Friday, May 24, 2013

Kuala Lumpur on a shoe-string budget: Part I

Fish School, School of Fish
The last time I visited KL, it was a week-long trip, stopping by Penang, reaching Langkawi and back. This time, I went to KL for a really short period of time: 3 days.... to be honest, it actually came down to 2 days since I  couldn't do anything but rush to the airport on the 3rd day.

Last time, I had traveled in semi-luxury... I had some time to save quite a bit of money; however, this time things were very "last-minute" and we decided to go the back-packers way. Well... excluding the tickets and my shopping, we spent a total of around 16k (INR) for the trip...that's 8k per person (inclusive of stay, transport and food). We are quite proud of this achievement. How did we do it? That's what I shall spill now:

Before I flew from Bangalore, Neel and I decided to meet at the Old Town White Coffee shop at the KLIA (airport). Neel was already there for the past five days for a meet. Why we decided a meeting point beforehand is simple... Airtel (my telecom carrier) charges Rs.100 for an incoming call while traveling abroad and I had no intention to spare such cash. In fact, I turned my data services off as soon as I landed in KL.

My flight landed at KLIA at 1am, and by 1:45am, we were comfortably seated in one of the many shuttle buses to KL Sentral. The cost: Rs. 180 per person (cheaper than Bengaluru Intl. Airport to Jayanagar).

Once at KL Sentral, we haggled with a couple of taxi drivers and soon found one who was willing to drop us at Jalan Angsoka for 25 MYR (Rs. 450). We still feel it was on the higher side, but night charges are double of day charges and we didn't want to haggle too much.

The Guesthouse we booked, Orange Pekoe, is located well within the Golden Triangle and it is one of the few reasonably prized places. A room there costs approx. Rs. 1800 per night. Complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi, free internet terminals, unlimited free tea/coffee. It suited our location and our budget and once we saw the guesthouse, we knew we made the right decision. Read more on our right decision here.

By the time we checked in, it was 3:30am and we slept as soon as we hit the pillow.

The next day, after filling our tummy to the hilt with the complimentary breakfast, we decided to take a walk to the Petronas. It's a 20 mins walk from our Guesthouse. The POA was to visit Aquaria, check the Petronas and have lunch at KLCC. Halfway through, we sorta got lost but it's not very difficult to find your way in KL... the place is quite well-marked... nonetheless, the 20 mins walk became a 35 mins walk. We digested our heavy breakfast and almost drowned in our own pool of sweat in that 35mins... KL is very, very humid!

Anyway, we reached Aquaria and was glad the walkway was air-conditioned!

And the Jaws theme plays in my head...
The Aquaria visit set us back by Rs.900 per person (MYR 50) and frankly, I didn't enjoy 70% of the creepy creatures there. But once you are in the tunnel with the sharks, sting-rays, turtles and colourful fishes around you, you sorta forgive yourself for being there! It was my first time in a walk-in aquarium and I totally loved it!.... Umm, but one time is more than enough.... not going there again...

Feeding the Fish

Adorable fishes@KLCC Aquaria
Petronas piercing the sky





The Aquaria is situated in KLCC which is behind KL Suria (the home of the Petronas). We walked through the perfectly manicured lawns of KLCC and to our luck, we found that the Symphony Fountains (on the Symphony Lake) was dancing! Yes, it was 2:30pm... the fountains start at 2pm and dances a while in the afternoon. We roamed around the gardens and clicked a view shots of the Twin Towers. Then we decided we had enough of the sun and went inside Suria to get some air-conditioned air! (All these for free, people!)






The Symphony Fountains

Set Meals@RM15

Now the Suria mall is H-U-G-E! You can spend hours there, gaping at all the stores. However, we had a plan! We were there to lunch at Little Penang Kafe... it is a Lonely Planet recommended place for Nyonya cuisine in KL. I am a sucker for Nyonya cuisine and I wanted Neel to try it too. Moreover, inside KLCC, this is one of the cheaper options. A meal for two came around Rs. 650. And the food?! Not as good as some places I tried at Langkawi but decent food and a cute ambiance.

On Lonely Planet's recommendation
Beyonce looking sizzling hot@Bukit Bintang
Pink is my favourite crayon
After lunch, we walked to Bukit Bintang, shopper's paradise! We were scheduling drinks in the evening at Sky bar, Traders Hotel, for a good night view of the Petronas and I was adamant to not go there wearing my crocs! So, we loitered around for a while, checking the streets and finally, I found a pair of heels at BB Plaza for a mere Rs. 360! KL is a dream for shoe-aholics!
We walked the 10-15 mins stretch from Bukit Bintang to our Guesthouse. It was still 6:30pm when we reached and we decided to rest a while before we go to Traders.

Pool Deck@ 33rd floor, SkyBar, Traders Hotel



At around 8:30 pm, we headed to Sky Bar, Traders Hotel. Earlier, I had tried to call for reservations but it was full... so we decided to try our luck. And luck was in our favour! We were asked to be seated in one of the tall tables at first, but after 10minutes, we were placed in one of those brilliant red divans facing the gleaming Petronas!





Gleaming Diamonds


Petronas looks gorgeous at night, and for a few drinks and a breathtaking view, there's no better place than Skybar. Earlier, we had planned to go to The View Rooftop but since Sky bar was closer to our guesthouse and I could vouch for the view (having been here before), we decided to scrap going to any other place.

We took a long while (2 hours actually) staring at the Petronas and watching the Symphony Fountains dance at a distance. When we had our fill, we generously gave our seats to the long queue waiting for seats. :P... An evening at Skybar costed us Rs. 1800.
The Symphony Fountains dancing at a distance








Satays, anyone?













After another change of clothes (from heels to flats!), we headed to the famed food street, Jalan Alor. We were to walk down the street and take a left. And as we walked down towards the junction, we figured that to our right was the hip pub-street, Changkat Bukit Bintang! Double Hit! We took a stroll around the pub-street, soaking up the lively night scene and then headed to Jalan Alor.

Bleh Brothers




Weird-tasting Dumpling



Jalan Alor was a totally different scene. Tables and chairs on the road and food everywhere.  The street is open till 4 AM in the morning. We entered the street at 1 AM and it was filled with people. Half of what was written was incomprehensible to non-Malay us! We randomly picked a place called Beh Brothers and ordered our dinner: Dumpling of chicken, mushroom and glutinous rice for me, Nasi Goreng for Neel, a raw mango salad and two beers. My dumpling was yuck! I frankly didn't know what I ordered... but the salad was a saviour and I combined the two and downed it with beer. Our dinner came to Rs. 700.


At 2:30AM, we were back in our room, happy, filled and lulled into sleep.... The next day...

Kuala Lumpur on a shoe-string budget: Part II

After the previous night's late outings, we woke up mighty late. Breakfast was on till 11am and I woke up half an hour late. I sprinted to the pantry to find that the kitchen was being cleaned up. However, (seeing my sad face, most probably) they encouraged us to have our breakfast. You can read more on our cute little accommodation here.

GoKL!
Today, we had decided to visit Chinatown and shop for a few friends who had given me cash and asked me to perform the arduous task of shopping on their behalf. I was little irritated that I lost precious shopping time sleeping!

By the time, we were ready, it was 1pm and the sun was being ruthless. We asked the front desk how to take the monorail from Rajachulan to China town, however, Jennifer provided a simple alternative. Board one of the free GoKL (purple line) buses that goes to Chinatown! So, that's what we did... free transportation!

Somehow reading Bengali in Malaysia was v.satisfying

On reaching Chinatown, my task was to find a "fake-genuine-looking-luxury" brand bag. My budget: Rs. 3000. I was not in a mood to bargain with the front-shops, so we stepped in one of the 'real' shops. We were discussing on what to buy and what not to when the shop assistant asked which language we were speaking:

"Assamese", we replied in unison.
"Oh! That's why I could understand... Why! I'm a Bengali!", he said.

... And hence, started a dialogue between Neel and him in Bengali... The brotherly love flowed and the shop-assistance told us the tricks of the trade and gave us a genuine Burberry bag (not 'fake', but smuggled, it seems), well within our budget!

Unlike what I thought, our shopping didn't take too much time. In fact, we were done in under 30mins. From Chinatown, we walked to Pasar Seni (Central Market). Walking in KL is a task... drenched in sweat, we entered the two storey Central Market and went straight to the Old Town White Coffee for a rest. There I had the Malaysian brew, Teh Tarik and Neel had a weird carbonated beverage named Frost that tasted like carbonated Iodex! Mind you, this was the first spend of the day: Rs. 250.



If Iodex was a beverage, it'd be Frost



After catching our breath, we took a tour of the Central Market. We bought souvenirs for friends, I took him to the Art Annexe of the market and generally, checked the colorful bric-a-brac that Central is famous for.

Art: Annexe: Pasar Seni
Precious!
There was another reason why we came to Central: Precious Old China Cafe. Again, this was a Lonely Planet recommended place. On my last visit, I had lunched at Old China Cafe in China Town and loved the Nyonya cuisine served there. It seems, Precious is a sister concern of Old China Cafe. So, we decided to lunch here. Moreover, the reasonable prices seem to be an added advantage.

Precious is located on the second floor and is quite Chinese in its way. There is a large dining room inside, which was closed that day, however, I was allowed to check the place. It was a little ghostly inside. Chinese horror. The outside section was a pleasant one and we were attended by a old Chinese waiter who seemed to have a spring in his step... literally!

Cute 'Pie Tee'

We ordered Pie-Tee which was so very cute. It came in upturned hats (that tasted like Fortune cookies), and one had to fill it with a certain mixture, some scrambled eggs, sweet-chilly sauce and garnish it with a sprig of coriander before popping it in the mouth! It was delicious too!





For the main course, I can't remember the names of what we ordered but it looked like this:



The bill came around Rs. 1000 for two.

After our late lunch, we boarded one of the GoKL buses and headed to our Guesthouse. In the afternoon, we calculated and decided we had some free cash left and so, we headed to Bukit Bintang to indulge in some shopping. We came back to our area at around 10pm and we were out on the pub-street, Changkat Bukit Bintang by 11pm.

At Bukit Bintang
Now Changkat is a totally different ball-game. The waiters stand on the street and usher you to try their Happy Hours. Lively music spill from every corner of the street. Crowds dance in open discos and there are a few women who gives you luring looks!

I presume one will chance upon a Ladies' nite at some pub every weekday and so it happened to us! We were ushered to Sutraa Bar by a waiter whose offer was a Buy 1 Get 2 Beer for 55MYR nett and for Ladies, unlimited Blue Lagoon cocktail. Poor guy didn't know what Indians are capable of once they get a good drinking offer. Neel drank his drinks slowly. Mine was free, right?, so there was no stopping me. Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!

At Sutraa: Happy glow
It was 1am by the time we left Changkat. The bill at Sutraa came around Rs. 1500. I was happy, Neel was happy and the street was uber-happy. We decided to visit Changkat once in a while to "raise our spirits"!

Now that it was 1am and we didn't want to head to Jalan Alor, we took two Nasi Lemak parcels from the restaurant around the corner for Rs. 150. And once at the Guesthouse, we sprawled ourselves on the floor and ate, what I reckon saying, "the tastiest Nasi Lemak ever".... it must have been the Blue Lagoon effect... I shall never know!


On the third day, we took a monorail from Rajachulan to KL Sentral (Rs. 40 per person) and took an Aerobus to KLIA (Rs. 180).

That, in a gist, was how we did KL in a shoe-string budget, missing none of the fun! You are welcomed to try our itinerary!
Cool yo... B-)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Orange Pekoe Guesthouse-Our stay in KL

The best decision we took while being at KL must be deciding to stay at Orange Pekoe.

I read the reviews on travel websites, checked Orange Pekoe's facilities, and finally decided to book  the place. Though I should have been convinced with so many good reviews, yet I was a lil' skeptical... I shouldn't have worried...

My flight landed in KL at 1am in the morning and Neel was waiting for me at the airport. By the time we reached Orange Pekoe, it was 3:30am. The location itself was not very hard to find. All we had to do was tell the driver, "Behind Hotel Istana", and we swiftly located the place. From outside, it showed no glitter. It is a corner building, orange-hued, with a vertical signboard.

However, once the doors opened, my eyes were quick to notice the well-kept white tiles. I live in a house with white-tiles and I totally understand the pain one goes through to keep it spotlessly clean. By the way, guests are suppose to open their shoes before entering the house.I guess that's one thing that surely helps Orange Pekoe to be clean.

Even at 3:30 in the morning, the guy at the reception, Fahmy, I believe, was at its efficient best and he quickly handed over the documents to sign, our room key and our Wi-fi password. 3 minutes and we checked in!

For the first night, we had to take a smaller room since the bigger ones were all taken up. The room space was small but I really didn't mind. The linen was stark white, towels were ready and the mattress.... OMG! So soft.... So very soft... I snored off!



Verandah for smokers

Lounge 











Breakfast
We woke up at 10am the next day, feeling terribly hungry and rushed to the kitchen for the complimentary breakfast the guesthouse provides. The kitchen was neatly kept, jars of tea, coffee, milk whitener, milo and sugar kept on one side, cornflakes and chocos with milk at another side. Then there were bananas, three different kinds of jam, butter and bread. Since I suck at operating electric appliances, I let Neel operate the toaster while I tried to figure out how the electric kettle operates. Well, I said I suck... so, I finally asked the helpful Jennifer to teach me. Once taught, I brewed up our coffee and tea, filled our bowls with chocos and liberally spread butter and kaya on our toasts! (Oh, you should try Kaya... it's a wonderful spread... Too bad I forgot to buy a bottle)

The well-kept kitchen


Around 11am (well before the check-in time), we were told that the bigger room has been emptied and we can shift our luggage there. The bigger room, being bigger, had more space for luggage. The bathrooms in this guesthouse has a peculiar shower and I took a while turning all those shower knobs! Electronic illiterate that I am!






The free wifi was a hit with us, especially for me. I had turned off my data services as soon as I landed since international roaming burns such a hole in one's pocket. But free wifi meant I could chat on bbm...! Woohoo!




Free GoKL buses
The last time I came to KL, I was ill-prepared, and stayed in a hotel really far away from all the action. This time, I realised how easy life becomes when you choose a better location to stay. We could reach Bukit Bintang (shopping haven) by a 7 mins walk, Petronas was a 20mins walk and the pub-street (Changkat) and food street (Jalan Alor) are just a 2mins walk!


We were already very pleased with the location when Jennifer informed us that there are free GoKL buses plying next to the Guesthouse that can take us around the Golden Triangle! By now, we were thoroughly impressed!


Orange Pekoe was all that we hoped for. Good rooms, friendly staff, spic and span premises.... to it, you can add free wifi, free internet terminals, complimentary breakfast, anytime tea/coffee and location. And with a price so reasonable, you could save more for your shopping!







This is the first time I experienced staying in a guesthouse abroad and I totally loved it. The setting is so homely.

I guess, the making of one's own breakfast and cleaning one's own dishes contributed to a homely feel. ;)

When you are here, I'd recommend you bring your toiletries since only basics like towels and toilet papers are provided here.




We are going to KL again... soon... and now that we have found Orange Pekoe, I shan't be looking at another place!

You can find more details at http://orangepekoe.com.my/

By and by, do you know how to enjoy KL in a hedonistic fashion for two days with 8000 INR (around USD 140) in your pocket? Read on...
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