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Boarding our flight to Malaysia

We left our hotel in Siem Reap this morning expecting a quick hop down to Kuala Lumpur which was not to be. The hotel taxi took us to the airport and here we found that our direct flight actually included a one hour stop over in Phnom Penh. While waiting at Siem Reap in what is quite a smart airport we tried to book our hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The mobile network did not allow international calls and the airport amazingly had no public pay phones. A new airport is being built and apparently this one will have phones!

It was a short hop to Phnom Penh where we all had to get off and wait in the airport for the connection south. This airport was very modern with shops, western style cafes, Ritazza coffee and even a pub. We could have been pretty much anywhere in the world. Before long we were airborne again and after a couple of hours we came into land at Kuala Lumpur having a brief glimpse of the Petronas Towers on our way down. Stef was already switching into the mode for the next country. Little things like announcements in Malay and English, and even the approach and attitude of the staff, started to indicate that we were about to enter a more modern and westernised (not that that is necessarily good!) world.

KL airport reinforced that feeling. The heat hit us as we stepped off the plane into the walkway but was soon replaced by air conditioning and a very efficient, modern and smart airport. We collected our bags and were pondering our choice of hotels before going into the arrivals hall, fully expecting the usual round of touts and taxis trying to get our business. A member of the airport staff came to check that all was OK and that we had all of our luggage, an unexpected and pleasant surprise and a first indication that people here will hopefully be very friendly and courteous.

We pre-paid our taxi to avoid the touts and were soon being whisked into the centre of KL. The airport is over seventy kilometres away from town so it is about an hours drive along very smooth and fast motorways where people drive on the “correct” side of the road – the left! We were both very grateful for the aircon in the car as the short walk from the airport to the car revealed how hot and humid the weather will be. The taxi driver told us it was currently pouring with rain in the city although it had stopped by the time we got there.

The motorway ended and before long we were in the midst of the city. It is the usual mix of high rise buildings but not on such a vast scale as the ones we saw in China. Cars seemed to be everywhere and the traffic was pretty solid but again in contrast to most other Asian countries it seemed to be orderly and disciplined not chaotic and crazy.

Stall selling durians - what an amazing smell!

We were dropped at our chosen hotel on Jalan Bukit Bintang, no longer the Novotel but now the Royale Bintang. It lived up to its name and was a bit of a luxury place to stay. The rates of course had escalated too but we were both too hot and tired to look for somewhere else. It looked very much like a business hotel and one where Chinese tour groups stay. From past experience we have learned that in the big cities it is worth staying at the smarter hotels. You benefit from the amenities and they are generally quieter and cleaner than the mid range options.

Our room was on the fifteenth floor and lived up to our expectations. Not only was it comfortable and spacious but from our window we had a clear view of both the Menara (tower) Kuala Lumpur and the Petronas Towers. Both we spectacular sights to see especially as darkness descended and their lights came on.

We ambled out a bit later to explore the local area, heading up Jl Alor which runs parallel to Jl Bukit Bintang. It was as if we had gone back to China. On both sides the road was lined with little eateries all with plastic tables and chairs lined up outside. It was a real hive of activity. We opted for a big place on the corner (which I think was called the Dragon View Restauran) and had a tasty meal the highlight of which for Stef was fish in very salty and spicy sauce. He has been dreaming of hitting Malaysia and its cuisine for months and was well and truly impressed with his first meal.