MALAYSIA SEEMS TO SUFFER FROM SINGAPORE-ENVY-ITIS, A RARE TROPICAL DISEASE PREDOMINANTLY FOUND IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA -- although it sometimes strikes in other parts of the world. In other words, Malaysia seems desperate to emulate Singapore, that world-class city which used to be part of the Malaysian Federation, before it decided to go solo and do its own thing. Like a little guy with penis envy, Malaysia is obsessed with doing everything bigger and better than its powerhouse neighbor to the south -- and usually failing in the process, let it be said. Nonetheless, you have got to hand it to the Malaysians for trying. Envy can be as good a motivating power as any, and at the end of the day, Malaysia is not a bad country. I wouldn't want to live there, and despite all the rhetoric about Malaysia becoming a Fully Developed Country by 2020, it still has a strong Third World vibe to me. But if you compare the Malay Federation with their cousins down in Indonesia, who bear pretty much the same DNA and cultural baggage and religion (Islam), Malaysia is not bad. "Not bad" is also the aptest description for the country's showpiece airport, located just out of Kuala Lumpur. It is not, like Singapore's Changi Airport, the best airport in the world. But on a global scale, it is not bad.
I will credit Kuala Lumpur Airport with one thing, though: it has one of the most spectacular settings I have ever seen, straight out of science fiction movie. From the air, the airport looks like a futuristic outpost in the midst of a neverending jungle. Just miles and miles of trees, without any sign of human intervention -- it is an amazing site. Given that many tourists come to Malaysia to experience its vast tropical rainforests, this is a smart move locating the airport in such a wild natural place. It is like the latest in human technology and the most virgin of natural environments have fused, into one harmonious whole. After landing at the airport, the passenger finds vestiges of the jungle intruding inside, with trees and tropical vegetation growing even in the Transit Lounge! To extend the rainforest motif, the entire ceiling surface is clad with strips of local wood. According to the airport's website:
The KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) is often described as the "airport in the forest, forest in the airport", so flexuous would be the boundaries between the physical structure of the airport and its green ambience... The forested edges of the airport will serve as a buffer to keep the surrounding development in control, while concentric landscape and forest rings are proposed to surround the airport site creating the effect of an "airport in the forest". The courtyard between the Main Terminal Building and Contact Pier, as well as the center courtyard of the Satellite Building will be densely planted to create an image of the Malaysian Rain forest thus portraying the effect of a "forest in the airport".
It is a good idea, and it works. But it still doesn't equal the beauty of the indoor orchid gardens at Singapore's Changi Airport, surrounded by acres of lush carpets. That's my idea of Heaven!
j a p a n e s e + c o n n e c t i o n
FOR THE MORE HARDCORE ARCHITECTURE GEEKS OUT THERE -- Kuala Lumpur International Airport was designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
Kurokawa did a fine job designing the airport, but at the end of the day, it looks like just another airport, right? The important thing is what they have inside the airport, to keep the passengers entertained. On this count, Kuala Lumpur Airport fares not so badly. But while most of the cool stuff at Singapore's Changi Airport is free, it seems like you have to pay through the nose for it at Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps the coolest thing in the airport is the place I couldn't go, because I didn't have the necessary cash: Kimba contributes the relevant information below:
Thanks to this site and helpful travellers, I am sucking down free beers, cruising the net and filled to the brim with food. I am gonna have a shower later on and some massage chair. Lucky for me, I happened to run into my fiancee who was meant to be on an earlier flight that got delayed and he is paying for a night in the terminal hotel after midnight! Sweet.
Some more specific details for other travellers. The place is called the Plaza Business Centre and is located in the satellite building upstairs, across from an Italian rest. called Sbarro. It is 70MR or $18 US for 5 hours. After the 5 hours you gotta pay again or go.
The transit hotel is 120 MR for 6 hours, but doesn't give you food or stuff - If I could sleep in a chair and didn't want some nookie, then I would stay here the whole night. There is even a small putting green and a view onto the tarmac.
Thanks all for letting me know about this place. Rock on airport dwellers." Added 16 March 2005.
It sounds good, but I don't want to pay US$18 to surf the web and have a shower, when I can do all that at home for $18 a month. At Singapore's Changi Airport, they have a free cinema. But at Kuala Lumpur International Airport the only thing you can watch for free are the Transit Lounge TV's, and the last time I was there, they were screening a program about the top 10 passages from the Holy Islamic Quran. So, it was hardly entertaining viewing, lah?
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NOTHING COMPARES TO A DELICIOUS MEAL ENJOYED IN A FOREIGN AIRPORT ON THE WAY SOMEWHERE COOL. So where exactly is it that I will find the best bites to eat at Kuala Lumpur International Airport -- and how much is it going to cost me?
Rimba Jungle Cafe: Level, South Wing, Satellite Building, KLIA, Sepang, Selangor. Phone: 03/8776 8600.
Fuad Hadinata Yaacob writes: "Menariknya, suasana seperti ini bukan saja dapat dinikmati di restoran yang kebiasaannya terletak di bandar, malah tempat terkemuka seperti Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) yang menjadi pintu masuk ke negara ini turut memilikinya.
"Sambil menjamu selera di sini, anda boleh melihat pemandangan menarik, termasuk menyaksikan pendaratan dan pelepasan pelbagai pesawat dalam mahupun luar negara.
"Terletak di bangunan satelit iaitu untuk pelepasan antarabangsa, restoran berkenaan menawarkan hidangan tempatan dan Barat yang sungguh menyelerakan.
"Suasananya pasti mencuri tumpuan. Melangkah masuk, anda pasti terpegun melihat replika sebatang pokok rendang bersaiz besar di sebelah kanan restoran yang turut menempatkan hidangan pelbagai juadah secara bufet.
"Pokok yang dipenuhi dahan, ranting dan daun menghijau itu merayap di dalam restoran sehingga memenuhi segenap ruang atasnya, sekali gus mewujudkan suasana redup dan santai.
"Sebenarnya, dari jauh anda boleh melihat dekorasi dalamannya yang boleh diumpamakan seperti restoran dalam rimba.
"Papan tanda atau pintu masuk yang dipenuhi dahan dan daun di bahagian luarannya sudah cukup menggambarkan apa di dalamnya.
"Penolong Pengurus Rimba Jungle Cafe, Hisham Hasan, berkata restoran berkonsepkan dalam hutan itu bertujuan mewujudkan suasana santai kepada pelanggan, terutama selepas mereka menempuh perjalanan jauh menaiki pesawat.
"Katanya, apabila melangkah ke dalam restoran, pelanggan dapat merehatkan badan sambil menjamu pelbagai hidangan enak.
Kami mahu pelanggan menikmati suasana tenang dan relaks, kerana itu dekorasi ini menjadi pilihan. Namun yang lebih penting, makanan yang disediakan pasti membuka selera,Ekatanya.
"Hisham berkata, restoran yang dibuka 24 jam sehari itu menjanjikan kepuasan melalui menu yang dihidangkan, antaranya suku hidangan ayam bersama pilihan dua menu lain, iaitu ubi kentang atau sayur-sayuran (RM18.50), peha dan kepak ayam (RM4), mi sup pedas (RM11), nasi lemak (RM13.50 Ebersama lauk kari ayam) dan sate (RM18.50 untuk 12 cucuk).
"Pengunjung juga boleh menjamu secara bufet iaitu memilih lima jenis lauk seperti rendang ayam, kari ayam, daging dan sayur-sayuran bersama nasi putih pada harga RM25 sepinggan.
"Jika tidak mahu mengambil makanan berat, pengunjung boleh mencuba hidangan lain seperti Danish pastry (RM7.50), curry puff (RM8), sardine puff (RM8) dan chicken pie (RM8).
"Mengenai minuman, jangan terkejut kerana turut disediakan teh tarik (RM5.50) dan kopi (RM7) selain jus buah-buahan (RM8) serta air tin (RM6).
"Beroperasi sejak Ogos 1997, restoran itu mampu menampung 280 pelanggan pada satu masa. Pengunjung yang merokok tidak perlu risau kerana pengurusan turut menyediakan bilik khas untuk tujuan itu.
k l i a + a c c e s s
KLIA EKSPRES IS A HIGH-SPEED DIRECT RAIL SERVICE BETWEEN KLIA AND DOWNTWON KUALA LUMPUR. Running from 5am to 1am, with departures every 15 minutes, the KLIA Ekspres gets you into the city in a little over 30 minutes. With seating capacity for 156 passengers per four-car train set, it offers the luxurious ambience and amenities found in the business class of airlines. As a matter of fact, the interior of the train was designed to simulate the substance and feel and comfort an airline business class environment. The theme outside, meanwhile, is verdant tropical rainforest. If you want to marry the absolute wildness of the jungle with the absolute comfort of technology, go take a ride on the KLIA Ekspres. You won't be disappointed! Facilities on board include generous luggage areas, on-board information system, mobile telephone coverage, computer connections, wheelchair-friendly washroom, wheelchair seat compartment, overhead racks for light luggage, racks for large luggage, and digital entertainment and news broadcasts. The views outside are of misty valleys and exotic colorful birds, screeching into a virgin sky...
KLIA Ekspres' ticket can be purchased through ticket vending machines or ticket counters at KLIA and KL CAT or at authorized travel agents and hotels. The machines accept payment by cash and credit card. For frequent travelers, stored value tickets are available at ticket counters. Seat reservation is not required.
HERE IS A MORE COMPREHENSIVE RUN-DOWN ON THE SERVICES AND FACILITIES OFFERED AT THIS AIRPORT:
Baggage: There are left luggage, lockers and baggage services available at the airport. Lost property services are provided by the Airport Police. On my first arrival at Kuala Lumpur Airport, groggy after a long flight from Tokyo, I accidentally left one piece of my baggage inside the controlled area (where they do the X-raying), and had to go back inside to retrieve it. They were cool about that, which was nice -- I don't think I would have been allowed to go back into the controlled area in, say, an American airport these days.
Business Facilities: Head to the Plaza Business Centre for your business needs, with a range of facilities available including telephone, fax, Internet access, videoconferencing, post office and secretarial services. Additional business facilities are available at the Airside Transit Hotel and the KLIA Pan Pacific Hotel.
Disabled Facilities: The airport is accessable by disabled passengers, with lifts and adapted toilets and telephones. There are also reserved parking spaces in the car park. Any passengers needing special treatment should inform their airline prior to travelling.
Information Desks: These are located in the Main Terminal and the Satelite Building. On top of that, there are also information kiosks located throughout the building, which have touch-screens. There is a Visitor's Service centre located in the Main Terminal.
Internet Services: The E-Centre offers high-speed and wireless Internet access, web cams, videos, computers, printing, CD burning, scanning, telephone use, fax and videoconferencing.
Medical Center: This is open 24 hours a day (24 Jam Baru as they would say in Malaysia!)
Money: A bank, several bureaux de change and ATMs are spread throughout the terminals.
Prayer Rooms: Being a Muslim country, they take religion very seriously here. There are prayer rooms and a silent room in both the Main Terminal Building and the Satelite Building.
Showers: Exactly what you crave after a long flight! You can find the showers in the fitness centre.