03.02.2015 - 03.02.2015
After nearly a month in Myanmar, we'd reached our final hours. Our flight and shuttle were late enough that we could have a nice breakfast at the hostel and relax for a bit. On the menu this morning were eggs, toast, pancakes and an interesting mix of sticky rice, chickpea and sesame. Some people ran off to get souvenirs that morning but we didn't want to risk missing the shuttle. That and we had our funds had dwindled down to roughly $3 or 3000 kyat after the airport shuttle and didn't want to pull out more. We said goodbye to the manager of the hostel who made an effort to chat with lots of the guests.
The Mandalay airport is a fair distance outside the city but our drive was quite comfortable in the van. Today was also the full moon festival at the temples, which was too bad considering we'd be spending it on an airplane, but the trip had to move onto fresh ground sometime. While our final destination was the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, most of the others in the van were heading off to Chiang Mai in Thailand.
The Mandalay airport wasn't huge, a couple stories with a few food shops and restaurants around. We went straight to check in but to our surprise we couldn't even go through the gates to the check-in counter since our flight wasn't ready to check us in. We found it a bit bizarre. When we were finally let through, the pile of tickets for each passenger was sitting in a basket for them to look through and find each one. No staff computers or terminals to print them as we arrived like a typical airport. It was a bit funny, like half of the airport was only for show. Why have all the desks with no equipment to do the jobs?
Past security, we went looking for a shot glass souvenir for a friend but had no luck finding one, just some tea lacquer ware. We spent our final bit of money on a veggie sandwich. It would have been nice to spend it elsewhere and support more of the everyday local economy, but you never wanted to be caught empty-handed in the airport in case of unexpected fees.
The airport security was much like the absent computers and it really irked Ryan. We'd assumed there'd be a point where we were searched for liquids but by the time we crossed into the final boarding area we realized it never came. Aside from that, our connecting flight to Bangkok went by smoothly. We had a chance to browse the in flight magazines and add a few more destinations to future hypothetical trips. There was also a Hindu festival today at the Batu Caves not far from Kuala Lumpur that we'd be missing.
Bangkok airport was full of familiar chains like Subway, McDonalds and Dairy Queen, all of which we stopped at. Ryan had been looking forward to the latter since our flight into Myanmar. It didn't disappoint, except for when the containers were done and Ryan contemplated a take-out bucket. The flight into Malaysia was fairly uneventful and immigration was a smooth and easy process. I used to dread flying to KL because their old airport was disorganized, hot and not very modern. Their new airport was quite well done and much more functional.
The only hiccup came when we went to claim our bags. Our flight and one from Singapore both had bags come and go around the carousel but ours were nowhere to be found. We went over to the baggage claim help area where another man from the Mandalay flight was waiting for his bag. He was connecting to a flight to Langkawi, an island further north, and had more time constraints than us given that this was our final destination for the next couple of days. Still it would be nice to have clothes. Ryan was convinced that if any airport would lose our bags it would be one from Myanmar. The other man was sure he saw his bag get on the flight to Bangkok.
A few people helped us out and as soon as I left to exchange some money, the bags were back. The luggage tags had been printed in a way that confused the staff, go figure.
We discovered upon exiting that the airport was connected to a huge fancy mall with tons of Western food chains, along with eastern food and tons of outlet stores. We tracked down a money changer to get rid of some yen, then I found a working ATM.
One thing really practical and handy thing about Kuala Lumpur is their transportation network. They have buses that run from the main light rail station straight to both airports that leave frequently. The buses also make the return trip so you're not stuck out in the middle of nowhere bartering with cab drivers. We arrived at the shuttle bus to Central and they loaded our bags. Soon we saw that most people around us had tickets. We hadn't realized that we needed them as we'd read that we'd pay on the bus. We didn't want to lose our spot as it was getting late and there was a line, so I just had my wallet ready to hopefully be able pay when he asked for the tickets. But somehow he managed to count us in a group of 6 Chinese people who had pre-booked with their flight. It's possible he saw we didn't have tickets and just overlooked us, but all the same it was nice we'd be getting a ride into the city after all. We'd make sure to buy a ticket next time.
The ride took about an hour. Upon arriving, a taxi driver informed us the monorail was closed early as it was a holiday. While that was entirely possible, I wanted to confirm for myself, so we walked over to the station. We mistakenly ended up following the overhead fast train track to Petaling Market. Luckily some of the buildings were lit up to make the walk a little less boring.
The Chinese lanterns were pretty and the streets were quite dead. When we made it to the train, sure enough it closed at 11p.m. We walked to the end of the market before catching a cab to Sunshine Bedz, our hostel. Luckily, Kuala Lumpur hardly slept so there was usually someone around to pick you up and check you in up arrival. Most of the people working at this hostel were backpackers or immigrants. I hadn't thought of a working holiday visa here, but it could be a nice place to live.
They showed us our room which was alright minus the neon signs shining through the curtains. We'd certainly landed in a commercial area.