Big city life in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur had been one of the destinations that had been fixed for a while. Ever since Hiza visited Eli and me in Norway, and experienced a proper Norwegian summer, we wanted to come visit her in Kuala Lumpur. And she was right there at the airport waiting for us with her own car! Woho! Not a taxi, bus or anything that required reading a map, explaining or haggling for a price.. She was set and ready to drive us back at her place, awesome! It’s weird what small things you miss when out travelling, a friendly face waiting for you at the airport is definently one of them 🙂
Karl Kristian was meeting up with his girlfriend Anfrid in Kuala Lumpur, so it was time to split knowing that we would meet up in Singapore in not too many days anyway. So as we got into Hiza’s car, and Karl Kristian went to find a bus, our Malaysian adventure began.
Since the Formula 1 circus was in town Hiza had gotten us tickets to a huge rave that was happening on the bottom of the KL tower, a giant lookout tower in the middle of the city. So the plan for the night was to go and get something to eat and then have a small pre party before going out that night. After dropping our bags off at Hiza’s house we went out to eat. We ate at a Indian styled foodcourt thing with very good food! After the meal the first signs of the rain started. Hiza told us that the monsoon season just ended the week before, but apparantly nobody told the rain itself.. As we were getting ready to go back to the car it seemed like an ocean of water came down on us. I’ve never in my life seen so much rain!! And then the thunder and lightening started. I have to say that the thunderstorms and bad weather that I’ve seen in Norway can’t even be compared to this.. It was raining so much that water was gushing out of the sewer openings in the streets, and a regular torrent was starting to build up on the roads. The thunder was so loud that you felt it thumping on your chest while the lightening left you half blind. A regular day in Kuala Lumpur, a definite unregular occasion for three drenched Norwegians… But I loved it!!
It was good to do some catching up with Hiza as it had been several years since our last meeting back in Norway. We sat and drank some wine and beer and had a good chat before it was time to head down to the city centre, and the first big rave that I’ve been to in years! The first view of downtown Kuala Lumpur was awesome as the city was vastly different from the countries that we had just left. Less hectic and more western it almost felt like being back in city in Europe or the States. The KL tower is a 421 metre high observation tower in the middle of KL. The party itself was on the ground around the tower and it was massive. The internationally known DJ Paul Oakenfold was playing, and it was jam packed with people. We stayed there for a bit, shook our way around on the dance floor and decided at the lack of alcoholic beverage serving that it was time to move on 🙂 Hiza then took us down to a pub/club not too far away from the tower where she often went and we had some ridiculously strong drinks. The bartenders in Norway really have something to learn from these guys! Then we met up with some of Hiza’s friends and had a really good time! Finished the night off with Dim Sum and fell asleep instantly as we arrived back at Hiza’s house.
Since Hiza lived quite a distance away from the central part of KL we decided that we would try to find some accomodations in the budget minded Chinatown. As we figured it wouldn’t be a problem to find anything, and we all felt a bit hung over, it was time for the girls to have a pampering day down at Hiza’s favorite pampering mall. While the girls had their nails done and so on I was more than happy to chill out in a lounge chair at Starbucks, where they had fast wireless internet! Loved it!
We spent the entire day just lounging about, getting the girls a haircut and eating some proper Malayan food. Eli and Veronica actually had two people each to blow dry their hair, not too bad! We finished off the day by going to the local market and sampling some of the fruit and stuff they made there. You wouldn’t have found half the fruits there in Norway, I barely knew the name of any of them!
As Hiza dropped us off at the train station to take the train to Chinatown we began to realize that it was pretty late and started worrying about the chances of finding accomodations there. We were right to worry as every place I checked seemed to be full. While Veronica and Eli waited at the first hostel we found, I went on a search to locate a cheap and good hostel, tough job! I found quite a few that seemed to be alright, but they were all full. I also found a few that had rooms available, but there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would have spent the night there. If you’ve ever seen the tv series “The Wire” it was pretty much like the Towers in season 1. I took the elevator up to one of them as it was situated in the top floor of a run down building. There was damp on all the walls, the rooms themselves had huge stains on the carpets, the beds had torn up linen where the dirty old matresses were visible. The nightstand was leaning heavily to the side and there was even a note on the door saying that you should never open the door to anyone at night.. Just the place to make you feel like home.. As I took the elevator down again I pressed 1 instead of 0 and ended up one floor above the exit. As the elevator doors opened the only thing in front of me was a steel gate to the floor that was shut close with a huge pad lock on it, creeeeepy!
We ended up getting a room at a bit more pricier establishment, Hotel 24. Which turned out to be very good, with clean air conditioned rooms, wireless internet and cable tv. As it was a bit more expensive we only stayed for the night, but compared to what I had seen earlier that day I was more than happy to dish out some more cash.
Since Hiza was working on weekdays we had a few days to do a bit of sightseeing on our own. We spent the next days doing a bit of shopping and getting some stuff done, like shipping back some souvenirs and updating the blog. We spent a fair bit of time at KLCC and somehow it was nice to be back in a shopping mall.. KLCC is the shopping mall that is situated under the Petronas towers. I’ll get back to the Petronas towers soon! KLCC is a pretty big shopping mall and as it’s smack in the middle of the action and since it has it’s own subway station it’s a good start for sightseeing and such. It also has a good foodcourt with plenty of different food if you’re hungry. Hiza came down and had lunch with us one day as she works up in the Petronas tower a couple of hundred metres above the KLCC shopping mall.
As Hiza worked in the Petronas towers she was kind enough to secure three tickets to the skybridge between the Petronas Twin towers. They’re free, but there is a limited amount of the every day so that you have to be out a bit early to get some. The Petronas twin towers has become the trademark of Kuala Lumpur. For a while they were the tallest building in the world, but the still maintain the title of tallest twin buildings around. I’ve seen a fair bit of skyskrapers and along with the Empire State Building and the Eiffel tower, the Petronas Towers were truly remarkable. They are beautifully built and have a symmetry that pleases the eye. The design is inspired by classical Islamic art, a reflection of Malaysia’s muslim religion. The skybridge that we went up to is between the 41st and 42nd floor, 170 metres above the ground. It gives a magnificent view of the city and since Hiza was there we also had someone that could help us point out landmarks, she wasn’t sure where she lived herself but that’s irrelevant 🙂
Later that night we also went up to the Skybar at the Traders Hotel. The Traders Hotel is situated right on the opposite side of the park outside the Petronas Twin Towers. The Skybar is on the top floor, giving a awsome nighttime view of the towers and the surroundings. If you’re in KL you have to have a drink up here. It’s not exactly backpacker prices, but the view itself is worth the price of the beer, breathtaking!
Another one of KL’s tourist spots is the famous Batu Cave. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. For us it was mostly a huge statue with another huge cave on the inside. Quirky but definently worth a visit!
Having Hiza around was such a help, not because of communication problem, as pretty much everybody here speaks english, but because she could explain a bit about Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia in general. First of all I had no idea that Malaysia was using Sharia laws. In a country that’s so diverse in ethnicity and religion as Malaysia, it’s for me weird that the government practices a set of laws that overrule the civil courts and are only applicable to 60,4% of the population. Islam is the official religion in Malaysia and all ethnic Malays are considered Muslim as defined by the constitution of Malaysia. Just hearing the word Sharia laws immediately makes me think of people getting their hands chopped off for stealing and so on. Although I am not defeding religious law since I am of the opinion that religion should never be mixed with anything, especially not law and matters of running a country I just have to look back at my own country to see that we are not so different. We don’t have religious law in Norway, but we still haven’t separated state and church either which is a blow to our self esteem as a developed modern country.
Our first impression of Malaysia was a busy metropolitan society that incorporated Islam like the west incorporates Christianity in the urban picture. Instead of the backwards and often undeveloped picture we receive through mass media of Islamic states at war Malaysia is the complete opposite. The diversity of Kuala Lumpur can easily be seen in the urban scene, as women wearing a Niqab (a veil which covers the face) in a shop right next to another woman wearing a tank top and a miniskirt. As a traveller it is hard to dive underneat the first impression of a well oiled multi ethnic and multi religious society that has solved matters of religious and ethnic strife, but as there are always undercurrents that take months and even years to understand I’m not even going to try to give a detailed picture of today’s Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur is an excellent starting point for a southeast asian adventure since it is exotic enough, but still has that city feel that you know from home. If you’re looking for a place to spend a few nights at a better hotel, then Kuala Lumpur is definently the place to go. There seems to be luxury hotels at every corner and the prices are rock bottom in comparison to what you would pay for a hotel half the standard back in Europe or the States. Next time I’m definently not staying in Chinatown, it will be Traders Hotel for me!