Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: Kuala Lumpur, Pinang

25.8: Tehran -> Kuala Lumpur
26.8: KL
27.8: KL -> Pinang
28.8: Pinang
29.8: Pinang
30.8: Pinang
31.8: Pinang -> Kota Kinabalu -> Kudat

1.9: Kudat -> Pulau Banggi -> Tip of Borneo -> Kudat
2.9: Kudat -> Bavanggazo -> Gombizau -> Mengkabong -> KK
3.9: Kota Kinabalu -> KL
4.9: Kuala Lumpur
5.9: Kuala Lumpur -> Dubai
6.9: Dubai -> Munich

25.8: Tehran -> Kuala Lumpur
Overnight in the Airasia plane
Weather: sunny, hot, dry but with some clouds in the sky in Tehran. Comfortably fresh along the river in Karaj.

It's 5:10pm when we drive back to Tehran. I fetch my bags at the Bozorg hotel, say goodbye to Reza and his friends and drive to the airport.

The Imam Khomeini international airport today makes a much better impression than last time I used it. Today it seems modern, fresh and functional. At the airport I discover that the 9:55pm Airasia flight to KL miracolously is now a 10:55pm flight. According to the staff at the check-in counter the arrival time of 10:50am however is unchanged.

Without problems or long queues I check-in, proceed through immigration, security and make it to the gate. Not surprisingly in the plane the Airasia hostesses are not wearing miniskirts as usual, but loose fitting pants.

Soon as the plane takes off, the Iranian girl next to me takes off her stuff and sports a sexy top which would get her stoned in a city like Mashhad. The plane is almost completely full (how does Airasia manage to achieve such a high load factor?) and most people look like Iranians. I'd even say 99% are Iranians (why would a Malaysian travel to Iran anyway?).

On the plane a dinner is served, which surprises me given that with Airasia usually you have to pay for the meals.

26.8: KL
At the place of Sara, the sister of Shirley
Weather: overcast the whole day in KL, not too hot, humid, some rain. The sky opens up briefly in the afternoon.

I'm woken up around 8am local time on the plane when the breakfast is served. The plane lands at 11am local time in KL. By 11:35am I'm finally through immigration (long queue), by 1pm I'm at Sara's place, reunited with the family. Day spent with the family not doing much. Tomorrow we fly to Pinang.

The SIM card of DiGi costs 8.50 RM and has 5 RM of airtime. Internet access costs 10 cents/100KByte. 8 RM Internet flatrate: if you reach 8 RM of Internet consumption, you are not charged more regardless of how much Internet you use until midnight.

27.8: KL -> Pinang
Paradise Sandy Beach resort, Penang. 70 Euro for a studio suite with a living room, a bedroom and a bathroom. Very nice room, TV, fridge and water basin in the living room, nicely furnished. Only problem is that I actually booked a triple room (2 adults + 1 child) and only receive a double room. For an extra bed they charge RM 60/day. Not exactly clear how this mess happened, I suspect that both expedia.de and the hotel are responsible.
The hotel is of the resort type, with a variety of shops, restaurants, a cafe etc. Pool is nice and has a kids section and a deeper section. The hotel is on the Bungah beach which is, well, not that impressive. Coarse sand, the sea water is a dirty greyish-brownish soup. Even worse than the seawater in Pangkor.
The restaurant and the shops of the hotel are overpriced, but opposite the hotel there are shops and restaurants which are less expensive.
Weather: overcast in the morning in KL, but no rain.

Today I'm flying with my daughter Alissia to Pinang, while Shirley and the rest of the family will arrive later in the afternoon by bus.

Alissia and I take the taxi at 7:45am to the airport (LCCT, 80 RM) arriving there at 8:30am. After checking in, I buy some food for Alissia, then at 9:15am we proceed to the gate.

The Airasia plane takes off with some delay at 10:15am. It's half-empty. We land around 11am in Pinang airport and then take a taxi (54 RM) to the hotel, arriving a bit after 12pm.

Since the room is not ready yet, we take a taxi (RM 15, hotel taxi) to the Gurney plaza shopping mall. This lies about 10-15 minutes from the hotel towards Georgetown. It' a big and modern mall with many shops and a good selection of goods. There is a food court in the lower ground. We have lunch there.

We are back in the hotel at 2:30pm and move into the room which is now ready. Surprise, surprise, the room is just a double room. I immediately complain at the reception. Long discussion, they tell me that the hotel has only double rooms. I show them my booking for two rooms with three people in each room. In the end they will add a bed in each room but will check with Expedia on Monday what went wrong. Once back in the room I also send an email to Expedia asking for a clarification.

I spend the afternoon with Alissia, swimming in the pool, in the sea and bringing her to dinner to the restaurant opposite the hotel. In the evening Natasha, Shirley, Sara and their mother join us.

28.8: Pinang
Paradise Sandy Beach resort, Penang. The breakfast is buffet type, quite good.
Weather: sunny with some clouds in the morning. Totally overcast, heavy rain, a storm actually, from about 2pm until the evening.

We have breakfast at 9:30am then take a taxi (RM 35) to the Kek Lok Si Chinese temple. While on the way to the temple I spot a nearby Hindu temple. I get off the taxi to take some photos of this temple, while Shirley and the family proceed to the Kek Lok Si temple.

After I'm done with the Hindu temple, I walk to the Kek Lok Si temple. This is a large Buddhist temple complex on a hill southwest of Georgetown. It consists of several halls and pavillions, all beautifully decorated. Construction is ongoing for a large statue of a goddess, covered by a circular roof sustained by pillars.

At 12:35pm I join again Shirley and the rest of the family. We slowly walk down the hill, through the multitude of shops located around the temple. At 1:20pm, as we can't find a restaurant with A/C in the area, we take a taxi (RM 25) to the Gurney Plaza shopping mall. This taxi actually has a working meter which is even running while we get to the destination, but the taxi driver does not want to use it (final amount indicated is around RM 12, i.e. the driver is effectively doubling the metered rate).

We have lunch in the mall and at 2:50pm take a taxi (RM 20) back to the hotel. Now we can see that while we were in the mall it has started raining and it is still raining. In fact it will continue raining the whole afternoon.

In the hotel the kids take some rest. I give a call to Tim, a web blogger with whom I'm in touch (met him during the Laos trip in 2005). Will meet him tomorrow at 4pm. In the evening we have a dinner in the Indian restaurant opposite the resort. Much better food than yesterday.

By the way, the quality of the Internet connection with DiGi is variable. It's fine most of the time, but the connection is frequently interrupted. Often it's fast enough, but sometimes it is quite slow. I'm using a 3G phone with HSDPA accelleration (the Nokia 5700).

29.8: Pinang
Paradise Sandy Beach resort, Pinang.
Weather: overcast the whole day. Lots of rain in the afternoon.

Day spent not doing much. At 12pm we are at the Komtar mall, thinking that it is a special place, but it turns out that the Komtar mall is a very messy and old mall. Adjacent to it there is another mall, which is not much better. Very noisy inside, old building.

Between 1 and 2pm we have a lunch in a simple Chinese restaurant, then we head back to the hotel. Between 3 and 5pm I meet Tim, the webmaster, in the hotel for a chat.

After that I swim with the kids in the pool until it starts raining. In the evening we have a dinner in the Indian restaurant.

I receive an email from Expedia telling me that I did everything correctly and that Expedia communicated the booking to the hotel. Because the hotel however insists in charging for the two beds for the children, Expedia asks me to pay the hotel and then send the bill for a refund to them.

In the evening I finally make up my mind about where to go for the three days after Pinang. It will be Kota Kinabalu, reachable by a direct flight from Pinang. Quite a few places around KK which I haven't visited yet and in addition the weather should be better.

30.8: Pinang
Paradise Sandy Beach resort, Pinang.
Weather: overcast in morning, then the weather improves and in the early afternoon the sky opens up and the sun shines through. Beautiful sunset.

In the morning I catch a taxi (RM 20) to the Batu Ferringhi beach, just to get an idea how this beach looks like. Quite disappointing, this beach is even worse than the Bungah beach where we are staying. Very narrow strip of sand, with the same dirty water as Bungah beach.

At 11 something am we start driving in a taxi (RM 50, includes the trip from Batu Ferringhi back to the hotel) towards the cablecar station of Penang hill, arriving there around 12pm.

Very long queue of people at the ticket counter. Looks like we chose the right day to go to Penang hill. The ticket is not cheap either, RM 30 for an adult (go and return), RM 15 for a child, RM 70 for a family of two adults and two kids.

At 12:40pm we finally board the cablecar. Long wait, but it was worth the time, because on top of Penang hill it's nice. The altitude is 833m and the air here is quite fresh. We visit the bird park (small but cute, and the kids can take a photo with the boa snake) and a couple of other places.

At 3pm we queue up again to go down. Long queue again. Once we are down we wait for a while for a taxi, but none is available. So we walk to the nearest food court.

While the others are having lunch, I try to catch a taxi to get to Georgetown. I try to get a taxi for half an hour, but no taxis are available in the area. The few ones which pass have customers. So I join again Shirley and the others.

It's now 5pm and this time Shirley and the others try to catch a taxi. Not a chance, so we walk to a bus stop and take a bus the Komtar mall in Georgetown. From there we take a taxi to the hotel.

On the way I drop out at the Gurney plaza mall for some lunch/dinner. It's almost 6pm and I haven't had any real food today.

In the evening I try to settle the bill for the extra beds. It's 480 RM (2 beds * 4 nights * 60RM). When I tell in the lobby that they already charged my credit card with RM 200 (deposit) and that I therefore only need to pay the difference of RM 280, the chaos starts. They claim that they only preauthorised RM 200, but did not charge my credit card. But I have already checked before with VISA (Germany) and got a confirmation from them that the amount has been charged.

Long discussion, phone calls to VISA in Malaysia, then a 10 minutes phone call to VISA in Germany with my mobile phone. I pass then phone with the VISA rep to the staff in the hotel and the VISA rep confirms that the amount has been charged from my credit card. That is still not enough for the hotel staff (especially the local manager, a Malaysian Indian lady).

This local manager insists that they need to have a fax from VISA with the confirmation and at this point I lose my patience. I've lost already 40 minutes on this useless discussion and the VISA rep in Germany is also quite fed up. It ends up so that the hotel staff tears the VISA receipt into pieces, I pay RM 480 cash for the beds and should the RM 200 be withdrawn from my account, I will post a complaint and ask for a reimbursement with VISA.

In any case I am really tired of this hotel. Not only do they charge us for the children beds even if we have bookings for room with 2 adults + 1 child each, but they also make a lot of trouble with the payment.

Copyright 2011 Alfred Molon