Day 5: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

by - May 02, 2011

Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur
Contrary to all my predictions, I actually had a fantastic night’s sleep in my lumpy bed - though I did wake up with a bad neck.  Breakfast was served on the terrace and, despite it not being included in the price, I had the pancakes with coffee for a pound.  On the massive journey yesterday, I had come up with a vague ‘highlights of Kuala Lumpur tour’ as I only had one full day in which to explore.

The logical place to start was Chinatown, as this was where my hostel is.  This is very similar to the Singapore Chinatown, except that it was a little more chaotic and claustrophobic.  There are two main temples in the district - a Buddhist one called the Guan Ti Temple and the other, a Hindu one, called the Sri Mahamariamman Temple.  I get the feeling that there was one of those in Singapore.  Both were similar to temples in Singapore, but were worth visiting nonetheless.

Supreme Court Building, Medaka Square
My second stop was the colonial district, which is based around Medaka (Freedom) Square.  This was where the Union Jack was replaced with the Malaysian flag for the first time in 1959.  It still retained its British character though - the middle of the square is a grassy area called the Pedang, which used to be the cricket pitch.  The old colonial headquarters are now the Supreme Court building.  One of the largest flagpoles in the world stands in the centre of the square, which is viewable from most of the city centre.

Jamek Mosque, Kuala Lumpur
After wandering around the square for a bit, I walked towards the central business district.  On my way, I stumbled across the Jamek Mosque, which is build at the confluence of the city’s two rivers.  A kind woman showed me around for a bit (as well as helping me to get my jedi-like robe on, which covered my bare legs out of respect).  She was keen to talk about the Royal Wedding and said that it was nice to see some happiness in a sad world.  This from a woman in a Malaysian mosque - proof of how universal the wedding’s feel good factor has been.  The mosque itself was a nice sign of co-operation, build by two Indian and two British engineers, and was a peaceful place, in amongst the high rise towers that surrounded it.

I reluctantly gave back my jedi robe and headed on my original course to the Kuala Lumpur tower - the highest building in the city. “Whoa” I hear you cry, “the Petronus Towers are the highest points in the city”.  I thought this too, but the Kuala Lumpur Tower (a communications tower with an observation deck) is built on a hill.  The Petronus Building is taller, but 100m lower.  If that makes sense.  On my way to the foot of the tower I found myself in another section of urban rainforest, as the tower is situated in a patch of 'parkland’.  Once again, as in Singapore, this caught me by surprise, but this time they at least had a notice warning visitors to watch out for dangerous animals.

Looking down on the CBD
I finally reached the tower at about midday and paid a whopping 45RM (about 9GBP - three quarters of my day’s budget) to get in.  It was worth it though, and the views were amazing.  It was a humid day, so I expected it to be hazy, but luckily I had an excellent view over the city and surrounding area.  Despite, as Lonely Planet puts it, Malaysia commiting 'every environmental faux pas in the book’ to date, the city seems remarkably lush and verdant and was a lot different to the urban sprawl I had expected to see, having been on the ground.

Me and the Petronus Towers
After an hour or so in the tower, I walked further into the CBD, using the Petronus Towers as a guide.  I got some poor local family to embarrass themselves and take my photo in front of them, before I headed inside to the huge shopping mall at their base.  I didn’t have enough money to spend at the numerous high end outlets there, despite the marginally lower prices.  Instead I headed to the massive book shop and bought another book for my portable library, as I’m worried I will get through the ones I brought with me and that there won’t be such an impressive range elsewhere.

I think I had seen all that I could reasonably fit into one day, so I got the monorail back to Chinatown and my hostel, where I got my grandma’s address from the internet from her postcard and then headed back out to post it.  Labour Day had taken place yesterday across the region, but apparently the celebrations were set to continue today and this meant that Melaka Square was full of families who were out and about in an area that now looked more like a fair.  I think that the festivities in the square were put on by the Sikh community.  There was a lot of music being played, the highlight of which was a group of Indian men playing bagpipes.  Unfortunately the whole event was curtailed by rain, which the locals had come prepared for, but for which I wasn’t willing to get soaked in.  I rushed back into Chinatown and took shelter in the Central Market where I had dinner in my first actual restaurant (as oppose to a hawker stall).  The food was good and I spent a while writing my diary until the rain stopped.  After my brief tour of Kuala Lumpur I am going to head up to the north of Malaysia to a town called Georgetown tomorrow.

Celebrations in Freedom Square

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