Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mile High

Getting through Customs and Passport Control was relatively easy and swift. We were advised to use the ATM machine inside the luggage area. There is only one machine and it was not spitting out any cash for anyone. Once we were through the doors, throngs of taxi drivers bombarded all of the passengers with offers of rides, but we only wanted the ATM machine. My second nightmare was about to come to fruition. I tried my Euro card from our Hungary bank. It would not work with the message “Sorry, we are temporarily unable to complete this request”. Okay, fine, I used my California account ATM card, but the same story. We then tried another bank’s machine with the same results. I started to panic. We were relying on using ATMs while we were away. The third machine was the same issue yet again, but we watched others leave the machines hopelessly as poor as they approached them, so it could not be us. We went to a money exchange and changed enough cash for a taxi.

People bombard you with advice on which taxi to take and it is supposed to be a set rate, but amazingly it is not. We finally agreed on a price of 90 RM for our ride, climbed in and off we drove. They drive on the same side as the British and since this was part of the colony until only fifty years ago, this makes sense. The driver drove, we slept, he drove some more and we slept some more. Two and a half hours later, we arrived a block from our hotel. Still feeling drugged, not fully coherent, he told us that our hotel was a half block away, but cars were not allowed down the street. In our hazed awareness, it seemed like we were in the middle of an evacuation plan for a city, surrounded by unbelievable crowds. The mobs of people surrounding us were overwhelming. The smells, the colors, the sounds were sensory overload at high speed.

We checked into the China Town Hotel 2 and were asked for the full payment. We had to kindly plea for more time explaining the dilemma with the ATM machines at the airport. The problem continued a block away from the hotel. I know I have the correct PIN code for our Euro account, though our bank has been bought out by another bank. When I called them before leaving, they assured me the card would be good until January 1st. Due to the time needed, I did not bother going to get a replacement card. Our CA account, I have no idea what is happening with that, but it is Bank of America and I have had nothing but problems with them this year. Strangely, Ron tried his card and it worked fine. At least we will not have to get advances from credit cards. The hotels do not take plastic.

First impressions of Kuala Lumpur: overcrowded, dirty, polluted, high tech, bustling to the point of ridiculousness, rainbow of color in the skin of people and the clothes they wear. I keep asking myself where the beautiful sights they had on their television commercials that state “Malaysia, Truly Asia” and have all of the magnificent scenery. It certainly was not this city. Perhaps it is jet lag, it is seven hours ahead of Budapest, or it is possibly just not enough preparation, but I keep asking myself why we are here.

We keep returning to our hotel situated in the heart of the China Town area. We have napped a great deal; it is easy to do since our room has no windows. The only light when everything is turned off is what leaks from under the door from the hallway. We only have this room for two nights. Ron was assured by the Lonely Planet guide swearing that you should only book a couple of nights and then find the rest when you are on the ground.

By 10:30, we are ready to call it quits and actually sleep restfully for the night to get on track with the time change. The alarm is set for 8:30 am.

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