Initial highlights of my Kuala Lumpur trip

On my birthday in August this year, my e-mail inbox yielded what turned out to be one of the best birthday gifts I’ve received from a friend – an e-ticket for a three-day stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

That makes two out-of-the-country trips this year for me. Both for free. I must have done something right somewhere, sometime ago for God to be blessing me a lot this year.

My generous host for my KL trip, for purposes of privacy due to his work, will be known from hereon as James Bond. (I know for a fact that he will just love this. He’s a huge James Bond fan).

James Bond and I met and bonded when we wrote for our college paper not so many years ago *cough*. I always thought that he would make a great journalist, but he chose a field in the Sciences, instead. Journalism’s loss is now the gain of geothermal industry.

JB and his beautiful wife welcomed me into their plush crib located in the swanky commercial area of Kuala Lumpur. They live, conveniently, just a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Towers.

I have a lot to write about my three-day experience in Kuala Lumpur, but I’m going to reserve the nitty-gritty details for later posts. For now, I’ll focus on the highlights and the lowlights of it all.

Cebu Pacific: I love you and hate you

I flew Cebu Pacific all the way for my KL trip, from Dumaguete to  Manila to KL and back again. I like Cebu Pacific because they make traveling on a budget possible. There’s always an airfare promo around the corner. Plus they hold games onboard with three winners to walk away with CebPac goodies. Free stuff! Who doesn’t love free stuff?

CebPac FTs during one of their onboard games

But with low fares and seat sales like theirs, there’s always a catch somewhere. With CebPac, it’s passengers’ convenience. Their flights are always delayed (at least in my experience) and on my Manila-KL and Manila-Dgte flights, they kept switching our boarding gates. At one point, the exasperated passengers gave a collective groan after the ground crew announced again another board gate switch.

KL’s Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus

On my first 2 days at KL, I was determined to flit around on my own. James Bond was busy at work saving the world while his wife, aside from looking after their three energetic munchkins, had to attend to previous commitments. A journalist friend of mine in KL whom I was planning to meet, Bai, was sent on an unexpected overseas assignment at the last minute.

So after consulting with JB and his wife, I chose to take the Hop On Hop Off Bus. If you haven’t been on one before, I’m telling you – it’s pretty amazing! You don’t need a tour guide anymore, nor do you need a taxi to go around KL. The HOHO (why does that sound a bit awkward?) bus will take you to more than 20 tourist spots in KL. Let me walk you a bit through how I did it:

From JB’s condo building, I took a taxi to Jalan Bukit Bintang, which is one of the 4 ticket counters for HOHO in KL. This is also stop No. 6 in the HOHO bus route. I asked the taxi driver to drop me off at the HOHO ticket counter, which he did. (I assume most drivers are familiar about the HOHO). You’ll easily recognize it from the mini-booth’s hot pink color. I forgot how much the ticket cost me, but their website says it’s around RM44 for the 24-hour ticket. There’s also a ticket good for two days.

The HOHO Ticket in its signature hot pink color

There were about 10 tourists already waiting for the bus in the area. While waiting, I read the brochure that was handed to me along with my ticket from the guy in the booth. This is how it works: there are more than 40 HOHO buses – double-deckers- that ply the designated routes. The brochure lists down the tourist attractions and their corresponding bus stop number/order. Since my ticket is only for 24 hours, I have to choose which tourist spots I’d like to “hop-off” and visit.

(Note: You can download a PDF copy of the brochures and the roadmap from their website.)

In my case, I chose for my first stop after Bukit Bintang, Petaling Street or Chinatown, which is Stop No. 8. Since Bukit Bintang is Stop No. 6, I didn’t drop off in the areas on Stop No. 7. When the on-board commentary announced that the bus has arrived at Petaling Street, I hopped off and spent about an hour and a half at Chinatown (I took my breakfast there). The first thing I did after going out of the bus was to take note of the bus stop, because that’s where you have to go to wait for the next HOHO bus to hop on to. Every 30 minutes, a HOHO bus will drop by the bus stops for tourists to hop on to. Although it will be a different bus each time (they have a fleet of around 40 HOHO buses that go around everyday!), but still recognizable from the splashes of fuchsia pink and the huge “Hop On Hop Off” words scrawled at the side.

I totally dig the HOHO concept. It offers tourists a convenient way to experience what KL has to offer – from the Bird Park to Petronas Towers. Tourists in KL need not worry about where to go and how to go there.

I just thought of a cool slogan for the HOHO bus: “Visiting KL? HOHO is the way to go!”

Cheesy, I know.

Have an iPad? Go paperless.

JB, who is more of a geek than I am, suggested that I just save my e-ticket on my iPad and present it to the ticketing counters when checking in. I listened to him because the guy’s flown to several countries in the region already. But a part of me, the segurista part, still wanted to be sure, so I printed out a single copy.

Of course, JB was right. You can totally just go paperless, and show the flight crew a digital copy on your tablet. I’m guessing this works for the smartphone, too.

I love Malaysian food

I love spicy. I love flavors that have a kick in it. So I’m already predisposed to fall in love with Malay food. But I’ll blog about more about this later.

In fact, I’ll blog about the three-day trip later in a series of bite-sized posts, with dashes of pictures here and there. Stay tuned.

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