But they have no cones, so we have to have it in a tub instead! MYR23 ($8.50). Cynthea needs a scarf if we are visiting temples, and we find a place with lots of options. We spend ages in there, and choose a pretty blue silk one, MYR159 ($59). ). It is just as well we do not have room for more stuff, things are incredibly cheap here… we could always buy a cheap suitcase and fill it with cheap stuff, but then one of us would have to carry it.
We head back to the hotel around 10pm, and when we get to the room get ready for bed. Not impressed with the state of the sheets, it looks like they were not changed after the last guest, dirty yellow, and even a couple of spots of blood, also blood spots on the pillows. Cynthea rings housekeeping, but 30 minutes later we have not had anyone come by. She rings again, and gets someone different who apologies and says someone will be up straight away. Still a bit of a wait, but housekeeping eventually arrives with apologies. He agrees that it looks dodgy and we help strip the bed. The mattress protector certainly has done its’ job, judging by the state of it, and we ask for that to be changed too. The poor fella heads off to get a clean one, and we start on the pillows – one is so grubby we hand that back too and tell him we don’t need it. The “clean” mattress protector looks just as bad, but we are tired and decide to just go with it. It certainly doesn’t look flash, but we figure any others will be just the same. Then the clean sheets come out, and they are also yellow looking. We suspect they don’t use bleach here, or even know what it is!
It is a bit of a worry that we have very little in the way of information, and we thought there would have been an info pack dished out when we were picked up. We have an outline of an itinerary that was emailed last week, so that will do for now. Tony sets the alarm for 8.30, plenty of time to have breakfast and be ready for the tour pick up tomorrow. Cynthea mentions she is going for a swim before breakfast.
23 April – Tuesday
Tony is woken by Cynthea asking when he wants to get up. Tony says when the alarm goes off, and Cynthea tells him it is nearly 9am. Oh shit, in the fuzzy state last night the time was set for the alarm, but not confirmed. A bit of a panic to get showered and down for breakfast, just as well Cynthea woke when she did (she decided against the swim, so never set an alarm because she knew Tony had). Oops.
Breakfast is buffet style, eggs cooked on demand how you would like them, a couple of cereals (cornflakes, milo flakes, and some sugary star shapes), a range of fresh veges including green chillies, fresh fruit (Tony tells Cynthea to leave the melons and watermelon as we don’t know what they have been grown in). Hot food is chicken sausages, potato wedges, baked beans (not a patch on Watties, won’t have them again!) and a vege curry (very spicy). Fruit drinks are labelled cordial, so give it a miss. We will have time to investigate tomorrow, it just might be proper juice!
Tony fills his water bottle and coffee cup, and we are off up to the room to get ready for the trip to Genting Highlands. Tony says he is not waiting outside, too bloody hot, Cynthea goes looking for the tour bus, but our driver Arun finds Tony inside first. We are surprised to find a Camry waiting for us, and assume we are being driven to a bus… but no. In fact we are a tour of two for the whole trip.
Our first stop is the Batu Caves, and we are surprised that they are so close to the city. They are an amazing sight, especially the rainbow colours of the 272 steps leading to the cave itself. The gold statue of hindu god Lord Murugan is impressive, at nearly 43m high. It is made of 350 tons of steel bars, 1550 cubic metres of concrete and 300 litres of gold paint, cost nearly NZ$1m to build in 2006.
The square is very busy, but not too crowded. There are more pigeons than people! Arun takes Tony to a money changer, and despite being in the thick of tourists, the rate is favourable enough, an AU$1 gets us MYR2.80, better rate than at the airport where it was MYR2.40. We are warned of pickpockets – the furry kind. The place has a few monkeys about, though not as many as we thought that we would see. They delight in snatching things from open bags and packs, especially if they think they can eat it. One has a crack Cynthea’s bag, and nearly gets her new scarf.
It is very hot and humid, and Tony finds it impossible to run up the steps, haha. As it is his shirt is soaked by the time he reaches the top. More steps inside to go further into the caves. Only a couple of vendors with stalls up here, and they generally leave you alone, no hassling you. Prices are fixed, no bargaining here. A different story down below where you are approached every step you take.
The temples here are very brightly coloured, like the steps. Entering the caves we go under cover, and Tony wonders if that is to protect from bird shit, bat shit or water dripping from the top of the cave. Probably all three, but no sign of any bats.
Our next stop is the Awana Skyway, a 3.4km cable car system in the Genting Highlands. It takes us about 15 minutes to get to the top, and the views are incredible. At the top, we are bemused to find we are at a massive shopping complex, not quite what we expected. We walk around for ages trying to decide what to eat, so many choices. A couple of food courts have a system where you load money on to a card, and pay using only that card for your meal. Pain in the proverbial… especially when you don’t know what you will be spending. We have a wander around but nothing takes our fancy enough to bother messing around with this system. As we leave we see that you can get a refund of unused funds from the cashier. Too late, we have decided on a bbq, where you cook at your table. We order beef and pork packs, and looking at the pictures there is no seafood in sight. Should have looked harder! Tony is highly peeved, as a large portion of his meal is seafood and fungus. Cynthea, however, is very happy. We are finding that seafood plays a very large part in the diet here, and it can be difficult in some places to get something Tony will eat… not that there is any chance of him starving to death. There is also a bit of a language barrier still, so we have to be extra careful how we word our questions. And remember not to talk too fast.
This bbq is a bit different, the grill on our table top is a big dome, and any juices run off into a wee moat of chicken soup around the edge. The soup is used for cooking veges and noodles, and we just need to top it up from time to time. Another fun dining experience, despite the seafood and fungus. All the food up here is reasonably priced, we paid MYR42 for our meal (about $15).
After lunch we walk through this massive mall, Chinese owned, and directed at the Chinese market, it is VERY LOUD and VERY FLASHY. There is a large amusement centre on the ground floor, and five stories up a zip line takes people the length of the massive hall. There is a casino (we think the only one in Malaysia, if we heard that right), and Cynthea goes for a look while Tony heads of to find sim cards. He tracks down the store but they will not sell him any because you need your passport to buy. He tries to find out rates anyway, but they say to come back with the passport, and are not interested in helping until then. Mutter mutter.
He meets back up with Cynthea and it is time to head back down. The visit was okay, but not really our thing. The mall shops were high end, for the Chinese markets, and prices to suit their fat pockets. We had expected that a trip into the Genting Highlands would involve a few walks in the area, outside ones, rather than up and down five stories of shops.
Arun drives us down to the city, about an hour away. By 6.30 we are in the pool, but the swim is only brief, as the pool area closes at 7.30. The water was lovely and warm, and we were the only two in.
Tony decides to have another crack at finding sim cards, we have the international one, but it will be expensive to use. He heads to the mall across from the hotel, and does a quick walk around the block. The shop he was looking for closed at 6.30, and won’t reopen until 10am. So he heads into the mall itself, where we had been the night before. There are a few stalls selling sim packages, but they are a bit on the pricy side and Tony has seen them cheaper elsewhere. One fella tries to sell two cards for MYR40, the internet and calling balance will expire after a month, but the card itself will be active for 29 months (for when we come back!). He tells he guy he doesn’t have his passport (fibber!) and goes to find something else.
It is just then that Tony realises there are another five stories to this market, we had not realised that last night. Up at the very top are beauty salons and fitness gyms, and Harvey Norman takes up their entire floor (no, did not go in to check the deals). There are a couple of places selling sims, but they look a bit dodgy so Tony decides to leave it until the morning, and try the official store when it opens.