Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: KL

Map of Malaysia
13.12: Munich -> Bangkok
14.12: Bangkok -> KL
15.12: KL
16.12: KL -> Langkawi
17.12: Langkawi
18.12: Langkawi
19.12: Langkawi
20.12: Langkawi -> KL
21.12: KL -> Kuching -> Kota Kinabalu
22.12: Kota Kinabalu -> Sandakan
23.12: Sandakan -> Labuk bay -> Sukau

24.12: Sukau
25.12: Sukau -> Gomantong caves -> Lahad Datu
26.12: Lahad Datu -> Danum valley
27.12: Danum valley -> Semporna
28.12:  Sibuan
29.12: Mabul
30.12: Semporna -> Tawau
31.12: Tawau -> KL
09.01: Melbourne -> KL
10.01-11.01: KL
12.01: KL -> Bangkok
13.01: Bangkok -> Munich

13.12: Munich -> Bangkok
Overnight on the plane
Weather: around 0°C in Munich when we leave, it has snowed yesterday.

We leave home at 6:10pm and manage to queue up at the check-in of the airport by 7:20pm. There is a very long queue and we'll have to wait until 8pm before reaching the clerk at the check-in counter. It turns out that they messed up with our booking. The plane by the way is overbooked and Thai has been offering 35 people 600 Euro each if they fly one day later.

It's almost 9pm when we finally manage to get the boarding passes. Since we haven't had a dinner today, I quickly rush to the nearby Burger King restaurant, hoping to grab a burger. Not a chance, there is a very long queue. We proceed through security and immigration and are at the gate at 9:15pm. Boarding has already started and we are allowed to skip the queue because we are a family with small children. The plane is completely full, not a single seat is empty. Thai have cancelled the Friday flight and put all passengers of the Friday flight on the Saturday flight. It's no surprise that the Saturday flight is overbooked.

14.12: Bangkok -> KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL. 320RM for a nice and spacious room. This is actually a deluxe room (they have upgraded us from the superior room. Internet in the room is not included and costs RM60 extra.
Weather: warm and tropical in KL.

We arrive in Bangkok as scheduled, have some food in a restaurant, then it takes more than half an hour of walking to reach the gate E10, from which the flight to KL takes off. We arrive in KL with some delay, shortly after 8pm. By the time we finally leave the airport by taxi to the hotel it's 9:03pm. We are in two taxis, because using a family van taxi would cost RM180, while two taxis cost only RM67.40 each. It takes only half an hour to reach the hotel - I'm surprised.

15.12: KL
Hotel Boulevard, Midvalley shopping complex, KL.
Weather: blueish sky in the morning with a clouds layer, getting overcast in the afternoon. No rain, not so hot (perhaps 28°C or less). Late in the evening, around midnight it starts raining.

The alarm clock wakes us up at 9am. During the night we woke up every hour because of the kids. At 4am both Natasha and Alissia are together with us in the big bed, and Natasha (the baby, 10 months old) and Alissia start a fight. Alissia would like to sleep but Natasha keeps crawling on her and pulling her hair. We have a deadlock situation because neither Natasha nor Alissia are willing to leave our bed and sleep in the baby court (lots of crying, if you put one into the baby court). In the end, it must have been 4:30am, we manage to get Natasha to sleep in the baby bed.

We have breakfast shortly before 10am, then go down into the Midvalley shopping complex for some shopping. We buy prepaid cards of Maxis for the mobile phones (Digi costs RM30 which includes RM5 of airtime, Maxis costs RM20 which includes RM4 of airtime). A Malayian id or a passport is necessary to get the cards activated (the sales clerk does that).

After that we withdraw some cash from the ATM, then we split. Shirley goes to a hairstylist for a haircut, I go with the kids to the MPH bookstore where I choose a guidebook for Malaysia (my LP guide is of 1999!). After a lot of browsing I finally choose the Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei of 2006. There are other, more recent guidebooks, but in terms of content, layout and structure this seems to be the best. Light years ahead of the Lonely Planet guide (only the Borneo specific Lonely Planet is as good, but I want to buy just one guidebook). The Footprint guide is also very good, but is less informative than the Rough Guide and the hotel information is not as good as the one of the Rough Guide.

I notice the very interesting recommendation regarding the Kinabatangan valley to stay in a guesthouse in Sukau. Interesting because it mentions that all jungle camps of the various operators are just a few hundred metres upriver and that it is easily possible to find local guides or to organise river tours once there.

After that I walk around a bit in the Midvalley mall. Everything is geared towards the Xmas season shopping spree. then I join Shirley at the hairdresser. Natasha has in the meantime already been sleeping for a while, so I drop Alissia with Shirley and bring Natasha back to the room. There I let her sleep in the baby bed.

It's about 3 something pm when Shirley is back. Since I haven't had lunch so far, I leave her in the hotel with the kids and go down to a restaurant in the mall for some food. Then I take a taxi to the Citibank in Jalan Ampang. The taxi driver requests some money (RM 3) in addition to the metered fee. Ok with me, because taxis in KL are very cheap and these drivers do not make much money. But then it takes a while for the taxi driver to reach the bank and I wonder if he drove some weird cirles to increase the fee.

After withdrawing some money from the Citibank ATM, I walk to the Petronas Towers, where I have a look at the mall. From there I walk to the BB Plaza mall in Bukit Bintang street. The Delifrance restaurant in the Lot 10 shopping mall has disappeared.

In the BB Plaza mall I shop around a bit. Do they perhaps have a Sony 70-300 G SSM lens? This is the upscale telephoto zoom lens of the Sony Alpha range, which can be used both for APS-C and full-frame DSLRs. Quite expensive but is supposed to be sharp around F5 according to the reviews, while cheaper telephoto lenses have to be stopped down to F8 and beyond to produce sharp images. I stop in a shop selling Sony DSLR equipment, and after some discussion it turns out that they have one such lens in a nearby shop. List price is RM2999, but they are willing to sell it for RM2600 (and perhaps even a bit less if I negotiate). In Germany the same lens is 50% more expensive.

So I ask to have a look at this lens. The shop clerk disappears for a few minutes and returns with a box containing the lens. I make some test shots with a tripod, using a wireless remote control to trigger the camera. Already in the shop, when examining the captured images at 100% on the camera's LCD I notice no sharpness improvement at all focal lengths and apertures compared with a cheaper telephoto zoom. Later in the evening a more thorough check in the hotel confirms my impression, that the expensive Sony lens is no better than a telephoto zoom which costs 1/4 of the price. I suspect that perhaps the lens copy the shop has available is not good, or defective or perhaps a fake.

Outside the BB plaza mall the taxi drivers are unwilling to use the meter (it was the same one year ago already). Long queue of idle taxis waiting for customers. I get back to the hotel by Monorail (very fast until KL Sentral) and by KTM Kommuter (20 minutes of wait in the station for the next train).

In the evening I have a common dinner with Shirley, her mother, sister and brother. Then I check my emails in a Starbucks coffee shop. Tomorrow we fly with the 11:25am AirAsia flight to Langkawi.

Copyright 2009 Alfred Molon