THERE'S A HALF NAKED French man standing by the door to the common bathroom-toilet. His light brown curls fell down below his shoulders, and a huge towel draped around his waist. One arm-stretch behind me sat a Hispanic lady fiddling the keys of one of two keyboards that service the guesthouse. I was standing behind Mr. Frenchman, carefully deciding whether I should hold off relieving myself. I didn’t need to go that bad. We were in the main kitchen, just down the hall from the comfy living room, where a very relaxed group of three was discussing their travels into Cambodia. There’s a heady mix of accents and ebullient spirit populating the atmosphere. This was home away from home, otherwise called “Le Village” in the hidden enclave of Kuala Lumpur’s Petaling district (Chinatown).
Such bohemian setting welcomed my stay into this backpacker ghetto that’s so highly recommended by Lonely Planet, thus I was compelled to check it out.
TAKE ME ON A BUS RIDE
There’s 2,466 kilometers (1,532 miles) covering the Manila to Kuala Lumpur air travel, with no time difference between the two capitals. I was ushered into KLIA at a decent hour, thus there was no rush to take the very first taxi or the next train to the city center, some 51 kilometers away from the airport. Instead, I leisurely pushed my cart around, and headed down the basement floor where the bus depot is. There are 2 bus options: the Airport Shuttle, that will ferry passengers around Bukit Bintang, passing by the major streets where tourists conglomerate; and the Star Shuttle, which stops near Puduraya Bus station. Both service at 10 malaysian ringgit only! I opted for the latter, as I was setting my sight on a backpacker favorite - Le Village. I figured, if I don’t like it, I can always transfer the next day. And be able to tell my tale about this budget dwelling.
KLIA bus ticket booth for KL Sentral instead of the Puduraya or Bukit Bintang. This is located at the basement's waiting room, just down the escalators.
After a 30 minute wait (Star Shuttle busses leave every 30 minutes), my ride pulls out at 9:45PM. It was a comfortable AC bus carrying just 20 passengers. An hour later, we reached Jalan Pudu (Pudu Street). Nearby was the bus station. I walked around with my 9 kg baggage, confident I could find my way into the guesthouse. I am usually good with these things. Some 30 minutes later, my shoulder was feeling the weight of my bag, and I sat with a deflated ego. People don’t seem to have any idea where the place is.
I hailed a cab and sternly agreed on a 6 ringgit price, making sure he knew where the street was. He vigorously nodded, and I emphasized “6 ringgit - no more”! He understood. It was getting late and the one-way street where Le Village (Jalan H.S. Lee) is supposed to be grew darker by the minute. After several detours, our search remained futile. My driver had to park at some side streets while he walked through blocks, looking for this “sign”. I waited inside the taxi – and I knew 6 ringgit wouldn’t suffice. Not after 6 roundabout turns – a virtual tour of the area already. At some point, I was ready to walk on foot and scour the street on my own. This was getting ridiculous. I saw Bangkok Bank, which is supposed to be close to the guesthouse. Le Village” was nowhere to be found.
Finally, I saw the triumphant face of my driver. At a dark corner facing a small island of greens, there peeped a small unlit signage just above a nondescript door. I handed 10 ringgit to my driver. He smiled and handed me his calling card. Then he left.
I pulled at the door. It was on auto-lock. I pressed at some door bells, and then I heard a beeping sound. As I open the door, I saw several flights of stair, with a hundred and one pair of slippers and shoes at each step. I made my way up, until I saw the lobby. It was a homey living room with cozy dim lights illuminating the area. For a measly 35 ringgit a night, I got a room with 2 beds, all to myself! This was ridiculously cheap! No wonder, North American and European backpacker flock to this guesthouse.LOVING NOTES
There was a rattan swing hanging by the ceiling. Postcards and drawings from bohemian travelers adorn the walls, and the people manning the counter were friendly and relaxed, exuding the atmosphere of a B&B home stay. I scanned through some written “recommendations” tacked on the walls. This place has a lot of grateful "fans"! I checked my watch. It was 11:35 PM.
My room had 2 beds beside each other. There was an electric fan that took a while to work – and when it did, I could barely feel the dying breath of Brutus. The sheets looked clean and smelled nice. The walls were reed thin, and the door didn’t have locks. How free-spirited can you get!
LISTENING THROUGH WALLS
It was well into midnight, I was a restless soul. I needed more air than the fan is capable of spewing. But the thin walls allowed me to eavesdrop on conversations next room, which had 4 occupants. There was a Russian guy, some Jamaican, and 2 canadians – all in one room! My 35 ringgit allowed me this king-sized abode fit for royalty. Hehe.
It took me a couple of hours to drift into a restless sleep. My body had gotten accustomed to stuffy ventilation and the lazy talk of strangers from next room. If you're on a budget and don't mind roughing it up a bit, this is an OK place. A comfortable home away from home. Although to be honest, it’s not for me!
Le Village is located at 99A Jalan H.S. Lee, beside a restaurant and 2 blocks from Bangkok Bank. No curfews here, but you will be provided with a number for the electronic lock so you can let yourself in during the wee hours! Le Village isn't an easy find – so good luck to anyone who tries!
This is the Eye in the Sky!
Bus from KLIA to Puduraya Bus Station, 1 hour – 10 ringgit ($2.70)Taxi from Puduraya to Le Village – 6 ringgit ($1.60)A double-bed room at Le Village – 35 ringgit ($9.38) a night with 2 bedsInternet use at Le Village – 3 ringgit for 1 hour ($0.80 - they say $3, but mean 3 ringgit)McDonalds Big Breakfast – 9.75 ringgit ($2.60)