We took the Star Ferry across to Kowloon and then hopped on the 15A bus to a Hong Kong international airport.
We were flying to Singapore on the 2.55pm to Singapore and had about 3 hours to burn which is rare for us. Usually we look to arrive around an hour before departure depending on the airport. And so we parked ourselves on some seats and relaxed. Charlie spotted something suspiciously resembling an IMAX cinema and so we decided to mooch upstairs and find out what the deal was. Turns out we had found some kind of homage to flight, complete with just about everything you ever wanted to know about airplanes complete with models and play with features. Then we saw signs for ‘sky line’ and like flies to a bright light we sort of levitated towards an elevator and then I realised we had somehow found ourselves in an aviation centre which required tickets. With that in mind we quickly jumped in the lift and tried to make our escape. The lift was straight out of Charlie and the chocolate factory and illumined with funky lights as it ascended to floor 15 or something. The doors opened and we were literally on the roof of the terminal facing out across the entire airport and sandwiched between two of the busiest runways in the world. Porn for plane spotters, some blokes had lenses more expensive than my car. Like a bunch of excited kids who had never seen planes we watched all kinds of planes just a hundred feet from us come into land and take off. I admit, it was pretty good, so much so we almost missed our flight; and that was the moment at which everything started to go wrong.
For some dick head reason I had booked us onto a Jetstar flight, something I promised myself I would never do again after a bad experience in Vietnam a few years ago. Unlike every other airline on earth Jetstar doesn’t let you check in online and so you have to back in time to the 90’s and check in manually. You have to understand, Asians have only been queuing for the last 5 years or so and it’s a relatively new concept with about 60% of the continent still a little unsure as to how it actually works. To you or I it seems quite obvious, but to a third of the world they just can’t seem to grasp it. It’s like they see a long line of people and think they are doing a frozen standstill kind of conga train to the back drop of “paging Mr Hassan flying to Shanghai on Dragon-air”
So what happens is people just magnet themselves to the front of the queue creating a a mass of chaos. People like us then have to also join the front of the queue and chaos becomes a riot. With time running out, we literally had to run to catch our flight only to be loaded onto a bus and then have to stand and wait for half an hour for a woman who thought it was seriously funny that we were now late.
Seats on Jetstar are probably the snidest in the sky and I personally, having flown some 500 times cannot think of any other airline where I have been as wedged into a seat; maybe economy on a Virgin Atlantic 747 heading to Orlando, but even they aren’t that as bad as Jetstar. Seriously, I couldn’t even reach the floor to pick up my bag I was so squashed.
Now, anyone that has ever flown into or out of Singapore will know that you always hit turbulence, sometimes bad turbulence. And naturally, after having waited about another 45 minutes to take off because of the worlds most important woman we spent the next 3 hrs and 30mins being thrown around the sky arriving into Singapore at a delayed 7.30pm.
Every time I have flown into Singapore (some 10 times) it has been an effortless and slick affair. Not this time. We queued for over an hour to get through immigration getting into arrivals at about 9pm. Our hotel was in the border city of Johor Bahru in Malaysia and of course the next bus wasn’t until 10pm. Stupidly I decided we would take the MRT (metro/monorail) it involved 3 line changes and took us around an hour to get to Woodlands which is the jumping off point for Malaysia at the North end of Singapore. We spent the entire time on the MRT with our bags, exhausted and hungry, wedged like sardines in jammed carriages with people literally being pushed in so the train could move. As it happens, it was Singapore national day and so everyone had been out on the piss/smoke/rubicon all day and this was the last train home. We creaked off the MRT and then had a bus to the border which was of course rammed to the seams.
We trekked to the border point and began queuing, after about 15 minutes we reached the front of the queue but you couldn’t make it up; we were in the wrong queue. So we had to re-queue which took another 15 minutes. Bearing in mind, we had been up since 6am, had all our bags with us and it was now 11pm and 30 degrees with a high humidity. I had completely had enough but thought it best to phone our hotel and let them know we would be late. We hadn’t eaten since lunch and so I explained we’d be there for about half past midnight which I was told, was absolutely fine.
Once through immigration I sniffed out a KFC and as the kids sat down and wiped the sweat from their faces I ordered us food. Absolutely everything I asked for was out of stock and so I pretty much hashed together a meal of tidbits. Then, once it came to paying I realised I only had SGD, QAR, USD and GBP. Of course I needed MYR (Ringgits) and the machine taking card payments was out of service. I nipped off and it took 3 ATM’s before I found a working one. When we finally sat down to eat it was almost midnight. Biting into the chicken Charlie’s head almost exploded. They had fobbed us off with some prototype chilli on steroids cum spicefest that would have burned through metal.
We ate what we could and went to get a taxi. There was a long queue of cars and we jumped in one who assured me he would use the meter. We packed all our bags into it and sat back as he sped off. He looked suspicious and seriously I expect to see him on some late edition of Crime Stoppers one day. The meter was at 10 MYR and was going up like it was on speed. He clearly hadn’t reset it and refused to, just smiling at me through teeth a decade late from their annual dental check up. He pulled over and we jumped out, he tried to spit in my face and missed. It got a little heated and we headed off to find another taxi.
We literally went from one car to the next with prices ranging from 50MYR (a tenner) to eventually finding a guy who would use his meter. We had asked about 15 cars, though finally in the end we pulled up outside our hotel at a cost of 12MYR (£2.40)
It was about 1am and we couldn’t wait to get into bed since we were up in just a few hours to head to Kuala Lumpur.
I went to check in and the conversation went like this:
“I am sorry sir but your room is not available, but I have for you another room and…” I cut him off and said “let me guess, it costs more money” to which the response was “yes sir, just 35 ringgits” I complained that I had phoned ahead and that I was convinced he was screwing me. I said “If there is a problem then it is your problem, but I will help you find a solution. I will stay in whatever room you give me, but I will not pay more for it” He phoned his manager (supposedly) and the problem was solved.
As is the case with days like this though, you look forward so much to bed that when you actually get in bed you find it difficult to sleep. The last time I looked at my watch it was 3am, at 8am we were up and headed to Johor Bahru bus terminal. By 9am we were on a bus headed north to Kuala Lumpur, a journey which should have taken 5 hours, but which rolled into a brand new bus station some 15 miles outside of the city at 5pm. We grabbed a quick munch and then headed into the city and then across it to our hotel.
We all completely ached for a shower and so got undressed and I pulled out the bathroom bag to find our shampoo had exploded everywhere. We got dressed again and headed out to find a supermarket, where we found only super kingsize bottles but dealt with it and returned to our room to find no towels. A towel mission ensued and finally we got the shower we all wanted/needed.
The following day was supposed to be dedicated to Charlie doing a bungee jump at Sunway Lagoon just a short ride out of the city. As I was working things out I realised it was scam of epic proportions as foreigners must pay something like £26 entry each to the park and then pay £35 for the jump itself. Malaysians pay much less and even though we only wanted the bungee jump we had no other option other than to either pay it or not go. I threw an adult strop and reworked the day to include a visit to Batu caves and the Petronas Towers, but as we walked back from Petronas towers it started to absolutely piss it down. For the next half an hour we were stood on the bench in a bus shelter trying to stay dry.
I had to write the day off and so we headed to one of my favourite malls in the world – Times Sq which is at Imbi in Kuala Lumpur.
I kid you not, I thought nothing else could possibly go wrong as we walked around the ground floor of a 15 floor mall. Suddenly as I laughed with the kids I felt a hard tish on my shoulder. It actually really hurt and I asked the kids sternly which one of them had just thrown something at me (seemingly at full pelt) In deciding who was in for an uppercut I noticed a piece if metal by my feet, I put two and two together and realised some little knob had obviously flung it off one of the higher floors and it had picked me out and boomed my shoulder.
Completely pissed off I went to cheer myself up at Dunkin Donuts to find they only had glazed donuts left and so decided to call it a day. The kids were way past their arsed levels and so we headed back to our hotel, grabbed our bags and set of to Kuala Lumpur sentral for the bus to the airport where our hotel was.
Kuala Lumpur airport is a few terminals all conveniently located about an hour apart and so given our luck thus far I quadruple checked where we needed to be which was the LCCT (low cost carrier terminal) I had slickly booked us an airport hotel as our flight was at 6.30am. The shuttle to the hotel was meant to be free but the bloke made us pay 2 MYR for the 1 minute journey to the hotel which is conveniently placed so you cannot walk to it. Although with more time I would have tried.
I rarely name the hotels we stay at for reasons of impartiality. But since we had stayed in a hotel that is probably the worst we have ever stayed in in the world I feel it beneficial to anyone else ever considering to stay there that they should seriously reconsider.
The review is as follows:
Tune Hotels Kuala Lumpur LCCT
After an obligatory cartel led scam we arrived at the hotel and checked in easily. Before heading to our room we nipped into the attached seven eleven for some water. Nothing is priced and I was stunned when I was asked 2 MYR for a small bottle of water that costs just 0.40 MYR everywhere else. The price had been plucked out of the air and everything else in the store I price requested was similarly overpriced. The restaurant across the road charges just 1.50MYR for a big 1.5 litre bottle and the guy laughed when I told him what the seven eleven was charging. He said overcharging was common.
When I opened the door to the room it didn’t open fully, it hit the bed and as I looked around the door I saw a room that literally, wall-to-wall contains a small double bed. Above the bed is the worlds smallest fan which is absolutely useless and the air con wasn’t working. The wifi was kaput too and we had to store our luggage in the bathroom and then cosy up in bed. The windows are thinner than Mr Sheen and so none of us got any sleep. I honestly believe we would have got more sleep on the floor in the airport. It was by far the the worst nights sleep I have had in years and easily the worst airport hotel we have ever stayed in. I would go as far to say that few places across the globe had been anywhere near as bad as this dive, it is stinginess perfected and if it were not for the Tune Hotels brand name running things it would obviously have gone out of business long before now.
It’s a real blot on the brand and it epitomises just how low some brands are prepared to go to scrape every last dollar at seemingly any cost and opportunity.
We took the 5am shafting by the shuttle bus and by 5.45am was boarding our flight for a 6.30 am departure which left on time and into dark skies.
We all slept much of the flight and as it made its final descent into Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo (East Malaysia) the pilot announced “5 minutes to landing” and I looked out into the now rain and clouds as the aircraft bounced around slightly. But nothing out of the ordinary. We must have been about 30 seconds or so from touch down and I could see the ground. Suddenly the engines roared into life and the plane began to climb steeply, Jack peered up and said “ha, fail landing” It was obvious the landing had been aborted and I think I joined the rest of the aircraft in wondering what was going on.
A few minutes later the pilot came on and said “We couldn’t land the plane due to heavy rain and so we are going to fly around the north coast of Borneo until it clears, I estimate this to be around 20 – 30 minutes. The plane then did something I have never experienced before, it kept banking left for a minute or two, and then right for the same time. It did this for about 40 minutes until the landing was then attempted again, this time successfully.
I know you can trace aircraft route history online and so for anyone interested it was:
Date: 12th August 2013
Airline: Air Asia
Route: Kuala Lumpur – Kota Kinabalu
Anyway, as the flight landed into Kota Kinabalu I saw a brand spanking looking terminal and had thoughts of McDonalds which I am certain the kids shared. Of course we drove straight past that and eventually pulled up at terminal 2 which is a relic of a shed with nothing open inside.
Our bags were the last to come as usual and I went into the arrivals hall to find out the only way to get into town was by a crazy priced taxi at some 70 MYR, or 50MYR if I asked the driver directly.
Pissed right off and completely having had enough We sat and figured out what next. Then, I see this bus trundling up to the terminal, a rust bucket held together by paint and plastic bags I asked if he went to town and he did. It cost just 1.50 MYR and took about 20 minutes. Obviously official tourist information are in on a scam coercing tourists into overpriced taxis.
Remembering the mosquitoes in Borneo fly around with machine guns we zipped our trouser bottoms on, donned socks and the hopped on a bus to our hotel.
The wifi wasn’t working, but the room was huge, the bed comfy and the air con ice cold. The following morning we would head across the island to Sandakan, but for now we needed a shower, a munch and some sleep.
And in that exact order the day came to an end and I was absolutely exhausted and full of cold imported from Hong Kong.
By 7pm the kids had me doing some old Eddie Murphy sketch involving an ice cream and we laughed the evening away.
Finally we were in Borneo, and hopefully things would now improve.