I’d love to write about my Southeast Asian adventures on a day to day basis, just like a real traveller’s diary, but I can’t. Some stories are due for publication in the paper I write for and I have to wait until they get published first before I reproduce them in my blogs. So, I’ll have to jump back and forth.
The Port Klang/Kuala Lumpur episode took place on the sixth day of the trip, on the second of the two back-to-back cruises. By that time, Mabel and Cynthia had flown back to Manila and there were just Osang and I.
The night before the ship was due to dock at Pork Klang, we couldn’t make up our minds whether to do a Kuala-Lumpur-on-your-own thing or to enlist in one of the many on-shore excursions offered by Royal Caribbean. We kept changing our minds but, by 8.00 p.m., we decided to join an organized excursion. We filled up the forms at the Purser’s Desk and dropped them in the box where they were supposed to go. Minutes later, something came up. Friends (the ship’s Chief Refrigeration Engineer — a Filipino — and his wife) were hiring a private vehicle and it would be cheaper if we went with them. And it would be more fun too. The problem was getting the forms back.
The box in which the forms went had a slat just wide enough to let a hand and a portion of an arm inside. So, there we were, taking turns inserting our hands into the slat to retrieve the forms, giggling like high school girls doing a bad, bad thing. We kept pulling out every form we touched. By the time we took the last one (we did return everything inside afterward), we realized that ours had already been taken away for processing. I panicked. The amount was going to be charged to our credit cards and we wouldn’t even be joining the excursion. It was like paying twice for the same thing.
Feeling defeated, we finally decided there was nothing more that we could do. We’d join the organized excursion and explain to our friends why we couldn’t join them. The funny (or is it infuriating?) thing was that, hours later, in our cabin, we got word that our forms could no longer be processed because we submitted them AFTER the 7.30 p.m. cutoff time. Osang contacted our friends but they had already asked two other people to join them. And that was how it happened that Osang and I went drove from Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur by ourselves in a hired taxi.
It started to rain just as we pulled out of Port Klang. And it rained halfway through the hour-and-fifteen-minute drive to Kuala Lumpur. What was there to photograph? More gray skies? I had had enough of that during the first three days of the trip.
A few kilometers before reaching Kuala Lumpur, the skies cleared. By the time we entered Kuala Lumpur, the sun was shining. As we entered the third (or was it the fourth) underpass, I started taking photos.
What’s so special about an underpass? It was well-lighted. And the walls were clean. For me, that’s something worth photographing. Walls of underpasses in Metro Manila are filthy with grime and lighting is poor, so the bright underpasses in Kuala Lumpur excited me. Minsan, super babaw talaga ako.
Of course, we stopped to take photos of us with the Petronas Towers in the background.
Osang took photos of me.
I took photos of her.
There was this building with the sign “PNB” and I thought for a moment that the Philippine National Bank had opened an offshore branch in Kuala Lumpur. But NOT. PNB stood for something else and the P is definitely not for Philippines.
We asked the driver to drop us off at the Petronas Towers since we intended to go up to the viewing deck. We entered the Petronas, found the ticket counter where we were told that the next tour would be at 6.00 p.m. Oh, right, the ship would have left Pork Klang by then. Never mind. I just wanted to know where the rest room was.
Now, this is something I want you to understand. Wherever I go, I look for a famous landmark and I have to use the rest room inside. Some people look for souvenir shops, I look for a rest room. It’s how I judge the quality of a place. So, I wanted to use a rest room inside the Petronas. We asked a guard for directions but we were pointed to the adjacent mall instead. Petronas rest rooms off limits to tourists? I was truly disappointed.
But since I really needed to go to a rest room, off we went to the mall. There was a five-ringgit charge for the use of the rest room. That’s nothing new. The better maintained rest rooms in better malls in Metro Manila cost ten pesos (although the charge is not a universal practice in other Asian cities). The difference was that in this Kuala Lumpur mall, there was a shelf above the wash basins lined with Body Shop items — lotion, powder and a few other things — for the use of paying guests. Osang and I thought the same thing. If the Body Shop items were placed inside a rest room in a Metro Manila mall, they would have to be replaced several times a day as they are likely to get stolen. But then again, I don’t know if the Body shop toiletries in the Kuala Lumpur mall rest room don’t get stolen at all. Whatever. It was nice that they were there for my use, period. I needed to powder my neck and my back badly as the morning had turned very humid.
Did we do any shopping? No, we didn’t. The shops in the mall are the same shops you’d find at the better malls in Metro Manila.
(More on page 2)
We exited the mall and located our hired taxi. Time to go to Petaling Street in Chinatown which was the real target of the Kuala Lumpur excursion.
We were dropped off at a corner. We arranged for the driver to meet us at the same spot two hours later and we started walking into the labyrinths of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown.
The first thing we noticed was how similar the items for sale were with the ones you’d find at most flea markets in Metro Manila. Like Greenhills. Or the 168 Mall in Divisoria. Fake designer stuff. Bags, shoes, shirts… Things we weren’t interested in buying. Except…
There was this stall selling apparel that a belly dancer would wear. The Captain’s Reception was scheduled that night and I suggested to Osang that she wear the one with the gold top and the red skirt. But she was too chicken. :-P
But, seriously, we didn’t go to Chinatown to shop. We went there for the food. That’s one thing that Osang and I totally agree on. We want good food. And we don’t mean expensive stuff that look like artwork in some fancy restaurant. We prefer hawker food because they represent the real culture of a country.
We peeked at the food from one restaurant to another and finally settled for the one that seemed to offer the most delectable dishes. What did we have? We ordered three dishes.
From the grin on Osang’s face, you can guess what one of the three dishes was.
After the wonderful lunch, we were so full we couldn’t even think of dessert. Although we wanted to try so many things. We settled for fresh fruits and roasted chestnuts that we could take back to the ship. We were ready to leave Chinatown but it was still more than an hour before our rendezvous with the taxi. We wanted coffee and we needed to go to a rest room. But there were only two choices. McDonald’s (which was filled to the rafters) or the coffee shop in the lobby of an expensive-looking hotel. We were weary (did I mention it had turned humid?) and waiting on the sidewalk for over an hour was not a pleasant idea.
We were about to cross the street to the hotel when I spotted this shop selling tea stuff. It’s called Purple Cane.
The shop was air-conditioned, there was a rest room and the stuff they sold… I’m not talking of tea bags, okay? They sold the finest loose tea leaves in there. And tea pots and those dainty little cups. Definitely my kind of store.
The best part? You can try before you buy. Like oolong tea? They’ll brew a pot for you. How about the finest green tea? Flavored or un? It’s you choice.
I had eight canisters of tea when we left the store. How I would fit them into my luggage was a problem I’d think about later. And it was only through sheer will power (and the loathing fear of paying for excess baggage) that prevented me from buying tea pots and cups in every imaginable color and design.
We walked some more and finally found a place where we could sit and order bottles of cold water. Hot coffee was the farthest thing from our minds by then. The midday sun was burning our skin and we wanted cold water.
Half an hour later, we found the taxi and it was time to drive back to Port Klang and the ship.
We passed everything we did on the drive to Kuala Lumpur. Because the sun was shining this time, I was able to take some photos. Like this mall with the pyramid and sphinx-like structure out front. Osang napped most of the way.
We reached Port Klang and it was back to the ship. Later, we would go to the Captain’s Reception. But that’s another story.