Kuala Lumpur, Day 0

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After seventeen hours of travel, I've finally checked into my hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I'm here with Jacinta, and we're teaching Perl to a client next week, but we've arrived early to do some sight-seeing... and because we're insane.

Actually, it only feels like we're insane, because we've only just got back from LCA2010. In reality, going to KL so quickly means that we actually have something one of us might care to label as "a holiday". There's no chance of tacking a holiday on the end: we need to get home in order to clear the mail, launder clothes, and squish an entire month's worth of social engagements into three days before KiwiFoo, and then me spending two weeks in Sydney.

That's right. Four weeks of travel, with only three days at home. Maybe I am insane after all.

Kuala Lumpur is just like I remember it. Hot, humid, friendly people, and cheap, delicious food. Almost everything can be ordered with peanuts, and fried anchovies.

Today I feel like telling stories, so I'm going to recount the happenings of my day. Now would be a good time to get a mug of hot chocolate, or maybe skip to someone else's blog entry. I don't mind.

The trip was not a difficult one, but not an uneventful one either. It started with being picked up by the least competent taxi driver in Melbourne. Or more correctly, not being picked up. The taxi was clearly visible in the street, about a block or two away, and spent most of its time doing U-turns and driving back-and-forth outside a small group of houses. I suspect they were using a GPS navigation system, and it didn't know our street numbers. Trying to flag the taxi down with a high-powered diving torch, the sort which is capable of stunning small fish from a mile away, didn't seem to help either.

The torch did attract the attention of a completely different taxi, who, sensing that we were now quite late for our flight check-in, decided to take the most leisurely approach to driving that I've ever seen. From our conversation, I discovered the driver never gets speeding tickets, but was once fined four times in one day because his car had insufficient velocity. Since our car speed to be travelling down the highway with all the speed of warm molasses, I could understand why.

The flight to KL was lovely. Through good planning, a lot of luck, and er, an aggressively unscheduled seat change, both Jacinta and myself were able to secure three seats each to ourselves. As someone who is used to sleeping on airplanes, this is the height of luxury. During the eight hour flight, I slept for seven, and without the need for sleeping tablets. I awoke feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Getting to the hotel wasn't hard, but inefficient. The plan was to catch a bus to KL Sentral, a train to Putrajaya, and then use the hotel's complimentary shuttle from there. It now appears that we could have caught a train directly from the airport to Putrajaya, saving considerable time and some money. Still, the trip to Sentral resulted in some spiffy weekly tickets which looked like they'd be useful in travel.

Calling the hotel from the train, I asked if we could get a pick-up from Putrajaya. They seemed uncertain, and after some to-and-fro, they admitted that the shuttle doesn't go to Putrajaya station, despite it being the nearest major public transport centre. They do however go to Kuala Lumpur proper (where we were just coming from), and a shopping centre or two.

As it happens, I now discover the hotel's bus seems to be the transportation equivalent of "scattered showers": not in your area, and not when you care. So rather than using the hotel bus, we were introduced to the public bus network.

Putrajaya's public bus network doesn't work the same way as other bus networks do. There's a big bus station, with lots and lots of bays and busses, but the goal of the drivers is to collect as few passengers as possible. This is primarily done by locking the bus, sneaking out, having a smoke for half an hour, and then dashing back into the bus and driving off as quickly as possible before anyone spots you. Other tricks include waving passengers away when they try to enter, or telling passengers you don't leave until much later, and then driving off as soon as they turn their backs. In fact, should a bus foolishly leave its doors open for more than a few moments, it is almost invariably becomes jam-packed with passengers. All the busses seem to go to the same places anyway, just in a different order, and catching any bus is better than being outside in the heat.

The hotel itself is super-fancy. The room comes with bath-robes, slippers, a fruit-bowl, a fancy room configuration and furniture. Heck, even the bath-tub has its own phone, just in case you decide you need another bottle of champagne. The hotel seems to be filled with government officials and businessmen; not surprising, given the location in the heart of KL's government and technology district. I've never really liked fancy hotels; when travelling I prefer a more organic experience, but I think I've finally become to understand them. The people who frequent these hotels, almost by necessity, need to have so much money that the prices actually seem reasonable. For example, I'm eating a meal right now that costs the equivalent of dinner for six people on the streets of KL. That's an expensive meal, but it's still on the cheap side compared to what I'd be paying for the same meal in Australia.

The only thing which doesn't change is my surprise over the minibar. You want how much for a can of cola?

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