Day 220: Very Civilised

Thur. 21st March 2013

We all miss Harry Worth!We could justify getting a taxi from Kuala Lumpur (KL) airport when we arrived in Melaka – it was late and we weren’t sure where the buses went from or how they worked – however, we don’t have those excuses now that we are heading back to KL. Besides, although time on a bus is often time wasted when you are on holiday, we are travelling and buses are just part of the experience and our adventure.

Melaka is well provisioned with taxisA little research told us that there were plenty of buses from Melaka to KL but that we needed to get to Melaka Sentral (sic) bus station. You’d have thought that the clue was in the name and that this would be in the centre of town. Not a bit of it! It is 3km north of town and the only way to get to it is via taxi. Ah well. We agreed a price of MR20 (£5) – I suspect that I was supposed to haggle. At least we are supporting the local economy.

Spoilt for choice with bus companiesThe bus station is modern and massive. It is possibly the best bus station we’ve been to on our trip. It is like the South American bus stations that we used all those months ago with rows of bus company stalls selling tickets for their buses. You find a window that is advertising buses to the place you want to go at a time you want to travel for a price you want to pay. For KL, the selection is plentiful, but there are buses going to elsewhere in Malaysia as well as to Singapore (probably only a 200km or so south of here).

Comfy modern busesUnlike the bus stations in Indonesia, this is calm and orderly as well as being indoor and air-conditioned. All big plus points. We have just missed the 10:30 bus and so settle for the next one at 11 o’clock (you’d think with all the various companies they’d stagger the departure times but they all seem to go on the hour and half-hour). When we board, the seats are comfy and the non-stop trip to KL about 150km or so away takes us 2 hours and costs us a total of MR24 (we did overpay for the taxi). We do miss, a little, the gymnastics of the conductors in Indonesia as they open the doors with their feet, gesticulate to the driver and passengers and generally dart around. Equally, it is good just to settle back and contemplate our time in Melaka.

One reason why we're going to KLMelaka has proved to be a good choice of places to visit for a few days outside of KL. There has been enough to see and do to keep us busy and it has helped us to get a feel for the history not just of Melaka but also of Malaysia. It is a cliché to call somewhere a ‘melting pot’ but Melaka really seems to be just that. Their history of being run as a colony first of the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British is a reminder of the development of Europe and competition between European states. Here European traders mixed with Chinese, Indian and Arab traders making this such an important port. We were also reminded of Cheng Ho who was sailing long voyages 70 years before Columbus and also the 19th century deal done between the British and Dutch that mean that the Brits got Malaysia and Singapore and the Dutch got Indonesia.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) - just hugeIf we thought that Melaka Sentral was massive and modern then we should have known that Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) in KL would be even more so. We had hoped to get a bus direct to KL Sentral (which is reasonably central) but all the buses seem to go to TBS. Whilst it is nice to arrive somewhere that is clean and bright and efficient looking but with it being so massive we got to the arrivals hall and thought “well, now what?” The answer was twofold – trip to the loo first (enough information) and then lunch in the massive foodcourt. I’m getting quite a liking for Malaysian fast food – much more healthy and variety and much less greasy than UK fast food.

Not sure why I look so surprisedFeeling refreshed, it is off to the adjoining train station to get to KL Sentral for the LRT metro train to the stop near our hotel. As we are staying in KL for at least 4 and perhaps 6 days, we want to get a reusable, pre-paid travel card (like an Oyster card). We’ve heard that we do exist but when we try to purchase one first at TBS and then in KL Sentral we get pointed elsewhere and so resort to buying single ticket journeys. Not that they are expensive, it just means queuing at the ticket machine.

First glimpse of Petronas towersAfter changing at KL Sentral – another massive station where it takes us a little while to orient ourselves and to work out which signs we should be following for our LRT train. Because this is Grand Prix weekend and we were worried about both the price and availability of hotel rooms we booked our rooms at the G Tower back in January when we booked the GP tickets. Our criteria for selecting the hotel that it should be closeish to the Petronas towers and by an LRT station so that we could get around. That rooms seemed to be cheaper than we were expecting meant that we splashed out on a hotel that looked nice and had had good reviews.

We lucked out with this hotelIt seems we lucked out. G Tower turns out to be ‘swanky’ – possibly the poshest hotel we have stayed in on our trip. Our bedroom is massive – lots of space, dedicated wardrobe/dressing area, a proper desk, high speed cable as well as wireless internet, lots of mains sockets (Malaysia has gone for UK mains sockets). Bliss! When we started out on our trip though we did the blog every day, we did not sort and rate our photos for the first few weeks (until we realised we’d be in trouble at the end of the trip if we didn’t keep on top of our photos). I have gradually been working my way through the backlog and just the other day was looking at Playa del Carmen (in the Yucatan) and the quirky hotel we stayed in there. It certainly is a world away from this – though as we had just flown in from Cuba, we had similar thoughts that we had arrived in civilisation. Just shows that all things are relative.

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