Sunday, September 9, 2018

Travel Diary: Experiencing Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the Second Time Around

They say you always remember your first. Well, I remember my first time travel out of the country. It was just before my 27th birthday when the only thing I had planned was to gather some of my dear friends from high school for my birthday dinner.

The account I was handling then at work had a promo where three lucky winners would get the chance to go to Kuala Lumpur to watch Justin Bieber and a few other performers in a concert at Sunway Lagoon. I got sent to chaperone the winners who were all first time travelers as well. It wasn't the best first time experience to be honest and because it was an only a 1 day trip, I didn't really see Kuala Lumpur though I did see the Petronas Twin Towers from afar and was forced to have my photo taken with it on the background. Forced talaga eh noh? But it's true. It was a very very far view of Petronas Twin Towers. Though that travel taught me a lot. 

Anyway, so fast forward to 2018 and there I was again in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I wanted to take my mom to places she's never been to before while she still can. I never got to do that with my Dad because he got sick and passed away just before we could plan our first international travel. 

I picked Malaysia so I could finally see the country and it was also an affordable place to visit. How affordable? One (1) ringgit is thirteen (13) Philippine pesos.     



My mom brought along two of her friends to this trip while I brought along Mai, one of my closest friends since high school.



Our only group photo was from inside the Skybox at KL Tower. A photographer in the tower took this photo and it cost us about 100 ringgit I think. Here we are being asked to pose in such a tourist-y way. Raise your hand. Do the peace sign. Raise your leg. Corny, I know! LOL! Oh well. For the senior citizens nalang pagbigyan.

You can of course you can opt not to get your photo taken by them. We were in such a hurry not to cause so much delay in the line that I didn't ask them to take a group photo from my phone anymore.


This trip was a very interesting one right from Day 1 to say the least.


My NAIA scare 

A couple of years back, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport became infamous for the so-called laglag bala gang. Foreigners and Filipinos alike were gripped with fear and worry that they would be stopped by the airport authorities because a bullet is supposedly found in their luggage as a means of extortion. The issue had died down until recently a Filipina took to social media to rant about her experience with the bullet planting scheme.

Here's what happened to us when we got to the airport:

We went through the initial X-ray screening of our stuff. I got through it without a hitch but my mom and her friends were stopped by the authorities and asked to have their bags go through screening again. It was early morning and I was honestly still sleepy, only half functioning until I heard the word "bala" (bullet) being uttered as the reason why we were being stopped.

I had to wonder if we had become the victims of the unfortunate bullet planting scheme. But really how? The bags were close. It was a short screening process. There were so many people lined up after us. I remember being called to check the X-ray machine screen myself and saw the suspected bullet - a small black thing in the handbag of my mom's friend. So the handbag in question was opened - my mom's other friend opened it - poured out all the contents out while I, my mom and the authorities stood by as witnesses.

So was it a bullet? Yes. As it turns out, my mother's friend keeps a bullet as an anting-anting - an amulet in the belief that it will help with safe travels. We were allowed to board the flight after the incident was documented. But it did give me quite the scare.

What it's like to travel with not one, but three senior citizens

My mom brought along two of her friends with her to this trip. The same set of friends she was with when we went to Hongkong. I don't have a lot of memories from that HK trip with them because I was with two of my friends as well and we had our separate plans as a group. Malaysia's a different story though since we're all together for five days.

Let me make it clear that I love my mom despite her being all up in my grill from time to time but especially on a Sunday morning. But it sure is a crazy way to test someone's patience when it's three  older women with you. How crazy you ask?

Aside from the NAIA scare, there's the search for two missing companions in Kuala Lumpur Airport. My mother was supposed to be with them but they seemed to have disappeared without telling anyone where they were going. I walked around the huge airport wondering how the hell I was going to find them when I had no means of reaching them (they didn't have their roaming service on) while worrying about the service that will take us to our hotel from the airport which was only going to wait for us for an hour and we've been in the airport for 30 minutes already.

There's me sending my mother and her friends on a panic mode at the hotel when I thought for a minute that I might have accidentally picked up another luggage bag because the lock on it was different from what I remembered. As it turned out, it's still my bag - scratches and all. Only the green padlock is now a gold one because the green was only a cover design which might have fallen off sometime during luggage loading or unloading.

"Anu nangyari?"
"Bakit di mo tinitingnan kasi?"
"Oo nga. Nakita ko green yung padlock mo!" 
"Paano na yan? Mali ang dala mo!"

These were just some of what they said to me when I wondered out loud if I might have switched luggage bags with someone else. That was my mistake really. Imagine three loud panic voices coming at you one all together as you try to figure out what might have happened.

Actually there's so many of these moments during our five day trip. I just gave you a glimpse of how it was like with them. Don't get me wrong. They also have their good moments. For instance, I need not worry about running out of funds because they had the spending power. Sometimes during travels with friends, spending cash could be a problem. Plus my mom's friends convinced her to get me a wonderful and quite expensive souvenir when we visited Royal Selangor. But also really they are sweet old ladies who kept on thanking me for the wonderful activities I had prepared for us and made my mom happier because she had them as well for company. 

Weather in Malaysia

When I got back to Manila, one of the immediate things my friends asked me was "How's the weather in Malaysia?" I guess they wanted to know since here in our country, it's almost always raining nowadays because the latter part of the year is rainy season. Well let me tell you about the weather in Malaysia! It's hot! Super hot! It reminds of the time I went to Bali, Indonesia. Both times, I got sun burnt just walking around. Well the weather is hot and humid in Malaysia all year round. There would be times it would rain (it rained hard on our 3rd night) but it doesn't last long. Locals and Filipinos who work there told us that rain usually lasts only for 15 minutes to an hour and then it's back to hot and humid again. This is because the country is near the equator.

So if you guys are travelling to Malaysia, don't forget to apply your sun screen! I brought mine but forgot to apply that day. I also brought along my umbrella but since I kept taking photos and videos here and there I let Mai use it more.

My travel buddies

In this day and age of technological advancement, of course I took advantage for our trip. First and foremost, I rented Flytpack, a rental pocket Wi-Fi router. I rented this first when I went to Singapore with my friends and found it super useful then. I found very useful still when I went to Malaysia. Not only because it helps me stay connected online but also for checking directions online and more travel info even when I'm out of the hotel. The connection is strong and the rental price is affordable!



Because I was travelling with three senior citizens, I didn't want to spend all the time in Kuala Lumpur asking them to go up and down a train station while I try and figure out directions of where to go once we alight the train. I decided we'd take Grab instead since I also read that the best way to get to some of the places we wanted was to take a cab.

There were five of us so hailing Grab seemed to be a good cheaper ride alternative than the train. Our fares ranged only from 12 ringgit to 17 ringgit at the most (so that's Php155 to 220) around Kuala Lumpur area. Unlike in the Philippines, booking Grab is so easy! Yes even a six seater one. I know it's not Grab Philippines' fault though. It's our government and their backward thinking! Yes I fully support their call to End the Wait.

Klook-ing our way around Malaysia 

I am not a fan of join in tours. I've expressed my disappointments with past experiences here in the Philippines. But I wanted to give Klook a try for a number of reasons:

1) Less hassle on my end to figure out how to get to places.
2) I wanted the Shopback credits
3) It was Klook that gave me ideas on what to do around Malaysia aside from going to the famous Petronas Twin Towers.
4) It seemed like the prices especially the tours were affordable enough

So yeah, I tried it for myself. Believe me when I say it was a great decision. It was so organized! When I paid for the activities, I immediately got the receipt and vouchers for the activities. I would get an email advisory from their partner agency on the details of our service for the days when I had availed of one (for airport transfers and the tours). The services that would pick us up or drop us off at our hotel were prompt and friendly. The tour guides are very knowledgeable. And the places we went to are amazing of course. More photos of the places on my next post!

Not a fan of tours yourself? Well there are some activities you can still avail from Klook. I availed airport to hotel and vice versa transfers via Klook and bought our tickets to KL Tower and Petronas Twin Towers from them. Use Klook for the latter especially so that you'll skip the lines going to the tower and you'll be able to secure the time slot you want on the date you want. Tickets for Petronas Towers seem to sell out fast. I saw another foreigner, a white guy, who came there and wanted to get a slot for the day but he had to pick a later date because there were no more tickets available for the day.

Souvenir and Pasalubong Shopping

Of course in a travel you're always after pasalubong and souvenirs. For this, you can go to Central Market - they carry a lot of items from food (buy Old White Town Coffee - it's really good!) to tourist landmark miniatures like the Petronas Twin Towers to magnets, key chains and tote bags. I think Central Market in Kuala Lumpur is like Bugis in Singapore.

You can also go to Beryl's Chocolates to hoard chocolates to bring home as Malaysia doesn't seem to have one stand out delicacy. I guess it stems from the fact that they are a multi-racial country. 

Overall Experience

Five days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That's how long my vacation was. I think I was able to maximize my stay there seeing the city and even some outskirts of the city like Malacca and Batu Caves.

I would say KL reminds me so much of Manila because a number of times during our trip, we would find ourselves comparing a certain place to an area in the Metro - only it's a cleaner version. And again, also hotter and more humid than Manila is.

Still it was nice to finally see Malaysia! I did so many tourist-y things while there which is great for a first time visit. Would I go back? I would like to because there are still so many things to see not in Kuala Lumpur per se but the other parts like Penang. Besides once is never enough! 

Watch out for my next post. I'll be sharing more of the places we went to while in Malaysia.   

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