Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 7: Tawau, 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

30.12: Semporna -> Tawau
MB Hotel, Tawau. RM 98 for a very nice room, modern, with A/C, TV, water boiler for tea, telephone, nice elegant furniture, very nice bathroom. It looks like they recently built this hotel, because everything is so immaculate and clean. Free WLAN internet access in the room.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Semporna, heavy rain between 11am and 12:30pm, more rain at 2pm, dry and mostly sunny in Tawau after 3pm.

I sleep long and then pack my stuff. By the time I check out it is almost 11am. Outside the sky is darkening, so I take the umbrella with me. Indeed shortly after I leave the hotel it starts raining like hell. Luckily I'm wearing shorts and slippers, so it doesn't matter if my legs get wet. Initially I walk around a bit, then I go to a restaurant for lunch.

At 12:30pm it finally stops raining. The streets are flooded with water, people wading through the ankle-deep water. I spend some more time exploring Semporna. There is an interesting fish market, with unbelievably cheap fish (RM3-5/kg), and several markets specialising on different stuff. There is also a mosque, otherwise Semporna doesn't have much in terms of sights. It's however interesting to watch the people on the streets.

I'm back in the hotel at 1:30pm, fetch my bags and ask for a taxi to Tawau. It's RM 100 according to the staff. Shortly after, around 1:40pm the taxi driver is there are and we leave for Tawau. The drive proceeds smoothly until one hour later later when the driver suddenly wants to turn left to the airport. Somebody must have told him that I want to go to the airport or perhaps he is assuming that when a tourist says "Tawau" he/she means the airport of Tawau, because probably few western tourists visit Tawau. In any case he tells me that it's RM 100 until the airport and RM 130 until Tawau (80km Semporna - Tawau airport, 105km Semporna - Tawau city). We'll settle later for RM 115.

Once in Tawau we look for a hotel and I spot the MB hotel, which looks nice. It's 3:30pm now and I check in the hotel. I leave my bags in the room and immediately after that get out again and have a look at Tawau. It is definitely a clean, well organised and pleasant city. In the area where I am located there are several nice middle class hotels and a number of middle class restaurants, including some western ones. Would you stay here, you most likely wouldn't get bored in the evenings, because there are so many places to go (restaurants, cafes etc.).

Semporna has the look and feel of a simple fishing village, while Tawau is more of a business centre. Except for two mosques, there is a dearth of sights in Tawau. A few hours are sufficient to explore completely Tawau. There isn't even a nice public park (I only find this Taman Sabindo park, which is not worth mentioning. Everything in Tawau is very functional and no-nonsense.

Shortly after 5pm I walk back to the hotel. I find a shopping mall (Parkwell), which actually is just a food supermarket. In the evening I don't do much.

31.12: Tawau -> KL
Night spent on the plane.
Weather: mostly overcast in the morning in Tawau, blue sky with some clouds in KL in the afternoon, overcast in the evening. No rain

I check out of the hotel at 8:45am, then take a taxi to the airport. Cost of the trip is RM 40, the distance is approx. 30km and the trip takes around half an hour. Once at the airport I check in at the AirAsia counter. This time it's RM 75 for the 5 Kg excess weight (my suitcase weighs 20kg, max. allowed is 15kg).

The flight takes off at 11am with about half an hour delay and lands in KL at 1:30pm. I leave my stuff at the left luggage counter of the LCCT terminal (fee is a hefty RM 30). Then I take a taxi (RM 62) to the Midvalley shopping complex. The trip takes a bit over half an hour - I'm at the mall around 3:15pm.

Over the next few hours I get a haircut, eat some food and do some shopping. At 6:30pm I look for a taxi but there is a huge queue of people at the taxi stand. So I walk to the KTM station and fetch the 6:53pm train to KL Sentral. There I walk to the LCCT bus stop and manage to catch the 7pm bus to the LCCT terminal, even if it is already 7:05pm. The bus ticket costs only RM 9 and the bus arrives at the LCCT terminal shortly after 8pm.

Once at the airport I check in and proceed to the gate. I process my emails and recharge the batteries of the computer. Then, at 9:15pm the boarding of the AirAsia X flight D72702 starts. I've reserved an emergency exit seat for an additional RM 100 and ordered a comfort kit for RM 25. This consists of a blanket, an eye mask and a neck pillow. All these items would normally be included in a standard flight, but this is a budget airline and for the basic fee you only get the seat and 15kg of checked luggage, nothing else.

This means essentially that you need to spend more than the published fee, because you will need 20 kg (nobody travels long distance with just 15kg of luggage), you'll need a comfort kit if it's a night flight and you'll also need to purchase some food. By the way, the AirAia hostesses look great in the tight and short skirts. I've never seen a fat AirAsia hostess and I'd guess that a slim shape is a basic requirement for anybody aspiring to be an AirAsia hostess.

(continued from the Australia 2009 travelogue)

09.01: Melbourne -> KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL. RM 295 for a double room with A/C etc. There is also a hairdryer and a fridge. Fast Internet access costs RM 60 per day, RM 160 per week.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds, fresh (temperature around 17°C) in the morning in Melbourne.

I check out at 10:30am, then take a taxi to the airport. We are at the airport at 11:15am. There is quite a long queue at the check-in counter, I only manage to check in shortly before 12pm, then I proceed to the gate. The plane, an A330, leaves more or less on time at 12:45pm. It is three quarters full. We land in KL on time and after retrieving the luggage I take a taxi to the hotel.

10.01-11.01: KL
Hotel Boulevard, KL.
Weather: mostly overcast, but in the mornings the sky is less overcast and almost blue. Tropically hot. No rain.

Days spent with the family, mainly in the Midvalley shopping mall. I don't do much, except for some shopping.

12.01: KL -> Bangkok
Rama Gardens hotel, Bangkok. 3200 Baht for a deluxe room (a superior room is 2400 Baht). Very nice and big room with everything. Two queen size beds, A/C, TV, fridge with minibar, phone, hair dryer, tea cooking equipment (water boiler etc.), toilet and separate bathroom with bathtub and shower cabin. Very elegant furniture, thick carpet on the ground, luxury feeling. Cable Internet connection in the room (100 Baht for one hour, 200 Baht for three hours, 500 Baht for one day. Pool in the garden, gym and tennis courts.
Weather: overcast in KL, sunny in Bangkok but sky is heavily polluted (greyish). Warm, but not hot in Bangkok.

We check out around 10am, then take a taxi to the airport (a van for RM 120). At the airport everything proceeds smooth, we check in, go through immigration, pass security and proceed to the gate. The plane takes off on time and arrives in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport at 1:30pm local time. We manage to retrieve the luggage and go through immigration relatively speedily, then we head to the hotel reservation counter. Then starts the mess.

At the old Don Muang airport there used to be an efficient hotel reservation counter which was able to quickly find an affordable and high value hotel. But this counter where we go to (they grab us at the exit and drag us there) is extremely inefficient and is only able to propose hotels in the price range of 7000-8000 Baht/night. After a while I manage to retrieve the name of the nice and affordable hotel where we used to stay years ago (it's close to Don Muang airport). It's the Rama Gardens and after some discussion I book a room there (room is 2400 Baht, but an additional bed for Alissia costs 1500 Baht, which is absurd, so we don't book the extra bed.

Outside the next surprise. The bigger, van-size taxis do not use the meter and charge a flat rate of 700 Baht for the transfer to the Rama Gardens hotel. Only the small taxis use the meter. So we take a van to the hotel. It takes 35 minutes to reach the hotel. We spend the rest of the day in the Rama Gardens hotel.

13.01: Bangkok -> Munich
Home, sweet home.
Weather: Sunny in Bangkok but relatively cold. It's warmer inside the buildings with the A/C on than outside..

After breakfast we check out and at 11:25am are in a taxi to the airport (fare this time is 800 Baht). We arrive in Suvarnabhumi airport 35 minutes later at 12pm. This time there are no queues and everything proceeds smooth. We check in without waiting, go through immigration again without waiting because we have a baby. After a lunch at the airport, at 1:30pm we board the plane.

Copyright 2009 Alfred Molon