If I Ruled the Blogosphere
March 24, 2010

Traveling the world you’re bound to be stuck in an airport or train station for an extended amount of time sooner or later. On the way to South Korea I had an 8 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So instead of staying trapped inside the airport, I decided to break out and race the clock and see KL!

It was quite a race against time but I got to experience both the touristy elements of the city as well as some of the hidden local flavor. So instead of sleeping or using the internets in the airport, this is what you can do to maximize layover time.

Find the nearest airport locker. A lot of airports have coin lockers for daily storage. The harder part is getting small change for these lockers. After changing your money into the local currency, go buy a water to hydrate yourself (and to get some change for the lockers). Stash all your heavy bags in there. Hold on to the key. Your mobility has just increased tenfold. Go outside and whistle a cab. There are many of them at airports. In southeast asia where the fares are cheaper, it’s smart to keep the same taxi driver to be your personal driver for the day. Negotiate a rate for the whole day. Make friends with the driver. With the help of a funny taxi driver I hired the whole day, I got to see many of the touristy sites of KL. The driver was also a great conversationalist. I’ve learned that taxi drivers around the world are filled with stories of themselves and the city. They’re a mint choice for getting the authentic (good and bad) pulse of the city. The people, the feelings, the public sentiment, popular trends and opinions can all be extracted during long rides from destination to destination. It also makes the ride a lot quicker. I found out my driver used to be a construction worker that made a lot of money, but now drives cabs because the pay is more stable. The job is also less strenuous. I got to learn about his new son and how he wants to train him to become a futball star. He shared me some pictures of his son dressed in his little Arsenal (his favorite team) jersey. Every human being has a story. Isn’t that an insane amount of stories around the world. Also, the driver took me to eat at places he usually eats (meaning places I’m sure no guidebook has written about – until you read about it on wheresneezy).

We shared some delicious Malaysian soul food together deep in some hole-in-the-wall where tourists never even know about (unless they made friends with locals). The place was full of Malaysian men all in khakis and sandals, each with a plate of food and cup of coffee. Unlike in California, smoking is allowed pretty much anywhere here, so the restaurant was a hazy bustling joint. This new taxi driver friend turned out to be a great source. I wish I took a picture of him. I’ve been taking less and less pictures as I travel, so I have to learn to be better at it.

After all the things I wanted to do were checked off my list, we returned to the airport. He stopped the cab at the loading zone and I was short on time, so goodbyes were short. As soon as I was learning all about this human being and his take on life, he was quickly out of my life. Talk about disposable people and experiences. I’ll never see him again, but I hope his son grows up to be a strong footballer.

I did the Twin Towers, Batu Caves, and a couple other interesting architecture before sneaking back into KL International Airport to fly off yet again. I’m really glad I fit in KL in such little time, and after that I try to schedule my flights so that I can do more races against time. Check out the video above for the race!