Friday, August 8, 2014

Malaysia and my transportation woes

Malaysia was my home for a good portion of my 3 months in the region, and even though I barely returned to the States, I miss it greatly.

The sight of the man riding his bicycle full of snacks every morning, the wonderful smell of fried pan mee, the laughter of the elderly people who gather in my neighborhood park... They are all still vivid images in my mind.

A reason to walk through the park early in the morning: mass tai chi

Despite all the things that I miss about Malaysia, there is one thing thing that still frustrates me even thinking about it now: TRANSPORTATION. Everyone in this program knows very well how much I despise the Malaysian transportation system. I could rant about the often rude and incompetent taxi cab drivers, the inefficient infrastructure (always under "construction"), and the overcrowded & slow Monorail line all day. It doesn't help that KL is as big of a sprawl as my hometown Los Angeles--people need a car to get around. But I don't drive when I'm abroad, and I definitely did not feel confident enough to do so in KL. So I'm left with little choice but to take all forms of public transportation daily.

Typical Monorail line experience--good luck getting through this

My biggest beef is with the taxi drivers. It all started with my first taxi ride from the airport to my Malaysia residence--what could've been an easy 40 minute trip (as I later learned) ended up being an hour +. I was one of the few who lived outside the city, in a lovely and quiet suburban neighborhood of Petaling Jaya. But because it's a suburb, most taxi drivers do not know how to get there. Oftentimes, they flat out refuse to get me home. I've even had few instances when the drivers would try to swindle me for even more money than what the meter shows.

Luckily, my studio was not too far of a walk from my internship (about 1mi) or the nearest train station, which can get me to town fairly easily. However, when it gets dark, my options were limited to taxis (note: never walk home in the dark, alone). I learned about the MyTeksi app from some coworkers, but since they use actual taxi cab drivers they were still not reliable (they've also outright refused to pick me up because of where I lived).

The Solution? Uber, my dear friends.

Occasionally I cheat--instead of walking to work I take an Uber cab for less than $1USD

Yes, Uber is such a godsend. I don't remember how I discovered that the ride share app works in KL, but I think I just opened it one day out of curiosity and found that I could actually use it. And I cannot be more thankful that I could. I've only used Uber once in DC, but in KL, it was my exclusive go-to whenever I need a ride to/from home. I found KL's Uber drivers to be not only reliable but super personable. My favorite is an elderly fellow, named Patrick (or Uncle Uber). He has a van that can seat 8 people quite comfortably. Despite his strict policy of no more than 4 people in his vehicle, he made the exception for me and my classmates--super useful when we were trying to get to the US Embassy's Independence Day Celebration or to BurgerLab for one of their amazing burgers (sooooo worth it, btw)!

If you ever find yourself in KL and need a reliable driver, I recommend contacting Uncle Uber via his phone number (+011 33 (0) 48987) and open up your Uber app. You can thank me later.

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