Friday, August 14, 2009

Part 2, Off To Malaysia

A travelling Aussie can have a lot of fun in this wonderful world. as I mentioned in part one of this, I have learn that the journey is at times more interesting than the destination. Using this theory as a base, I have also learn that if the travel agent gives me a flight with a stopover for more than 5-6 hours, get them to change it to adjust the stop over so that can stay for 24-48 hours, it makes the journey so much more interesting.

My very first visit to Malaysia was prior to learning this, & I was on my way to the Philippines again. I had a 12 hour stopover in Kuala Lumpur {KL}, Malaysia. I had asked the travel agent to find me a place to sleep for the night that was of reasonable price & close to the airport. The agent did admit that he did not know a lot about the area & had no recommendations, but he would see what he could find. All I can say is he did very well.

I was told that I would be staying at The Pan Pacific. The agent informed me that the hotel was very reasonably priced & was directly across the road from the International airport in KL. My immediate thought was "great, I get a decent nights sleep, & a hot shower". I asked for more information about the hotel, but he did not have a lot. All he could tell me was that it was the only hotel reasonably close to the airport, it had hot showers & air conditioning. Knowing that I was only going to be in the country for 12 hours from the time the plane touched down at 21:00 hrs until take off the following day at 09:00 hrs, I was not really worried. The reason I wanted a hotel close to the airport is actually very simple. I did not want to spend most of the 12 hours trying to find a hotel. When Flying international, it is a good idea to remember that it does take some time to get through customs, immigration etc. Knowing that I also had to be at the airport 2 hours prior to departure the next day, & figuring to allow 2 hours to get through customs etc, I really only had about 8 hours in the country. I did actually want to get some sleep.

I am one of those people that find it almost impossible to sleep on an aircraft. Oh, do not get me wrong, I do doze off & get a little nap, but not exactly what I would call real sleep. I got a real surprise when I arrive at KL. The customs & immigration officers are very efficient, & I was through in about 30 minutes. Now it was time to go looking for this hotel that was across the road from the airport terminal. Hmm, how do I get outside & across the street? Then I notice a small sign with arrow and the Pan Pacific Hotel name. Now I am not the smartest person in the world, but found this to be rather interesting, so followed the pointing arrow. I found myself in an overhead walkway {air conditioned} leading from the terminal directly to the hotel, how good is this! I did not even need to go outside to get to the hotel, I walked straight into the reception lobby of the hotel from the airport. Life just does not get much more simple than this.

Now I gotta admit, I was not sure about what I was expecting. I s'pose I was expecting an old hotel, nothing really great about it, just a very useful location. Was I surprised. It seems that the Pan Pacific Hotel is a 5 star hotel, & it is in the top 20 hotels of South East Asia. The Hotel is very very good. I did all of the normal check in procedures & went up to my room on the 21st floor. WOW! what a view. Had a quick learning curve to overcome though. This was my first classy hotel in Asia, and I learn that it is normal to have a magnetic card as a room key, & that same card also operate the lifts. as you enter the room, you also need to place the card into a slot on the wall next to the door. This then turns on all the power to the room. A great idea for cutting down on power in rooms that do not have anybody in them. It did take me a while to learn how it all worked. I'll be honest, I found a maid in the hall, & ask her to show me as I could not get the lights to turn on. She just smile politely & showed me how to use it. I've never been afraid to ask how to use something if I can not figure it out in a few minutes.

I unpack my overnight bag & freshen myself up, deciding that I was going to go have a look & see if I could get some food. I really wanted to sit & have a feed with a plate that was not designed to be used on a drop down table on a aircraft. Now I realised that I just might have a little problem. I had walked into this hotel at 10pm in the evening, now here I was at almost 11 at night wanting a feed, this might be a bit of a problem. I discovered that it was not really a problem at all. I had a lovely meal in the restaurant, obviously, I did try the Malaysian food & it was fantastic. I also learn that I was entitled to a complimentary free cocktail. I donated that to the table next to me with a family. The lady really looked like she could use a drink. I am a non drinker, so I was never going to use it. I have nothing against those that do like a drink I did have a coffee, and the waitress even gave it to me for free. She said that it was because I was a non drinker, I thanked her very much. It was at this point that I made the choice that I would always try to stay in a country a little longer & learn more about it. This decision has changed my life in more ways than I can possibly describe. I went back to my room, had a very long hot shower & went to bed. The next day I was back in the airport and on my way to the Philippines. We had a quick stop over in Kota Kinabalu for a few hours. I then had the decision from the previous evening reinforced, I just gotta get back to this place.

Some time later on my next trip I did stop in KL for longer {36 hours} and I really did take advantage of the opportunity. I got the agent to book me in at the Pearl International in KL. Very reasonable cost, and also central to most attractions. I did however learn that the transport system from the airport was not quite as it had been described to me by the agent. When booking the flight & accommodation I was also given a ticket to get a free ride on a bus that would take me to the hotel that evening, & also pick me up & return me to the airport. The bus takes passengers to all of the hotels & there are several buses working the route. All that was required was to report {transport voucher in hand} to the desk downstairs from the airport terminal, and I would be loaded onto the next bus. Simple!! Yeah, right.

I had made friends with a few other passengers on the plane & we discover that we were staying at the same hotel with the same transport arrangements to the hotel. I was the first to get through customs & make my way to the transport desk. On chatting with the staff, I learn that the bus would be here in 30 minutes, well that's OK, I am in no hurry at all. About 10 minutes later Charles came wandering out to the bus terminal area. He had just had a very similar conversation with the staff & learn that the bus would be about 30 minutes. Next a Vietnamese couple from Perth came out into the bus terminal. They also said that they were just told the bus would be here in about 30 minutes. I got to thinking & had a chat with Charles about my thoughts. I have been waiting here for 20 minutes now, & the staff are still telling people the bus will be 30 minutes. Charles also thought that this was interesting. When I had been waiting for 40 minutes another man came to the terminal, Charles & I instantly say hello & ask him for the latest that the staff had say to him about the waiting period for the bus. We were not surprised when he told us they had said the bus would be along in 30 minutes.

As I have previously said, I am not the smartest person in the world, but I know when I am on a lost cause. It did not matter what we said to the staff, or who ask, the only answer was , the bus will be here in 30 minutes. It was quite obvious to us that the bus might be several hours & that the 30 minutes was just a standard answer. We also learn that the bus was in no way financially connected with the airlines or the hotels, it was totally independently operated. We try to learn who it was that we could speak with about the system & who to direct our compliments to about the outstanding service. always ask in this manner, as the staff usually more forthcoming with information than if you tell them you want to complain. Now I am not the type of person to complain normally, but the travel agents that I had used had been led to believe that this was the best method to use. We wanted to get to the bottom of the matter, so that they would not continue to use this system until it had been fixed.

We had now been waiting for almost an hour, with no sign of the bus. I had asked a taxi for a quote on the price to get to the hotel & learn that it was RM 85. I mention this to Charles & we started to discuss the idea with 2 of the other people that were also going to the same hotel. we could get a taxi & split the fare between us. I had also learn that taxi were not allowed to pick us up from the bus terminal area, we had to go to the taxi waiting area & stand in line & wait for our turn. You got to be joking, we had been standing around for an hour now. As we were discussing our options a small limo pulled up & a couple got out & started to make there way into the airport terminal. We looked at each other & I just took off after the limo trying to catch him before he leave the area. I reached the limo as the driver was getting back into his car. I ask him if he had to also follow the same rules as the taxi & not pick up from this area. He say that he can pic up anywhere as long as he have a booking. I negotiated a nice price & he then drove around & pic us up from the bus terminal. So it all worked out very nice indeed. we got to travel in style in a limo to the hotel, at a price only marginally more expensive than a standard taxi. Divide the fare 4 ways, and this was great value.

The international airport at KL is a very long way out of town. It would be a very good idea to keep this fact in mind if travelling to KL for the first time. We arrived at the Pearl International Hotel after about a 30 minute ride in our limo. Along the way We had arranged that the driver would also pic up myself & Charles on the following evening to take us back to the airport. Charles & I had never meet each other prior to this trip, but we figured why not help each other out. He was staying in KL to do business the next day & I was doing a little sight seeing. Splitting the limo fare was still better than waiting for a bus that might not turn up to take us back to the airport. The return trip to the airport was a lot more important than the trip rto the hotel, there was no way we wanted to miss that plane. We now had our travel method to the airport all sorted out, and we were feeling quite good about life.

We did the normal check in procedure & went to our rooms, agreeing to meet in an hour to find something to eat. The rooms were huge, this place is even better than the Pan Pacific Hotel at the airport. Having said that, it is nowhere near as convenient if you only have a short time to stay in KL, and there are no transport problems either. We had a chat to the staff in reception & they pointed us in the direction down the road to a local outdoor eating area. The meal was fantastic, the service was great, and the cost was so cheap, I had to ask again to make sure that they had not give me the wrong bill. I was sure that there was another person that was going to get my bill, and not be able to afford it. We really needed the walk that took us back to the hotel, allow the food to sink further down the belly.

The next day I did some sight seeing, & played tourist. I went for a look at the Petronis Towers. Normally I am not one to visit modern man made attractions, however I just had to have a look at this marvel of modern engineering. Pictures just do not do justice to this building. Stand back & have a look, it is so tall it blows my mind. I had a great time walking around taking in the sights. I walked through a few parks & got a meal at a street side cafe. The food once again was awesome. I very much enjoyed my short stay in this wonderful country. I have made a vow to myself that I shall return to try & see yet more. I have learn so much about the area that it has made me curious to learn & see more. It does not matter that I could learn most of the information on the Internet, there is nothing that beats actually see these things with my own eyes.

My advice to all people, go and have a look & have the experience of a lifetime. You will never regret it.

My next installment will be Thailand.