Going to a foreign country for the first time is both terrifying and exciting. The fright is there because you are leaving everything that is familiar and diving into a totally different culture with no idea what’s in store for you. And the excitement is also there because it will be an unforgettable adventure.
It has always been my dream to travel to another country ever since I took that first plane to Cebu. Many people think it’s hard to achieve, but all it takes is booking that flight and having a little courage. Everything else seems easier when you have taken the first step.
I have many friends who have been bitten by the travel bug and surprise seat sales don’t faze them. When AirAsia offered free seats to Malaysia and Singapore, we immediately booked our tickets. We just picked a date (almost a year from the booking date) and stuck to it. Shiela, Jella and Rhan were just as excited as I was at the prospect of going to another country. It was our first time abroad. Jella have been out of the country before but it was with her family. The year-long wait was spent planning out our itinerary and saving up for the trip. We all felt a large amount of maturity and responsibility with this trip. We only had ourselves to take care of each other when we step out of the Philippines. It was very empowering.
The Flight: AirAsia
At the time of our booking and of our flight, AirAsia was operating from Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga. Jella’s dad volunteered to take us to the airport. It took less than 2 hours to get to DMIA from Manila. There was no traffic because we had an early morning flight. I was disappointed when I first saw DMIA. NAIA Terminal 3 was many times better and bigger.
Anyway, the first thing we did upon arriving was exchange our money to Malaysian Ringgit (1 MYR = ~14 Php) and to Singapore Dollar (1 SGD = ~35 Php). There are several money exchange kiosks at the airport and we chose the one with the highest rates, of course.
The check-in counters were still not open but we had the option to use AirAsia’s self check-in machines that were located near their counters. This is a good option for travelers who have no check-in baggage like us. The next step for us was to pay the travel tax (Php 1,620) and terminal fee (Php 550). Lastly, we lined up to get our passports stamped. We didn’t know that we had to fill out an immigration card before lining up. Our immigration officer was understanding and waited for us to complete the forms. The four of us talked to the immigration officer at the same time. We all had our documents prepared: certificate of employment, our return flight to the Philippines, a copy of our itinerary and hotel booking confirmations. We were very prepared so the officer stamped our passports with no fuss.
We waited for a couple more hours before our plane departed the airport. We all felt giddy when the plane took off. Three hours went by and we finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur. We touched down in LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal). We walked to the immigration counters and our passports got stamped with no problems.
Like DMIA, LCCT was a bit far from the main city so we had to find a way to get to Kuala Lumpur. There were bus counters in the arrivals section of the airport and we purchased tickets for MYR 9. We exited the airport to find our bus and I found out the the driver’s side was on the right. Amazing!
It took about an hour before we reached KL Sentral and we planned to take the monorail (Malaysia’s version of MRT) to Bukit Bintang where our accommodation was located. But we were too tired and too hot to make an effort to locate it. We hailed a taxi instead which turned out to be our first lesson learned. The taxi drivers were claiming that traffic was bad due to Ramadan and quoting a price that was too high. The third taxi quoted a price that was slightly less than the first two so we agreed at his price. But we realized our mistake when we arrived at our destination in about 15 minutes. Dahil dyan, hindi na kami nagtaxi habang nasa Malaysia. I am not saying that all taxi drivers in Malaysia are bad though, just be cautious. Based from what we experienced, parang taxi drivers lang dito sa Pilipinas.
Our Accommodation: Anjung KL Guesthouse
We chose to stay at Anjung KL Guesthouse because of its budget-friendly price, the positive reviews on the web and it’s strategic location. When we arrived at the guesthouse, we met Roy who was manning the reception area. He asked us to leave our shoes outside and to present our passports so he can list down our names. We payed MYR 120 for an overnight stay for 4 pax. Anjung KL felt very homey and welcoming. Our room on the third floor was spacious enough for the 4 of us. We had to share a bathroom with the other guests but it wasn’t a problem since the shower rooms were kept clean. We rested for a bit and used the downtime to text relatives that we have arrived safely in Kuala Lumpur.