Exchange rate
Prepaid GSM

Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Perak and Langkawi
Part 1

29-30.11: Munich -> KL
01.12: KL
02.12: KL
03.12: KL
04.12: KL -> Melaka
05.12: Melaka -> KL
06.12: KL -> Teluk Intan
07.12: Teluk Intan
08.12: Teluk Intan -> KL
09.12: KL -> Langkawi
10.12: Langkawi
11.12: Langkawi
12.12: Langkawi -> KL
13.12: KL
14.12: KL
29.12: Yangon -> KL
30.12: KL
A map of Malaysia


This is a report of our trip to Malaysia in November-December 2002. In the first two weeks of December we organised our Chinese wedding (traditional Chinese wedding in Shirley's home town Teluk Intan on December 7th, wedding photo session on December 13th and party with friends in KL on December 14th). In between, while Shirley was busy shopping and meeting friends in KL, I made some brief trips to Melaka and Langkawi. Between December 15th and 29th we spent two weeks in Myanmar (see the corresponding travelogue). 


Malaysia still offers very good value for the money and it is possible to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants at relatively low prices. A room in a four star hotel costs around 130-140 RM.
We didn't book anything in advance and stayed in a mix of hotels in the price range 50-170 RM (price for a double room with bath and A/C). It is possible to have a lunch for two for about 20-25RM in a restaurant (even less than that if you eat in a food stall). Modern cinemas with comfortable halls cost 8-12 RM. Prices for internal flights with Malaysian Airlines have increased by about 50% in the past couple of years, but there are now some discount airlines (AirAsia) which offer very competitively priced tickets. Travel by bus is very inexpensive (around 8RM for a two hours bus trip) and confortable (all buses have A/C nowadays).

Money  / Exchange rate

US $1 =  3.8 RM (ringgit Malaysia)

Prepaid GSM cards

Digi and TMTouch offer prepaid cards (68 RM with 50RM of calls available) for their GSM 1800 networks. Adam/TimeCel (017 if I'm not wrong) offers a prepaid card for 38 RM, but their coverage is quite limited (KL, the north-south highway and a few other places). Maxis and Celcom have GSM 900 networks (with Celcom having the best coverage) and offer more expensive prepaid cards (around 120 RM). For information on Malaysia's GSM networks see here.

Internet access

In KL there are Internet cafes everywhere (RM 4/hr). The one in Bukit Bintang road above the 7/11 shop is very fast. Same for Langkawi, although many Internet cafes there are quite slow. I used the Jaring internet account of my wife to send/receive emails and surf the Internet from hotels.


KL: used to be sunny in the mornings with clouds slowly building up and rain for about one hour around 2-5pm. Overcast but dry evenings.
Langkawi: dry and sunny, with mostly spotless blue skies. In the three days I spent there it rained only once (in the afternoon for about half an hour).


Normally you need the usual tropical country vaccinations (polio, Hep A, tetanus, diphteria, typhoid). For this trip however we didn't refresh any. Malaria pills were not necessary for the places we visited (KL, Melaka, Teluk Intan, Langkawi).

VISA / Entry requirements

A valid passport is necessary. EU nationals automatically get a three month visa upon arrival. This also holds for nationals of many other countries - check with the Malaysian embassy in your country.


No problem at all - Malaysia is a very stable and peaceful country. 

29.11 - 30.11.02: Munich -> Dubai -> Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Season's View, KL, 88 RM/night for a double room with bath and A/C; conveniently located in Jalan Alor (Golden Triangle area)
Weather: clouded with a mix of rain and sunshine; not too warm

We left Munich yesterday afternoon with Emirates, flying to KL via Dubai. The flight was fine and quite competitively priced (650 Euro for a 6 months ticket with 35Kg of luggage - this price is however only available to Malaysians and their spouses).
I haven't slept on the flight and neither did Shirley, which is why we are quite tired when we arrive in KLIA (KL international airport) at 2pm local time. After going through immigration and getting the luggage we walk towards the taxi counter. Before reaching it a guy approaches us asking if we want to have a taxi (not one of the airport limos). We negotiate a price of RM 55 to go to Subang Jaya (Shirley's home in Malaysia) - which probably is more or less the same what we would have payed had we taken a limo (KLIA - KL is RM 77 by limo). But with the limo the (completely useless) company which sells the coupons would pocket 30% and I prefer giving the full amount directy to the driver. So we follow the driver, who brings us to his car - a Proton Saga which is not even a taxi. The driver probably is a freelancer.
We don't take the newly completed skytrain as it wouldn't bring us to Subang Jaya and would be quite expensive at RM 35 per person (makes only sense if you are alone).My first impression is that Malaysia hasn't changed a lot since last year.  The weather is clouded with a mix of rain and sunshine. It's not too warm, actually relatively fresh - probably because of the rain. After leaving a lot of stuff at Shirley's place and checking the email we try to get a taxi. That is we call several taxi companies and none will send us a cab. In the Hari Raya period it is tough to get a taxi in Malaysia. Finally we find one, but then it turns out that Shirley's sister Sara is near Subang Jaya with her car, so we cancel the taxi and she drives us to the Season's View hotel in Jalan Alor (which hasn't changed since last year). This hotel is probably the best budget place in the area around Bukit Bintang road.  Bukit Bintang, the shopping complexes road of KL, has changed slightly, as they finished modernising a couple of shopping complexes. The monorail has been completed, but it's not yet inaugurated because of an accident which happened a few months ago (a monorail wheel apparently dropped off and fell onto the ground during a test). We check in the hotel at 6pm and don't do much as we are very tired. Tomorrow we'll start looking for a photographer for the wedding photo session and I'll see if I can find somewhere a Myanmar travel guide book (couldn't find it in the MPH book store in the BB Plaza shopping complex). Shirley will be busy in the coming week with shopping, meeting friends etc., while I'm planning to fly to Langkawi for a couple of days on Tuesday (want to shoot a Langkawi photo gallery). Next Saturday we'll have the traditional Chinese wedding in Shirley's hometown, one week later the wedding dinner in KL with the friends. Between these two events I'll briefly visit Melaka and Singapore (mainly to shoot some photos). Shirley will continue with her shopping/friends visiting routine. On December 15th we are planning to fly to Myanmar - that is if not all flights are fully booked. I feel immediately at home while walking in the KL streets in the evening. There is just so much life, so many people on the streets, tons of food stalls, vendors of stuff, shopping complexes open seven days a week until 10pm and so on. Compared to KL any German town is pretty much dead and it's easy to understand why it is tough for any Malaysian woman to live in a country like Germany.

01.12.02: KL
Hotel Season's View, KL, 88 RM/night
Weather: sunny in the morning with some clouds, rain for about half an hour at 2:15pm, after that mostly clouded with some sunshine

Today I manage to wake up at 8am, which is not too bad considering the jet lag. I check and process my email for about an hour until Shirley wakes up. After breakfast Shirley and I split - she goes to do her shopping with her sister Sarah, while I head to the Kimarie hairdresser in the BB Plaza shopping complex in Bukit Bintang road. I don't have to wait at all and take the 'professional' haircut - they wash your hair three times, massage the head and spend a lot of time cutting the hair. The price is 55 RM - didn't increase in the past two years. 
After that I start my photography tour of KL. I walk from the Lot 10 shopping complex at the intersection of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Bukit Bintang road to the Petronas Towers in KLCC, taking photos every now and then. It becomes quite clear that the monorail track has now finally been completed. They even set up the train stations. It's just that the monorail isn't operating because of the accident. 
Around 1pm the strong tropical sun ends up sunburning me. So I walk into the Suria KLCC shopping complex and have a small lunch. After, I go to the TGV cinemas on the 3rd floor to book tickets for Harry Potter, but there is no performance in the evening. 
In the meantime Shirley has managed to get a prepaid card from Digi (68 RM with 50RM of calls, however only valid for one month, after you have to recharge the card). 
Then I start looking for a travel agency, as I have to book a couple of flights (Myanmar and Langkawi). In spite of the festive day there is one open agency on the third floor. However it's not that much of a travel agency, as they only sell Malaysian (MAS) and Thai Airways flights. 
MAS doesn't fly every day to Yangon - on Dec. 13th and Dec. 17th, but not on Dec. 15th when we want to fly. The MAS price is around 1100 RM. The other option, flying with Thai airways through Bangkok costs 1250 RM, but the Bangkok-Yangon Thai flight on Dec. 15th is fully booked. Another option would be flying to Bangkok and then catching one of the many flights from Bangkok to Yangon (with other Thai airlines and Biman), but the price of the return ticket KL-Bangkok has now been increased to 1280 RM (!), up from 700 RM three years ago. I have to check tomorrow if it is possible to fly with Biman through Dhaka or with Singapore airlines through Singapore.
After, since the weather is still halfway fine (you have to use the sunny days to get good images in KL), I get a taxi to the Abdul Samad building. On the way I'm planning to get some cash from the ATM in the Citibank in Jalan Ampang. The first three taxis I stop all refuse to use the meter. One funny Indian taxi driver even wants to show me the town for 25 RM (!). They must be thinking that I'm new to KL...
Well, I manage to reach the Sultan Abdul Samad building at 2:15pm, just in time for the rain to start.  After waiting for about half an hour inside the building until the rain stops, I take some shots, which however aren't that great as the sky behind the building is clouded (no nice blue sky). So I simply take a taxi back to the hotel. 
At about 4pm I go to an Internet cafe where I spend one hour and a half checking my messages and managing my site. This is supposed to be a holiday, but actually I'm very busy. At 6pm I call Shirley and we agree to meet in the Midvalley shopping mall at 7:30pm and watch Harry Potter there. After taking a shower I take a taxi (this time no meter, I simply agree to pay 10 RM - but taxis are cheap and these drivers really don't make so much money). 
In Midvalley we find out that there is no Harry Potter movie at a suitable time, so we change our plans and go to a restaurant. We skip about a dozen good restaurants and go to kind of a Chinese place where they only have noodles with meat or chicken rice. Kind of a food stall mutated into a restaurant, but still with the very limited choice of dishes of a food stall. 
The by far best restaurants in this part of the world are Thai restaurants. Chinese restaurants are not that good (here). They cater mainly to the Chinese, who have their own special eating habits (ehm, they always eat the same things). If you are looking for a decent Chinese restaurant head to the Esquire Kitchen restaurant chain (their Tofu home style is very good).
After dinner we split, Shirley and her sister go shopping again, and I go to a Pizza hut to get some more food. Sarah is so kind to drive us back to KL. I do some night photo shooting of the Petronas towers. We sleep at 2am.

02.12.02: KL
Hotel Season's View, KL, 88 RM/night
Weather: beautiful spotless blue sky in the morning, sunshine. Over the course of the day clouds start building up until is starts raining heavily at 3:45pm. It rains for about one hour,then stops for the rest of the day.

I wake up at 8am after a relatively short night. At about 10:30am Shirley and I go to a travel agency in Bukit Bintang road. It's tough to get a flight to Yangon (Myanmar). MAS, Thai and Singapore airlines are fully booked on the dates we need. Apparently lots of Burmese workers go home around Xmas and there are also many Malaysians visiting Myanmar. Finally we manage to get a flight with Myanmar airlines in the business class for 1535 RM per person (but we budgeted 1100). Flying on December 15th and back on December 29th. After, at 11:15am we rush by taxi to the Myanmar embassy (in Lorong Ru, closes at 12pm). 
I have to say that Myanmar isn't doing much to promote tourism - it's so difficult to travel there. We'll have to bring cash as there are no ATMs and will have to exchange $400 into FECs...
After we finish applying for the visas we go to the Citibank to get more cash and then we drive to KL tower (421 meters, was completed in 1996) for some great views of KL and some photo shooting. The ticket to go up is 15 RM. 
After lunch Shirley and I split (she has to go back to her flat in Subang Jaya). I simply relax in the hotel until 4:30pm, then fetch the plane tickets at the travel agency. Getting the tickets takes over half an hour and the temperature inside the travel agency is freezing, so I catch a cold. The flight to Langkawi (I'm going there tomorrow for a couple of days) with MAS now costs 435 RM, up from 285 RM three years ago. The lady explains me that the government decided at some point that the prices of internal flights were too low, so they raised them by 50%. 
Shirley, Sarah and I meet again in the evening for dinner (Thai restaurant in KLCC, a bit overpriced) then we watch a movie in the TGV cinemas.
My flight to Langkawi is tomorrow at 1:20pm from KLIA. To "encourage" tourism, they shut down Subang airport, so now getting to the airport takes between 45 minutes and one hour and costs at least 50 RM (Subang was 20 minutes and 15 RM).

03.12.02: KL
Hotel Season's View, KL, 88 RM/night
Weather: sunny with clouds, rain in the afternoon for about one hour at 3pm. The weather pattern is sunshine in the morning until noon, clouds building up and rain in the early afternoon for about one hour. Clouded evenings which make evening photo shooting impossible (no sunsets).

I wake up at 1:20pm after a sleepless night. Shirley has left the hotel in the morning to do her shopping. I decide to cancel my trip to Singapore and postpone the one to Langkawi to next week. I'll visit Melaka tomorrow and fly next Monday to Langkawi. 
My lunch is at Delifrance in the Lot 10 shopping complex. Prices have increased by about 30% over the last two years. Malaysia seems to be experiencing a runaway inflation.
After lunch I check my vaccinations at the Tung Shin hospital in Jalan Pudu (everything seems fine - the doctor says that anti-malaria tablets won't be necessary in Myanmar unless I go into the jungle). 
After I get a bus ticket to Melaka at the Puduraya bus station (leaving tomorrow 1:30pm, 9 RM) and buy a prepaid card from TMTouch (68 RM with 50RM of calls available, 1 min = 60 cents). TMTouch is a GSM 1800 operator in Malaysia. Their coverage is not too bad - three years ago for instance they had coverage on Tioman, where almost no other GSM operator had coverage.
In the evening I spend a couple of hours in an Internet cafe in Bukit Bintang road (the one next to the 7/11 shop). Price is 4 RM/hour and the speed is good (downloads average 30 KByte/s), but this evening the place is congested and the Internet connection is slower than usual.
When walking back to the hotel, again somebody offers me a "girl". About three or four times a day somebody offers me a girl in Bukit Bintang road - even in the morning and the afternoon. Maybe I should wear a big 'I don't go with prostitutes' sign on my back. Possibly they see me walking around with my Malaysian wife and then think that she is a professional. About two years ago Shirley and I took a taxi in KL, driver was a Chinese, and he told Shirley that she would "catch a disease" if she continued to "work as a prostitute". 
Sexual relations between man and woman are quite different in the Western world and in Asian countries. In Asian countries it seems to be quite acceptable, even for a young man, to use the services of a prostitute (and here I remember the conversation I had in August '99 with a young Korean tourist in Koh Samui who was telling me that going with a prostitute and paying for sex was actually more proper than seducing a woman and doing it for free). In Malaysia for instance it is relatively complicated for a young Asian to set up a relationship with somebody from the opposite sex and many young people are virgin until their late twenties. Until one or two generations ago, people, even married couples didn't kiss each other. The kiss seems to be a European invention.

Copyright (c) 2003 Alfred Molon