Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Departure From the Holiest Place in Malaysia

The time approached for us to be at the Low Cost Air Carrier airport outside of Kuala Lumpur so that we could catch our cheapo flight to Hong Kong.  A delightful discovery was that one can fly Air Asia around Malaysia for just a little more than the cost of a bus ride.  Since the bus ride to KL was at least seven hours, and put you downtown, far from the airport, it made sense to fly.
We spent our last night in Kelantan at a very nice hotel that cost the same as the cracker box "low budget" place we stay in Hong Kong, and included an excellent breakfast.  We didn't need to leave for the airport until 3 in the afternoon, which gave us a chance to stroll around seeing the sights and pretend to be British.
At the airport, we were required to send our checked bags through a scanning machine, and noticed that the woman who was supposed to be watching for bombs and such, was busy looking up at a handsome colleague and happily chatting away.  Not the best security.
The flight was uneventful, and we spent the night at a very nice resort style place near the airport.  Flying into the LCC airport, though not impressive, is pretty routine.  Flying out, on the other hand, is less than lovely.  There is no place to sit, and you cannot go past "security" to the waiting area until 45 minutes before your flight.  You don't want to do this anyway, because (I am not making this up) there are no restrooms in the secure waiting area!  Before you go past security, you had better get yourself well drained and evacuated, and hope that your flight is not delayed.  The security at LCC was somewhat better than at Kota Bharu, but still seemed a bit lax.  When the news broke last week about the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, my first thought was to the distracted baggage screener in KB.
We returned to Hong Kong and were greeted with temperatures around 8 degrees Celsius, or mid 40's to you Yanks... oh wait a minute, I'm not British.  Anyway, it was cold and windy and we only had tropic weight clothing and light jackets.  Fortunately, it was cool and sunny the next day when we took the bus back to Zhanjiang, so we could sit on the sunny side of the unheated bus.  I used a beach towel as a blanket, and had 3 short sleeved shirts on and managed to survive.

Here are some random observations and thoughts about our trip: 

  • Good hotels have a decal on the ceiling with an arrow pointing to Mecca, and come with a prayer rug.

Mecca is thataway.

  • Even though Malaysian coffee is excellent, the same good hotels will serve Nescafe from a machine to go with their excellent breakfasts.  I always opted for tea.
  • If you judged Malaysia solely by its taxi drivers, you would think it a nest of thieving, lowlife vipers, and would never return.
  • I wish we had spent more time at the beach.
  • Nearly all the non taxi driving people we met were very nice, helpful, and friendly.
  • Kota Bharu has a supermarket called "The Store".
  • If you buy a sim card for your smart phone, pay the extra for internet.  You will inevitably save money the first time you find you can walk somewhere thanks to your GPS, rather than getting hosed by a taxi.
  • You see the occasional burka.   I saw a guy in a bus station with a Boston T shirt, plaid shorts, and backwards bubba cap.  His wife/sister was dressed like this:
  • I'd fly the long distance trips. It's almost as cheap as the bus and you may encounter lovely, fluffy clouds, which can distract you from pondering the missing Malaysian Airlines jet.  On second thought, the bus is a viable option.  

  • Malaysian vodka is much cheaper than the imported stuff and tastes OK, especially the more of it you consume.
  • I'd buy more spices.  The curry and pepper powders I got were awesome.  I'd also get more tea.
  • Chinese Malaysians seem a lot happier than Chinese Chinese.
  • Boredom is a side effect of a fundamentalist Islamic government.

Excitement in Kelantan:

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