Gong Xi Fa Cai – Happy Chinese New Year!
So how to do justice to the sights and sounds of two days in KL? I doubt my words will do justice to a city full of life, confusion and islamic tradition.
From the very beginning as I was kindly shown the way to a train by a passer-by, I became aware of the friendliness, noise level and semi-organised chaos that is KL. It has become almost normal to be suspicious of people that are too friendly or helpful, however my experience so far in Malaysia is that this is normal behaviour. Even the shop people will be friendly after they know that you are not buying. In Singapore they will turn away and totally ignore you if you are "just looking"…
There is no integrated transport system here! Too add to the confusion, they do not have good signs to let you know that you are near any form of transport. For example the station I have passed by close to my hotel is at the foot of the Regent Apartments – it has an underpass under the road to get to the station, but despite having looked several times, I have not managed to see any signs at all in any language that would tell you this!
So After arriving Tuesday and spending the afternoon familiarising myself with the surrounds of KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City centre (?) the Petronas Twin Towers and the Suria Shopping Centre, I set out yesterday morning to walk around the city. First stop was the KL Tower (not the Petronas twin towers). I found myself at the foot of the hill upon which the tower is constructed, but I could not find any way of coming close to the tower. No doubt around the other side of the block, but after walking for about ten minutes and making no progress I gave up on that!. So it was off to the Central Market.
To be truthful it was not going to be my next stop, but I was slightly off-course….By the time I arrived there, I knew that I needed a hat. It was very warm and clear yesterday. I did not find one in the centre, but there is a "Ringit" shop opposite (Ringit is Malaysian currency).. I picked up a cap there for less than three dollars and continued on to my next destination – Merdeka Square – an ambivalent place with an English ex-pat club in one side and an Islamic building on the other. Merdeka Square apparently has the tallest flagpole in the world at one end and a cricket pitch in the centre of the square of grass – quite an ironical place!
By now I knew where I was again and walked out to the National Monument and the KL Gardens. This photo look back to where I had walked from – my hotel is just beyond the Petronas Twin Towers – all in about 30 degrees! The Gardens are quite beautiful and this time I took a photo of the empty playground – on a beautiful family day here in KL (The Chinese were still on their New Year break).
There are people everywhere in KL – except here it appears….I walked through the gardens (people sleeping in almost every shelter – some of them appearing to be quite well off) and up yet more steps to the Tun Abdul Razak memorial (Prime minister through the period where Malaysia established its independence).
After leaving the memorial I passed by Stonehenge (!) and then continued my spiritual journey down to the national mosque and !slamic centre. Malaysia is an Islamic state. The evidence is there everywhere – the dress of the women, the halel and vegetarian food, the lack of alcohol, the architectural domes. However there are hindu, budha and christian temples around the city as well. this only adds to the eclectic mix of the city.
I continued on to Chinatown. I did not spend a lot of time there, as I had spent a day in Chinatown in Singapore and it was relatively quiet here. the market was like markets in most places and I did not need anything, so I walked through, had an overpriced glass of lime juice and then walked on to Bukit Bintang. this is another shopper’s delight. I wandered into one shop to find it was attached and so on for the next hour or so as I wandered – not shopping, merely looking.
Malaysia of today is a modern state, however the veneer here is at times rather thin. The city is not clean as in Singapore. There is rubbish and dirt, with the pavement often in need of repair. However there are places which are totally modern, while still retaining some of the flavour of the Islamic tradition. I went along to the Petronas Towers this morning to line up for my ticket – which is for 3.45pm this afternoon…and I thought I would go straight up! Hopefully I will be easily checked in at the conference hotel and at the Towers at the appointed time. It promises to be an experience – especially for me with my height intolerance!
Today I change hotels to the Traders hotel (centre in this photo). My present hotel has been very good. The buffet breakfast yesterday was enough for me for the rest of the day until dinner. I merely needed to stop for drinks on regular occasions. I even sat in the lounge bar and enjoyed a cabaret show – more to have a little wine than any other reason – remember this is an islamic state and there is little sign of alcohol. The drinks are often more expensive than the meals. I had a beautiful fish/lemongrass soup for dinner last night. It cost about NZ$3. There is so much amazing food here. Too much food, to little time! I hope I can return again to savour the delights of KL.