After Melaka, our next stop was Kuala Lumpur, a true urban jungle. Actually, for a capital city, KL is quite small and manageable. The population is only 1 million and the city is well connected with public transport. It is truly modern; towering skysrapers dot the skyline, while an above ground monorail, links the major areas together. We stayed in Chinatown, on a relatively quiet street next to the main thoroughfare. After an easy two hour bus ride, we still had a little energy to visit the main shopping street of Chinatown: block after block of Adidas shoes, Rolex watches,DVDs, Polo shirts…all copies of course. You can outfit yourself like a movie star for under $10. We resisted the temptation to shop, we’re saving the real spree for China itself. The sweltering heat knocked the energy out of us, so after dinner in an air-conditioned food court (noodles again!), we headed back to the guesthouse to drink a beer and relax.
The next day we visited the infamous Petronas Towers, the tallest towers in the world. They are 452 meters above sea level. (A little info from the web-site: The floor-plate of the Tower is designed based on geometric patterns common in architecture of Islamic heritage. It is composed of two rotated and superimposed squares with small circular infills. These geometric figures have been described by architects as symbolising unity, harmony, stability and rationality – all important principles of Islam.) They were impresssive, jutting above the other other skyscrapers. It’s possible to take the elevator to the skybridge which is less than halfway up the towers (170m), but they limit the tickets per day and when we arrived they only had tickets for the late afternoon. We had a couple of hours to kill, so we caught the monorail to the National Museum. The Museum had an enormous and impressive collection, including many cultural displays on the different ethnic groups in Malaysia, pottery and arts and natural history. This is where we first got to see the kinds of bugs we would encounter in the jungle. Yikes! After the museum, we headed back to the towers, to go up to the skybridge. From the skybridge, you get a real sense of the height of the towers. At the halfway point, you already look down onto the roofs of the surrounding high rise hotels.
The evening we met up with friends of Bruno (a friends of Fab’s who lives in Beijing), Fabrice and Janet, for a coffee, then a fantastic Vietnamese meal. It was fun meeting locals (well Fabrice is a French expat and Janet is his Malaysian wife) as they gave a sense for what the city life is like. Fabrice told us that Malayasians favorite past time is eating out, it’s not hard to believe when you see the number of restaurants in KL. You can find anything here, the standard Malay, Chinese and India (which is local fare) plus every other Western and Asian cuisine you can imagine. I can’t help but admit that Fab and I were intrigued a bit with the idea of ex-pat life in Asia.
The next day, we took a local bus about 10km from town to visit Batu Cave famous for a big Hindu temple. (I don’t know how many temples we have visited by now…) This one was particularly interesting because 1) it’s inside of an impressive cave and 2) it hosts a big Hindu festival, called Thaipusam, when devotees of Lord Subramaniam prove their faith by piercing their body parts with metal spikes and hooks. We were actually just a week too early to see the festival…darn. After visiting the cave, where were saw some interesting carvings and some devotees performing more standard rituals, we headed back to the city to visit the National Mosque and Islamic Arts Museum. The museum was quite thorough and educating. There were scale models of the most famous mosques and mausoleums in the world (including many we had seen and India) and the ones in Mecca. I also enjoyed the beautifully ornate copies of the Koran and samples of calligraphy. We are getting quite an education on world religions on this trip, but it is fascinating (and sometimes frightening) to see how much religion influences the development of society.) Our last evening in Kuala Lumpur, Fabien and I were craving sushi, so we went to a gourmet supermarket where we bought two mixed plates of sashimi and maki, 2 drinks and a fruit salad for about $5. Life is pretty good here.
Tags: BIG TRIP 2005-2006, In English 2005-2006, Malaysia