Kuala Lumpur: We’re going to show you how to drink coke
As we get up at 6.30am to finally depart from the hostel in Singapore I feel like I’ve been poisoned. The air in the room is really bad by now. It’s time to get out of the hostel before we’re too ill to make it out the door! Out on the street we ring the bell at reception a couple of doors up and 5 minutes later someone drags themselves out of bed to take charge of our key. We’re free to head off to the airport on the MRT where the heat is already intense and rush hour has begun. Standing on the jam-packed trains I’m still feeling ill and spend most of the journey trying to decide whether to get sick or pass out. As we finally get closer to the airport some seats open up and I take a place beside two men. Over the next couple of minutes it’s like a scene playing out from the movies where there’s a highly contagious virus outbreak in a large city. The guy beside me is looking very green around the gills. He enlists the aid of his friend as he puts his head between his legs, coughing and spluttering. Suddenly he grabs and unzips a bag that I really really hope doesn’t contain a laptop or anything expensive in it. As the train pulls into the airport 5 minutes later a growing space has been cleared around him as he repeatedly reaches for the bag and empties the contents of his stomach over and over. Lovely. Just what we needed to see. Here’s hoping one of our vaccinations covered whatever he has.
Thankfully we’re treated to a pleasantly short flight after that as we take to the skies between Singapore and the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. We haven’t even completed the take-off and we’ve already arrived over a new country. The ultra-crowded island with its hulking towers fades into the distance and we’re travelling over dense green land with space to spare all round. A mere 50 minutes later and we’ve touched down at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Just like that. I’m feeling pretty glad we opted for the short and relatively inexpensive flight when I think of the hours it would have taken on the overnight train or bus to travel the same distance. Overnight trains are still an unpopular topic for us after the Sunlander incident in Australia.
Getting from the airport into KL Sentral Station is a piece of cake. It’s at that point that things start to go wrong. The hostel never saw fit to actually provide any directions for finding them. Between looking up google maps and an online map of the metro lines I had scribbled out the station we had to get to and the roads to take from there. On arriving at Sentral we find that the one line we want is actually a monorail line. Where that monorail is… isn’t clear. Evidently not in the building we’re in. We duly follow a couple of small signs outside and down some stairs where a riot seems to be taking place. On closer inspection it’s just the normal every day activity of staff hassling and heckling people onto their airport buses whether they’re looking to go to the budget airport or not. Drenched in sweat and feeling the rucksack straps cutting into us we dodge our way up and down the area in search of this magic monorail. Nowhere to be found, it continues to elude us.
Returning to the building, Brodie approaches a ticket seller who helpfully tells him to go downstairs and ‘there will be a door’. This isn’t setting off any light bulbs for us. After further exploration I find a map indicating the monorail might be quite a distance away despite being marked as passing through Sentral Station. Another information desk gives me the somewhat clearer instructions of going outside, downstairs and left. Then cross the road. Ok, we can try that. We duly repeat our earlier trek and continue left off down the road along the side of a massive construction site. When we finally reach another road we’re at a loss again until we spot a tell-tale metro bridge in the distance.
20 minutes later we’ve bartered some notes for tickets and boarded a crowded monorail cab. Just as we sit down and finally shed our loads, three young people saunter on at a stop in red t-shirts and inform everyone that they’re going to show us how to drink coke, and then give us some. People eye them warily as they swig a mouthful of coke from a bottle and then all self-consciously jump in the air and shake themselves, possibly to indicate they’re all refreshed now. No one really cares once they hand out the promised ice-cold cans. So long as it’s liquid, cold, and probably not poisonous, we’re happy to consume it in this heat.
Completely wiped out by the heat we finally find ourselves outside the Rainforest B&B which, though hard to find, looks quite promising. The check in process takes a while but we’re finally issued with a key card and find ourselves in another windowless room, but this one is wooden and reasonably spacious. The ensuite bathroom is just what’s needed in a country where glancing out the window makes you perspire. We settle in happily and discover that there’s no such thing as doing the laundry here. They’ll take our dirty clothes away and bring them back tomorrow, clean, for some paltry sum. Deal.
Our only issue with the accommodation is the air-conditioning. The lack of it. There’s an air-conditioning unit alright, but regardless of the combinations of switches and key-card swipes we try, it stubbornly refuses to do more than bat its fins at us and go back to sleep. The temperature steadily climbs during the afternoon forcing us out in the early evening when it begins to feel like a sauna. Wondering what obvious part of its operation we missed, we mention to the staff at reception that we’re having a bit of trouble operating it. They inform us it switches off when you take the key card out and leave the room. We inform them that that’s all fine with us, but we’d like the damn thing to switch on while we’re in the room. Some brief confusion ensues as they try and figure out what kind of stupid we are before it emerges that we’re supposed to be using a remote to control the temperature. The only remote we have is for the tv. The mystery is solved as they find the air conditioning remote for our room still in a reception drawer. Funnily enough, the air conditioning works perfectly with the addition of that one small tool.
Relieved that we’ll be able to breathe for a change that night, we venture out into the city to check out the ‘golden triangle’ area, and particular the Petronas Twin Towers that dominate the skyline. Until recently they were the tallest buildings in the world and are quite a sight lit up at night. They’re so large that only one tower is in view until we reach the base and can walk around to see the other one aswell. We take shots from every angle, hoping some of them won’t be completely blurred. After enjoying a berry smoothie in the monstrous shopping centre at the foot of the towers we call it day and go back to the hostel to make good use of that air-conditioning.