Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sounds of Kuala Lumpur

Traveling in Malaysia is relatively more easy if compared with travel in East Asian countries that I have visited so far. So, really not much to say or to note. I spent most of the time in Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur is capital city of Malaysia, which was estblished around 1850. It was only made capital city after independence in 1957. Now Kuala Lumpur is seat of government and has population of 1.6 million people. Compare with total population of Malaysia which is 28 million people.

Major attractions in the city are Petronas Twin Towers, KL Towers, Merdeka Square, markets, mosques, Chinatown, parks, museums, shopping etc. Tourist crowds are in KLCC shopping mall and Chinatown. There is limited access to Petronas Twin Towers for tourists and KLCC shopping mall is located below those towers. City is not that big, given time and effort can walk everywhere needed.

There is fast train from Kuala Lumpur International Airport for 35 ringgit. It takes about 30 minutes to city's main station. Airport is very well connected. For example, while going back it took me just 2 hours from getting out of the bed till time airplane was rolling on the runway. I thought I will be late, but airport employees function fast and efficient.

Train from airport will arrive at station called Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station. There can change to Rapid KL or KL Monorail for downtown or other destinations. There is a tourist office inside Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station. There can get some maps or ask information regaring travel.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Image: Kuala Lumpur, building which can be seen near Merdeka square

Kuala Lumpur arhitecture
Image: Kuala Lumpur, traditional and more modern arhitecture

There are many accommodations around city. When contacted by e-mail, they are fast to reply. So really not hard to book room what one's heart desires.

Changing money is extremely easy. There are numerous counters around the city. In couple of those I have visited, there is no commission fee and selling/buying margin is low. Paper money has metallic stripe on right side so it is easy to spot if money is counterfeited or not. Counters operate all days of the year, if one is close can find another one nearby. There is a long list of currencies they can change.

Internet can be used in McDonalds and Starbucks. No need to pay just go on and access with own laptop and wifi card. Almost all McDonalds had internet. No worries.

Obtaining pre-paid SIM card is easy. Need to show some kind of document. There are numerous counters around city. I took Maxis which is biggest mobile phone network. Sometimes it's written HOTLINK or something on the ads. Need to top up when bought to use for first time. Another visible, but smaller network is Digi.

It is hot all year round, but Malaysian houses are built with hot weather in mind. Windows have special design to let air flow through the house. They also use air conditioners, but because of this wind there is no smell in the room when using air conditioner. I felt very comfortable. Night time is around 20C and day time 30C. There is occasional thunderstorms in the afternoon, but they pass after one hour or so.

Storm over Kuala Lumpur
Image: Storm have just passed over Kuala Lumpur

People are used to foreigners, so they are not anxious or think that every white person is American. I observed that more Europeans travel to Malaysia. I met some persons who had one or several family members working or studying in Europe. Many tourists in Malaysia come from Middle East, Scandinavian countries and Russia.

Malaysia is a Muslim country and many women wear headscarf. It is also possible to visit mosques at limited times per day, usually early afternoon. It's better to wear long trousers and not shorts, as locals do. I was wearing long trousers so I can visit any spot I want. Women have to cover head to visit mosque. Shorts are for the beach here, people dress properly when they are on the street.

There are some internet pages writing about crime in Malaysia. I felt pretty much safe. In places, where people are gathering through the city, can be seen police men or private guards. They are not just standing, but actively watching people and probably are ready to engage if something happens. Felt assuring.

Prices for everything is cheap in Malaysia, especially buses and taxis. Probably thanks to money Malaysia gets from selling oil, they can subsidize public transport and also police force.

There is another thing which is popular in Malaysia - bargaining. When going to street market, prices are usually not displayed. Let's take for example T-shirt. It costs 5 to 20 ringgit in super market, but seeing foreign tourist vendor might ask 2-3 times higher price. Now when vendor announces price, tourist wants to bargain. Let's say price asked was 45 ringgit, but tourist bargains down to 40 ringgit. Still its rather expensive, but tourist person might feel happy about being able to strike a bargain. Other side - seller is also happy because still he managed to sell that thing for 3 times higher price. Situation is pure win. Yet, I found bargaining very time consuming and I don't know all techniques of walk-aways etc. etc. So, I was looking for places with prices already displayed or what price locals are paying.

Kuala Lumpur China town
Image: Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur where tourists hang around

Everyone appears to be friendly. During first day I could not understand how to cross street safely. There were few traffic lights and they seem always showing red. Next day I tried to cross streets in the middle of the traffic. To my surprise drivers noticed me and drove around me. No honking or something. So, it's virtually easy to cross street of several lines almost at any point. People just walk like that. Some drivers stopped to let me cross the street even there was no pedestrian crossing. Anyway system works, because people are kind to each other. I saw even when they bump into each other while walking somewhere, they just smile. Thats how it is settled.

What I found interesting in Kuala Lumpur was sounds of bus engines. They are somehow different. I will give you idea with this video.

Video: sounds of bus engines and traffic jams

What else you need to know ?

I could not find soap in shops. Only liquid soaps are available.
Jalan means street in Malay.
Puduraya is a big bus station in Kuala Lumpur from there buses go to other cities and Singapore.
Pasar Seni or central market is place where to buy some traditional stuff if you like that stuff.
Terima Kasih means thank you!


Javier said...

Thank you for the information of Kuala Lumpur. May be I will travel the next summers.

Mountaincat said...

Thank you! And you have very nice blog!

B said...

Nice post! I like Malaysia, but not KL. I was scammed pretty badly there - travelers beware when in the tourist areas. A Malay friend told me that this problem is well known, yet for some reason the government doesn't warn people of it. I would give KL a day or two, then go someplace better such as Malacca or the Cameron Highlands.

Mountaincat said...

Thank you! I felt pretty safe most of the time. I could wonder around all areas I wanted, but not in all places I took out camera for pictures or videos. I also headed out to Malacca one day. Let me put some pictures too.


Alison said...

Interesting. Having travelled a bit around Asia, these days I travel mostly around Japan. But KL looks fascinating... Maybe sometime...

Alison said...

Interesting again! I see that I actually commented on this post a couple of years ago, I forgot I had read it! I've now been there and absolutely loved both KL and Melaka.

Anonymous said...

Those buses are actually Transformer robots. They speak.