Monday, March 08, 2010

Weekend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Whilst still recovering from post-Chinese New Year holiday blues, we decided that we simply could not wait for the upcoming Bali trip in mid-March. So it was decided on a whim, that we'd head up north to Kuala Lumpur, capital of our neighbouring country, Malaysia, for a very short weekend getaway. Fongie has been up to KL a few times previously on business trips, while I have not been at all. Since she didn't mind a repeat visit and I a first one, it only took a couple of clicks and phonecalls, and we had ourselves booked on an el cheapo flight, but a not so cheapo hotel.

Flight Plan: SIN --> KL --> SIN
One-way Mileage: 300 KM (187 miles)
One-way Flight Time: 35 minutes

Fare Type: JetSaver Light

For the JetSaver Light fares, only carry-on baggage is allocated. Apart from packing light, this also means you have to ensure that all your liquids are kept in bottles of maximum 100ml capacity, and the total allowed volume of carry-on liquids is 1 litre. Oh, and no sharp objects too. Do check the immigration rules of your deparature/arrival airports just to be doubly sure of the items allowed onboard to avoid having any of your items unceremoniously tossed out. This was my first experience travelling with only a carry-on, so I was a bit overcautious and packed only the bare essentials for liquids - but it turned out that the screening process wasn't that particular (I'd like to think the security level varies according to destinations), and we didn't get asked to present our bags of liquids either.

Note for thirsty travellers (no, not the alcholic kind!): there are water coolers inside the boarding areas of both the Singapore and KL airports, so you might want to pack a small empty bottle in your bag to fill up once you've entered the boarding area. That way, you won't have to fork out $3 for a can of coke on the plane when you're starting to feel parched. ;)

Hotel: Traders Hotel by Shangri-La
Room Rate: 375RM per person under the 'Traders Weekenders' promotion, subject to 15% taxes.

Recommended by fongie and voted 'best value' hotel by my company, Traders was our little weekend indulgence in KL. Rated a 4 star hotel, it certainly lives up to its reputation. Great service, great breakfast spread, and a cushy room to boot. My only gripe would be the lack of a wifi connection in the room. There was a LAN cable provided, but that would only be useful if you had your notebook with you. We wanted to get online using our iPods, and were definitely a little disappointed with the lack of wifi. Nevertheless, it was only for the weekend, and we survived without Youtube/FaceBook/MSN for those 48 hours. Yay us! :P

Traders also has a SkyBar on the 33rd floor which houses a humble pool, lounging areas surrounding the pool, and an unobstructed view of the Petronas Twin Towers, along with the KLCC Garden. Quite a lovely view on a sunny morning. At night, the area transforms into a hip bar for social networking. A piece of advice - it's probably not a good idea to get too sloshed on drinks, as the chances of tripping into the pool are pretty high if you're seated along the pool perimeter.

Traders Hotel is also a short 5-10 minute walk away from KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers. Tickets to the Towers' skybridge are free and available on a limited basis daily. The ticketing booth opens at 0830AM, but we found out that the queue starts forming at 0700AM. So if you don't want to end up ticketless like us, skip the drinks at night and wake up early for them darned obscure tickets.

Transportation around the city:
Despite being the capital of the country, KL is not yet quite up to par with other developed cities on the public transportation front. In fact, road/traffic conditions are reminiscent of Bangkok, Thailand - crowded, in disarray, and noisy. Road markings seem to be dares for drivers to violate traffic rules, which they nonchalantly do, thus perhaps resulting in the perpetual blaring of horns. Oh, and for the pedestrians, I think it takes real guts/stupidity to jaywalk. Even at legal crossings, I fear for my safety. -_-"

If you're not driving, then the easiest method of getting around in the city would probably be to hail a taxi. While it may be illegal to tout, several taxi drivers still do it. Always try to find out the approximate cost between destinations from your hotel concierge or friendly locals so you can make an informed decision later on should you have to haggle for your ride. The best option would be to have the driver charge by the taxi meter, but if that's not an option, then be sure to ask how much the trip to your destination is going to cost before you decide whether you want to board the taxi or not. Once onboard, over zealous cabbies may offer to show you around or introduce you to local products which they claim they can help you procure at friendly prices. Accept/reject all these at your own discretion. This traveller prefers to take a more conservative view on such offers...

For public transportation, there is the rail system which consists of monorails which run above ground, commuter rail lines, an airport rail link (KLIA Ekspres) and the LRT which runs above ground. This may be a little confusing for Singaporeans, because the LRT we know runs above ground. I think the world could be an even more awesome place if public transportation systems were ubiquitous. One would never need to fear getting lost in a foreign land. Then again, this could also make the world a less interesting place with the lack of novelty in new places. Humans are a hard species to please indeed.

For a map of the rail system, check this link:

For more on KL's public transportation, check this link:

Makan Sutra:
Being an impromptu trip, we didn't really have any food places lined up on the almost non-existent itinerary. The only targeted place we headed for was a quaint restaurant called 'The Apartment' located at Suria KLCC, which we learnt about in JetStar's travel guide. The menu was fusion styled, and both fongie and I had pasta. My smoked duck pasta turned out to be a humongous portion of fettucini smothered in a tomato based sauce, which turned into a thick, gooey mess after awhile. Somehow, I'm never good at picking out the nice food. Probably too adventurous for my own good. Sometimes it's for the best to stick with the tried and tested, eh?

Dessert looked and sounded delicious on the menu, but that's about as far as it went. The actual dish looked like a mess, and tasted like a plateful of sugar in different forms - whipped cream, solidified sugar pieces disguised to look like some sort of biscotti, topped off with pieces of strawberries soaked in syrup probably. I started to smell sugar everywhere for the rest of the day.

KL probably has lots of nice local cuisine and roadside eats to offer, such as the beef ball kway teow featured in the JetStar guide. Perhaps the next trip could be a foodie trip...

Malls visited included Central Market, Chinatown at Jalan Petaling street, The Pavilion, KLCC, Sungei Wang, Bukit Bintang Plaza and Lot 10. Of these, the only notables are Pavilion which houses a Paul Frank boutique, and KLCC which has the more familiar labels. We left Sungei Wang and BB almost empty handed after thronging the multiple levels of shops. Though there are several 25RM shops around in these 2 shopping complexes, the array of clothing seemed to be rather back-dated and a little too bling-bling for our tastes. If you like the ah-lian style, then you'd probably have a ball there. Else, the complexes are probably just worth a quick walk-thru for the experience. As for Lot 10, it really seems more like an empty lot than a shopping mall. Shops are sparse and the human traffic flow is even more sparse. It's interesting to note though, that a few big players in the retail industry are making Lot 10 their home - National Geographic, Justin Timberlake's William Rast brand, and Nicky Hilton's own label. Hmm.. hopefully the traffic flow in Lot 10 will increase after these 3 stores open, else they should seriously consider relocating to somewhere else.. SG perhaps? :)
The only thing that stands out at the moment is the cafe in the atrium which is supposedly opened by Hong Kong superstar, Jackie Chan. A continuous circle of wide leather sofa seating, large cushions and small metallic tables make up the cafe. The cushions are so large, the couple across the floor were totally engulfed in the cushions, and we could only see their feet. o_O"

Central Market is similar to Chatujak Market in Bangkok - lots of small adjacent shops selling all sorts of woodcraft and batik. Not to fear though, Central Market is fully air conditioned and the walkways are comfortably berthed apart. Again, not much to shop for here except to pick up some trinkets for souveniers if you must.

Chinatown is basically just a stretch of stalls selling counterfeit branded leather goods, not worth the visit unless you're planning to load up on such items.

I'd like to visit the Bangsar area if I ever venture back into KL. It looks more interesting, kinda like the variety of shops in Arab Street in Singapore. Word around town confirms this, and I wish now that we'd gone there instead of the Sungei Wang area.

Well, at least KL isn't too far away for a future trip, but not in the near future. With limited resources, there are more places to conquer first. ;) That's enough of KL to last for awhile!

Posted by dawn.wong on 3/08/2010 11:38:00 PM in , , , ,