So, the days in Kuala Lumpur come to a close as the Malay visa expires soon. I will not have an over-stay issue. It happened once in Thailand and I got dinked for THB500. Not a lot of money by any means, but it’s the visit to the immigrations officer’s roost that troubles me. Seriously; anything can go wrong in there concerning moving from one place to another. Fines, detention, questions, proof of residence, gratuities… you name it. If you can think of it, then it can happen. So good ol’ Clint leaves a few days early, just to be on the safe side. There’s even a 90 day visa calculator online, just to make sure you’re sure you know when to get up and go-go.

It’s really been an interesting adventure in KL this time. Made even more so because of the numerous interactions with the locals. I am the guy who likes to avoid tourists. And, the place I rent is right at the top of the street in Bukit Bintang where all the tourist bars are. It’s noisy, it’s full of drunks, pushy-hustling hostesses and hosts, bar girls, massage places – all the debauchery one could hope for and exorbitantly expensive western-style food. But, there’s an exception, in terms of atmosphere: Opium. It looks nice, it smells nice, the furniture and decor is comfortable, there’s a sitar player playing there most every night and it’s the only place on Changkat that I’ve actually sat down in. The menu did nothing for me and the sitar lady wasn’t playing that night, so I politely went for a glass of the house red (about $8.00) and left promptly. Walk a little further up the hill and you’re at Jalan Alor, a veritable Disney Land of food, trinkets and kitsch. Absolutely worth several visits if you are new to KL, but you have to go at night because that’s when it’s all happening. Fun stuff indeed and do not forget to bring your camera. Also, learn how to use it well enough so that you don’t need to use the flash in low light; flash just annihilates the colors and feeling of the place and ruins the atmospheric vibe completely.

I’ve mentioned many times that I enjoy Pudu, a small pocket of normalcy just about 15 minutes of walking away from Times Square. It’s very homey. Full of food stalls, the mall is full of inexpensive stuff because the Malay shop there, not the tourists. And it’s a typical mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and who knows what else. Pudu market is a street vendor mecca and is a couple of blocks away from the Pudu Mall and Hotel. You’ll know it when you find it, because it’s jammed with vendors selling everything you can imaging and even stuff you couldn’t. They’re not too fond of photographers, so keep a low profile with the camera. Not that it’s unsafe to carry one (or, I haven’t felt that way) but the people there appear to interpret being photographed as being noticeably invasive. Stealth mode… just use your tilting screen and look like you’re playing with your settings or something and Do Not look at the subject you are trying to capture on the sly.

Chow Kit is a new one for me on this visit and is home to Plaza GM. This place is always busy, has something like 4 floors and is jammed with shops. Again… no tourists would be seen here. The surrounding neighborhood is similar in feel to Pudu and you can take the skytrain right to Chow Kit. Plaza GM is just a few blocks away from the train stop. Google maps is very helpful, but the people at all the little food stalls are very happy to point you in the right direction. Into vaping? You’ll shit when you go into this place. I’ve never seen so many vaping shops in one location anywhere. Anywhere. Conservatively, I’d say that at least 30% of the businesses in Plaza GM are vaping shops, and good for them! Entrepreneurial spirit abounds within these places and it pleases me to see all of these places doing so well while the adjacent stores look kind of sleepy by comparison.

Cheras is another cool place outside of KL central. It’s home to one of the best vape shops (see previous article) a huge university and one of the largest night markets (Wednesday nights only) I’ve ever seen. It’s also worth the trip. If you go for the night market, go later after the rush hour traffic dies down. Normally, from Times Square, it’s about 20 minutes and just under MR20 if you get a cabbie who uses the meter. If you go during rush hour, they’ll hit you up for about MR60 because traffic moves abysmally slow and rightly so, because then they have to fight their way back into KL central to get more fares. Compassion comes into play here… think of what it must be like to be in their shoes…

KSH bicycles is located out in a ‘burb called Taman Tun Dr. Ismael (if I’m not mistaken) about 13 or so km to the west of KL central. It too is a cool place with lots of walking and poking around. I rode my bicycle out there twice and the ride is not for the faint hearted. Nope. But, I’ve got many a mile riding in NYC and Chicago, so I just figure I’ve got every bit of a right to be on the roads and highways as they do. And, I must say, even in KL, the Malay drivers are very considerate. It would be my suggestion to always have a blinking red LED on either your helmet or seatpost, even in the daytime. And you go right by the Botanical Gardens along the way. Not sure which one, because I had bicycle-on-the-brain as I rode past it. And hills? Yes indeedy. That ride’s got some good ones 🙂

On the whole, I think Malaysia is one of the most diverse and culturally interesting places I’ve been to so far. I’ve hit Penang a couple of times, but golly, what a traffic jam and it’s 24/7 up there. No, no, no… not for me. Yes, it’s cool and has some incredible culinary wonders, but just way too full of cars and eternal traffic lights. KL rocks as a city and I’ve only seen a mere fraction of it. Putrajaya is a recent governmental development that moved nearly all the Malay governmental offices out of the city center. It’s surrounded by a beautiful man-made river, has boat rides, mosques and is home to the MM2H offices as well as the immigration department. About a 45 minute ride by taxi and about MR50 each way. If you want to see some mind-boggling architecture, as if Petronas wasn’t enough, take a jaunt down there and spend some time.

So… It’s a couple of weeks back in Thailand. Phuket first, then Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai. Yes, bicycle with, thank you KSH! Bike and bag just under 30kg, junk included. I’m looking forward to doing some riding in northern Thailand for certain. The good news is that I fly back through KL at the end of October, chill in KL for a few days and then it’s back to Kelantan and all of my friends in Kota Bharu, where I’ll be staying for quite a while. Love KB. Love it. Probably hit Kuala Terengganu again while there and go ride with my cycling buddies there as well, but I’ll be mainly in KB. It’s just a jewel of a community.