Melnq8's Big KL Adventure - Trip Report

Feb 14th, 2005, 02:30 AM
  #1  
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Melnq8's Big KL Adventure - Trip Report

We’re American expatriates who have lived in Duri, Indonesia for about six months. Duri is located on the island of Sumatra, separated from the Malay Peninsula by the Strait of Malacca. We’re rather isolated here and getting in and out of the country is an ordeal. We’re three hours from the closest International airport (Pekanbaru) and 90 minutes from the nearest seaport.

Because Chinese New Year and Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year) fell back to back this year, we got a five day weekend by taking only one vacation day. We figured this would be a good time to visit nearby Kuala Lumpur.

There are two ways to get to KL from Indonesia, plane or ferry. Both are time consuming, and both involve an assortment of private drivers, busses and security escorts (for expats). Feeling adventurous, we decided to try the ferry. We purchased our ferry tickets in Duri for 220,000 rupiah per person return, and paid 15,000 rupiah per person departure tax and 500,000 rupiah per person fiscal tax in Dumai.

Dumai is a 90 minute bus ride from Duri. Once in Dumai we were met by a driver and taken into the city of Dumai to collect our boarding passes, then to the Dumai ferry terminal.

We waited for eons in the non-air conditioned Dumai ferry terminal, then waited some more on the pier. Our ferry from Dumai to Port Dickson (Malaysia) finally left at 2:50 pm, almost two hours late.

The ride was okay, albeit long at 3 hours and 10 minutes. The ferry itself wasn’t too bad, with the exception of the onboard loo, which mere words cannot describe.

We arrived at Port Dickson at 7 pm local time. Americans and Caltex employees were called to the front of the line, which was a surprise. We were also waved through customs and our luggage was not inspected.

Despite being over two hours late, the driver we’d hired when we bought the ferry tickets was waiting for us with our name on a placard. He drove us from Port Dickson to Kuala Lumpur, which took about 90 minutes. He charged 150 RM for a 10 passenger van.

We finally reached our hotel at 9 pm that evening, some 11 hours after leaving Duri, which is approximately 140 miles from KL.

We’d booked an Executive room at the Mandarin Oriental. It was late and we were starving, so we had a late dinner at the hotel’s café – Biba’s. One main, two starters, two desserts and one beer – 150 RM – it was all very good.

Our room at the Mandarin was comfortable and very nice. It was on the 27th floor with an “in your face” view of the Petronas Towers from our window. Our room had a comfy KS bed with cotton duvet, a large bathroom with glassed in shower and separate marble tub.

In addition to evening turndown service, our towels and bathroom amenities were replenished twice a day and our ice bucket was always full.

Our room included daily breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres served in the Club Lounge on the 24th floor, with views of the KL skyline and KLCC park.

Breakfast included omelets made to order, 4-5 hot dishes, pastries, fruit, cereal, bread, cheese, meat, juice, tea and two coffee machines that turned out some awesome lattes!

Tea included beverages, scones, cream and jam, as well as an assortment of other nibbles.

Cocktail hour (s) included several hot and cold dishes, cheese, NZ white wine, Australian red wine, and an assortment of beer and liquor. It was all self service and very generous. The staff continued to replenish supplies right until 7 pm.

The lounge also offers a business center with computers and free Internet access, and free flow of soft drinks, coffee and tea throughout the day.

Laundering and pressing five pieces of clothing each day was also included with our room.

The hotel staff informed us that many businesses would be closed for the entire week due to Chinese New Year and Al Hijra, but most shops and restaurants seemed to be open and we found plenty to do.

Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 02:37 AM
  #2  
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Petronas Towers –

We’d been told we would have to get in line at 7 am to get tickets, but that was not the case. We turned up around 9:30 am, stood in line for about 15 minutes and got tickets for the 1:45 pm tour that day. The tickets are free, and it’s not really a tour, just a film, a short explanation of the towers and a 15 minute visit on the 41st floor sky bridge. Fantastic views.

Restaurants –

We ate at Hard Rock Café (I collect their shot glasses, so had to go there). Food was okay, but no pork on the menu, so missed out on my favorite pulled pork sandwich. Lunch was about 70 RM.

The Bombay Palace – across the street from the US Embassy – excellent Indian food! Hubby ordered the Murg Vindaloo and asked for spicy – spicy he got! The food was so good we went back the next day. Our meals here ranged from 77 to 85 RM.

We didn’t go out for dinner because we were usually too full from scones and hors d’ oeuvres at the Mandarin.

Monorail –

We rode the monorail from end to end to see some of the city. It’s not very extensive, but was interesting. The fare was about 6.20 RM per person – from beginning end to end and back to where we started.

LRT -

We took the LRT from KLCC to Pensar Sani near Chinatown. I lasted about 10 minutes in Chinatown. Not my scene – too hot and crowded for me. Our LRT fare to Chinatown and back was 3.20 RM each.

Taxis –

Taxi fares are all over the place, even when metered. Although it states right in the taxi that fares begin at 2 RM, one of our taxi drivers started the meter at 4 RM, another at 3 RM. Yet a third told us he had no meter, but worked in zones, and our zone was 10 RM. Yeah, right. One taxi driver charged us 10 RM to the Bombay Palace from our hotel, yet another charged us 3 RM back to the hotel from the Bombay Palace. Hmmmmm …..

It seemed to be common practice to not clear the meter between fares and even more common to not use the meter at all. We usually asked them to turn on the meter, but it was just so cheap anyway, that it wasn’t worth the effort.

We never paid over 10 RM to go anywhere, but I’m sure we paid more than the going rate every time.

Malls –

We’re not big shoppers, but spent a fair amount of time in the malls. We visited Suria KLCC, which is a HUGE mall and has something for everyone. We also visited Times Square, which is also huge and incredibly spacious and houses an IMAX and an indoor theme park. They also have a large Shasta supermarket in the basement, where we stocked up on some stuff to take home (those of us who live in the middle of nowhere shop when we can!)

We saw guard in the Times Square mall sitting in a coffee shop with a shotgun on his lap. Not sure what that was all about, but it seemed strange.

We also spent some time in Sungei Wang Plaza which is similar to Lucky Plaza and Far East Plaza in Singapore. This place is DVD central if you’re in the market for DVDs and CDs of questionable origin.

Tours –

I wanted to see the batik factory, so we signed up for a ½ day country tour with Wai Kong Tours through our hotel. As it turned out, the country tour wasn’t running, so we ended up taking the KL “Muddy Estuary Contrast Tour” (70 RM) though the same tour operator. Dhoby, our entertaining tour guide, collected us around 9 am. It was just us and three oil company auditors from the US who joined us for lunch at the Bombay Palace after the tour.

We visited the Jamek Mosque, Independence Square, the King’s Palace, Royal Selangor “the world’s largest pewter factory”, the Batu Caves, the railway station and the Dong-A Batik factory.

The tour was okay, but we could have passed on the Batu Caves, which were dirty, smelly and not that interesting. What was interesting were all the wild monkeys trying to grab bags of bananas from the tourists. Some of the tourists were teasing the monkeys, causing them to snarl and hiss and I halfway expected a monkey to attack someone. I asked Dhoby how many tourists got bitten by monkeys every year and he said “not too many”.

As we were leaving the caves, I bumped into a man and almost jumped out of my skin when I saw he had the biggest snake I’d ever seen wrapped around him. It would have been a great photo.

Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 02:44 AM
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Our return trip was very similar to our arrival. Our drivers were right on time, the ferry was 45 minutes late and the loo was still indescribable. The only thing different was that we made it home in 9 hours instead of 11. A nice surprise indeed.

Impressions of KL –

I liked it, but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go back. We went because we live so close (as the crow flies anyway) and we figured it would be a nice change from Singapore.

I now understand why they call it a "developing city". It's well on it's way, but not quite there yet. Parts of the city are very nice, yet other parts are not. Five star luxury hotels overlook barrios, highways are clean and well maintained, but side streets are crumbling and littered with trash.

KL is definitely not pedestrian friendly, but cheap transportation is readily available.
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 03:24 AM
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Thanks for the report. It's good to get a different perspective from a Ferry rider. How much is an RM to the dollar, Euro or pound?
Gpanda is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 03:27 AM
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One RM = .27 cents US
Melnq8 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 10:53 AM
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nice report...thanks....i agree about K/L..been there done that...
rhkkmk is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 01:44 AM
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Melnq8..
What would be your preference taking everything into account..KL or Singapore ?
Lesg is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 04:15 AM
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Lesg -

I like Singapore, but because I'm there so often I'm a bit jaded. In fact, I'm going again tomorrow.

For those of us living in the sticks, Singapore is where we take care of personal business - that's where we go to see the dentist or to buy glasses. It's also where some of us go to buy groceries and household items.

Singapore is very clean and modern, but also crowded (as is KL). It's easy to navigate and getting around on foot is easy (take comfy shoes though).

Don't get me wrong, KL was worth a visit, but I doubt I'll go again - partly because it's so hard to get to from where I live. It's cheaper than Singapore, and I was glad to have the chance to stay in a really nice hotel without breaking the bank.

KL has a long way to go before it's anything like Singapore, but I felt it was definitely worth a visit.

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