Switch from swimming pool to big city

Usual sight in Kuala Lumpur.

Usual sight in Kuala Lumpur.

To sum up the trip, part 2
After a week by the pool we traveled to Kuala Lumpur, which was a contrast to the relaxed Dolphin Bay. As I wrote earlier the place seems to be under constant building and re-building boom. Despite the construction sites, almost two million inhabitants and traffic jams, Kuala Lumpur lacked some of the cliché type characteristics of big city: the pace of the city seemed relaxed, people were friendly and the distances to places worth of visiting weren’t that far from our hotel. And city is clean, at least compared to Bangkok or even to some European big cities.

Celebrating Fathers' Day in Hard Rock Café Kuala Lumpur.

Celebrating Fathers’ Day in Hard Rock Café Kuala Lumpur.

The biggest surprise about KL was that it didn’t feel so badly polluted as it must be. This is how it felt, not how it really is. My guess is that the almost daily rains clear up the air, but I can only image how bad the smog was during the forest fires in Indonesia. It was advised in the hotel book not to go for jog outdoors because the air is so polluted, but KLCC park seemed nice place for a run and there were people going about the exercise (I did my exercise in the hotel’s so-called gym).

My daily routine in Asia: washing the bottles for Smiley Boy.

My daily routine in Asia: washing the bottles for Smiley Boy.

Bird Park in Lake Gardens.

Bird Park in Lake Gardens.

So, what did we do while in KL? We saw Butterfly Park and Bird Park in Lake Gardens, did short visit to Chinatown (walked down Petaling Street and had supper in reggae bar), did some shopping in Bukit Bintang area and Mid-Valley Mall, went to the Aquaria and walked in the KLCC park to see the Petronas Twin towers.

Bird Park was definitely worth of visit, though I wasn’t pleased when the staff of ice cream kiosk started feeding the birds. I like to have birds bit further away while enjoying icy delicacy.  Aquaria was OK despite the fact that it was smaller than I had thought it would be. Mid-Valley Mall had more shops for my taste and budget, it would have been lovely to go there without the kids. Curly Girl and Experienced Asia Traveler dipped into the hotel pool one day, so that got tested too. So, we did and saw pretty much what we had planned to do and see.

Down to the river
Before coming back home we spent few days in Bangkok. To be honest, I don’t know what to write or think about the place. While we were there the riots were getting bigger and the whole situation started slowly escalate (the weekend after we left things got violent for first time since it all started). So, that made us bit careful when going around town, even though we hadn’t planned on any big museums and temples tour. We saw protesters around the town and policemen in their heavy gear from hotel window, but for example our cab rides weren’t slowed down because of them.

We took the riverboat cruise on Chao Phraya to get a different view of Bangkok.

We took the riverboat cruise on Chao Phraya to get a different view of Bangkok.

Also three days in a city like Bangkok is too little time to get some kind of general idea of the place. We took the river cruise down the Chao Phraya river and it was  nice, even though it wasn’t what I had expected it to be, but then again I’m not sure what I had expected of it. We got off at station near Khao San Road and walked from there to see the famous street. That was our sightseeing part of the city. One day we popped into few malls located near our hotel and got some last chance shopping done.

Sunrise in Bangkok.

Sunrise in Bangkok.

What strike me most was that people in Bangkok didn’t seem so nice and friendly as otherwise in Thailand. They were polite, but still lacked the smiles and helpfulness you usually counter in the country of smiles. Of course the tension of the situation could have had something to do with that, but it was bit of a surprise.

In the mercy of cab drivers
The matter that most affected getting around in both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok was the kids’ buggy. Getting into monorail or commuters trains in KL was still OK, even though not all stations had elevators. In both cities you must be prepared to lift the buggy every once in awhile to get over obstacles and sometimes carry them for few steps. But that didn’t slow us down. In fact in Kuala Lumpur many of the locals were pushing their kids in buggies too, but it doesn’t mean that malls or streets are designed for pedestrians with wheels.

Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur.

Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur.

Buggies put us in the mercy of cab drivers. First of all not all of them were willing to take us on and some of them didn’t have big enough trunk for the buggy. But the biggest thing was that the drivers were able to tell us the price, especially in Bangkok. Anyway you have to negotiate the price before hopping on, but if we wanted to get a ride, we really couldn’t be picky about the price or they just refused us. So, we ended up paying overprice for most of the cab rides, but really didn’t have a choice. In Kuala Lumpur, we used mostly blue cabs and they used the meter so the price was same as travelling without extra gear.

Desperately trying to get swim gear dry on the last in Bangkok.

Desperately trying to get swim gear dry on the last in Bangkok.

Tip for those travelling with small kids in Asia: the baby food selection in Kuala Lumpur is so much better than in Bangkok or in Thailand general.  We shopped mainly for Smiley Boy’s foods in the supermarket located in level 1 of Pavilion, which had good selection of other baby supplies too.

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Impressions on Kuala Lumpur

WP_20131110_003After few days in the city, it’s good time to summ up some impressions on Kuala Lumpur. First thing that you notice is that the town is one big construction site. New buildings rising here and there, more skycrapers being built, so everywhere you look you can see cranes. Looking out of the hotel room window, I can see three building sites. Add to that all the work done on the streets and commuter train and monorail stations – you better look where you are going, because your path might get cut off on next block.

Other stricking thing about KL is the amount and size of shopping malls, which is no surprise since Kuala Lumpur is one of top shopping cities. But as a Finn, I don’t understand the hype about shopping here. The prices aren’t that much cheaper than in Finland, atleast for clothes and shoes. Well, actually prices for brands like Esprit, Quicksilver, Mango, Pepe Jeans are pretty much the same as in Finland. I guess with some one who knows the local brands you could get more out of the malls. But worry not, we did get some shopping done today in Midvalley Mall. I’m most pleased with the Pepe Jeans dress I found in -50% discount.

Getting around town with the kids has been an adventure. We’ve gotten into habit of getting there by public transport (meaning monorail and commuter trains) and getting a cab for the trip back to hotel. Most stations have lifts or atleast escalator, but some only have stairs, so we’ve done some buggy carrying too. And sometimes to get where you want to be, you have to take a little detour with the buggy, because the shortest way isn’t possible with wheels. But all this hasn’t stopped us and we were prepared for some discomfort on this leg of the journey.

Days well spent

So, what have we been up to? We went to the Aquaria, which was bit dissappointment for me. From their website I got impression that it would be bigger. We managed to spent only an hour there. Well, the kids liked it, so it was worth it. We also went to take a closer look at the Petronas Twin Towers from the park next to it. Yesterday we took a little excursion to see Chinatown, well atleast the Petaling Street part of it. I bet the place is more to its reputation after the sun sets, now it seemed quite calm despite the counterfeit sellers trying (lazily) get some business done.

We also went to the neighborhood where Experienced Asia Traveller lived while studying in Kuala Lumpur back in 2005. There you could see very well how the town is renewing itself constantly. Sunway Putra Mall, the closest mall to his old quarters, was torn down and builders were busy working on the new building. The bummer part of this was that we had planned eating lunch at his old haunt but since it was located in the torn-down mall, we had rather boring lunch at PWTC.

Planning packing and planning day trips

Our travel plans for Asia are getting their finishing touches. Mostly I am planning what to pack and what not to. I hope to pack only things that are truly necessary, but when traveling with two small kids there’s no way “traveling light”. Some things are in the category hopefully will make life easier and some things are just absolutely necessary. Also I’m packing stuff that I hope we won’t need (like kids’ medication), but I wouldn’t dare to leave the house without.

As a packer I am “no empty notches in my suitcase” type, and packing is like playing Tetris. For example I stuff shoes full of socks to make sure there’s no empty notch in my suitcase. While I’m planning the packing Experienced Asia Traveller is also busy making the last accommodation reservations for Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

When traveling with small children the most important thing to take with you is right attitude. You have to plan, prepare and be flexible – I believe these three “rules” will make it possible to travel with kids. You plan your days according to kids’ daily routines (eatings and naptime) and you also prepare for those by taking with you everything that’s needed. Being flexible means that you have to be able to change your plans (quickly sometimes), since you never know what happens: flights get delayed, bus doesn’t come and local scheduling isn’t what farangis are used to.

No cooking, no laundry, no cleaning – oh joy
Once we get to Asia the plan is mainly enjoy the little things: no need to cook, clean or do laundry (also, no need to discuss who’s turn is to do all the household chores). We’ll also enjoy the joy of kids when they dip into the pool or see exotic animals. The first week we won’t be doing much, since there’s not so much to do in Dolphin Bay. In Kuala Lumpur we’ll most likely visit the aquarium and Lake Gardens with its orchid garden and bird park. Of course, you can’t miss the Petronas Twin Towers in the center of KL, but we’ll probably go and take a closer look at it too. Since Experienced Asia Traveller studied one semester in KL, we’ll make trip to neighborhood where he used to live.

Lapland got its first snow of the winter this week, and usually this time of year I am thinking snowboard, cross country skiis, when when when, oh when I’ll get to hit the slopes or ski tracks. But now my head is full of other things: bikinis, last minute things to get and do, sunscreen, flipflops. Today I’ve written down pharmacy list, started my big packing list and wondered what all we have to get done before departure. And yes, travel fever is getting higher as the departure date gets closer.

Mitäs sitten tehtäis?

Lapissa on tällä viikolla satanut lunta. Yleensä olisin ihan täpinöissäni näistä uutisista, mutta nyt en osaa orientoitua alkavaan talveen ollenkaan. Lumilauta pitäisi viedä huoltoon ja missäs mun hiihtomonot olikaan -ajatusten sijasta päässä pyörii mietteitä siitä, mitä teemme, kun pääsemme perille Aasiaan. Siis rannalla ja altaalla löhöämisen lisäksi.

Mitään liian tiukkoja suunnitelmia ei ole tarkoitus tehdä, mutta ajatuksena on vähän miettiä valmiiksi, mitä haluamme nähdä tai kokea. Näin ehdottomasti haluan nähdä -jutut tulee varmasti toteutettua, mutta varaa jää tarttua myös mahdollisuuksiin paikan päällä.

Kiharatyttö on jo nyt ilmoittanut, että ensimmäiseksi, kun pääsemme Thaimaahan, menemme uimaan. Tämä on hänelle myös luvattu. Aikuiset käyvät varmasti hieronnassa jos ei heti ensimmäisenä päivänä, niin viimeistään toisena päivänä. Aiemmin jo kirjoitinkin, ettei Dolphin Baylla ole kamalasti tekemistä, eikä siellä ole tarkoitus tehdäkään muuta kuin löhötä ja mahdollisesti käydä moikkaamassa apinoita.

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpurissa on kolme nähtävyyttä, jotka aika varmasti käymme ihmettelemässä. Petronas Twin Towers -pilvenpiirtäjiä on ilmeisesti vaikea olla näkemättä kaupungin keskustassa liikkuessa, mutta varmasti käymme ihmettelemässä niitä lähempääkin. Oli puhetta Kokeneen Aasian-matkaajan kanssa, ettei välttämättä mennä sisälle, mutta entinen Näsinneulan hissikuski tässä pohdiskelee, että pitäisikö siellä sittenkin käydä katsomassa onko kaksoistornien hisseissä kuskit. Petronaksen sijasta Kokenut Aasian-matkaaja ehdotti, että kävisimme ihailemassa nähtävyyksiä KL Towerista, josta näkee myös kaksoistornit hyvin.

Toinen takuuvarma on retki naapurustoon, jossa Kokenut Aasian-matkaaja asui olleessaan KL:ssä vaihdossa. Hän haluaa nähdä miten vanhat kotinurkat ovat muuttuneet, ja on minustakin ihan kiva nähdä ne paikat, joista saa kuulla juttuja.

Kolmas hyvin todennäköinen nähtävyys on Lake Gardens -puisto, ja sen orkideapuutarha ja perhospuisto. Kiharatyttö on kiinnostunut linnuista, joten ehkä perhosten sijasta käymmekin ihmettelemässä malesialaisia siivekkäitä lintupuistossa. Kiertoajelu puiston ympäri kuulostaa myös ihan varteenotettavalta hauskuudelta.

Yksi hyvin potentiaalinen nähtävyys on akvaario. Henkilökohtaisesti se houkuttelee sillä, että siellä on mahdollisesti viileää, mutta tämä on nimenomaan lasten vuoksi -kohde. Uskon, että Kiharatyttö ja Hymypoika viihtyvät siellä ihmettelemässä kilpikonnia, kaloja ja muita elukoita.

Missä syödään?
Vietämme isänpäivää Kuala Lumpurissa, joten silloin käymme todennäköisesti syömässä vähän paremmin. Ravintoloista listalla on lisäksi Hard Rock Café, sillä haluamme myös Hymypojalle My First Hard Café -t-paidan, jollaisen Kiharatyttö sai Pattayalta (äidillä oli Hard Rock Cafe -paitoja kultaisella 90-luvulla useampikin).

Kokenut Aasian-matkaaja ehdotti kovasti Sunway Lagoon -teemapuistoa yhdeksi päiväretkikohteeksi, mutta torppasin ajatuksen. Paikan päähoukutin on vesipuisto, joka ei välttämättä ole kahden uimataidottoman lapsen kanssa kiehtovin juttu, mitä Kuala Lumpur voi tarjota. Lisäksi paikka on sen verran kaukana, että tuntuisi hölmöltä lähteä sinne asti sen kaiken muun takia, mitä Sunway Lagoon tarjoaa, kun vastaavia ja ehkä meidän lastemme ikäisille paremmin sopivia juttuja löytyy lähempääkin.

Kuala Lumpurissa on ajatuksena myös hoitaa pois päiväjärjestyksestä suurin osa shoppailuista, joten muutama ostoskeskus varmasti osuu myös kohdalle. Koska Kokenut Aasian-matkaaja on asunut Kuala Lumpurissa, niin on hänen hommansa viedä meidät oikeisiin ostoskeskuksiin.

Vinkkejä ostospaikoista toki otetaan vastaan ja saa ehdotella muutenkin, että mitä KL:ssä kannattaa tehdä tai nähdä kahden alle neljävuotiaan kanssa. Kiva olisi kuulla myös, että paljonko akvaarion kannattaa varata aikaa.