I felt like a real traveler today. A real backpacker.
Today was the first time I’ve had my 50 pound backpack strapped to my back for quite a distance (Curtis usually carries it for me because it’s never been further than 50 feet). We left our hotel and had to walk about a block and a half to the first train station. Up several flights of stairs to the platform and then two stops later we got off, made our way across a busy street and down into the next subway system. I’m now sitting at KL Sentral with our huge packs while Curtis carries on to another station to run an errand before we take a bus to the airport. We’ve decided to take advantage of the price and lack of taxes to purchase a new camera here since our beloved waterproof Pentax has decided it is not so waterproof after all.
When I took my pack off, I literally felt 50 pounds lighter but my muscles are still shaking slightly from carrying all that weight. It’s a great workout!
We have spent the last two days in Kuala Lumpur and have enjoyed being in a big city again. KL has some amazing buildings. We never tired of gazing at the Twin Towers – at night they look like diamonds sparkling in the sky.
We spent one day on foot exploring the city. The Twin Towers, the park surrounding it, the huge mall (catching Iron Man at the cinema a day before it came out back home), going to the observation deck at the KL Tower (the fourth highest in the world). We got to the KL Tower after dark so it might have been more exciting to see the city during the day. We enjoyed looking through the telescope, bringing the cars and people on the street into clear view – spying is fun! We even managed to spot our hotel.
The hotel we were staying at was great. It’s called Tune Hotel and the concept is 5 star beds & showers at 1 star prices. Our bed and pillows were the comfiest we’ve ever experienced, even better than the Pan Pacific or Westin Bayshore in Vancouver (at $20 a night instead of $350). It was great taking a warm shower again, we haven’t had hot water since we were in Bangkok. The shower head was one of those big rain shower ones too. You don’t get any extras for free though, you have to rent your towels (great fluffy white ones for about $1.60 each) and buy 5 or 12 hours of aircon (we got 5 hours for $1.50 and ended up using only 3 hours of it over 3 nights. There’s a big fan above the bed so the temperature is very comfortable). We loved the concept of not paying for anything we didn’t need and just purchasing any extras that we would actually use.
The lobby had a 7/11, a subway, some other coffee place and an area with computers that offered free internet. I would highly recommend anyone looking for an upscale budget hotel to stay at Tune Hotels in Kuala Lumpur – you get a lot of bang for your buck!
For the most part, KL is pricey. Dinner and drinks out can cost the same as home but movies and transit are a little cheaper. It’s definitely expensive compared to Thailand but it’s a beautiful city with all the modern conveniences one would ever need. And, best of all there are cheap flights to Bali from KL with Air Asia!
The monorail/subway system makes it easy to get around the city and we’ve enjoyed the architecture here as well.
Our last night in Ao Nang, Thailand, I was feeling a little sad to be leaving but as soon as we crossed the border into Malaysia, I loved what I could see through the tinted windows on the bus. Everything was so green! Rice fields, rolling hills, distant mountains and tons of tropical trees.
Our journey was a long one. We got picked up at 6:20 am in Ao Nang and took a minivan to Hat Yai, arriving there about 11:30 am. We had until 2:00 pm before our bus left so we grabbed a light lunch (fish ball and noodle soup) not far from the station. Walking the few blocks back after lunch, we encountered our first beggars. A few older women and one small child, two of which got up and came grabbing at my arms. A little creepy actually. We just kept walking and they didn’t pursue us.
At the Thai/Malaysia border we had to get off the bus and walk through Immigration with our passports. There were four well-dressed Malaysian women in front of us and when one of them removed her dark sunglasses for the Immigration official, we saw that she had fresh scars on her eye lids. A little trip to Thailand for a cheap eye lift.
At one of the rest stops in Malaysia, Curtis ordered a cappuccino and it came in a plastic bag with a straw. He found it super hilarious.
We’ve experienced a lot of firsts traveling. First time to get served by a waiter with a gun strapped to his side (restaurant in Ao Nang. Turned out he owns the restaurant and is also with the travel police), first train trip, first long tail boat, etc. but there was nothing quite like seeing someone in a burqa for the first time. There are a lot of Muslims in Thailand and even more in Kuala Lumpur – most women here wear head scarves. But it is different walking down the street and seeing a woman in covered in black from head to toe with only her eyes showing. Her husband (dressed in Western clothes) was taking a picture of her. Then in the mall, which is filled with every store you can imagine – from high end name brand clothing and shoes to electronics to absolutely everything in between – to see fully clad burqa wearing women shopping was a little startling. One of them was so covered up that she was even wearing sunglasses (inside the mall) and black gloves on her hands. Of course, I’m sure it was more of an unsettling experience for me because I just finished reading the book, A Thousand Splendid Suns (one of the best books I’ve ever read! I highly recommend it!) so right now view the burqa as a very oppressive thing for women, especially if her husband is making her wear it (which is how it worked in the book). I just couldn’t imagine wearing something that was so limiting – you can’t play sports or go for a run in a burqa, and you definitely wouldn’t be able to go swimming. Oh well, I try to respect others customs and religions, even if I don’t understand them. I’m very glad I was born in Canada and raised in the time of “girl power”.
Next up: Bali! Stay tuned.
Note: I wrote this post just after reading a book in which women were treated terribly in the time of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now that a few weeks have passed, I’m not as freaked out by the whole burqa thing and do not mean to offend anyone who chooses to wear one.