Malaysia in September

29th of August, with Kent in a taxi into town, I get off at Arab street to catch a local bus to Johora, the Malaysian town on the other side of the causeway over into Malaysia. I take an express coach rather than a local bus, with $2.50 it is more expensive but we don't stop and use the Expressway and reach the border in less than 30 minutes. No problems at immigration and on to a bus terminal at the other side of the town. I have to wait 45 minutes for another bus to Mersing on the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula. I meet a couple, he's Aussie, she's Swiss who just arrived by plane in Singapore last night. We don't stop that often but it still takes three hours to Mersing. I look around a while for an ATM but can't find one that works with my card. I only have 63 Ringgits left from last time in May. At a travel agent I decide to spend at least a night on Tiamon, an island out in the south Chinese sea. The Aussie/Swiss couple are going there as well and we end up on the same speed boat but I get off at the first stop. I booked a place at the travel agent, very unlike me, normally I always have a look at the place before I check in. But here it felt like there are not that many options, at least not in the south of the island which is more quiet. At the jetty I'm supposed to be picked up by someone from the 'resort'. Several smaller and bigger boats come and go but nobody seems to be interested in me. It's only a small village down the pier with maybe 20 buildings including one resort. After hours of waiting at 5 O'Clock another ferry arrives from the mainland. An English couple arrives with it. It's the first day of their honeymoon, they are also supposed to be picked up but are going to a different resort than I. I ask some people and everybody says 'The will come soon'. Finally quarter to 7 my guy arrives, the phone in the place is not working so he didn't know about me and just checks in the evening just in case. However somehow he still knew that I had booked a room. We also take the honeymooners along because their resort is on the way, the little boat is pretty full with 5 people and our bags. As you can imagine, the couple had much more luggage than I. After 15 high speed minutes we arrive in a nice bay with only a few buildings in the center of it, there is one small main building and the rest are basic bungalows. There are two couples, a single guy and four German girls there. I have a chat with the girls over dinner. As there is nowhere else to go I have all my meals at the resort. The room is basic but okay, so sink in the bathroom though and too expensive with 35 RM at night. But it's a nice spot and I don't really have a choice. I also think this is the travel agency price and I would have gotten it cheaper paying here directly. I end up staying there for 3 nights taking it very easy. Just laying on the beach reading, some swimming and walking into he hilly jungle hinterland.

On the 31st of August I take the boat back to the mainland and take several local buses along the coast half-way up the peninsula to a place called Kuantan where I stay overnight in a proper hotel and get a haircut. Still can't find a working ATM, I used some travellers cheques for the first time but at the travel agent in Mersing, but need more money now. I use my credit card rather than my debit one and that works, so there must be something wrong with the card. The next day I move on to Kuala Lumpur, the buses in Malaysia are just very comfy and the new highway through the central mountains is very good as well. I have a look at the place I stayed back in May but the lift is broken so I check into another hostel next door. 30 Ringgit but a bit dodgy. Over the last week I had some new ideas for the my web site, so I spend several hours in an internet cafe to work on it.

On Tuesday the 5th of September, the Microsoft TechEd conference starts, this is the reason why I'm back in K.L. You can read a bit about this conference on My tech blog

I was pretty interesting and I met several people during the day but even more at the parties at night where I got pretty drunk because Microsoft paid for the drinks as well as providing some nice food.

After the four day conference I has enough of IT for a while and spend my remaining days in KL doing sightseeing. The highlight was a visit to the KL tower which is located on a hill in a nice park. You can go to the top and have really nice views over the city. Apparently much better than from the Petronas Towers. These are the tallest twin towers in the world but you can't go to the top, but just to the bridge that connects the two towers half-way up. There is a pretty limited view there because 180 degrees are blocked by the towers. For the last 7 days I stayed at a much nicer guest house closer to the convention centre where the conference was. The centre is just opposite the Petronas towers in the park area called KLCC, (Kuala Lumpur City Center) and all the hotels close by are 4 or 5 stars and much too expensive for me. The area I stayed in was only 15 minute walk away and was much more local and lively. Since my arrival in Malaysia my camera had stopped working and I spend some time looking around for a new one but in the end couldn't decide which model or even price category I wanted. There are tons of shopping malls in K.L. The last day I went to the computer department in Borders and gave away my nice conference backpack full of Microsoft goodies to a guy reading some Microsoft books. There was no way for me to carry it with me. I also won two USB thumb drive (even though one of them I lost while still being at the conference) and a nice IT big book, this was for answering a question during one of the sessions.

My flight to the Philippines leaves early in the morning from the new airport about 80 KM away from the city. There is a fast train going from the new modern KL train station but not early enough in the morning to get there on time. So I decide to stay overnight at the airport. I left my guest house in the evening and went to some a little bit of out the center from where I would take a bus to the airport. It turned out, they cancelled that service and I had to take the more expensive train, so I took the subway back into town to the station. At the station I found an Air Asia (my airline) office, I confirmed my flight and the fact that it would actually not leave from the main airport but another one close by. It turned out there are several buses going to the airport all night and I could have taking one in the early morning. Already being here and having checked out of my place I decided to go ahead and stay the night at the airport anyway. The bus was cheap and the new main airport pretty nice and I found a comfy place to sleep a few hours. This must be the first time in 13 years that I spend a night at an airport, I remember doing it in Philadelphia once and also at some airports in Europe while inter-railing in the 80s.