Discovering Kuala Lumpur (Part 2)

DISCOVERING KUALA LUMPUR (PART II)

By Doods A. Amora, PEE

MOTORING TO KUALA LUMPUR

In my previous experiences, the scariest moments in foreign travels were the taxi episodes. Maybe because I had lots of these encounters before. But alas, most of these sour experiences happened nowhere else in the world - ironically, in our own City of Manila.

I recalled that in Germany, taxis were giving out ‘quittung’ (official receipt), and the drivers were wonderfully honest & helpful to foreigners. In Singapore, taxi service may be paid for by credit cards. And in those places, I felt safe & secured, and more importantly, the feeling of nobody is fooling who.

In Manila, especially if you emerge from an international flight, then you are pretty sure to be in a frustrating outbreak of your trip.

Pilipino nangloloko sa kapwa Pilipino sa lugar mismo ng mga Pilipino.

The Kuala Lumpur Experience: At KLIA’s ‘Meeting Point’, we were now set to exit the terminal. At this point in time, we must face my fears once again.

The Teksi (Taxi)… What would it be like in Kuala Lumpur?

In her anticipative research, my wife Mimi learned from a travel forum in the web that the antics of taxi drivers in Kuala Lumpur are similar to Manila taxicabs. Usual tricks like no meter flag downs thereafter demanding RM 20 (PhP 240) for a usual RM 6 (PhP 72) within short city transports. Yes, I would agree to that because we experienced it ourselves in our subsequent days.

But somehow in KLIA (and in other major stations & government establishments in Kuala Lumpur), we discovered we don’t have to worry. The airport for instance has taxi booths where one can buy tickets for a specific destination. The taxi counter determines the type of taxi for the service according to the distance, the number of passengers and volume of baggage. By the way, baggage loads are being paid for, which to me, is fair enough.

As far as I knew, there were three types of taxis to choose from, the ‘budget taxi’, the ‘premier limousine service’ and the ‘free-lancer’ taxis. One has to avoid the free-lancers because they are reminiscent of the Manila taxis.

By the way, there is a high-speed train plying KLIA to Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station (KLSS) route in 28 minutes non-stop costing RM 35 per head. It would be a good choice if one doesn’t have lots of baggage and in a hurry.

We chose the budget taxi for RM 67, that’s roughly PhP 804. Quite a lot of money, I thought. A quick mental calculation later relieved me. In Mactan Cebu Airport for instance, a trip home to Mandaue City of only 6 kilometers distance costs us PhP 300 and that is PhP 50 per kilometer. The heart of Kuala Lumpur, this time our destination, is 70 kilometers away and that would be PhP 11.48 per kilometer only. Quite cheap, hu…? By the way, the payment is done at the taxi counter (not to the driver) and a receipt is issued. Then there’s a specific taxi exit door leading to a corridor where an attendant is waiting who will in turn give the taxi that you need as indicated in the receipt. Our taxi turned out to be a Malaysian Proton version of a semi-SUV.

KLIA is situated in Sepang area in the Malaysian State of Selangor, a 70 kilometer stretch to the heart of Kuala Lumpur. At an average of 70 kph, travel time was one hour. Traversing through 8-lane super highway (4 lanes in each direction, sometimes 5 lanes in interchanges), the ride was a real joy to remember.

The highway ride was flawless & bumpless in a high quality concrete road overlaid by asphalt - “it’s like the Expressway in the USA”, as described by my son Boboy, who is still fresh from a US trip. The gorgeous ‘highway interchanges’ along the way were by themselves scenes to behold - very similar to the Auto-Bahn I experienced in Germany. For the entire stretch of the highway, there were underground storm drainage systems intended to arrest rain waters from the road itself as there were also open drainage systems that catch the sliding waters from the side hills. These explain why the roads are still in excellent condition since 1993.

Unlike in the Philippines, all the highway side lights we passed through were working, and all the traffic lights were operative. Except for the 132 kV, 275 kV and 500 kV high & extra-high voltage grid towers on the hilltops, I didn’t see any medium voltage overhead electric distribution lines - all must have been underground in that entire seventy kilometer span.

Amidst my admiration I thought why our country can’t build faultless superhighways like what I saw in Kuala Lumpur…

By then I recalled the late Max Soliven, former publisher of the Philippine Star in one of his columns many years back, when he praised the Malaysian highway to the superlative degree but not short in saying that the road networks in Malaysia were constructed by Filipino expats and engineers.

 

There you are my friends; it is not that we don’t have the capability - because for every great infrastructure or edifice anywhere else in the planet, there must be Filipinos out there behind the scene. But why can’t we do it in our country? Is it because of too much politics? What kind of politics? Patronage Politics, Partisan Politics? Or Politics of Greed? Whatever it it is….

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