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Late arrival in Kuala Lumpur

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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They showed us our room which was alright minus the neon signs shining through the curtains. We'd certainly landed in a commercial area.

Posted by Sarah.M 13:22 Archived in Malaysia Tagged flight malaysia bangkok mandalay transport shuttle monorail petaling klia2 Comments (0)

To Krabi town!

Our (re)introduction to Thailand

sunny 33 °C

The flight to Kuala Lumpur was long but we managed to sleep just a bit. The cabin was pretty dry when combined with all the arid weather we faced in China, so we had to buy a bottle of water. If you've never flown budget Asian airlines, the only complimentary extra they offer you other than the ticket and a smile, is the barf bag. You pay out of pockets for everything else. I had some Malay currency from my last trip so it worked out fine and we got our tiny bottle.

I had been dreading flying into Kuala Lumpur's airport since we booked the flight, but as it turned out they'd built a new one in the past two years which meant that we didn't even have to go through immigration or customs or reclaim our bags. They actually had a layover counter to make sure our bags were coming through and that we were in the right place. We did have to collect the tickets that the clerk in Beijing failed to print for us. We spent our few hours using the free unrestricted internet again, hurray for Facebook and Google! We also ate sandwiches at Dunkin Donuts which was one of our few options. They even had free drinking water at the airport. We hardly wanted to leave.

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The flight to Krabi was short and sweet, but the immigration lines less so. Once we cleared them, we were free to go with our 30 day stamp. We ditched our Beijing sweaters that had made us stick out in KL but the jeans and long sleeves would have to stay a bit longer.

Ignoring the offers from bus companies and taxis, we set off to find a songtao I'd read about on wikitravel. We tried to find a spot in the shade on the main road as we kept an eye out for pick-up trucks. They were colour coded and we just needed a white one. The hot, sticky, air wasn't doing us any favours and after fifteen minutes I was beginning to doubt the advice I read was valid.

Finally, we flagged one down. Ryan wasn't too sure about riding in the back of a truck. I had forgotten that normal people found it a bit strange and unsettling. After a year living here, it had just become normal for me. He went with it anyway and we made it into town for just under a dollar combined.

Once we were there, I could finally use Google maps to help us find the hotel. Fun fact, if you load the city's map beforehand, the built in GPS will even keep working once the wifi disappears. Before we found our destination, we did have to stop and buy fruit from a vendor with what little Thai I remembered. She spoke English anyway, but it was still fun to be able to communicate with people again. Ryan loved the Thai pineapple and I'd missed it too. He was already falling in love with the country and I was beginning to wonder why I ever left. A sweet treat and some heat mid-winter will do that to a person.

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We found our guesthouse on the main street, past some cheap food vendors, tourist clothing stands, convenience stores and a very lost drunk Finnish guy. The lobby was nice and spacious with a tour desk and high ceilings. The woman working greeted us with a smile and told us we had a wonderful room, lots of space but very high. The cheapest ones always seem to be on the top, in this case 5th, floor. She wasn't lying about the room though: bright walls with so much space to move around, plus a balcony.

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Excited about the city, we went into Krabi town to explore. We found where to buy water and food. A grocery store with an imported foods section even carried Skippy peanut butter so we had to pick some up despite the marked up price, plus a little spoon. If anything we were budgeting and saving money - think of all those cheap breakfasts we could have. Wandering the outdoor shops, Ryan even managed to find himself a bandana before we settled into a little tourist cafe with prices three times as high as I remembered. The pineapple fruit shakes were nice and our curries delicious. I had a Tom Kha coconut milk soup and Ryan had Penang curry.

A market sprung up as the sun went down. Food, clothes, accessories, electronics, crafts and all kind of stands were set up to cater to the mix of foreign and local customers. English signs helped us figure out some of the dishes we might try tomorrow. Ryan found a pretty sweet tiger shirt that he'd been anticipating buying long before we hopped on the plane to China. He went back and forth on the price before agreeing to it. I still had a pretty good sense of what was a fair price so he did well.

We found Thai pancakes with banana and chocolate and sat down to eat them while people on stage performed some sound checks. The young women working at the restaurant we ate at before were running around collecting dishes at the tables. They saw us, waved and laughed, probably because we couldn't stop eating. How could you with all this tasty food?

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A lot of people rag on Krabi town as a place they wouldn't want to stay. Personally, I loved seeing the mix of local culture and tourist infrastructure. Markets, street stall food, restaurants, shops on the first floor of multi-story buildings. To me this was Thailand. Because we were in the South, there were more Muslim Thai people and that was reflected in the dress. It was something I had missed my first time crashing through the south as a speedy tourist. The fact that local people were out enjoying the market meant that this wasn't all for show for the visitors too. It felt real and I loved that part of it.

Posted by Sarah.M 07:36 Archived in Thailand Tagged market kuala thailand krabi maps lumpur google curry klia2 songtao Comments (0)

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