Kuala Lumpur, or KL, which translates as “Muddy Confluence, Estuary or City” is the largest city in Malaysia. It is also the capital, and even though I had only a week there, it left a good impression. Perhaps, after nearly three months in Thailand, the biggest thing to strike me was how clean KL is. In fact, the whole of Malaysia is very green and tidy. Kuala Lumpur boasts tall, beautiful skyscrapers, clean streets and is well-organised with its free-flowing traffic, which creates a tangible energy. Let there be no mistake, Malaysia is on the self-proclaimed up-and-up, even including itself in the lucrative ‘medical tourism’ market.
KL was a stopping off point before my trip back home to Australia. After some quick research in LP and on the internet, we decided to stay in Chinatown – it sounded exciting, authentic and interesting. That’s one distinct aspect that is truly Malaysian – the blend of different people and cultures. I picked a small hotel called ‘Chinatown Boutique Hotel’ and it was clean, tidy and recently renovated. I was warned through my sources that the entrance was hard to find, but the taxi driver had no problem. There’s a gaggle of street stalls right outside the door, and the entrance is down a short alley way, but the building is really, very hard to miss. It sits on the outer edge of Chinatown itself, over the big intersection right outside Starbucks, McDonalds and Nando’s. Venturing within the ‘Chinese limits’, your food choices are a little more authentic with an array of eateries, restaurants and of course, street vendors. There was a guy right outside our door who had, amongst other delights, toads. Big and fat, they resembled the Queensland cane toad, only with lighter skin, and no, we didn’t! Actually, we were after something with lots of fresh vegetables, and nice protein. So we ended up eating at Nando’s one night, a restaurant in a hotel the second night (with an impressive buffet) and on the final night we tried a restaurant that, although incredibly basic, served up a great meal. You selected what you wanted off the menu, and it arrived bubbling and steaming, in small clay pots. After four months in South-East Asia, I wasn’t going so hard after ‘street food’ – so I was happy with the choices we made.
All sorts of delicacies on offer
I loved Chinatown. It’s a hustle and bustle of activity that goes on day and night. Be warned – the street sellers are some of the most ruthless I encountered! Unluckily for them, it was the end of my trip so I was over the harassment. I actually had some good bargaining clout and didn’t once feel pressured to buy something only to walk away and wonder why I had! There was the usual assortment of items – bags, belts, dvds, watches, glasses… I reckon it was more hardcore there than anywhere in Thailand – even the MBK Center! Seriously, stall after stall of exactly the same things and everyone’s got a bargain! Tucked in behind these fronts though, are some great surprises, which for me were, foot reflexologists and a Chinese medicine clinic with amazing acupuncturists – who teach their trade as well. I had two sessions, with two different practitioners, for around $10AU all up!! The reflexology was a treat. It’s very popular throughout Malaysia – they really have a thing for it – so soak it up when and if you can!
KL’s impressive skyline
Our first full day we set off for that most famous landmark – the ‘Twin Towers’. Neither of us clicked when the driver told us we probably wouldn’t get to the top, but on arriving, we saw… he was right. There was no way in hell we could get up to the top! The deal is this: each day 1800 passes are handed out. We arrived not long after 9am and they’d been out of tickets for over an hour!! So, if you do want to head up there, you literally need to be standing at the ticket kiosk (along with the other 2000) waiting for it to open. However, there’s always the ‘KL Tower’ which has better views anyway! It’s about 5 minutes by taxi from the Twin Towers, there was no queue and the views are a 360 degree panorama of the city. You pay to enter in the lobby, take an elevator to the top and then get given a personal headset with a commentary that takes you around the top. Really worth the trip up as from up there you can really appreciate what a beautiful city KL is.
The airport at KL is undoutedly nice, but it’s situated an hour’s drive from the city itself – so be warned! It’s illegal for a taxi driver from the city to tout for custom at the airport, so you have to go for the taxi rank. This system seemed unfair, as it meant our taxi driver had to then return to the city with an empty car – not particularly environmentally friendly.