hostel culture shock
After arriving at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, gathering my backpack off the conveyor belt, and hopping on the express train to KL Sentral, i was struck by how everyone around me was very business. sandals had been replaced by wing-tipped shoes, and conservative business suits were the norm. needless to say, my casual outfit and backpack raised a few eyebrows among the business set.
the train itself was an exercise in modernity -- flatscreen LCD monitors in the train showed information about upcoming stops and the train's current position, in addition to cycling still image and video ads while the train was underway. i haven't run into trains this high-tech since tokyo, but the tokyo train windows didn't have acres and acres of dense jungle-like forest on the other side of them.
when i arrived in KL Sentral, i hopped a taxi to chinatown. the system at the train station is to buy a prepaid ticket (my ticket to chinatown was RM 7, or about $2.20 USD) at a specal taxi counter, and then givbe the ticket to a taxi driver waiting out front for a prepaid ride to your destination. a nice system, since that means you don't need to worry about the driver pegging you as a tourist and either taking a circuitous route with the meter on, or refusing to turn the meter on and trying to ask for ridiculous fares to get you to your destination.
after getting my rather terse taxi driver to take me to the budget guesthouse that was "Recommended" by The Rough Guide, i went into the building only to have my heart sink. there are certain signs that you've arrived at A Place You Don't Want To Stay At, and this had all of them. no other backpackers visible (although there were a few transient-looking folks staying there), screaming kids running through the echoing hallways, and the rooms themselves had a strong resemblance to something that could be a Chinatown Detention Facility. after the spacious rooms and friendly backpacker's hostels in bali, i was in hostel culture shock.
luckily i'd chosen to stay in chinatown, which is dense with inexpensive backpacker accomodations. after trekking over to another hostel a few blocks away, i found a reasonably good room in a place that had ample customers, although still nothing like the hostels that i'd just been staying in. most rooms are lacking in external windows, and so have glass-slat windows facing into the hallways to provide ventilation. fans are tiny, strangely placed (and covered with metal louvers that swivel open when you turn the fan on), but somehow effective (the heat and humidity of KL definitely calls for at least fan-cooled rooms to able to sleep).
off to explore the night markets of chinatown to find some dinner!