Kuala Lumpur By My Lonesome

Chalk it up to a sheltered upbringing, but I’ve always traveled with companions when going outside the country. Last year’s Singapore trip was the closest I’d ever gotten to traveling alone, and that was because I needed to fly back to the Philippines earlier than my travel buddy Julia.

Last February 14-18 I went to Kuala Lumpur to attend the Les Mills Ultimate Super Workshop at Sunway Resort Hotel. Anyone familiar with Kuala Lumpur knows that Sunway isn’t inside the city itself, so I booked a room at Sun Inns Hotel Lagoon for about P1,000/night. The Agoda.com listing said it was a 10-minute walk to Sunway Resort from there, so I figured it was convenient enough.

Using Google Maps

Using Google Maps

I would just commute into the city if I wanted to see the Petronas Towers or go shopping at the major malls there. I downloaded some apps to help me get around, like CityMaps2Go, TripAdvisor City Guides, the KL Trains app, and of course, Google Maps. These apps helped me get a general sense of where everything would be in relation to each other, but I knew things would be different once I was actually there.

At NAIA3 with my travel buddy Brooke's Bear

If Tom Hanks’ “Castaway” had Wilson, I have Brooke’s Bear

(I take this little bear with me every far-flung place I go, in memory of my departed niece Brooke. She’s a piece of home.)

Before my flight from Manila took off, I discovered some of my co-workers and fellow Les Mills instructors on the same flight, so I wasn’t all alone anymore. The best part about this is when we landed in KLIA-LCCT (the low-cost carrier terminal), three of us who were booked around Sunway split the taxi fare, which is much cheaper than taking separate taxis.

impromptu company

impromptu company

wearing my comfy Mizuno BE shoes on the plane

wearing my comfy Mizuno BE shoes on the plane

I bought a TuneTalk simcard at the airport, expecting to have full BlackBerry service because it cost 30 ringgit or about 400 pesos. To my consternation, that 30 ringgit seemed to have been flushed down the drain because I didn’t get service AND there was zero value loaded onto the sim. Grrr!

Apparently, TuneTalk’s “unlimited” BB service only included BB Messenger and Twitter. Frustrated, I checked into my hotel and just used the free WiFi to research on what local carrier had better BB service. I’d forgotten that the last time I was in KL, I had purchased a DiGi simcard.

Sun Inns Hotel Lagoon superior room w/ window

Sun Inns Hotel Lagoon superior room w/ window

 

My hotel room was cozy enough; I’d gotten a two-bed superior room with a window, so I used the spare bed as a place to lay all my things out on since the room didn’t have a closet.

By then it was already around 8:30pm and I was starving! Since the Pyramid Mall was just around the corner, I walked over there to see where I could get something to eat.

I ended up at a McDonald’s.

McDonald's. At least it's chicken?

McDonald’s. At least it’s chicken?

 

I guess I didn’t want to go on any food adventures my first night alone in an unfamiliar city. Sure, I knew some of my co-worker friends were close by, but because they were afraid of roaming charges, none of them wanted to use their phones to text and meet up! If I had a bad food reaction, I had no one to call on. So, yeah, McDonald’s.

Later that night I called my parents over FaceTime. I don’t normally feel homesick my first few days away, but it was good to see their faces and hear their voices.

Best. Invention. Ever.

Best. Invention. Ever.

For breakfast the next morning, I walked past the Pyramid Mall with its distinctive lion Sphinx head looking for food. I could have eaten at theΒ mamak stall on the ground floor of the hotel, but again I was scared of unfamiliar food. There was a 24-hour KFC branch open amid a cluster of other establishments, so I got myself a blueberry pancake set. (Pancakes at KFC? That’s new for me!)

Pyramid Mall Sphinx

Pyramid Mall Sphinx

blueberry pancakes at KFC

blueberry pancakes at KFC

 

After breakfast, the mall was already open, so I went in and did some window shopping. I didn’t manage to bring home any windows (ha ha), but I went to the Cold Storage supermarket and bought some fresh food: a sandwich for lunch and a bunch of bananas for the next few days. I also found a DiGi outlet and really attentive staff that helped me get a new simcard with full BlackBerry service.

it's all about the bling-bling

it’s all about the bling-bling

Chinese junk ship at Sunway Pyramid

Chinese junk ship at Sunway Pyramid

Sunway Pyramid's ice skating rink

Sunway Pyramid’s ice skating rink

old guy looks like he came straight out of a kung-fu movie

old guy looks like he came straight out of a kung-fu movie

sale! oh no

sale! oh no

Oh. My. Captain!

Oh. My. Captain!

DC Comics Shop

DC Comics Shop

Superheroes + Shoes. I die.

Superheroes + Shoes. I die.

Holika Holika

Holika Holika reminds me of Majolica Majolica

Chinese shoe brand Li-Ning

Chinese shoe brand Li-Ning

"Italiannies"?

“Italiannies”?

Sunway Resort & Spa

Sunway Resort & Spa: the venue for the LM Workshop

While wandering around the mall I inadvertently discovered how to get to the nearby water park which the area had become famous for. Sunway Lagoon is a destination for families and groups of friends; it looked like a bigger, more successful and outrageous Splash Island to me. Plaques on the viewing decks explained that the Sunway area had formerly been a tin mine which developers had rehabilitated into a resort destination.

Sunway Lagoon Resort

Sunway Lagoon Resort

Sunway Lagoon Resort

Sunway Lagoon Resort

By the afternoon I knew most of my fellow instructors and friends attending the weekend’s workshop were already in the area. Because I’d made my travel plans separately I didn’t know where exactly they were so I could meet up with them. Even though I was able to tweet them and track them on Foursquare, I ended up eating dinner by myself at The Chicken Rice Shop in the mall. (We have Chicken Rice Shop branches in the Philippines already so I found myself wondering if this was authentic cuisine. LOL)

milk tea from Chicken Rice Shop

milk tea from Chicken Rice Shop

set meal from Chicken Rice Shop

set meal from Chicken Rice Shop

I started to make plans for the next day’s excursion. I would be heading into KL city itself to shop and to meet up with some other friends who were there on a separate holiday trip. Instead of taking a taxi (expensive!), I took the U623 bus from Pyramid Mall to Kelana Jaya LRT station. Then, I took the train all the way to KLCC. I found out how to do this by googling and also by tweeting the bus line.

old and new bills and coins

old and new bills and coins

Being a solo traveler has its perks. I don’t have to wait for anybody when I want to go somewhere, and I only need to be concerned about my own comfort. Sure the bus and train ride weren’t very plush (being chauffeured around is nice), but it was cheap so I could spend more on shopping and dining!

real-time bus schedule board

real-time bus schedule board

no, this was not the bus I took.

no, this was not the bus I took.

on the bus

on the bus

At some point during my bus ride I thought I missed my stop, so I approached the driver and asked him what I should do. He just told me to take a seat and wait. Apparently, the endpoint for the bus trip was at the Kelana Jaya station anyway, so I didn’t need to worry.

the train

the train

got a seat!

got a seat!

I left Sunway by 8:30am and took breakfast at Suria KLCC Mall when I arrived around 9am. The strong WiFi signal from a neighboring restaurant allowed me to browse Path, where I found that some of my instructor friends staying in the KLCC area were planning to take the train and bus to Sunway for their workshop sessions that day. I was able to meet up with them and give them directions before I headed off to do my own sightseeing.

Petronas Twin Towers

Petronas Twin Towers

proof I was there. haha

proof I was there. haha

kaya toast set from Coffee & Spice Company

kaya toast set from Coffee & Spice Company

I planned to take two trains from KLCC to get to Bukit Bintang where Sungei Wang Shopping Plaza is located. That’s what I had done on my past trip, but before they left for Sunway my friends told me about the free purple bus line which shuttled people around the main commercial centers, which included Bukit Bintang. Awesome!

free shuttle!

free shuttle!

cat face at Sungei Wang Plaza

cat face at Sungei Wang Plaza

Sungei Wang wasn’t what I remembered it to be; back in 2011 the place was filled with small shops and boutiques selling clothes and shoes at bargain prices. This time around there were fewer selections, many of which I’d already seen in Singapore last year. There was a Cotton On store there though that sold items for 15 ringgit apiece (just under 200 pesos), so I bought a bunch of fun tops. The VINCCI store was also on sale, so I bought a new pair of shoes.

Cotton On top

Cotton On top

VINCCI!

VINCCI!

I then returned to Suria KLCC on the purple bus to meet up with my friend Judith, who had come to KL with a group of our mutual friends just on holiday. It just so happened our travel dates coincided. It was sooooo nice to spend an afternoon with people I know; I mean, after a day and a half being alone, I wanted to be anything but anti-social!

with Judith at a Starbucks

with Judith at a Starbucks

All that walking around left me thirsty, so I shelled out 4 ringgit for a bottled water at Dome before I computed in my head that it was a 60-peso bottle of water. Ouch!

expensive water

expensive water

The forecast for the weekend predicted cloudy weather and rains for KL, so I had a folding umbrella in my bag at all times. Good thing too, because it started raining on the bus ride from Kelana Jaya station to Pyramid Mall.

rainy Sunway

rainy Sunway

I finally met up with some instructor friends for dinner. We went to Old Town Coffee where I attempted spicy food for the first time since my arrival. (On second thought I shouldn’t have, because each glass of water I consumed was priced at 80 sen. I had two glasses!) I also had one of the best, creamiest teh tarek I’d ever tasted.

Old Town White Coffee

Old Town White Coffee

teh tarek. slurp!

teh tarek. slurp!

Our workshop was the next day, and it was a tiring but fun-filled day of learning new routines for our group exercise classes and upskilling ourselves as instructors. You can read more about it in this blog entry. There we also reunited with instructors formerly from the Philippines who were now based in other countries in Asia.

dinner at Bubba Gump. wow, bagong-bago.

dinner at Bubba Gump. wow, bagong-bago.

It was with a lot of pleasure I received the news I would be flying home with a group of my fellow instructors. Yes, I’m a loner type, but I get kind of sick of talking to myself on Twitter especially when I know I’ve got friends around. Also, hooray for shared cab fare!

Brooke's Bear says Bye-Bye Malaysia

Brooke’s Bear says Bye-Bye Malaysia

I still spent most of our departure day just packing my things and wandering around Pyramid Mall looking for interesting food to try out (I never got up the courage to try the mamak stall on the ground floor of my hotel).

Ah Cheng Laksa pan mee

Ah Cheng Laksa pan mee

curry flavor? tastes like barbecue.

curry flavor? tastes like barbecue.

It started raining pretty hard on our way to the airport; our taxi driver mistakenly took us to KLIA, which isn’t the same thing as the LCCT. We got back on the right track then, so it took only a bit longer to get to our airport, which was being buffeted by strong winds and rain coming in sideways. I was freezing by then so I hit up the MarryBrown (local version of McDonald’s) for a last cup of teh.

Nestle Teh Tarek from MarryBrown

Nestle Teh Tarek from MarryBrown

rainy departure

rainy departure

So glad to go home.

So glad to go home.

Every time I travel out of the country, I see things I wish we had, like a more organized public transportation system, or more extensive rail lines, or less pollution. But I also see the good things we have that we usually take for granted, simple conveniences like free iced water at restaurants or cheaper food, or even just the presence of friends and family who are one call or text away.

When I got home that night, I feasted on sinigang na bangus in the company of my family. There’s no place like home.

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