Wed 12th October, 2011
A little side step away from the fumes and speed of KL, I took a 2 hour bus ride down to Melaka, a traditional port town oozing with character and culture and going at a slightly more relaxing pace that the capital.
I set off in the direction of the bus station, having checked and double checked with Louis from the hostel that that was the right one. I had conflicting info from the internet, but decided to trust the local. (Regular readers might recall I should have learned this isn’t the most reliable source, after a difficult commute to Bratislava from Banska Stiavnica…) So off I sweated with my backpack and a long dress and arrived drenched at the bus station, gulping in the delightful temperature of the air-conditioned waiting room as I tried to figure out where I should go. If you have been to KL you’ll know that so many things about that city are impressive, but not logical. This bus station was that exactly. When I found the ticket area, I began to study the departure board as a uniformed man approached me “where you going?”. “Erm, Melaka?” “No, no Melaka here….***some words I couldn’t understand***….. ***something or other*** station”. “Not from here?” “***More words I couldn’t understand something about a*** station”. I figured I was obviously in the wrong one, but had no idea where the right one was. “Show me please” I said pulling out my map. After our quite stressful interaction I left the ticket area somewhat confused, knowing at least that I was not going to get to Melaka from here and needed to go elsewhere. I double checked with a sweet looking girl, younger than me, in a jet blue hijab at the information desk. She told me I could reach the metro line by heading out of the station and turning left. Out of the station I went, the heat hitting me like a hand to my throat. I of course took the longest most illogical route (as directed) to the “adjacent” metro line. Again anyone who has been here will fondly remember that changing transport in KL is rather a painful process, as each of the metro and train lines are owned by different companies, so the interchange stations are actually not linked. You often have to walk some distance along temporary footpaths, cross busy roads or find an un-signposted bridge somewhere. I made it to the metro, got to the other bus station and had the same fun trying to figure how I was supposed to cross two railway lines and a motorway to get there. Managed eventually, helped by a sweet little Indian lady in a beautiful sari who was equally as confused about the transit as I was. I got there by a very convenient, but not well signposted (can’t have it all) bridge. I also learnt the hard was that people don’t queue in bus stations, or at least in KL they don’t. As I waited patiently in line at the ticket counter three groups of people pushed past me to the counter. I stood aghast, watching a bus pull away, when I was called over by a sympathetic ticket clerk who must’ve taken pity on my pathetic white face. I was then ushered onto a ridiculously cheap luxury bus that had footrests, fully reclining seats and thank heavens air-con!
On arrival, to my horror, I noticed an ENORMOUS Tesco supermarket right opposite the bus station, they do get around don’t they! This bus station/shopping mall/market place/food court was just as confusing and it doesn’t helped when you are accosted as soon as you step out of the air-con and into the sauna of Malaysia “where you go?” “Taxi lady?” “take you to hotel”
I found the legit taxi booth, which, looks as illegitimate as It does legitimate, but knowing Malaysia for two days at that point, I knew that was the “real” taxi place. They all hang out there, a little man asks where you are going, writes you a ticket with an agreed price. According to the Lonely planet you should haggle this down, but that quite frankly is MEAN to me and in this heat, I am only capable of nodding and thrusting the address of my hostel to the driver…