And just like that, we’ve arrived at the finale of our grand tour of Asia. Has it been a year already? We’ve traveled long and far, yet we can’t imagine any of this ending. There was never an exact plan to end in a particular place, but the honour just so happened to fall to Malaysia… and a few days in Singapore somewhere in between.
It worked out well. With no visa required and a 90-day stay upon entry, we had plenty of time to enjoy Malaysia and figure out what to do next without an established expiration date. There’s no rush. Plus Kuala Lumpur is a very strategic place for any and all potential onwards travel, wherever we may be headed.
Bali to Kuala Lumpur
For most, the Denpasar airport in Bali marks their first steps into Indonesia; ironically, it marked our last. That struck me as strangely fitting considering the somewhat unconventional route we took through Indonesia and the less than perfect impressions we had of the island. We never completely fell under the shroud of glamour and mystique that surrounds Bali for most of the world, but enjoyed it for what it is.
Bali is huge, and traffic between cities on the island can be bad. So to make sure we catch our early morning flight out, we found a hotel right next to the airport the day before. That way we could literally walk to the airport the next morning. Our legs and feet never fail us. I have to say the Denpasar airport definitely has character; traditional Balinese architectural elements accentuate the otherwise contemporary airport design. Not to mention the plethora of green and airy gardens all around, a quintessential Bali flare.
The flight from Denpasar to Kuala Lumpur was with (who else?) AirAsia. We’ve flown AirAsia so many times now that it’s comfortable and uneventful, the new normal. However, this one had a surprise in store for us. Out of nowhere in the middle of the flight, the pilot himself (!!) came out of the cockpit to serenade us. He put on a beret, strapped on a guitar, and played Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning” – of course, it was indeed a Sunday morning. It was pretty cool to listen to his excellent acoustic rendition of the song while watching the sunrise outside the windows. Awesome pilots, AirAsia!
Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 (KLIA2) was as modern as the original KLIA terminal where we long ago had a half day layover. KLIA2 seems to essentially be AirAsia’s exclusive terminal, a huge hub – there was an insane number of flights in and out. To reach Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC), there’s an KLIA Ekspres train that makes the trip in under 30 minutes. We opted for a bus instead, a third of the price and double the time, but we have all the time in the world. From KL Sentral, we then rode the Monorail to the Imbi station, right next to our hotel in the heart of the city.
First Impressions of Malaysia
- Malaysia has to be the most developed country we’ve been to since Taiwan… maybe with exception of Maldives? This means better infrastructure, more dependable services, easily accessible information, and an overall more convenient travel experience.
- There are two distinct parts of Malaysia. West or Peninsular Malaysia, the left section connected to the mainland via Thailand, and east Malaysia, or Malaysian Borneo, the right section that is really the northern chunk of Borneo island. Not only are they physically separate, they’re also known for different things. Peninsular Malaysia for its modern cities, Malaysian Borneo for its nature and wildlife.
- Coming from Indonesia, a lot of things in Malaysia were familiar. Language, for one, especially to non-speakers like us, where Indonesian and Malay seem very similar and mutually intelligible. Food, for another, though Malaysian cuisine has a stronger Chinese influence. Malaysia is also home to cultural diversity and religious pluralism, though again predominantly Muslim.
- Getting between places in Malaysia will not be the struggle that transportation can often be in a foreign place. Not only is public transportation fantastic within cities (especially KL!), but between cities should also be a piece of cake. We can count on luxury buses and wide laned highways. AirAsia’s huge presence throughout Malaysia with cheap fares and many daily flights means that flying between places in Malaysia may actually at times be cheaper than other options over land. That’s amazing.
I’d like to think that we’ve saved the best for last. You bet we’re going to soak up every last moment in Asia we can while exploring Malaysia.