Day 195 Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur
I wake up early and immediately see a text from Michelle back home. The news is even worse as now airlines such as Jet2 are cancelling flights to Europe and the mood has changed considerably back home which is quite worrying. Worse still I have an update from the FCO advising that all but essential travel to Malaysia should not be undertaken as there will be a countrywide lockdown from midnight tonight. I can’t believe that things have escalated so quickly since last night.
I wake Mark who tells me not to panic and maybe it won’t be too bad, I actually believe he would stay and still go to Penang and Langkawi (ever the optimist). We put the news on and I frantically try to find a way out of Malaysia whilst Mark packs and brings the washing in off the line. The news is not good; all restaurants, bars, places of entertainment and transport will be in lockdown by midnight. Mark gets in touch with Jocker in Langkawi where they are now some of very few guests in the hotel and bars and restaurants are closing.
We are unable to get on a bus or train to either Kuala Lumpur or Thailand and the borders are going to be closed which is quite terrifying. I manage to book one of the only flights out of Ipoh a flight to Singapore for an extortionate £700 plus luggage costs and the homestay owner gets us a taxi to the airport where temperatures are being checked and everyone is now wearing masks. We are told once we enter, we will not be allowed out it already feels like a police state.
We manage to get toast and coffee for breakfast and settle down for a long wait for the plane to Singapore. The airport is heaving and two planes leave for the coast of Malaysia at a checkpoint to Singapore and they are both completely full. I have still not received the boarding cards for our flight and begin to worry. Checking my online banking the money for the flights is pending so I try to ring the booking agent and I’m unable to get through.
Mark goes to the entrance and the guards have left, presumably for lunch so he goes out to talk to a taxi driver who says he will drive us to Kuala Lumpur for £80 and gives mark a card. We are still not sure about the flights and really don’t want to wait another four hours to find we are not on the plane. Mark goes to check in and a really helpful young girl says the flight passenger list will come through at 1pm and she will check it for us. It comes through early and she comes to find us.
Oh no! we are not on the list and the flight is full. She double checks and triple checks for us but the answer comes back the same. We still haven’t received boarding passes and the money is still pending so we make the decision to ring Mr Wong for a taxi ride to Kuala Lumpur (at least we’ll be in the capital with an international airport). He’s on a job at the moment but will be with us in twenty-five minutes.
True to his word he arrives, wearing mask, on time and we load our luggage into the boot of the sparkling clean, new vehicle. The mood is lightened when we see the vehicle registration number, ALB 1952, very appropriate for mark although the number could have been 1959. It is going to take at least 4 hours to get to the airport so we sit back and try to relax.
The roads are really very busy as people are trying to get to places before lockdown starts. Mr Wong tells us no one is sure as to what will happen. He thinks taxis will still run but that other transport will stop and all land borders will be closed. Flights are still going in and out of the country but he doesn’t know how long this will continue for.
We hit a wall of traffic once we reach Kuala Lumpur and it is a further 30 miles to the airport. We are dropped off at departures at 5.30pm much to our relief. The airport is modern with two terminals connected by a train or bus and doesn’t seem too busy as we enter. However, this proves not to be the case as crowds can be seen at every check in and airline desk.
I sign up to internet and immediately receive a message informing me that tickets are not now available for the flight to Singapore, sent ten minutes before the plane was due to fly. Good job we made alternative arrangements otherwise we would now be stuck in Ipoh where all flights have been cancelled tomorrow.
We queue at information and are directed to the Etihad desk where there are no staff and queues of anxious people. I am searching for flights online and they are extortionate, the cheapest with Ethiopian airways taking 56 hours and costing over £3000 per person. It’s pretty desperate as more and more people try to get out of Malaysia and the prices are climbing steeply.
Mark asks at Singapore airlines and is informed that you can only fly to Singapore if you have proof of an onward flight (thank goodness we didn’t get the flight earlier today as we wouldn’t have been allowed to disembark). Transiting through Singapore still seems the best bet though as flights from Singapore are cheaper than any others back home.
I find a flight with Emirates through Dubai for £300 each which seems good value and we decide to book as it is tomorrow. The girl on Singapore airlines advises us to book a connecting flight on line as it will be less expensive. She’s right we find a flight with Airasia for £30 each and we’re already for getting home tomorrow. STA get in touch to say we can change our flights with Etihad for £220 each but won’t fly for another two days. Etihad have just informed us in the last few minutes that our flight home has been cancelled and we have been put on one the next day 17th April so I’m unsure I have any confidence in this airline now and I’m not sure how much longer flights will be leaving this airport so we decline.
We’re exhausted and need somewhere to sleep. Luckily, we are able to book a room in the airport hotel but first we slump down in McDonalds and eat burger meals. The journey to the hotel is from the departure lounge in a golf buggy, not far to go. Temperatures are checked and tracing forms are filled in at reception and then we make our way to our room, which is lovely. I hope we can sleep tonight because we have a long journey ahead and we seem to have been up forever.