I landed in Kuala Lumpur with a backpack and little more than a vague idea about where I was going. My first time traveling without a real “plan” was on my previous visit to Thailand two years ago. Arriving in a new place with a guidebook and a booked room has just the right combination of safety and spontaneity to get your adrenaline pumping while still knowing everything is going to turn out fine.
This was a bit different.
The last time I looked up information about my trip to Malaysia was when I booked my flight a few months back. Once I found that Americans are granted 90-day visas on arrival I closed my browser and went on to other things. That’s all I need, right?
So when I landed in (what I would come to learn was called) the LCCT terminal of KUL with no plan, I started to get nervous. I felt a bit silly a few minutes later when I stumbled into the largest McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Coffee Bean I’ve ever seen.
Based on the fact I was flying Air Asia – one of the largest budget airlines in Southeast Asia – I figured I was probably in a separate terminal from the main airlines. It’s fairly common throughout Asia to have terminals that are physically separate under the same airport code. A sign labeled Low Cost Commuter Terminal confirmed my suspicions and I was off to find a way to get to the main terminal (KLIA).
A few minutes later, while cruising on what would be called a luxury bus in the U.S. for about US$0.75 I started laughing – quickly drawing questioning looks from the other passengers. I’m constantly amazed at the quality, frequency, and clarity of instruction on public transport in Southeast Asia. Despite my challenges early this same day in Bangkok’s airport (BKK), here I was – 15 minutes after landing at a foreign airport – on a bus in the right direction with a 90-day visa. Incredible.
When I arrived at KLIA I still didn’t have a map – something I really wish I would have found on arrival. I assumed I would be looking for something like “City Central” and hoped it would be on some kind of light rail. As soon as I entered the terminal, “KL Sentral” caught my eye. I’m already starting to like Malaysia.
Granted, no light rail – but it’s hard to complain about a 45-minute luxury charter bus ride for US$3 that’s faster than a cab.
Airports of the world – please, please, please heed the following advice! A public WiFi network throughout the airport with access to basic airport, transit, and tourism information would be INCREDIBLE. Free internet would be great – but at the minimum at least let us take advantage of carrying around these SIM-less bricks in our pockets.