Asia on a budget (1) – “Lets consider a change of scenery; Its getting boring by the sea”

In this entry: I’m denied entry to Australia and move to Chinatown

So I jump on the bus and I arrive at Auckland airport. Things are going well so far. I mean, I made it to the airport right? With hours to spare! What else is there?

Things just went downhill from there. I found the Quantas check in desk and handed in my passport and threw my bag on to the scales. The guy at the desk did all the normal check in stuff, looked over my passport and then stopped. “You don’t have a visa for Australia?”. I just looked at him with this puzzled look on my face. I knew I’d spent the previous year there and that my working holiday had expired… but don’t they just give you tourist holiday visa’s on entry to the country? So I said to the guy “Don’t they just give you tourist holiday visa’s on entry to the country?”. He shook his head, “Not for Australia, You have to pay $30 – The counter for that is behind you”. I didn’t like the sound of this, I mean for a start, I wasn’t even “visiting” Australia, I was literally flying into Melbourne airport, staying 11 hours and maybe sleeping rough on the airport floor for a while before flying out again, surely they won’t make me pay $30 for that? I was wrong. They did. Apparently Its less than 8 hours stay in an airport when you don’t have to pay for a visa. Who knew? So I lugged my bag off the scales and made my way over to the Quantas desk to grab a visa.

“Hello, sir, can I help you” called the man with the English accent from across the Quantas desk. I told him my dilemma and he scoffed at my assumption. “You have to buy your visa for Australia, they don’t give you anything for free over there!”. (Well I know that now don’t I Mr. English Quantas employee man?) I was bummed about losing the money but he was a nice guy, we chatted, he asked where I was from, I asked where he was from, I forget the answer, I’m pretty sure he said Leeds, but it was a brief and pleasant conversation and by the end of it I was $30 down but I had my visa.

So, off we go. I wheeled my bag back across to the same check in desk and we went through the process again. I piled my back back onto the scales and he did all the usual check in stuff, he smiled when we came to look at my visa but then once again, he stops and looks at me. I looked him in the eyes and I said “you saw me go over and pay for the visa…”. He stopped me before I could continue, “No, No, the visa is fine, but your case weighs 27kg’s and you only have allowance for 23kg’s. Your hand luggage is very small, perhaps you take some things out and carry them aboard the plane with you?”. So I hung my head, I released a deep sigh and I pulled my bag off the scales. Then, in front of a small queue of people I took my bag to the side and I opened it up, looking and what I could take onboard with me that would weigh roughly 4kg’s. In the end I just grabbed my jeans and a couple of books – I had nothing to put them in so I was stood at the check in desk holding about 5 pairs of jeans and two books while I awaited the next problem. Eventually, we sorted it all and everything was fine, he sent off my bag and gave me my boarding pass. I was on my way to Australia… again.

On the way to customs lugging around my Toy Story pillow, my hand luggage and my jeans in my hands, I passed a shop and asked for a plastic bag to put everything in. I was all set. I open my bottle of coke and wait in line at customs, getting ready to remove my headphones and all the loose change from my pockets. I take a swig of my coke only to be told that I can’t take it through customs. I knew about this, of course, I knew about this, but i’d totally forgotten and I was still pissed when I had to throw away a full bottle of coke or re-queue. I was far to lazy for that. I begrudgingly gave them my coke bottle and they threw it away. What a waste. I’d be ok if that was the end of it, but I forgot I’d left my hair wax in my hand luggage and they made me throw that away too! Thank you very much Osama Bin Laden!

Anyway. I was in departures, I was lugging around 4kg’s worth of Jeans and books, I was down $30, some hair wax and a damn near full bottle of coke. All within an hour and a half of leaving Auckland. If there is any justice in the universe, my bad luck was over.

It wasn’t.

There was a slight delay due to the fact that they were trying to fix in the in flight entertainment. They did not fix the in flight entertainment so we had NO in flight entertainment. I wouldn’t mind so much, except that this was the first plane I’d been on since flying to Australia where they had the little TV’s in the back of the seats and not only that but it was the first plane I’d ever been on that had a USB input for the little TV! I could have plugged in my mini hard drive and watched Buffy, Dollhouse or Firefly, or even something that wasn’t made by Joss Whedon; but now I had nothing. I was gutted, my laptop battery lasted maybe an episode and a half of Futurama and then died. I had no books and nobody interesting near me to talk to. It was a long flight but the plus side, we did get in-flight meals, drinks and Ice creams. I was amazed and yet a little cautious that I was later going to get a bill for all of these things; I’ve clearly been flying on Jetstar’s budget airlines for too long.

When I arrived in Melbourne, I was still hungry. My decision to have a McDonalds was based on it being the only place open in the airport for food at midnight. I don’t know if it was nerves or I was fuller than I thought, but I just could not finish my meal. I don’t think that’s ever… no… that’s… never… happened to me before?

I’m a very spontaneous person, but there is a point at which spontaneity becomes just poor planning and after the worlds most uncomfortable sleep sprawled across three airport chairs, I checked in at Melbourne for my onward trip to Kuala Lumpur. The lady once again went through all the usual process where she taps on her keyboard and pretends to do things and then she asked me to a couple of things which had me thinking. “Do you have a flight booked out of Malaysia?”. I didn’t.. “No”, I replied. “If you arrive in Malaysia and they ask you, do you have enough money for your continued travel out of Malaysia?”. At this point it occurred to be that I didn’t. “Yes”, I replied. It obviously wasn’t true, because in actual fact, all I had to my name at that point was NZ$300 and a pending bank transfer which I placed a couple of hours ago, taking up to 5 days to complete. So what happens if I get there and they ask me for proof of my money? Can I outrun the Malaysian government? Would they fly me back home? Could I perform some kind of Jedi mind trick in which I inform them “they don’t need to see my proof of funds”?. It doesn’t matter, they didn’t ask me. If you’re counting at home kids, with Australia and New Zealand that’s three countries where they’ve luckily not asked me for proof of funds on entry, because I haven’t had them.

I had a lot of time to think in the departures lounge at KL. I spent a lot of my “thinking time” just staring at this girl who was waiting for the same flight. She was stunning. I mean she was beautiful. She was wearing this long blue summer dress and I thought I recognised her but she just looked like a model so I… uh… sorry, I’m getting side tracked here, Like I say, I had a lot of time to think with just me and an MP3 player. I wish I’d spent more time on my playlist because I was already sick of my music and I just really wanted some “Stuff You Should Know” podcast’s to keep me entertained. I started reading my lonely planet. I started to learn some Malay in case I was sat next to this girl on the flight and needed to strike up a conversation. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t sat next to her… and so my 20 minutes of self taught Malay lessons have thus far gone to waste. As I continued to read, I noticed that Lonely Planet recommends malaria tablets for Malaysia, whereas I’m 78% sure my doctor said Singapore and Malaysia were fine to go without. I decided I’d take my half forgotten doctors advice and wait until I was heading closer to Thailand before I start on the malaria medication. If this post never gets posted, I may have died of malaria.

My flight to KL was uneventful. Air Asia offered no free food and no in-flight entertainment of any kind and so I spent a long time staring out of the window. It was at this point, about 3 hours into my flight, I spotted a man on the wing of the plane! I screamed, “Help him! Someone has got to help him, there is a man dying out there on the wing of the plane!”. Everybody thought I was crazy, I turned with the cabin crew to look out of the window and he was gone. They gave me a drink to settle my nerves and I rested, safe in the knowledge that I was seeing things. but I couldn’t resist, I took another look to be sure. I opened the porthole and THERE HE WAS! But this was no man! It was some kind of green monster! A gremlin! On the wing of my plane! It was destroying the engines! I yelled to the cabin crew and the other passengers! “You’ve got to land the plane! There’s someone on the wing… some…. thing!!”. I was promptly held down and sedated. It was… at… wait…

…no wait. That wasn’t me. That was an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, My bad. My flight was actually really boring and with no in-flight entertainment I spent much of my time drifting in and out of consciousness until we landed. There was this couple next to me who looked about my age, but had an impressive collection of Pokémon cards that they were playing with. I love that. They complimented me on my Toy Story pillow and I complimented their Buzz Light Year DS case. It’s not your average in flight conversation.

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We landed and I had no clue what to do next. I stepped off the plane and instantly began dripping with sweat. I was told about the heat but was completely unprepared. for how humid it was. I considered my next move. Much like when I arrived in Australia I had no accommodation booked. I had just decided to wing it and hope for the best, from my lonely planet I had decided upon “The Red Dragon Hostel” in Chinatown. I’ll tell you this much already. You cannot go from westernised countries to travel here in South East Asia without a guide book of some kind. It is genuinely like a different world. From the moment I stepped off the plane I was using a combination of the book and my awesome batman-esque detective skills to find where to pick up my Sim card and get my pre-paid bus into KL Sentral. I found both pretty easily but because I had nor printed my itinerary I had to repay the 9RM bus fare. If anyone is interested I now have a free unused bus trip from KL Airport to KL Sentral. Our bus was late to leave because an Indian guy had made the same mistake as I had and spent 20 minutes arguing with the driver about it. He still had to repay.

Maybe someone can tell me what the deal is here? I jumped off the bus at KL Sentral. I read somewhere that taxi coupons are the safest bet as it means the drivers can’t barter with you. I paid 13RM for my coupon to Chinatown and when I actually got in he charged me another 2RM. Now, is that be being dense and getting scammed out of 2RM or is that standard practice? Why did he want this extra 2RM? I just wanted to get there, so I just gave him the extra and he dropped me off at the doorstep. I walked up the steps of the Red Dragon.

Oh my god. Wow. You know when they show low budget places in movies, but they embellish things to make them look edgier or grittier. That’s not what happened here. This hostel is such a crazy crazy place to me. I booked a bed in a dorm. I was told the dorm was on the third floor. I walk up the stairs tot he third floor and… that’s it. Here I am. Its the top of the stairs. At the top of the stairs is a hall – no door – and its filled with about 15 beds. All beds had a lockable cupboard next to them. This “dorm” is just one giant room at the top of a staircase filled with beds and lockable cupboards for your stuff.

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You might think I’d be unhappy. But this is exactly what I wanted from my trip. Everything about this place is just like stepping into a movie. Its crazy and its beautifully amazing and elegant in its own very strange way. Except for the bathrooms; those just look as if they have never been cleaned… ever.

I unpacked my things. I locked up my stuff and nerdy as I felt I put my passport and my money into my money belt just to be on the safe side. I Walk out of my hostel and I’m basically at the start or Chinatowns infamous night markets. Where you can buy everything from a cheap meal to a pirated DVD or fake Gucci purse. These markets are a sight to behold but just be ready to over-use the words “No, Thank you”, and to walk away from lots of people who are  constantly trying to sell you things you don’t need. So long as you’re not dragged away to buy things the markets are truly awe-inspiring cluster fuck of tourists, cultures and hawkers.

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I have decided that I like it here in KL. I may stay here for a few days longer. Whilst I am in this area of the world I have vowed to myself. No chain food restaurants or no big chain shops. I want to broaden my horizons and now seems like the time to do it. This is hard for me as in Kuala Lumpur alone, there are about 3 billion McDonalds, KFC’s and Burger Kings. I don’t like to exaggerate… but I’m pretty sure. 3 billion. Anyone who knows me and my “diet” knows how much of a challenge this is going to be.

So after all the initial tiny problems I think you can agree that this was a successful first day but do you want know what the best part of this trip is so far? I’m taller than most people here. Win.

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About Ryan

This site is intended as a dumping ground for my interests and thoughts, but above all it's a here to record my progress on my ever expanding list of life goals. I want to impove myself, to learn new things, to see the world and to experience everything I possibly can. It's a simple goal which has led me half way around the world and given me some amazing memories to keep, stories to tell and friends to cherish. I try to enjoy my life as much as anyone can and I record these memories and thoughts for my own purposes, but the hope is to inspire.
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