'm sorry but I just can't resist typing this here in my blog:
Hi! My name is Rachelle and I'm blogging at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) right now.
As of today, Feb. 11, 2012 GMT+8, I left the Philippines for the first time in my 30-plus something years. For the first time, I have a stamp on my passport and a visa. And what makes it even more wonderful is that for my first international trip, I get to visit two countries, both of which are not on my expense.
If you remember, I blogged about not getting the slot for that journalist visit to Indonesia last year. I was really looking forward to it, even crossing the sea at the height of a storm. Had that pushed through, Indonesia would have been the first country I've travelled to.
But the Lord had other plans, it seems. Even better ones!
Although I'm at KLIA right now, Malaysia is not my destination. Kuala Lumpur is just a stopover for my connecting flight to one of the two most populous countries (both in Asia). I won't say which right now. A little suspense would be a good thing. :-)
The days leading to my first trip abroad were hard to describe. I was see-sawing from excited to nervous. I wanted to go but I was apprehensive because of the earthquake that rocked our city, Dumaguete, and the province of Negros Oriental on Feb. 8. I was in Cebu at that time and the experience was traumatic. Being this far away from my parents just after an incident like that is emotional torture of a different kind.
I woke up at 2:00 a.m. today so I can be at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) earlier than the two-hours-before-the-trip requirement.
Before checking in our luggage, me and Miss Lily - a senior news editor of Phil. News Agency and the other journalist from the Philippines that will cover this event that we're going to - were handed an Embarkation Card to fill out for Immigration.
Info smudged for privacy purposes. :-)
I was worried about immigration (I heard some horror stories) but it was surprisingly a breeze for me. The immigration officer I happened to fall in line for, a male, was very nice. Upon seeing my ID card and office travel order, he remarked, "Oh, you're a journalist." Then after handing me back my passport and boarding pass, he leaned closer and asked in a low, conspirational voice, "So, how is Grace Lee?" I answered: "Secret." He laughed out loud and waved me through.
Ma'am Lily however was a different story. Her immigration officer, a female, was asking her about why she's on this trip and what it is about. She nearly lost her cool.
(A little gossip mag background: Grace Lee is a Korean TV host and radio DJ who is reported to be dating the very eligible Philippine president.)
When the pilot (we flew Malaysia Airlines) announced that we will be touching KL ground at 10:37 a.m., the emotional seesaw rapidly tipped to the excited part. It was hard controlling myself to not press my face against the plane window. I'm glad I got an aisle seat on my first trip abroad. I had a ringside view of just how beautiful Malaysia is.
Lunch served onboard Malaysia Airlines. Chicken noodles with lots of veggies, a Kitkat bar,
ube cake and water. The noodles were actually quite tasty.
From above, as our plane was preparing to touch down, Kuala Lumpur is picture perfect. The first thing that struck me is how dense the greenery is, and how everything looks almost like it was arranged by an obsessive compulsive.
A cluster of mountains greet you first and then up ahead, a blanket of green and brown patterns like abstract prints on a dress. I saw also this narrow highway curving gently across the island. Although Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, I didn't see a lot of tall structures like that in Manila. Again, the lush greenery formed by those trees that look like coconut trees (agarwood?) is what strikes you the most. How they look so neatly arranged from the view above.
Up ahead in the ocean, I noticed two offshore oil rigs. My friend and schoolmate and former colleague at the school paper, Engr. Julmar Shaun Toralde, confirmed that they are oil rigs. Shaun is the Regional Engineering Manager for Weatherford in Asia Pacific, and my generous sponsor for a later trip! :-)
When I finally stepped into KLIA, my jaw almost dropped. The sheer size, the architecture, the shops, everything! I know now why Manila's NAIA is getting so much flak. I seriously doubt if our Philippine airport can outmatch, or even just match, the grandiosity of KLIA.
For its size,
for its design,
for its bustling commerce,
for its efficiency and convenience for passengers,
and for its environmental integration, KLIA never fails to impress.
And of course, every adventure is not complete without the cheesy bathroom shot. But of course, one cannot help but notice how their bathrooms look spic-and-span clean.
Not only is it clean, it is efficient and it is sexy. Shops like Harrod's, Bulgari and Coach, to name a few, can be found inside KLIA.
Since our connecting flight's gate was in a different building from the main terminal where we landed from Manila, we took what is called an aerotrain that zipped us to the next airport building. It was so cool! I couldn't stop grinning the whole time. Ma'am Lily, a Manilenean her whole life, said the aerotrain was pretty much like the Manila's Metro Rail Transit System minus the seats. Instead, there are handrails above that you hold on to as the train speeds up.
The KLIA Aerotrain
I think I was so obviously a first-time traveller because an Asian lady who was standing in front of me inside the aerotrain was staring at me. I must have looked too eager, too overwhelmed. But I was too full of the wanderlust fairy dust to care!
Since our next flight leaves at 7 p.m., we had about 7 hours to kill inside KLIA. For lunch, we decided to give authentic Malaysian food a try courtesy of Jalan Alor, a restaurant on the second floor that serves Malaysian street food. I had Char Siew Chicken Rice with Iced The Tarik (milk tea). The chicken tastes like tocino but better- tender with crisp burnt tips. It comes with garlic and chili sauces (served individually) and spicy hot soup. Total cost is 52 Malaysian ringgits plus a 6% tax.
What's really nice about Jalan Alor is they offer free wifi (just ask for the password from the counter) and each seat is equipped with power outlets to juice up your electronic gadgets. Although KLIA also offers free wifi, it is limited to only three hours.
More KLIA shots: