10 June 2012

Kuala Lumpur - Watch Your Wallet

Date of Exploration : 1 - 3 Jun 2012

This could very well be my last trip to Kuala Lumpur, a city I've loved much and visited numerous times. One of the main reasons I won't be coming here again had largely to do with a snatch-robbery experience during this trip.

But it is not because I was robbed once from my many trips here that I kao beh kao bu ("cry-father-cry-mother", a Hokkien expression that means kicking up a big fuss) and throw a hissy fit about coming to KL. One of the biggest attraction for me about KL besides it being a sort of sister city to Singapore was the cheaper prices of food, shopping and everything else.

However, with this trip, I don't feel the city offers any more advantage or attraction for me with prices of most items hitting exorbitant levels. Many things cost around the prices we pay in Singapore so there isn't a need to go so far to spend any more.

Besides, KL seem to have lost that tourist-friendly edge with an influx of petty crimes, hooligan cab drivers, service that's more plastic than human, and locals that frown more than smile. It's no longer the KL I was in love with. So here are some parting shots to bid KL adieu for now...

The frills-free Kuala Lumpur's Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). Took the 6.45am flight and arrived here at around 8.00am.

Though this pic shows Air Asia, we actually took Tigerairways for this trip (S$80 return, no lugguage allownace). It was a rainy day and windows at the LCCT arrival passageway had patches of condensation on them. There were pockets of glass that were clear and dry so I shot through the the clear spot using the smudgy wet areas as a frame.

To get to KL city central the budget way, we took a LCCT-KLIA to KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) bus. It cost RM2.50 and the ride took 30 minutes.

A levitation shot that failed onboard the KLIA Ekspres Train. See the ones that worked here. The train takes 28 minutes to KL Sentral and cost RM70.00 (S$28.70) per person for a return ticket. I am not very sure but I think by cab direct from KLIA to KL city central, it should cost about RM80 - 100 one way. Not exactly a lot of savings taking the KLIA Ekspres Train if travelling in a group considering the trouble of getting to the station and having to abide by a schedule.

From KL Sentral where the KLIA Train stops at, we had to take a cab to the Bukit Bintang downtown district. Another RM15. So it may be a better idea to take a coach to KL from Singapore instead as the drop-off points are usually within the downtown area. A coach ride would take approximately 5 hours, but considering the 2 hours airline check-in time, 1 hour flight time and commute from KLIA to the city, it works out to be about the same.

Berjaya Times Square, the iconic beacon of Bukit Bintang, the equivalent of Orchard Road in Singapore.
These cats took being cool literally by sitting on top of an air-con compressor.

Hello halo. Side profile of our hotel, Furama Bukit Bintang.

Furama Bukit Bintang Hotel

Although it has Bukit Bintang in its name, the hotel is NOT along the busy shopping vein. It is located behind Berjaya Times Square, a 15 minutes walk to Bukit Bintang road itself. So we felt kind of misled when we made the booking because we had wanted a hotel along Bukit Bintang for the sake of convenience.

It's slightly off location notwithstanding, the hotel is a pretty good stay with decent rooms and comprehensive amenities including a well-equipped gym and swimming pool. No free Wi-fi access though. I took more photos with my phone but it was snatched on the street so I'm only left with the room photos to share here.

Furama Bukit Bintang is a relatively new hotel near the junction of Jalan Pudu.

Reception lobby area of Furama Bukit Bintang. Nice and classy but the service was pedestrian. When I approached the receptionist, related my snatch-theft misfortune and requested for use of their computer to go online to change passwords of accounts linked to my phone, they seemed reluctant. They didn't even ask to check if I was okay or if there was anything else they could do. After checking here and there, they finally allowed me to use a computer station at the lobby area (at the far right corner of this photo) with a time restriction of 15 minutes.

The lobby cafe has ample seating and it's nice that they don't bug you to buy a drink before you can sit there.

Stayed at Romm 2612, which was on the Executive level. Maybe we were given an upgrade, I'm not sure but the room had quite a great view of KL city centre. The Superior Twin Room we booked with breakfast cost about S$120 per room per night.

No free wi-fi but LAN cable is provided for internet access via laptop.

Bathroom amenities come with toothbrush, personal grooming kit and shower necessities.

What I really love about the room is the view. This is what I woke up to.

View of KL city by night with KL Tower (left), Times Square (middle) and Petronas Twin Towers (right) in sight from the room.
It's slightly off location notwithstanding, the hotel is a pretty good stay with decent rooms and comprehensive amenities including a well-equipped gym and swimming pool. One big downer was no free wi-fi access in the room or lobby area. Wifi cost RM10 for 2 hours or RM30 for full-day access.

I'd taken more photos with my phone of the hotel and amenities but it was snatched on the street so I'm only left with the photos shares here.

Be Careful of Motorbike Robbers

Of my many trips to Kuala Lumpur throughout the years, I've grown accustomed to a kind of 'robbery'... that committed by the cab drivers who ply the streets. They don't actually 'rob' you, but they have a habit of not charging by the meter fare but quote a flat rate instead. The quoted rate more often than not would be double that registered by the meter.

Even though there's a rule now that cabs must charge by the meter and there are even notices painted onto the cab doors to forbid haggling, the practice is still very much alive. That's rather irritating and just goes to show how unlawful things can be.

And one word of caution about the cabbies. One of the nights, we flagged down a taxi with its for hire light on. But when it got closer, the Malay driver had a Malay woman passenger in its front seat. We felt weird that the cab had a passenger but stopped to pick us. We didn't board and got on a cab behind.

Our driver told us that we were lucky not to get on. It was most likely a set up for robbery or for the woman to claim molest and we had to pay money to settle. There are also cases where the cab drivers are women and they will accuse male passengers of molest and unless the guys pay up, they will be brought to the police. These women drivers usually work with an accomplice who will be trailing the cab on a motorbike.

During this trip, my travel buddy and I fell victims to snatch-theft. While it is true that crimes lurk where a traveller is not vigilant, I can't help but feel that it is more prevalent in KL for after I posted my misadventure on Facebook, quite a number of friends shared related horror stories of robberies in KL, some downright vicious with robbers wielding parangs and knocking victims out with helmets. Even my KL friends told me the city is unsafe.

Read about what happened when I was robbed here and other stories and hopefully it serve as a reminder to be vigilant when visiting Kuala Lumpur.

As a travel cautionary advice, never walk close to side of a street where thieves on motorbikes can easily snatch wallets, handphones and other valuables from your hands. Don't sling your DSLR camera or handbag over your shoulder to the side of the road. Always sling them across your chest.

When out at night, avoid being alone and dark deserted lanes. Do not wear expensive jewelleries and ALWAYS BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE when going to Kuala Lumpur.

Last but not least, pray hard.

09 June 2012

Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park - Paintings in the Wind

Date of Exploration : 3 Jun 2012

To date, there are about 140,000 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) in the world, of which 20,000 are butterflies while the remaining belonged to moths. And out of these 20,000 species, 1,200 can be found in Malaysia. More species are being discovered continually but due to the destruction of habitats, more species are extinct faster than new ones can be identified.

My fascination for these beautiful, flighty art of nature has brought me to many butterfly farms, parks, and gardens both in Singapore and overseas. If I know there's a butterfly enclosure somewhere, it's the equivalent of what a flame does to a moth... it's a big draw.

I heard about the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park quite some time back and had wanted to visit but my plans were postponed each time I'm in KL.

I almost didn't make it to the park during this KL trip too because of a snatch-theft incident the day before but I decided not to let that unpleasant mishap derail my quest to meet the winged nymphs of the Malaysian forests.

Tucked within the metropolitan city's designated nature reserve about 15 minutes by cab (without traffic jams) from downtown Kuala Lumpur, the KL Butterfly Park calls the KL Bird Park and Perdana Botanical Gardens as its neighbours so the area makes for a comprehensive day outing to get in touch with the greener side of urban life.

This post will be a photologue of my visit documenting to the best of my knowledge the butterfly species I encountered as well as what to expect when visiting.

Nature was allowed to grow wild at KL Butterfly Park which upped the authentic forest ante but didn't make for very pretty photos.

Pathways wound around the park but walk with caution as some parts may be wet and slippery.

Water features were found in abundance at the park in the form of manmade streams, ponds, waterfalls, and fountains.

The Painted Jezebels (white forewings with yellow hindwings) extracting moisture from the ground with a group of Orange and Lemon Emigrant.

Butterfly ballet. The Common Mormon butterfly (pictured here) is a mimic of the less tasty Common Rose butterfly in colour and form to discourage predators from eating them.

Upper side of a subspecies of the Great Mormon butterfly which wears an aquamarine coat with a black sheen over its wings that was lost when captured in photos.

Underside of the Great Mormon.

The smart and beautifully dressed Commander Butterfly.

Lexias dirtea merguia butterfly, a close relative of the Archduke Butterfly.

The Common Birdwing, one of the larger species of butterflies. It is the largest butterfly to be found in India. All Birdwings are listed under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) which restricts the trading of these butterflies.

Not sure who this is but I think it belongs to a species of the Emigrant butterflies that mimic mottled leaves.

This was my most exotic find at KL Butterfly Farm. Never seen anything like it before. The butterfly resembles a very flat stealth fighter jet. So cool! I found it resting amongst foliage under dark and shady settings. I didn't see it flying around so I guess it must prefer solitude.

Side profile of the male Magpie Crow butterfly. Females are slightly brown in colour with more white.

Top view of the poisonous Magpie Crow which has a velvety black coat marked with white and blue spots.

Hey Birdwing... Don't play with water or you may drown.

Saw this one species of dragonfly within the butterfly enclosure. They stay really still even when I got very close with my camera so they make great photographic subjects. But have to really look amongst the bushes and foliage as there aren't many flying around to give away their hideouts. 

Overgrown landscaping at the park made it look kinda messy but after all, this is home for the butterflies, not urban dwellers like me.

Apart from the butterflies, the park had koi ponds and this tortoise pool.

An inter-species love affair?

Are you looking at me?

Don't mess with this beast of a Snapping Turtle.

Baby Bullfrog among water hyacinth fronds.

Adult Bullfrogs. They are a highly invasive species but good thing is that they taste so good!

The real Kermit. Aww... it looks so adorable... and mouth-watering.

Doesn't it feel like a walk-in seafood restaurant with fish, turtles, frogs and now crabs?

Love these colour critters. Can't decide between black pepper, butter, chilli or good 'ol steaming with ginger and garlic.

The park houses a quinessential insectarium which I felt was a little skim on educational blurbs.

Underside of the freaky Man-Faced Beetle.

Horned Frog. This is one thing I won't want on my dinner plate. These buggers are highly aggressive and will attack by biting if threatened.

Green Eyed Gecko. I guess it is perpetually jealous.

Nightmare on 6-legs.
Dead Leaf Mantis praying that I will go closer with its toothed femur.

Spending about 2 hours at the Kuala Lumpur Butterfly Park, I was very impressed with the abundance of butterflies and range of species. However, the park looked in need of rejuvenation to tidy up the messy greens and visitors would benefit from having more introduction panels of the butterfly species installed so that we can better appreciate what we were looking at.

Another cool attraction that would make the visitation more memorable would be the inclusion of shows and touch gardens where visitors can hold and get upclose, other than butterflies, with exotic but docile insect and reptilian species such as giant millipedes, leaf mantises, iguanas, lizards, etc.

One other thing that bugged me about the KL Butterfly Park was also the dual pricing where foreigners pay double the entrance fees of Malaysians.

Despite the minor grouses, I think the butterfly garden was an attraction well worth dropping by. But be prepared to get your clothes drenched. I was dripping sweat early into my visit, which was good, because butterflies love salty moisture and would land on sweaty visitors like a saline buffet. Have fun exploring!

Address : Jalan Cenderawasih, Taman Tasik Perdana, 50480 Kuala Lumpuur, Malaysia
Tel : 603-26934799, 603-26934907

Opening Hours : 9.00am - 6.00pm (Daily)
Admission : Foreigners - RM20 (Adult); Malaysians - RM10 (Adult), RM3 (Child)

Related Post : Day 155 : KL Butterfly Park
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