Kuala Lumpur – Couchsurfing the Capital

We had a relaxing final day on the Perhentians with little to write home about before setting sail for the mainland the next morning to get the earliest bus to Kuala Lumpur. We JUST made it in time for the morning bus to KL. The ‘highly intelligent’ boat companies had come to the inexplicable conclusion that the ONLY boats leaving in the morning should dock at Kuala Besut at the EXACT time the ONLY morning bus to KL was leaving…especially clever considering KL is where the vast majority of tourists would head after the Perhentians!! Genius. But, we made it in the nick of time, had a healthy can of coke for breakfast, & off we went KL bound. The bus ride was about 8 hours. Pretty long you say?!?… Well the sad thing is this bus ride felt about right to me, not too long, but long enough so I felt I was venturing somewhere new. We arrived in KL at 6:30ish ready to meet our host. Instead of our usual tactic of turning up & heading to a random hostel in the hope it has rooms available & the Lonely Planet review was accurate we had decided to opt for COUCHSURFING. A brilliant idea created in a similar way to Facebook, starting out as a student project & evolving into a massive network of hosts & surfers. The website is a network of travellers who offer their couch (or spare bed) to other travellers for free & advice them on what to do while they’re travelling in their neck of the woods. We met our host, a Chinese Malaysian called Dan Choo at  Times Square in the city centre which was where he worked. Not as infamous as its New York’s namesake, it was in fact a gigantic mall owned by a massive Malaysian conglomerate, the Berjaya Group. Dan was hosting another ‘couchsurfer’ as well so we all had dinner out before hanging out for a while back at Dan’s house before hitting the sack. The next day Dan gave us a lift into KL & Nicky & I ventured off, trying to navigate another new place.

Our first port of call was the British Embassy, followed swiftly by the Korean Embassy. We needed to get our work visas issued for Korea, & KL was the place to get it done. After a carefully timed package from Mother Farrow, a helpful lady at the British Embassy & a helpful lady in the Korean Embassy all was sorted & weeks of panic were put to rest. 

KL Tower

Petronas Twin Towers

We continued on our merry way to explore KL. The Petronas twin towers at the heart of KL are definitely the stand out structures in this bustling cosmopolitan metropolis. We stopped by for quick look-see then carried on to the KL tower. Much older & less inspiring, but still a dominant tower in the KL skyline, the KL tower is set on top a hill surrounded by the only remaining ‘rainforest in a city’. Yeh, you did read that right. A tropical rainforest in the middle of the city. Very random. We went up the lofty structure & peered down at the city below. The views were pretty good but there was a fair bit of cloud in the air… maybe smog, not sure, but either way it didn’t help our viewing! The zoo at the base of the tower was even less inspiring. The conditions were pretty horrific which seemed so odd as the brochures were all banging on about the brilliance of the rainforest & how we should all help overcome the challenges nature faces today… then you enter the zoo & the animals look like they’re going to keel over at any second!!!   

A murky KL skyline

  We dashed out of there sharpish on to Merdaka square. The square is a strange mix of Arabic & Georgian style?! Very difficult to picture I imagine!? The main focus is a prestine Islamic palace, Masjid Jamek,  surrounded by mosques. At the centre is what can only be described as a village green!?… which separates Masjid Jamek from a Georgian-style row of town houses. Very odd, but most certainly an intriguing & charming mixture of architecture as well. We pottered about the central market for a while before meeting Dan for the 30 minute drive South of the city. 
The benefits of staying with a local were far from just the financial gains of saving on room costs. Advice on places to visit & trying new foods we wouldn’t normally order were bigger advantages. Despite trying numerous random tastes of the local culture before KL, we had always peered at other peoples’ plates & wondered what they had ordered that looked so good. The language barrier forced us to order the easiest… or the cheapest thing available. Given the immense diversity & richness of Malaysian culture we were spoilt with Dan ordering for us! Malaysia’s heritage is an amalgamation of Indian, Chinese, Malay & Java, all with somewhat similar but still unique cultures, so the food was awesome!!! Anywho,… We left Dan after a mammoth breakfast & headed to KL sentral (no spelling error, that’s the bus terminal’s name) hoping to get to Taman Negara, Penninsular Malaysia’s biggest rainforest. But, the tickets were sold out!! So, we decided to go to the Cameron Highlands instead.  

 

~ Rhys ~

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