Monday, 2 May 2011

K-L Part 2: "Weren't you on my flight to Bali?"

And a good Monday afternoon to you from across the globe in the midst of a GREAT DAY in the Lion City. Happy Labor Day! Team Taylor is just back from Brewerkz, where Sammy the Bull did the unthinkable - had a burger without a beer! The horror, the horror! However, as I have to run this evening, I figured it best to go with a Diet Coke vs. a pair of Irish Red Ales (unlike someone I was sitting with at the table). Okay, it's time to wrap K-L, so let's get to it. Today's blog will cover Saturday and Sunday, complete with a CRAZY bout with serendipity.
So we slept in on Saturday, getting some much needed sack time before heading out for the featured event of the day - the Batu Caves. Until recently, you had to take a taxi or a bus out to the caves, which lay about 13 KM north of the city. Now, however, there's a metro line that literally stops RIGHT AT the caves, and best of all? THE COST WAS 1 RINGIT. In case you're curious, that is THIRTY THREE CENTS. It should be noted that, whilst having a rather extensive metro and train system, NOTHING IN KL IS INTEGRATED. That means that, each time you want to change lines, YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND BUY ANOTHER TICKET. And since all the lines are run by different companies, you have to go to different booths, where they have different purchasing procedures AND different prices. But hey, considering that round trip for us was a grand total of $2 a person, we couldn't really argue too much.
The craziest aspect of the trip happened en route to the Batu Caves. We're sitting on the train, and I notice an American gal with a Notre Dame hat chatting in both German and English to a fellow across from us. I'm trying to listen in and see how much German I can pick out (not much was the answer in case anyone's curious), when all of a sudden the gal leans over and says, "Excuse me, you look really familiar." I shake my head as if to say, "I get this a lot, but only Matthew McConnahey's stunt double," but then she follows up with "You're from North Carolina, right? You're a Tar Heel?" And before I can actually pick my jaw up off the floor, she finishes with, "Yeah, you were on my flight to Bali, 2 rows back. You and I chatted about UNC when I saw your visor."
So let me take a moment to allow all of this to sink in - a gal that I met on a flight to Bali in mid-March just happened to be a) in KL on the same weekend, b) heading to the Batu caves at the same time, and c) IN THE SAME CAR AS US on the trip. Seriously - WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF THAT HAPPENING?
5 minutes later we're chatting away, and we officially meet Anne Marie and Tobias. Anne Marie is an American living in Germany (Frankfurt) but on assignment through August in Singapore. Tobias is a German studying in Singapore until September. Honestly, I still shake my head when I think about this.
As a fearsome foursome, we rolled up to the Batu caves, which houses a Hindu temple at the top of 272 stairs. The walk up wasn't nearly as bad as we'd thought, but the sheer volume of monkeys was AMAZING - P Dawg, you would have HATED this.
Don't get me wrong - they are SO cute. However, when there are a BASQUILLION (Batten - that was for you) of them running around AND you've got plenty of MORON tourists feeding them, they can be quite aggressive. Seriously - they were RIPPING food out of people's hands, and we didn't really want to get that close to them. All I can say is thank goodness for zoom features on cameras, as that was as close as we wanted to be. For the other donkey tourists who were WEARING FOOD NECKLACES SO THE MONKEYS WOULD CLIMB ON THEM, I just have to shake my head.
The area was very cool, and once we were in the caves, we had an AMAZING view of the lightning storm sweeping over KL in the distance. We saw MASSIVE streaks of lightning, and the towers loomed in the distance like something out of a Stephen King novel - very cool.
We then walked down to the taxi rank to get a cab, as we wanted to visit Templer Park. Famous for it's 7 tiered waterfall, we'd heard this was not to be missed. When we went down to get a cab, however, the conversation went something like this:
Sammy the Bull (StB): "How much for Templer Park?"
Conniving Cab Driver (CCD): "100 Ringits, sir."
StB: "That seems high. It's only about 10 minutes away, right?"
CCD: "Is very far, sir. Very, very far."
StB: "How far is very, very far?"
CCD: "Very, very far, sir." (StB nods at the helpfulness of that comment)
StB: "How about we just turn on the meter and pay that way?"
CCD: "No, sir. We are not allowed to do that."
StB: "You're not allowed to use the meter?"
CCD: "No sir."
StB: (Pointing to the man's taxi): "Is that your taxi? Because on the side it says 'metered fares only. Taxi drivers are not allowed to haggle or tout."
At this point there is a FIRESTORM of activity, as about 15 cabbies start chatting to each other in the tongue of Mordor. Finally, the "elder" of the group, let's call him Balrog, approaches me.
Balrog: "No meter, sir. It's not good for business."
StB: "But you are required to let us use the meter, right?"
Balrog: "Is no good. Gas prices are higher now."
StB: "But not for you, right? The government subsidizes gas for Malaysians."
FIRESTORM PART TWO - more discussion as to "How can we screw the white guy?" Finally, their plan emerges - they beg.
Balrog: "Please, sir - 100 not so bad for you."
StB: "Fifty."
Balrog: "Okay, we do 80, sir. We wait for you. That is round trip. We give you hour."
StB: "Fifty."
Balrog: "PLEASE, sir. 70. We do 70 return and wait for you for 1 hour."
It should be noted that I really wanted to keep haggling. However, as it was already 4 PM AND the round trip fare was now $5.75 USD a person, I felt we'd landed at an acceptable place. Good times...
Templar park was AMAZING, and the waterfalls (and more monkeys!) were really cool. It definitely had the mystical feel to it, especially the part where I saw an ant THE SIZE OF MY TORSO walking through the woods. Seriously - I'm pretty sure that thing has eaten people before.
After an hour at the park, we headed back to the metro, where we got a picture of Team Taylor and Team Deutschland. And the best part? We've already planned to see them in the Sing later this week!
Upon returning to KL, we wandered the city a bit, where we found Asian Heritage Row. Our Lonely Planet guide had RAVED about this area, but what we found was 100% DOUBLE DONKEY TRASH - WOW. Seriously, war zone was the only description that came to mind.
Dinner that night was a very cute rooftop restaurant, but the Bull struck out again with the food, as this go-around featured a "mutton curry" without mutton. Seriously - there were 6 blobs of fat in the sauce, and I tried desperately to chew each one in an effort to leach out the nutrients. However, there was simply no goodness to be had. To the guy's credit, when I called him over and told him that it was nothing but fat, they did make me a new one. All the same, LESS than stellar.
We then headed back to the palace, where we passed out around 11 PM.
On Sunday we walked over to Bukit Nanas, which is the 9 acre area of "virgin rainforest - the only of its kind in the world." Again, this is the Malaysian government going OVERBOARD on their quest for world record's, as the Communications Tower that wandered into the "rainforest" to see is billed as "the world's only communication tower in the heart of a rainforest." Seriously - we are talking something like 8 trees and a couple of tracts of ferns - THAT'S IT. The tower, however, was really cool.
Menara KL's O-deck is about 100 meters higher than the Petronas Sky Bridge, and it offered a GREAT view of the towers and the surrounding landscape. We spent a good hour up there before rolling down to the Tropical Spa (recommended by Anne Marie), where we had a GREAT Thai lunch and then a Thai Massage. You see, the Thai massage is a bit different from the Balinese massage in that, rather than use oil and attempt to squeeze the marrow out of your bones, the Thai massage endeavors to RIP YOU TO SHREDS VIA STRETCHING TECHNIQUES. That being said, my gal was GREAT, and Jenny's was good as well. And whilst I did get folded into some RANDOM positions (no, no - NOT like that), it was DEFINITELY worth $20 for the hour.
We then sauntered over to a coffee shop for a farewell drink, at which point the Heavens OPENED. Seriously - we were in this coffee shop for about 30 minute, and the rain NEVER SLOWED DOWN. I was surprised the pavement didn't crack, as it was POURING. And the worst part? We had to catch our bus, which meant that WE HAD TO WALK IN IT FOR 3/4 OF A MILE. We did contemplate getting a cab, but when, after 2 seconds of standing outside, I was SOAKED and then a car threw up a tidal wave of sludge water running for a gutter, we figured it was pointless. I spent 10 minutes at the hotel changing and WRINGING OUT EVERY STITCH OF CLOTHING, but luckily I had a dry change for the SIX HOUR bus ride home.
Oh, and on the bus ride, we were treated to ANOTHER viewing of Salt, as well as 1/2 of Ironman 2 (which looked AWESOME, by the way - I hate I didn't get to finish it). However, they also showed us this movie called "Frozen," which was, quite possibly, THE WORST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN. And since the sound was being broadcast into the cabin, I had NO CHOICE but to listen as these 3 people were eaten alive by wolves, peeled their own frost bitten flesh off, and slowly died in the hills of Vermont because they'd gotten stuck on a Ski lift. Yeah, it was really, really, really, REALLY terrible. Thanks for that, Aeroline!
So that's KL in a nutshell. It's a very cool place, and I'm really glad that we've been. However, I doubt that we'll go back, and I still maintain that Singapore's got a substantial edge over it, both as a tourist spot AND a place to live.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

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