Blog #7 - From Rags to Riches, in just 3 Days

Well, you can’t always be having an above-average time.  This past week we were in Kuala Lumpur, and while we’ve been impressed by the city, this week’s experience has been a lesson for both of us, mainly, about ourselves. 

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When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, we had no idea what to expect and we didn’t have very much of a plan.  However we were not worried, as we both had heard very good things about ‘KL’. 

Also, we were starting to get much more comfortable with the idea of “roughing it”.  In our last two nights in Hanoi, we stayed for a very reasonable $14 per night, which got us a large private room in a very reliable hostel. 

So in an attempt to continue keeping the money in our pockets, Steph found a room in someone’s home in KL, also for only $14 a night.  It was billed as “the cheapest clean room in KL”.  What could go wrong?

Well, just about everything.  The room was clean, that was true.  However the good news ends there.  To our surprise the room had no air conditioning (well, maybe we didn’t read the fine print…;).  As to the bathroom: let’s just say the good news is it had a shower.  The bad news is the bathroom was a shower.  There was no sink.  We did a double, then a triple-take, but yup, every time we looked, no sink.  Just a non-flushing toilet, standing all alone.

It had a handle, but it was connected to nothing.  When you were finished your business you were supposed to use a couple pail-loads of water from a nearby reservoir to flush the toilet, or, as Vince (ever the inventor) discovered, you could just point the (nearby) shower in the general direction of the toilet for a while.  Same result!  :)

We had seen “manual” toilets in public bathrooms already, so it wasn’t a total shock, however, to have to do this in your own private bathroom felt a bit too, um, rustic.

So, for each of the days we were at ‘Chez Flop’, we left first thing in the morning, and returned last thing at night.   The house owner was friendly, as were the other guests, but we didn’t see much of them, we didn’t hang out there at all, and overall, we never really turned the corner on this place.  It won.  We lost. (Sorry folks - no photos, wanted to forget this one...quickly!!)

The self-discovery for us this week was that while perhaps we’re not too old to backpack, we are too old to truly ‘rough it’.

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We did stick it out for the full three nights we had booked, however after three days of spending almost all our waking hours in self-imposed exile from our budget room, we took our savings and went straight for some 5-star healing.  No need for paper-rock-scissors.  We enjoyed the weekend in a discounted room in a business-oriented downtown KL hotel, that neither of us had heard of before, and even discovered their in-house band - http://youtu.be/Wr1AGRN2ULw ...awwww classy!   

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 Other than learning we are spoiled and that we like a bit of luxury, we did really enjoy Little India, Chinatown, Batu Caves (Hindu shrine built into a cave just on the north edge of the city) and the continual little references to our favourite city on earth (other than Toronto of course)…New York City!  Kuala Lumpur has a ‘central park’, a ‘times square’, and an “I heart KL” sculpture.  As you can see, Steph is really missing her 5th avenue babes (you know who you are ;).

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 Overall we would probably give this city a five out of ten on an ‘explore and enjoy’ scale.  It was a very easy city to navigate, however it wasn’t very pedestrian friendly, as we normally love to walk for entire days around each destination.  KL is quite spread out, with too much priority given to cars (i.e. too many man-made walkways and overpasses, mega-malls, shopping complexes and chain restaurants).

Malaysian food thus far hasn’t really impressed us compared to Thai or Vietnamese cuisine but there is a lot of variety here, which is nice.  Our new favourite restaurant is Nando’s for Portuguese chicken.  Who knew that we’d go this far for something you can get in Toronto! 

 All in all, we are really glad we were able to visit Kuala Lumpur and see it for ourselves, as no experience on this trip is an experience not to have.

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Currently we are waiting in the train station at “KL Sentral” (not a typo) preparing to board an overnight train to Penang, north of KL.  For the next few days we’ll be exploring Georgetown and getting some beach time in on Batu Ferringi, before we reverse direction back to Singapore. 

To all those who celebrate it, Happy Chinese New Year!

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