Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sleepless in Kuala Lumpur

Bring it to the table, and I will eat it. Come to my mind, and I will do or act on it. With another solo exciting trip wafting into my mind, which was still pre-occupied with a short, tight-packed, with-a-purpose-for-friends trip back home, all I ever wanted was to take a breather and to think -- to give myself a much-needed think space, where a long distance from my little reality would make a lot of sense. There I grabbed the thought, and placed it into a somewhat scrambled plan.

The gruelling absence of a concrete plan only took off when I booked for a November 11, 2011 bus trip to Kuala Lumpur via Golden Coach Express. But you would know later that nothing was really technically planned. So in the evening of what many reckoned to be a lucky date, right after work, I was headed off from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, the Garden City of Lights. Yes, on the date of a triple 11. It is a date that will happen again at the turn of another century. Everyone in our office celebrated it. We enjoyed an afternoon snack, which was more aptly a heavy meal to our surprise, as opposed to our usual weekly snack. They also recognized the most hard-working employee of the year, followed by games and a lucky draw, where I was unlucky enough.

The trip began at 7:30PM. After an hour had elapsed, I was already in the Malaysian territory. Golden Coach Express, a different bus from Singapore to Malaysian checkpoint, had a homey atmosphere, and the seats were spacious that could be inclined up to almost 120 degrees. We arrived at Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, at around 1:30AM. The long trip was smooth-sailing, while watching a femme fatale film starring Zoe Saldana, Colombiana, peeking into the sleeping countryside, and talking to my seatmate. I was at a guessing game with her nationality earlier on. At first, I thought she’s Malaysian, but no, Singaporean, but still no, and then Chinese, and then I conceded. She is Indonesian of Chinese race. She’s from Medan and working in Singapore, and came to visit her Malaysian friend. We burst into a long conversation since, when they turned off the lights at the time when we had just got started with our readings (her book and my magazine), and we both laughed at the wrong timing.

Alright, honestly, I was nervous when I first stepped on Kuala Lumpur’s soil. The ‘big city’ only dawned on me when I wasn’t too sure about which side of the printed map was I, because I thought we would be alighting at Pudu Sentral, though Berjaya Times was an ‘or’ option and the map was supposed to be easy to understand. But somehow, I realized I had just lost my sense of direction. With the Petronas Twin Towers on my mind as the first place to visit, I kept my feet on moving, going to the other side, passing Imbi Monorail station, but I wasn’t convinced the intersection had a pedestrian lane. I mean, seriously. It’s not pretty for a foreigner to be caught jaywalking, so I walked back to find a skywalk to the other side.

I turned right to Jalan Pudu, which was a shock because of an unlikely traffic jam  in those hours, and it stretched up to Jalan Bukit Bintang. From there, I carefully collected my thoughts about why. Like a fish out of water, I was in Kuala Lumpur’s red light district.  To the left and right of the street, you would see massage parlors with promotional girls cum masseuses parading themselves outside, girls in skimpy clothes, guys that sure smelled of booze and hostels. Anytime, someone would approach you for a ‘happy, happy’, ‘one night stand.' I was there, and it occurred in front of me.

To the twin towers, I just followed the railway from Bukit Bintang Monorail station along Jalan Sultan Ismail, and turned right to Jalan P. Ramlee. The long walk was worth it! Drenched in sweat, I enjoyed taking pictures of the towers (the lights were turned off, unfortunately), which were once the world’s tallest buildings from 1998 to 2004. Pictures will be posted in a separate post.

Next assignment was the Kuala Lumpur Tower nearby. I treaded the same road back up to the tower, which is on an elevated area. The gated tower actually opens at 9AM.

Masjid Jamek was up next. From Jalan P. Ramlee, to the right of Jalan Raja Chulan (a quiet, lifeless street), I passed by Telekom Museum, until I found the railway that would take me to the mosque.

Most tourist spots open at around 8 or 9AM, visiting hours of the mosque at 8:30AM. So I was slightly disappointed, again. I was about to go to Chinatown to find a hotel, when an Indian-looking guy in long sleeves and slacks approached me. He asked me if I was a Christian. I said a nervous yes, to think I was in what is a Muslim domain. It was comforting, however, when he introduced himself as a Christian, too. However, it was equally daunting when he said I shouldn't be there, just because the place was dangerous for Christians. He led me to a seat just in front of the mosque. He was Nepalese, and actually a tourist himself. I asked him about his day job, but he didn't get it, and restated instead that he’s just a tourist. I also asked him whether he’s a Roman Catholic, but he didn't get it, again. I asked him that again and finally, said he’s a Roman Catholic, too. He asked if I had a copy of my map, but I had only one. Then, finally, he asked about my next direction. I replied, Chinatown, and he said he’s headed to the same way, too. That’s when I started to be dubious about that person. His scheme was all that familiar. We stood up to Chinatown, walked a few meters, and I switched direction, suddenly. He said, I was right, Chinatown was in the opposite direction. He walked a few steps ahead of me, thinking I would still follow him, but I didn't, and stopped at a train station beside the mosque. I looked at him, he looked back at me, and just kept on walking to the dark alley.

It was a weird experience -- weirder than I thought. Praise God, I wasn't caught off guard, had my eyes wide open, and had good judgment about the situation. I should have been more careful next time, especially in those hours.

At past 6AM, from Masjid Jamek LRT Interchange station to Pasar Seni LRT station, I had found Petaling Street Hotel, in Chinatown, to stay for a night.

It's a must to have these maps printed out if you want to roam around the city upon arrival:


  1. Last year I climbed the Kuala Lumpur Tower! It was my first time. It was fun. I actually FB a pic of me in front of the towers.

  2. @Tina Travels Asia: Awesome! You know what, I went there at past 5 in the morning so I couldn't get close to the tower. Too bad. Hehe.

    Hey, are you from Bali? Hope to visit it soon. :)