Dodgy People, Kuala Lumpur
There are these orange robed monks (Buddist?) that I find in Bukit Bintag and KLCC. Nearly every time I go to KLCC they approach me . Their MO is to hand me a shiny gold colored card. They are very gentle about this, with a smiling open face, and it seems harmless enough to accept the token But then they want some money. If you hand them RM1-RM5 they pull out a book showing how many people have given RM50-RM100 or more. Yeah right. If you don't pay, they want the token back which is fair enough. Something told me right off that this wasn't something to get involved in. I now can see them from 10m away heading right for me and I use a raised hand to indicate "No" and they always back off. Bascially they are gentle religious folk trying to pan-handle as part of their life. No real harm and if you feel like giving them money, give them a few RM and their token back and be on your way. Just know that you will be hit up again. Maybe if you keep the token and wear it they will leave you alone.
Malaysia has a 'peoples' volunteer force' called Rela whose members helped out the Immigration and Police Forces. They do have uniforms but often they operate out of uniforms and in groups. They are also tasked with catching illegal immigrants and have widespread powers of arrest and detention. They do surround and stop tourists they suspect of being illegals and arresting and detaining them. An American (ex-military) had the bitter experience of being detained in Petaling Street China Town area. Though he protested that his passport was in his hotel room just a stone's throw away, he was arrested and detained and humiliated. It took the intervention of American Embassy personnel to finally obtain his release. He felt that he was targetted because he was an African American. The wife of an Indonesian diplomat was also arrested at around the same venue and despite her diplomatic passport which she had on her, she was arrested as an illegal immigrant. The Rela officers just dismissed her passport as fake. To be fair only a minority of tourist have experienced being mishandled by the Rela but it was indeed a traumatic and bitter experience for those who were unfortunate enough to be accosted by them. They often look rough and uncouth and often can be mistaken for a gang of robbers. In ordinary times, they often behave as the bully boys of the government and the relevant Director-General in charge simply springs to their defence when there are complaints, so, it is no use complaining, but tourists beware.
I would suggest one avoid visiting the China Town/ Market area with valuables such as original Rolex watches or expensive camera gear.
My wife and I were just strolling around, looking at the stuff (majority fakes). We made sure not to make too much contact because that would lead to excessive attention from the seller. Any how, apparently one of my "standing over goods with hands folded behind my back" lured one of the sellers in. He kept asking me what color I wanted the Rolex in, which size and so on. I replied with a smile that I was just looking. H e then grabbed my arm (not in an agressive way) and asked me how much I paid for my watch. I said a thousand ringitt (about 300$ but the watch actually cost $3,000 - Tag Heuer Carrera) and explained that it was a "quality fake", he then tested my statement by flicking the cronograph on. He then knew I was lying and insisted it was real which I kept denying till he offered me 3,000 ringitt for it. He knew it was original because I declined a 300% profit.
I am a regular Business traveller to KL
I was walking along Bukit Bintang 3pm in the afternoon by BB Plaza a guy (malay guy approx. 50 years old) followed me into a camera shop, followed me outside and struck up a conversation about english football....
Then he started telling me that his sister is about to start studying in leeds and could I jump in a taxi with him to go and meet her. I immediately said no and got away from him asap, not without a struggle.....
My message here is this: IF ANYONE strikes up an impromptu conversation, just say, no thanks, and get away asap.
Within 10 seconds, they will always ask, whats your name, where are you from and WHERE ARE YOU STAYING. DO NOT TELL THEM where you are staying.
TAXIS, nearly always try and rip your off...agree a price beforehand always.
DO NOT walk down the side streets at night. The main road of Bukit Bintang but dont go right to the end. I usually stay between the Marriott and the Irish Bar when alone.
Be very careful with your credit cards. Actually I wouldnt even use them for paying for goods. Mys sister had a call today from her bank that her card had been used in Malaysia over the weekend for computer gear. (She has been home in Australia now for 5 weeks).
The only place she used the card was at Kuala Lumpur airport duty free shop and in Phuket at the airport dutyfree and the hotel when checking out. So it had to happen in one of those 3 places.
Today I saw a beggar light and smoke a cigarette. The thing is, he has no fingers or toes.
Sadly, many beggars in KL are controlled by syndicates that pick them up and drop them off at high human traffic points ( how else can you explain the sudden appearance of one-legged / limbless beggars at weekends-only night markets, high-storeyed monorail stations, etc? ).
While I am not discouraging you from helping the needy, do use your disgression when parting with your extra change - otherwise your sympathy might just be going into the wrong hands and feeding this business.
This happened to me 2x's once from a Taxi driver and once from a man in a restaurant. I was traveling alone on business and later meeting up with friends (however in both situations the men didn't know that). However, they both said something to the effect of
"where are you staying?"
me: "Name of hotel or area"
"I have never seen a room there, do you mind if I come see you room?" or" will you show me your room, I have never seen a room at that hotel before?"
Do women really fall for this? It gave me the CREEPS and I diplomatically avoided telling each of them where I really thought they should go and opted for advising them to ask the front desk to show them a room, they could NOT see mine. One guy even went to try and debate it, like it was open for discussion????? And the other took personal offense and stormed off, cause he was a self-proclaimed "wealthy successful business man" (who cares & good riddance) aaaarrrrgh....
All I can say is this cannot end well, & there is safety in numbers, Stay in public areas where there are other people around and make sure no one follows you to your hotel much less your room. If they get on the elevator, don't get off on your floor, push a whole bunch of buttons and go back to the lobby. Or even have a bellmen escort you to your room from the get go.
Don't fear traveling alone, you can have the most amazing experience and meet some incredible people with high integrity and no ulterior motives. Just be aware and stay safe.
I had only been home from my trip to Kuala Lumpur for about two months, when 3 weeks ago i had a phone call from my bank in New Zealand, saying i was up for bank fraud. And that people in Malaysia had my bank number off my visa and were trying to use if via the internet. Be careful with dodgy people taking your card out of the room, to use the "machine". Something i didnt watch closely as i was exhuasted and didnt think anything of it at the time! Something just to watch if you ever make your way over there
I noticed, particularly around the Bukit Bintang area, an assorted cast of dodgy-looking characters. In some of the ATM lobbies of the banks there are armed guards in attendance. This gives me the feeling that it is advisable to exercise a degree of caution around busy areas in KL.
The good news is that there is a visible Tourist Police presence on the streets which is quite reassuring.
The Puduraya bus station in KL is a scary experience, poorly lit with ticket agents yelling out for business and dodgy individuals just milling around.
Unfortunately, I took the 5pm bus from Singapore arriving around midnight but fortunately the hostel I booked was in Chinatown's Jalan Petaling just a few steps away.
So if you find yourself at Puduraya bus station, go towards Chinatown and orient yourself there.