1 November – Hanoi – Kuala Lumpur
Alarm goes off at 6.00am. Well, it would have, had I not woken up ten minutes earlier.
The realisation then kicks in; it’s here. The day that we leave Vietnam, has arrived.
I hate that.
A quick pack up, and we’re downstairs by 6.30am. The car is already there.
So too is Sophia, so we have a ‘goodbye’ to do. Give her a hug, and then tell her that we’ll see her next time. “Make sure you’re still here!”, said with a smile, as well as a little pleading.
We’re quickly in the car and on our way. Geez I hate this drive….
Around the corner of Hang Hanh street, and down to the end of the street, which is the way we walk to our café, and there’s a small wet market there.
There’s a market at the end of our street, and I didn’t even know about it? How is that possible!?
God damn it!
Oh well, will just have to put it on the list for next time.
Down to the bottom of the lake, and then up the east side. Hmmm, not been this way before.
As per usual, there’s plenty out and about with lots of people exercising and tai chi-ing.
And then there’s the workers. The mainly women, lugging their bamboo poles with the baskets, more often than not, heavily laden with fruit.
It’s hard work. And a hard life.
And it always grabs me that little bit more when I’m leaving. It just makes it worse.
We’re soon onto that busy road, and up ahead is Long Bien bridge. We drive past and the market below it is a hive of activity.
It reminds me that we’re yet to see it, even though it was kind of penciled in for this trip. Will have to make amends next time.
Always leave something for next time….
On we go, and as we do, the sights just continue to grab me. I don’t know if it’s because we’re sort of locked away in a car, or whether the fact that we’re leaving just makes me more aware of what’s going on.
As always, it’s fascinating. But also a little sad, for want of a better word. It’s such a manual country, and the people just work so hard.
Like the ones that are sweeping a three lane highway by hand. Incredible.
The smog and haze is unbelievable today, and that would be making things just that little bit more difficult for everyone.
Onto the freeway, and we’re soon on the bridge that Toan and I got soaked on, almost three weeks ago.
Again, where did all that time go….
All too soon we’re at the airport, and as we walk through the doors, we’ve essentially left Vietnam.
I keep trying to get excited about seeing Kuala Lumpur, but all I can think about is not wanting to leave where I am.
We check in, and then the next job is to find immigration. You would think that that would be straight forward, but for some reason, we have a bit of a problem with that.
Perhaps it’s just us.
Gee, I hate airports…. Or maybe it’s more airport signage?
We eventually find where we need to be, and begin the standing in line to meet the happy and friendly people that allow you to enter and leave their country.
Oh well, at least the ‘people watching’ around here is mildly entertaining. If somewhat awkward at times, when most of the interesting stuff is people actually getting told off.
Like the guy that was told that he couldn’t take his bottle of water with him. He was obviously attached to the bottle itself, so he headed over to the bin and discarded the contents directly into it.
Hopefully the bin liner didn’t have a hole in it…..
Finally, it’s our turn, and Lisa heads up first.
Happy guy checks passport, then looks at Lisa to compare photo.
He’s not happy. Not because there’s anything wrong with the photo, but because Lisa is not standing exactly where he would like her to stand.
She moves the five centimetres required, and now he’s happy.
Well, maybe not happy, but at least happier than he was.
Lisa gives me a nervous look, and I just laugh. It’s always funny when it’s someone else.
Now it’s my turn to face the music.
Walk up, hand passport over, give smile.
Receive nothing. Not even a grunt.
I stand and wait.
And then it’s my turn to be told off. I wasn’t looking at him when he looked up to check me with the passport photo.
I was too busy watching a plane take off.
Duly scolded, I give him a ‘cam on’ as he returns my passport. I think he liked that, but there was no way he was going to show it.
Now through to the ‘other’ side, with a slightly more warm and fuzzy feeling inside, we begin the waiting game.
But now Lisa isn’t feeling that well. She’s a bit nauseous, and apparently food will fix that. Only been up an hour or two and she’s annoying me already.
But maybe it’s just because I’m annoyed that we’re leaving.
She goes off in search of her ‘medication’, while I go looking for a final caphe sua da.
I find a place that has it listed on their menu board, but, incredibly, they don’t have any left.
Every other coffee is available, but no caphe sua da.
I walk up and down the terminal, but I’m out of luck. I can’t believe it. And now I’m really pissed off.
I go back and find Lisa, who’s now happy with her Burger King chips, or whatever it was that she found, and sit there and just generally sulk.
After a pretty quiet wait, it’s finally time to board. As usual, most jump up to be first, and as usual, we wait for a bit.
Eventually on to the plane, and we find that we both have aisle seats. A little space between us might not be a bad thing….
Although, a little space between me and the girl with the body odour next to me, would have been a better thing.
Finally, we’re about to take off as the flight attendants do their thing. Body odour girl’s friend is only asked twice to turn her phone off, and the guy in front of me eventually returns to his seat, after being told several times to do so, while he’s talking to his mate a few rows back.
Fair dinkum, it just shouldn’t be that hard….
We take off, and now Lisa needs a water.
“Couldn’t have done something about that while we were at the airport?”, I mutter, while handing over a few thousand Dong.
But of course, they don’t take Dong. Fortunately, I have an Australian five dollar note, which they’re happy with, so disaster averted.
The day has only just started, and I’ve already had enough, so I attempt that sleep thing that I struggle with so much on planes.
Surprisingly, it actually works, and after the best type of flight; an uneventful one; we land in Kuala Lumpur just after 1.00pm.
Quickly off the plane, and seeing as we don’t really know where we’re going, we follow the masses.
And there, up ahead, is what looks like immigration.
It was kind of a ‘wow’ moment, but not a good ‘wow’.
More like ‘insert preferred expletive here’, with as many exclamation marks as you can find.
Seriously, I have never seen so many people in one area in an airport. It’s just madness.
We find the end of the queue, or what we thought was the end of the queue, and begin what looked like an incredibly painful wait.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Lisa’s not happy. I’m not happy. Whose great idea was it to spend a night in KL….
We snake along the line with the other 27 000 people here, all hopeful of a quick interaction with one of the three immigration staff on duty.
An hour later, and we’re almost there. Lisa goes through first and it all happens very quickly.
Which was good, because while I knew we didn’t need a visa, I had this little lingering doubt in the back of my mind that there was perhaps something, apart from our passports, that we should have had on us.
Finally it’s my turn, and while it all went smoothly, my immigration officer was a little more thorough with insisting my fingerprints were scanned.
For some reason, Lisa’s were not.
Mildly happy to be re-united, we head off in search of our bag. Thankfully, a bit over an hour since the plane came to a stop, it’s waiting for us.
Now the time had arrived to retrieve that information, locked somewhere away in my head, as well as in a few short notes written on a piece of paper, that I’d researched on the Kuala Lumpur Trip Advisor forum over a month ago.
Oh, and also the invaluable information given to me by the very generous Destination Expert, TN007, from the very same forum. I owe her heaps.
So, we set about trying to achieve our goal of finding a pre-paid taxi stand.
Notes consulted; and it should be over near the exit, off to the right.
Ahhh, and there it is. Doesn’t really look like I thought it would, but it does mention ‘pre-paid taxis’.
We head over and I show the rather disinterested woman behind the glass our hotel address. And yep, as previously advised, it’s 85 Ringgit.
But hang on, they only take cash. Not so excellent…..
“Where can I exchange money?”, I ask Ms Disinterested.
“Outside”, is the answer.
And sure enough, just outside the main doors, I can see an exchange place.
But then a thought enters my mind. Will I be able to get back in once I leave the arrivals hall?
I’ll worry about that in a minute, so I tell Lisa, now known as Mrs Happy, that she may have to activate the automatic doors to allow me back in.
I head out to turn dollars into Ringgits, and the most helpful person I’ve met in KL so far tells me it’s three Ringgit to one Australian dollar.
From memory, that sounds about right, so I hand over $100 AUD.
Quickly checking it, I then head back to the terminal doors.
It’s at this point that two things bring me to a stop; one is the sign that states “Strictly no admittance”, and two is the security guard standing at the door, who may, or may not, have been carrying a gun.
This is just going swimmingly…..
I head over to him, smiling nicely, and mention my money exchange and taxi issue. His response is one of no problem, and he lets me go through.
Well, that was far easier than I thought it was going to be.
Now re-united with the happy one, I then hand over my newly acquired Ringgits to the mumbling, disinterested one.
Voucher received, along with mumbled instructions to walk in a particular direction, before heading downstairs and finding ‘number 5’.
At least that’s what I thought she said.
Anyway, hoping that we’re going the right way, we begin our walk.
And we walk. And then we walk some more. I’m not sure if it was actually a long walk, but it certainly felt like one.
Eventually we get to an area where we can see downstairs. Good!, I think we’re in the right place.
But how do we get down there? I can see where you come up from there, but I can’t work out how to get down there.
We ask a couple of guys who appear to work here and they point us in the right direction of the ‘down’ escalator.
And of course, it’s just a few metres away, as well as being within eyesight, too.
I’ll blame the early start, as well as the slightly late night. And maybe airport signage….
Down the escalator, and sure enough, there’s ‘door #5”.
Ahhh, we’ve managed to do something right.
A young guy nearby then directs us to #24, and just as we spot that painted on a concrete pylon, an older, seemingly very friendly, guy, approaches us.
My initial thought is that that is not a great sign, seeing as when that happens in Vietnam, it usually ends up costing you far more than it should.
But, we’re not in Vietnam anymore, so we take a chance.
Bags are put in the boot, and we we’re soon on our way. And my initial impression of our driver being friendly is spot on. He was just a really nice guy and we had a great conversation with him on the drive in.
Eventually we arrive at our ‘home’ for the next 24 hours, the Sky Hotel Bukit Bintang. Chosen, after looking at a ridiculous number of hotels, based on what I thought was a fairly good location, as well as the price. And the price was fairly important, as we wanted to keep the room for the next day, seeing as our flight out wasn’t until 10.00pm the next night. I’m not sure if it’s a thing in KL, but I’d had no luck with trying to get a really late check out.
All checked in, we headed up to our room to get ourselves organised. It had been a little over two hours since we got off the plane, which, all things considered, probably wasn’t too bad.
But gee, it had felt like a very long two hours….
Back downstairs and we grab a map on the way out. Which would normally be handy, but I have no idea where we are. The receptionist marks the hotel on the map, which was good, but still doesn’t really help me.
Oh well, we’ll just do the walking thing and see where we end up.
Just up the road we find a convenience store, so we drop in for a look. Partly for a drink and a small snack, seeing as I’ve not eaten all day, and partly just to get a bit of an idea of what the prices are like in Kuala Lumpur.
Back outside, and still with absolutely no bearings on where we are, we keep walking. I then spot the Petronas Towers in the distance, and that just makes it worse. Looking at the map, they’re not where I thought they’d be.
I’m not sure I can blame the map…..
We head over the road, and kind of stumble upon Jalon Alor, which is good, as I’ve now seen both of the only two things I know of in KL.
At least now, though, I have a bit more of an idea of where we are.
We walk down the length of the street for a bit of a look; they’re only just starting to set up, and gee, don’t they love their Durian fruit!; and at the far end I’m surprised to see our hotel over the road. Didn’t realise we were that close!
Back up Jalon Alor and then we turn left. Down the hill and the offers of a massage begin. Forty eight ‘no thank you’s’ later, we get to the area that seems to have all the pubs.
Mental note taken for later.
We turn around and head back to the main road, before turning left. Starting to get a bit more of an idea of what’s around, we come across Farenheit 88, and then Pavilion, as well. Not sure why I knew about them, but must have just been because I noticed them when I was researching hotels.
We head into Pavilion for a bit of a look; after taking some photos of the rather impressive fountain out the front, as well as the little angry looking gnome type things that have been set up nearby to advertise the SE Asia games????
Big, shiny, glitzy, and very expensive looking. Shopping centres are never my thing, and when you see shops with their own doormen, well, they’re even less of my thing.
We have a look around, and Lisa seems to be of the opinion that we might be doing some shopping here tomorrow. I am of the opposite opinion.
We find a money exchange place so take the opportunity to change a little more. The rate is 3.245, which is essentially the same as I’d seen outside at 3.25.
Past the food court; more than a little tempted with the Vietnamese food place there but Lisa may well have had other ideas; and then outside again to make our way back to Jalon Alor. It’s been a long day and it is well past beer o’clock.
Back up the main road and it’s all feeling a bit more familiar. Although I wasn’t really expecting to see beggars on the street. Not really sure why, seeing as we have plenty at home in Melbourne.
Onto Jalon Alor, and not really knowing if we can just have a few beers without ordering food; it’s now almost 6.00pm and more beer time than dinner time; we ask one guy who approaches us.
Yep, no problem, so we take a seat.
Two beers ordered, and they’re quickly delivered. Along with the food menu.
“Ummm, that wasn’t part of the deal”, I want to say, but as I take a look at the menu, I realise I could go a small snack. It will make the ‘happy one’ somewhat happier, too.
Some satay sticks ordered, which were very good, along with a couple of beers, while people watching in a new country.
Yep, it was nice to finally sit back and take it all in. As well as try and understand a little about the place, which, I’m ashamed to admit, I know virtually nothing about.
Lisa starts to look like she’s struggling a bit, so I suggest she goes back to the room for a short nap. She does, which is good.
For both of us…..
One more beer, along with a heap more watching the world go by. While it’s too early to make a call on KL itself, I do like Jalon Alor. A lot.
I think it’s definitely my kind of place.
Time to head back, so I fix up the bill, which comes to 61 Ringgit. While it certainly ain’t Vietnam, it’s not too bad, I suppose.
Back at the room, and Lisa’s had a nap. She seems much happier now.
The air conditioning has probably helped as well, but the fact that it drips all over the floor is a little annoying.
A quick shower, and then it’s back out to find dinner. Which is, and was always going to be, Jalon Alor.
We walk up and down the street to see what’s around; there’s far too many choices; and then settle on one about halfway along.
I’m not fussed what we have, as long as they serve beer, I’ll be happy.
I let Lisa do the ordering; again, just an eat to live type person; and we end up with spring rolls, some sort of chicken dish, and something else that completely escapes my memory. Whatever it was, it was good. As too was everything else.
We’d made sure we ordered smaller dishes so we could have a bit more of a selection, but by the time we were done, we’d pretty much had enough.
We then got talking to one of the waiters, and on his recommendation, we ordered a serve of calamari.
It was good, but as I knew before we ordered it, we didn’t really need it.
We ended up just sitting there for a while enjoying a few of the bands / singers, as well as the general atmosphere of the place.
Yep, my initial feeling of Jalon Alor was correct. I love it.
Eventually it was time to move on so we fixed up the bill; four dishes, three beers – 115 Ringgit.
Back up the street, and we turn left towards those pubs that we’d found earlier.
“Massage?”, “Massage?”, “Massage?”, is the constant call, which is quickly followed by “No thank you”, “No thank you”, “No thank you”.
While it was a little annoying, it was mildly amusing at the same time. And I did have a bit of a laugh with a couple of them.
We get up to where the pubs are, and because we’re old now, we choose one that is a little quieter in both noise level and crowd numbers.
Being able to hear myself think, while I watch the world go by, is always a requirement.
Lisa, still a little jetlagged from our three hour flight and one hour time zone change, or maybe just still not feeling that well; I don’t know, I didn’t bother to ask….; has a Coke, while I, perhaps not surprisingly, go with a beer. Well, two beers, to be precise, seeing as they have this two for one thing.
So, two pints of Carlsberg; total 30 Ringgit. Yep, we’re not in Vietnam anymore, Toto…..
We sit, and while it’s not Vietnam, it’s still pretty good. But then again, life with a beer in your hand, especially when you’re people watching, is always pretty good.
We’ve only really been in the country, well, city, to be accurate, for about six hours, but I do actually like it. It’s growing on me.
I still don’t really understand it, and I really wish I’d spent at least a little time researching the place before we left Australia.
From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a bit Malaysian, a bit Indian, and a bit Chinese.
It’s also a bit old, with some character, but at the same time it’s a bit new.
There’s also a ‘basic-ness’, or perhaps ‘rustic-ness’, to it, which I love, but also a more modern and more expensive side there, as well. Which doesn’t really grab me as much.
But overall, I like it.
Eventually, it’s time to put Lisa out of her misery, and we head back up the road towards the hotel to be asked if we want a massage, again.
Massage touts dealt with, I then drop in to a convenience store for a couple of take away beers.
Back in the room, and in some need of charging a device or two, the realisation of us not having an adapter hits me.
Being the loving and caring husband that I am, I send Lisa down to reception. The thinking being that seeing as she’s already not that happy, being a little more unhappy won’t really make much difference.
Turns out I was wrong, but at least she was back in two minutes.
Charging issue solved, Lisa crashes about 11.30pm, while I continue with my usual regime of note taking, Trip Advisor, and beers on the bed.
But only for another hour, until I too give in to the sleep thing.
Yep, it’s been a long day, and we’re now down to less than 24 hours until we begin our final leg home.
While I’m kind of okay with that, I’m not really looking forward to returning to reality.
God damn it, that month seemed to go so quick….