Categories
Uncategorized

Kuala Lumpur Walkabout

As promised, here’s pictures from my one afternoon walking around Kuala Lumpur (with a little help from the trains!) Be warned, it’s a long post!

I started the day waiting for a phone call from a colleague to let me know whether my flight could be rescheduled. It was almost 11am by the time I figured out that nothing was going to happen and finally got off my ass and took a shower and packed my stuff.

I was staying at a friend’s home in one of the distant suburbs, so it was a long and uneventful bus journey back to the city.

A quick sandwich at Subway, an hour on the bus and I finally arrived at KL Sentral. If you’re flying out on Malaysian Airlines and you have a ticket on the Express train to the airport, they allow you to check your bags in at KL Sentral. This was huge relief to me as I didn’t see myself wandering around the city lumbered with a large duffel bag!

The check in process was smooth, I was the second of two people in line! What next? I wandered around the station for a bit, debating whether I should try to buy some ringgit (I had only a 100 or so)

Decided against trying to buy more currency (especially since they wouldn’t accept Indian Rupees as payment and I’d have to use my credit card!) and instead looked around for a tourist kiosk of some kind where I could pick up a map of the city.

The lady at the Mlaysia Tourism kiosk was quite bored and when I asked her for a “walking” or tourist map, she pulled one out of a drawer and handed it to me and went back to staring at her computer screen. Well, no worries, I had a map now!

Random Building

A quick scan of the map and a vague plan to visit Petronas Towers among others formed in my head. Also, I decided to try and take every one of the KL train systems, especially the funky looking monorail I had seen in the city centre the previous day.

I hopped onto a KTM Kommuter train heading from KL Sentral to an area called Masjid Jamek (?) which I thought was close enough to the KL Tower (or Menara KL) and also would provide for some interesting sights along the way.

The train I hopped into was painted a deep purple colour and carried the “Incredible India!” series of ads to encourage tourism to India. Ironic. While trying to take my camera out to take a picture of the interior of the train, I saw this interesting building pass by and quickly took a photo of it. Unfortunately my stop was soon after and I couldn’t get a shot of the train!

Framed!

I next had to find my way to an entrance to the park in which the KL Tower was situated. There was a conventional entrance where all the cabs and buses and most sensible people would enter from and there was the entrance through a “jungle trail” where overenthusiastic tourists like me would enter from. The Lonely Planet book that I had consulted for 5 minutes at a friend’s place sold me on this “jungle trail” and the tourist map I had went on about how KL was the only city that had a reserved jungle bang in the middle of the city and that the communications tower was built with a lot of ecological considerations, etc.

Stairway to the Tower

So I had to see it. I tramped through a few very busy streets, almost got run over once, saw a Mahindra show room selling their Bolero SUV-type vehicles and finally about 25 minutes later arrived at the very small, unassuming entrance to the Jungle Trail about 20 metres away from a train station that I could have just travelled to in the first place!

Right then, looked like a bunch of stairs heading in. I guessed I could handle it.

In about five minutes I was huffing and puffing and there seemed no end to the stairs. Also, while I could see the road through the trees in the distance, all I could hear were typical jungle noises. And the helpful Malaysia Tourism notices which told you to beware of snakes and bugs. Nice.

Finally, the tower

Finally, through the trees, I could see the tower. Phew, I thought. I’m getting there. Not quite. A tramp up a rope bridge, some more stairs and I was at the base of the tower.

By now, I was pooped. I was breathing heavily (dammit, I’m in bad shape!) but luckily for the me, the ground level of the tower was filled with souvenir shops and a couple of restaurants. I bought my ticket to the top of the tower (20 ringgit) a bottle of water and a bar of chocolate and wandered around looking at the shops for a bit until I was a little less out of breath!

Time to go up! I rode up the couple of hundred metres up to the observation deck all alone in the elevator and stepped out to see this:

The view from the top

My next stop, the Petronas Towers was also visible from the deck and the afternoon sun shining on them made the metal exterior glow with a pale golden hue.

Petronas Towers from the KL Tower

The view was amazing! I just kept wandering around and around, looking out the windows and when I got bored of that looking at the display they had around the inside of the deck about the world’s tallest towers and took a few random pictures of buildings and the general view.

Time to leave. I took the elevator back downstairs. Stopped to take a picture of the famed ceiling of the entrance area and then wandered out the regular road back into the city.

I was lost for a bit, since the road names on my map didn’t match the signs! And some buildings seemed to have the same name. Gah! I took a breather and sa t on a bench on the sidewalk and did some people-watching before I tackled the map again. This time I managed to figure things out. I decided it was time to ride the monorail!

I was a short distance away from the nearest station and I didn’t strictly need to take the train since my destination was the very next station, but nevertheless, I bought my ticket and hopped on!

The Petronas Towers were a short walk from where I got off and along the way I saw these:

Shah Rukh Khan - GIFA Priyanka Chopra - GIFA

And this:

Pakistan High Commission

Looks like there’s no escaping Bollywood or Pakistan! 😉

I also saw this interesting building which was sadly being demolished. In all probability to make way for a another glass and steel high rise. Sigh.

Interesting buildingPetronas towers from below

At the base of the Petronas Towers, after successfully dodging a guy who tried to sell me a cheap watch, I did the usual touristy thing and clicked a bunch of photos. You know the kind, right? But I just had to include one here! I was exhausted. I didn’t see much of the city, but my feet sure met a lot of pavement! I stopped for a coffee at a cafe next to the towers and sipped it while doing some more people-watching.

Time was running out and while I considered for a moment entering the shopping centre next door, I decided I couldn’t risk it and I did so want to see the KL railway station before I left.

Hopped onto another train that dropped me off near the KL railway station (which the 5 minutes with the Lonely Planet had told me was worth looking at) and I was being my usual click-happy self again, when time and the batteries started running out!

National Museum

So back it was to KL Sentral. A slightly longish walk from where I was and I panicked about missing my train, but the trees, grass and beautiful buildings (including the National Museum) along the way made up for it.

I was sweaty, grubby and bone tired. It felt sooo good to step back into the air conditioned comfort of the station. And in a lucky break, I got there just in time to catch the next express to the airport.

A short ride (and nap) later I was running through the airport to get to my gate on time. Guess what? The gate printed on my ticket was wrong and I had to go to one about 20 gates away. Aaargh! When I arrived at my gate, the queue was huge! And this was about 30 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave!

Not surprisingly, the flight was late. In fact, the airplane hadn’t even arrived yet. We had to spend a boring 30 minutes standing in line until we were finally allowed to enter the waiting lounge.

So, if you thought you couldn’t do much in an afternoon, you’re mistaken! Of course, I could have got a lot more done if I’d actually planned it out. But I still had fun! I was completely knocked out by the end of it though. Slept soundly for the short flight back home.

p.s. View all of these photos and more on my Kuala Lumpur set on Flickr.

Categories
Uncategorized

Foiled!

I was supposed to be in Malaysia on Thursday and Friday and fly back to India on Friday. Since my office doesn’t work Saturdays anyway, I thought it should be easy enough to get my ticket for Friday evening rescheduled for Sunday evening and thus get myself a nice mini-vacation in Kuala Lumpur!

But no. When I called up Malaysian Airlines, all flights until the 21st were fully booked! It’s just my luck that my trip to Malaysia was on one of the busiest weekends in the year!

This meant that in one afternoon I had to catch as many of the sights as possible and make sure that I don’t miss the flight back to India in the evening!

Categories
Uncategorized

Kuala Lumpur Impressions

I went to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for a couple of days on work. That short trip has given me ideas for three blogposts, this being the first of them, so that’s a good thing…

The first thing about Malaysia is that it’s quite easy to begin to talk like them, lah! See, even I can do it now, yeaaah? Secondly, even coming from India, the diversity in Malaysia is quite amazing. Also, since a decent portion of the Malaysian population are ethnic Indians or Sri Lankans, I didn’t get stared at quite as much. 🙂

My first impression of KL was based on KLIA, the international airport that I arrived at. It was gleaming, squeaky clean and very very easy to get around. I haven’t seen a lot of international airports, but from among the few that I’ve been to (O’Hare, CDG, Heathrow, JFK, Frankfurt, Detroit) this is definitely the best one.

The second was how every available surface on the taxis were given up to advertising! And mostly job websites. Funnily enough, the person travelling in the taxi with me worked for naukri.com, an Indian job site!

The traffic is KL was completely crazy but the people amazingly polite about it. I barely heard any honking or loud yelling!

Despite the crazy traffic, public transport in KL is awesome. There are plenty of regular buses and also a railway system that extends to the suburbs. Despite these systems being run by 4 different companies, they’re quite well integrated with a lot of points where you can cross over from one system to the other. Oh, did I also mention the KLIA Express train that takes you from KL Central to the KLIA (KL International Airport) in precisely 28 minutes? And that’s a distance of around 60km!

Speaking of KL Central, that station is fantastic, if a little crowded! A neat well designed hub for the four railway lines, the express to the airport and bus services. It’s located just outside what is actually Kuala Lumpur and a short distance from the Kuala Lumpur railway station (where all the trains from outside the city arrive.)

I’ll put up some pictures of my trip in the next post with more impressions of the city!

Categories
Uncategorized

Travelling on Bombay locals means…

…no matter how empty the train is, your feet will get stepped on an average of two times.

…when you decide to sit under a fan in a crowded train, about three people will stand around you, not only blocking out the fan, but also blocking all light, so forget about reading that book/paper.

…not only will they stand around and chat loudly over your head, but they will chew paan and tobacco and so fill the air with that stench.

…if you’re really unlucky, the juice dribbling down their mouth (or spraying all over when they guffaw at whatever joke) will fall on you.

…elbowing or being elbowed out of the way when trying to board a train on a good day.

…being yanked backwards by the collar/scruff of your neck and virtually ejected from the train on a bad day.

…the smelly old man sitting next to you will fall asleep on your shoulder.

…the same smelly old man will sit with his arms akimbo and poke you in the ribs.

…despite being asleep, the smelly old man’s arms will successfully resist attempts to push them away.

…never being able to talk on the phone since you use a crappy phone service that won’t work on the train.

…people will ask to read your morning newspaper before you’ve finished reading it.

…looking at advertisements for “Body Massages” (with “home service”) and wondering why they’d want to put that in a train since everyone gets a free all-over body massage standing in a crowded train anyway.

…if you’re sitting in an aisle seat, the guy standing in the aisle will decide to rest his butt on your shoulder.

…you’re thankful he doesn’t decide to rest his groin on your shoulder as others are wont to do.

…being late every now and then since there’s always some “rail roko” by “public-minded” groups protesting some inane cause.

…learning to forget you ever had personal space.

…this list will go on! 😀

Categories
Uncategorized

Thanksgiving and Anu’s visit

Anu came over to East Lansing to visit me on Thanksgiving day…. We spent the day just lazing about the house and then went in the evening to watch “Love Actually.” Which wasn’t too bad a movie…. And then for Thanksgiving dinner we went to… wait for it… yep, Pizza Hut!! Ok, not as exciting, but give us a break, we’re too lazy to cook and on Thanksgiving which restaurants are open for business?

We spent the rest of the evening drinking vodka and watching funny movies on DVD until we both fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion! 🙂

Friday, we took a bus to Ann Arbor and froze walking about that city’s streets looking for places to get dinner! It actually snowed and Anu got all excited about the first snow she’s seen in the States this year! We also ate for the first time at the Mongolian Barbecue and, boy, was it a great experience. Leave aside the the absolute coolness of watching your food grilled before you, but it actually tasted great! Of course, we had a couple of drinks to help the food along down… but I’m sure it would have tasted great otherwise too! 🙂

Saturday was almost completely a waste of time… I slept in until 2pm!!

We wandered around half starving until Anu dragged me into some place to eat. I was sure that if I had kept her from eating for a little while longer… she would have probably taken a bite out of my arm! 🙂

Shivanee visited that night and for lack of any thing else to do, we sat around playing scrabble, Phase 10 and drinking vodka!

After a cholesterol loaded breakfast on Sunday (4 eggs, 4 slices of bacon, ham, cheese and toast) we faffed around Ann Arbor some more. Anu splurged on a woolen hat for $50!

I was completely knocked out on the trip back to Lansing and just dozed away on the bus and just crashed on the bed when I got home. Phew!