Three hours in Kuala Lumpur

If you’re the type of person who needs your sleep, it isn’t exactly the best flight schedule in the world. We left Colombo at 1 AM in the morning and it was about 3.5 hours to Kuala Lumpur, where we had a three-hour wait, and then another 3.5 hour flight to Manila. On board, we’d watched movies almost the entire way; although by 3 AM, I’d fallen asleep on Winston Churchill ending World War II and embarking on painting as a hobby.

But for time-poor people like me, this particular flight’s great to get to Manila from Colombo. While everyone else is sleeping, I’m saving daylight time and flying; and then I’m back in Manila by early afternoon, in time to get lots of things done before the real end of the day.
And in spite of what I initially thought was a horrific red-eye schedule, it ended up being pretty okay in terms of the flight experience and the wait. The food and movies on board were good.
My friend D, who’d joined me and another friend in Sri Lanka, traveled back together from Colombo to Manila with me, and he too had not been looking forward to our next few hours; but even he had had a better-than-expected experience.

“What are we going to do for three hours in KL airport?” He’d asked me at Colombo’s airport, as we faced the prospect of the long trip ahead. I shrugged.
There was a Karyaneka store at the airport, where I always bought silk caftans, and of course the Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge, which was chosen last year as Asia’s Leading Airline Lounge for 2011 by the World Travel Awards.
This was where I planned to have a proper breakfast and then answer emails. I was even hoping to have a foot massage in the lounge’s spa if I had time. They have some specialty massages that really tackle travelers’ issues like jet lag, tired feet and fatigue.
Upon landing in KL early in the morning, we made our way directly to the Malaysia Airlines lounge.
“What’s good here?” D asked me, as we chose a table and settled in for a long wait. “You should know.”

It’s true. I’m constantly in Malaysia so I’m forever passing through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The last time I was here, I actually spent something like five hours at the lounge — mostly working — and when I looked up, it was time to board my next flight.
I replied: “Depends on the time of day. But for breakfast, I like the noodle soup and I just love the nasi lemak.”
Malaysian Airlines’ KLIA lounge provides a really good nasi lemak complete with condiments, and if I find myself at breakfast here, two servings of nasi lemak literally make my day.
Whenever I travel, I always try to eat the local breakfast, especially in exotic locations. I figure that a chef in a hotel in the middle of nowhere may have a hard time doing a great eggs benedict or even a scrambled eggs and bacon set. But I’m almost 100% sure that chef will get his local breakfast right every single time.
So in Sri Lanka, it was hoppers and dal curry for breakfast. And in Malaysia, it’s nasi lemak for me almost every single day that I’m there.

Nasi lemak, by the way, is a favorite breakfast fare of Malaysians, and it consists of rice cooked in coconut milk, small fried fish called ikan bilis, roasted peanuts, chopped cucumbers and a boiled egg; and these are eaten with a thick spicy sauce called sambal and rendang, another favorite Malaysian dish of beef stewed in coconut milk and spices.
You eat everything together and when you put a little bit of everything into one spoonful, the result is a delightful mixture of tastes and textures. It’s crunchy, smooth, soft, sweet, spicy, and salty all in one.
D had gone for the Western meal but after seeing me have my second serving, he asked: “Is it really that good?” I nodded happily, and if I remember right, this prompted him to sample some of the nasi lemak himself. As for me and my ice cream, I was even planning to have Haagen Dazs ice cream afterwards as the lounge has a freezer full of Haagen Dazs ice cream in different flavors.
But we’d been having a pretty interesting conversation over breakfast, and by the time I got around to thinking about the ice cream, our flight to Manila was being called for the last time. I didn’t even have time to pass by Karyaneka to see what they had on sale.

“Shucks,” I said, “I missed the ice cream run. And Karyaneka.” But there’s always a next time — and in fact that “next time” is coming up pretty soon.
Next month I’ll be passing through KLIA again on my way to a pretty wonderful beach resort. That’s less than five weeks away, but it’s also still nine cities or five countries away from now. Talk about so near yet so far.
Just another day in another airport lounge in another city in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.