Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. It exceeded my expectations as far as being a modernized city. Staying in the Bukit Bintang area, at first I summed up the entire city as being old. After getting out of that area I realized that Kuala Lumpur is just as modern as any major city in the USA. Skyscrapers, upscale shopping and international businesses are prominent in the inner city. There are older parts of the city that have a certain third world flare but mostly Kuala Lumpur has kept up with the times.
The Hop on Hop off bus made it easier to cover the city and it’s landmarks. Eight dollars (USD) buys a 24 hour ticket to hop on and off a double decker (open air on top) bus. There are 23 stops on the route. It sounded like a great idea. The first stop we got off at was Brickfields a.k.a. Little India.
This area is called Brickfields, but referred to as Little India because of the high percentage of Indian shops and restaurants. The shops sold colorful beaded bracelets and jewelry, clothing, toiletries and food. There were many restaurants but we had just eaten. One of the things I noticed was fortune tellers lining the streets. Most of them were older women with a couple of men thrown in the mix. I wanted so bad to have my fortune read. It was just so damn hot outside I didn’t have the patience to sit on the ground and try to understand broken English about my future. I took a couple of photos of the beautiful street, bought some barrettes and left.
Hopping back on the bus we passed on seeing the National Mosque of Malaysia and hopped off at the Perdana Botanical Gardens. Right off the bus were Macaque monkeys waiting for everyone and watching us unload. I was so happy to see them. After taking a few pictures and watching the crowds leave them, I stuck around to see what they would do next. They raided all of the nearby trash cans and opened up wrappers to lick the remains of whatever was in there, drank the last drops of any soda or beer bottles and meticulously opened plastic bags and ate whatever was in those. They knew exactly how to lift the lids off the trash and put them back when they were done. After all of that was gone, they disappeared into the woods. The Perdana Botanical Gardens were pretty boring to see, and the path was in direct sunlight. After five minutes of walking through there, we turned around and went back to the bus stop.
Hopping back on the bus passing a few more stops, the bus was now PACKED with people. Packed to the point where there were no seats left and people were standing, sweating and pressed together like sardines. The worst part was no one was hopping off during the journey to the last stop – the Petranos Towers. After 40 minutes of riding like that, we arrived.
Petronas Towers are the highest twin towers in the world. They are beautiful and can be seen from anywhere in the city of Kuala Lumpur. The towers are 88 stories high. The design is based on Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, which creates a shape of eight-pointed stars. These forms describe important Islamic principles of “unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality”. There is an observation deck on the top. A bridge was built half way up to walk across from tower to tower. The bridge gives you a view of Kuala Lumpur from 557 feet above ground. Tickets are $20.00 (USD) to ride to the observation deck. The crowds and waiting to get back down deterred us from paying and going up. Especially after the packed bus ride.
There is a area in front of the building where people take photos and are able to get themselves and the towers in one picture. Everyone and their mother (literally) was there fighting for the middle spot to take a picture. I did my signature spread eagle jump a few times and then passed the space on. The mall attached to them was really nice too, there was a beautiful park area behind the towers outside of the mall.
Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur wasn’t that impressive. The main drag is Petaling Street and is crowded with small shops all selling the same things. It was imitation name brand clothes, wallets, watches, jewelry, purses, shoes, makeup, luggage and toys mixed in with souvenirs. In between those shops were a few restaurants. None of them looked inviting either. There were a few food stalls selling foods on the street but nothing really stood out. The one place that was packed was a food stall selling claypot dishes. But what if you don’t want a claypot dish? We planned the evening around eating in Chinatown but after finding our way out of the maze of shops we took a taxi back to the Bintang area and ate there.
One place worth noting was Pinchos Tapas Bar on the trendy Changkat Street. That was our splurge in Kuala Lumpur. It was rated number one on TripAdvisor and within walking distance from the hotel. This was the third restaurant we had to make a reservation at during our 3 months of traveling. It felt so foreign to get semi dressed up and go into a nice restaurant. The food and ingredients were so different from all the dishes we have been eating in Kuala Lumpur. I felt like we were eating in another country. We ate 3 of the nights at a local’s restaurant called Cu Cha in the Bintang area. The Cu Cha Restaurant sets up tables on the street side and serves seafood, meats and noodle dishes. We ate like kings and queens paying less than $20.00 (USD) a night there.
The Chow Kit market was fun to see while exploring the Kampung Baru area. One thing that sets this market apart from all others I’ve seen in Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore) was it was spotless clean with NO flies. All of the fish was packed in ice and fresh. The meats were still hanging but the steaks and filets were on refrigerated metal while on display. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a single fly around. I would trust eating anything that came from here. The people working in the markets were personable and kind. That was the other part that stood out. They welcomed us taking pictures, asked where we were from and then said “welcome to Malaysia”. Wow! A big difference from other markets we have been to.
We stopped at a local restaurant named Chuburi Seafood for a cold drink. The food was set out buffet style and the people just pointed to the dishes they wanted and an employee plated them. I noticed that half of the Malaysians eating there, ate with their hands. At first it looked a little barbaric. After seeing men in dress pants and ties eating that way, I decided to look further into this. I learned that it’s not just about grabbing a bunch of food in your hand and stuffing it in your mouth. There is a method. It begins with washing your hands throughly. Use your thumb and fingertips to push a small amount of food to one side of the plate and shape it into a lump. Next, form your fingertips into a rough scoop shape and use your thumb to push the lump onto your fingers. Last, use the back of your thumb to push the lump off of your fingers and into your mouth. It can take awhile to master this, especially with sauces and bones involved. It’s not something I have to worry about because utensils are always available.
Malls are a popular place to shop in Kuala Lumpur. It seemed like there were malls on every corner. One mall stood out in particular. The Berjaya Times Square mall. Berjaya Times Square mall houses over 1,000 stores and “Cosmo’s World” theme park. The indoor theme park host the largest indoor roller coaster in the world. In addition to”Cosmo’s World”, there is also a full bowling alley. We bowled a couple of games and then visited the theme park. I have to say, this was more impressive than Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas, which has an indoor theme park too. The Supersonic Odyssey indoor roller coaster spans 2,630 feet from the 5th to 8th floors of the mall.
I really enjoyed Kuala Lumpur. I can see that technology and western influences are slowly taking over the older parts of the city. This a metropolitan city which is growing fast. If I hadn’t been to Singapore I would have thought this was the most developed city I have seen in Southeast Asia. I can understand why this is the capitol of Malaysia. I can only see Kuala Lumpur growing in the near future.