Bali… or Kuala Lumpur?

From Osaka, we took a subway/train combo to get to the airport. Our flight tickets were from Osaka to Bali via a layover in Kuala Lumpur, getting us in at about 1:30am the next day, March 28th.

Somewhere between booking our flight to Bali and this day, we found out that the 28th is Nyepi, a holy day celebrating the Balinese New Year. The 27th is a day of partying and a celebration followed the next day by a day of nothing. When I say this, I quite literally mean nothing. When I first heard about this day and doing nothing, I assumed it would be no turning on lights, no tv… things along those lines. It’s actually six levels past that. That was all true, but businesses don’t open, there are no taxis running, and even the hotels can’t allow anyone to enter or leave. Since we would be getting in after the calendar day turns to the 28th, we likely wouldn’t be able to get to our hotel. Even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to check in.

Back to the 27th and our day out. Because we had a layover in Kuala Lumpur and because we wouldn’t be able to do anything in Bali anyway, we decided to just get off our flight and not take the second leg. We would relax for a night in Kuala Lumpur and do things like eat food and have electricity instead.

We got to the check-in counter with plenty of time to spare… over an hour and a half. The woman behind the counter was asking us some basic info: to see our passports, if we had bags to check, and when we were leaving Bali. We answered the questions with flying colors until the last one. “We don’t have a flight out yet.” She didn’t like this answer. “You don’t have one? Then how are we supposed to know when you’re leaving? The Bali government won’t let you enter the country without a flight out. I can’t print your tickets and allow you on this flight. They’ll send you right back after your plane lands.”

We had never heard of anything like this before from any of the countries we have ever visited. We asked if she was serious and she assured us she was, very much so. Megs decided to try another tactic. “Ok… we actually aren’t going to Bali. We’re getting off at out layover in Kuala Lumpur and spending a night there. It’s going to be a holy day when we land because it will technically be the 28th and we wouldn’t have been able to get out of the airport anyway…” I interjected with “Your customer service team hasn’t been responsive or helpful when we’ve reached out asking for more details pertaining to what we can do since we’re getting in on this holy day,” just for good measure.

The rest of the conversation went something like this…

Lady at the counter: You’re getting off the plane and not taking the second flight? I absolutely can’t give you these tickets then. 

Megs: Why?

Lady: Because I heard you say that you’re not taking the second flight.

Megs: Why does that matter?

Lady: Because you can’t do that.

Megs (becoming increasingly annoyed with this lack of an explanation): but WHY?

Lady: Our responsibility is to see that you get from your starting point to your destination. You just admitted that you are going to prohibit us from doing that, so I can’t give them to you.

Me (trying to find a quick solution knowing that we can’t miss the flight): …fine, I guess we have to go to Bali then.

Lady (after giving a pause and a long stare): Well I still can’t allow you on the plane without a flight out of Bali.

Megs: So if we step out of line and book a flight, you’ll give us our tickets and we’ll be allowed on?

Lady: Yes.

So we stepped out of line and started looking up flights. We debated on if we were actually going to book one right then and there, or just say that we did. The first option seemed much better with all of the trouble the free airport wifi was giving us. It would connect for 30 seconds, we would search for a flight, the wifi would go out, and when it came back on it would have to re-load the search results again. We actually found a pretty decently priced flight so we went through with booking it. It’s a good thing we did. When we went back up to the ticket counter, she didn’t trust us and asked to see our confirmation with the date and our names on it. Once she saw this, she seemed satisfied and gave us our tickets.

We still weren’t going to Bali that day, though.

We flew to Kuala Lumpur and felt like fugitives as we left the plane and went to Customs. We felt like we were on some kind of list where they were looking out for us (let this be foreshadowing for a future post). We made it through Customs without an issue and made our way to a train that would take us most of the way to our hotel, and a cab would take us the rest of the way. Take that, lady at the counter.

Being that the exchange rate was in our favor, we ended up staying at a nice hotel. It was brand new as of 2017 and we had a couch in our room along with an infinity pool on the top floor. This was perfect since our game plan was to relax and get some planning done for our next few days of the trip.

We went out to grab some dinner and saw that the city wasn’t nearly as nice as the hotel. One of the first things I saw after leaving the hotel was a giant cockroach on the sidewalk. To me, this was a bit of a sign for what the condition of the rest of the city would be like. The area where we were staying was kind of weird. There were a handful of really nice hotels, then some construction sites, then some small, older looking shops and restaurants. Not exactly what we expected.

We only wandered a few minutes from the hotel and found a small place on the side of the street to get seafood. Half the seating was inside a room that had the wall open to the outdoors and the other half of the seating was plastic chairs in a concrete area between the building and the street.

We placed our order and noticed a few things before our food arrived. There were a bunch of stray cats. There was a guy smoking inside the kitchen (that looked more like a food truck). There were a bunch of motorized scooters outside. And almost all the tables were groups of men, somewhere between the ages of 25-40. I wouldn’t say we felt unsafe but something felt off. As we were walking home we realized it wasn’t just that restaurant that made us feel that way. It was the entire area around our hotel. Is all of Kuala Lumpur like this?

Sitting outside at the street-side seafood spot.

The next day was going to be a pool day followed by some trip planning. The pool was first on the list because rain was in the forecast for later in the day. For a few hours, the rain held off and we had a nice day at the infinity pool on the 21st floor, the first time either of us have been in a pool like that. The view was pretty great since we were just outside what appeared to be the main downtown area, so we could see all the skyscrapers, plus we could see some mountains in the distance.

The rain came later that afternoon so we posted up in the room with a few local beers that we got from the convenience store and did some planning. When we saw a gap in the rain, we ran out to get a quick dinner, then made our way back to the hotel. No need to be out there to wander and see more the city. We had seen enough and, aside from the Petronas Towers and Observation Tower being lit up and looking like it should be in a Batman movie, we didn’t care much for it.

Petronas Towers

Peteonas Towers lit up on our foggy walk back to the hotel after dinner

Petronas Tower, Obsetvation Tower, and a full moon

Petronas Towers, Observation Tower, and a full moon

View of the Observation Tower from the 21st floor of our hotel

View of the Observatuon Tower from the 21st floor of our hotel

The next day we were up early to head back to the airport. We caught an Uber to the train station which cost us $1.36 US for the 20 minute ride, which we thought was pretty awesome.

I anticipated having some trouble with our tickets since we “missed” our last flight but there were zero problems and we made it through to our gate pretty easily. Next stop, Bali for 6 days!


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