Holidays in Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur
We are back from our holidays in Malaysia! This has been a much-needed break and I had been dreaming about going on holidays for months. Part of it was because I was fed up with winter and Malaysia truly delivered on that front… it was very hot there! This time we had planned a city escapade so we visited Kuala Lumpur and Melaka and didn’t go to the beach. However, I also wanted it to be a relaxing holiday so I booked hotels with a swimming pool. It was a nice surprise to find out that hotels are very cheap in Malaysia, 5 star hotels are more or less half the price they cost in China.
In Kuala Lumpur we met with several friends: a Malaysian-Filipino couple that lives in Shanghai and was in KL for the Chinese New Year, and a friend from my hometown back in Spain who has been living there for a few months. We ate a lot of different foods and I had the first ice cream of the year. I also ate Uncle Tetsu’s soft cheese cake, which I was craving but is not sold in Suzhou anymore. Kuala Lumpur is supposed to be a good place for shopping and there are lots of malls and markets, but I don’t know what happened to us this time: we didn’t buy anything at all apart from the Malaysian instant coffee that C. is addicted to! For some reason I was not in the mood for shopping.
We stayed in Bukit Bintang, a very central district. We could basically walk to many places in the center but it was very hot, so we used the public transportation several times. Public transportation in Malaysia is not great (at least if you come from China): the monorail in KL is extremely slow and small, and the train to go to the Batu Caves leaves every 20-40 minutes (we had to wait inside the train for 30 minutes before it departed). Traffic is crazy because everybody and their grandma has a car (understandable, after suffering the public transportation) but the good news is that it is cheap and easy to get an Uber or a Grab (the local version of Uber). Taxis often refuse to use the meter and charge more than they should. On the bright side, in Bukit Bintang there is a bus called GOKL, with 4 different lines, and it is free. FREE! Great initiative, both for locals and for tourists. There are also dockless shared bikes but we didn’t try them because the weather was not very bike friendly.
We were delighted to see that Chinese New Year is widely celebrated in Malaysia. We went to a temple celebration with performances and red lanterns and saw dozens of lion dances in temples and malls. In China I have only seen the lion dance once… in a wedding in Qingdao in 2007. We also had dinner with a bunch of Malaysian-Chinese and participated in the Yee Sang, in which everybody tosses together a salad-like dish and says their wishes for the new year.
My favourite part of Kuala Lumpur was the area around the Central Market. We visited a Hindu temple which I found very interesting (I had never seen one before), Chinatown (which is just a street Taobao market, so not very interesting if you live in China!), Merdeka Square and the river side, which looked like it had been recently renovated.
C. had a lot of fun in the Batu Caves playing with the monkeys who wanted to steal his food and water bottles. Those monkeys really have no shame!
A word of advice for travellers: if you are going to go to another city by bus, it won’t hurt to buy the ticket in advance in http://www.redbus.my or a similar website. Everybody always say “just go to the bus station and buy it there”, but the day we went to Melaka the KL bus station was extremely crowded and we spent there the whole day. Just buying the ticket took almost 2 hours because the girls selling tickets spent 10 minutes with each customer. Our bus was for 3 hours later but it was delayed for 2 hours because the traffic was a nightmare. So we didn’t arrive to Melaka until the evening… Also, when you leave, arrive to the airport 4 hours in advance. The check-in is extremely slow (and even if you do web or machine check-in you have to wait the whole queue to drop your bags anyway), same for the passport control (I think I start to see a pattern here), and the security check is separated from the passport control so you need to queue again for the third time. Apart from the general slowness, the screens said our flight was closed for boarding when there were still 45 minutes for the take off time. I almost had a heart attack and the stupid security guy didn’t want to let me pass because he said my flight was closed. I ran like I hadn’t ran in ages only to see that the boarding was still open. Why did the screens say it was closed?? Who knows. When we finally entered the plane, we still waited for 30 minutes because many passengers were trapped in the neverending slow queues, so I ran and almost had a heart attack for nothing. To avoid all this stress, just arrive 4 hours in advance because this airport (or at least this terminal, it was KLIA2) doesn’t work very smoothly. This way you will also have time to check all the shops, there are a lot!
In the next post, I will write about the other place we visited: the charming historic town of Melaka!