From the refreshing coolness of the Cameron Highlands we descended back into the heat of the lowlands. In less than 4 hours our bus managed the windy road to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. With all the time in the world we explored not only the sights of the big city, but also the trademark of Malaysia, the food.
Just before 9 am, after a last delicious breakfast at one of the food stalls in Tanah Ratah, we boarded the bus in direction of Kuala Lumpur. We enjoyed the last views of wild nature of the Cameron Highlands and were surprised to only see the few greenhouses on this side of the mountain. The bus driver was very busy that morning, since he had to manage the windy road and the police check points. Due to problems with illegal immigrants, apparently particularly in the Cameron Highlands with all the vegetable and strawberry farms, the police set up check points on all entry points. It seemed that three of our fellow passengers at least raised suspicion and had to leave the bus not to be seen again. Fortunately we were not affected and reached Kuala Lumpur just before noon at the central Pudu bus station.
Since we had decided to look for accommodation in Bukit Bintang in the Golden Triangle, we went on room hunt on foot directly from the bus station. After a few hundred meters we turned into Jalan Alor, the street known for excellent and cheap food and a fortunately a quite a few cheap options to spend the night. Unfortunately many of them were only offering windowless rooms in the basement, however at the end of the road we found a nice hotel with a room on the fourth floor.
We headed out for a first walk around the Golden Triangle of Kuala Lumpur. First we happened to hit the many shopping malls of Bukit Bintang. All paths seemed to lead to the Pavilion Mall, apparently one of the most famous malls in the city. Once we arrived there we immediately realized that it must be Christmas time as our host at the hotel had indicated. Already in front of the mall we were greeted with extensive Christmas decoration and inside the mall stood for tall Christmas trees surround and even taller Santa Claus. The atmosphere was completed by Christmas carols being softly played in the background. Along with the cool temperature due to extensive air conditioning we felt like being somewhere in wintery Europe for Christmas. This feeling changed rapidly once we left the mall on the SkyWalk towards the Kuala Lumpur City or Convention Center (KLCC). The area surrounding the KLCC and the Petronas Twin Towers was hot and muggy just after the daily rainfall. This weather made us feel like anything but in a Christmas mood. Nevertheless we enjoyed the view of the until a few years ago tallest buildings in the world before we headed back to our hotel. Later that night we met Tom, a classmate at university, for an excellent dinner in Jalan Alor.
Since we had spent some time in the Golden Triangle the previous day, we focused on the historical district during our first full day in Malaysia’s capital. We got up quite late but still managed to get serious about sight-seeing before lunch. We started our tour at the Central Market followed by a round around the independence square (Merdeka Square). In the late afternoon we headed back to the KLCC to visit the aquarium. The beautiful underwater world was impressive and the tunnel underneath stingrays and sharks a very special sight. As with many museums around the world however we were missing a thread or story being told in the museum. The tour started promising with explanations from how water travels from streams through rivers into the ocean. In the middle of the visit we felt like being various facts thrown at. We have seen excellent museums which manage to tell a story and teach the visitor an excellent lesson, but most we have seen so far could focus more on didact aspects and make sure the visitor has learned something when leaving the place.
At dusk we enjoyed another look at the Petronas Twin Towers in this very special light. Suddenly more people were populating the squares on either side of the towers such that it was almost impossible to get an unobstructed view of the buildings. Fortunately we had already shot many good pictures during the day and so we left after a while to head back to Jalan Alor for dinner.
We started the second day of sight-seeing in China Town. For Malay standards however it was still early in the morning and so the streets were still quiet and empty. We still could get an impression of the area, soon moved on to Little India though. In Little India we found a nice restaurant with an amazing buffet for a small lunch. Apparently the restaurant has aquired some local fame, but we didn’t want to fill up too much, since we had arranged to meet Tom again for dinner. Tom has adapted very well to the local food culture and developed into an amazing foodie himself. One has to know that food is priority number one for Malays, no matter which ethnicity they belong to.
To earn a good dinner we strolled across the city and visited the memorials of the first and the third premier minister of Malaysia. The memorial for Tun Rahman, the first premier minister of Malaysia, gave us some excellent insights into the struggle for independence across all ethnicities. Of course the exhibition did not mention the social privileges that ethnic Malays were to be enjoying for the first 50 years of Malaysia’s independence. Even though the 50 years have been over for a few years the inequality among ethnicities remains to this day.
Nature in Kuala Lumpur was our target for the third day in the city. Our tour around the botanical garden west of the historic center started at the central train station, KL Sentral. From there we climbed the hill passing the National Museum and finally reaching the National Planetarium at the top.
Unfortunately we couldn’t enjoy a view of the city since there are a lot of trees surrounding the hill. So we made a 90 degree turn and headed for the little lake in the park continuing further up the second hill to reach the National Monument. The monument serves to remember all those who fell during the three wars Malaysia had to fight in the 20th century. We used the opportunity the couple restaurants provided near the National Monument to refresh drinking one of the many lime juices we have enjoyed in the country (with less sugar!). Our next target was the KL Bird Park, apparently the largest walk-in aviary in the world. This was one of the visits we can absolutely recommend to anyone visiting KL since on the one hand side there are a lot of birds to see and on the other hands the animals are used to humans such that one can easily observe them from a very short distance. Of course these animals would never survive outside of captivity. We managed to visit about two thirds of the place before the daily rain fall started. We were fortunate enough to be located near an artificial waterfall under which a couple of benches made the wait for the rain to pass quite enjoyable. After roughly 20 minutes we continued our visit and exited the park through the mandatory shop and restaurant.
On the way back to civilization we walked by the beautiful Kuala Lumpur train station (not to be confused with KL Sentral) before looking for a place to eat dinner. The remainder of the evening we spent at the hotel updating this blog for our trusty audience.
Our last day in Kuala Lumpuar greeted us with lots of sunshine. We took the opportunity to visit the KL Tower, the tallest TV tower in the country. We learned that there are two different observation deck: the first one is the lowest floor of the tower where one can observe the city through the very clean windows, while the second one is an open air observation deck at the top level. Since the latter cost double the price of the former, we opted for the slightly less exciting but still memorable experience. We enjoyed two rounds about the tower to enjoy the view of an area of 6 million people and very clean air.
We spent the afternoon walking about the botanical gardens once again heading for the Islamic Arts Museum. While the comparison might surprise, we made a similar observation as in the aquarium: the exhibitions were very well prepared and presented. However we could not determine a message of the museum or a thread which would lead through the museum. Sometimes it was even hard to determine what relationship the presented objects had to Islam, besides the fact that there was some Arab script on them.
We ended up in Chinatown later that day and enjoyed another delicious dinner before returning to Bukit Bintang. It was time now to start packing up once again and move on the next morning continuing south…