Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kuala Lumpur

This post was supposed to be titled “Malaysia” instead of just “Kuala Lumpur”.  My plan was to spend three days each in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s big capital city), Penang (a historic British settlement with an amazing food scene), and Langkawi (an island known for its beaches).  But, shortly after landing in Malaysia, I fell ill with a case of food poisoning or something similar.  After four days in the bathroom, I cancelled my plans for Penang and Langkawi.  Most people say you only need a day for KL – including my taxi driver when I arrived – but I think that’s wrong.  You need two days.  I had over four full days not counting my days stuck inside near a bathroom.  It was a lot.

A few highlights of my time in KL:

Petronas Towers & KL Tower:
The tallest buildings in the world from 1998 – 2004, the Petronas Towers are one of the main draws of KL and one of the most famous places in all of Malaysia.  The tour was a bit strange though.  I was ushered up to the Skybridge that connects the two towers on level 41.  The group was given ten minutes for pictures.  Then we were ushered up to the observation deck on level 86.  We had more time here, but it still seemed rushed, and there weren’t really any informational displays on the buildings like the ones you get in nearly every other tall tower in the world.  I actually learned more about the Petronas Towers engineering from displays in Taipei 101 than I did from their own displays.  Take notes, Petronas.  I also visited the KL Tower which is just a few blocks away from the Petronas Towers.  Situated on the hill, I think the KL Tower has much better views than the Petronas Towers.  It also has a super high up open-air observation deck which is quite neat (except for the fact that it was hazy when I was there so the views were obscured… bah!)

KL doesn’t have the museum scene that a lot of other cities have (even other cities in Southeast Asia), but I chose two that looked promising and both were pretty good.  The National Museum quickly goes through the history of Malaysia in four displays in four rooms, each corresponding to a different time period: prehistoric, ancient Malay kingdoms, British colonial era, and independence.  The independence section had a small display on their flag which conveniently didn’t mention that they basically stole the design from the USA.  But I’ll let it slide for now.  I also visited the Islamic Arts Museum which had all of the usual art-type stuff (ceramics, weaving, etc.) but also had displays on architecture and tent-making, which proved to be my two favourite sections of the museum.

Batu Caves:
In the northern suburbs of the city lie the Batu Caves.  These caves have been converted into a series of Hindu cave temples.  I went because, you know, I hadn’t seen enough Hindu temples in Mauritius, India, or Nepal… These were quite cool, though the massive staircase to the top was exhausting and the bandit monkeys were scary.  One of the caves, the Ramayana Cave, had a bunch of creepy displays of giants and midgets and one big rock linga (penis).  I giggled.

The famous shopping street in Chinatown, Jalan Petaling, was typically Asian and typically dodgy with stall after stall of crappy wares and hawkers trying to get your attention.  As an alternative, KL has some pretty good upscale malls that I wandered around for quite a long time.  The malls, however, weren’t remotely as good as the malls in Dubai.  I think I’m ruined forever.

KL Bird Park:
Listen:  I don’t like birds.  They are unnatural creatures that must be stopped.  What’s worse than birds?  People who feed the birds (I’m looking at you, Chinese tourists in Sydney).  But, the KL Bird Park touts itself as having the largest aviary in the world so I had to go check it out.  The verdict: skip it.  It was fine I guess, but it really is just a bunch of stupid birds and the aviary really isn’t all that impressive.  Did I mention that there were tons of birds there?  It was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

The food:
This is where Malaysia shines:  cuisine!  I love Malaysian food.  Malaysian cuisine has elements of Malay, Chinese, and Indian food in it due to the various ethnic populations in the country.  Sadly, I had to take it easy because of my stomach woes but I still managed to get the staples:  nasi lemak, satay skewers, iced milk tea, laksa (yessss!), and some good local desserts.  I ate at the famous Madam Kwan’s twice, and of course, I got Mexican food once (though my stomach wasn’t quite ready for it… but whatever…)

So, the food poisoning took its toll on my plans for Malaysia, but I rather enjoyed the slow pace I could move at (which was as fast as I could go) during my excessive days in KL.  Overall, KL isn’t an exciting city.  It’s a good stopover, but it’s not a destination itself.  It’s pleasant enough but it doesn’t stand out like Bangkok, Singapore, or some of the other cities in Southeast Asia.  I’ve done all that I want to do there, but I still definitely want to go back to Malaysia to check out Penang and Langkawi.  Maybe on my next gap year.  I can start planning the one later.  But first, let me take a selfie.

To see more photos of my time in KL, follow this link:

No comments:

Post a Comment