A day full of travel and few events, but one thing to note: I filled in my dive log book earlier and I’ve passed the “24 hours of my life underwater with a tank strapped to my back” mark. Cool.
I had a bit of a lie in and appopriated a Lonely Planet SE Asia on a Shoestring that someone left behind. Handy as I’m heading back into Thailand shortly, and into areas I’ve not been before. In the Sipadan Scuba office I updated the blog (painfully due to the poor internet) and walked up to the bus area with Elsa, my Rescue Diver victim. She’s looking a lot better now – breathing and everything.
For those travelling to Tawau Airport from Semporna, the cheapest way to do it on your own is to get one of the minibuses from outside KFC. It’s MR20 flat fare, as opposed to the MR80 that Scuba Junkie will charge you for a share taxi – essentially a minimum of MR20 if you can get three other people. The buses leave when they’re full which seems to be every thirty minutes or so.
As it happens, I was hungry having skipped breakfast so I had a KFC. As I sat there, the bus driver poked his head in the door and signalled that he was about to leave. I chugged my Pepsi and ran out in time to squeeze into my seat and read for the next hour as we zoomed along the windy roads.
Check-in for the flight was the usual fun with anyone trying to take on more than 15.5kg being asked to empty things out of their luggage or cough up. And the usual handful of people with four boxes of 25kg each that argued, holding the line up. My rucksack? 15.0kg precisely, thank you very much.
I gave myself an ice-cream headache with a blueberry ice drink and munched a packet of cheese crisps and a small roll of Oreos. Healthy dinner. Not. I then encountered a novel version of “queueing” that the Malaysians have developed that I guarantee you would not work in the UK. As they came through security, they placed their bags in the queueing area near the departure gate then wandered off to the seating area elsewhere. That’d go down well with the overzealous security at Heathrow… I don’t know if they have enough controlled explosives to take out an entire “queue” of Malaysian backpacks.
The best part was that the queue was divided in three. I got onto the plane far ahead of most of the people who’d cheated by the simple expedient of walking to the front of one of the other lines when they opened them. Not that it helped much as the flight was delayed by roughly half an hour.
At Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia land at the budget terminal which gives you some options for getting into the city itself. The airline runs its own express bus which takes around an hour (likely longer during daylight hours) for MR9, or MR6.50 if you book it online at the time you sort your flight. There was another bus in front of us that I think was charging MR11 for the same journey.
As an alternative, you could catch the free bus to the main terminal and then hop on one of the rail services (regular or express). All these buses and trains go to KL Sentral Station from where you can jump on the LRT or MRT to other parts of the city.
Bonus time – I paid for my MR9 ticket with a MR10 note… and got MR41 in change. I’ll get scammed somewhere else, so it’ll work out I’m sure.
When the bus pulled in to the Sentral Station, we were surrounded by taxi touts all trying to convince passengers that the MRT and LRT had both closed for the night. The thing is, they did this will stood underneath signs saying a) that you should not use these taxis and should go upstairs for the voucher ones and b) that the last train is at 11:56. And it was 11:40. So they were lying.
The station the bus stops at is the one for mainline rail services and the LRT. For the MRT monorail into the Golden Triangle area, you need to turn your back to the station and walk through the park in front of you directly across the main road. The last train from there is midnight. Never trust taxi drivers.
I bumped into a couple who were on holiday from their teaching jobs in Saigon, and they’d not been to KL before. They were heading in my direction so I helped them get their bearings. As we pulled into Bukit Bintang station, the train horns started blaring and we could hear explosions… fireworks. August 31st is Merdeka – Malaysian Independence Day, and this year is their 51st anniversary as an independent nation. Sadly, under the cover of the MRT station we couldn’t see the fireworks, but we could see the thronging crowd below staring at them and covering each other in silly string. A shame I’d not arrived earlier in the day!
I directed my cohorts to the backpacker area and strolled around the corner to the Trekker Lodge where I had a 2-night booking. Seems like an OK place with friendly reception and wi-fi. I had to fix the internet connection as well as the network settings on two of the PCs in the office. I’m nice like that. Then I sat down to watch us getting hammered by Arsenal. As I type, we have 5 minutes left and we’re 3-0 down. Hey ho.