Is that the alarm?! Nooooooooo! It’s 4:15am. MacKay and I only went to bed a few hours ago. Gaaaaaaawd, fine.. have to get to the airport. Last night we decided to GTFO of Yangon and fly to Kuala Lumpur. With the traffic situation as bad as it is here we figured that getting up super fucking early and avoiding morning rush hour would be in our best interests. I go get the goons out of bed.
We drop our keys off with the napping front desk guy. He follows us down to the bottom floor and opens the gate for us. We thank him and trek up the street to the next main road. Hmmmm… No taxis here. Wait… nope. No one around. Sun’s not even up.
Backtrack a street and find a taxi. We bust it across town no problem, not a car to be found. This is because my phone is on the wrong time and we’re actually up an hour even earlier than we wanted to be. So it’s not even 4am right now.. and we all got even less sleep than we thought… Drisdelle and MacKay give me the look. They’re super pumped, mission over-accomplished, no traffic whatsoever!
We get to the Yangon International Airport and it’s quite nice (do they call it the YIP? they better. We’re calling it the YIP… airport code RGN? Who’s former Rangoon now?). It’s nicer than the city itself actually. We get our tickets sorted and kick it at a KFC on account of their wifi. I try to catch up on some Zzzs.
I’m half asleep going through YIP security when the female security guard totally feels me up. She polishes the chrome. Drisdelle actually starts laughing out loud looking back at it. I can’t help but flinch, I really wasn’t expecting a rubber ducky. She’s probably good at shuffleboard. “Wow, she was thorough!”, “Wait here, I’m gonna go back through security”. The same thing happens to MacKay, “You guys wanna go back through?”, “Haha! That’s what I just said!”
We crash a bit at the gate and board the plane. Still tired and still sick. Sporadic coughing fits. Eye crusties are kind of going away though, I’ve been using some anti-bacterial eye drops I picked up at a pharmacy. It’s amazing really. You can self diagnose your symptoms over the nizzles and then just go to a pharmacy and get antibiotics and whatever you want. I got some antibiotics, eye drops and cough suppressant for 5 bucks. Now that’s health care.
The flight into Kuala Lumpur is nice. We cruise passed some beach resorts during our descent. One was in the shape of a palm tree. Great looking coastline. Tons of palm plantations. I don’t know much about Malaysia to be honest so I’m pretty excited to check things out.
Immigration at the KLIA is a total joke, we’re through in no time. I’ve got about 200 USD worth of Burma bucks on me and no currency exchange place will take it daaaaaaaah. I got the Kyat out yesterday and booked it to the hospital because I was worried about my eyes and this lingering cough. The hospital ended up being a total shitshow of unorganized and disturbingly un-sanitized nonsense. There was a group of people all yelling, pushing and vying for attention from the tellers and then literally a line around the whole inside of the building and out the door into the courtyard. No chance of me getting in with that mess. And based off the conditions of the place and the people waiting, I decided to take my chance with the self diagnosis. You know, it’s just my eyes. I’m sure everything is fine..
We’d booked a hostel named Mingle late last night. Apparently it’s in Chinatown so we’re detectiving the shit out of some metro transit maps. Hmmmm there’s a train and a bus going into KL. We get some info from the info booth girl and it basically works out that the three of us taking a taxi will probably be cheaper and less time consuming. And no, there is no place that will exchange my 200 USD in Burma bucks.
On our way to the taxis a dude approaches us about whether we want a taxi. Hmmmm how sketchy can it be? We barter with him, given that we know the price of the train to KL and arrive at a price that is probably just a little above normal taxi prices. We get to the parking lot, he validates his parking and we’re off.
Immediately outside the KLIA it’s apparent that Malaysia is much, much more developed than every other place that we’ve been this trip. The highway is immaculate. The subdivisions going up on the outskirts of the airport look like they could be in California. Same little boxes. Everything appears new. Good infrastructure. Fairly sensible and orderly. Modern times.
It takes about an hour to get to Mingle. It is indeed in Chinatown, red lanterns and what looks like a night market area are right beside the entrance to the hostel. It’s on the second floor above a cool looking cafe. We’ll have to try that out later. We buzz in and go upstairs to the front desk.
This place has a really cool, rustic vibe to it. We start checking in with this skinny as a rail Malaysian dude. He’s super nice and gives us the run down of the whole place. He also gives us a map and highlights a bunch of stuff on it that is walking distance from Mingle.
Meanwhile off to our left there is a full on wedding photo shoot happening. A very dapper camera crew is walking the bride and groom around the place and getting set shots with lighting screens and everything. Maybe they met here.
We get situated in our rooms. They make you take your shoes off at the bottom of some stairs then walk up to a metal grated walkway that leads to the rooms. The spacing of the grate on this walkway makes walking in bare or sock feet terribly awkward and somewhat painful. But hey, the rooms are clean. I’m quarantined in a room by myself and Drisdelle/MacKay get a ‘double’. It’s literally just a mattress on the floor. Whatever, what else do we really need?
We strut out onto the streets to see what KL is all about. It’s not littered with garbage or street dogs and there is no open sewer, so that alone is a major upgrade. Actually it feels a bit like Hong Kong with all the tall buildings. There is lots of new construction going on, we pass by a couple of new high rises going up and a new arena.
They drive on the left here and we keep looking the wrong way before crossing the street. And it is bloooody hot as Hades! The humidity seems to be even worse here and within the second block we are drippy drippy man soup.
We get across town and into the section that hostel dude had recommended. Seems like just a shopping district. Walking down the sidewalk and I’d say one of the more noticeable differences here is the large diversity of cultures. I suppose that will simply come with more population, but it is amazing. Definitely a lot of Indian and Chinese influence and clearly a predominantly Muslim population. So everything from the architecture to the clothing, the various religious establishments to the food joints is all incredibly varied.
Yeaaaah but this whole area is just shopping. We start picking out the places the hostel guy had written down. Massive shopping complex, pass. Next… massive shopping complex. Ok, pass.. and another massive shopping complex. Hmmmm, guess he thought we really needed to go shopping (not gonna lie, MacKay really does need to go shopping. He’s not packing nearly enough camo on camo this trip). I suppose some people actually do travel to places like this and Hong Kong to go shopping. We’re just not those people. Or the people those types tend to have on speed dial.
These shopping areas are ludicrously enormous though. And filled with all sorts of places to hangout actually. It’s just not the right vibe. I don’t like going to the mall for a beer. Especially malls all decked out with Christmas decor and playing carols and shit. No thanks. So we find ourselves passing right through them and looking for a more chill place to pass the time.
We spot a little glass box of a place just off the sidewalk called Connoisseurs cafe and decide it’s time to get out of the heat and grab a drink. Woot! It’s happy hour. Their selection is kind of weak so we kick things off with a Kirin. As the AC starts bringing the body temperature down this turns into some mixed drinks.
We kick it for a bit and watch the shoppers go by but really this isn’t the area for us. So we pay our tab and haul ass back to the hostel to meander around Chinatown a bit. Yeah this is way better, red lanterns and yellow buildings. Street-side vendors and way more randomness. Pretty cool area, has a much more authentic Asian feel to it for sure.
After a short walkabout we grab a few beer from a local market and go up to the roof of Mingle to figure out what we want to do with our evening. The sun is going down and the temp is getting way more bearable. We quickly decide on something rather rad to do, down our beer and get back to the street to hail a cab. “Yes?”, “Trader’s Hotel please.”