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Around some of the world in 180 days

Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA | Monday, 30 April 2012 | Views [1077]

I flew in from Hong Kong and an uneventful 4 hour flight later, I'm in Kuala Lumpur. This place is $%^& humid. Rather than take a taxi to my hotel, I wanted to try out the KL Ekpres train from the airport into the city. The system is nearly 10 years old and still looks new. The only things I really know about the city is that it has Petronas Twin Towers. The great thing about this train is that you're guaranteed a view of the Petronas Twin Towers as you enter Kuala Lumpur. I did think that having seen it from afar, maybe I should just go home.

After 2 months in India, I'm mentally prepared for taxi drivers and touts on arrival at KL Sentral. Fortunately, the Malaysian touts are a lot less pushy than the ones in India or it could just be that they think I one of the locals. For some reason, my taxi driver is absolutely determined to have a conversation with me despite the obvious language barrier. After struggling with his halting English, he mentioned that he knew Cantonese. I'm not sure why as his Cantonese was even worse and that's quite a statement coming from me.

My hotel is based in the Golden Triangle of KL. Basically where most of the attractions and malls are based. After sorting out the hotel arrangements, I set about getting some dinner and exploring the night life. Finding food isn't much of a problem in Kuala Lumpur, food is everywhere. People here seem to be absolutely obsessed with food. Unfortunately for me, asking for vegetarian food mostly draws a blank expression. I'm about to discover that except for China Town and Little India, it's very hard to be vegetarian in Malaysia.

Next day I get up real early to buy a ticket for the twin towers. Turns out it wasn't necessary to get up so early, tickets were available for 95 of the 99 viewings per day. So there's is an advantage to touring Malaysia in low season after all. Either that or the guidebooks are exaggerating.

Menara Kuala Lumpur

With my ticket purchase for Petronas Towers, I figured on a walk to the Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower. A tall tower which is shorter than the Petronas Towers, but overlooks it because it's sited on a hill. If you do decide to take the walk, you'll be rewarded with a pleasant walk through a forested area called Hutan di Bandaraya. It's mildly challenging in hot and humid conditions. The end result will probably be a very sweaty t-shirt and most likely insect bites if you didn't put on some repellant. At the KL tower I opted for the full package that included a ride to the observation deck of the tower, F1 and motion simulator rides. 

The thing I really liked about the elevator up is that it doesn't tell you the floor, only a display of how far up we are every 50 metres. Views are great of course at the observation desk.

The XD theatre is described as 6D. I've heard heard that Malaysia don't like to be upstaged by Singapore, but surely dimensional inflation is going a bit far. Advanced physics aside, the ride was a lot of fun. Kind of of like the simulator rides in Disneyland. But forget about the F1 simulator (it's optional). It's nothing more than 3 laps on a arcade style driving game.

With the visit to KL tower over, I walk to the nearest train station for a visit to China Town. On the train, I bumped into a trainee Buddhist monk called Tashi and I mentioned my food predicament. Tashi was kind enough to show where to find the vegetarian restaurants, where I bought him lunch to show my gratitude. Here's me and Tashi:

The Chinatown in KL is a real hawker's market if you're into that kind of thing, but a great place to buy a couple of Rolex, cheap clothing etc. It's also the most delicious Chinese food since I had my mum's cooking back home. Ultimately, if you've seen one China Town, you've seen them all.

Batu Caves

One thing in KL that could be considered must see is the Batu Caves, which are caves housing Hindu temples. The cave is located right next to Batu station, so kudos to the KL rail planners. It's also swarmed by tourists (including me) who climb the 227 steps to the entrance. The main cave is the Temple Cave, set in a limestone outcrop. The place also houses a population of monkeys. Though nowhere near as aggresive as the ones in India, they'll happily snatch bananas if offered. I rounded off the trip with a visit to the Dark Caves, containing about 2km network of untouched cave. It's also a protected eco-system housing bats, insects and various other unique critters that like to make their homes in dark and scary places. It's a pretty steep RM35 for a guided tour. You'll get a chance to immerse yourself in total darkness, not to mentioned learning all you'll ever want to know about bat shit.

There are two huge statues, the one on the left is Lord Murugan to whom this temple is dedicated and the other is Lord Hanuman, the monkey god:

Little India 

Little India is located slightly south of Kuala Lumpur Sentral station in an area known as Brickfields. It occurred to me that this could be a portmanteau of Brick Lane and Spitalfields, coincidence? I think not! I guess the name of the places says it all and the place is just packed with Indian run shops. The Indian food here is not bad. The place is not quite New Delhi, the food is thankfully less spicy and the shops more Malaysian influence i.e. planned and organised. It's also quite interesting to just walk around the Brickfields area because of the many fine buildings, some are Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Chinese origin, not to mentioned the mix of modern and colonial style buildings.

The gateway to Little India:

A Lutheran Church:

A Hindu temple:

Traffic

I've read a lot about how bad the traffic is. It'a rather exaggerated. Yes, it's gridlocked during rush hour. No worse than London and probably any major city. There are traffic lights and they work, drivers obey the traffic rules and there are pavements for pedestrians.

There's also a intra-city train system of an integrated rail network of various lines. It also pretty comprehensive, covering any place in Kuala Lumpur I wanted to go. Integration needs a little improvement though. The map showing the lines and the interchanges is misleading as some of the interchange stations require up to 10 minute walk to get to another line. This network is also integrated enough to support a stored value card so that it's not necessary to buy tickets for every trip. If you've used Oyster card in London or Octopus card in Hong Kong, it's much the same thing, but much much cheaper. It every handy if staying in KL for more than a couple of days and you're willing to do a little bit of walking.

Overall, I found KL a city with numerous landmarks, but short on anything that most people would consider must see. The government have done a fantastic job to make life easy for tourists with signs, investment in infrastructure and entertainment. It is also a nice place to do some shopping if you're into that kind of thing. I found it best just to go to interesting parts of the city and have a wander around and see the juxtaposition of old and new buildings, with plenty of air-condition breaks in between the looking. I guess this also one of the advantages of living in a city of shopaholics.

Tags: batu, caves, chinatown, kuala lumpur, malaysia, twin tower

 

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