My failure to plan again led me to the bus, this time from George Town in Malaysia 300 km south to Kuala Lumpur. This bus was tarted up with red and gold paint, gold curtains, and big comfortable seats. It left Penang at 1:30 with only about 10 passengers.
The roads are good, three lanes each way. Malaysia is oil rich and it looks like the money has been spread around a bit. There were quite a few newer cars on the road. We ran into a huge thunderstorm with drenching rain. The scooters and motorcycles took shelter in covered areas just off the highway, which must have been built for them for when it rains.
Another reason I prefer trains: nobody talks on the bus.
I hadn’t made a hotel reservation in Kuala Lumpur, so ended up staying in the first place I happened across, which was the Mexico Hotel in KL Sentral. It is just as you are probably picturing it – old, run down, not clean, heavily lived in, a bit moldy. Like all hotels will, they hit me with the walk-in price and I was only able to get it knocked down 20 ringgit. Still the bed was OK and it had strong free wi fi. I had an absolutely filthy curry at a shop around the block full of local people also enjoying it, and then slept well.
This morning I switched to a better hotel. The YMCA near the Mexico Hotel runs a disabled person’s workshop that takes in laundry so I dropped mine off there. Then I moved my pile uptown to the Federal Hotel on the KL Monorail. This hotel is right next to the Plaza Low Yat mall, which bills itself as “Malaysia’s Largest IT Lifestyle Mall.” It is similar in style to the Pantip Plaza in Bangkok, but is air conditioned, cleaner, and doesn’t sell stolen intellectual property from the United States under the goofball image of an American-born pirate King.
Which reminds me of something. When I was in Hanoi there were roaming vendors selling books and maps. They all had the same map of Hanoi and the same Vietnamese phrasebook for sale. The also all had copies of only two novels: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Quiet American by Graham Greene. The Greene book was easy to spot as a bootleg given the crudity of the cover printing. The Heller book was either original or a very good copy job.
It’s obvious why The Quiet American would be a popular book with tourists in Hanoi, but I never did figure out why the only other novel the sellers offered was Heller’s.