Considering that I now live in South East Asia, I’m really trying to line up as many trips to nearby places as I can manage. Although most of these adventures will be within the limits of Indonesia, I was able to make excellent use of a three-day weekend in March to leave the country and explore Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I had recently posted about how my current life is mimicking that of a time nine years ago. Interestingly enough, nine years ago I bought a book called (I believe) “The World’s Most Amazing Buildings.” It covered structures from antiquity, places of worship, modern marvels, you name it. This was where I first saw, read, and learned about the Petronas Twin Towers. Before that point, I don’t know if I’d ever thought about the country of Malaysia, but it was on my radar ever since. It was awesome to have the chance to explore the city, and I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend with which to see it.
I left Jakarta on a Saturday in the late afternoon. It was nice to get to see Java from the air, and it was the perfect time of day to see an awesome optical illusion. It was a very bright sky and for about a minute before my plane entered the clouds, the sky and the sea were the same shade of blue. It was like the island was hanging, suspended in space. It’s moments like these when I realize I will never get tired of flying.
Then it was a short two-hour flight and entrance process before I was welcomed into Kuala Lumpur. It took only a few minutes to get on a cheap bus to the city center. Once there, it was a short taxi ride to my guesthouse near Chinatown.
For anyone traveling to this area and would like a simple and cheap place to stay, the Explorers Guesthouse is definitely worth checking into. By far, the nicest hostel I’ve stayed in! My friend and I had a private room, there was a shared bathroom, computers to use in the lobby, a free simple breakfast every morning and free coffee and tea all day. And, (since I didn’t make it to the post office before I left), they even mailed my postcards for me. Contact them at email@example.com, or just visit them in person at 128 & 130 Jalan Tun H S Lee.
After getting settled, it was time to head out to Chinatown to begin exploring and get some dinner. I ended up getting chicken curry with rice, roti canai and a sweet lime juice. It was so nice to be out in the warm evening, listening to Bob Marley, watching all the bule’s go by, late into the evening.
For my only full day, there was a lot to get packed into a relatively short period of time. So after some toast and jam it was time to get picked up for our City Tour.
It began with the National Museum; a perfect place to whet the appetite with Malaysian history and culture.
After poking around for almost an hour, we made a quick stop at the Royal Palace. It could only be seen from a distance, and it’s protected by a large gate and mounted guards.
Then we were taken to one of the national monuments. In essence, it’s a replica of a war memorial in Washington, DC. The same artist that created the monument in America created the one in Kuala Lumpur, but the faces and headwear are in Malay style. Very beautiful area.
We stopped briefly in an area which had a lot of British influence. Beautiful architecture, a clock tower, a church and an old cricket court made this area near Chinatown feel very different compared to the other areas of the city.
A decent amount of time was spent at the Royal Selangor Visitor Center, which is the largest Pewter factory in the world. For generations this family owned business has mixed the elements of Tin, Antimony, and Copper together to produce some achingly beautiful pieces of art. It was amazing to see the demonstrations of how the scientific and artistic aspects come together in such harmony. After a lesson in the craft of Pewter-smithing, we were led into the gallery to have our purse-strings teased as we saw the finished products for sale. Kitchen sets to cufflinks, teapots to trophies and wedding gifts to wall art, there was a perfectly polished piece of Pewter for every occasion.
The last stop of the tour was the one I’d been waiting for…The Petronas Twin Towers. At 452 meters high and made of stainless steel and glass, this building dominates the skyline and catches ones attention in a few ways. The area around the building is organized and well-planned, just like everywhere else in the city. There is plenty of shopping, cafe’s and ice cream shops, which were all useful when dealing with the extremely hot climate. Tickets to the top of the building were already sold out for that day and the beginning of the next week, which was a bummer, but I was so happy just to be there and get some cool photos.
After a little shopping and a cool nosh, I made one last stop at the Kuala Lumpur Tower. Much like the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, this tall building is basically one huge elevator shaft with some fun stuff at the top. I immediately signed up to go to the highest observation deck, which is open-air. It was a beautiful, clear day and the breeze up there was very refreshing. From that height I could appreciate how built up and complex the city looked, but from the ground, the city never felt congested. There really is a lot to see and it’s easy to get to any destination.
Back on the ground, it was easy to hop on one of the pink (or purplish) busses…which are free…that run every 20 minutes or so. The circuit runs to the Central Market, which is right by Chinatown, which was right by the aforementioned Explorers Guesthouse, which made getting home pretty easy.
A shower was definitely in order after the day of walking around the equator. Feeling thoroughly refreshed, it was time to hail a cab and head to Jalan Alor (a foodie street in the Bukit Bintang area). An entire street of food stalls, outdoor café seating and interesting foodstuffs awaited. A crazy mélange of items had a party in my belly that evening. Dumplings, ginger onion fried frog, chocolate Turkish ice cream, sweet coconut juice, coconut ice cream and a red-bean Freezy all managed to get along surprisingly well. What a tasty adventure!
After the best nights’ sleep known to womankind, it was time to use Monday morning to do some local exploring. The journey began directly across the street from the guesthouse at the oldest Chinese Temple in Kuala Lumpur.
Then it was time to experience the never-ending central market. It was here that I acquired my requisite gifts that I perpetually hunt for in every new location. This led to a bookstore where shopping and noshes of egg jam pastry and roasted duck with rice were devoured.
No sooner did we get back to the guesthouse, that we met up with our afternoon tour. Once again I was in a van, moving down the highway to a new part of the city. We made a quick stop in “Brickfields,” also known as Little India, to appreciate the culture and colors of this homogenous area. Then is was on Batu Cave, with its imposing Hindu statue greeting patrons as they begin the almost 300-step ascension. Wild monkeys looking for sweet snacks eagerly accompany guests to the top, but respectfully refrain from pestering those who continue on to explore the Hindu temple area inside.
After taking pictures, descending the stairs and munching on a samosa we managed to just beat the rain as we traveled to a traditional Batik shop. We were able to see the free-hand wax drawing of a flower design on beautifully colored fabric, in the flesh. I have such an appreciation for the born-talent of free-hand artists. Naturally, there were finished products for sale and I was happy to pick up some cotton and silk pieces for the family.
This tour was a short expedition, so there was plenty of time afterwards to return to Chinatown for some crab fried rice before heading off to the airport.
It may have been a whirlwind weekend, but it was a cheap, easy destination I was lucky to see.