Posted by: Michelle | October 28, 2011

You say “Malaysia,” I say “Ma-lay-she-a”

I consider myself a savvy traveler – I’ll go anywhere, anytime [within reason, okay? You won’t find me hiking near Iran nor will I sign up for a boat cruise along the coast of Libya.] Well, I was wrong (shocking, I know). Oh, I survived my trip to “Ma-lay-she-a” but it was a brutal one, fraught with all kinds of life lessons. Complacency is not what you want to be when you are in a foreign country. Whilst traveling in some countries is a no-brainer, taking a trip to some parts of the world (any country in Asia would qualify) means one should be on one’s toes (all ten of them!).

Before I go any further, it wasn’t like I was in danger or anything that dramatic but certainly there were periods of frustration and anxiety. But it was a good reminder that things don’t always go as planned. Oh, I bought travel books and perused them a few times but with my hectic schedule, I didn’t really put much forethought into this trip. And smart me, packed both books in my checked luggage. Check. Another life lesson learned.

Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi)

Suvarnabhumi - Bangkok's International Airport

Signage at BKK

My back and forth travel to Australia was a rehearsal for my trip to Kuala Lumpur. It is never easy to get anywhere from Reno and this was no exception; RNO to SFO to LAX to BKK to KUL. A mere 32 hours later, I wearily stepped off the plane at Suvarnabhumi Airport. This however, was not your typical airport. This was a shopping mall with planes. Bleary eyed after a 17 hour flight left combined with a stiff body and growling stomach, I set off to locate the signage to determine where my connection would leave. Easier said than done. There were long walkways with minimal signage lest you miss an opportunity to purchase duty free perfume, orchids, cigarettes, designer purses, etc. Now finding your gate, baggage claim, etc., wasn’t as big of a priority. It felt vaguely familiar, like a casino – keep it dark, no clocks, and ply the customers with liquor to keep them gambling. Unfortunately for me, once I managed to find a map of the mall (err, I mean terminal) the Starbucks was on the wrong side of security. I did find a Burger King and ordered a sausage crossan’wich, hashbrowns and a large Coke (I was parched when I got off the plane; obviously I did not drink enough water). I know, I know. Here I am in Bangkok eating Burger King. So sue me. I wanted an American breakfast. And I could use USD. And it was convenient. After refueling, I managed to wander around the shops and enjoy the orchids that were everywhere. I’ve never been to an airport that smelled so good.

After three hours, it was finally time to board the last flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was a short, 90 minute flight but I

Kuala Lumpur International Airport

was anxious to get where I needed to be. The scenery out the window was different and I could certainly see the severe flooding as we headed south towards Malaysia. After landing at KUL (another mall with planes – this one complete with a jungle in the middle) I made a beeline for immigration (so glad I had an express pass) and relieved to see both bags. Spotting an ATM, I decided to stop but was unable to withdraw any cash. No worries, I’ll stop at a real bank later (and so began my cash woes). I walked out the door and was immediately greeted by a blast of heat that stopped me in my tracks. Really? Wow, this is HOT (even for me)! I quickly shed as many clothes as I dared (Malaysia is a conservative country, you can go to jail for bringing in pornography) and lined up in the taxi queue. The man working the line asked for my taxi ticket. Um… What’s a taxi ticket? Yeah, pretty much didn’t matter what it was, I obviously didn’t have one. So back in I go, having to explain to the police officer I needed a taxi ticket (it was in the secure area) he merely nodded and let me by. By his body language, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the first to backtrack (and after talking to my colleagues, this was indeed confirmed). Of course, I breezed right by it the first time. So I had to stand in line for the one window that accepted credit cards before heading back out. Then I find out I’m at the wrong door. I am at door 5 and I should be at door 3. Really? 36ish hours later and this is my reward. Can I get there from here? Of course not! I had to go back in and out the other side. This was not as obvious as one would think but finally managed to get out the right door, to get in the right queue, and finally relax in the back of a taxi for the hour drive into the city. Sigh. I’m never going to get there, am I?

And that’s just my first 2 hours in KL… wait until you hear the rest but that will come another day.

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