Here In My Home - Malaysian Artistes For Unity

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Chronicling A Budget Airline Holiday - Part 2

Well it is time to recollect my visit to Kota Bahru or KB as it is more commonly known and for this chapter I will concentrate on the journey and the hotel stay. As it was, Kota Bahru was not flooded during the four days we were there but there were continuous showers, so it would be a good idea to bring along a jacket or at least quick drying clothes with caps when you move around town. Thus it is no surprise to find Kota Bahru people wearing jackets as if it was winter over there. Nonetheless our stay was made more pleasant by the attendance of my forum friend Mr. Iskandar who owns the tourist agency PHK TRAVEL & TOURS (M) SDN BHD over there, who facilitated a lot of things while we were there and we owe him and his family a great debt of gratitude.

Let me first talk about the logistics of the trip shall we. For luggage we brought along a large sized oyster shell bag, two carry-ons and a back-pack. The reason for this is that despite the bags being practically not even half-full on the way in, it provides you a lot of space for the things you buy when you are in KB since the town is well known as a shopping haven. It is all the more important when you fly with Air Asia in order to take advantage of their generous baggage allowance since you will be charged 10 ringgit for every piece of luggage checked-in, so even though the oyster shell bag practically doubled in weight on the return journey with various bought items packed into it, we only had to pay the same 10 ringgit charge for checking it in. This tip would be very handy for you who intends to amass the popular Totos or Siamese comforters when you visit the border town, as it leaves your carry-on allowance to bring these practically weightless Totos on board instead of needing to check it in, as otherwise the ten ringgit charge would no longer make it sensible to buy it all the way over there. One word of caution, you are not allowed to bring on Kuini mangoes on board even if you pack it in your check-in luggage, and we had to eat the ones given by Iskandar at the airport rather than disposing it.

As for transportation, we had arranged for a town taxi to take us to the LCCT and I thought that the same taxi could pick us up when we returned. However the driver told me that there is a consortium of taxis for LCCT like the ones in KLIA main terminal that even though they are the same red and white cabs as the town taxis, the town taxis themselves are not allowed to pick up passengers unless there is a shortage of taxis when they are in the terminal. So there goes poof of that plan and we had to use the consortium taxis when we returned. At this point I would like to caution you to be aware of being baited and switched by the taxi consortium, as they try to make you upgrade from their cheapest taxi service to the premium service under the pretext that your luggage will not fit into the cab. Still I insisted on buying the budget coupon as I do not believe in such Shylock reasoning as I have travelled with such luggage in other taxis without problem, but again the at the taxi stand there seems to be a conspiracy to make me upgrade when the taxi usher and the first taxi driver driving a Wira insisted that the luggage will not fit into the taxi. This made me put my foot down and I said if the budget taxis there do not want to take me, I demand a refund as I will make my way home in another way. Luckily one of the other taxi drivers waiting came over and said that he will take my luggage, and what do you know the luggage fits into the boot of the Wira he is driving despite the earlier claims that it will not fit even into their larger sized Waja and Nissan Sentras that were also in the queue. Thus do take note of this cautionary tale and insist on your rights as a consumer, otherwise you can be taken for a ride by the LCCT taxi operators.

In KB meanwhile, we faced no such problem with the airport taxi but be forewarned that KB is not a city with an in-town taxi service so you would do well to reserve with your hotel concierge for a taxi to take you back to the airport as you cannot hail any taxis by the roadside. So there goes my usual method of hiring a cab driver to take me around town. Luckily I had made prior arrangements with Iskandar to reserve a car if we needed it, and this came in handy at this stage. So if you feel you are confident enough to drive yourself around on your own, my suggestion is to rent a car while you are in KB, otherwise you might get stuck without access to transportation. Nonetheless KB was a total blank for me even though part of purpose of the trip for me was to look up my growing up places since my first five years was nurtured there, and Iskandar volunteered to take me around instead and I only drove around myself on the last night of my visit. So Iskandar was heaven sent as will be chronicled later in the last part of this series.

Lastly I want to write about my disappointment with the so-called five star hotel we stayed in. what can I say about Renaissance Hotel KB is that you may have good hardware but your software needs more work. I do not know whether the poor service shown was because we were staying there under a low cost carrier package or because the more junior staff at the front desk consider the locals as beneath them, so much so I had to pull rank and showed my status by speaking in English in demanding irritating faults like not sending my daily newspaper and getting the wrong type of newspaper be looked into by the senior management. It is as if that if you cannot speak proper English like a foreigner, you are assumed to be someone who are unaccustomed to a proper hotel stay and can be treated differently rather than differentially as it should in a five star hotel. This even extended to their housekeeping staff who only delivered my extra towels an hour after the request was made with an insincere apology when they replaced only two towels for the existing four towels that I turned in for replacement after two days stay, a problem that would not have cropped up if they used their common sense to replace the same number of towels with the number of towels turned in. as it was it was only the duty manager and one senior front desk lady staff who showed true five star caliber and took care of the problems. My thanks to them. I must also comment on the hotel’s breakfast spread in Palm Terraced Cafe as it was rather disappointing in both taste and choices. It is common for me to look up local delicacies in the spread as otherwise I may not get the chance to taste them especially on business trips, and usually the ones served are good representatives of the locality, but here they only served one type and it was tasteless to boot. This to me again shows the hotel tendencies to faunt on foreign culture as I feel we were having breakfast in foreign hotel. So much so we decided to forego the free breakfast for the remainder of our stay and we were able to indulge in excellent local fare shown by Iskandar this way. This even extended to our other meals as we were also informed that the dining options in the hotel was also not that good. On a final note I would like to point out that do not be surprised by cashiers intruding into your breakfast with cash bills despite your thinking that the breakfast is all-inclusive with your stay, as this another of the hotels peculiarities that ask you to sort out this issue when you check-out instead of dispensing with the matter in the normal breakfast coupon way practiced by the other hotels.

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