Day 218-227 – Kuala Lumpur 20th-29th Apr 2012

20th April 2012

Bags packed, breakfast (if you can call it that) eaten, taxi here and off to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Organisation at its best? Maybe, but since we hadn’t been able to print the boarding passes we had to queue up to get those and check in the bags with the exception of Mateo’s.

We got through passport control and security and emerged into the departure lounge. Bangkok airport is rather large and we traipsed along the wide boulevards lined with boutiques in search of a bite to eat – the boys had not eaten much of their breakfasts. We found a restaurant and ordered some sandwiches and munched on them watching the planes outside. Tania headed off to check out perfumes and on her return we realised that we were a little late and our flight was on last call.

We hurried along the 500m or so to the gate and boarded the plane straight away. Settling ourselves into our seats I suddenly realised we were one bag short – Luca had left Mateo’s rucksack in the restaurant.

In mild panic, the plane was due to leave in 10 mins I accosted the stewardess and explained the situation. Then I sprinted the 500m back to the restaurant. Chest heaving and heart hammering I arrived, got the bag from the staff and then ran back to the plane. Its moments like these when you realise that you are staggeringly unfit and you hate running!

I made it back to the plane with 5 mins to spare and breathing deep lungfuls of air collapsed into my seat, sweat running down my face like a waterfall. By the time that I had recovered and cooled down the pilot had finished his final checks and we were off into the morning sky for the short hop to Kuala Lumpur.

We arrived on schedule and after retrieving the bags headed out to find the star bus which would take us to within a short walk of Step Inn guesthouse. As we travelled to the city the heavens opened and we passed several nasty looking accidents on the other side of the carriageway. The dangers of heavy rain and driving too fast!

The rain eased as we got to the end of our line and we walked up to the guesthouse. We were warmly greeted by Alan and the rest of the staff and we soon settled into our old room. After unpacking all the necessary and doing some washing we were ready to pop round the corner to see our friends in the little indian restaurant.

Once again we had a warm welcome from the friendly staff in the restaurant and we were soon tucking into vegetable banana leaf and rotis. Delicious!

Our return to KL was as pleasant as we had expected. Now we just need to find something to do for the next 10 days!!

The Following Days…. some highlights

Its not very often that you click with people, especially when travelling as meetings tend to be transitory in nature. Maybe its something to do with the ambience of Step Inn that is conducive to making good friends in that the guesthouse attracts like-minded people. Or maybe chance has a part to play? Whatever the reason, we met Sascha and Carole, a French couple on their first trip to Malaysia and there was an instant rapport. Kind and generous people with a warmth that is palpable, we spent a good deal of our remaining time in their company.

We made frequent visits to our Indian restaurant around the corner, the odd walk around the shopping malls, and had a chance to catch up on our blogging and do some school work with the kids.

The Sky Bar

We were invited by Sascha to the sky bar atop the Traders Hotel for a fantastic view of the Petronas towers and to watch the switch-off that (supposedly) happens at 12:01 in the morning. Carole kindly offered to look after the children and so Tania, Alan, Sascha and I headed off to the bar. The music was pumping loudly and we waited patiently for a window seat so that we could settle ourselves in for the show.

We were led to a booth and then the vodka arrived. Much bonhomie followed as we chatted the evening away, or rather shouted over the music! At last the time for the switch-off arrived and we set up the cameras ready to capture both picture and video. As we made the final preparations we looked up to see the lights had already gone off. Someone had obviously not read the script! or forgotten to feed the meter!

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Ah well, we finished off the drinks and left at around 2am or so, and after a brief stop for food we headed back to the hotel, somewhat merry. Needless to say the next day was taken somewhat slowly!!

The Chinese Pool and KLCC Water Park

A short walk from the hotel is the Chinwoo centre, a sports centre that houses an outdoor olympic swimming pool. We spent many an afternoon in the cool waters of the pool escaping from the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur. Its well worth a visit if you happen to be KL and at RM4 per adult a relatively inexpensive diversion!

Aside from the Chinese pool there is also the water & play park behind the KLCC centre. We had visited it once before, the last time we were in KL, but we were better prepared this time. It is a large, shallow pool with plenty of waterfalls to run through and the kids thoroughly enjoyed the water – adults aren’t allowed in except to supervise their offspring. By the side of the pool is a large park with lots of climbing frames and slides and swings. Its a great place to take kids – but rigorously policed by the security guards who while blow their whistles at the slightest misdemeanour by any of the adults!

Free Elections Demonstration

We had been warned that Saturday 28th would see a large demonstration in Kuala Lumpur for free and fair elections in Malaysia. Thousands of people gathered in the city for a peaceful protest, the finalé of which resulted in the crowd storming the barricades to Merdaka Square, where they had originally planned to rally but had been banned by the city council at the last moment. This was met with force by the police who fired water cannon and tear gas to make the crowd disperse.

The resulting stand-off lasted a few hours with the two sides moving backwards and forwards and the odd volley of tear gas choking the protesters and drifting on the wind to the surrounding neighbourhood. We were sitting tight in the guesthouse along with a few others. Our eyes began to prick and water as a cloud of gas blew our way, so the children were shepherded into an air con room to escape the effects. This happened a few more times, as we adults camped by the balcony waiting for some action to pass by on the street below.

Our new found friend Sascha and Alan from the guesthouse went down for a tour of both sides of the front line. They came back somewhat red in the eye and with some great photos and videos, which I will add when I can get hold of them…

For our part, we only glimpsed some of the crowd as they returned peacefully up towards Bukit Bintang, some washing their eyes out with bottled water, but otherwise unscathed and unperturbed. And of course the constant noise from the helicopters circling overhead. In the papers the next day both sides blamed the other, of course.

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The Last Days

We passed some very pleasant evenings as our time in KL drew to a close. Some of them rather late ones. The 28th arrived and we arranged to have a last dinner with Sascha and Carole before they left the next day. We dined  at a Chinese restaurant that they had frequented during their stay. After dinner, they departed to fit in a little bit more shopping and we went back to Step Inn to put the kids to bed.

As evening changed to night we sat outside the hotel sipping a few beers and chatting until early morning with Sascha and Carole and to several new arrivals that turned up in the wee small hours. It was a real pleasure to have met them and I am more than sure that it won’t be long before we see them again.

Next day was a return to packing for us, after saying farewell every one that left – it appeared that everyone in the guest house was returning home, except us and I must admit that there was a bit of jealously. Still we only have a few more days in Singapore before we too call time on our journey and head back to Europe.

We had a last chance to say good bye to Connie and her children before we headed to bed, an early start awaited us the following day for our flight to Singapore. Our last country before flying back to Paris via London. Seven and a half months of travel was nearly at an end.

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