My overiding impression of Kuala Lumpur is one of rain. It has rained in ways I've never even imagined before since I have been here.
I've seen heavy rain before, and I was unsure how much stonger rain could get after Kuching, but KL has taken it to a whole new level.
Thunderclaps rip though the sky with such force that one may think they are stood next to a loudspeaker at a concert as the burst erupts through through your chest. I asked someone if this was normal. They said no, storms this intense were not regular. I'd began to suspect this myself when one particular thunderclap had half the people waiting at a train platform to duck invountarily - not the actions of people used to this weather.
I arrived late afternoon on the first day after a frustrating journey. I was sat next to a small child on the plane, one that did not stop moving the entire journey. Indeed she spent most of it banging a rolled up magazine against everything, herself, the seat in front, my leg, the armrest in fact everywhere but in her willfully oblivious mothers direction.
I firmly believe that there is a special hell reserved for people that recline seats on budget airlines. A hell that the person in front of me will soon be visting. The 'bong' of the seatbelt light turning off had not even finished before the seat slammed back into the position from which it did not move for the rest of the journey.
Actually, it did move. It moved a lot as the person in front was what I have now termed a bouncer. A bouncer is a person that does just that, bounces around in their seat. They can't sit still for more than five minutes, and when they move they do so in such a way to make the seatback bounce back and forth and slam into your knees.
I hate bouncers with a passion.
Arriving in KL, I caught a taxi to the city. My taxi driver was a complete kev. Raised suspension and body kit on a crap car. He frankly scared the hell out of me with his erratic driving and with how frequently he got his phone out and started texting on the motorway. At one point we hit heavy traffic and he actually got a Harry Potter DVD out and started watching it on his in car entertainment system. Every time that traffic moved he would stall the car.
But it was when we got into the city itself that he really pissed me off. It started to become painfully clear that he was lost and didn't know where he was going, even though we were heading to Chinatown - not exactly an obscure district. My hotel had even provided directions for any taxi drivers, which I had printed and given to him when we started.
After an age of driving around, he pulled up on a random sidestreet and told me to get out. I pulled out my phone and checked the map. We were nowhere near, and I told and showed him so.
"Shut up, get out, I go no further"
"Did you just tell me to shut up"?
"Yes, I go no further"
Angrily, "we aren't there, you've been paid to take me here and you will take me here".
"I've got your name, your taxi number, a receipt and photos of you texting on the motorway. You really want to take this further"?
On we drove, but I was furious. It took everything I had not to completly lose it there and then. All my frustrations just bubbling under the surface. The jostling, the rude way that people have come up and touched my stomach, the bullshit with that hostel in Singapore, the arsehole in Langkawi felt like it just wanted to burst out and throttle this guy.
Twenty minutes later we pulled up at the right place. Fearful that the driver would just drive off with my bag the second I opened the door, I waited for him to get out and open the boot of the taxi.
He stood by the boot and I got out and put my bag on. He then started to square up to me, standing right up to my chest and eyeballing me. I asked what his problem was. He didn't answer, but moved another inch closer to me. Now we would have been chest to chest if there wasn't a hight difference.
I said "you got paid to do a job, you got lost and I said nothing, you tried to kick me out in the middle of nowhere, I just asked for what I'd paid for. I even got you a map with directions. So again, what is your fucking problem"?
People were now watching. Someone shouted out asking what was happening.
"This guy got lost and now he's chucking a paddy". I replied. I doubt anyone there knew what the hell a 'paddy' was but they laughed anyway.
I turned to walk away and got a little shove in the back. I turned to face him and took a step closer. He then jumped into his car and slammed the door.
The people that were watching were still laughing. 'Ha, he got lost' was a common refrain. 'You want hotel' and 'copy watch, sir' were the others. Distraction over, they returned to their business.
My hotel was the Chinatown Inn 2, and the clue to its location is in the name. Located in Peteling Street, the heart of Chinatown, you have to walk through the markets to reach it.
My first impression was not favourable. Already in a foul mood because of the taxi driver, I was wound up even further when I opened the door to the sound of an electric drill. After Kuching, 'not again' was my immediate thought.
Things got worse when I got to the counter. The hotel had no record of my booking.
But this first impression was quickly dispelled when the manager appeared, a charming gentleman of Chinese origin and a voice that belonged to theatre. He spoke to the receptionist and said that I was not to worry, everything would be sorted out and he was sorry for the problems.
He then arranged to put me in a room with a double bed, for the same price as the single I'd paid for. In fact he could not have been more charming or helpful - drawing a map to the train station, pointing out directions where I could find ATM's and suggesting places that I could go in order to find a camera shop where I could find some equipment I had decided to get.
Throughout my stay he would address me by name and greet me with a big cheer and made me feel very welcome.
The room was nice, comfortable and clean. It was another with no windows, but again was decorated in such a way that it did not feel like a cell.
For the money, it was an excellent place to stay and I don't hesitate to recommend it to any budget travellers heading to KL.
On the first night, my plan was simply to find a place to buy a telephoto lens for my camera. I'd been using an adapter for my standard zoom, and whilst it does an acceptable job, it just doesn't have the reach that I desire. After seeing my orangutan photos, I decided that I would buy get a tele. I'm hopefully going to be shooting lots more animals in the wild, and so I will get a lot of use out of it. In fact I wish I'd had one when I was shooting the eagles, it was the orangs that finally pushed me other the edge.
THere was just one problem. Between checking in and leaving the hotel, the heavens had opened. I thought that rain wouldn't get much heavier than in Kuching. I was wrong. A full on electrical storm was taking place, and I was scurrying between shop awnings working my way down to the train station.
I did eventually find my lens at a camera shop in one of the big malls. The poor guy had to run to his storeroom that was outside, and he came back in absolutely soaked through. I tested the lens on my camera, with fingers crossed that it was a keeper. Not just because I wanted it, but I didn't want the guy to have got that drenching for nothing. As it was, the lens worked fine and I'm looking forward to finding more wildlife to test it out on.
The rain showed no sign of stopping, and the thunder only seemed to intensify. Knowing that the evening would be a right off, I made my way back to Chinatown stopping for dinner where I had Chicken in a Mongolian sauce with plain rice, and then browsed the markets before retiring for the evening and an early start.