Sunday, August 15, 2010

You Get What You Pay For

I will say before telling you about the trials and tribulations we encountered that it was a very fun weekend and I got to meet a number of friendly and outgoing people also on exchange at NUS. It couldn't have been planned any better except for maybe the city itself, which was a little shady but we will get to that in just a bit.

The five of us, myself and four other individuals embarked on a journey to Kuala Lumpur on Friday night at 9:00 P.M. MYT (Malaysia Time). Things got interesting early on since I wasn't aware how exactly we were going to get to the border of Singapore since we were taking a bus to the city and had to first get to Malaysia. As a result, we ended up taking the MRT in Singapore in the wrong direction, initially, before going towards the border. That gave us a good laugh, despite the wasted time and money.

Once we finally reached the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA), I had an issue with my Singapore visitors pass that led to me getting split up from the group temporarily. With the help of one of the guys in the group, I was able to meet up with them in Johor Bahru without an issue minus that I looked like a fool running through security asking everyone where to go and what to fill out.

By now it is almost 12:00 A.M. MYT on Saturday and you already see how different Malaysia is from Singapore. There are stray cats all over the place, everything is dirtier, the people practically attack you as soon as you get off the bus to take their bus or buy food at their stand et cetera, et cetera. It wasn't annoying at first, just different. I met up with the group at the bus terminal and off we went on a four hour bus trip to Kuala Lampur.

In the early stages of Saturday morning we found ourselves in the outskirts of the capital of Malaysia. I'm the first of our group to get off the bus. Right on queue, I am bombarded by a Malay taxi driver bothering me to hire him for his services. I ignore him, instinctively, not wanting to have to deal with that sort of nonsense so quickly. Once we are all off the bus we end up actually having this individual drive us into the city. Before getting in the car, we were having an issue to get the man to put on his meter. He refused to and wanted to charge us 50 Ringgit (Rm, about $15). We had heard that this may happen to us so we were ready to refuse to get in the taxi until he put on his meter. He kept declining our offers until he finally did it "so we could see how much it would cost." I will try and keep this post PG by saying this guy thought we were stupid but it was clear he was the idiot because of the logic he tried using on us to not use the meter. We eventually squeeze into the taxi having one person in front and three in back with one of us laying across. Good times. On our way we are until the guy has to get gas. He doesn't stop the meter and just goes about his business like its nothing. Fine be that sleazy if must. Once we get to the hostel we are staying at, the driver demands 50 Ringitt even though the fare says 22.40 Rm. We told him we would not pay the 50 Rm since we knew it was a scam. One individual from the group gave him the 50 Rm asking him to give the difference back. Game over. Now the driver had all the power. It was 4:30 A.M. MYT and we find ourselves arguing with a taxi driver trying to charge twice as much more than what we owe him. He keeps saying things like "Ahh Yess," "I already explained to you," and "No meter" in his thick accent that has become quite the inside joke between the five of us. The debate goes no where and we give up after seeing that he wouldn't back down.

You would think that would be the end of our troubles for one night. Things somehow got even worse. The hostel we ended up staying in was a dump. Literally. One of the most disgusting establishments I have ever set foot in. Granted it was dirt cheap at 28 Rm (about $9), so we got exactly what we payed for. The place was filthy (see above); two of the guys walked into the bathroom only to find rats running around. When the other three of us walked up to another floor we found three more hanging out for a little "pow wow" or something only to run off into darkness after seeing us. My gag reflexes were ready to be put to use, if necessary. To quote a fellow UConn peer who stayed at the hostel with us that night, "they were the size of basketballs." While the rats weren't that big, they were some pretty large critters. It was a rough nights sleeping knowing they could slip under the door into our room at a moment's notice.

9:00 A.M. MYT on Saturday. We book it real fast out of the hostel to see the parts of Kuala Lumpur that are rat-free, namely the Petronas Towers (see left). The two tallest buildings in the world from 1998-2004, located in downtown Kuala Lumpur standing at a remarkable 1482 feet. It was really cool to see up close in personal.

Now that we saw the fifth tallest buildings in the world, what to do? Times Square Mall was the group decision for a McBreakfast and to check out the indoor roller coaster. It looked like a lot of fun but at 43 Rm I wasn't willing to puke out my just eaten Egg McMuffin for that much. In the meantime, I thought I would take advantage of being able to chew gum so I found some Doublemint for 1 Rm at the 7-Eleven. It tasted like garbage. I payed the equivalent of $0.32 for six pieces of gum and got back $0.32 in terms of gum quality. I don't know how Doublemint could taste any different in Malaysia but it was crappier than Big League Chew for those who can remember back ten years ago.

It was time to get out of the air conditioned mall and back outside to check out the Batu Caves. To no one's surprise it wasn't easy to find a metered taxi to get to the caves. Everyone see's a bunch of white guys wanting to go somewhere and they immediately think they can take advantage of us. Anyway, we finally get a taxi and take the twenty minute ride outside of the city to the Hindu shrine. You can see the giant statue of Murugan from the highway, clearly showing where the Batu Caves begin. Once we got to the bottom of the staircase that leads you up into the cave, we came across one of the high points of the trip to Kuala Lumpur, monkeys. Boat loads of them up and down the mountain scavenging for bananas hand fed to them by tourists. The caves were great to check out and gave us an amazing view at the top of the hill but what a workout it was getting up there in the humid air of Malaysia.

Later that afternoon, we had dinner at a local eatery that had some inexpensive food and drinks nearby the condominium we crashed at with other people from NUS. There was a 0% chance of us going back to the hostel from the night before. We then had a few drinks with our group of five plus the fifty or so other NUS Exchange students in Kuala Lumpur that weekend and headed out to the club Zouk for a night on the town. It was one the most enjoyable nights I have had thus far in southeast Asia since I was able to meet a lot of great people from all over the world. Hopefully, there are will be more opportunities back in Singapore to hang out with everyone I met on Saturday. I strolled in late that night and slept on the floor of the condominium using a seat cushion as a pillow. More good times. It was an improvement as far as comfort goes compared to the night before knowing there were no rats in the vicinity.

The next morning three of the five in our group made the trip back together. First, we had to go through the trouble of finding a metered taxi, again. We were really sick of going through the trouble of hailing cab after cab and asking them to use the meter at this point. I also should mention that I was offered a prostitute the night before so I really had dealt with enough of the sketchiness that Kuala Lumpur offered. Caught a bus from Kuala Lumpur back to the border of Malaysia, Johor Bahru. We were home by 5:30 P.M. MYT on Sunday.

It was a very good trip, overall. However, Kuala Lumpur doesn't seem to offer as much to a tourist as one may think. If we had been there any longer, we would have resorted to just window shopping or walking around malls, things that could be done back in Singapore. Still we saw almost everything we wanted to see in the capital (we missed out on seeing the KL Tower up close) and there was much fun to be had while not breaking the bank.

Looking forward to another week of classes, basketball, and hanging out at Clarke Quay.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Hey its Becca. Splendid story-telling!

    A) The hostel does look amazingly yucky & I'm glad I didn't see basketball rats. B)I am slightly appalled since I have doublemint gum in my mouth at the very moment I was reading this & enjoying it quite a bit. I froze when u said it was garbage. But then decided it tastes good to me so whatevs. I can't be a gum expert when I'm Singaporean. C) What the hell! I left at 12pm and got back to Singapore at 7pm! How did u beat me! Bastard buses.