Kuala Lumpur, Part One
I'm liking Malaysia so far, mainly because the food is so tasty and so cheap. I've eaten solely at hawker centers since arriving Friday afternoon, and I haven't spent more than 8 MYR (about $2.75 USD) per meal. That's a dish and a drink, like tea. And I don't think I've even eaten at the best hawker stalls, but every meal has been really good.
My favorite meal so far was my first meal. I stumbled upon a laksa stall. I'd been told by many travelers to make sure to eat laksa, so when I found this little tiny stall in Chinatown, behind some electronics and clothes vendors (I went back the next day to look for the stall and couldn't find it– did it disappear only to reappear in the evening?? I will try to find it again when I come back to KL at the end of my stay here.), I was excited. I ordered off the homemade sign on the wall (asam laksa– fish soup broth), got the bowl, took a first slurp, and I was so happy. It was like a mix of sour, salty, a touch of sweet…all with some good noodles and some fish. So good.
Since I'm only in Malaysia for about ten days, I've limited myself to just visiting three towns/ cities: Pulau Pangkor, Melaka, and Kuala Lumpur. So I'm starting in KL and ending in KL.
I spent my first evening (after that delicious bowl of asam laksa) walking around Chinatown, Jalan Petaling (the main drag with all the vendors). It was kind of like New York Chinatown on drugs. So crowded, so busy, sooo many stalls selling the same things– cell phone cases, bags, t-shirts, various knock offs. And in between some of the vendors there were hawker centers tempting me with their bowls of noodles, plates of rice and noodles… I just wanted to keep eating, but I was full and needed to control myself. 🙂
I'm staying at The Explorers Guesthouse, a nice hostel right on the outskirts of Chinatown. It's in a great location (a few steps away from the Chinatown gate, so I've mainly been eating there), and it got great reviews on TripAdvisor. I have my own room and have to share the bathroom with the rest of the floor, but it's all clean and fresh (a fairly new place). And the main lobby also serves as a hang out area with free wi-fi.
For my full day (before heading up the west coast), I bought a ticket with the KL Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour bus. It cost 38 MYR ($12 USD). I think it was a great way to see the whole of the main city this way, at the beginning of my stay. Now I'll know what things look like above ground, and I was able to take a lot of surface photos of landmarks. When I come back to KL, I'll most likely walk a lot or take the underground. The only cons about bus travel are that it takes a long time (two and a half hours for the whole loop), so if you're in a rush or impatient to get places, this is not for you. But I wanted to have a day of leisurely travel, so this was perfect.
After a nice breakfast of pork congee for 5 MYR, I got on at the Central Market stop after an hour wait (that was way longer than usual) and then just sat on the bus for the whole loop. It was like a long tour bus because there is running commentary about landmarks along the way.
After doing the whole loop, I came back to Chinatown for lunch– some noodles and a deliciously fresh roti canai, both of which cost me a total of about 8 MYR or $2.60-ish (along with a drink). I love this place!
With my stomach filled (the good thing about portion size here in KL, or at least the hawker stalls in particular, is that they're pretty small, not like American portions. So I'll be plenty full but then I want to eat again in another 3-4 hours. Works great for trying different snacks and eats all throughout the day!), I ran some errands:
- Got a simcard and internet plan for my phone. It wasn't totally necessary, but I thought it would make travel in Malaysia a ilttle easier– to be able to do research and use the maps anywhere, not just in my hotels where there is free wi-fi. And it was pretty cheap, so I went with it: through DiGi, 30 MYR got me a sim card and 20 MYR credit to use for data. I chose a daily data plan of 100MB each day for 3 MYR. Not bad, I must say.
- Got a travel adapter from one of the Chinatown vendors. I thought I brought all the ones I needed. I bought a pack of them from Amazon– a great deal. But it ends up that I didn't bring the right one, so I bought one for 8 MYR. Cheap.
I got back on the tour bus and headed to the National Visual Arts Gallery, one of the stops on the loop. I saw that admission was free, and it seemed like an interesting museum. Plus it started pouring rain while I was on the bus, so I figured it would be a good place to spend a few hours in the midst of the storm, which I thought would just last a few hours.
It was a great stop. I spent about two hours there, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were some really cool exhibits, mostly showing Malaysian artists. It seemed like a new venue; everything was spotlessly clean. And I was the only visitor in the whole place– so I got five gallery spaces all to myself. Here's one piece I really liked, a big charcoal wall piece. I'm not sure if I wasn't supposed to take a photo of this; in other galleries, there were signs about not taking photos…
Made it back to the Central Market in time for dinner at an Indian cafeteria-type restaurant. It was a roti with a chicken and egg omelet type thing. It was tasty, but I think the plain roti canai was better. It was pouring rain all evening, so I just went back to the hostel and hung out in the lobby.