Last week Keegan and I took a day trip to the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.
I can’t say enough about the people in Kuala Lumpur, they are so very nice. Getting around can sometimes be an adventure. I can’t imagine driving in this city, the traffic is so heavy and widespread and the motorbikes weave in and out everywhere. The street lines don’t matter much, it seems everyone just goes where there’s open space. Taxi drivers have a method of driving on the wrong side of the street for as long as they can until it get’s too dangerous – which for me always having to drive in the front seat is immediately, especially when I don’t have a working seat belt. For the four of us to walk across the street is an adventure all on it’s own. We have been using the rail-system when possible but not everywhere we go is accessible by the rail system. The majority of the time we have been using taxis because they are pretty reasonable once you get through the negotiation process. On every taxi there is a big sign on the door that says, “This is a metered taxi, haggling is prohibited”, which if it were true would be very convenient. However, it’s not true, it seems you need to haggle your price every time you walk to the door. And if it rains, forget about it, that same distance doubles in price. You can ask for a meter but they have many excuses why they don’t meter; the meters broke, traffic is too heavy you’re better off with a flat rate, it’s Friday night, it’s the holiday, etc.
Because it was so hot and the stop on the rail system closest to the Batu Caves was quite a bit away Keegan and I decided to get a taxi. We negotiated 25 Malaysian ringgit (MYR) to get there from our hostel; which is about $8.25 USD. When we finished our tour at the Batu Caves we decided we wanted to go to a nearby train station, we heard it has a cool mall connected to it. Mind you, this is half the distance back to our hostel so I’m thinking on the high-end maybe 15 ringgit. We always walk a few blocks away from a major tourist site to get a better deal on a taxi, however, this day Keegan and I were immediately sieged by a couple of taxi drivers right outside the gate. I told them where we were going and they said it would cost 50 ringgit!
“But we want a meter and we know that’s half the distance from where we came and we only paid 25 ringgit.” One taxi driver turns and walks away and the other one agrees on a meter. As we are walking to his taxi the taxi driver says, “Where did you come from?” I say, “What does it matter, we’re not going back to the place we came from we’re going to the nearby train station”. “Yes but where did you come from?” “Close to downtown but again what does it matter if you are going to use a meter like you said you would, it shouldn’t matter, right?” Then the taxi driver says, “You are telling me lies but I am not angry at you”, and walks away. Keegan and I just looked at each other in confusion . . . so we guess he didn’t want to use his meter. We walk about a half a block and 5 more taxi drivers come (one being the head guy in charge of the taxi queue) to ask us where we were going and basically offered the same price, 50 ringgit. I had just spent the last 5 days haggling and I was feeling slightly accosted at this point so I pointed my finger at the sign on their taxi’s and said (in a very nice voice), “Every one of your taxi’s has a sign on it that says no haggling but I haven’t been in one taxi that uses a meter yet. I don’t want to get in trouble with the police for haggling with you so do any of you use a meter? That’s the ride my son and I want, a metered taxi”. They all walked away. Reality is there were more than enough clients for them to work with; they didn’t need to deal with me. So I looked at Keegan and said, “Am I crazy or do you understand my point?” “No, you’re not crazy Dad, I understand your point but I’m not walking to the train station! It’s way too hot and the stations too far. Let’s try to get another taxi and try to haggle for a better deal”. We walked a few more blocks and haggled for a ride, we decided to go all the way back to our hostel and ended up only paying 30 ringgit.
Taxi is short for Taximeter – a device fitted to a taxicab or other vehicle for automatically computing and indicating the fare due.