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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Touch and Go | Kuala Lumpur | Malaysia

The one thing about me is that I adore being in the city. I have no idea why...

Actually, yes I do.

I know why.


I don't come from a city, nor have I ever lived in a city... unless you count Edinburgh, of course. But I don't think of Edinburgh as a booming metropolis... more like a lovely, beautiful... and big village. So whenever I find myself smack-dab in the middle of a big, bustling and buzzing city, a spell is genuinely cast over me.


I get spellbound. Mesmerized. Enraptured.


What's down this alleyway?

How far from here to there?

Where does this road go?


As foolish as it might be, whenever I'm in a city, it's like I'm presented with the ultimate challenge of seeing everything... on foot.


Three hours from Point A to Point B? I can do it!

I have this habit of pinpointing places of interest... and then I just map my route... and go.

I want to see it ALL. Bad knee, be dammed.


Kuala Lumpur was no exception to this rule.


KL was our final stop in Malaysia and also the final day of our car rental. We'd paid a little bit extra to drop it off here, avoiding a northern return to Penang.


When we first received the car, the lady handed us a lanyard with a special tap code attached. She was quick to inform us that this particular tap was essential for crossing the Penang Bridge. Without it, we would not be permitted to the mainland. Ok, She also let us know that before we got on the highway bridge, we should financially top up the card. It all seemed a bit bizarre and regardless of the instructions given, neither of us really understood what it was or what it was for.


We did as we were told though... and hit the closest gas station/convenience store to add the necessary funds. She figured that 40 Malaysian Ringgit would probably suffice. Who were we to challenge this? The amount seemed fine to us as well... and that is exactly the amount we topped up. 40 Ringgit.


So... this 'Touch & Go' card is the cornerstone of the digital transformation within Malaysia's mobility ecosystem. In simpler terms, it's a tap form of payment, as opposed to using cash or credit. Very handy for toll booths...


One toll booth to cross the bridge... right?

Wrong.


Exactly how many toll booths would we encounter and how much would each one cost?

We didn't know the answer to either of those questions, and neither did those considerations really even cross our minds... until we hit Kuala Lumpur.


It was insane. The amount of toll booths we encountered in KL was downright silly.

We laughed.

We really did.

It was like we were being pranked.


Kuala Lumpur

To start, I have to mention that there was a bit of a mix-up on where we had intended to drop the vehicle off. When I’d originally booked, I had specifically requested an inner city location, knowing how far removed the KL airport was. Conveniently enough, the inner-city Europcar location was only a two-minute walk from our accommodation. As we neared the city, Sammy was checking documents and scanned the QR code for drop off location... and it was at the airport. Forty minutes away.


Shit.


Disappointment.

Colossal inconvenient.


But oh well…


The positive was that we only had to follow ONE highway straight through the city to reach the international airport. Gone were the stress and difficulties involved in turn-offs, roundabouts and merges. There was no more of that.

One highway.

ONE.


Well... this ONE highway came equipped with approximately 14 toll booths.


Why?

I do not know.


To add even more wack to already preposterous, there were no apparent exit ramps nor was there any oncoming traffic. Just tollbooths. Tollbooth after tollbooth after tollbooth... on and on and on... It was ludicrous how much we were consistently charged without being given an opportunity to get off the highway. It was just us… on the fast and fabulous freeway through the city... stopping every kilometre or so to pay the price.



Now… of course, we hadn’t topped up our 'Touch & Go' since day one. Big mistake. Huge. At each booth, we watched our tap supply dwindle further and further down, and closer and closer to zilch. Each passing had the potential to be the last... and each time the gate opened, we would cheer at our good fortune. It was like driving on E.... but tapping on zero.


Our luck did eventually come to an end and we were met with a very loud and obscene buzzer and a flashing red light, indicating that our lack of funds would not allow us to go any further.


There was nothing we could do... and we sat there in the car, disorientated... and confused about what our next move would be. The cars behind us got the hint that we were not advancing through, and began backing up to pass through another gate. We tried tapping our credit cards… but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, we pressed the small 'help' button, hopeful that someone might be able to provide us with some much sought-after tollbooth 'Touch & Go' top-up guidance. The lady on the other end of the fuzzy speaker was indecipherable and we ended up more confused than we'd been before seeking assistance. She kept repeating something,.. but we had no idea what. 20? 20? Finally, we backed up and tried to find a booth that looked like it might have staff.


There had to be a real human... somewhere.

This didn't just happen to us? Did it?

What were we going to do if there wasn't?

There was no way through the gate... and there was no exit.


So yes... we found a living, breathing person, were able to pay a top-up fee... and made it through the gate unscathed. No word of a lie. 14 tollbooths.

One highway.


I repeat... ONE.


As soon as we reached the airport, the girls at the Europcar desk were quick to let us know that we were at the wrong drop-off point.


Shit.

Seriously?

After all of that?

A 40-minute detour. 14 toll booths.

NO way...


They must have sensed the frustration as they agreed to take the car off our hands as opposed to us turning around and driving back into the city. As much as a convenience it had been to have the car, we both wanted rid of it. We were done with driving and highways and toll booths and directions... Done. Mentally, we were ready to relieve ourselves of the vehicle.



Once it was out of our hands, we caught the train from the airport directly into the heart of KL.


We'd arrived.


Now... there comes a time with everybody and anybody that travels together, that you need to separate and spend some time alone to regroup. That is exactly what happened between Sammy and I in Kuala Lumpur.


Travelling alone can be a headache... but so can travelling with someone else, regardless of who they are. Mix in a multitude of factors, such as the manner in which each of us wants to travel or expects to travel with a wide variety of personality traits, financial strains, palate preferences, cultural differences and tolerances, new environments, weather conditions and stressful situations. It can bring the best and worst in all of us directly to the surface. Conflict and difference of opinion is bound to happen and everyone needs a pause to recharge.


Kuala Lumpur was that exact moment for Sammy and I.


We needed time apart... and we took it.


We checked into our KL hotel... which was more like a higher-class apartment complex than a hotel. It even had an infinity pool. Everything was pretty much perfect,

Everything... EXCEPT... one major thing...


It smelled like sewer.


It was sickening. At first, I thought it was just our apartment, but then I figured it was the entire floor. However... the smell was particularly strong in our front bathroom, so perhaps our unit was the sole reason for the entire floor having that foul odour. If the bathroom door wasn't left open to air it out, it became nasty to the point of nauseating.


So... apart from the putrid stench... everything was perfect.


Almost.


We only had ONE key,



This may sound minor, but it was a major drawback for two people who desperately needed a little space from each other. Having only one key meant that you had to rely on the other for getting in and out of the building. Everything from the front door to using the elevator or the stairs depended on this ONE key.


So... what did I do in Kuala Lumpur?

I walked. A lot.

Everywhere.


I wandered through Chinatown and Little India. I admired the creative uniqueness of Kwai Chai Hong, and strolled down Jalan Alor. I meandered my way along the boardwalk of the River of Life and I shopped my heart out in Petaling Street Market. I ventured to the Batu Caves early in the morning and was lucky enough to have reached it before the crowds descended upon its colourful staircase. I let myself get swallowed up by the vibrancy of it all... and the crazy monkeys who would do anything to get their hands on your food.

I walked so much that my feet ended up swollen and sore, and for the first time in over a month, I had to pop a pill to save myself from my throbbing knee pain... But I can proudly say that I saw as much of the city as I possibly could in my time there. Not a second was wasted.


My favourite part of Kuala Lumpur?


Two things really come to mind...


My first favourite ~ The Kuala Lumpur food tour. It was sweet, savoury, stimulating... as well as enlightening and educational. Our guide impressed us all with his ability to go above and beyond.


There were FIFTEEN STOPS... seriously. 15!!! Some of the stops were even more than one tasting item. I was kicking myself for having had lunch. It only worked to destroy my appetite, which was devastating considering everything was so incredibly delicious.


We tried everything imaginable from Halal burgers to sweet tea to Bubur Cha Cha, Malaysia's coconut milk soup... and more. We even got to try our hand at making roti on the flattop... and it's not as easy as one might think. At every stop, our guide kept offering to get us more if we were still hungry.


Hungry, we were not.


After almost four months of travelling in Southeast Asia, I finally tried durian, the stinky fruit. I'd signed my name to many documents vowing NEVER to bring the fruit into my hotel room, but I'd never actually put it in my mouth.


Ya... it stunk. Horrific.

You could smell it a mile away... but apparently, it's to-die-for delicious. People RAVE about this fruit.


The least I could do was try it? Right?


They say it takes a total of three bites... and each taste is different... and defining.


Ok...


On the first bite... it tastes like gyoza.

Second bite... it tastes more like deep-fried greasy onions.

Third bite... it tastes like a hangover mouth.


Once I'd reached hangover mouth status, there was no going back and I was done with the fruit. Some of the people in our group that had originally sworn it off, tried it again only to discover they loved it.


Who'd a thunk?


Not me.


My second favourite ~ The Petronas Twin Towers. These interlinked pair of 88-storey supertall skyscrapers stood at a height of 451.9 metres and were equally impressive both day and night.


Each evening I was in Kuala Lumpur, they were lit up a different colour. Brilliant, beaming and sparkling white... or an illuminated red, white & blue... making the towers look like the Space Rocket ice lollies I used to love as a kid. On the first evening, I accompanied a few people from the food tour to the swanky Westin hotel bar that boasted an infinity pool, luxury lounge and a stunning view of the towers. The price of a drink was well worthy of a remortgage but the perspective made you completely ignore the financial strain.


On the second evening, I sat and took in the Symphony Lake Water Show.


Meh...


I wasn't shocked at my disappointment, as I'd been warned that it was sub-par. In all honesty, I was expecting something along the lines of the Bellagio... but it didn't even come close to that calibre.


But hats off to Kuala Lumpur... the heart of Malaysia.

Until we meet again... ❤️



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