Because we’d been so fired up with ‘going to Australia’ we probably didn’t do too much reading up on Malaysia. The flight was on time and passed without incidence. Expecting to be met at the airport by ‘someone’ we passed through the exit and scanned the crowd of waiting taxi drivers to see if our name appeared on one of their hand held notice boards. We were in luck and quickly found our man who escorted us out of the airport. He was very polite, spoke some English but he was so thin and poorly dressed my heart went out to him; his suit would have been rejected by any charity shop and as we followed behind him I noticed his shoes were so down at heel and ill fitting it affected how he walked. We’d discussed tipping and Ray was adamant that in Malaysia and Thailand locals would be offended by any gesture of tipping. I thought I’d chance it and when we got to the taxi I gave our man R20… that’s about £3.00. He didn’t appear offended, on the contrary he seemed pleased and stopped to talk to our taxi driver, they obviously knew one another. Throughout the trip our driver chatted non-stop, advising us where to go, who to trust, no one apparently and where to keep our cash. After a while I switched off and stared out through the window at the sprawling countryside sitting either side of the busy highway. Kuala Lumpur’s road system appears to be fairly well maintained but it is completely mental. The whole place is awash with bikes, scooters, mopeds and anything that moves on two wheels and they don’t seem to care how close they get. I lost count of the near misses and kept wincing, waiting for the inevitable crash. When we got to our destination Ray had reconsidered and gave our taxi man a tip, no doubt his mate had given him the nod that we were okay! Unfortunately, due to our lack of currency knowledge Ray gave him all the local currency he’d got in his pocket, it turned out to be the equivalent of 50p (we worked it out later). The taxi driver probably called him all the tight gits going and would no doubt have reported back to his mate at the airport.
Our hotel, The Angurr, was described in the brochure as ’boutique,’ I’d say tragique a more fitting description. A frozen in time old colonial style establishment overlooking a building site to the rear – nice. However, our room, situated on the ground floor, was comfortable, complete with wifi; I sent a few emails letting people know we were still alive. The hotel was B&B only so after a rest we ventured out into the night looking for food, advised by the lady on reception, with a smattering of English, that good local food was available at the bottom of the road, take a right turn. We did, and ended up running the gauntlet past hordes of street hawkers trying to lure the gullible tourists into their establishments for food, trinkets and probably a whole lot more. After the pristine beauty of Australia, Malaysia was taking a bit of getting used to.
The hotel location was pretty grim. You had to constantly watch your step when out in the street because the uneven pavements were quite dangerous, not to mention the traffic. The stench from some of the street vendors was stomach churning and the general lack of hygiene something to behold. Tired and disorientated we ended up eating in a street café and my luke warm lamb dish served up on a dented tin plate, that our dog would possibly have objected to, was truly horrible. I ate a bit of it mostly because the staff were friendly and probably knew that we’d wandered in like aimless fools. I didn’t want to end up with a dicky tummy. The two meals and a drink of cloudy orange juice cost the equivalent of £4.
Day 2: This started off much better and we had breakfast on the roof terrace of the hotel. Fruit, yoghurt and toast and English tea or coffee. It was fine. We walked towards the city centre less than half and hour away which was a big mistake, due to the humidity. By the time we got reached the hub for the hopper bus we were exhausted. The bus is great value and as I’ve said before it is without question the best way to see a city if you’ve got limited time. We paid something like £50 in LA for the tour bus. In KL we paid £15. We stopped off at the Botanical Gardens for lunch, which was busy with both tourists and local business people, always a good indication. Malaysia is a mix of of Thai and Chinese and the food reflects this. Ray had satay chicken, which he said was excellent and then he absolutely ponged of garlic for the rest of the day. I had a salad of some description. My enforced diet was going very well. We got back on the bus and were taken to the Palace where the much revered Royal family live. At the Petronis twin towers I got off the bus to take a few pics. I don’t know if we were over with travelling but the heat and the humidity were getting us down and we just wanted to go home. But, it wasn’t over yet.
That evening we turned left at the top of our smelly, broken down road and found a whole selection of more ‘European’ type restaurants. We passed the Irish Bar and I noticed a young European chap outside with a glass of Guinness and a plate of chips dipping them in ketchup, he wasn’t taking any chances. Ray really wanted to get stuck into the local cuisine, but I think it’s best to have someone along to guide you and suggest a few dishes. At last we found a restaurant with a menu we could understand. Not only was the food great, but the service was top notch. Half way through my meal I glanced around and noticed that there didn’t appear to be any women in there apart from myself and one bar tender and the men dining together were clearly in couples. We were in the Whisky Bar, obviously a gay haunt, how novel. We did have to pay for the privilege of the fine meal, around £40.00 but it was worth every penny.
Day 3: We went into KL and headed for a huge shopping mall of which there seem to be many, just to get into some kind of air conditioning, where I sat and ate a delicious ice cream. The heat is unbearable. The vast malls are beautiful and would look at home in any first rate city – London, New York, Paris. But, they appeared to be empty. Barely anyone in there. Every high street name you could mention was represented and their prices were not cheap. Who were these shopping malls for? Not the local population that’s for sure.
Our hotel boasted a spa so I booked myself in for an ‘experience.’ The hotel owner tried to encourage me to purchase the most expensive deal but I stuck to my guns and went for the middle priced massage package.
I headed to the upstairs Spa and was greeted by a petite Malaysian lady, aged around 40. With a shy smile and a nod she sat me down and proceeded to wash my feet in a bowl of water, that was a first, after which she led me into a semi darkened room. There was a mattress on the floor and a very dim bulb stuck high in one corner of the ceiling, shedding a dull light around the lack lustre room. No scented candles burning to create a womb like atmosphere here with whale music droning away in the background. This was more dungeon like with not a stick of furniture apart from a small table by the door where the masseuse indicated that I should leave all my clothes apart from my knickers. She stretched out a towel on the mattress and she indicated that I lay face down and she draped a towel over my whole body; she then proceeded to straddle me and began what I believe was a Shiatsu massage. Starting on my shoulders with a series of manipulative moves involving elbows, forearms and the heel of the hand she worked her way around my body. Torso, arms, legs, buttocks she left nothing out – and I mean nothing. When she’d completed the hard massage she then broke out the aromatherapy oil and indicated that I roll over and remove my towel. The look on my face must have told her I wasn’t expecting that and she motioned towards my midriff and stomach area. I thought ‘Oh! Well, in for a penny.’ She massaged my upper chest, breasts and midriff. Although quite pleasant it was mighty strange. She completed the hour long massage by pulling each digit on my hands and feet, making every one click. She bowed and left. I’ve had many massages in my time but none quite like that and all for the equivalent of £30.00. She was obviously employed by the hotel owner, the odious little fat man who’d tried to dupe me, and call me an old cynic but I guessed she wasn’t being paid anywhere near her true worth. I discreetly left her a sizeable tip before I left and by this time I’d got the exchange rate down pat.
Leaving our daughter behind in Australia was upsetting, knowing that we probably won’t be seeing her again for over a year. To think that we’d be in any mood for further sight seeing on our journey back to the UK was a little foolhardy and we both had to admit once on that plane in Brisbane we just wanted to get home. But it wasn’t over yet we were packing our bags again and setting off for the final leg of our journey to Thailand.