The flight from Coolangatta to Kuala Lumpur was one of the smoothest I’ve flown in a long time, and it was interesting to cross a broad swath of Australia instead of my usual path straight over the Pacific. The wall of heat welcoming us in KL was refreshingly hot and the airport to my surprise was larger and more organised than our port of departure. It’s interesting being the minority in such a large group of people, but not altogether uncomfortable.
Instead of paying a measly 9RM to catch the bus into town, we elected to splurge on (still measly) 100RM taxi straight to our hotel, thinking it would cut out some of the hour-long trip into the city.
We managed to get a driver with a unique understanding of the speed limits, or the 80 sign I saw must have read 140km/h. It was nice of him to get us to the hotel so fast as I arrived just in time to lay down for an hour to recover from the travel sickness due to being thrown around the entire nightmarish ride while watching us practically touch other cars and guard rails along the way.
Some time later I managed to zombie-walk to Suria KLCC, the western-style boutique shopping centre underneath Petronas for some food and headache tablets, then retreated to the hotel room to sleep it all off.
From a pedestrian standpoint, the roads are (from what I’ve been told) like any other Asian country, with motorcycles suicidally weaving through traffic and what must equate to a law against indicating before changing lanes. Pedestrian crossings are completely different from the variety I’m familiar with – essentially drivers know people cross here, so they’re extra careful while firing their horn as they speed through. Locals have an uncanny ability to weave through traffic as it screams through the crossings, while everybody else shakes their heads and waits for clearings and the very occasional green light. Everybody looks left and right.
As we were staying in the city center at the plush Corus Hotel,I and as it was only a one night stay I didn’t really see anything near as dirty and run-down as I’d been told to expect, although the glimpses I managed to catch on the trip into the city revealed a lot of derelict-looking (although completely occupied) apartment buildings and enough high density modern cookie-cutter housing estates to make any American developer proud.
Owing to school holidaysII we completely missed out on tickets for the Petronas tower bridge, so in leiu of that we took a taxi to KL Tower, which gave an impressive vista to a city that seemed to stretch off in every direction with almost no plan or pattern. The photos they had as guides were modern, so it was surprising to see so much post-photo development in reality outside the window.
We decided against the pony ride that was part of our package deal, and ducked back into town for lunch.
Deciding to go around the hotel staff to save on the greasy-palm tax, we called a taxi to pick us up for a (hopefully smoother) drive back to the airport. It turns out that no matter how reassuring and offical the taxi company sounds on the phone and how much they promise you, sometimes they just don’t bother turning up. We managed to snag a affable driver in a near new Nissan who would take us to the airport. Something you learn fast in KL; drivers love going to the airport on account of the distance from the city, so you’re never left for long without a ride.
Our new driver was better than the last; managing to hit 150 at one point, not long afterward we heard and felt the distinct sensation of air escaping a tire. We pulled over onto the side of the six lane motorway (barely) and he jumped out, discovered to his surprise that he had a flat, and in one sweeping motion opened the back of the bus and freed our bags out onto the road in a loud crash.
“Oh, so sorry. So really, very sorry”, he uttered in his most genuine fraudster voice, trying to dust off the scratches and gravel rash from our bags. Fortunately mine landed on another before craftily bouncing away from the steady stream of incoming traffic.
He kicked the tire. “Incredible!”, he said, now happy, “I’ve never had to change a tire on this before, it’s only seven months old!”. I didn’t spot it (all I saw was the smoke wafting out of every inch of the tire) but there was some serious wear from the wheel arch, no doubt from the maniacal cornering at high speeds he was so fond of.
Turns out he hadn’t told us the whole truth – it became clear he hadn’t changed a tire. On any car. Ever.
Fast forward twenty minutes the (luckily new) spare tire was fitted without much effort on his part, although he was very grateful for the help, and we were back to speeding along the highway as if nothing had happened.
To our surprise the tire held, and this time he gingerly opened the back door while shooting me a sheepish grin. He gave us what must amount to a roadside assistance discount on the fare, and was on his way chasing the sun with a new passenger. I hope they brought oil and overalls.
After burning the very last of my Ringgits and Sen at the airport stores I managed to procure an old trojan through wifi at the airport and spent all my time cleaning it off instead of writing this.III Soon after we boarded another AirAsia plane for our hop, skip and jump over to Macau.