We were really lucky with our choice of guesthouse in Sanur. The Jukung was small but our room was bright and immaculate, and equipped with a safe, kettle, fridge, TV (with several channels in English) and even a DVD player (with a library of obvious bootlegs in reception). The pool was big enough to swim a few strokes, and there was a shelf of used paperbacks. Having lost most of our entertainment resources, it couldn’t have been better.
We did still have our little Nokia phones with a few books, videos and podcasts, but they barely functioned on the guesthouse wifi. In any case, there’s a limit to what you can do on a 2.5 inch screen.
So every day we trotted down the road to an internet cafe to work on our list – phone the insurance company, re-arrange all the car hire, find accommodation for the places where we’d been unable to just change the dates of what we had booked. The trickiest one was the Airbnb in Darwin. The host accepted our change in dates but then realised she was double booked for the last night – but our dates were constrained by the availability of accommodation in Kakadu. We thought we were going to have to stay in 3 different places, but the host kindly agreed to waive her usually non- refundable booking terms, and we managed to find somewhere else for the whole stay.
As we hadn’t yet rebooked the last two flights we threw caution to the wind and added a night to each of our stops on the east coast – now our road trip would be leisurely, with time to explore at each stopover. We’d already had to put in extra days in Darwin because of flight availability and we had to do the same in Brisbane. From the original 24 nights, it became a 34 night trip – I haven’t worked out the extra cost yet!
The days in Sanur passed quickly and a week after our arrival, on the day we should have flown to Australia, we flew in the opposite direction to Kuala Lumpur. Once again we’d booked into the Hotel Sentral without bothering to look elsewhere – it has all we need and the location is so convenient, even if it’s not the poshest part of town.
The route from Hotel Sentral to Low Yat Plaza, KL’s best IT mall, was already familiar. Mr V had used some of the time in Sanur to research equipment and suppliers, but it was still hard to track down the specific laptop that he wanted. And then we had to take it back because the keyboard was faulty. I wanted a Samsung tablet, but the shop in Nu Sentral mall was out of stock, so it was back to Low Yat for the 3rd time in 2 days. It’s a good thing KL’s monorail is so cheap. Then we needed cases and a hard disk and SD cards.
Once the laptop was up and running we could finally get to check our bank accounts – we never do this from internet cafés as the risk of keyloggers etc is too great. That’s when Mr V found that one of his accounts had been drained. It appeared that the bank had only stopped one of the two cards that we’d reported stolen to Sentinel. Oddly, the payments were to a website based in Bali that specialised in booking hotels in Hong Kong. I suspect someone working for the website must have been involved – pretty stupid if they were. The bank didn’t quibble and refunded the money immediately, but we had to faff around having a form faxed to the hotel, signing it and posting it back. Since the nearest post office was closed on the Saturday because the Monday was a bank holiday, we had an unplanned trip to the branch in the Mid Valley Megamall – but were rewarded by finding a Daiso, and a camping shop that sold multitools.
We decided to get new phones. The Nokias were so old that the operating system was no longer supported, and mine was starting to fail – I’d had to remove the battery a couple of times when it just hung, and now it was refusing to play videos. So it was back to the Samsung shop in Low Yat Plaza for a 5” and 7” respectively – big enough to play videos on and surf when the tablet is recharging, and it means Mr V doesn’t always have to get the laptop out.
I had to research insurance while we were in KL, since our existing policy would expire while we were in Australia and we’d had the one extension that Virgin allow. I probably paid more attention to the small print and exclusions than I did when booking our original policy. We’d realised that we were likely to get back very little of what we’d lost – cash was only covered if it was on our person or locked in a safe, and I doubt that our travel safe counted. The total limit for valuables, which included all our computer stuff, was way below its actual value because of the things we’d bought since leaving home. Under the new policy we wouldn’t even be able to leave computers in the boot of a locked car – they would have to be on us, or in a safe.
The wait for the all important DHL package containing our driving licences and replacement bank cards was nail-biting. It was supposed to arrive on the Friday and all seemed on course when it arrived at KL airport on Thursday morning. But then it stayed in customs, and the tracking system suggested that they needed further information from us. Unable to raise DHL on skype by any of the numbers we could find, we went and bought a local SIM card so that DHL could contact us and went to a DHL service point to get it added to the job record. There we were told that customs could often take 48 hours and to phone the hotline if it wasn’t delivered on Monday. Good thing we’d already delayed our flight back to Bali. Monday came and went. On Tuesday DHL at last contacted me to ask for a breakdown of the value of the contents. Then they wanted a further breakdown. When I contacted them on Wednesday I was told that the parcel was still held up because DHL were disputing a customs penalty charge that was being imposed because a breakdown hadn’t been provided in the first place. I told them we’d just pay it if it meant we got our parcel – it was getting to the point where we were looking at moving the flight again. It felt as though someone was waiting for us to offer a bribe. So it was Thursday lunchtime by the time it arrived – 36 hours to get from Worcestershire to KL airport, over a week to get from the airport to central KL! Looking through the pile of paperwork that arrived with it, it was clear that the problems had come from customs rather than DHL (who managed to get the penalty charge quashed after all). Any package I send anywhere internationally in future will bear a label detailing the contents and values down to the last paperclip!
Getting our parcel, specifically our replacement driving licences, was the last important piece in rebuilding our travelling lives and plans to where they were pre-burglary. Now we could start to put it all behind us and think about other things. The remaining day and a half was spent on making a few last purchases and a trip to the Brickfield Wash’n’Save, and then it was back to Bali to wait for our Australia flight.
We probably couldn’t have chosen a better place than KL for doing what we needed to do. The fast wifi meant that Mr V could reinstall all the programs and files on the new kit. Thanks to the slump in China the ringgit was at a 8-year low against sterling, so everything was 20% cheaper than on previous visits. English is very widely spoken, so once we had the right number we could phone DHL with no problems. Singapore would have worked too, but at twice the cost. The availability of computer equipment is great, although you do have to be very careful as fakes are common, and reconditioned equipment may be sold as new – it’s best to stick to established stores and official franchise shops rather than just hunting the cheapest price. Besides, using an official franchise shop meant that we got the paperwork that would allow us to reclaim the sales tax at the airport.
In some ways Malaysia can seem a bit dull compared with its more flamboyant and impetuous neighbours, but the more time I spend there, the more I appreciate its low-key, head-down, getting-on-with-it efficiency. It’s calm and orderly. People are generally polite and peaceable, so that rival protesters (pro and anti the current Prime Minister, with his inexplicable $700m bank account) can pass each other in a shopping mall without resorting to fisticuffs. They queue properly. Tourists are welcomed but not fawned over. Nobody hassles you to buy anything or tries to rip you off.
Except, of course, for the Royal Malaysian Customs Department!