Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: Kuala Lumpur

9.8-10.8: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
11.8: KL
12.8: KL
13.8: KL -> Khao Lak
20.8: Bangkok -> Kuala Lumpur -> Kota Kinabalu
21.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Garama river -> Kota Kinabalu
22.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Pulau Tiga -> Kota Kinabalu
23.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Mari Mari cultural village -> Sandakan
24.8: Sandakan -> Sepilok -> Sandakan
25.8: Sandakan -> Pulau Berhala -> Lahad Datu
26.8: Lahad Datu -> Tabin wildlife reserve -> Lahad Datu
27.8: Lahad Datu -> KK -> Mamutik and Sapi -> KK
28.8: KK -> Mantanani island
29.8: Mantanani -> KK -> KL
30.8: KL -> Singapore
31.8: Singapore -> KL
1.9: KL -> Munich via Dubai

9.8-10.8: Munich -> Dubai -> KL
Hotel Grand Seasons in Jalan Pahang (Chow Kit area, Kuala Lumpur). The hotel is actually not too bad. Largish room, not too hard bed, big flat screen TV, electronic safe, nice furniture etc. Toilet with hair dryer, toiletries, good shower etc. The only issue is that there is no Internet in the room (never mind) and that the breakfast is not included in the price (never mind as well). But what irks me is that the room with a nice view which I had booked is not available anymore and I only get a room with not such a nice view. I had booked a more expensive room with a good view, and now they give me a lower class room, but still charge the same price.
Weather: 28C in KL when I arrive.

The Emirates flight takes off with some delay at 10pm from Munich airport. The plane, an oldish Boeing 777, is very full. There are A/C power sockets even in the economy class, individual LCD screens. Somehow Emirates managed to sell every seat. Quite cramped economy class (3-4-3 seating). We land in Dubai airport almost on time at 6:40am. Longish bus trip (15 minutes) to the terminal. 35C in the evening in Dubai.

The flight from Dubai is delayed and leaves only at 11am. The plane is another, much more modern Boeing 777. Much bigger LCD screens in the seats of the economy class.

We land in KL with some delay at 22:20 local time. There is almost no queue at the immigration counter and you don't have to fill out anymore the immigration form. Then it takes forever to retrieve the luggage. No idea why they are so slow. I only get my luggage at 23:20, one hour after landing.

I notice a board stating that city taxis can now be used at level 1. So I walk there. RM 2 fee to be paid at a counter, if you want to use these taxis. Outside there is a long queue of people and no taxis. That are no white and red budget taxis.
Lots of blue, more expensive taxis which nobody wants to take. No point taking a blue taxi, because then you might as well use the limo service which should cost the same. Thinking about it, it's 23:30 so it's no wonder there are few taxis here. Not so many people taking a taxi to the airport at this time.

I walk back into the terminal and try to catch a limo, but apparently there are also no limos. Finally I rush to the KLIA express and manage to catch the 23:40 train which is leaving right now (RM35). We reach KL Sentral around 00:20. From there I take a taxi to the hotel (RM 21, coupon system).

11.8: KL
Hotel Grand Seasons, KL
Weather: overcast the whole day, some rain at 11am. Not too hot.

I get up at 10am. Outside the sky is overcast, at 11am it rains a bit. After 11am I leave the hotel and take the monorail to Bukit Bintang.

Bukit Bintang hasn't changed since last year except for massive roadworks opposite the BB Plaza mall. No idea what they are building, but they are blocking the access to Jalan Alor.

In the BB Plaza shopping mall I look for a SIM card for the smartphone. Immediately after entering into BB Plaza I run into a small stand selling SIM cards. Some discussion, they are pushing the SIM card of U Mobile. The problem is that I have never heard of U Mobile and initially think it must be a reseller or spin off brand, so wonder what network they are using. Then the price is also quite high - RM68 with just RM25 of airtime.

So I pass this offer and continue looking. Later I discover that U Mobile is a new operator, 3G only, with poor coverage (very poor in Sarawak and Sabah), but they seem to have a national roaming agreement with Celcom or Maxis. So perhaps I could have bought this SIM card, but who knows how this national roaming arrangement works.

I end up buying a SIM card from Maxis for RM25 with RM10 of airtime on it + a RM20 recharge. A 500MB day Internet flatrate costs RM5. Phone calls cost around RM 0.30, a bit pricey. But the Internet speed is really very good, both in the downlink and the uplink. I'm really impressed. Much faster than the Internet speed with T-Mobile in Germany. Really fast mobile Internet. Also mobile tethering (using the smartphone as a modem for the computer) works very well.

After the SIM card I have lunch in the Esquire kitchen Chinese restaurant, then shop around for an A/C cable with multiple sockets. I always carry one with me, because in the evenings I often end up having to recharge several devices and often there aren't enough A/C sockets in the room. This time I forgot the multiple socket cable at home, so have to get one here. I search for a while but can't find it. I decide to look for it in the supermarket in the Midvalley mall.

So I take the monorail to KL Sentral, then, once there, I try to wave down a taxi on the street. Since no taxi stops, I walk to the KL Sentral train station. There I manage to get a taxi to the Midvalley mall (coupon systm, RM 12). I end up spending a couple of hours in the Midvalley mall, getting a haircut and shopping a bit.

The guy in front of me at the cashier in the supermarket spends RM 320 for his shopping. Actually it's a family with two kids, but when I go shopping in Germany I never spend 320 Euro in one time for food and groceries. Not even 160 Euro, actually I rarely go above 100 Euro in one shopping. But this guy spends RM 320 (76 Euro). This shows that the cost of living in KL is approaching developed country levels.

Shortly before 5pm I take a taxi back to the hotel (RM 14). I rest for a while in the hotel, then at 6:30pm I get out. I walk to Tasik Titiwangsa, where there is a pond with a nice view of the KL skyline. There I take some sunset shots of the KL skyline, then get back to the hotel after 8pm.

12.8: KL
Hotel Grand Seasons, KL
Weather: same as yesterday, although today it doesn't rain and in the early morning the weather is less overcast (only a few clouds in the sky). Later in the day the sky becomes overcast.

In the morning I call Shirley and we agree to meet in town around Bukit Bintang at 1pm. At 12pm I leave the hotel and take the monorail to Bukit Bintang. From there I walk to the Pavilion mall, where I meet Shirley and the kids in the food court in the lower ground.

The Pavilion mall is a relativel new mall, opened in September 2007. Quite big, very elegant and upscale, nice architecture. Mostly branded goods.

We have a common lunch, then spend some time shopping in the mall. Around 2pm we pick a taxi (metered 15RM after skipping the offer of a taxi driver who was refusing to use the meter and was asking for RM 30) to the Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Perdana).

It takes the driver a while to bring us to the Lake Gardens and in the end I even have to guide the driver with Google Maps. It turns out that the lake in the lake gardens is not what it used to be when I last went there 14 years ago...

The boats for rent are no longer there and the whole park is undergoing renovation. So we just walk a bit ( and by the way it's quite hot) and then Shirley rests in the former park headquarter while I play with the kids and a monkey. The monkey was busy searching for food in the rubbish bin and is not happy that we interrupted his meal.

At 4:20pm we take one of those electric taxi-vans which bring people around in the park and make it to the Bird Park.

Since I'm there with the kids, I decide to bring the kids to the bird park. Quite pricey tickets (adults RM 48, kids RM 38), Malaysians pay only half.
No problem, when Malaysian tourists come to Germany, we'll let them pay twice the ticket price for attractions than local Germans have to pay. This dumb mindset that tourists are "rich" and have to pay more than Malaysians.

We're in the bird park until 6pm, then get back to the hotel. In the evening I go to KL tower for some sunset photos of the skyline of KL.

13.8: KL -> Khao Lak
Apsara Beachfront Resort & Villa, Khao Lak. Upscale resort about 10km north of Khao Lak, drectly on the beach. 5500 Baht/night for a beach villa, sort of a small house with a declared area of 120m. In practice the villa feels smaller, for sure it has less than 120m. Nicely decorated room, almost luxury. Everything is available and included in the price, including the WLAN Internet access. Surprisingly an ironing board with iron is missing. Peaceful location along the beach. The only problem is the location: this resort is in the middle of nowhere. The closest convenience store is 5km away and getting there by hotel taxi costs 300 Baht. Also, despite the fact that the hotel is half-empty, they assign us a villa which is very far away from the centre court. The restaurant of the hotel is not bad. Overall a bit overpriced.
Weather: overcast in KL. Overcast in southern Thailand, lots of rain in Khao Lak.

After a short night I get up at 6:30am and get ready. At 7:30am I get into a taxi to the airport (blue taxi, RM 166). We drive to the condo of Sara, the sister of Shirley. There I pick up Shirley and the kids and at 7:45am we drive to the airport.

We reach the LCCT terminal at 8:30am and check-in. After that we have some breakfast in the food court, then proceed to the gate.

There are not that many people in the LCCT today, but for some reason the Airasia flight to Surat Thani is delayed by 50 minutes. The plane is only partially full and lands in Surat Thani at 11:45am (40 minutes late).

We then proceed speedily through immigration, get the luggage and enter the arrivals hall. There I get some cash and I arrange for a taxi to Khao Lak (3500 Baht). We leave at 12:15pm.

On the way we stop at a petrol station where I buy two SIM cards from AIS. 50 Baht each, with 15 Baht of airtime each. In addition I purchase also two recharges of 100 and 300 Baht. I realise later that the instructions are written almost completely in Thai and that AIS offers a confusing number of Internet+voice packages.

The scenery quickly gets impressive. A jungle with karst rock formations, towers of rock covered by thick vegetation. Very photogenic, a pity we can't stop here.

We reach the hotel in Khao Lak at 2:30pm. This is located in the middle of nowhere on a beach, and in fact we only find it by using Google Maps (the driver from Surat Thani is not famiiar with Khao Lak).  The driver jokes "now I can bring you back to Surat Thani for free...".

The entire area is quite peaceful with very few tourists. Apparently now is low season, probably due to all the rain.

We spend the rest of the day at the resort.

Copyright 2013 Alfred Molon