KL Sentral Station is insane. It feels like a giant market area with the transportation aspect of it an after-thought in the design. If you do not know where you are going, there is no way to find it easily. I finally found an information counter and was told that the line I was looking for, the one I had determined would take me the closest to the Malaysian Craft and Cultural Center, did not leave from this building and that I had to go outside, go down to the lower street level, and the cross the street to the other station. Doesn’t that sound easy? Ha.
Descending those particular stairs, the ones that take you to the lower street level, take you directly into hell. Or, at least, that is the way it felt to me at the time. Dark, insanely crowded and noisy, large buses everywhere, construction retaining walls line the other side of the street for as far as I can see. This is a place for locals who know exactly where they are going, not for pale faced, disheveled tourists like me. And I was getting paler by the minute. I stood at the bottom of the steps for too long. You know those shots in the movies where the camera pans around at the chaos and then stops on the stunned face of the main character? There you go. Now you know what I looked like. Someone finally asked me to move along, so I chose a direction and just started moving. Nothing made any more sense to me as I moved down the walk, trying to squeeze me, the camera hanging from my neck, and the backpack on my back, through the crowds…hoping something would make sense in a moment.
Then the skies opened up, even though I was underground, and a halo formed around a small shack of a building ahead of me. “Taxi tickets. No haggling.” was the sign on the building. At this moment, I would have seriously considered a 400RM fare to anywhere frankly, but here was a place that controlled the metered price to anywhere. I stepped up the counter, accompanied by angels singing in my ears, and asked how much it would cost to get me to the Malaysian Craft and Cultural Center. “14rm” I handed the money through the window, was directed to a waiting cab and I was whisked out of that place and into the world again.
Then the driver told me he had no idea where this place was. Did not even know it existed. Still, I was out of the underground. I did not care where I was going. When we stopped at a light, I showed him the place on a map, and it still confused him. As the conversation continued, I tired of trying to explain where I thought it was and the landmarks around it. I told him to just drop me close by and I would find it myself. He seemed relieved, and sped off before I even made it to a sheltered area. It was raining cats and dogs at this point.
I went into the nearest building to look at my map and get my bearings. The sky had opened up and walking around felt challenging, considering I really had no idea where I was. I put my map away and decided to walk until I could find a cab, and then get them to take me back to the hotel where I could take a shower and just disappear into my bed for the 18 more hours left in my stay in KL. It just seemed too hard.
A taxi was sitting just outside the building I had escaped into. The driver agreed to take me to the hotel, even though he was unfamiliar with it. I showed him on the map and he immediately knew where it was and how to get me there. I sank back into the seat and put my head in my hands. Then Bob, the driver, started talking to me. And the whole day changed for me. More on Bob in the next post.