18 October 2013 – Melaka was full of coffee houses, so we indulged on the way out. Its almost the same price as the UK so a bit of a luxury. The drive to Kuala Lumpur, or KL as the local hipsters and annoying western backpackers like to call it that grinded on me even just writing it, was short and all highway.
There was some oppoutune photo moments on the way in of the beautiful city-scape and cheeky towers poking out so we stopped, maybe that was key to navigating the city. A little break to refresh the mind and then head into the maze. We’d scoped out a place to stay with parking thanks to someone on horizons. Kuala Lumpur was a dream compared to Bangkok, far less traffic, and despite the one way system we only got slightly lost once. I can hear Paul now ‘it’s because you don’t know your left and right’ I do actually I never had ‘L’ or ‘R’ on my shoes thanks. The pin point on google maps just doesn’t move quick enough. We found the place we wanted straight away. Perfect. We also managed to get there just before the afternoon downpour so made it without a soaking too. Double perfect.
The place we stayed was in the very centre of Bukit Bintang, which if we hadn’t had the recommendation we would have avoided beforehand as it was in the centre of the crazy on Tengkat Tong Shinin road but it was perfect, easy to get to everywhere. One very odd sign on the back of the door, said we must report terrorism in the hotel and within a few hours in the city we’d had a few people warn us of theft. There’s clearly a feeling it’s unsafe amongst some people but I felt completely at ease. It’s no more unsafe than any other city.
One thing which is immediately clear, is the city is under construction. Everywhere you look, huge buildings are wrapped in green/blue plastic and roads cordoned off for construction. It does make it a little un-aesthetically pleasing but all the same it’s still a nice neat city.
Our first point of call the following day was the Indonesian embassy. We need to apply in advance despite visas being issued on arrival as we really need the 60 day one in the first instance as a visa on arrival can only be renewed once. We’ve been told to expect Indonesia to take at least 2 months to cross as boats between some of the most southern islands can be as little as once a week. The embassy is real bureaucracy gone mad. Your given a number first then you wait your turn, you speak to guy who only asked ‘why did you not apply in England’ and then your told to return the next day. Turn up the next day, everyone’s number is called one after the other, then you sit and wait for your number to be called again. Then came the bad news, our visa was turned down. No reason given, but luckily a full refund was. What now?
We went back to hotel to look why, and the only thing we could determine was we didn’t have exit flights. A call to the consulate in Penang [our next city] confirmed we needed return flight tickets, even if we never planned to take them as we would be leaving overland. Fuck. Never said anything about this on the embassy website or on the always trusted Horizons Unlimited, but reading a few forums on Lonley Planet suggested you may even be refused into Indonesia if you didn’t have an outbound ticket. A cheap flight booked out of Bali that we’ll never take and luckily we could apply again Penang and cross our fingers. We thought Indonesia would be a breeze, maybe that’s our fault for being a little too complacent.
On the recommendation of Nick who we met in Iran we headed for Sunny Cycles to have a few things done on the bike, as Malaysia is the only place since leaving Europe which has many big bikes on the roads. The garage had loads of big bikes parked up and was the place to go for any big bike. The owner himself is an overlander, and his son, is a MotoGP pit team mechanic so they’re pretty good.
More than one task a day now has seemingly become an epic challenge. We went to Sunny’s after the first embassy visit and were exhausted. Two tasks in one day is not the one anymore. We ate Thai food on the bustling street selling just food on the road infront of our hotel and went to bed.
The next day we went to look around the huge shopping malls and then headed over to the Petronas which really are the heart of Kuala Lumpur, it would be pretty dull without them. The centre also has a shopping centre and cinema. We couldn’t resist and so went to watch ‘The Prisoners.’
We saw the Menara from a distance, it’s basically the older and less pretty single tower which also makes up the skyline. It’s very odd to think the city was once a tropical rainforest. Every now and again there are little reminders when you see the huge luscious trees rising from the pavement and of course the tropical rain but that’s about it.
It was dark when we were walking back and the ladies of the night appeared on the corners, outside the massage places and of course outside KFC. This shocked me, I didn’t expect it so openly in Malaysia but they were everywhere.
Our one task/activity a day was enforced the following day and we went to the Lake Gardens and then onto the fake goods market in china town. We brought knock-off DVDs and ate a crappy meal [still no good Malaysian food found] where a man was getting very irate and shouting “I fucked my wife to get my daughter” and then concluded with “I fucked my daughter” ok. He quietened down after a while, but the men he was with didn’t bat an eyelid at his outbursts.
We moved on after four days in Kuala Lumpur and headed for Georgetown, Penang. Its a pretty big distance between the two but should be easy going as its highway.