After the ride from Malacca to Kuala Lumpur (which literally felt like a ride thanks to the bouncy seat), I was back where it all started.
Except this time, I actually knew where to go, well, kind of.
Well, actually, I didn’t really. I could see on the map where I needed to go, but it proved a little bit more difficult to get there.
Kuala Lumpur and Travelling on Public Holidays
I should have known that it might have been a challenge to get into town from one of the main transport centres in KL on a national holiday, but I assumed that because Terminal Bersepadu Selatan looked close to the city that it would be easy to get a Grab. Not so.
The Grab driver I hailed clearly gave up pretty much immediately after he accepted my ride. It’s not often that you get double digit waiting time.
So I had to go back into the bus building and take a metro train into town, which wasn’t too bad. It was actually quite fun to use the red plastic coin to get through the turnstile. It reminded me of playing some kind of arcade game.
Kuala Lumpur and When Transport Infrastructure Gets in the Way
The metro took a while but it did get me to very close to where I needed to go in Bukit Bintang, where I’d decided to stay for my second last night (so I could get one last insight into a popular area of the city before going back to Brendon’s apartment in the suburbs, and then leaving).
But first, I had to carry my suitcase up the stairs. Which was interesting.
And then I got distracted by the Tealive bubble tea stand, where I got an overly sweet drink and vowed I’d try something different the next time (read: Matcha and Sea Salt Cheese).
I then walked along a very busy road/highway offramp area, and realised that I had no idea how to get to the other side of the massive train bridge.
Thankfully, at that stage, there was a Grab driver available, to take me all of 1km up the street.
Kuala Lumpur and Serendipitous Finds
I eventually got to Paper Plane Hostel, which was a lot smaller than I anticipated, but which was made up of the exact modular fittings I’d expected from the website (which I’d looked at months ago, and which had made me want to stay there).
A friendly guy called John welcomed me and showed me to my dorm, which was conveniently right next to reception.
It was at that point that I felt so ready to go home. So tired of the same check-in, check-out process, the small talk and the tour. The bathroom did look cool though, and had all of the concrete, minimalist features that I’d come to love seeing all over the country.
And some entertaining murals of dogs and turds on the toilet stalls.
After wallowing in homesickness for a while it was time to get out of my head and distract my tired body, so I went for a walk, after checking how safe the area was. It was weird, but I just felt compelled to ask John. And it was the same answer you’d get anywhere. Just don’t walk around alone late at night.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry about being alone at all because the Alor Street Food Night Market around the corner was packed. So packed it was difficult to even choose something to eat. To ease the indecision I chose some overcooked dim sum and a dragonfruit shake, mostly because those stalls weren’t busy (which should have been my first clue).
I just didn’t really have an appetite, maybe after seeing all the raw frog skewers.
On the way back, I happened to stumble into the blue lit building next door to the hostel, which definitely lifted my both slightly overwhelmed and dull mood.
Kuala Lumpur and the Global Gin Boom
You might think that Kuala Lumpur wouldn’t be an easy place to drink, but it is, it’s just expensive.
But that didn’t hold me back from trying out a coconut-fat washed gin from Thailand called Iron Balls and a Fentiman’s tonic at Pahit, the conveniently located gin bar just a few discreet doorways down from Paper Plane.
The word “pahit” means bitter, but that definitely only referred to the alcohol, because it was one of the most welcoming bars I’ve ever been to, but in a very subtle, not-trying-to-please-anyone kind of way, which I really appreciated.
(In fact, this is one of the best things about being in a country that doesn’t promote booze, at all. Drinking just feels like more of a secretive adventure, which for someone who doesn’t really drink, works well for me).
I sat behind the bar for a while smelling all of the different spices in the jars on the counter and talking to the barman about all the gins, including a very interesting sounding Shiraz-washed gin from Australia.
If it hadn’t cost 300 ZAR a cocktail, and I hadn’t been feeling end-of-trip stingy, I definitely would have had one of those too. And the laksa-themed cocktail.
Looking back, over a month after getting home, it seems almost ridiculous that I didn’t.
Kuala Lumpur and Killing Time Before Takeoff
The next morning, I went and worked/wrote around the corner at VCR– the kind of coffee shop I’d come to expect, and love, in Malaysia. More minimal fittings and a massive upstairs lounge area. It was wonderful, but like so many things I’ve realised, too cold for my liking, thanks to the A/C.
I especially liked the fact that my tea was real tea leaves in a removable bag with long strips so you don’t have to burn the fuck out of your finger to get it out of the cup when it’s brewed. And that I didn’t need to use a spoon.
And that there were so many delicious food items on the menu (which would have been infinitely better than the so-called “traditional” nyonya laksa that I ate next door afterwards, even though I had to ask to have the poo strings taken out of the “cooked” prawns and the laksa was basically a pineapple salad in a warm bowl of broth. Yuck. Note to self: if it says “traditional”, steer clear).
The next day, I happened to find another VCR in Bukit Bangsar, where I went to kill time before my evening flight, mainly because there was a Lululemon there and I needed to get another pair of leggings that weren’t ripped up by puppy teeth.
There was also a foot massage place, and a restaurant that served banana leaf curry, which I might not really have understood how to eat, but which felt like a perfect last meal in a country that I definitely didn’t expect to be in for so long but which I definitely started to really enjoy.
Especially thanks to the food.