Kuala Lumpur – bright and dirty

Last winter I found a great bargain using the Skyscanner and flew directly from Zagreb to Kuala Lumpur with my husband. What was the catch? It was the 1st of January and while most people were sleeping or recovering from the New Years celebrations we were at the Zagreb Airport. We landed in Doha after a pleasant 5 hours flight and had the whole night ahead of us. It is possible to get a free visa & tour of Doha if your layover is longer then 8 hours, but only during the daytime from 4am until 7pm. We were supposed to land at 7.15 PM, just bad luck.

A swim at the airport…

The thought of spending so much time at the airport, at night, when the most of the shops and restaurants are closed and all you can do is overdose yourself with Toblerone chocolates and try way too many perfumes in the Duty Free Shop, was horrifying.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE AIRPORTS, but just prefer them during the day, when there are much more things going on. So, I wrote to Qatar Airways hoping we would be allowed a free sleepover at the airport hotel, but that was not granted since we could have chosen a different option at the beginning, with a shorter layover. True, but this option was much cheaper. I checked that hotel myself, but the price was too high and I asked if we could use only the spa. And YES, it is possible!! You can use the pool, the jacuzzi, rest and sleep at the deck chairs (though they are quite uncomfortable due to their shape), take a shower and change. It was the best layover of my life!!! A bit pricey, but sooo worth it. When we finally landed in Kuala Lumpur we were not dead beat.

KL International Airport is an hour drive from the city centre and the best option is to grab a prepaid taxi (although our trip back to the airport in two days time made me doubt it). You can even choose a category from budget to lux car. Of course, we took the budget one and it was like an old russian Lada. The driver drove super fast and I didn’t  feel safe at all. But we made it safely.

Oh, that view!

We booked a room at the hotel called D‘Majestic Place by Swiss Garden and asked for the view facing the Petronas. They gave us the room with a nice view and we could see the towers from our bed. It was not a fancy hotel, a regular Asian 4*, but from the pics the infinity pool looked great. And it really was! We spent our first few hours in KL on the top floor by the pool, admiring city views and eating chips from the nearby local store. When I think of that night, the first night of our two weeks long holiday, at pleasant 30 degrees,  I just smile and feel happy… even now writing this, at the other part of the world.  That’s why I love traveling soooo much……memories are always there and you get so many stories to tell.

I am a morning person, so there is no chance in hell I would miss my first sunrise at that pool. AND OH MY GOOD!   I had that place just for myself for hours….a private pool with integrated jacuzzi and the view of the city. Simply BLISS!!!

The hotel was convenietly located so we could use a few means of public transport and is was a mere 20-25 min walk to the city centre – Bukit Bintang. Our neighbourhood Pudu was at the edge of the city centre, nothing much to do there nor any major sights, but during the day it was a nice and easy walk to the city. But during the night it was a totally different story. If it weren’t for Bozo, I would not have dare to walk that path alone.  We haven’t encountered any buggers of thieves, but unthinkable number of RATS! They were mastering the streets, crawling from every possible hole and there were so much of them. I didn’t want to admit it then, but I was petrified. And felt so relieved when we finally made it to the hotel. Of course, the next evening we used the train to get back from the city centre.

Bright and dirty

I must say that KL is the city of diversity. So many dirty places and then again, some wonderful buildings and shops. The dirtiest KFC restaurant I have ever seen, and eaten at, was just 100 metres from a wonderful modern shopping centre – Pavilion, all glittering with wonderful shops and cozy cafes – Bozo’s piece of heaven when he got bored of walking and following me around in the heat. Cheesecakes and tasty sandwiches helped, as well as drinks and sweets from juicy mango, my favorite tropic fruit.

Since we only had two days before leaving for Singapore I wanted to make most of it. Kuala Lumpur offers a free HOP ON – HOP OFF BUS, called GO KL, which is great, cause in most other cities you’ll have to pay at least $20 for a day ride. Also, when in the tropics, cold bus with A/C comes as a gift. So we did two circles, both the green line and the purple line, enjoying the sights such as Chinatown, KL Tower & Petronas and passing by some first class hotels – Shangri-La, Mandarin and Grand Hyatt. I prefer doing such a tour on the first or a second day, since that way you get a sense where everything is located around the city and you can easily revisit places you prefer.

Because it is a free ride many locals use it too, specially the route that includes the China town and Little India, so it gets quite crowded. Still, you get to spare few $$ so is definitely worth it. We spent them on bunch of ice creams and amazing mango smoothes that taste so good in the heat!!

Choose your breakfast

We didn’t have a paid breakfast at the hotel, so the first morning we decided to take a walk into the city centre and just eat „something“ along the way. Not far from our hotel, and visible from my beloved pool, there was a huge bronze building called Berjaya Times Square. At the ground floor there was a Starbucks and a few others „American style cafes“ but I wanted something more local. I persuaded Bozo that we enter and look for some typical Malaysian eatery or a cafe that serve „more authentic food and drinks“ then ordinary frappuccino or mochaccino. It turned out to be a 48 storey building with INDOOR amusement park (even roller coaster) and a huge shopping centre. We got lost many times, entering the wrong elevators, but we finally found the food court, and then we simply couldn’t decide. Well, I couldn’t decide. I wanted this, then that and so we made circles, looked at the menus before the waiter arrived and asked us to come in. I guess it took us only 1.5 hour before we finally sat at one restaurant, that looked most „local“. Of course, Bozo ordered English breakfast and I did ordered something „weird and local“ – bread crumbed cake with banana, if I recall right. And to be quite honest, the coffee is much better at the Starbucks, and so is the wifi. Still, we were surrounded with locals and I felt less of a tourist, more as a homey! Let’s admit it, I am not that big fan of breakfast, or coffee, anyway.

Shopping around

I didn’t find KL to be a foodie paradise, beside all that mango desserts and tropical fruit smoothies. On the other side, it is a shopping mecca. You can find everything here. From all sorts of luxury brands, that I just watched from outside admiring the Christmas decorations, and many stores (like Sungei Wang Plaza) that sell „fake everything“, from Rolex watches, that I bought for a dear friend of my mine after an hour of bargaining, to Samsonite suitcases and Ray Ban sunglasses. But those mega shopping stores are sooo big and so full of the same type of shops that eventually I just got bored and had enough of it. Bozo, of course, just sat and waited at the café, already familiar with the scenario – I came after an hour or two …or three, sat and whine „How my feet hurt and my ankles are swollen and why for God’s sake did I wear that flip-flops??!! Then I usually get hungry and we just eat that too expensive cake in the mall and it all seems better. Sounds familiar?!?

Do I ever get bored of that, shopping & sightseeing in the new city? No, I simply love it! With all my swollen ankles and dry feet I never quit. I just use Andol, Voltaren, Polar Ice and my other friends.

After two full days of sightseeing and some shopping we were about to leave for Singapore. The night before, I asked the receptionist to pre-order us low budget taxi that would pick us up at 4 AM, since we had a morning  flight, taking off at 9 AM. Yes, it is five hours ahead of schedule, but I like to be early and hate that feeling when I am late and start panicking. Better „early then sorry“.  Also, from experience, I knew we would probably have to wait a long time for the check-in, since the online check-in was unavailable and our flight was with a very popular low budget Australian company Jetstar. Besides, KLIA is a quite big airport.

„Holy cows“

Our taxi arrived on time and it was some old, no name Asian car with an even older driver. A Chinese, that didn’t speak English. But he seemed nice and wasn’t driving fast and careless like the one upon our arrival. It was an hour drive, mostly on highways and I got quite comfortable in the back seat, behind the driver, when all of a sudden Bozo screamed, so loudly that I thought, in an instant, that he was having a heart attack. I still don’t really know why I actually thought it was a heart attack?! Maybe, it was due to the sound so strange and unfamiliar to me. Luckily no, he didn’t suffer a stroke of any kind. Our car hit a cow!!! Yes, A COW, at a 120km/h on a Malaysian highway!!

A normal person would ask himself how a cow finds itself on the highway in the middle of nowhere, at night, but afterwards Bozo googled it and found out that it was not so uncommon in that area. Poor local farmers steal the concrete panels or fences, resell them and when the local government puts them back, they do it all over again. Since they raise cattle, animals wonder during the night and cross the highway at some points. On that specific night, around 4.30 AM they were just crossing the road when our half-asleep, tired, old driver hit one of them.

We think he must have fallen asleep for a bit, because he didn’t hit the break at all, so we suspect he simply did not see the cows in front of us. Since he didn’t speak English and was in a state of total shock we will never find out. After the hit, we „were swinging for a few seconds“ and finally stopped at the side lane. At first, we weren’t aware what hit us. Bozo was yelling „we hit the cow, we hit the cow“, but now when I think about it who would ever believe him, if it weren’t true. Poor animal was crushed in a million pieces and in such fear probably released all the food from itself, so the car, apart from being half-smashed, was full of cow sh.t!!! Dead cow lied a hundred meters from the car while the other cows, that already crossed the road were just staring at us, in dumb silence.

Nobody was hurt and it was a bit of a miracle! Not even the driver, although the front part of the car was totally devastated, and we were not able to open the left doors of the car.  We got out of the car using the right side, and I don’t know who was more in a state of shock. Me, thinking over and over again how we could get killed on a „frickin’ motorway“ in the middle of nowhere or the driver looking at his car, almost fully destroyed. Bozo was cursing angry at the driver, but the old man looked so miserable, saying something like….”no insurance”… that eventually we felt sorry for him, and even paid him „for the service“. There was no police, no ambulance, nobody stopped to check if we were alright. The old taxi driver just called his colleague who picked us up and drove us to the airport, so that we wouldn’t miss our flight. He did try to apologize, with his hands gathered in a prayer, before we left with the other driver.

I am not a superstitious person, but I am grateful that the old Chinese had a small statute of a Big Buddha in the front of the car watching over us. We did make it in time and board the flight to Singapore, the city in, something like hitting the cow in the middle of highway is close to science fiction.

As for KL, we would be back, before we return back home. After all, a visit to Kuala Lumpur without visiting the Petronas would not be complete.

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