Moving on to Malaysia

 Following on from the previous post, I woke for about the 8th time when Karen was leaving after finishing her night shift. She’s one person I’m really going to miss from Singapore – an utterly delightful lady, great fun, always smiling, generous to a fault and mother to a great-looking 2 year-old! Dylan and Angelo returned around the same time having stuck the festival to the end. Angelo decided he’d just stay awake until early evening and then sleep for a long time.

Purely in a bid to help him stay awake, I suggested going for a walk. I needed some currency, and to pick up some malaria tablets for Hans who’d not had a chance to get any in Qatar. Cash was easy – a quick trip to Sim Lim Square. Leaving without buying a PSP or a Nintendo DS was the tricky part, but I managed it.

Angelo suggested going to the coach station to change the cash, though I didn’t remember there being a money changer there when I’d bought my ticket. There certainly had been one there last year, as Angelo had used it. After 15 minutes of wandering, we concluded that they weren’t actually there any more and walked to Mustafa’s instead.

Mustafa’s is huge. Apparently the guy started many years ago, selling second hand stuff from a dodgy shop. Now he owns two city blocks and has created a massive department store within them. Everything from a money changer to trainers to a supermarket to a restaurant… no beer, though – it’s a Muslim business. We’d gone a couple of nights previous when we had the munchies and I swear I illegally entered Malaysia without mny passport when I was looking for the fruit juice.

 This trip should just have been a quick one. However, as the minutes ticked down to 12:30 and the time I was supposed to be at the bus station with all my luggage, I got stuck behind a guy converting his entire family estate into three different currencies. At least that’s what it seemed like. Gah.

At 12:20 I finally converted my last remaining Singapore Dollars in to Malaysian Ringgits. The Indian populace were then treated to the site of a Phillipino and a Brit sprinting through the midday streets, sweating like two of the proverbial. I dashed into the hostel, said my goodbyes, panicked some more, ran back in to get the stuff I’d forgotten and then speed-walked to the bus station, rather glad I’d shed some luggage recently.

The bus was a very pleasant surprise. We were given a free bottle of water on checkin and the seats were very nice. Footrests that popped up and very reclineable – like a series of LayZ-Boys on four big wheels. I actually slept on public transport – and very well at that. In between naps, I got talking to a French guy and his partner who are living in Kuala Lumpur for a few months. This was their first trip to Singapore – a visa run, basically – and they were enjoying the trip, too.

 The procedure when the bus reaches the bridge connecting Singapore to the Malaysian mainland if a pain, but I suppose necessary. First you have to get off the bus to get your passport stamped as leaving Singapore. Then it’s back on the bus, and over the bridge. Off the bus – taking all your luggage with you – to check into Malaysia. And then back on the same bus again.

I met one guy who’d got off in Singpore and not realised what was going on. He walked over the bridge (a good few kilometres!) and actually ended up in Malaysia, before he twigged that nobody at their end had seen his passport. He doubled back and they were somewhat surprised that he’d managed to do it. It is actually cheaper to get a bus ticket from Singapore to Johor Bahru and then from there to K-L, but it means standing around waiting for another bus and dealing with touts, so I decided to just get the straight journey up.

I’m definitely glad I did. After the stop to go into Malaysia, it was onward and upward – dead easy. The weather closed in a few hundred kilometres north and the rain started. Malaysia’s going through monsoon season and it’s horrendous! Hot, sticky, frequent downpours… not a good first impression! Though if I head back I know it’ll be in the dry season.

Another thing I noticed is that Malay, the language, is like Japanese in that it doesn’t have words for any objects or concepts newer than the last century or so. Instead, they just use a “Pidgin” version of the word. As an example, you may need to get around on a “bas” or in a “teksi” if you don’t own a “motosikle”, for which you’ll need “insurans” the cost of which could be affected by your “poscod” district.

 Not all Malay is this easy to follow, however. I’ll be sticking to my Vietnamese teach-yourself CD.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at around 19:30 and waved goodbye to my French companions. I was expecting a hoard of touts, trying to convince me to stay in their hostel as I’d been warned about this, but I guess the rain was keeping them at home. I had one man ask if I wanted a taxi (I didn’t) and that was my lot. I walked to the hostel in about fifteen minutes. I’m staying at The Green Hut, recommended by Dylan at the Inn Crowd. I got a great welcome, directions to a gazillion places in the area, and gave up 40MYR in key deposits.

After dumping my stuff and having a quick chat with a Dutch girl in the bunk opposite, I went for a quick walk and some food. KFCs are prevalent here, and I decided to get my “one KFC per country” obligation out of the way quickly with a Zinger MAXX meal – which wasn’t as zingy as I hoped. The McSpicy I’d become addicted to in Singapore was way burnier.

Nighttime is a great time to wander around Kuala Lumpur. Most of the shops are open till 10pm or later, food’s available round the clock and the Petronas Towers are just mindblowing. They are the single most astoundingly beautiful modern architectural creations I have ever seen. They simply glow in the lights. I’m quite pleased with my pics of them, but they have to be seen “live” if you’re ever over here.

Back at the hostel I managed to get online (when I wasn’t loaning my laptop to Daniel – a 6 year-old Linkin Park fan who seems to be fuelled on Lucozade and e-numbers) and then crashed for the evening. My bunk was a little wobbly, but I slept OK. I guess 2 hours’ or so sleep a night isn’t enough. You have to catch up on it sometime. Posted by Picasa

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