October 1, 2012
The hotel is booked for Tehran, Iran. This holiday is about to really step into the unknown. But, for the last two weeks or so, my home has been Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. One of the worlds great cities, and a personal South East Asian favourite of mine. For you citizens of Perth, Kuala Lumpur really should be high on your list of holiday destinations. It's only a five hour flight away, and in the same time zone (no jet-lag). Airline fares are competitive. Hotels are cheap. Food is a ridiculous bargain. Hey, this is shaping up to be the first useful post on 6000TIMES since the Iwanoff series Let's call it "KL on a budget, the 6000TIMES guide to a week's holiday in KL".WTF?.
Getting to Kuala Lumpur, you have two options. You can either fly to Singapore, and then bus-it to KL, or fly direct to KL. Your KL flights are probably cheapest with AirAsia, and if you decide to go via Singapore, you'll be flying Tiger Airways. The down side of going through Singapore is the expense of hotels. The best budget area is "Geylang". It's Singapore's red-light district, and one night here will show you that Singapore has the type of activity, grittiness, and all-night action than you thought. On the plus side, you get to see another city, and another country, in your week long holiday.
Travel from Singapore to KL is easy and incredibly cheap. The local bus from Singapore will take you through immigration, across the water, and into Malaysia, to the city called Johor Bahru. An interesting city in it's own right, but if you only have a week, you'll want to stay on the bus until you reach the "Larkin" bus terminal. The bus from Singapore to Larkin terminal takes an hour or so, and will cost you little more than ONE Australian dollar. From Larkin, buses leave constantly to KL - a tout WILL approach you and take you to a bus, or ticket counter. The bus to KL takes a few hours (maybe 2 or 3), and costs about ten aussie dollars. So, Singapore to KL, all in, about $12, and maybe 4 hours of travel. Think of it as travelling from Perth to Albany.
In KL, there is one main place to stay for budget hotel accommodation - Chinatown. The streets surrounding "Petaling Street" have a plethora of cheap hotel options. At the bottom end of my scale is the Hotel Alamanda. It's small, relatively clean, has windows that open, a pretty average (but totally functional) private bathroom, and a location that can't be beat, smack bang in the middle of Chinatown. You'll pay about twenty bucks a night. This will include free breakfast (toast and a half decent coffee), and free wi-fi. For a hotel a little more up the scale, the Citin Masjed Jamek, in the "Little India" area of KL, will set you back about $35 a night. A modern, reasonably large room and bathroom, flat screen TV with some cable channels, a pretty decent breakfast buffet, and free Wifi. I'd call it a three star hotel.
Both hotels offer free water coolers - you'll need this, as it's hot in KL, and you won't want to be drinking tap water. Either location is central, interesting, and easily accessible to many public transport options. And, the walk from Masjid Jamek to Chinatown only takes about ten minutes.
Your daily food expenses on your KL holiday can range from so-cheap-I-can't-believe-it, through to much-cheaper-than-Perth. Some of the bargains include a nice piece of authentically cooked Naan Bread with a serving of Dahl (about 30 cents AUD), or a freshly made "Ramlee" beef burger with cheese (they're everywhere, preferably eaten late night when drunk) starting at about 60 cents AUD. More luxurious options include Hainese Chicken Rice, Laksa, Nasi Lemak, Wonton Mee, or any number of delicious freshly prepared Malaysian, Chinese, or Indian dishes.
If you eat with the locals, at "Hawker" styled food halls, or from street Vendors, most meals fall into the price bracket of one or two Australian dollars. By the time you are spending five dollars, you'll be getting quite a memorable meal. A Malaysian styled ice coffee will generally cost around 50 cents. A can of soft-drink, is about 60 cents.
Public transport in KL consists of heavy rail, light rail, and mono-rail. All three are cheap, useful, and you'll never be far from one of the lines. The heavy rail MRT is subway for much of the line, whilst the light rail LRT, and the Monorail are elevated. An average fare is between 30 cents and about a dollar AUD tops. In fact, I don't ever remember having to pay as much as a dollar. The price changes dependent upon the length of your journey, and whether or not you are transferring from one line to another.
Buses are everywhere, but I've had mixed luck with them. Whilst the robotic controlled rail lines are generally very frequent and on schedule, the buses are a bit hit and miss. Adding to that the often horrendous KL traffic, and you'll soon see that rail is the way to go. If you get totally lost and need to use a Taxi, just make sure they use the meter before you jump in. If not, hail the next cab, and try again. A metered inner-city journey will rarely cost more than 5 AUD.
Sites and attractions are plentiful. Everyone has their own holiday ideas on this one. I'll mention the Islamic Museum and the National Mosque across the street. Both are worth checking out. Other interesting budget KL holiday ideas are checking out some of the neighbourhoods and more interesting streets. Jalan Ampang is the heart of Little India in Masjid Jamek, the streets and alley ways around Petaling Street in Chinatown I've already mentioned, there is Bukit Bintang to see the bling side of KL, and make sure you visit the Petronas towers. If you visit very early (about 7am) you can get a free ticket to journey up to the bridge that connects the two towers. Then, head into the Isetan Japanese supermarket (in the mall underneath), pick up some fresh Sashimi, flown straight in from Japan, and have a picnic in the great park that is right outside the door.
A couple of other holiday points: you can catch a bus from the KL airport into the city, it will cost about 3 or 4 bucks AUD. Less, if you book it at the same time as your flight with AirAsia. It's the cheapest way to travel from the aiport to the city - the journey is quite lengthy, about an hour. As for Hotels, you really can find some bargains. Look hard on the internet - very cheap hotels can be had for $10 - $15 a night, even quite luxurious hotels can be picked up for as little as about $70 AUD a night.
So, what's the total? With some careful booking of flights, I think you're up for less than $700 for a week in KL. That's for flights, hotels, meals, the lot. It's not scrimping. Use the prices I have listed in this article as a guide, and feel free to ask any questions. You could even squeak in a night in Singapore for that price. For each additional week, you can get by on less than $300 without too much trouble. Keep in mind, that includes some pretty amazing meals. If you want to drink hard, go clubbing, eat at pricey restaurants, or go shopping, it will cost you extra. Four or Five star hotels, are obviously going to cost more.
Getting out of Perth, and checking out what other cities in this part of the world have to offer, is a holiday that most people in Perth can afford.
The question really is, can you afford not to?
If you do take up the $700 Kuala Lumpur holiday, let me know your experiences in the comments below.
For now, I hope you enjoy the street photography of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tomorrow, I'm off to Iran.
See you on the other side.
PS, I shot all the photos over the last few weeks on the streets of KL.