The trip to Srilanka last year was our first long & far vacation after Aashira joined us. Srilanka was an experiment- travelling with a tiny tot, accommodating her interests & needs. We realised soon, she had in fact taught us to relax & unwind. Otherwise, we would have kept it busy and tight to ensure we do not leave any stone unturned at the destination!

Based on this and other learning experiences, Malaysia was not really handpicked though it was on top of the wish list. The trigger came from a zero-priced (genuinely zero priced) ticket sale by AirAsia in November 2010. Some smart & quick moves sowed the seeds of this vacation to Malaysia. Another post will follow soon on the details and internals of the deal clincher. So it was a 9 month countdown to the vacation!

malaysia1As the d-day in Aug 2011 approached, Aashira’s severe throat infection almost jeopardized the trip. To our delight, she recovered just a day before the travel date. At the airport, check in with AirAsia and other formalities are simple & smooth but for a little hiccup with baggage overweight. Aashira arrested in a small area for 4 hours in the flight was easier that we imagined (or probably we were over-prepared). At Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia almost exclusively uses the low-cost terminal. The setup is impressive and success of the low cost airline is visible. (In India, we attribute the air travel revolution to Capt Gopinath & his Air Deccan. However, Air Deccan had service quality issues & always lost money and continues to do so post its acquisition. On the contrary, AirAsia has not only revolutionised low cost air travel but also maintained high standards of service and is a profitable business.). The long walk of nearly 2 kms from the aircraft to the immigration counters without Aashira’s stroller was not the great experience. Passage thru India, the Indian restaurant helped us many times in the trip to secure Aashira’s specific food needs. For sleep, we booked the only hotel near the terminal – Tune Hotels (another venture by Air Asia’s Tony Ferdanes). So small was the room (100 sq ft!), Aashira had more space in the flight then in this room!

malaysia1The next day, we hopped on to another AirAsia flight to the islands of Langkawi, 1 hour north east of KL. At Langkawi, we rented a self-drive car. I love to drive but never had the opportunity to drive outside India. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The drive to the Berjaya Resort gave the first picturesque views of this beautiful island. En route, a monitor lizard in the middle of the road welcomed us. At check in, the upgrade to sea view room brought in broad smiles among the 2 of us. Berjaya is made luxurious & comfortable but has to manage 450 individual accommodations spanning a massive area and steep terrain. This makes the resort operations run like a machine, losing out on the personal touch & lack of flexibility. Among only adults or even grownup children, we may not have felt but with Aashira it was sometimes a challenge to get the staff to met our off-the-book yet basic requests. Aashira had a good time in the pool but was not a great fan of the beaches. Guess she did not enjoy the feeling of the sand sticking to her!

malaysia1The 500 sq km island is duty-free (you know what it means :) & consists of many man-made attractions (including water sports & yacht marinas) to keep visitors busy apart of its lovely beaches & fauna. The 2.2km Langkawi Cable Car with the steepest gradient of 42 degs, the Seven Hills waterfalls & Aquarium were good fun. The last night dinner at the Telaga harbour was memorable, more so since we discovered it by chance. Apart from Malay cuisine, we found pretty good Japanese food & well-made pizzas. We missed a drive to the supposedly lovely hidden beaches in the north west coast around the Tangung Rhu area. Never mind, we will make it again soon.

malaysia1After 4 days in Langkawi, we flew back to KL for the next 3 days. We stayed in Novotel. Aashira missed the balcony but the enjoyed the view of sky scrapers especially the majestic Petronas twin towers. We were lucky to get the limited tickets (800 per day) to go up Petronas without much effort. The next time we would try to make it to the top most point of the tower for which tickets are very few (200 per day) and harder to find! The planning of the Petronas towers and area around it (referred to as KLCC i.e KL City Centre) is interesting and a good case study for India to learn how to take up an integrated and not piece-meal approach to town planning & infrastructure development. The KL Bird Park is colorful with huge birds within a massive area covered by one huge net spanning the whole park. I don’t know how animal rights consider it but we felt it was far better than cages. The photos & videos speak for the experience. Street food (satay, soup noodles, fried stuff, boiled chest nuts, barley water to name a few) & shopping areas in China Town & Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang are an experience. Aashira enjoyed the monorail journeys. She was relieved to have rice, sambar & rasam every day & night, courtesy Saravana Bhavan while we were delighted with Japanese food (Ramen, Okonomiyaki, Curry Rice)!

KL is not duty-free (you know what it means :). Experience with people was a mixed bag – some kind & helpful while others not. Traffic is disciplined & follows lanes. Metro and monorails are quick but coverage is not extensive. Taxi by meter is inexpensive but not easy to get them to use the meter! Found Incredible India ads in a few streets.

Return was smooth but the 2 hour commute to home from Bangalore airport was selamat datang (welcome) to India!

Photos @ Picasa

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