Yesterday I caught a bus to Kuala Lumpur
. My taxi ride to the bus station involved one very talkative cabbie who randomly pulled over to the side of the road and said "do you mind waiting here for a minute?" leaving me sitting there wondering if I was about to be mugged by some crazy taxi driver scam. A few minutes later he showed up with takeout and explained he was treating his wife so she wouldn't have to cook that night. Then we're talking about Malaysian food and the dirty vegetarian word gets thrown around and his mind is blown -- literally, blown -- that someone without Buddhist beliefs would voluntarily choose to not eat meat. Scandal! Outrage! "But why? WHY
??" Not keen to delve into the vegetarian defense with a random cabbie, I threw out a "because it's nicer to animals," knowing full well that when you suggest that not eating meat is healthier
for the human system, all fucking hell breaks loose.
Hence the animals. Didn't feel like getting into it. "Animals? How is it nice to animals? Eating meat is not nice to animals?" And then my mind was blown.
I met Frederick and Norbert while waiting for the bus, and we sat together and chatted each other up for much of the way. I hadn't heard back from any of the hostels in KL before I left, and so was just going to wing it by showing up at one and hoping they had space. Good ol' Fred was traveling with a phone, so together with my guidebook and recommendations from one of his friends, the two of us took turns calling around and inquiring after vacancies. No luck. We must have called six different places. Nada. Finally one hostel claimed they had space available and that they would meet us at the station.
I'll give you the abridged version: no one met us, Fred mistook some friendly local as the hostel dude, who in reality had no idea where the hostel was and was leading us around through Chinatown clueless, we finally found it only to discover that by "bohemian" they really meant "rampant pot smoking and shady atmosphere, with grody rooms to boot." We took one look at that place and ditched. Four hostels and one very cranky and sweaty hour later, we finally found a decent, clean hostel, with AC and a private triple to call our own. Hallelujah.
We mellowed out for a bit, catching our breath and slowly cooling off, before taking showers and heading out for the evening. We took the subway to the city center, which was not nearly as direct as it sounds.
Apparently in Kuala Lumpur when you switch subway lines, you have to leave the station, walk to the station next door, buy a new ticket and reenter, as opposed to walking through a maze without needing to leave/re-pay, like every other civilized city on the planet. We finally reached KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), home of the Petronas Towers and a massive mall. Frederick showed us a Malaysian restaurant he liked, and the menu looked terrific, but as I'm about to step foot inside he switches gears and decides he wants sushi. Sushi. In Malaysia. What? So we had sushi, at some massive chain restaurant that apparently has close to a hundred locations throughout Asia. One of these places that has plates moving past tables on conveyor belts.
Who goes to those places?? In all fairness, it was decent. But it wasn't great, it sure as hell wasn't anywhere near what I'd been feasting on in Japan, and it wasn't what I was in the mood for. So I was disappointed. The boys, however, were besides themselves. Apparently Germans eat sushi with massive dollops of mayonnaise on top (EW!), and so that's what they had: sushi with mayonnaise. I tried a piece and yes, it is every bit as foul as it sounds.
From KLCC we walked outside to crane our necks back and check out the view from the ground, which is pretty cool. Personally I think the buildings are ugly; why bother making such massive structures if they're going to be eye sores? But they're pretty impressive in person, and even more so all lit up at night.
Sky Bar at Traders Hotel
We were going to walk through the park to the Traders Hotel, but it started to rain, and then pour, and we were soaked by the time we scampered back into the mall (from about 30 yards, not even that far, and still soaked). So taxi it was.
Taxis in Malaysia (spelled "teksi" here) have meters, just like anywhere else. Except it's a challenge to find one who actually uses
their meter. Me, I'm up for the challenge -- I refuse to play the "name your price" game. I tell them to fuck off and flag down taxi after taxi after taxi until one pulls up with his meter running. The boys? Let's put it this way: they're babies (21 or something ridiculous, and equally as shocked at my RIPE OLD AGE as I am at theirs, "you're HOW old??
" with their jaws on the floor), spending daddy's money, and on a quick ten day holiday.
A taxi driver asking an obscene sum to drive us to the other side of the park (less than a kilometer away) is instantly consented to. Wtf?? We're standing at KLCC where the taxi queue is dozens of taxis long, for as far as you can see. And we were the ONLY ones in line! Why are you kowtowing to these mongrels? I should have seen it coming with the sushi.
The Traders Hotel is beautiful. Sleek, posh, modern, nice. Everything that my stay in KL is NOT. We went up to the top (44th?) floor where they have a Sky Bar of their own, which of course made me think of the one I visited not too long ago in Bangkok. Aside from the name, the similarities end there. There is a long narrow pool (that I doubt anyone actually swims in) down the middle, and alcoves along both sides with stunning views of the Petronas Towers.
I kept thinking how lovely it would be to be there during the daylight, to be able to see more of the city and the sprawling park between the foot of the hotel and KLCC. It was a bizarre scene: almost an even split between locals and tourists, with loud bubble gum pop from the early 80s blaring, which seemed inappropriate for the setting, given the otherwise upscale location. We attributed the poor music choices to the locals, who seemed to be having quite the time living it up. We had one round of drinks and called it a night. I enjoyed making myself presentable and indulging at a nice cocktail lounge, but it's not the same when your eye is on your budget. Sort of a cruel catch-22.