Kuala Lumpur – a city in nine hours
A whirlwind tour of one of Asia’s hub cities – Kuala Lumpur. Travel here deserves more than nine hours.
*Warning: this post on Kuala Lumpur contains images that some may find disturbing, especially if you’re vegetarian.
04:20: Plane landed on time. Had to travel with a man sitting next to me hacking up a lung through his nose the entire flight.
06:00: Leave airport after clearing immigration, leaving bags at airport and drinking an espresso. Trains clean and full of luggage space (a novelty for anyone used to catching a Sydney train to the airport that has stairs and no space).
06:28: Arrive at Kuala Lumpur Sentral station. I didn’t see a lot of the city on the way in as the sun was still down, but the roads appeared to be quiet and the city clean. Getting off the train I was hit with a blast of hot humidity and the smell of Asian cigarettes wafting in from outside.
07:00: Finally made it out of the station to the monorail. I got a little lost wandering down the hallways. Got on a train to Petronas Towers. The train seemed quite packed for 7am on a weekend.
07:20: The area around Petronas Towers seemed to be the business district and was therefore very quiet. The towers are very impressive when looking up at them. I wandered the streets and marveled at the well-behaved and respectful drivers.
08:00: Arrived at the base of KL Tower dripping wet from the humidity and needing a new bottle of water already.
08:15: Travel by train to Chow Kit and immediately saw the difference in the areas of the city. Chow Kit is not as wealthy, but the markets were a great find. I walked in and was offered all manner of starchy food products, made a couple of friends and someone in Kuala Lumpur now has a photo of me on their phone.
At first the smell of the markets was sweet; rambutans, lychees, mangoes and then came the smell of the fish and then the raw meat and then the burning of cow hide.
The sight of just about every animal part that exists was overwhelming, but I walked away thinking that at least all of the animal is used. We do waste a lot in the West.
08:45: Breakfast of roti chanai. A piece of fried dough that comes out like a bread pancake dipped in curry sauce. I ended up with mine take away and my sauce was in a plastic bag. Putting liquids in plastic bags seemed quite popular, drinks in bags can be found everywhere too.
09:20: Coffee in Old Town White Coffee. The coffee is “white” because the blend has only one type of bean rather than two or more. The “white” actually refers to the purity. It went down a treat and if you’re in KL and want a decent cup, head to one of the many stores around the city.
10:00: A sucker for a good department store sale I headed into Sogo and quickly left after seeing the crowds and started walking aimlessly.
The Malaysian people seem happy and friendly, and they don’t hassle like other South East Asian countries. I was free to look, without the product being forced into one hand as my money is ripped from the other.
The mix of ethnicity, cultures and religion seems on the surface to be a harmonious one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there were underlying tensions.
The buildings are varied, some very modern, others very colonial, others with definite Islamic influence. I guess it matches the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural aspect of the city and also is evidence of the many international influences on the country.
12:15: Lunch at a local food hall with stall after stall of bain maries, filled with unidentifiable food. I picked a stall that had what I could tell was chicken and some vegetable dishes, got my plate of rice and provided entertainment for the ladies behind the counter with my ignorance.
13:00: Travel on a train to the end of the line just to see some more of the city and to sit in air-conditioning. The heat had become very oppressive and I was starting to wane. The train system is very efficient and some trains even have women only carriages. Sydney, take note of the efficiency.
15:00: I wound up at the National Mosque after walking up and down the train “flatform” looking for an exit.
The type of Islamic architecture in Malaysia is quite different to that in the Middle East. I also found it interesting that I didn’t hear one call to prayer the entire day.
The mosque itself is huge and whilst I could have waited a while to go in on a tour, I needed a shower and so made my way back to the airport.
16:00: If you want to take a shower at Kuala Lumpur International Airport before you check in, head over to the Pan Pacific Airport and for 60RM ($20) you can use their gym, sauna, jacuzzi and shower.
18:00: Checked into flight to London via Abu Dhabi, ending my whirlwind tour of a great city that I recommend visiting. A day is not enough to see anything below the surface, but it is enough to cover a fair amount of ground and get a taste of the place.