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SE Asia

Just when you think you’ve got a handle on SE Asia, she shakes you off, slaps you around and makes you remember that you don’t have total control. This is exactly what happened on the way to the airport in KL.

K and I both had flights out of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, which is just across the runway from KLIA. KLIA is located a convienant 72.5 km south of KL.

Yea, that’s right. 40 miles away from the city. Ugh

What makes it an LCC? Air Asia flies out of LCC, Singapore Air flies
out of KLIA. KLIA has a high-speed express train that takes exactly 28 min to go from city center and the LCC has an express bus that takes 1 hour and 15 minutes.

But listed on the LCC website was also the KTM Kommuter option. For just $1.25 (4.70 Ringgas), you could take the KTM to Nahil stop and then just hop on a feeder bus to the airport. The train took just 48 minutes. The website didn’t list the price or time of the feeder bus which should have been a clue. That and the fact that this option was also not mentioned by the Lonely Planet.

The other clue might have been that the hotel agent did not think the KTM was the way to go.

See. The problem you can run into as a backpacker staying in heavily touristed guesthouses that work very hard to sell you on bus tickets and tour packages is that you start to distrust pretty much everybody in the tourism business. At the very least, you generally learn that there is a cheaper way to do everything. And cheaper works for you when you really don’t have to be anywhere at any certain time. Unfortunately, airlines tend to be pretty specific about the time you check-in if you want to get a seat on the flight.

My flight to Singapore was at 10:05 am and Kelly’s flight to Denpasar(Bali) at 10:25. To be safe, we left just before 7am. We hopped the skytrain to KL Sental and easily jumped on the comfortable and efficient KTM headed south. 50 minutes later we arrived at the station to connect to the feeder bus. It was already 8:10 and I was growing a little nervous.

Looking around the station, we saw no signs for a bus, but following some locals we found the “Aeroport Liner”, a shabby looking bus that took us right back to the oridnaries of Thailand. The guy in front of me paid 1 Ringga and ours cost 3.50 each. Either we were getting the foreigner price (something totally legal in Thailand) or our trip was much longer.

Our trip was much longer. By 8:45 I was pretty nervous. Our driver had the music blasting and seemed pretty content, picking up and dropping people off the side of the road and I’m staring out the windows searching for any sign of an airport nearby. Runways, terminals, a road sign pointing north, south, east or west  would have been a comfort.


Finally, at about 8:55 I asked the driver how long until we got to the airport to which he responded “20 minutes”. I asked him about the sign…the schedule above his head that said the whole thing took 30 minutes total to which he applied “Oh that’s not right”. He wa pretty annoyed that I was asking so many questions

At 9:15 or so we pull into KLIA and stop. Gotta wait and see if anybody shows up to catch this wonderful bus service. I am sort of freaking out as I don’t want to miss our flights and have to buy new tickets and ask the driver to move onto the LCCT. He’s not happy now and tells me to wait. I’m on the verge of yelling but trying to remember that yelling is not smiled upon in Asia. You’re supposed to smile and be nice but that is awfully hard for the American.

We finally leave and drive around the airport, arriving at the LCCT at like 9:25. 35 minutes before an international flight. I’m thinking there’s no way we make the flight but we might as well try. We grab our bags and run into the terminal.

If you’re counting, it took us almost 3 hours to get to the airport. The bus from KL all the way to Singapore takes about 4.5 hours. Maybe next time I’ll just bus it. Luckily the flight takes about 30 minutes.

I glance up at the screen and find where my flight is checking in. I had already said my goodbyes to Kelly on the bus and so tell her “You need to find your flight on the board to check in. Bye!” and I run away to my counter.

Turns out the LCCT isn’t that big and check-in isn’t a problem. He tells me to go right away to the gate as I still have to clear security and immigration (A beer to anybody who can tell me why you have to clear exit immigration in every country except the U.S.- You don’t get an exit stamp in the U.S.).

At this point I realize that Kelly might not know that the flight isn’t listed as Bali, but Denpasar. I booked her ticket so she might not be aware of that the airport you use for Bali is actually in the town of Denpasar. I race back to the board but don’t find her. I run to her check-in counter. No Kelly. Uh oh. This can’t be good. I’m stressing out because I still need to make my own flight. I glance at Burger King. Ok good. She’s not trying to grab some last minute fries. *whew*

I run back to her counter and find her finishing check-in. Surprisngly, she still likes me after I pretty much ditched her 10 minutes back. In fact, she’s ready to celebrate “making it”, which I think is a great way to jinx the whole thing. We high-tail it to immigration and security find that the line is short. We get through without any problems.

In fact, they aren’t even boarding yet. We spend our last 12 ringgas on a bag of kitkat things and go our separate ways.

If you’re wondering why, it is because I’m headed back to Phoenix (with a short, 2-day layover in Singapore) to see Andrew during his spring break and Kelly is going to a yoga retreat in the hills of Indonesia – a small town called Ubud. I will meet back up with her on Tuesday, March 24th, somewhere in Indonesia.


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