All about Seoul

Today it was time to head over to my next destination: Seoul, Korea.

I packed my bags and made the trek over to Taipei Main Station. I asked where I could catch a shuttle bus to the airport and was directed to Taipei Main bus terminal west which was outside the building and down the road a little bit. While walking over there and waiting for the lights, a crazy homeless woman started spitting at the people waiting to cross.

Inside the Bus terminal there was a vendor for many Bus companies. I bought a ticket for a shuttle bus to the airport thinking it would take me to the airport from the terminal. Well I was wrong. The bus weaved in and out of the busy city streets in Taipei, stopping at many stops before moving onto the freeway. I thought we were clear at this point, but no, once we got to one of the districts in new Taipei, the bus started doing the same thing. The trip to the airport took nearly 2 hours. I arrived at the airport with about an hour left before my flight left, but I managed to check in with no problems.

For the first time, I was using Korean airlines. The plane was an Airbus A330 like the one I took from Melbourne to Singapore and was quite spacious. There was a little delay as we were 7th in line for take off and it took about an extra 20 minutes for us to be able to take off. In flight I watched Last stand, with Arnie, although the captain was constantly making announcements which interrupted the move every time. Its pretty much a cheesy action flick, what one would expect from the previews.

Upon arrival in Korea I refilled my phones credit as I was out and decided to use the subway to get to Seoul station. The airport is a fair distance away on an Island just off Incheon. The airport line had about 8 stops before Incheon station. I was able to use my phone for about 5-10 minutes before it cut off. At first I couldn’t believe it, how could I have used $30 of credit in just 5-10 minutes, but later on I looked at woolworths rates for Korea. They are multitudes more expensive than other places, charging $1.10 per 100kb data. So that was it, I had decided not to use my data at any time in Korea. Because of this, when I arrived at Seoul station, I could not pull up instructions on how to get to my Hostel, so I taxi cab.

The people at the Sun city hostel are friendly and can speak English quite well. This is probably my favourite of the hostels I’ve stayed at so far. Upon arrival I flicked through the TV channels and saw the famous channels for watching video games. I noticed that they had actually sold tickets to audience members as well, it was something like a sport, there were two teams at different locations in the room playing World of Warcraft.

Afterwards I walked around the Area. I can see Seoul tower from where I am. There are a lot of restaurants near by. The service standard is very high. I entered what I thought was a mid class restaurant, but they went to great lengths to ensure I was comfortable and ensure the meal was exactly how I wanted it to be. All in all a nice first day in Seoul. I returned to the hostel for some sleep as I had to be up early the next morning.

 

 

Just popped out to the other side of the country for a quick visit

Today it was time to test the first of 3 High speed rail systems, the Taiwan HSR. Luckily the Taipei Main Station is the hub for the Taiwan HSR so I didn’t have far to travel. My first trip was to Zouying station in the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan. This trip would essentially span the country from the North to the South. The train was scheduled to leave at 8AM so I arrived at the station by 7:30.

The HSR Platforms are in a different location to the Metro and regular train service platforms. They are located just underneath Taipei Main Station. The ticket line was very short and quick to process as I had already booked online. As it was one of the first trains of the day, the platforms themselves weren’t open yet so we had to wait in a waiting area above. About 10 minutes before the train was due to leave, the platform was opened and we were allowed down.

I had a business class ticket, which was in the very middle carriage, car 6 on the train. The business class seats are large and spacious and allow a very high level of recline and legroom. The trains depart at exactly the time mentioned with no warning. The train is just sitting there, then suddenly at the allotted time it starts moving. The first part of the journey there wasn’t much scenery as we were in a tunnel. It was like this all the way to the first stop Banquio. After Banquio however, the tracks opened out onto open ground and we could see the country side.

The entire trip I could see multi story apartment complexes. There were many fields and rice paddocks as well, but always visible was some sort of housing, because the tracks head down the west side of the Island, which is where most of the population is as the East side is covered with mountains. You could see the mountains from the train as well but most of the scenery zoomed by pretty quickly as the HSR moves at about 270km/h. There are multiple stops along the way, but this train only stopped at Banquio and Taichung before my destination of Zuoying. In the business class cabin they came through with an assortment of drink choices as well as a snack, which that morning was a chocolate brownie.

The entire trip from Taipei in the north to Zuoying in the South took about 2 hours. I had given myself 4 hours here before I had to return to the station. When I arrived there, I was told about the Dragon and Tiger pagodas by Gavin in Kaohsiung and decided I would give them a visit. As I was no longer in Taipei, English was not spoken as much, however I managed to pull up the location on google maps and show the Taxi driver, so he took me to the padogas.

The Padogas themselves were closed so unfortunately I could not go inside them, however luckily they were right next to lotus lake, which was a big lake surrounded by Temples. I was able to walk around the lake and take a quick stop at many of the temples. They also had a dragon walkway and a temple located on the lake. All around the walk around the lake took about 3 hours including the various stops, so that took up the majority of the time in Kaohsiung. I then had to head back to Zuoying station for my next journey.

I was a little early at Zuoying station, so I decided to try a restaurant called ‘Mos Burger’. They had a rice burger there. The rice was a little plain but held together surprisingly well and the meat was nice. Then I headed back to the platform, the train was already waiting there. There was about 10 minutes till it had to leave so I was able to go to the front and get some photos of the train, before hopping on again. Once again, the train left at the correct time, right on the dot, without any warning, just started moving.

My next destination was Taichung in central Taiwan. It took about an hour to get there and once again I had given myself 4 hours at this destination. People who held HSR tickets could get a free shuttle bus to Downtown Taichung, so I decided to take the bus. I figured I would wait and get off at the final stop, which was Taichung park, but that was a big mistake as getting all the way there took about 1 and a quarter hours and there was very little at Taichung park. I was able to get some dinner though and do a little bit of shopping, as well as walk around the park. Unfortunately thanks to the long shuttle but journey, I had to cut the visit there, and catch the shuttle bus back tot he station.

It was night time by the time the shuttle bus came and dropped me off at the station, so it was time to head back to Taipei. I had to wait on the platform for about 15 mins before the train arrived and left bang on time. I was given another snack on this journey, which took about 55 minutes, to get back to Taipei. This was my last full day in Taiwan, so it was great to be able to see a lot of the island in a short period in a convenient way. Taiwan HSR is comfortable and efficient and the service rates highly.

The number beyond perfection

The day before the attendant at the information kiosk at the airport had circled 5 places in Taipei and had written 5 numbers, 1 – 5 based on the order of how these places should be visited. As I had visited number 1 yesterday, I figured I would visit numbers 2-5 today. After putting Aloe Vera on the many bites I had received during my nights sleep, I head out to the main station so I could catch the subway.

The second place there was to visit on my map was called ‘The Red House’ and really… I saw nothing special with it. It really just looked like any other building, possibly even more ordinary. There were a lot of electronic screens in this district though and the Presidential house was a short walk nearby so I took a walk by the palace. It was open for tours but I did not engage in a tour.

The third place was Shandao temple. There are many temples like these throughout Taipei and Taiwan which attract their fair share of tourists and worshippers. These places are highly commercialised with souvenirs for sale as well as incense sticks which is part of the prayer ritual for people who pray at the Temples. The temples contain a lot of statues, flowers and monuments and are built in traditional Chinese fashion.

The fourth place on the list was the Sun Yat-Sen memorial. Like the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial this had a large traditional style building, however, this one had a yellow roof instead of blue. Inside the memorial was a huge statue of Sun Yat-Sen who is considered the founding father of China. He is actually reasonably well revered in both the Republic of China and the Peoples republic of China. Below the monument there was a buffet restaurant where I had lunch before moving onto the 5th destination on the list.

The Taipei101 was easily visible from the memorial so I decided to walk there rather than take the subway. It took about 10 minutes to get to Taipei101 from the memorial. Like the Petronas towers, at the base of the building there is a large fancy shopping centre. Tickets and entry are sold on the top floor of the shopping centre. There’s a sign which indicates no bags allowed, however people took bags up anyway and were not stopped.

The elevator was quite fast. We got out on the observation deck. There is also an outside observation deck but it was closed due to weather. The windows gave a nice picture of Taipei from above, however it was a cloudy day and as a result we had limited visibility. I was able to get a free audio tour, where I learned the various meanings behind the number in in Taipei 101, including 101 being the number beyond perfection, 101%. The Skyscrapers main damper which helps reduce the buildings movement due to wind was also open and on display. Unlike the Petronas towers, visiting the Taipei 101 allowed free movement, so we could spend as long as we wanted up there. After about 1 and a half hours I returned back to the bottom.

In the shopping mall below Taipei101 there was a restaurant with quite traditional Taiwanese food called Din Tai Fung, which I had been told about before this trip. The speciality was dumpling and dumpling type food, you get given a menu where you write the number of each thing you want and they provide it. It was quite a great place for a meal. I am told there is a branch in Sydney but its much more expensive.

After dinner I sat in the food court to allow my phone to charge from my tablet, when someone at the other end of the table began speaking to me. He had just been for an interview at a bank at the shopping centre but had been told his English skills were not enough to qualify so he wanted to practise speaking English with me. He ended up telling me about a night market nearby, and offered to take me to it and I agreed. After waiting for my phone to charge he lead me out of the shopping centre and through the streets to a nearby night market.

The market was a long alleyway with all sorts of vendors along the side, vendors which included food, clothes and other retail. I walked from one end to the other, which took about 10 minutes while browsing the vendors.

On the way back, my accomplice, Sam took me to a book store via the 101 shopping mall, because that was the start of a series of bridges which connected various buildings in Taipei, and I could get what he called a special view of the streets from bridge to bridge. The bookstore was large with several floors all dedicated to books. I had a quick browse through some of the Science and travel books. Most were in Chinese but there were a few In English.

Afterwards we had decided to retreat. Sam took me to the nearest MRT station where we parted ways as he was going in the opposite direction to me. I needed to get up early the next morning, so I wanted to get some sleep after the busy day it had been.

 

 

First Day in Taipei

Hygeine is a very big deal in Taiwain. From the moment you enter the country your body temperature gets chcked in a thermal scanner to ensure you don’t have a fever, and then you step straight onto disinfectant carpet. Many of the people working in Taipei airport and indeed in and about Taiwan wear masks to prevent the spread of Germs.

It was about 6 in the morning when I arrived at Taipei airport, so I couldn’t yet go and check in to the hotel. This is the first place I had been to where they use a character set thats quite different from ours, however luckily most signs are in both Mandarin and English. There was an information Kiosk nearby. I asked the attendant if there was a tour I could take as my hotel wouldn’t allow check-in till much later. He suggested I call the hotel and see if they would allow me to store bags there for the morning. I gave him the Hostel details and he was able to find the number for the hostel (As it was not any place I looked). He tried to contact the Hostel but was unable to. He advised me that they would be contactable after 1pm. He suggested that I take the bus to Taipei main station (Which was just a few blocks away from the hostel) and put my bag in a locker caught while I go out to see some sights. I decided to take this advice. He gave me a Metro rail map of taipei and circled places and numbered them in the order I should see them.

I caught the bus, which cost $90NTD (1 Australian dollar is about 30 New Taiwan Dollars.) The airport iManilas quite far away from Taipei city. The area around Taipei has been incorporated into a city called New Taipei. It was cloudy and raining as I had come during rainy season. As Taiwan is fairly densely populated most of the buildings along the way consisted of large but old looking apartment blocks. Mountains were also constantly in view. It took about 40 mins to get to Taipei Main Station from the Airport.

THe main station is quite big and is a confusing maze. The Metro (MRT), Above ground train service (TRG) and High speed rail are all handled at different places. The Metro itself was quite a walk. After a bit of wondering round I managed to find some lockers big enough to fit my bags. I was then able to get to an information Kiosk to get help with signing up to use the internet at the stations as registration was required.

I walked down to the red line using the map given to me from the attendent at the information desk at the Kiosk. THe subway was just a token system, each destination has a certain price and you just pay say $20NTD to get to a station at a vending machine and get a token. You can then scan the token and put it in the machine at the destination.

The first place I visited was the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial. It was a huge building and monument dedicated to his life, alas no photos here as my phone was out of battery at the time. One thing I found out here is its a misconception that the Taiwanese government, the Kuomintang wants independence from China. Both Mainland China and Taiwan want a single state solution the difference being who would govern that state. Mainland China has stated that if Taiwan declares its independence, China would see it as a declaration of war. Its has also been thorised that the Communist Chinese government has helped the Kuomintang stay in power because opposition parties wanted to push for the independence of Taiwan.

After walking round the monument for a little while, I decided that taking the doctors advice about rest for my ankle might be a good idea, so I returned to Taipei main station and rested there for a bit. Then 1PM came. I tried the number but I got no response. I ddecided to walk up to the address and see if there was any more information there. The walk took about 10 minutes but yielded no new information. At that moment, someone just happened to come out from next door, and I was able to ask them about it. He tried the number and got through and talked with the managers for a little while. He even came up to show me my room after they told him, even though he had nothing to do with the Hostel. People in Taiwan are very helpful in general as I came to klearn from this and other experiences.

Having been granted access to my room, I decided I could go back to Taipei main station and get my things. However I was told to wait in my room and someone would come and give me further instructions. My room was a little bigger than the one in Kuala Lumpur, and had a window looking out over the street. The air conditioning was too high to reach though, so I didn’t bother. The bathroom was quite narrow and the front of the toilet was hard up against the wall. I waited in my room for 1 and a half hours but nobody cqame. I was getting a little anxious because even though I had the keys to my room now, I did not have the passcode to the front door, as the guy who had helped me punched it in initially and I had expected to recieve it as an intruction. I tried calling the managers, but I found them very hard to understand. I ended up waiting in the stairwell, till finally someone came. I was able to ask them about the code to the front door, and they demnonstrated how it worked for me. Helpful people. I could now go back to Taipei station to retrieve my bags.

The city was rainy, but all the footpaths have the cover of buildings. Many of the footpaths are wide, however they are made narrower by the fact they are always lined with motorbikes. Sometimes vendors also sell on footpaths which made walking a bit difficult at times. There is quite a few homeless people around the outside of Taipei Main Station, but at no time do you feel unsafe. It took me a bit of time to find my locker again, but eventually got to it and took out my bags. The price was $70NTD for the first 3 hours and another $70 for eachhour after that (I had to pay the extra $70 cause of the time I waited at the hostel). The only challenge in getting my bags back tot he Hostel was the narrow staircase leading from the front door to the rooms of the hostel.

Once again unfortunately, the rooms were not really good with sound. The people in the room next door would blast their music and sleepiung was difficult especially when people would make a ruckuss when entering and exiting the Hostel. I was also eaten alive my Mosquitos that night, first time all trip that had happened.

Scare at Changi

Once again I had a transit at Changi Airport in Singapore. The plane going into Changi was delayed for 30 minutes in a holding pattern due to air traffic congestion at the airport.

Upon landing I wanted to take a shower as I had been walking round Batu caves all day. I had about 2 and a half hours till my next flight so I started following the signs to the transit hotel which was down the other side of the terminal, near the D gates and up escelators in terminal 1. I asked them what the minimum stay was and they tokd me 6 hours, which was too long. There was also gym facilities but they closed at 11pm which was in 5 mins time.

I checked on google and read there were shower facilities in the rainforest lounge, which was again over the other side of the terminal. I headed to the lounge and asked if you could pay to enter or if membership was required. Luckily I could pay to enter, and I could also pay a cheaper rate to just use the shower facilities. I chose to do this, and went to the showers. As I was taking a shower I noticed my ankle was quite swollen, and the swollen part felt quite hot to touch. I had hurt that foot on my first day in Kuala Lumpur but had not had any symptoms on that foot since then. Another thought was in my mind, as I had done some frequent flying recently. Swelling like that can be a sign of DVT. I opted to end the shower early and asked the people at the reception of the rainforest lounge if there was a doctor I could see. I was told to wait in the lounge and someone would come get me.

I was beginning to fear how long this would take. If I did have a serious problem It could take hours to diagnose and do something about it, so there was a real possibility of missing my flight. Eventually a Nurse came up and took me to the Doctors office. As it was night, the doctor was on call, and he took a bit of time to get in. While we were waiting, the Nurse did a few prepatory test such as taking my blood pressure and temperature. The doctor came in and took a look at my ankle and did some quick tests and I told him about hurting my foot, but there being so sign of swelling toill now, 3 days later. It didn’t take him long to reach his diagnosis, It was too low on the ankle to be a DVT, what had happened is that I had sprained my ankle when I fell over in KL, and high altitude environments can cause an injury to swell, which is why it didn’t swell up until I flew to Changi.

I was relieved to have such a diagnosis, although the good came with a little bad. He told me about the RICE treatment for sprains, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, gave me an anti swelling rub on cream, bandaged up my ankle and gave me painkillers for if I needed them though I was told it was important to rest my ankle. A lot of my holiday involves walking, so im going to have to see if I can manage the next week with doing as little walking as possible, or find a walking stick or other impliments to reduce pressure on the leg.

By the time that was over, there was only 20 minutes till boarding time, and I was $149 Singapore dollars poorer, but the nurse took me to my gate on the airport buggy, so I was able to reach my gate in plenty of time for boarding.

Hyperchondriac? Maybe but at least it was good to get that peace of mind as well as have a doctor inspect my sprain. Who knows what damage I could have done had I left it undiagnosed?

Batu caves – Surprising little known wonder

I had not heard of this one before coming to Malaysia, but I’m glad I went because it ended up being my favourite experience in Malaysia. Batu caves is accessible via the KTM Kommuter. It costs $1 to go to Batu caves from KL Sentral. The train journey takes about half an hour and unlike my previous KTM Kommuter experience the train was reasonably empty, had plenty of seats and was well air conditioned. Each KTM Kommuter train seems to have mixed carriages and female only carriages. As my flight was scheduled to leave that night, I checked out early from the hotel, took my bags via taxi to KL Sentral and stored them in a baggage locker for the day.

Batu caves certainly aren’t a quiet place. They are nestled into the hills in the north of tu caves consists of Kuala Lumpur but they are a popular tourist spot. When I had first heard of Batu caves, I guess I had batman on my mind as I instantly thought it would translate to bat caves, but the name Batu actually comes from the Batu river that flows nearby. What they actually are are a series of large caves, with Hindu temples built in and around the caves. The scale and size of some of the caves are quite a sight. Though there is a slight deterrant for the laziest of us: Lots of stairs.

Around the bottom of the caves are various tourist stalls, a Hindu temple, Plenty of large Hindu statues and an art gallery. Walking past these you get to the entrance of the stairs that can take you up to the public caves. Free roaming amongs the stairs and areas are monkeys. These monkeys run about playing and getting up to mischief. There is stall with monkey food for sale near the railway station and probably others around. Halfway up the stairs a man offered a monkey a half full bottle of water. The monkey just dropped it in front of him, so the man picked it up and offered it again. This time the monkey grabbed it and threw it over the edge of the railing and hissed at the man. As I ascended, I had to be careful of monkeys playing as they were so close I felt like I could accidentally step on one at any time.

Just before getting to the top of the main steops, just off to the left, there was a minor staircase. I decided to see what was at this route first. The top of these side steps contained some of the best views of the KL skyline I had seen. At the top of the steps was a cave known as dark cave (as inside it was pitch black). I got up in there just in time to be part of a tour group. We were given hard hats and torches, although we were given strict instructions to only shine the light at a maximum of eye level, else you risk startling bats that congregate near the top of the cave and around the cave skylights.

Our first lesson was that the entire cave ecosystem was based on guano from bat droppings. As we walked through, we got to see plenty of animals that can only be seen in that particular cave. One was a species of Centipede, another a species of trapdoor spider and a few other small creatures such as snails and worms. We were shown various rock formations, such as Stalectights, Stalecmites, Cave curtains, cave columns, cave flutes (All of which are carbon deposits from water) as well as some formations caused by rocks eroded by water. And of course there was the obligatory point where everyone had to turn their torches off so we could stand in pitch black.

The cave wasn’t protected until the early 80s, so there is a lot of vandalism and grafitti in the cave from people who visited the cave in the 70s. Just before turning back the guide told us if we were lucky we might see a rare cave snake, a constrictor which he had seen earlier that morning near a bridge over bat droppings. As we went back over that bridge, we were indeed lucky enough to see the snake, but an even rarer site was before us as it was consuming a bat when we saw it. Overall the tour of the dark caves was about 45 mins long.

On the way back to the main staircase a monkey tried to grab someones robes as they walked past. I saw it creep up behind them, look curiously and reach out and grab them, softly. The monkey let go pretty quickly.

Up the top of the main staircase there were huge caves with several Hindu temples built inside. If you walked down into the main cave then up the other side you found yourself at the bottom of a large natural shaft.

On the way back down, I was carrying an empty water bottle, and a I saw a monkey shyly walk towards me, position itself behind me, reach out its arms and make a grab for the water bottle. It successfully grabbed the bottle but didn’t have much of a grip on it so I maintained possetion of the bottle. I didn’t want to give it ammunition to throw at people or other monkeys.

On the way back to the train station, people were throwing small bananas at the monkeys. They certainly had no issues living up to the banana stereotype as they wall all clamber quickly to get any banana that was thrown their way. It occured to me that it was the first time I had watched a monkey eat a banana in person.

When I arrived back at KL Sentral I realised that my time in KL was actually the first time I had been on the Eurasian continental land mass. After passing a bit of time, I bought a ticket on the KLIM Express, their train service to the airport. It is quite a good service, although due to trackworks on that day, they had merged the KLIM express with the KLIM Transit which means we had to stop at 3 stops aklong the way. It didn’t add too much time to the journey though, as the train would reach top speeds of 160km/h. Thus I ended my time in Malaysia at 9:20 that night. Onwards to a new destination.

Mini Las Vegas on top of a mountain

Is how Genting Highlands advertises itself. I left the hotel at about 8AM. Realising that this was probably peak hour, I opted to take a taxi straight to KL Sentral instead of the packed kommuter train. Upon arriving at KL Sentral I asked at the information desk about buses to Genting Highlands. This place was suggested to me when I bought some hiking shoes for Asia at Athletes Foot. The person who did my foot measurements was from Malaysia and suggested I go to Genting Highlands (Or Genting Island as he and some others call it). The next bus to Genting highlands wasn’t due for another 2 hours, si I opted to take the special taxi to Genting Highlands instead.

The Taxi journey took between 45 mins to an hour. The place is located about 60KM north-east of KL. I was dropped off at the bottom of Genting skyway, a cable car which can take people to the top of the mountain where Genting highland is. The cable car is over 3 km long and takes about 15 mins to get there. The cable car costs 6 Ringgit each way.

Genting Highlands is a bunch of resorts, casinos and theme parks on top of a mountain. They have 3 theme parks, in Indoor one, an outdoor one and a water park, which was closed). I wanted to go to the outdoor one, but getting around isn’t easy as I couldn’t find maps anywhere. I walked around through various resorts, trying to find the outdoor theme park and it took me about an hour. Entry to the outdoor theme park cost 54 ringgit (70 if you wanted to visit the indoor one as well). They have luggage storage near the entrance where I stored my backpack (10 ringgit for 4 hours). The outdoor theme par has various rides and roller coasters. Since I am not one for high inertial rides, I tend to stick clear of coasters. Other rides included dodgem-boats (Like the old dodgem cars but out at water), Vintage car rides, Rally kart rides, High drop rides, Dinosaur boat tour, and one called wave rider which spins quickly and goes up and down (Like riding waves).

Alas the complications of being situated on a mountain top quickly became apparent when it started to cloud over, leaving us in a dense mist which gave us low visibility and caused many of the rides to close. Still I was able to kill about 4 hours at the amusement park before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. I took the Genting Skyway back to the bottom, and took the bus back to KL Sentral. This time my taxi driver from KL Sentral to my hotel found the hotel in one go, so I gave him a bit of a tip before retreating for the night.

IMG_20130510_174112 IMG_20130510_113047 IMG_20130510_113043 IMG_20130510_104257 IMG_20130510_101217 IMG_20130510_101715

(View up skyway, from about 3/4 in)

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(View back down into valley)

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(First world hotel)

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(In the theme park)

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(Other resorts)

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(Cloud setting in)

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(Model of resort and parks)

 

 

Petronas Towers

The My Home Hotel’s floor structure in Kuchai Lama was quite confusing to me. While my room number was 403, they told my my room was on the second floor. Now this could normally mean one of two things: 1) I go up one flight of stairs as in the US system to the second floor, 2) I go up 2 flights of stairs, past Ground and level 1 as in the UK based floor systems. At this hotel it meant neither, I had to go up 3 flights of stairs to the 4th storey before finding level 2. It also doesn’t help that level 1 is 2 stories below. I think the third storey is a management level so they don’t include that in the numbering. The peak hour for this hotel seems to be 12am-6am. People out in the halls, slamming doors, all sorts of wonderful activity in this hotel with paper thin walls.

Outside of the Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, as the rest of South East Asia can be quite hot and humid. Waking up on the first morning, or the several times I woke up, I had no idea what time it was as my room had no window. It was not until I woke up for the final time that I realised that it was 11AM. Quite a bit later than I hoped, so I immediately got ready to go out. On the day I had first landed in KL I had decided that walking to the 1.3km to the nearest station was out of the picture, due to the walking infrastructure or lack of, so I took a cab to the train station Selak Selatin.

The previous day I had also viewed a map of the KL train system, so I knew where to go. I asked for a ticket to KLCC (Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre) But I was told that I had to buy a ticket to KL Sentral then get a ticket to KLCC from there. The ticket to KL Sentral from Selak Sleatin cost 1 Ringgit (About 30 cents). I worked out later on that this train line was on what is known as the KLM Kommuter, probably a private track or run by a different company, or a different system all together, thus could only go to KL Sentral to go to other tracks. A train pulled up at the station about a minute later. I asked a local if it went to KL Sentral and he said it did. Despite it being midday at the time, well past peak hour, the train was pretty packed, and I had to stand. The train was fairly modern, although it was only 2 carriages long. It had a little tv screen which showed the next station and played advertisements, and had a little dynamic map showing where the train currently is and where we were going. The train waited for another 5 minutes at Selak Selating before leaving.

It took another 2 stops to get to KL Sentral. This is their central station. Its a large station with all transit facilities and taxis.. etc. I decided to see if I could walk to the Petronas towers from KL Sentral, unfortunately trying to get around nearby that place while walking is like a maze and I gave up after about 30 minutes. I couldn’t even see the Petronas Towers from where I was. I did notice however the KL is a very green city, with lots of trees, even close up in the city.

I resigned myself to taking the train to KLCC using the regular train lines. I walked to the ticket counter, but they told me I had to use the machines. So I walked over to the machines. They have a map of the train system, and you have to tap the place where you want to go. It brings up a zoomed in area of the place you tapped, and you have to tap the station again to confirm. From KL Sentral to KLCC it cost 1.60 Ringgit. After paying, the machine dispensed a blue token. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but after watching locals I figured out it could be scanned at the turn aisles before walking through. Then entered into a little coin slot at the destination station.

The train to KLCC was very much like a tram. It was even shorter than the last, and on a raised platform. Once again standing was required as there were very few seats and the train was fairly full. KLCC was only 3 stops away however so it didn’t take long to get there. Immediately getting out at KLCC there is a large shopping mall. This shopping mall is at the foot of the Petronas Towers. Its about 6 stories tall and at places you can view the towers from within. All around the outside is a tourist area with restaurants, a water park, a fountain and the convention centre.

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(Shopping Centre dome)

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(Fountain)

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(Petronas Towers from below).

I managed to make my way around the outside of the building and find the entrance to the Petronas towers. There’s an escalator up the back that heads down to the place where you can buy tickets and line up to get into the towers. While down there I was told by one of the support staff that the best time to get a ticket to go up the towers was at 7PM as I could watch the sunset at that time. So I bought a ticket for 7PM. As it was still only about 2PM, I had some time to kill. I read on the ticket to the towers that I could use the ticket for half price entry to the Sultans of Science Exhibit at a nearby museum on the 6th floor of the large shopping centre, so that’s where I headed.

The Sultans of Science exhibit contained inventions and breakthrough devices by Islamic Scientists between the 8th and 13th centuries. This was the time when the Islamic world was at the forefront of scientific discovery. They showcased various inventions by Islamic inventor Al-Jazari, and talked about the first heavier than air non powered flights (The early gliders made long before the Wright brothers powered flight). They also showcased medical equipment, astronomical equipment, navigational equipment and maps and books of cultural understanding. Alas my phone was out of batteries so no photos from here.

After walking round the shopping centre for a while longer and finding a place to briefly charge my phone, I had some dinner at a place called ‘The Dome’. I had a great club sandwich, which had chicken pesto and beef on it. That was all I had as I was still on the tail end of the bug from Indonesia. Hopefully once this thing is in the past ill be able to try more local foods in places such as Korea and Japan.

Then the time came to visit the tower. I had bought a ticket for 7PM, but was advised to be at security by 6:45. In most buildings or towers in the US or Australia, you can head up top to the observation deck, and stay for as long as you want before coming down. This is not the case with the Petronas towers. They have fairly strictly timed tours, so you can’t spend a long time up the top. The lifts could only fit a certain number of people so each group of people was given a different lanyard colour, which is how they could ensure people came and left with the group from their allocated time. After watching a brief introduction video that was projected onto steam, we were able to go up the lift. The first part of the tour actually involved the bridge between the 2 towers on the 41st floor. We got to spend about 10 minutes on the bridge:

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(The bridge itself)

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(View down from bridge)

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(KL Sunset from bridge)

After 10 Minutes, our group was called to head up to the observation deck. Going up to the top, there were 3 sets of lifts, One to take us up to the bridge, a second to take us to the 83rd floor and a third to take us up to the 86th floor. We were allowed to spend 15 mins at the observation deck on the 86th floor as we watched the sun set.

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(KL Day to night transition)

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(KL Night time)

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(Other Petronas tower and Kuala Lumpur tower)

On the observation deck there was also a model of KL and a tv screen showing the Petronas towers throughout various times of the day.  There was also a TV screen with a camera pointed back towards the viewer. If you took out the ticket and faced it towards the camera at a certain angle, a 3D model of the towers would appear.

After visiting the Petronas towers I decided to head back to the hotel. It was about 8PM. The trip from KLCC to KL Sentral was largely uneventful, however the train from KL Sentral back to Selak Selatin was an unpleasant journey. Even thought it was past 8PM, the train was jam packed, and it stood there motionless at KL Sentral for 20 minutes. Finally it departed, but kept stopping along the way. It took a good while to get to Selak Selatin where I had to fight my way through the crowds off the train. There were no Taxis at the taxi rank, where I waited for 10 minutes, when I was told by a local I had to wait at a different place down the road a bit. As this hotel is quite new, it is still not on the Taxi drivers GPS. As a result the taxi driver from Selak Selatin, ended up driving my quite a fair distance in the wrong direction, to another hotel in the My Home hotel franchise. I eventually just asked him to drop me off at the McDonalds in Kuchai Lama and said that I would find my way back to the hotel from there. The fare by this point was at 20 Ringgit, but he only charged me 8.

I was feeling quite tired, and unusually sore and drinking water made me feel sick. I knew I had lost quite a bit of fluids recently, so I tried an isotonic water from the 7/11. I think that did the trick cause the next day I was feeling 100% better. I ended up getting to bed around 11PM that night, hoping for a quiet night from my neighbours.

Its not Singapore, but at least its not Jakarta.

Here I am in sunny Kuala Lumpur. By sunny I mean rainy and stormy, but Kuala Lumpur none the less. When father Ted mentioned he didn’t like to fly cause ‘Had god intended us to fly he would have built the airport closer to the city’ he may well have had this place in mind. I saw more rural scenery in the trip from the airport to the city than I did in Eastern Java. The flight from Changi to Kuala Lumpur airport is about 35 mins. Kuala Lumpur seems to overall be a low densely populated metropolitan region, once you get out of the city.

My hotel room is a lot smaller than the last. The next 3 nights I will be staying in backpacker style accommodation. Although my room is small, it has a bathroom with a typical Asian shower where the whole bathroom is the shower and the shower head is hand held.

I went out for a quick walk but I couldn’t get very far. The footpath infrastructure is terrible, with massive parts of the pavement caved into deep drains, and footpaths ending abruptly in some places without reason. They don’t make it easy to cross roads either, when you get to a set of traffic lights and push the button to walk, absolutely none of the lights I tried would change, even after waiting 10 mins. Only choices are to wait for a break in traffic (fat chance) or weave in and out of traffic like the locals.

I have no wireless internet access in my room, so my internet will be limited to me finding cafes or other places to post from.

Now what are the chances of me finding Kokusho here?