Adventures in Kuala Lumpur |

Adventures in Kuala Lumpur

Special to the Daily/Luc PolsA little street in Georgetown.

The two hour flight from Siem Reap to Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) was uneventful, but the same cannot be said about the ensuing bus trip to Melacca. Getting the bus ticket alone was a major undertaking and I cannot recommend it, not by a very long shot.

After finding a hotel ” not an easy proposition, either ” I learned that Melacca, as well as Georgetown on Penang Island, were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites last July and there is a lot of pride about that. The town has a long and colorful history and strolling around the historical quarter, one gets a feeling of yesteryear. A 16th century Portuguese ship is now a museum. Just looking at it makes you reflect on the seamanship and how they sailed these ships around the Cape of Good Horn in South Africa, all the way to Europe. Amazing. There is a lot of Dutch heritage here, dating from 1607 when the Dutch threw out the Portuguese until I think around 1824. That’s when they traded Melacca to Britain for Indonesian possessions. Talk about traders!

I had the best meal in Melacca that I’ve had thus far on the trip ” fresh seafood and deliciously prepared noodles.

A good percentage of people are Islamic and dress accordingly, but there is a majority of Chinese here. According to my taxi driver, its around 50 percent. I guess neither the Portuguese, the Dutch nor the English were overly successful in converting people to Christianity.

I decided that one bus trip to and through K.L. is enough, especially since I have to go from that horrendous bus depot to the train station by taxi, so I opted for the train straight to Georgetown. Well, I guess everybody knows about the best laid plans.

After the taxi dropped me at the railway station in Tampin, about 20 miles from Melacca, and left, I went to buy my ticket ” I couldn’t buy it in town before. The train was full, not only that day, but also for the next.

Now what? I walked a mile to the bus station and they said no bus to K.L. for five hours. Now what? I was told, in sign language, to take the Inter-city bus to Semaran and from there try to get to K.L. I paid the $1.50 for the one-hour train ride and when I got there, there still no train to Georgetown.

I found a train to K.L., where I was told about a (better) bus station for a bus to Penang. I got there and secured the last seat on a bus that left 30 minutes later, which put me in Penang an hour earlier than if I’d gone by train. Don’t ask me how, but it worked. Just dumb luck.

Penang is a beautiful island just off the Malaysian mainland. I spent two nights there. I visited the city three years ago. I walked around Georgetown, took some pictures, had some noodles and unsuccessfully tried to find a book. I also had a chance encounter with a Dutchman, who lives in Jakarta and who gave me useful information. Once again my dumb luck held. I secured the very last seat on the ferry to Medan, the next open space not being available for the next five days!

On the ferry, which was uncomfortably packed, I spent most of my time outside, where I spotted eight to 10 dolphins swimming with the boat for a while, but when I got my camera ready, they were gone.

Well, here I am in Indonesia, but the bus from the ferry dropped me unceremoniously I have no clue where in a city of 3.5 million. When I asked, someone suggested I find a taxi, which at last I did. It took me to the Danau Toba International hotel, listed in the book as about $25/$30 a night for a “five-star hotel.” They charged me $50 for an OK room, a good shower, but lousy service and attitude. People were very snotty, maybe because I was wearing shorts, who knows!

Tomorrow I head to see the orangutans in Bukit Lawang ” more about that next week.

Have a travel essay you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at

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