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Kuala Lumpur

overcast 30 °C

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’m writing this entry on a flight heading east to the island of Borneo, the Malaysian side in a region called Sabah. There are two kids screaming behind us and kicking our chairs whenever they feel like it. I’m doing my best to smile politely at their parents. First of all, let me get the negatives out of the way. Our accommodation has been a disaster the past few days.

We booked into the Citrus Hotel, a ‘four star’ at a really good price. We had read a few mixed reviews but as it was so cheap for a hotel we decided to ignore and booked it anyway. The photos looked fine. How bad could it be? Well, it’s located beside the red light district, drag street car racing seems to be all the rage and the windows are so thin it sounds like the Monaco Grand Prix is taking place just outside the hotel room. You would get a better night’s sleep in Beirut! Initially, we tried to ignore it. Then we found it a bit funny. A short while later, we were crying in tears of laughter and discussing how awful our review on Booking.com was going to be. Another couple of hours later however we were still awake and by now we were fuming. At 5am we had to change to another room. The staff looked at me like I had ten heads when I went to complain. Noise aside, there was also a cockroach in our toilet that came in through the vent, stale cigarette smoke wafting through the corridor and a general feeling that you could pick up a nasty illness from the room itself. We badly needed laundry done on arrival but it was so expensive it would have been cheaper getting the Pope to hand wash our boxers. The other room we were offered had been cleaned by a maid with a fetish for bleach. The next day we complained again, got a refund on the two nights we didn’t stay and booked a guesthouse closer to the city centre. It was a big improvement but paper thin walls and noisy staff have resulted in three night’s without a proper sleep.

No sleep = cranky Matt! But you have to take the bad with the good when you’re travelling. We had two full days in Kuala Lumpur, and I’m afraid we spent our first day hiding out in a rather large shopping centre we had discovered the night before. The Pavilion mall is almost the size of a small city. It has air conditioning, western food and a cinema. What more could one want? It’s amazing how much better a proper smoothie and gourmet handburger can make you feel. And a DC Super Hero store is always good for my inner geek.

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On our second day we got back into sightseeing mode and took the ‘hop on hop off bus’ around the city. We visited the national history museum, the Petronas towers (their tallest skyscraper and landmark) and the KL Tower.

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We spent the evening at Little India. The area has the feel of a night bazaar. Indian pop is played loudly throughout the streets and there’s a strong smell of incense in the air. We enjoyed walking through the various stalls, shops and had our dinner there.

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Can someone please get me an invite to an Indian wedding?

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So, the overall verdict on Kuala Lumpur... I'm afraid we won't be in a rush to return. There just isn’t a lot of interesting things to do. The weather hasn’t helped our visual perception as it has been really dull and overcast the past few days, and there’s also been a fire in Indonesia which is causing a pollution style effect. Everything looks drab and grey. Kuala Lumpur is a bit of an ugly sister during the day, but it scrubs up well at night (thanks to the dozens of coloured street lights). I’m the first to admit weather and lack of sleep are probably clouding our judgement. But you can’t ignore the ‘Macau effect’, plenty of rundown areas located metres away from designer brand name shops.

And now to the positives. We loved the cultural diversity spread throughout the city. It’s only one hundred and fifty years old (prior to that it was a jungle) and walking through the streets you’ll see Indian, Chinese and ethnic Malays, and a fair share of westerners. On one side of the road you’ll spot women in hot pants. On another you’ll see them covered from head to toe in burqas. We haven’t seen such a diverse mix on our travels. Secondly, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating. Aside from all the standard stuff, you’ll find Nepalese, Vietnamese, Iranian restaurants etc. We also spotted three O'Briens sandwich bars (disappointingly more expensive than home though and there's not a grain of stuffing)!

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Prices in the city vary greatly but you can always find good cheap Asian food. The Pavilion shopping centre we visited had well over fifty restaurants including an enormous food court. It was a challenge at times deciding what to eat the choice was so good. In conclusion, Kuala Lumpur... don't call us, we'll call you! We stay in a small town known as Tawau tonight before we travel north to the scuba diving haven of Semporna.

Posted by mattld 06:57 Archived in Malaysia

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