2004-07-12 Kuala Lumpur

The bus to Kuala Lumpur took almost as long as the train. We should have taken the train (in my mind). It was late and we were baffled by the LRT system that seemed to have an interchange, but didn't. It took us a while just to get from the chaotic bus terminal to the neighbouring station since there was only one route and it was unclear. We had to change at one point, but what we didn't know was that the other line was underground, a couple blocks away, required a separate ticket and was very hard to find.

We arrived at the stop nearest the hotel, and with Lins feeling sick I did not want to chance walking the wrong way. The hotel we booked (dirt cheap for a business hotel) was supposed to be a five minute walk. The police officer at the station directed us to the right and we walked for fifteen minutes past many hotels, none of which were ours. I went to the Sheraton and asked..."oh that hotel is very far away, you need to take cab." (Far away, my estimation is twenty minutes max by foot, two by Cab), and apparently the top hotel chains are not immune to tied selling. I asked the cab driver (the one with the Daewoo, not the American Sedan) how much. "Ten" (Ringgit (about $3US)) This I knew to be a 3 Ringgit ride at most, but Lindsay would have killed me if I haggled too much. "Eight" I said just so I didn't lose too much face, and he agreed.

The hotel was great for us, if hardly culturally respective or environmentally friendly. It had a pool, fridge, and a TV that got all five of Malaysia's crappy television stations (sort of makes a mockery of their huge television tower.) The place was very popular with Arabian families, and I was a bit surprised to swim in the pool with kids in normal bathing suits, while their mom watches them wearing a full black Burqa.

The one sight of KL that I could not miss was the Moorish Train Station that was just recently replaced by the spiffy new one as KL's Hauptbahnhof. Lins and I rode the commuter train into the architectural wonder, Moorish on the outside, English on the inside, but very very quiet and under used. I am sure it was quite the bustling place fifty years ago.

We did find that there were some people in the Railway Hotel-Restaurant. We had the best meal of the trip there, which included delicious Pumpkin soup, the local specialty.

After wandering around the city centre we eventually caught the bus to the Batu Caves for all its Hindu extravagance.

We had seen so many signs banning durians that we had to try one. No fresh ones were to be found, so we bought a pack of Durian flavoured ice cream. I would like to say that it was an appreciated taste, but after six spoonfuls, I had had enough. Lindsay barely managed one.

It wasn't until our last morning that we went up the Petronas Towers. The surrounding KLCC shopping centre is equally extravagant, because it seems to have every major chain store from Britain, Australia and the UK. The tower was free, because after ligning up all morning they only rush you up to the SkyBridge for fifteen minutes. This was more than enough time in my mind.

2004-07-14 Tempin

It was the stop nearest to Melaka, so we were expecting a bit of a hassle getting from the train station in Tempin to our final destination. With only the suggestion of a taxi in the guide book, Lins and I stepped out of the small station to find that there was no one except a lone cab driver and his friend riding shotgun. Expecting a scam, we approached the cab. The driver said "Where do you want to go? Melaka?" Yes, we did. "Do you want to go by bas or by teksi?" I was shocked to be given a choice. Surely he'd want to drive us as far as we would want to go for as much as we'd pay. I asked how much. "to Bas Station- Five, Melaka, Thirty and Five"

Well, we took the bus choice. And he happily drove us to the station and pointed out the bus. The cab driver looked close to seventy and had reclined his seat so far back he could barely see over the steering wheel. He smoked a large drooping rolled cigarette and I wondered if he was too set into his routine to bother driving us all the way to Melaka. He had reached the age where he no longer drooled over tourists.

Tempin looked quite the lively and interesting town, and it was a shame we were there such a short time. The bus was skeletal, but the driver was worthy of the F1. We hurtled towards Melaka dropping of school kids and picking up market goers. At one point a little boy stood in front of the bus and tried to get it to make an unscheduled stop (who can tell where the bus stops are?) The driver honked and swerved to avoid the boy, but never once considered reducing his speed. It was one of the most thrilling and interesting journeys of the trip.

2004-07-15 Melaka

Wandered around Melaka in the sweaty heat. For all its references in the guidebook, it wasn't particularily big or touristy. It was quite nice in fact. Went and saw the National Museum in the Dutch Huis as well as the museum of (Malay) democracy and Malay literature. The guest house was nice and comfortable and our first proper backpacking place. Most of the guests were aging male backpackers who were probably in between big Thai parties. The hostel wasn't the hotbed of single activity that they were hoping for, but it suited us.

2004-07-16 Johor Baru

Nawaz met us at Johor Baru airport and we flew together to Kota Kinabalu with Air Asia, the Ryanair of the East. Took a taxi to the hostel that we selected out of the book. It was the worst place we stayed in on the trip, and it wasn't even the cheapest. We shared the cab with a Dutch who's full Christian name was...Bob. I wonder if his parents even knew of Robert. Dinner was a Western affair at a surreal food court that featured two teenage girls singing pop hits such as the Spice Girls.

The next day we wandered through the sweltering little city trying to find the boat that would take us to Paulu Laban. Arrived just as they were boarding, but they kindly held the enclosed speed boat (Capacity 100 or so) for us. They played a theatre recorded Spiderman 2 on the TV system to entertain us when the beautiful scenery wasn't enough.