We felt pretty confident landing in Kuala Lumpur, back in February. We’d been to the airport before, and knew that the buses and subways were pretty easy to navigate.
Or so we thought.
(Dun, dun, DUN!)
The bus part went fine. We swanned past the ticket booths selling bus tickets for 9 MYR, smug as can be (we knew we could buy them for a whopping 1 MYR less [30 cents] at the bus itself) and boarded our bus without incident. We slept on the bus, and got off at the right (well, only) stop.
Once at the subway station, we quickly identified our stop.
‘China town is called Petaling St., right?’
‘I think so, yeah… Oh, I see a stop called ‘Petaling Jaya’. That must be it.‘
‘Definitely. We are so awesome at navigating KL.’*
(Those might not have been the exact words, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I was thinking.)
We bought tickets and hopped on the subway. Sure, the ride seemed a little longer than we remembered it. Sure, when we hopped off, the subway station looked a little less shiny modern than we recalled. It looked, in fact, in utter ruins. Still, we were feelin’ good.
Until, that is, we found ourselves, after wandering for a good hour or so, stuck on the median of an eight-lane highway, traffic zooming by on both sides, without a footpath (or a person-sized space in the traffic). Even we thought about flagging down a taxi at this point. Sadly, we weren’t exactly in a prime location for taxi-stopping.
Luckily, we spotted an overpass just up the road, with a sign pointing towards ‘Petaling Jaya‘.
‘We’re saved!’ we thought.
‘We’ll just cross over there, and probably find ourselves in the middle of Chinatown!‘ we thought.
Luckily, at that point, a Malaysian guy pulled up, told us to get in, and, in doing so, saved us from ourselves.
‘Where are you trying to go?! Chinatown? Oh my god. You have no idea how lost you are right now.’
He repeated that last phrase a fair few times during our trip, laughing in genuine amusement each time. And he was right — in our attempt to get to Chinatown aka. Petaling St. (Jalan Petaling in Malay, it turns out), we’d managed to take ourselves to Petaling Jaya, a ritzy suburb on the outskirts of KL instead. We were about 20km away from where we wanted to be.
In the end, our Malaysia saviour took us to a nearby subway station and gave us directions so explicit that even we didn’t screw them up. We got to Chinatown, ate mixed rice, and all was well with the world.
Moral of the story: Don’t be smug. Even if you’ve done something successfully before, you can still screw it up. Oh, and Malaysians are ridiculously nice.