Prepaid GSM
Getting around

Part 3: KL

24-25.10: Munich -> KL
26.10: KL
27.10: KL
28.10: KL -> Tokyo
15.11: KL
16.11: KL
17.11: KL -> Dubai
18.11: Dubai -> Munich

Map of KL region

14.11: Macau -> KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL. RM 315 for a superior room, which essentially is a standard room, but in-room Internet access is included (otherwise it would be RM60/day extra or RM160/week) as well as access to the lounge on floor 26 with American breakfast in the morning and drinks and snacks in the afternoon + reading corner.
Weather: in Macau sunny, blue sky, with a few little clouds. Warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt. In KL overcast and tropically hot. No rain after 5pm.

I get up at 9:25am, get ready and pack my things. At 10:30am I go to the Internet cafe, where I download my emails.

Then, after getting some groceries from 7/11 store I head back to the hotel, check out and take a taxi to the airport (54 Patacas), arriving there at 11:40am.

At the AirAsia check-in they send me to the ticketing counter to pay the excess baggage fee (342 Patacas). I lose lots of time queueing up there, then again time queueing up again at the check-in to get the boarding pass. This is annoying. This excess baggage fee is increasing the ticket price by 50%, while with a standard airline I would not have paid such a fee and I would not have lost so much time.

In the meantime it's 12:10pm and I jump into a taxi, telling the driver to get to the A-Ma temple and bring me back to the airport. It takes 15 minutes to get to the temple and it is really worth it. The A-Ma temple is beautiful. You can see that is has been built recently, but the decorations and the setup are great. I'm back at the airport at 12:50pm (the taxi trip cost 125 Patacas).

I go through immigration and since there are a few minutes left, have a noodle soup at a restaurant. The flight leaves with about 15 minutes delay, because the plane arrived late. The plane is about 80% full. The dumb women sitting in front of me leans back with her seat, making it a torture to type text into the notebook computer. She says with the seat leaned back it's more comfortable for her. Comfortable my ass.

The plane lands at 5:25pm in Kuala Lumpur's LCC terminal, which is a terminal at KL international airport with no gates and only basic infrastructure. Outside it's not that hot, but very steamy. Feels like a bathroom after a shower.

Then things proceed smothly and fast. I go through immigration, get my luggage and purchase a taxi coupon for the Boulevard hotel for RM 61.60. By 5:40pm I'm in a taxi to the hotel. The taxi reaches the Midvalley shopping complex already at 6:45pm, then needs 15 minutes to get to the entrance of the Boulevard hotel because of the heavy traffic jam. It seems that the traffic in Kl is getting worse every year. In the hotel I join again Shirley and Alissia.

15.11: KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL
Weather: in the morning sunny and partly overcast, around 2pm heavy rain and after that it becomes more fresh. Tropical climate.

Day spent relaxing. We get up at 9am, have breakfast, then go shopping. Around noon we swim in the hotel pool, towards 2pm have some lunch in the Sushi King restaurant in the Midvalley shopping complex. Prices here are higher than in Japan.

Between 3pm and 5pm I meet Andy Lim and we have a chat in The Curve shopping complex. The Curve is an elegant, upmarket shopping complex in Petaling Jaya.

After I get back to the Midvalley shopping complex. Both taxi drivers (one is Indian) don't cheat (taxi rides are in the 11-15 RM range). In the evening more shopping in the Midvalley shopping complex and dinner together with Sara at 7pm. Then more shopping. Day essentially spent inside airconditioned shopping complexes.

16.11: KL
Hotel Boulevard
Weather: sunny, partly blue sky, clouds layer. No rain.

We get up at 9am, have breakfast and at 11am I take a taxi to Bukit Bintang (RM 8) to fetch the clothes. While at Sungei Wang I shop for a clothes bag, but find nothing both affordable and nice (cheapest is clothes bag for RM159, but it's light green). I fetch the suit which now is ready with the second pair of trousers, then go to the second tailor. The shirts are not ready yet, but the tailor promises to bring them to me to the hotel in the evening. Then I take a taxi back to the hotel. This time the fee is RM20, because the taxi drivers in Bukit Bintang refuse to use the meter.

All the time I'm in these airconditioned shopping complexes, where the air is partly freezing. It's really crazy - Malaysians are afraid of heat.

I'm back in the hotel at 1pm. I meet Shirley and Alissia and we have a brief lunch. At 1:30pm I leave Shirley taking Alissia with me. Shirley is meeting a friend, while I take care of Alissia.

First I go with Alissia to the pet store, then we go back to the room. There we wear the swimming gear and go to the hotel pool on floor 9. We are in the pool for a while. Alissia likes to play with the water, but is still quite afraid to venture in deeper water, even with the children safety boat. She prefers to play in the children pool.

After about an hour or so we go back to the room, where I wash and dry her. Then we go to the shopping complex, buy some cakes and go back to the room, where I try to make her sleep. She almost falls asleep, when Shirley gets back from the shopping around 4pm something. Then Shirley tries to make her sleep, but in the end we all go out and do some shopping until the evening.

17.11:  KL -> Dubai
Hotel Boulevard, KL.
Weather: as usual sunny and partly overcast, thin clouds layer and thicker clouds, tropicall hot in KL.

We get up at 9am in KL, get ready and have breakfast. Between 11-12pm I meet Julie and Alex for a chat. Julie is doing keywording for the images on my site, Alex is Julie's husband and is working as a professional weddings photographer in Malaysia. He also shoots stock and there are some galleries with his photos on my site (Bali, Kashmir).

While Shirley is with Alissia, I go to the hotel pool and swim a bit. At 1pm I'm back in the room, where I meet Shirley. I pack the bags, which takes some time because I have now a new bag and am rearranging things.

At 2:30pm we check out, leaving the bags in the hotel. More shopping follows, me with Alissia, while Shirley is on her own. Shortly after 4pm Sara picks us up and we drive together to Shaun's place in Shah Alam, arriving there shortly before 5pm.

Shah Alam kind of counts as the "KL greater area" but is actually a different city, 45 minutes by car from KL. Here is where many people from KL move when they buy a house or flat, because real estate in KL is now too expensive for Malaysians.

Until 7:20pm we are at Shaun's place, then we drive to Subang Jaya, another city/suburb (more of a separate city actually, but by now essentially merged with KL) and have dinner in a western style restaurant (the Windmill). Food is not too bad, but not that impressive either and expensive by local standards.

Around 9pm we are back in Shaun's place. I fix the suitcase of Shirley. There was a seam which was torn apart. Some work with thread and needle. Then we finish packing, I take a shower and at 11:15pm we drive to KL international airport. At the airport I check again my emails (KLIA has coverage everywhere with a free WLAN network).

We have four suitcases for a total weight of 76 kg. We are two adults and one child paying 75% of the fare. Nominally each of us grown-ups has a baggage allowance of 20kg (the "ethnic" 35kg are only available for Indonesians). Yet they do not complain of too much weight, which is good.

But the lady at the check-in counter says that she can only give us a boarding pass for the KUL-Dubai flight, not for the Dubai-MUC flight. She claims that we are on standby for that flight, which is strange because we have confirmed flights all the way back to Munich. In any case she gives us a boarding pass for Dubai-MUC with no seats and says it will be easy to get the seats once in Dubai.

18.11:  Dubai -> Munich
Dubai International hotel, Dubai International Airport. We have an unplanned stay here. 632.50 Dirham for a six hours stay (675+10% for up to 12 hours, 715+10% for up to 18 hours, 900+10% for up to 24 hours) in a Deluxe Double room. Confortable soft bed, room has everything except an Internet DSL line. No breakfast or other meals included, but hotel apparently has a gym and a pool.
Weather: sunny, blue cloudless sky in Dubai. Temperature unknown, as we are all the time inside the airport.

Unplanned stay in Dubai. Here are the details.

The KUL-Dubai flight leaves on time at 2:10am on Sunday morning and lands at 4:45am local time (= 8:45am Malaysian time) in Dubai. The food on board is not bad and the entertainment program is good. Then begins the huge mess.

Despite having a confirmed booking for the EK49 flight we are denied boarding. What's worse, we have to wait over three hours in the queue of the transfer counters. The queue at the counters is horrible, because it does not move at all.

At one point I check the watch and notice that they take 50 minutes to process one passenger. We have over three hours in between flights, but there are 10 people in front of us and at the rate of one passenger per hour we will definitely miss the flight.

The Emirates ground staff is extremely inefficient. Also, they keep sending people who have been patiently queueing up for 2-3 hours to other queues, where they will likely have to queue up for again 2-3 hours. Lots of passengers at this point -completely understandably - lose their patience and start shouting at the ground staff. The entire ground staff and especially the management of Emirates who are responsible for all this mess deserve to be machine-gunned.

The reason for all this seems to be that Emirates has overbooked this and several other flights. This is consistent with the fact that the Emirates flights from Munich to Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and back are full or almost full. I have wondered at the beginning of the trip how an airline is able to completely or almost completely fill a plane in low season (October and November are not holiday season). Now we have the answer.

This overbooking arrangement might work with only minor glitches if everything runs smoothly and there are no unexpected situations. But when something non standard happens (Emirates claims that yesterday there was fog over Dubai causing flight cancellations), this has big implications for a large number of flights and passengers.

It's as if you were flying with a budget airline like AirAsia or Easyjet, where a single accident (a defective plane or one plane arriving late for instance) has big reverberations for a big number of flights and passengers).

Needless to say, all passengers in the queues are pissed off, and that's putting is mildly, an understatement. Like me, most of the people won't likely fly again with Emirates. It used to be a good airline, with spacious, not overcrowded planes and a friendly staff, but that was years ago. Now, quite obviously, the management of Emirates in their quest of maximising profits have started overbooking flights, with all the consequences.

It's one thing if short, 1-2h flights with several flights daily are overbooked, because you might take a next flight two hours later. But if an intercontinental flight is overbooked and passengers cannot return home, it's a big problem.

Anyway, at 8:30am we finally manage to secure boarding passes with seats on the EK51 flight a 4:30pm to Munich. That's a delay of 8 hours. I ask for compensation in form of free accomodation at the airport. The lady says to go see the supervisor in the other hall.

We go to the other hall, and there it is as bad as the previous hall with huge crowds of people. Very likely we woud have to queue up again for 2-3 hours, just to be able to ask if we can get compensation.

So at this point we decide to book a room in the airport hotel. This turns out to be the best decision we took today, because we get four hours of sleep in a comfortable bed and can relax and clean ourselves. So we decide to just check in the airport hotel and take a rest.

We're in the hotel between 9am and 3pm Dubai time. At 3pm we check out and have a lunch in a Thai restaurant in the airport. Food is not bad and you can pay by credit card.

At 3:45pm we queue up at gate 18 and board the plane. To top it all and further demonstrate the incompetence of Emirates, the 4:30pm EK51 flight only takes off at 6:10pm, i.e. 1:40h later. Now thanks to Emirates we will be home around midnight instead of 2pm-3pm in the afternoon.

The plane lands around 9pm local time in Munich. Surprise, surprise, our luggage is not there. Should we be surprised? While I queue up at the baggage retrieval counter I pick up a conversation next to me. Apparently 27000 passengers were affected in Dubai. Guy next to me claims the disruption was not caused by the fog, but by an airshow for which the local Dubai ruler reserved the airport for himself.

The luggage will finally be delivered to us on Monday evening. Back at work, on Tuesday, I meet in the office a salesguy based in Dubai. He was booked on the Sunday 4:30pm flight with Emirates, but was denied boarding and put on the Monday morning flight.

Copyright 2007 Alfred Molon