Few times in my travels (I would say in my life if I didn’t think it sounded like gross hyperbole) did I feel as proud as that day Mark and I navigated ourselves from KL International Airport to our dingy hostel in Chinatown via 100% public transportation. It cost less than 6 ringgits each, the equivalent of a dollar seventy five. I was never fully sure we were going to make it until the moment the Backpackers Travelers Inn came into view, at which point I realized Neil, who had given us the recommendation, and I had slightly clashing viewpoints on what constituted a Nice Place to Stay, but that’s irrelevant to the story.

Bangkok AirportAt the airport- so innocent to what’s to come

We practically skipped from the Low Cost Carrier terminal to immigration, where our giddiness came to a halt and we waited in endless lines for health and passport screening. I couldn’t really understand the mumbling officer and ended up saying “tourism?” about five times until I was waved through with an exasperated sigh. We were so glad to be back on our merry way that we dashed all the way through customs. Without our bags. Luckily the customs officers found us kind of pathetic and let us walk back in – something I try to picture happening in JFK and laugh- and claim our lonely bags. We then had an incident with an ATM that left us confused, behind schedule, squabbling over my blackberry screen like a bunch of tourists, and with the equivalent of $20usd rather than the $200 we were hoping for. Writing this down kind of makes me realize that a. my mother’s fears about letting me loose in the world were not totally unfounded b. it is a miracle that either of us manage to wake up in the morning, dress and feed ourselves.

Anyway, we got in the cab line only to realize 10 minutes late our currency problem, not to mention that we were supposed to have gotten a little yellow ticket from some mystical taxi cab dispatcher.  Mark went in search of a solution while I perfected one of my skills, Standing About Being Useless. Somehow we ended up on a bus that half an hour later deposited us in the city transportation center, connecting several commuter rails, a raised subway and some other things that moved people from A to B. When we were accosted by cab drivers who quoted us 3x what our bus had cost for a 5 minute journey, we stubbornly continued our frugal streak and headed inside to KL’s answer to Grand Central Station. Only rather than just the Metro North, there were 4 different modes. Only we didn’t know which was which. Or who to ask. Or, with total certainty, where we were. But we knew where we were going, and that was enough, and after a few more goes at Standing About Being Useless I managed to ask enough people enough questions that we finally made it to the right terminal.

Malaysia Public TransportationEven getting subway tickets proved a challenge

From there were managed to get off at the right stop, turn the map upside down 20 different ways, navigate the mile walk with our massive packs, and only walk by the hotel 3 times before noticing it. And when I collapsed on that inch thick mattress and looked at the water damaged ceiling above me, I felt like a traveler.

Kuala Lumpur Backpackers Travellers InnLike a mirage!

Kuala Lumpur Backpackers Travellers InnMaybe not up to fire codes…

Kuala Lumpur Backpackers Travellers InnThe luxury suite at the KL Hilton


  • Kathryn
    June 27 2010

    Alex, reading this makes me so proud, not to mention Mildly Shocked. All this from the girl who thought walking to the end of the driveway to catch the school bus was a little too much exertion? Please Mom, please drive me??????

    You’ve come a long way, baby girl. From Mom of the severed apron strings.

    • thetravelingturtle
      June 30 2010

      Frugality can make a person do crazy things!

  • grandma J
    June 27 2010

    this one had me laughing out loud!!
    You-all are great

  • Krista
    August 8 2013

    Your “standing around being useless” skill is hilarious!

    • Alex
      August 9 2013

      It’s one I’ve perfected over the years 🙂

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