Adventures in KL

We finally got to KL on our adventures around South East Asia!  We flew in to Kuala Lumpur and spent a few days there on an extended visa run.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

But first, we had to leave Thailand.  Which is not always easy.  Because we didn’t want to pay $$$ for airfare from the island of Koh Samui we had to leave a day early and take the ferry to Surat Thani and then get a hotel close to the airport.  Which sometimes leaves me thinking… would it have been cheaper altogether to just pay the rate for a ticket from Samui??

Either way our stop in Surat Thani was pretty good.  The hotel that we reserved (The O Valley Boutique Hotel) was really nice.  It was a big enough room (always a bonus!) and the beds were comfy.  But it was amazing how different a non-tourist destination felt.  As we tried to negotiate cab rides, dinner and an extra pillow at the hotel, we realized NO ONE spoke English and there were NO food options for Wesley.  I think we managed to buy him a pack of sandwich meat from the local “Kwik-E Mart” and that was his dinner.

The Surat Thani airport was crazy.  Instead of leaving the tarmac and entering the terminal to find your bags, you actually end up walking along the tarmac for a long time.  Damon had an AirAsia security guard tell him to go to the wrong area… I wonder how many people end up walking aimlessly on the tarmac??

Surat Thani Airport

Surat Thani Airport

But then we arrived in KL… and sat in traffic : )

The first (and main thing) I can say about KL is the traffic is horrendous.  Worse than Houston, LA, or NYC.  Damon said only Bangkok traffic was worse.  But we still managed to have a great time.  We stayed in the Chow Kit area of town.  It was a LONG taxi ride from the airport, but our room was big enough and we didn’t spend a fortune… both good things : )

Because traffic is so bad, we mostly used the KL Monorail and the KL Light Rail.  They were both fast and cheap.

Waiting at the monorail stop...

Waiting at the monorail stop…

Connecting to the LRT...

Connecting to the LRT…

Rush Hour

Where’s Wesley??

We didn’t realize how busy the monorail gets until rush hour… we went from an empty train (and Wesley standing by himself), to 15-20 people rushing in at one stop.  He was surrounded immediately.  It was hilarious because it was mostly Muslim women who thought he was the cutest thing ever : )  They tried to pat his head, smile and talk to him… and he was NOT having it!

Where's Wesley?

Rush hour on the monorail.

He gets so much attention in the cities we’ve been in… they call him “Harry Potter” and want to pat him.  Thank goodness he’s not blond or a ginger…  he would never be left alone!

Malaysia Visa Run

For those of you who don’t know, Thailand is a country that doesn’t make it (extremely) easy to stay in for long periods of time.  They have different visas that you can apply for (business, retired, student, etc.), but all of them require a “visa run” at least every 90 days.  What that means is you have to stamp out of the country (before your 90 day limit is up), and then you can stamp back in to the country… sometimes even the same day.

There are several companies that offer a “visa run” trip on an air-conditioned mini-bus with all the fees included.  Since we waited too long to book a trip on Air Asia, we had to go with one of these companies that drive.  I have to admit… I wanted to try it anyway.  For $4000 Thb each we could each get a new Tourist Visa for 90 days.  It looked good on the website.

We showed the pics to Wesley of the comfy-looking chairs in the van and told him he could play games on his computer while we drove… it all sounded great.

Party Bus!

Party Bus!

The air-conditioned mini-bus “limousine” picked us up at our condo in Kamala Beach at 9:30pm on Wednesday.  It was lit up with blue lights on the inside and we had a row of seats all to ourselves… it seemed awesome!

For about 30 seconds.

The moment the car started driving Damon moaned “This is the vomit comet!” and could only look straight ahead out the window.  He NEVER gets seasick, so I figured he would get over it in a minute.  I don’t usually get car-sick and Wesley hasn’t been carsick since driving on curvy mountain roads in 2009, so I figured we would all be fine once Damon got accustomed to the van.

Well, the drive from Kamala out of the beach area and onto the main road was incredibly curvy.  Wesley was feeling carsick in a matter of minutes.  I was the only one who was unaffected.

We started out with only 6 passengers, but we kept stopping and picking up more people and Wesley started feeling more carsick.  Damon hopped out at one stop to get Wesley some water, a plastic bag and napkins… the poor kid was looking greener and greener.  I quickly told the driver to stop and let Wesley sit in the front seat with him… or else have him throw up all over the van.

We ended up with 10 passengers in the van and one driver.  There was NO space at all and instead of watching “farang” movies on the DVD player (like they advertise on their website), the driver played a Billboard playlist of “Parental Advisory Suggested” music videos.  Think Nicki Minaj and Pitbull with lots of T&A.  Yeah, it was great.

Now imagine sitting in your tiny seat for hours at a time with a 10 minute break at gas stations for the next SEVEN HOURS.

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Good information to know.

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Squat toilets make for interesting bathroom breaks!

We arrived at the Thailand/Malaysia border at 5:00am.  This is when our driver started being awesome.  He knew what line to get in, where to go, what to do, and how to get in front of all the other buses doing the same thing.  Some of them weren’t just 10 passenger mini-buses… they were double-decker 75+ passenger luxury liners… but he made sure we were never waiting behind them.  That part was the best.

After TWELVE HOURS of driving we finally arrived in Penang, Malaysia.  Since the company had an all-inclusive deal, when we arrived at the hotel there was a breakfast buffet waiting.  Right about the time we finished eating, our driver had our room key ready for us.  We gave him our passports, Tourist Visa applications, photos, and 110 Malaysian Ringgits and went to our room.  They dealt with the Thai Consulate in Malaysia for us.. we didn’t do anything else except collapse in our rooms.

Banana Boutique hotel room

Banana Boutique hotel room

Damon checking out Malaysian TV

Damon checking out Malaysian TV

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View from the door.

Too tired to game...

Too tired to game…

Unfortunately we slept until after 3:00pm that afternoon.  That was really NOT my intention.  It put all of us on such a weird sleep schedule that none of us could sleep that night.

We did manage to go out that evening though.  We had our dinner included at the hotel, (a buffet that was fine), and then we went walking around.  I really liked the city of Penang.  We’ve been in Kamala for so long that I miss that city “vibe.”

I would like to go back to Malaysia and actually see more of the cities… go to the beach… experience more of the culture.  We had to check out of our hotel room the next morning at 6:00am, so we didn’t have much of a chance to experience any of Penang.  Our passports were returned to us (Tourist Visas Included!) and we got back on the mini-bus.

Bathroom stop in Thailand

Bathroom stop in Thailand

I don’t think ANY of us were anxious to start the drive back… the good part was that two of the passengers were only one-way fares… so we each had a little bit more room on our rows.  Thankfully Wesley did NOT get sick on the way back… mostly because we started out on highways and not curvy beach roads.  All of us were able to stamp out of Malaysia and back in to Thailand without any problems.  Mission accomplished.

Ask me which company you should use for a “visa run” to Penang and I’ll tell you KBV because they did take care of us.  But ask me if I’m going to do another mini-bus “visa run” 90 days from now and I’ll tell you I’m too old… that’s for backpackers and students.

I’m flying.

What a Week!

It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything… but it’s really only been a week.  I’d like to say time flies when you’re having fun–but that was NOT the case with us this week.

  • We were sick AGAIN
  • We had more power outages
  • We had to go to Malaysia for a visa run

First things first… why are we getting sick so much?  What are we doing wrong?  We aren’t drinking the water or cooking our rice with it… although we are brushing our teeth with tap water.  I asked around and everybody said that’s what they do too.  Our neighbors even said they make their coffee with tap water… something I won’t even risk.  I’ve traveled to Mexico and Central America and never had this many “gastrointestinal” problems!  Needles to say, we’ve gotten friendly with the local Thai pharmacist.

Thai medicine

Everything clearly labeled in whatever language you speak.

 

It’s great to be able to speak with a Pharmacist who speaks English, asks intelligent questions, and then sells you the medicine you need without seeing a doctor.  The pharmacist in Khao Lak asked me at least 5 times if I was allergic to anything… I guess she really wanted me to be sure!

 

 

Other than Damon and I being sick, (and having our sleep schedules be totally out of whack), we’ve also had a run of power outages.  When you’re sick and it’s hot and humid outside you DO NOT want your air-conditioning to turn off!.  Let alone the internet and the computer that you’re using to entertain your 9-year-old who isn’t sick.  In fact, it’s been so bad that a local Thai newspaper poll reported that the Energy Minister should resign.  At first we though it was just our area (Kamala Beach), but apparently ALL 14 provinces in the South lost power.  Ouch.

Finally, we also had to do our first visa run.  I have two words to describe it… wonderful and miserable.  It was both.  I’ll describe it in more detail in my next post… all I can say now is that Malaysia was wonderful; visa runs are miserable.