A Travellerspoint blog

Driving back to KL with the amazing Malaysian lady drivers


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Philippine Post Easter Islands Meetup 2016 & Kuala Lumpur meetups in January 2016 on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14561534122576.jpgthe "known only by locals" food stalls in Jalan Ampang areaDRAFT: This is the KL portion of the last two days of my meetup, following an enjoyable roadtrip to Ipoh [Ipoh-travel-guide-1088867] and Kuala Kangsar. So on our way back Armand has to be dropped off at the bus station. He rides in Soon Thiam's car, together with Queenie, Roslan and of course, Soon Thiam. Queenie is taking over driving chores now. All I know is that she drives fast - they arrive in KL and drop Armand off like 30 minutes before we get into town. Apparently this won't be goodbye for now with Queenie and Soon Thiam (for Roslan, yes as he accompanied Armand to the bus station). We (Yanti, Josephine, Karina, Hayley and I) phone Queenie to meet up for dinner at Jalan Ampang, which is not far from Yanti's place.large_1840343_14561534152148.jpg I told them I wanted authentic KL local food ... and true enough, they find this place only known to locals from the neighborhood (it's not even mentioned in Google Maps) where we get various cuisines, cooked right across from you. We had tandoori chicken plus a few other dishes whose names escape me as of now. Street food in Malaysia is cheap, it was that economically priced that Hayley treated all of us to one of the main viands. Normally in Manila I wouldn't eat street foods because of the pollution coming from diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes, not to mention the unsanitary conditions while washing the dishes and utensils. But here it was quite ok, and I didn't feel any bit worried about food hygiene. It is truly a way to experience the local way of eating, and not just from the ubiquitous food courts that you see inside the malls. Of course, the food courts make it easier to order since the name and photos of the meals are displayed prominently. Here in Jalan Ampang we had the server itemize what we ate and paid there as well. No cashier, just like how you would eat in the smaller towns outside of KL. Defnitely every traveler to KL must try at least once eating in a local neighborhood eatery.

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Day trip to Ipoh and Kuala Kangsar


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Philippine Post Easter Islands Meetup 2016 & Kuala Lumpur meetups in January 2016 on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_1468690873559.jpgIstana Negara mounted guard, photo by RoslanSo after the lovely dinner with the TravBuddies and drinks with Gwen, Jamal and Armand, we target to start early for the roadtrip up north. Since my hotel accommodation didn't include breakfast (I wasn't impressed with the buffet breakfast last time I was here), we headed to KL Sentral at the meeting area which Soon Thiam had mentioned (to begin with, he arrived way earlier than the agreed upon time). I commented that he was early, and he replied "Only 15 minutes early". For some reason we got confused which of the exits it was, and ended up at the exit near the convenience stores. Good thing Roslan was there to save the day, as he mentioned that it was the other exit that Soon Thiam was waiting at (KL City Air Terminal).

So we then headed out to town, messaging the ladies regarding where we were supposed to meet up.large_1840343_14561534596137.jpgroadtrip pitstop to Ipoh!When Josephine messaged that they were gassing up and will be late, we found some diversion to keep us busy before we would be seeing them. On the way out we passed by the National Palace (Istana Negara) for series of photos. Armand was impressed by the King's mounted guards, whose horses were standing steadily at the entrance gates. When a busload of tourists arrived, we knew it was time to go. We headed on our way and would be meeting now at R&R Sungai Boloh instead of Tapah [Tapah-travel-guide-1099059]. Soon Thiam said that we are not yet "Makan" and that Tapah was too far. And then, because we took too long at Istana, the fast driving ladies were already at Tapah. A good 10 km ahead of us. Later I found out that all of the ladies (except for Karina who loves to be the passenger) are fantastic drivers, Queenie and Josephine especially.large_1840343_14561534685157.jpg

So we finally got to meet at Tapas, and this would be my first time to meet Josephine as she was in the USA during the last KL meetup I organized. Soon Thiam offered for Josephine to drive his car after we leave Tapah, but she declined as she was the back up driver for Yanti. So driver relief will only come at Ipoh [Ipoh-travel-guide-1088867], which was when we picked up Hayley from her house and she took over the driving from Soon Thiam. By then Armand was getting sleepy, so I exchanged vehicles and rode with the ladies, since there was a lot of catching up to do with Yanti. Now that Yanti was the driver, she was usually ahead of Soon Thiam's car. At one point, we missed the turn at the intersection going to Hayley's house, that we were going around in circles in one of the villages before the turn off point.large_1840343_1456153480742.jpgwith Roslan, Armand, Karina, Yanti, Queenie, Hayley, Josephine and Soon Thiam in Ipoh Train station. Behind is an Ipoh treeWhen we finally caught up with them and arrived at Hayley's house, a few minutes before she picked up Queenie, who was arriving at the bus terminal at 11AM.

Immediately after everyone got together, we headed to the train station to get tickets for Armand, who at this point, was undecided if he will still join up to Kuala Kangsar [Kuala-Kangsar-travel-guide-1096855] or take the train back to KL so he could be in Kuantan [Kuantan-travel-guide-1096897] in the evening. We arrived at the train station, took a few group selfies, while Hayley and Armand went looking for tickets. The train was full, and somehow they decided that Arman would just join the rest of the trip and go back in the evening to KL so he would catch the last bus back to Kuantan.large_1840343_14561534845607.jpgwith Hayley, Roslan, Soon Thiam, Armand, Yanti, Josephie, Queenie and Karina in the famous Ipoh chicken rice shop

Once the chore of "not getting" the train tickets was done, we took photos by the big Ipoh tree (yes, the city is named after a tree), and then sought out the famous chicken rice restaurants. Since Roslan is also from Ipoh, he gave us a mini tour while driving around the city. We found the chicken rice place, and then the local guide (aka Hayley) took charge of ordering the usual fare. Chicken rice, bean sprouts, etc. There were 9 of us and yet it seemed that a big order was more than enough. After lunch we headed to try the soya bean drink (Funny Mountain brand), and posed with the lady selling the drinks. On the way back to the cars we passed by a store selling Ipoh white coffee and cookies, and I bought two big bags that almost caused me excess baggage :P After that I requested to drop by the local Catholic Church as it was a Sunday, and I told them about my Mom's belief that for the first time one visits a church, he or she gets three wishes.large_1840343_14686908822512.jpgwith tofu drink lady, photo by RoslanI always do the church visit for each new place I go to, and keep on making three wishes. On the way out we met a Filipina who struck a conversation with Armand, she having stayed in Malaysia for a few years already whereas Armand had just arrived a few months earlier.

And then on to Yanti's hometown, Kuala Kangsar. Of course the tourists in us went over to see one of the first rubber trees planted in Malaysia, and then on to the market where Yanti went to have her favorite laksa. I also got to try the famous ice Cendol, plus a few local delicacies. Afterwards we decided to go on a river cruise along the Sayong River where we got to see the back of the Sultan's Palace before the boat turned around and headed back to the jetty. As the Ubudiah Mosque was nearby, we made sure we took a look even though the place was closed but we were able to go around the premises.large_1840343_14686908776562.jpgKuala Kangsar old Sultan palace, photo by RoslanThe last two stops were at the Malay College and at the Old Palace of the Sultan. We took quite a number of fun poses there, and since no one brought a selfie stick, had to balance some of the smartphones to be able to take everyone in the group photo.

It was a fun road trip, but Armand had to chase the 945PM bus from KL to Kuantan...so we left Kuala Kangsar and headed back on the highway. This time Queenie was the driver of Soon Thiam's car and Josephine the driver of Yanti's car. We made a last supposed last stop at Tapah rest stop on the way back, had snacks and said goodbyes (well for Armand and Roslan at least), not knowing that we would be meeting again as many as two times over the next 24 hours. Now I say that Malaysian ladies are really good drivers because once Queenie took the wheel, she managed to arrive at the drop off point almost 30 minutes before we did at our dinner place. I'd be confident riding with these ladies for sure on my next roadtrip in Peninsular Malaysia!

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The one day Kuala Lumpur meetup that spanned three days


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Philippine Post Easter Islands Meetup 2016 & Kuala Lumpur meetups in January 2016 on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14580696723275.jpgPrivileges of premium flex. Normally seats are assigned to the first five rows, but in my case, I was lucky not to have a Seatmate right beside me. The next group of people were on the second row So the original plan was for me to have a big meetup organized on my way back from India, since I had booked to arrive on a Saturday and didn't plan to fly back home immediately. The date set was January 30th, and I had been "advertising" it since half a year prior. Even though I had booked the MNLKUL flights 14 months ahead, I took my time to book the last two legs of my trip. I still couldn't decide whether I'd go home on a Sunday (which meant seeing only KL TravBuddies for a few hours), or extend to Monday or Tuesday so I can make a trip out of town. Eventually I had decided to leave on Tuesday, which would be the day before when the wifey would take her vacation. So I booked the flights back on AirAsia but this time couldn't find the cheapest fare because it was irrelevant as a result of needing to get baggage, meals, a seat, and the option to change flights in case something came up at home or work.large_1840343_14580696757652.jpgThis is another privilege of being in Row 1. You have quite the attention from the lovely flight attendant of AirAsia. This is Janine from the Philippines. We had quite a good time chatting about lots of things Getting all those options would bump my total ticket cost to almost 50% more than the barebones fare (no frills, no check-in, no meals, no seats, almost nothing but the basic flight). I decided to try out AirAsia's premium flex service, which gave me all what I needed for a little over a hundred ringgit more. This is one thing I noticed - no matter how early you book, if you choose premium flex you will end up paying the same amount even if you booked a month or two to go before the actual flight. So by delaying the flight decision process, I would be able to save more money and book only when I was almost certain of my departure dates (and if in case I became fickle minded, the option to change flights up to two times and just pay for the fare difference, not the flight rebooking fees). An added bonus to premium flex - priority checkin, priority boarding, and the chance to choose my favorite seat - 1A, which was the nearest the exit.large_1840343_14558128799526.jpgEleven Heaven meetup - with Vanessa and ArmandIt does help to be first to leave the plane and rush to immigration after landing, especially as KLIA tends to get busy at certain times of the day. Also, the other travelers don't want to spend the extra money for the comfort and privilege of being in front, so the seats beside me ended up empty! I realized I am a flexible backpacker/flashpacker, and while weighing the advantages of premium flex vs. the costs saved, this was indeed a good deal. So I booked both Kochi to Kuala Lumpur [Kuala-Lumpur-travel-guide-1096867], and Kuala Lumpur to Manila on premium flex, seat 1A with my favorite Pak Nasser Nasi Goreng for the included meal. Arriving into KLIA was also a breeze - I wasn't rushing because the flight would arrive about 4PM, more than enough time to get to KL Sentral even on bus (which I decided against since I timed my arrival to coincide with that of Armand who was coming in from Kuantan [Kuantan-travel-guide-1096897]).large_1840343_14558128901897.jpg So I took the KLIA Expres, got the MasterCard promo for 44 MYR (still expensive despite the discount), and arranged to meet Armand at KL Sentral near McDonald's. I arrived ahead of him but it wasn't a long wait and I was able to get a quick bite for snacks. We had agreed with the KL TravBuddies to meet in NU Sentral Food Court - apparently it was fairly new that many were not even aware of it, and it was their first time there as well. Roslan was as usual, the early bird, so he got to meet Armand ahead while I was busy with other chores. Once I had joined them, people started arriving. Soon Thiam next, then Haiza, Vanessa and Nisa. I had long wanted to see Vanessa again as I wasn't able to attend her wedding in March 2015. She was very gracious to make time to meet me considering she had a flight to Japan the following morning, which was for vacation with her family.large_1840343_14558128841859.jpgwith Gwen, Roslan, Haiza, Nisa, Soon Thiam, Jamal, Vanessa and Armand at NU Sentral Food CourtI was glad to see her once again! Of course, it was also great seeing Nisa (who I met again during the outbound portion of this trip), and Haiza (since I last met her at the KL meetup in November 2014). It was Armand's first time to meet all of them, so it was a good opportunity to know them better as Armand would be based in Kuantan (2 hours away from KL) since late 2015. So he would likely bump into these genial folks during the succeeding KL Meetups once they get organized. Just before Vanessa was about to leave, Gwen and Jamal arrived. It was good to see them both (unfortunately they didn't bring their little one Jasia), but that was actually good since it was Gwen's first time (according to her, since the Novemer 2014 meetup) to go out for a TravBuddy meetup at a much later time at night since her Dad volunteered to take care of Little J.large_1840343_14558128872865.jpg So there were were, able to catch up, even after Vanessa had to leave at 10PM and the rest go ahead since we had a big day on Sunday, traveling to Ipoh [Ipoh-travel-guide-1088867] and Kuala Kangsar. But not for me and Armand, the people from out-of-town. Well, since Gwen and Jamal are from Klang [Klang-travel-guide-1096812], they are considered "out-of-town" as well :D. We continued on for coffee at KL Sentral with Nisa until the place closed at 1030PM. When Nisa had left, Gwen suggested we drive around and find a place to drink. We eventually ended in Bukit Bintang [Bukit-Bintang-travel-guide-1358163] at a nice and not-so-noisy place called Havana.large_1840343_14558128944695.jpgwith Gwen, Nisa, Jamal and ArmandThere we were able to have a good chat of over an hour before it was time for them to go home and us out-of-towners back to the hotel. I had asked Armand to stay over since I had an extra bed so that he wouldn't have to worry about a place to stay before he would go back to Kuantan. At this point, Armand was still undecided whether he would join the road trip to Ipoh or head straight back to Kuantan in the morning since he had to work on Monday. Hahaha it turned out funny what he eventually decided, which is detailed on the next day's write up.

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Kuala Lumpur meetups at the start and end of my South India


View Nolan's Eleven Heaven meetups & Philippine Post Easter Islands Meetup 2016 & Kuala Lumpur meetups in January 2016 on NT01's travel map.

large_1840343_14558122343510.jpgAs I've mentioned a few times, Kuala Lumpur is my favorite meetup place after Manila. The reasons are obvious - great infrastructure, lively city, variety of food, and of course the most important one - absolutely wonderful TravBuddy friends! Of all cities (again, after Manila), Kuala Lumpur is where the largest concentration of my TravBuddy friends can be found.

It's been a while since I started visiting Kuala Lumpur again. I have to thank Tony Fernandes for making me visit KL as many times as I can again (Tony Fernandes is the CEO of AirAsia, one of the largest low cost carriers in SEAsia and based out of KL). Prior to my last trip in November 2014, I had last visited KL in 2001 when the airport (KLIA) was new, and Petronas Towers were the world's tallest buildings. But since the cheap fares of AirAsia, I would fly into KL for a day before continuing to my next destination.large_1840343_14558123281122.jpgwith Cathy, Romel, Roslan, Soon Thiam and Nisa at KLCC Food Court

The same was true for these trips in January 2016, with just a few hours transit from arrival on January 14th before I would continue to Chennai, India. Romel (ilovenewjersey [ilovenewjersey]) was my travel companion on this trip - he had originally planned to meet me in Bangalore on January 17th but decided a few weeks before the start of the trip that he would join from Manila instead. It was his first time to Malaysia (it wouldn't be the last as he would use KLIA later on to transit to his next destinations, again on AirAsia), so he had just one thing in mind - visit and see Petronas Towers. I said I'd take care of introducing him to the KL TravBuddies, beginning with Soon Thiam (soonthiam [soonthiam]).large_1840343_14558122386657.jpg

As usual, Soon Thiam is the first to confirm for a KL meetup whenever I announce that I'll be visiting. In fact, Soon Thiam not only wants TravBuddies to see Kuala Lumpur, but to visit the nearby towns as well! That invitation of his has been up since November 2014, and I took him on this one for the January 2016 visit. Of course, that would have to wait until I have a few days in KL, so I planned to stay longer after my arrival from India on January 30th. I reactivitated the WhatsApp chatrooms from the Kuala Lumpur meetup of November 2014, and added back a few people who had left after the last meetup. Most of the TravBuddies who would be joining the meetup on January 14th I had met previously, but there were a few more who would join the January 30th/31st meetup. One was Queenie who I have been in constant communication with since she joined TravBuddy in 2015.large_1840343_14558122487619.jpg She hadn't been to any meetup yet, and gladly said yes to the opportunity to meet not only me but the other KL TBs. The original plan was for her to join on the 30th, but at the last minute she joined on the 31st as she was coming from Penang [Penang-travel-guide-1307405] where she was staying with her colleagues.

Of course, there were the usual folks whom I've met at least once - Cathy (catlim73 [catlim73]), Nisa (lisa_hn [lisa_hn]), and Roslan (Stupidguy [stupidguy])in addition to Soon Thiam. We agreed to meet at the KLCC Suria Mall Food Court, which was relatively easy to go to (5 stations from KL Sentral).large_1840343_14558122573705.jpgwith Cathy, Romel, Roslan, Soon Thiam and Nisa

Once I arrived in KLIA, I immediately got a SIM card and started updating them of our location (well, it happened even before that as there was free WiFi in KLIA 2 and my phone had kept the free WiFi password from the previous trip). The arrival into KLIA was smooth, and way faster compared to the return trip in November 2014. We didn't spend that much time with immigration, although it took a while before our bags were released at baggage claim. Once done with the chores (SIM card, getting ringgit from the ATM), we proceeded to the KLIA Expres counter. Soon Thiam had warned us that the train ticket had gone up in price, from 35 MYR to 55 MYR. No wonder there were few people lining up at KLIA Expres! But then, Soon Thiam also mentioned that there is a kiosk operated in partnership with MasterCard where buyers can get a discount.large_1840343_14558123041307.jpgwith Cathy, Romel, Roslan, Soon Thiam and NisaSo we tried it, and ended up paying 44 MYR instead of 55 MYR for a one way ticket. Had we decided on a roundtrip ticket, it would have been even cheaper. The KLIA Expres ride was uneventful and smooth as usual.

Upon arrival at KL Sentral we immediately went to the LRT ticket vending machines (TVMs). One thing we forgot to do was have our ringgit changed into smaller denominations (5s and 1s). While we had 10s, the TVMs would only accept 5s and below. Grrrr! I thought I had everything covered. So after fumbling around, we were able to get our money changed and finally bought our tokens for the LRT ride. The ride, while during rush hour, wasn't as bad compared to what we would experience in Manila or Bangkok during rush hour. Within a few minutes we got off at KLCC station, and then started walking towards KLCC Suria Mall.large_1840343_1455812324596.jpgdouble order of chicken rice for me!On our way up to the food court on the 5th floor (or was it 4th), we didn't have to look far as Soon Thiam, Cathy and Roslan were already there, seated on a table near the escalator. They spotted me in no time (well thanks to my constant updates on WhatsApp), and after the introductions to Romel, we started looking for dinner.

Dinner was the usual favorite of mine, chicken rice which was yummy and cheap at 7.50 MYR. They were amazed at my appetite (because I got two orders of chicken rice) and Roslan even took photos of me and the food to share with the KL WhatsApp chatroom. From that day I had established my reputation as a chicken rice aficionado - which would continue all the way until the last flight back to Manila on February 1st.

After dinner, Nisa (lisa_hn)arrived and had a quick order.large_1840343_14558123155674.jpgwith Cathy, Romel, Roslan, Soon Thiam and NisaSince we didn't expect anyone else after Nisa, it was time to show Romel the Petronas Towers. He had actually sneaked out earlier for a cigarette break and took longer than usual because he already took a few photos of the towers. But we continued walking to the park where the views were much better, and where Roslan had showcased his creative photography skills. Actually it would have been more interesting if we took photos of Roslan while he was composing the shots ... With all the angles and lying down on the pavement in order to get the interesting photo.

After the photo session from the front of KLCC Suria Mall, we walked over to the front of Petronas Towers. There was this particular pose I wanted to copy - that was the TravBuddy profile photo of Mira. In my opinion, nobody has a far better Petronas Photo than Mira (mnmira).large_1840343_14558122986282.jpg Hop over to her profile page (www.travbuddy.com/mnmira [mnmira]) and see how you can not disagree with my assessment. So I copied a bit of the Mira pose at Petronas, with Roslan's creative attempt using the iPhone. It turned out ok, (but not as good as Mira's), and I quickly used it for my FaceBook profile photo. When the photo shoot was finally over, it was time to say goodbye (it was a Thursday so people were still working on Friday), and Soon Thiam brought me and Romel back to KL Sentral where we were to catch our KLIA Expres ride back to Terminal 2.

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