A candid visit to Malaysia-A A +A
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
UPON arriving at Kuala Lumpur’s Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) I felt overwhelmed.
Maybe because of the different languages I was hearing, the unfamiliar setting and the varied clothing of most of the passengers. It was a risky, or most might call it crazy, idea to travel without an itinerary. I had no itinerary alright, but one goal upon arrival - to go to Puduraya Bus Terminal and get on the earliest bus to Penang.
It was around 2 a.m. Travel time from LCCT to Puduraya took an hour and a half. I arrived past 3:30 a.m. Kuala Lumpur was asleep. The bus terminal was closed. Without any clue where to go, I stayed at a 24-hour McDonald’s.
While eating my apple pie, (sourer than what is available in the Philippines) I was hoping that at any minute, I would hear a familiar tongue. But who was I kidding? Only an English song, which I wish I had taken note of, was making the moment feel less anxious. While there, I took the opportunity to talk to some people who were also waiting for the bus terminal to open. It was nice, the people in Malaysia are like Filipinos, hospitable and helpful.
I was talking to two Indonesian students studying in Malaysia when I decided to change my plans and cancel my Penang trip. I chose to stay in Puduraya and tour Kuala Lumpur instead. The same students helped me find a hotel near China Town.
Seven a.m. in Malaysia can be compared to 5 a.m. in the Philippines. The streets are quiet, devoid of even peddlers. Their day starts at around 9 a.m. Worn-down, I checked in and rested. I stayed at Hotel Seven Nite, where the rates were affordable, the rooms clean and accessible. My superior room was good for two people and cost me just 99 Malaysian ringgit (around P1337) per night.
At 10 a.m., I got ready for my circuit. Many thanks go to the hotel steward who recommended riding a bus called Go KL, that takes one from China Town to Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC). These pink buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, disabled-friendly, and most importantly, free! There are two main routes that cover the city’s main sightseeing destinations; buses are available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Kuala Lumpur is a truly exquisite city. As Malaysia’s capital, it mirrors the vibrant
and diverse culture of the country. Malaysia’s tag line “Malaysia Truly Asia” says it all. This country is a mix of different races like Malay, Chinese, Indian and other sub ethnic groups. A fine fusion of the old and the modern is also how Malaysia is commonly described. This can be seen in their architecture, entertainment and clothing.
Before travelling to KLCC, I decided to visit Petaling Street to check for souvenirs and street food. The setting made me feel like I was in a Jackie Chan movie, where, in the middle of my stroll, a Kung Fu fight might break out. The stretch of the street was surprisingly clean, and the smell was a mixture of roasted fowl, Chinese pastry and steaming noodles.
After wandering through China Town, I proceeded to the Petronas Twin Towers. Petronas is probably one, if not, the most well-known tourist spot in KL. Seeing it from afar was already marvellous, but standing below it and raising one’s head to take in its dimensions, was surreal.
Since I was alone, I had the liberty to explore the city at my own pace. I just walked and walked and visited as many tourist destinations as I could in KLCC during my first day. Call me a “kill joy,” but since I had no interest in experiencing the night life in Malaysia, I went back to my hotel at 6 p.m. On my bus ride going back to the hotel, I was seated beside a girl who gave me directions to Batu Caves.
In order to go to Batu Caves, located 13 kilometers north of Kuala Lumpur, you have to ride a train at KL Sentral. KL Sentral is the main railway station of KL. Batu Caves is the last stop; you pass eight stations before reaching it. It is easy for anyone to follow the train route. A train ride just costs 1RM and 2RM going back to KL.
Batu Caves is a famous shrine in Malaysia dedicated to Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and victory. The statue is made of gold, and it is colossal. A lot of tourists and locals visit it every day. You can also see different street food, colourful accessories and souvenirs being peddled. There were a lot of pigeons and monkeys as well, and I had never seen so many in just one place. People can feed them too.
While I was talking to the girl on the bus, she also recommended that I ride the Hop-on, Hop off Tour Bus. This I also recommend to first time tourists. The copy of the bus route is available online if you want to check it out. I took her advice and started my day early. I bought a ticket for 45RM. There are a lot of tourist spots that you can see by riding the bus, and I chose a few to visit: National Museum, KL Lake Garden, Islamic Art Museum, Merdeka Square, St. Mary’s Church, Titiwangsa Lake Garden, and a personal favourite, the National Visual Art Gallery.
In total, I spent two days roaming Kuala Lumpur, a short but eventful stay. I remembered writing in my journal that it was 10% planning and 90% luck that made this escapade successful. The people I met on the trip were all very accommodating despite our differences; the Filipinos I shared experiences with were also such a pleasure to talk to, our warm conversations coupled with their familiar smiles assuaged the occasional loneliness that I felt during my short stay there. I’m looking forward to visiting again, but next time, with a plan in hand.
Nevertheless, it was worthwhile.
Terima kasih Malaysia (Dea Devaras)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 26, 2013.