To my mind Kuala Lumpur is one of those far away places that you might go to once in a decade maybe on an exotic holiday that has involved a great deal of saving. You can imagine my surprise therefore when the director of the school suggest I go there for a ‘workshop’. When we started looking at flights it looked liked there was a possibility that I could actually go and come back on the same day which is even more surprising. It’s just that sort of experience that is one of those moments when I realise that we’ve actually done it; that we actually live in Southeast Asia.
I left my house (still can’t quite believe that we live in a house) at the reasonable hour of 6:00am. I walked the 30 yards or so to the end of our street and ordered a taxi from the GRAB app which is the equivalent here of Uber. Apparently the app has single handedly removed the need for negotiating and arguing with taxi drivers. As the app gives you the price there are no arguments which is great for the taxi drivers who don’t really want to have to speak English and argue anyway. This has had a knock on effect on the rest of the taxi market where you estimate the cost and simply pay at the end without any fuss. The cost for the ride, which was about 30 minutes, was 5,700 Kyats which equates to $3.50 or £2.68. I had the small language triumph of handing the driver a 10,000 Kyat note and saying “6,000” in Burmese whereby he understood me at the first time of asking and gave me 4,000 back!
At the airport I met up with my colleague and we went through passport control with no problem. Until very recently, they had a bit of paper you have to fill in which, although seemed innocuous enough at the time, you actually have to return on coming back to the country. This had caused all sorts of problems in the past including to my colleague who was actually deported back to Bangkok once for a day for not having the right bit of paper. I would like to think that it is a sign of development that they have done away with these bits of paper.
The flight time to Kuala Lumpur was about 2 hours 45 mins which is like flying from Chicago to New York or London to Florence. With no luggage we rushed through the airport changing some US dollars on the way. We then booked a cab to take us to the venue which was the IGB International School. The cost seemed high but then the taxi took ages so it turned out to be fine. I can’t tell you too much about Kuala Lumpur as we literally went to the school and then got right back in the taxi and came back to the airport. There were some immediate things to notice though. The roads were all in great condition for one and we were on proper highways for almost the whole way. I didn’t notice it at first but my colleague pointed out that no one was honking their horn which was frankly a relief. Yangon drivers honk their horn for any reason including approaching a corner which can be really annoying especially on otherwise quiet streets.
Yangon drivers are terrible although they are apparently improving all the time. Oddly the only rule they obey is the red light which they never jump. Malaysian drivers seemed much better although we did see quite a bad motorbike accident on our way. In Yangon you are not allowed motorbikes which is frankly a relief. The gaps available to pedestrians are small enough as it is. If they were filled with motorbikes I think I would never walk anywhere. When we got off the highways the roads had proper pavements (or sidewalks) which are a rarity in Yangon. The airport was like one huge mall. You could have gone there to buy things in one day and gone right back never needing to leave the airport complex. There was definitely a feeling of modernity there that Yangon doesn’t have. Many people in Yangon will fly to Bangkok for the weekend just to get some civilization but funnily enough neither Lindsey or I feel the need for this and rather like our adopted city for now.
I didn’t take any photos while in Malaysia so instead you can have this nice Gecko on the window of a Thai restaurant we went to the other day.