Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Kuala Lumpur

When we got off the train at Kuala Lumpur and hadn't been asked for our arrivals cards and couldn't see an immigration post I got a bit of a sinking feeling in my stomach. Yup, we were in Malaysia, but with nothing in our passports to say we were allowed to be. This worried me a bit. We waited at the station until a reasonable hour to go hostel hunting, eventually finding a leaflet for and ringing The Green Hut. As hostels go it was OK, a tiny twin room, but clean enough and in a pretty good location. We did what has now become our standard new place maneuver of a shower and a nap before heading out.

Worried about the visa we found out that the immigration office is at Putrajaya, some way out of the city toward the airport. Putrajaya is like a purpose built administrative/government city, with all these huge (quite interesting looking) buildings spread out over a pretty large area. We got a taxi to the immigration office and got a ticket. It said number 3647 on it. The board said 2017. Fortunately the numbers were all query specific and called non sequentially. We still waited a pretty long time to be seen though. We had to fill in a form each and give our passports and train tickets to the immigration guy. At this point I was very happy that I'd kept the tickets. We waited again, for a long time, until finally about 5 minutes before the place was due to close the guy brought back our passports. They'd put the application through as a visa extension, so we are now allowed to stay until the end of September -kind of a shame that we'll probably have left Malaysia by next week. I suppose we could have just chanced it at the border but I'm a good boy, and I thought I'd do it properly.

Kuala Lumpur means muddy estuary in Malay, which is probably why the locals shorten it to KL, as I will henceforth be doing. Around KL you can't help be struck by the contrast by the high rise and the tumbledown sitting cheek to jowl with one another. We didn't really do as much as we could do in the city for various reasons. We were feeling a little citied out by the time we got there after being around Singapore. Gemma had a shopping agenda to fill which took up quite a bit of time and she was getting increasingly depressed by the biting insects. It got to the point that we discussed ending the South East Asian portion of our journey early and going straight to Australia. We've decided to stick it out for the moment though and spend a disproportionate amount of our funds on repellent spray, etc. It's not just that Gemma gets bitten and I don't, it's that the bites swell up massively. We asked a pharmacist for advice and came away with anti-histamines and topical antibiotics. She didn't like the look of the bites at all, to the point that she thought Gemma had chickenpox.

One of the top things on anyones list in KL is to go up to the skybridge at the Petronas Towers, which we attempted 3 times, completely unsuccessfully. They give out free tickets to go up in timed slots throughout the day. We turned up earlier each time, with the final time being at 10.00, only to see the 'no tickets left' sign. I guess you have to be through that door at 08:30 when it opens to have a chance of getting the golden ticket.

We had some cool food whilst in KL, from sit down restaurants as well as street hawkers. Gemma didn't manage to get the no meat message across though at one street hawker and so had to pick loads of chicken out of her vegetable dish. I think Gemma was quite pleased when we stopped into a place that did jacket potatoes.

We managed to find a bar round the corner from us and had a few beers in there before searching for something cool to do. As in Cape Town before it, it appears everything good in KL has been cancelled in favour of screening world cup games. We ended up in Little Havana, which looked to be a bit of a British expat place. I was a little disturbed by the scene at the bar, lots of greying moustachioed older European blokes with young Oriental ladies wrapped around their necks. Especially awful was the body language from one of the ladies as one of the blokes asked for a kiss, she really recoiled from him. It was a bit seedy and horrible really.

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