VISA RUN: 24 HOURS IN KUALA LUMPUR

Monsieur Bleu (MB) and I have bought some land here in Koh Samui with the dream of one day building our Thai Style Beach House! Well to be honest…we purchased this land (it’s not ON the beach, but not too far) three years ago but have only just been able to return here now to finalise the paperwork! This has taken much longer than expected (island time and all that) and it has finally happened! YAY! But……now we have to stay another month to attempt to organise the building of a garage in which to store all our prized possessions! Give a huge round of applause and a warm welcome to the idea of a quick VISA RUN to the city of KUALA LUMPUR (KL)!We decided that, why not kill two birds with one stone and check out this famous asian city AND return with a 30 day stamp on our passports! It’s an easy and painless way to re-enter Thailand with the added bonus of checking out a new place and experiencing “Malaysia…Simply Asia”!

It has been 17 years for me (feel old now) and 27 years for MB (..ancient..) since either of us has stepped foot in the big KLOh how time flies! Only wanting to go for a quick look-see and seize the Visa, plus needing to be back in Koh Samui for the ‘Construction Commencement Ceremony’ and all the wrath that will, no doubt, accompany this, it seemed like the best choice overall. Discovering that AIR ASIA fly direct from the mainland of Surat Thani to KL, we quickly hooked up a great flight/hotel/transfer deal on their Website. Bonus! The only thing we needed to organise was getting from Koh Samui to Surat Thani Airport, which was (surprisingly) a very simple procedure! Sea Tran ferries in Nathon (refer previous blog: Kicking Back in Krabi), have a fast ferry that takes 45 minutes to Donsak (Surat Thani) with an air-conditioned, double decker bus from the dock waiting to collect and drive you to the Airport (approx 1 hour) in Celebrity Style! Thank you! Tickets can be purchased at the ferry terminal in Nathon a day or more before (700 baht pp) along with the bus connection and it is WAY cheaper than flying direct from Koh Samui Airport……WAY CHEAPER PEOPLE! Might take longer, but seriously, save your cash to spend in KL and enjoy the boat/bus/plane experience like a professional and savvy traveller! Also it’s more fun and that’s all part of life isn’t it?

Knowing the time of your flight and destination, the lovely Sea Tran people ensure that you and your luggage are checked in and labeled correctly 30 minutes prior to ferry departure. Don’t rock up late or go for coffee as there are many travelers going to different places and the system and timing of the ferries is quite strict. Once you are labelled (literally as you have to wear a sticker), just hang out as shortly after they will cattle call you, load everyone and their stuff onto a minibus and drive you the huge …..100 meters to the ferry steps!! Hilarious! You don’t walk. As a lovely Thai girl once told me….”Babes….NO ONE walks ANYWHERE in Thailand”! Too true! Once ensconced on the top deck of the ferry, just chill- ax and enjoy the wind in your hair! Arriving in Donsak, grab your luggage and head for the appropriate bus. They are labelled and signed as well for simple detection and hop on! We went for the top deck as you can see more and it was very comfortable and spacious. There is even a toilet on board. The bus trip was quick and uneventful as was check-in at Surat Thani Airport (which is quite big by the way and full of coffee places). There is also a bus to boat -boat to car-car to hotel counter downstairs, which is convenient as we had not yet booked our return to Koh Samui, which ended up being a good thing as we were delayed in KL on the way home! This is also very cheap and cheerful (500 baht pp with the slow ferry) and is organised for you in a split second upon arrival!

After a quick coffee and consumption of way too much sugar no thanks to the Macarons that we found at the café, we were informed that the AIR ASIA flight to KL was delayed (shock) and we had to sit around for another hour. Annoying but c’est la vie! The flight takes 1 hour and 30 mins and you can buy meals/snacks on board unless you have already pre-purchased these upon booking. You can also use Baht which was good as we didn’t have any Malaysian Ringgit between us, and the service was quick and efficient.[FYI: It is very similar to the old VirginBlue Australia..where I once worked.. style of service. AIR ASIA also has a NO OUTSIDE FOOD ON BOARD Policy, so chow down before you get on, buy stuff or starve]!

Arriving in KL already late and also it being one hour ahead of Thailand, we quickly found our bag and went to seek out our poor transfer driver who had been waiting patiently for these two boarder- hoppers to arrive! He was very sweet and understanding and even waited whilst MB attempted to find an ATM in the terminal that actually had any money! Alas…..there was none…..and so the poor guy didn’t even receive his tip in the end, much to our embarrassment and horror. Due to it being the Labor Day Long Weekend, raining and a Friday afternoon (why do we keep going places on Public Holiday Weekends??) instead of the usual 45 minute drive into the capital, it only took a sweet 2 HOURS!!!! Kill me now. Feeling slightly ill from the poor choice of curry/macaron/pringle/M and M’s combo, which comes from sitting in an airport and plane for too long (don’t judge me) the stop/start hike into KL wasn’t the most pleasant of introduction to our 24 hour Visa City of choice! [FYI: Australians get an automatic 90 day visa upon arrival into Malaysia].

Finally arriving at the INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL KL, all posh and plush unlike us, MB and I quickly parted ways for about half and hour….He to go on the money machine quest and I to unpack and enjoy the luxury of a 5 Star Hotel shower and raid the toiletries, complete with a breathtaking view of the famous PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS.  Selamat Datang to KUALA LUMPUR !

Feeling ill and tired, we decided that dinner out wasn’t an option and stayed in the room and went to bed. NO WAY HOSÉ! NEVER! We were not going to spend our one of two nights in this glittering city hauled up in some hotel room (albeit a very lovely one), and after a quick change we headed forth into the night……but where to go? We both had no idea as we hadn’t really done any research as we assumed we would have plenty of time to discover a restaurant upon arrival! After walking aimlessly around the neighbouring streets of the hotel and gradually getting sweatier and more irritated and my carefully – tousled- hair -look turning to frizz, we

decided to bight the bullet and give in, taking the easy way out by messaging my good friend and saviour Jess (who knows KL like her second home) and asking her where the hell to go for restaurants and funky bars in this town! In hindsight (and I just know you are thinking this too), I should have done this days/hours earlier instead of consuming every available airport snack and reading Amy Schumer’s new book (fab by the way) but …well…I didn’t. Sue me! Doesn’t matter anyway, as true to her form, Jess the Best swept in and saved the..um..night and let us in on the biggest secret of KL after dark …BUTIK BINTANG WALKING STREET…

This fantastic street is our Nirvana! It’s small but packed both sides with restaurants and bars, music blasting out from every doorway and people milling around searching for their watering hole of choice. We went directly to HAVANA BAR…that’s also where the taxi dropped us off….it’s a little slice of New Orleans slash Cuba right there in KL! Complete with balcony overlooking the street, huge wooden ceiling fans softly circulating and Margaritas flowing, you could honestly believe that Hemingway might even be sitting at the bar! After an aperitif, we strolled the street and decided upon dining at the gorgeous Asian restaurant and bar OPIUM. This place is equally fantastic as it has a 1930’s Opium Den feel (hence the name), and from its softly lit Asian Art Deco posters on the wall to the rows of lanterns and silk parasols lining the interior, the vibe is low-key cool. Asian fusion cuisine, it was interesting and tasty but the highlight for me was the crockery.

Japanese porcelain goblets and teapots for all drinks and delicate plates and serving dishes, made it a meal with a difference. Great design and well thought out – huge congratulations to the owner and designer! We called it a night after that but pledged that we would definitely return to this little street the next evening for another awesome dining experience!

Since we only had the one day in KLMB and I decided to take it easy and go and check out some of the major tourist spots. Of course the famous PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS were the first point of call as they were just up the road from our hotel. They are really quite lovely and reminded me somewhere of the Chrysler

Building in New York. Predominately a posh office block, the underneath is a huge mall filled with all the usual high end boutiques like Chanel, Louis VuittonTiffany’sGucci etc……get the idea!! Basically everything unaffordable for the likes of Moi! There is though, an H and MTop Shop and Zara for us poor lot, thank God, but even the prices here were more expensive than in Europe or Australia! Hence I bought ziltch! After a quick tour of the mall and the obligatory photos between the Towers, even an embarrassing tumble into the flower beds attempting the perfect shot didn’t break our stride! Off we walked to find CENTRAL MARKET and CHINA TOWN PETALING WALKING STREET. [FYIWe thought we would attempt to walk everywhere to get a vibe of the city and also maybe lose 10kgs….DON’T!] It’s all quite far and together with the steamy heat, having to dress slightly modestly due the Muslim factor, major traffic and complicated street configuration, I would advise you to take the train or hire a taxi! In the end, we did just that and cabbed it to the market, getting a bonus history lesson about KL from the informative taxi driver along the way! Arriving at the CENTRAL MARKET, I would say this was my favourite stop of the day. A huge undercover ‘Bazarre style’ shopping area, it has two levels full of little stores selling everything from Chinese shirts to Indian silk skirts, authentic Turkish bowls to African handwoven baskets! There are treasures to be found around every corner! It’s fantastic and completely my style of shopping experience. The floor and stairs were covered in original Arabic tiles (my dream home design -style) and it was neither too busy or difficult to move around and even the storekeepers were friendly, helpful and not at all annoying! I could have stayed all day here, but we left to check out CHINA TOWN next door and all it had to offer.

First of all let me say that PETALING WALKING STREET is not my thing. Full of stalls selling bad fake designer goods, sports shoes and t-shirts and overly pushy stall owners, it is similar to Chewang shopping street here in Koh Samui. Been there done that thanks and we quickly departed after the millionth.. ‘Madam you want wallet, bag..” callout! BUT….each to his own…you might adore it and so that’s great! It’s fun if it’s your first time. Dropping from both starvation and heatstroke and hearing the call to prayer loud and clear from the nearby Mosques, we knew it was time to get down and dirty with some local cuisine! We really wanted to find a unique ‘Malaysian style’ restaurant for a bite, but for some reason, this was not that easy!! Earlier in the day, we had found out about this little restaurant called THE OLD CHINA CAFE , that is authentic Malay (as we don’t enjoy big eatery type food halls or walking around dripping street food down our fronts) so consulting the map, we walked for what seemed like an eternity to a little out of the way side street in the middle of nowhere and voilà, our superior map reading skills finally worked and there it was! Bingo! But alas….it was full to the brim with locals and ex-pats alike and we couldn’t get a table. Sniff sniff.  Sooo…no problem….we just went to the little one next door! ALI, MUTHU & AH HOCK was a quaint little local place with all the charm of busy asian diner. Clean, efficient and with tasty food, it wasn’t as ‘pretty’ as the China Cafe, but it was ok for what we needed at the time! Next visit we will surely try the original choice!

After lunch and getting lost again, finding ourselves deep in the Muslim area, we noticed dark storm clouds gathering and decided to grab a cab and make our way to KL TOWER for a look. A huge 421 meter telecommunications tower, it is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world! I have seen the ones in Sydney and Toronto, so I was happy to tick another one off my list! We didn’t go up to the observation deck as it was ridiculously expensive and I refuse to pay good money for a 5 minute look. I’ll survive I’m sure! With the heavens about to burst, we hot-footed it back to the TWIN TOWERS for a sit and a good coffee at one of the many cafés outside.

Pouring with rain and deciding to hang out and wait before heading back to the hotel (which was a five minute walk away), we window shopped and drooled (well I did), at all the designer faire that we could never afford! Thank god for Zara and Mango! We did the wet dash back home and got ready for our final dinner at our now favourite street. Feeling like locals already, we had Caipirinha’s at HAVANA again, and then went for Spanish at PINCHOS TAPAS BAR.   It was fantastic. Great selection of tapas and generous servings too, good Spanish wine and a cosy, dark interior, we could have been in Barcelona! Hola! Rounding off the evening in a little Salsa bar next door (but without the salsa), we went home full, happy and content and it had even stopped raining at last!

An early start had us up and about at 7am with a miracle 45 minute drive to the airport, but we discovered upon arrival that our flight was delayed two hours! Aaagh! No sweat, we checked out the shops and cafes in the terminal (as you do), and hung around till departure time. The flight was fine and after collecting our bags and grabbing our all important

Visa Stamp, we quickly booked the bus/boat/car trip (which was VERY reasonable and extremely well organised) and headed home to Koh Samui! All in all, our whirlwind trip to the big KL was fun, exhausting, interesting and good value for money. I would recommend you go and stay for a few days to really get a feel for the city and experience the true Malaysian culture. There is so much to see and do there that 24 hours only skimmed the surface! Go and see for yourselves and discover but remember to take a map, an umbrella and some good walking shoes if you want to trek around sans taxi or train! Terima Kasih KL, we’ll catch you on the flip side!

…”You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours” Italo Calvino

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