Day 71: Whistlestop tour of Kuala Lumpur
Claire: Early start to explore the city we know nothing about!! We went back to APW for breakfast at Pulp, a geeky coffee shop that was delicious but at £8 for 2 coffees and 2 croissants we're talking Greggs prices! Eeek... definitely a shock to the system after 30p beers in Cambodia. We also discovered these creative studios and shops — APW, stand for Art Printing Works as it's a repurposed printing plant. Very cool.
Fuelled on coffee we jump on the slick airconned skytrain for 10mins into the city. Arriving at Bukit Bintang we'd read this area was the epicentre of entertainment in KL but all we could see was shopping centres!! So we decided to head for some space in KLCC Park and visit the Petronas Twin Towers which were apparently the tallest buildings in the world between 1998-2004. However, getting there was a bit difficult as KL doesn't seem to be very geared up for pedestrians. So with no paths, no crossings, we ended up walking in the sky walk which felt like we were in an airport, but Gav was happy for the aircon.
KLCC Park was much bigger than we'd thought and very tropical. Kuala Lumpur has been the most humid place we've been so far, between the trees the atmosphere was so moist. As was Gav.
The towers are huge and surrounded by lots of other high rises too. As we walked closer a Korean guy approached us on a bridge and whispered to me if I could do him a favour... he passed me his phone and said he was going to propose to his girlfriend and could I pretend to just take their photo but actually film him proposing. So I did (pressure!). Everybody clapped and I even cried a little. I hope the video was okay.
Back in the shopping centre (they loved shopping centres here) we cool off. I wonder if there's no paths or pedestrian friendly outdoor bits because no locals mad enough would walk round in this heat?! We find a Starbucks (yes I'm ashamed of us too) for some wifi to plan where the hell we'd go next. Confused on where the centre was / if there was an old town / where we'd see some real Malaysian culture... we read up on Merdeka Square, the national heritage site just a few stops away on the skytrain. Hurrah!
We loved our time exploring this part of the city. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country so there's beautifully ornate mosques, Moghul architecture and Islamic patterns galore. Totally geared up for tourists on foot too they have a Heritage Trail so you can explore all of the amazing buildings and learn about their history. If we'd have had time I'd have gone into the National Textile Museum as I bet that has some treasures in there.
The main square, Merdeka Square, is where Malaysia's independence was proclaimed in 1957. From here you can see the diverse range of building in the skyline, the juxtaposition of old vs news. Next to it stands The Royal Selangor Club, an old cricket clubhouse in Tudor style which felt so out of place but built by the British colonials who once ruled these lands.
A short stroll away we come to Pasar Seni, aka the Central Market — an art deco building that throws another architectural style to into the mix. Inside the market is divided into zones by races to celebrate multicultural Malaysia, you can buy anything and everything in there!
Around China Town we see all the traditional shophouses that were built under British Colonial by Chinese immigrants. It felt like such a timewarp.
We finish the day with some open space in Perdana Botanical Gardens where we also spotted a huge Monitor Lizard!!! It felt like we were the only ones in this park apart from the gardener blowing the leaves. KL is a odd place, where 95% of the population seem to spend their time in cars, skywalks or shopping centres. That said, we've really enjoyed our stay here and are super glad we had an opportunity to explore even if we did sweat bucketloads.
Gav's day 71 takeaway
- Apparently this barmy hot climate is winter in Kuala Lumpur! WTF!
- My northern seaside body was not made to walk around in a city inside a greenhouse inside a sauna. The big man upstairs is having a laugh at my expense.
- Nevertheless, KL (as they've branded it) is an interesting city. Maybe you need longer than 52 hours to find its soul, but as far as I could tell, it too had unfortunately fallen into the trap of promoting bigger, newer and shinier rather than historic, cultural and individual. With an increasingly wealthy city centre surrounded for miles by a much poorer populous of locals.
- I am genuinely fascinated by the cultural makeup of the place and read there are finely balanced cultural and religious tensions (although not obvious) for the authorities to tread to keep everyone happy.
- The fusion of cultures does of course always benefit the culinary scene, so we indulged in some simple but delicious Indian at a place called Fierce Curry House. We asked for "not so spicy".