10 June 2012

Kuala Lumpur - Watch Your Wallet

Date of Exploration : 1 - 3 Jun 2012

This could very well be my last trip to Kuala Lumpur, a city I've loved much and visited numerous times. One of the main reasons I won't be coming here again had largely to do with a snatch-robbery experience during this trip.

But it is not because I was robbed once from my many trips here that I kao beh kao bu ("cry-father-cry-mother", a Hokkien expression that means kicking up a big fuss) and throw a hissy fit about coming to KL. One of the biggest attraction for me about KL besides it being a sort of sister city to Singapore was the cheaper prices of food, shopping and everything else.

However, with this trip, I don't feel the city offers any more advantage or attraction for me with prices of most items hitting exorbitant levels. Many things cost around the prices we pay in Singapore so there isn't a need to go so far to spend any more.

Besides, KL seem to have lost that tourist-friendly edge with an influx of petty crimes, hooligan cab drivers, service that's more plastic than human, and locals that frown more than smile. It's no longer the KL I was in love with. So here are some parting shots to bid KL adieu for now...

The frills-free Kuala Lumpur's Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). Took the 6.45am flight and arrived here at around 8.00am.

Though this pic shows Air Asia, we actually took Tigerairways for this trip (S$80 return, no lugguage allownace). It was a rainy day and windows at the LCCT arrival passageway had patches of condensation on them. There were pockets of glass that were clear and dry so I shot through the the clear spot using the smudgy wet areas as a frame.

To get to KL city central the budget way, we took a LCCT-KLIA to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) bus. It cost RM2.50 and the ride took 30 minutes.

A levitation shot that failed onboard the KLIA Ekspres Train. See the ones that worked here. The train takes 28 minutes to KL Sentral and cost RM70.00 (S$28.70) per person for a return ticket. I am not very sure but I think by cab direct from KLIA to KL city central, it should cost about RM80 - 100 one way. Not exactly a lot of savings taking the KLIA Ekspres Train if travelling in a group considering the trouble of getting to the station and having to abide by a schedule.

From KL Sentral where the KLIA Train stops at, we had to take a cab to the Bukit Bintang downtown district. Another RM15. So it may be a better idea to take a coach to KL from Singapore instead as the drop-off points are usually within the downtown area. A coach ride would take approximately 5 hours, but considering the 2 hours airline check-in time, 1 hour flight time and commute from KLIA to the city, it works out to be about the same.

Berjaya Times Square, the iconic beacon of Bukit Bintang, the equivalent of Orchard Road in Singapore.
These cats took being cool literally by sitting on top of an air-con compressor.

Hello halo. Side profile of our hotel, Furama Bukit Bintang.

Furama Bukit Bintang Hotel

Although it has Bukit Bintang in its name, the hotel is NOT along the busy shopping vein. It is located behind Berjaya Times Square, a 15 minutes walk to Bukit Bintang road itself. So we felt kind of misled when we made the booking because we had wanted a hotel along Bukit Bintang for the sake of convenience.

It's slightly off location notwithstanding, the hotel is a pretty good stay with decent rooms and comprehensive amenities including a well-equipped gym and swimming pool. No free Wi-fi access though. I took more photos with my phone but it was snatched on the street so I'm only left with the room photos to share here.

Furama Bukit Bintang is a relatively new hotel near the junction of Jalan Pudu.

Reception lobby area of Furama Bukit Bintang. Nice and classy but the service was pedestrian. When I approached the receptionist, related my snatch-theft misfortune and requested for use of their computer to go online to change passwords of accounts linked to my phone, they seemed reluctant. They didn't even ask to check if I was okay or if there was anything else they could do. After checking here and there, they finally allowed me to use a computer station at the lobby area (at the far right corner of this photo) with a time restriction of 15 minutes.

The lobby cafe has ample seating and it's nice that they don't bug you to buy a drink before you can sit there.

Stayed at Romm 2612, which was on the Executive level. Maybe we were given an upgrade, I'm not sure but the room had quite a great view of KL city centre. The Superior Twin Room we booked with breakfast cost about S$120 per room per night.

No free wi-fi but LAN cable is provided for internet access via laptop.

Bathroom amenities come with toothbrush, personal grooming kit and shower necessities.

What I really love about the room is the view. This is what I woke up to.

View of KL city by night with KL Tower (left), Times Square (middle) and Petronas Twin Towers (right) in sight from the room.
It's slightly off location notwithstanding, the hotel is a pretty good stay with decent rooms and comprehensive amenities including a well-equipped gym and swimming pool. One big downer was no free wi-fi access in the room or lobby area. Wifi cost RM10 for 2 hours or RM30 for full-day access.

I'd taken more photos with my phone of the hotel and amenities but it was snatched on the street so I'm only left with the photos shares here.

Be Careful of Motorbike Robbers

Of my many trips to Kuala Lumpur throughout the years, I've grown accustomed to a kind of 'robbery'... that committed by the cab drivers who ply the streets. They don't actually 'rob' you, but they have a habit of not charging by the meter fare but quote a flat rate instead. The quoted rate more often than not would be double that registered by the meter.

Even though there's a rule now that cabs must charge by the meter and there are even notices painted onto the cab doors to forbid haggling, the practice is still very much alive. That's rather irritating and just goes to show how unlawful things can be.

And one word of caution about the cabbies. One of the nights, we flagged down a taxi with its for hire light on. But when it got closer, the Malay driver had a Malay woman passenger in its front seat. We felt weird that the cab had a passenger but stopped to pick us. We didn't board and got on a cab behind.

Our driver told us that we were lucky not to get on. It was most likely a set up for robbery or for the woman to claim molest and we had to pay money to settle. There are also cases where the cab drivers are women and they will accuse male passengers of molest and unless the guys pay up, they will be brought to the police. These women drivers usually work with an accomplice who will be trailing the cab on a motorbike.

During this trip, my travel buddy and I fell victims to snatch-theft. While it is true that crimes lurk where a traveller is not vigilant, I can't help but feel that it is more prevalent in KL for after I posted my misadventure on Facebook, quite a number of friends shared related horror stories of robberies in KL, some downright vicious with robbers wielding parangs and knocking victims out with helmets. Even my KL friends told me the city is unsafe.

Read about what happened when I was robbed here and other stories and hopefully it serve as a reminder to be vigilant when visiting Kuala Lumpur.

As a travel cautionary advice, never walk close to side of a street where thieves on motorbikes can easily snatch wallets, handphones and other valuables from your hands. Don't sling your DSLR camera or handbag over your shoulder to the side of the road. Always sling them across your chest.

When out at night, avoid being alone and dark deserted lanes. Do not wear expensive jewelleries and ALWAYS BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE when going to Kuala Lumpur.

Last but not least, pray hard.

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