Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 1: Kuala Lumpur

11.12: Dubai -> Kuala Lumpur
12.12: Kuala Lumpur
13.12: Kuala Lumpur
29.12: Kuala Lumpur
30.12: Kuala Lumpur
31.12: Kuala Lumpur - Genting
01.01: Kuala Lumpur
02.01: Kuala Lumpur - Seremban
03.01: Kuala Lumpur
04.01: KL -> Dubai -> Munich

Overview and overall impression

I stopped in Malaysia for a total of eight days, between trips to Dubai and Cambodia and Vietnam. On December 12th-13th I got the Vietnam visa in KL and acclimatised a bit, then I spent another six days between December 29th and January 4th with my wife and daughter in KL, before heading back home.

Malaysia hasn't changed much since my last visit in January 2006. The pace of development has slowed considerably since the 1990s, but there are plenty of construction projects undergoing in KL.

Pre-departure plan

This time I leave without a precise idea of when I'll be where. I'm rather planning to make a stopover in Dubai, then continue to Malaysia, spend two days in KL getting the Vietnam visa there, then fly to Siem Reap, do Angkor and then travel to Phnom Penh, Saigon and from there go north to Hanoi, before heading back to KL.

Dec 8 Munich-Dubai
Dec 9-10 Dubai
Dec 11 Dubai-KL
Dec 12-13 KL Get  Vietnam visa
Dec 14 KL-Siem Reap
Dec 15-16 Siem Reap
Dec 17 Siem Reap-Phnom Penh
Dec 18 Phnom Penh
Dec 19 Phnom Penh-Saigon
Dec 20-22 Saigon
Dec 23 Saigon-Hue
Dec 24-25 Hue
Dec 26 Hue-Hanoi
Dec 27 Hanoi
Dec 28 Hanoi-KL
Dec 29-Jan 3
Jan 4 KL-Munich

Hotels are getting more pricey in Malaysia, with the Boulevard hotel now costing RM275 per night (we paid RM225 in January 2006 in this same hotel, and only RM160 in the nearby Cititel hotel in 2004). Food seems also to have become more pricey, compared to previous years. Malaysia however is still very good value by international standards. A four star hotel can be found for RM200, you can have a simple meal for RM6 while a meal in a restaurant will set you back by RM15-20.

Money  / Exchange rate (December 2006)
1 Euro = 4.54 RM
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

It's easy to get cash with a Maestro/Cirrus ATM card in Malaysia, as there are plenty of ATMs.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
I used a prepaid card of Digi, who have an 1800MHz network in Malaysia. Coverage is ok in the urban centres. The card cost RM8 initially and I recharged it a couple of times. It is possible to use this prepaid Malaysian card in Cambodia, but the cost is steep (better getting a prepaid card in Cambodia).

Internet access
Internet cafes are available everywhere. I used however mainly the Internet line in the hotel room (either dialup with Jaring or the fast DSL line of the hotel). After December 27th Internet access became very slow, because an earthquake off Taiwan severed some submarine cables.

Tropically hot, but most of the time overcast, as December and January are the rainy season in peninsular Malaysia. The weather follows the following pattern: not too overcast in the morning, even some blue sky, rain in the afternoon at some point between 1 and 5pm.

Health / Vaccinations
You'll need the usual set of "tropical" immunisations. We didn't do any immunisations specifically for this trip, relying instead on the protection gained through the immunisations of the previous years.

VISA / Entry requirements
A VISA on arrival is available for citizens of most delevoped countries as well as of some commonwealth countries. Citizens of other countries need to apply for a VISA in advance.

Is ok, although my wife tells me all the time that now criminality is on the rise in Malaysia etc., because she spends too much time reading online news about Malaysia... Personally I've been to Malaysia since 1999 and have never had anything stolen. The only problem are the Indian taxi drivers who like to tune their meters.


Getting around
We used taxis in KL to get around, and used a couple of times the public transportation system in KL, which is cheap and very good. We used the bus to go to Genting highlands and I took the train to Seremban.

11.12: Dubai -> Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Boulevard, Midvalley Mall, Kuala Lumpur. 245 RM for a very nice room with everything, including a baby bed. There is also a cable Internet connection in the room, but you have to buy a prepaid card, which probably is not cheap.
Weather: sunny with a clouds layer in the morning in Dubai. Not too hot in the evening in KL (it has been raining).

We start the day after a short night with a wake up call at 5:39am. We get ready and are down in the lobby for check out at 6:50am. Then the hotel staff helps us get a taxi, which luckily doesn't take so long this time. At 7am we are on the way to the airport and arrive there at 7:20am despite some traffic jam initially. It's interesting that the roads in Dubai are already quite full at 7am.

We get out and there is some initial queue, so that we only are at the check-in gate at 7:35am. Then we have to wait a long time in the queue and only finish checking in at 8:10am. Then we get through immigration, where again there is a queue and by the time we start walking towards the gate it's 8:40am. Then it's a long walk towards the gate 37. At the gate there is again a queue, because we have to take a bus to the plane. We are finally in the plane around 9am.

The plane is a quite new Boeing 777, with big LCD screens and power sockets in the chairs (!). Wow, I have to say I'm impressed. Now it's possible to use the 6 hours of the flight in a productive manner, for instance doing some power-intensive image processing which otherwise would drain the batteries of the notebook quite rapidly. Overall the level of service offered by Emirates is much higher than the one of Thai. The seat is high-tech, with a video-on-demand service with a big library of movies to choose from.

The plane only starts rolling at 9:40am and takes off shortly before 10am. The flight runs smoothly and we arrive in KL with a short delay at 8:20pm. Then it takes a long time to retrieve the luggage, because the baby stroller is only returned very late. We get out of the luggage retrieval area only at 9pm. After some checking we buy a ticket for a limo to the hotel for 92 RM (simple taxi is 67 RM), because we have so much luggage.

We arrive at the Boulevard hotel at 10pm. There Sara, Shirley's sister is waiting for us. She has already checked us in, so we can go straight to the room. After that we have some late food at a Starbuck coffee shop.

12.12: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Boulevard, Midvalley Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
Weather: overcast in KL. It rains in the afternoon at 4pm.

I wake up at 11:10am when the bell of the door rings, after a  more or less sleepless night (slept until 3am, then woke up and could not sleep between 3 and 7am). It's too late to go to the Vietnamese embassy for the morning opening session, so we call and check the opening hours. 2-4:30pm in the afternoon, so I'll go there after lunch.

We get up, and at 1pm we leave the hotel room for some food in the Esquire restaurant in the Midvalley mall. After lunch, at 1:45pm we split and I initially head to the MPH bookstore where I buy a guidebook about Vietnam. Then I fetch a taxi to the Vietnamese embassy. It turns out that today is not my lucky day, because the taxi driver is a ethnic Indian and ethnic Indian taxi drivers in KL almost always cheat. Thinking again about it I should have checked the driver immediately after boarding the taxi. In any case the trip from the Midvalley mall to the Vietnamese embassy ends up costing almost 40 RM (39.20 RM). The Vietnamese embassy is a couple of hundred metres away from the KLCC complex and a taxi ride from the Midvalley mall to the KLCC complex usually costs 10 RM...

At 2:50pm I'm in the Vietnamese embassy and ask about the visa. A standard visa costs 180 RM and you have to wait one week, while the express service costs 240 RM and takes three days. After some discussion I get a visa valid for two weeks within 10 minutes for a fee of 240 RM.

It's shortly after 3pm and I walk to KLCC. After some time there I take a taxi back to the Midvalley megamall, arriving there around 5pm. In the evening we meet Sara and have a dinner together.

13.12: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Boulevard, Midvalley Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
Weather: overcast the whole day with some rain.

Day spent not doing much. I wake up at 11:00am when the phone rings. It's Andy Lim who is ready to meet me at 11:30am. So I get up, get ready and meet Andy in the hotel lobby. We have a chat in the San Francisco Coffee shop until almost 1pm. After that I meet Shirley and after some shopping we go back to the room, because Alissia needs to take a rest.

At 4pm Shaun, Shirley's brother, joins us and we drive to the IKEA shopping complex in Damansara. There is an IKEA outlet and some other malls in the same place. By the way, there is freezing A/C everywhere. It seems that the Malaysians enjoy living in refrigerators.  In between we have some food.

Around 8pm we drive back to the Midvalley shopping complex. I buy some groceries, then join Shirley in the hotel room.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon