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Air Asia & Me, from Cambodia to KL to Bali

MALAYSIA | Monday, 25 February 2008 | Views [2072]

mosque in Kuala Lumpur

mosque in Kuala Lumpur

Last Sunday I had breakfast in Cambodia, lunch in Malaysia and dinner in Bali. I left Siem Reap early in the morning, and arrived in Kuala Lumpur by mid-day. I had a 5 hour layover, and a friend from Vietnam was also in town, so I thought I’d pop into the city rather than sit around the airport. I flew Air Asia, the “everyone can fly” low cost carrier, so I landed at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal. It’s literally called something like that, and the whole place looks and feels low cost: it’s basically a warehouse with a McDonald’s, some plastic seats, and X-Ray machines.  Oh, and a runway out back with a few airplanes hanging around.

It’s also much further from the city than the "normal" KL international airport, so it took me much longer than expected to get into the city, leaving me barely an hour and half to explore. I glimpsed the famous Petronas towers out the bus window as we wound through the city streets.  Finally, I met my friend, and we walked around Chinatown, admired some colonial shophouses and a mosque, and then ended up in the middle of a bicycle race. It was an interesting juxtaposition: half-naked men decked out in spandex and women in hijabs. It was a turbo tour of KL, but in the short time I could glimpse the fascinating ethnic mix of Chinese, Muslim, and Indian.

Then I somehow missed my bus back and ended up having to take a taxi, which almost ran out of gas – we had to turn around to go to a gas station to buy a tiny bit of petrol when the taxi ran out of natural gas. The friendly driver explained to me the complexities of the duel fuel system in his incredibly proper British-accented English, but I was too busy worrying about missing my flight to listen closely.

We rolled into the airport on fumes; I dashed to left luggage to pick up my bags, and panted my way to the check-in desk, only to be told, “Bali? The Bali flight is closed.” This was a shock, since there were still 35 minutes to go, which seemed like plenty of time to me. I smiled my best “please pity me, I’m a clueless foreigner whose taxi ran out of gas” smile and the desk agent radioed someone.

He got off the radio and told me, “OK, they’ll take the passenger, but not the luggage.”

Me: “OK, that's great. So it’ll come on the next flight, right?”

Him: “Oh no, we don’t do that.”

(Hello, Low Cost Carrier!)

Me: "Hmm, so I can carry it on?”

Him (shaking his head): “Nope”  

I looked at the backpack that I have lugged through 5 countries over 4 months and asked incredulously, “You mean I am supposed to abandon my luggage in Malaysia?”

Though there have been many times I've wished to abandon the backpack, this was not one of them.

He went back to his radio. I smiled nicely, and even extended my smile to include the luggage carrier guys who were loitering around just outside the door behind the gate. I smiled pleadingly, I smiled charmingly and I smiled as nicely as I possibly could, and before radio guy came back one of the luggage guys said to me, “No problem, we’ll take it.” I smiled an extra thank you smile, and then ran to the gate.

The good thing about being the last person to check into a flight is that there are no lines at passport control or security. The friendly Air Asia guys tried to weigh my carry on, but knowing that I’d probably fail that test too (having already stuffed heavy items into my carry-on to get my checked bag down to the 15 kilo limit), I used the smile trick again, this time combined with running action and an apologetic, “sorry I don’t quite understand what that scale is for” look. It seemed to work – they smiled and let me go.

Tags: air asia, airports, kuala lumpur

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