On our way to London, before hitting Nice (France) to really kick-start our ten-month journey around the world, my girlfriend and I stopped over in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for three days. We didn’t really know what to expect, especially because it was only supposed to be a “stop-over”, but what we found was a great place to stay for a few days when you’re on your way to London from Australia. Especially when you’re flying with Air Asia.
We chose to stay at a quaint little place called the Rainforest Hotel. It certainly wasn’t a five-star abode, and although the rooms were a little on the small side, it was adequately comfortable and a very clean residence. After all, you’re room is meant for sleeping, right?, so if you’re feeling a little claustrophobic you should be out exploring, or else you can always take a break in the common room or comfy upstairs patio area.
The flight from Perth left at an ungodly hour, so when we first arrived we were exhausted. We decided to catch a bus from a company called StarTravel from the airport to our hotel for 18 ringgits a piece (about $6 AU). The bus ride took about an hour and then they transferred us to a taxi for the last 15 minute leg, which was included in the cost.
We settled in and then ventured a few doors down to a little restaurant called Palate Palette. I highly recommend the Chicken Balls (complete with chipotle sauce and breast meat!) and a pint of Tiger beer, all for 12 ringgits ($4 AU). Actually, anything you order from this place will test your taste buds, hence the name.
After a quick snack we hit bed for a few hours before going out for dinner. We chose a place called Pincho’s, around the corner from the hotel. It’s one of about fifty restaurant/bars along the famous Changkit Bukit Bintang stretch in KL. We had three plates of Greek Tapas and three pints of beer for around 90 ringgits ($30 AU). The food was alright and the atmosphere was good too. I’m sure a lot of the restaurants and bars along this strip are all quite comparable, due to such close competition.
After a fantastic 10 hour sleep, we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast and wi-fi and planned the day on the laptop. We decided to visit the Batu Caves, China Town and have our feet massaged by tiny little fish!
From the hotel we hopped in a cab and asked the taxi dude to take us to the Pavilion Shopping Complex. He told us it would be 10 ringgits. A few minutes later and we were there. It probably should have cost 4 ringgits. Anyway, we were looking for a place called Kenko Massage & Foot Spa. The complex was five times bigger than anything we’ve got back home in Australia, but eventually, on level 4, we found what we were looking for.
For 20 ringgits each ($7 AU), we hastily plunked our lily-white legs and feet into the water. What we experienced next was a panic-stricken moment where we witnessed plagues of fish sucking and tugging at our flesh. At first it feels like they’re eating through to your bone, but after you wriggle your foot around you soon realize they’re only eating all the crud off your feet. Okay… Maybe they’re taking an entire layer off your skin, but it feels amazing and twenty minutes later your feet are as white as the day you were born and feel tingly in a very nice and rejuvenated way. I haven’t felt that relaxed in a very long time.
Next up was a trip to the Batu Caves. We compared prices with three different taxi drivers and they all wanted 40 ringgits each way. One guy eventually was cool with 35 ($12 AU). It was great to catch some more sights of KL on the way. Once we arrived, I looked at the meter and it read 21 ringgits. Free lesson of the day is; always ask for “the meter” instead of a fixed price. They also got us on the way back…
According to wikipedia, “The Batu cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.” Armed with this information, when you hop out of the cab and look at the sheer size of the golden statue and the amount of bloody stairs you’re about to climb, you know you’re in for a great little adventure. It was definitely worth the trip, for the statue and stairs and cave alone… but it’s also great to watch other less-mindful tourists get their lunch and snacks stolen from them from the local small monkeys.
Exhausted and sweaty from the stairs and the natural humidity of KL, it was time to head back to the hotel for some lunch around the corner at trusty Palate Palette (and maybe a sneak beer), before heading off to China Town for some sort of festival (even though they have a festival nearly every week here).
For once, with this particular taxi driver, he let us travel with the meter running. He first wanted 15 ringgits up-front, but it only cost us 9 to get there. That’s right kids, running the meter in KL is always cheaper than an agreed price. Once we hit china town and cruised around the markets, it was a sight to behold, believe me. The markets had every single type of merchandise brand rip-off you could dream of, and cheap foods of all kinds (mostly meat-on-a-stick though… oh, and heaps of durian’s too – a stinky large type of fruit). The sheer size of the markets are something to behold. I’d say there are nearly two kilometers of markets to stumble through. Word to the wise – whatever amount they first tell you it costs, it’s at least half that. We bought a bag and a few small items and thought about heading back to the hotel for a nap, before heading out, but this time the taxi drivers all knew we were desperate to get back and, after asking six different drivers, the cheapest price we could get was 20 ringgits.
After a nice little air-conditioned nap, we headed back out to the Changkat strip around the corner and partied at the various clubs and bars. The Social Bar had a nice upstairs area and the food was pretty good too. It provided free wi-fi as you peered over the second-story railing to witness the commotion below. The highlight of my night though would have to be when i ended up at The Whiskey Bar. There are hundreds of superb quality bourbon and scotches to choose from, and you get a real glass, too. This bar is a real whiskey connoisseurs dream, and is especially geared toward blokes. The slender waitresses wear tiny shorts, the plasma TVs play Victoria’s Secret fashion-parades and the lighting is dark, complete with cozy booth-style seating.
After a late sleep-in and a bit of writing in the balcony section of the hotel, it was time to repack the bags and head out to the airport. Destination; London!
The airport is at least an hour’s drive out of KL and taxi drivers won’t take you out there for less than 80 agreed-ringgits. I found out, the reason behind this is because there are two separate taxi companies in KL. The city taxi company and the airport taxi company. The city taxi company can’t pick people up from the airport and take them back to the city, and vice-versa for the airport taxi company.
One last tip before I let you go and book your next flight… The best place to charge your phone or laptop at the airport is the sports bar. Just be careful ordering a beer though – the bartender said he’d bring it over to me and I could pay later. Big mistake! The pint of Tiger ended up costing me 33 ringgits! When he first told me the price I said, “I only ordered one, mate!” He replied with, “Yeah, I know.”
Rob Kaay is an Australian author & musician
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