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Getting around

Part 3: KL, Dubai

19.8: Kota Kinabalu -> Lahad Datu -> Semporna
20.8: Semporna -> Bohey Dulang island -> Semporna
21.8: Semporna -> Mataking -> Semporna
22.8: Semporna -> Pom Pom island -> Kuala Lumpur
23.8: Kuala Lumpur
24.7: Kuala Lumpur
25.8: KL -> Dubai
26.8: Dubai -> Munich

23.8: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel The Summit, Subang Jaya. Finally I discover a way to switch off the A/C and I also find three buttons (low, medium, high) for the A/C. However even at the lowest level the A/C is too cold. The A/C unit in the room really sucks. I'll most likely avoid this hotel in the future. Stone age hotel with inadequate A/C system.
Weather: overcast in the morning. Over the course of the day the sky opens up a bit, but is still mostly overcast. No rain and not too hot, actually quite comfortable temperatures.

I sleep until 11am, then get up. In the morning the temperature in the hotel room is 19C, very cold. In a tropical country I usually set the room temperature to 24-25C, also to avoid big differences with the outside temperature.

Finally I find a way to switch off the A/C. It's a small button in the console between the beds.

I just hang around in the room until after 1pm, then walk to the nearby mall for some lunch. After lunch I get some cash from an ATM and get back to the hotel.

There I inform them that my wife will arrive in the afternoon with the kids and ask them to add an extra bed to the room and also pay for the room. Later in the afternoon when Shirley shows up in the hotel lobby, they have completely forgotten what I told them and initially deny entry to her.

Then I try to catch a taxi to the Sunway Pyramid mall. Initially the hotel staff offers me a taxi ride for RM 30. When I tell them it's a very short distance they reply that this is a fixed price they charge for all taxi trips. I then walk to the taxi stand. The taxi drivers refuse to use the metre and ask for a fixed amount of RM 15. When I point to the big board on the taxi door stating "This is a metered taxi. Haggling is prohibited." they say that this is government nonsense.

I tell them that I'll just flag a taxi and walk away. I'm lucky as a taxi arrives soon after that and is willing to use the metre. So we drive to the Sunway Pyramid mall. It takes a few minutes and the bill is RM 6.60.

The Sunway Pyramid mall is a very nice mall, elegant with high end shops and a skating rink. Beautiful and colourful decorations inside the mall. Very stylish. Malls in Germany by comparison are very austere, but here everything is colourful and full or life. Although there are many branded goods and western goods, the atmosphere in the mall is by no means snobbish. Rather it is easy going and accessible, sort of a middle class mall.

At 4pm I take a taxi to the Giant shopping centre in Puchong, where I'm going to meet Andy, a friend from KL, at 5pm. I use the coupon system of the mall, because RM 18 doesn't sound too expensive for the trip (about 10km).

At 4:20pm we reach the Giant shopping mall. This is sort of a supermarket with some additional shops. Much, much smaller than the Sunway Pyramid. I check it out a bit, have a delicious waffle and shop a bit in the supermarket.

At 5:15pm Andy arrives. Long chat until about 6:45pm, then I try to get back to the Sunway Pyramid mall to meet Shirley and the kids.

There are two taxi stands next to the Giant mall. In both the drivers refuse to use the metre and ask at least RM20 for the trip. Even after I show them the coupon of the Sunway Pyramid mall with the RM 18 price, they are still unwilling to do the trip for RM 18.

This is really irritating. The taxis are metered, so the drivers should use the metre and not just make up whatever price they like. I tell them I'll just wave a taxi and walk away.

The situation with the taxis in KL is really irritating. I wonder what can be done to get the taxi drivers to use the metre. Should one call the police, complain to the tourist office or some other government entity?

Until 8pm I try to find a taxi. Initially one willing to use the metre, then after 7:30pm just any taxi willing to bring me to the Sunway Pyramid mall. Initially all taxis I stop are refusing to use the metre, then there are no more taxis.

Finally at 8:20pm Shirley comes to my rescue and picks me up in the car or her friend. Together we drive to the Sunway Pyramid mall, where I meet the rest of the family and the kids.

We spend the rest of the evening in the mall, then head back to the hotel.

24.7: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel The Summit, Subang Jaya. This morning Shirley tells me she only fells asleep at 5am due to loud disco-music she could hear in the room. Indeed at night you can hear disco music in the hotel. According to the reception this music comes from the adjacent shopping mall, which is strange because the mall has three floors and our room is on the 10th floor of the hotel. We even hear this music on the 17th floor. I can sleep because I'm wearing earplugs, but Shirley can't. The kids also complain about the music. We won't stay again in this hotel.
Weather: mostly sunny the whole day, with however a very thin clouds layer and many clouds in the sky. No rain.

In the morning Shirley tells me she couldn't sleep until 5am due to the disco music which has been playing until 5am. We complain to the reception and change from room 1013 to room 1709, hoping that the new room will be less noisy. Later in the evening we'll find out that also the room on the 17th floor is noisy.

We do some shopping in the Summit mall, have lunch and then retire to the hotel room. At 2:40pm I get down to the lobby and ask how much a taxi to KLCC is. The hotel staff gives me a price of 90 Euro. Outside on the street, at the taxi stand, the taxi drivers are all unwilling to use the metre and ask for 85 RM.

I walk away and wave a taxi on the street. I'm lucky because after a minute a taxi shows up and the driver is willing to use the metre.

The trip starts at 2:45pm and we reach KLCC at 3:15pm at a total cost of RM 30, one third of what the hotel was asking. In fact the standard taxi rates are RM 3 for the first km + RM 0.115 for every additional 100m + some money for waiting time.

It's a bright sunny day and KLCC is full of people. I start walking towards Bukit Bintang and note the first change. The entire area between the Petronas towers and Bukit Bintang is now set up much cleaner and proper. Several new skyscrapers have been added.

Now there are real pavements where pedestrians can walk, and traffic lights on demand have been added, making it possible to cross the street easily (just a couple of years ago it was complicated to cross the street). However you still have to be careful and check that cars are really stoppint at the red traffic light, because for instance after the traffic light turns red one large van passes at high speed. Luckily I watched before crossing the street. In Malaysia you can't rely on people following basic driving rules.

I also discover a new flashy mall, the Pavilion, located on Bukit Bintang street. Very elegant and very high end. A web search shows that this has been opened in December 2007. I'm surprised that I haven't noticed this before.

Elsewhere on Bukit Bintang construction works are ongoing. The Lot 10 mall for instance is undergoing renovations.

Jalan Alor is still pretty much unchanged, with the small exception that those roadside restaurants are now covered, i.e. the tables and chairs are now covered by a roof.

At 4:45pm I take the Monorail (RM 2.10) to KL Sentral. There is a lot of traffic on Bukit Bintang street and the taxi drivers there have always categorically refused to use the metre in the past years. Trying to get a metered taxi in Bukit Bintang is a waste of time. In fact, near KL Sentral I easily find a taxi willing to use the metre (it's the second one I ask, cost of the trip is RM 27). I'm back in the hotel at 5:20pm.

In the evening I join a common dinner with the family of Shirley.

25.8: KL -> Dubai
Landmark Riqqa hotel, Dubai. AED 420 for huge and shiny room with a living room and sleeping room, lots of elegant furniture (four sofas, two tables, two LCD TVs, cupboards etc. Safe for valuables in the cupboard. Adjustable A/C, carpets, stone ground, refrigerator. Bathroom with  bathtub and shower. Breakfast included. Some smell of smoke when we get into the room initially, perhaps this is a smokers' room. The hotel staff tells us that they upgraded us to a higher class room, because tehy are full. In fact this is not a family room, because one double bed is missing. There is one huge double bed (king size +) where Shirley, Natasha and I sleep and then they add an additional bed where Alissia sleeps.
Weather: same as yesterday, sunny, blue sky with a thin clouds layer and some clouds. No rain, quite hot at noon. 38C at 11pm in Dubai

In the morning we do some shopping in the mall then check out at 1pm. Sara picks us up with her car and brings us to the house of Shaun, Shirley's brother in Kota Kemuning (near Shah Alam). We then have a lunch until about 2:30pm in a restaurant, then return to the house of Shaun.

Shortly before 5pm Shaun drives us to the KL international airport. There we check in. There is some queue at the check in counter.

At 6:30pm we proceed to the gate. The plane, an A380 of Emirates, leaves on time. It's quite full - there are few empty seats. Later Shirley discovers that there are 220V AC power sockets in the arm rests.

The plane lands early at 22:15 local time. Proceeding through immigration is quite speedy, but we have to wait some time to retrieve the luggage.

After getting some cash at the ATM, we take a taxi (AED 31.50) to the hotel. We sleep before midnight local time.

26.8: Dubai -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: very hot and humid in Dubai. 39C at 10am already, high humidity. Poor visibility, due to all the haze. Fresh (18C) in the evening in Munich.

We get up at 7:10am local time and after breakfast check out. We take a taxi (26.50 AED) to the Burj Khalifa, arriving at 10:15am. We then enter the The Dubai mall and proceed to the At The Top ticket counter to retrieve the tickets for the Burj Khalifa which we have booked online.

The cost of the tickets is 105 AED for an adult and 80 AED for a child if you book through the web (more if you purchase the tickets at the counter). After retrieving the tickets we are told to come at 10:45am (we have booked the 11am timeslot).

We spend the next 20 minutes in The Dubai mall then queue up at the Burj Khalifa visitors' entrance. An Arab guy with no manners jumps the queue and simply joins the queue in the middle instead of at the beginning.

We then proceed through an airport-like security check point (probably the management wants to exclude that somebody might do some nonsense on such a prominent building).

To get to the elevator you must proceed through some corridors. On the walls of these corridors there are some displays about Dubai and its history, and about the construction of the Burj Khalifa, at 828m the tallest building in the world.

At 11:10am we finally reach the elevator which brings us to the 124th floor (452m altitude). The Burj Khalifa has more than 200 floors, but this is the highest floor normal visitors are allowed to get.

On this viewing floor there is an indoor viewing area with electronic telescopes (not much of a use due to the poor visibility) and an outdoor viewing area on a terrace. The terrace is surrounded by glass walls but there are small windows in these walls allowing to shoot photos without a glass wall in between.

It's hot like in an oven on this outdoor terrace and the visibility is heavily affected by all the haze. I guess a good time for visiting is a winter day after it has rained, so that the air is a bit more clear. Also, the view must be probably good at sunset and during the blue hour.

We spend almost half an hour on this viewing floor, then get down again. On the way out we pass through corridors showing the construction history of the Burj Khalifa tower.

It's 12pm when we are down again. We spend the next two and a half hours in the The Dubai mall having lunch and shopping around. This mall is perhaps the flashiest and highest end mall where I've been so far. The decorations, interior architecture and overall layout are simply amazing. It's like a city with comfortable temperatures, clean streets and a high end environment. The mall has an ice skating rink.

At 2:30pm we jump into a taxi (45 AED) and drive back to the hotel where we retrieve the luggage, after which we drive to terminal 3 of the airport.

The Emirates flight takes off with some delay at 4:45pm. The plane, a Boeing 777, is quite full, almost every seat is taken. We land in Munich with some delay, shortly before 9pm local time and are home before 11pm.

Copyright 2012 Alfred Molon