Thoughts of a geek

7 June 2010

Kuala Lumpur

Filed under: Travel — Tags: , , , — qwandor @ 5:10 am

I finished my last post with the bus trip from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur. It was a fairly uneventful ride on the whole, but one thing I did notice and found amusing was the frequent motorbike shelters along the highway. Every so often we would drive past a sign with a picture of a motorbike and an umbrella, pointing to a small track off the side of the highway, often under an overpass. After a while I came to assume that these were places where motorbike riders could stop and shelter during the tropical downpours which tend to occur fairly often in Malaysia. The rain is very heavy, but generally goes away as quickly as it started. There are a lot of motorbikes on the roads, so I guess these shelters must get a fair bit of use.

I arrived in KL at a temporary bus terminal at a different place to the usual one, as the bus terminal is currently being rebuilt. A large part of my reason for going to KL was to catch up with my friends Weekian and Shirley, two Malaysians who came to Wellington to study at VUW for a few years, then went back to their home country to work and study (respectively). I actually know rather a few Malaysians, but most of them have stayed in New Zealand, so Weekian and Shirley are the only two I know who are actually in Malaysia. Anyway, after I had had some nice cold mango juice to help brave the heat, Shirley turned up to greet me and show me around. We caught the monorail into town so that I could dump some of my stuff at the guesthouse, then had a look around for a while. We had a look around the central area of the city, took some photos of nice buildings and fountains around Merdeka Square, and visited several shopping malls. Malaysia, and especially KL, has a lot of enormous shopping malls. It sounds like a lot of Malaysians spend most of their spare time at the mall, which may be partly because they have air conditioning. Have a look at my photos to get some idea of the scale, but it feels even bigger when you are actually there. One of the malls we visited — Berjaya Times Square — had a theme park complete with roller coasters and various other rides in one section.

We met Weekian at KLCC for dinner in the foodcourt there, and had some good conversations catching up with each other. There is a nice little park outside with a pond and fountians where we waited for Weekian. Afterwards we had a bit of a look along Bintang Walk, which is the main nightlife area, just watching people and fountains.

Weekian was busy working on Saturday, so Shirley and I went around town a bit more. We went to the Bukit Nanas forest reserve, which is a small forest area in the middle of the city, for a short walk. It was all pretty tame, and even Shirley was amused that the path was all paved with tiles. There were a bunch of schoolkids camping there and playing games. I was able to help Shirley to use her camera better, which was fun. Unfortunately on the monorail on the way back it was very crowded and I got pickpocketed. The thief took about MYR 90 that I had in my wallet, but left the NZ and Singapore coins that I also had in there, along with my ez-link card for the Singapore MRT and receipts and so on, and dumped it outside some shop. As soon as I noticed that my wallet was missing we went back to the guesthouse, who had just had a call from someone who found my wallet on the street and saw the receipt from the guesthouse. We went and picked it up from them. The whole process took rather a while, but at least it was only money that I lost. I was very worried for a while that I had also lost my money belt, but fortunately I had just left it back at the guesthouse. After finally getting that sorted out we continued on to the KL Lake Gardens. It was raining, which did have the advantage of making it a little bit cooler and probably less crowded than usual. We found more fountains to photograph, and looked around the ASEAN Sculpture Garden. Again, see my photos, I took plenty. We also went to the National Monument, just up a small hill from the Sculpture Garden, and spent some more time playing with our cameras to capture the water in different ways.

In the early evening, before dinner I think it was, we went to a cultural performance which the tourism centre puts on several times a week. It featured 16 dancers, 8 male and 8 female, performing a range of traditional dances from Malaysia’s various cultures. It was well done. In one part one of the guys climbed up to the top of a pole held upright by several others, and perched up there while blowing a dart out of a long tube held in his hands. Again, I took lots of photos, so have a look at them for more details.

We took more photos of fountains along Bintang Walk in the evening after dinner, and I also tried durian for the first time. I was surprised to find that it did not smell nearly as much as I had been led to believe. I was able to eat a bit but did not finish it; I was not that keen on the taste or texture. Shirley enjoys it much more.

I joined Shirley at her church in the morning, a large Methodist church called DUMC. I think there were about 1500 or so people at the English-speaking service that we went to. We had a brief lunch at a nearby foodcourt with some of her friends afterwards, then met up with Weekian again to have a bit of a look around one of the universities, then Weekian drove us out to the Batu Caves. These are some big caves in a mountain, which have been turned into Hindu temples. There is an enormous statue outside, and 272 steps up to the caves. Have a look at my photos of the caves and other things around the area. There were also monkeys all over the place, climbing up and around the stairs and making a nuisance of themselves. This was the first time I had seen wild monkeys, so I did take a fair few photos of them too. There was water dripping everywhere in the caves, and a loud bell that they kept on ringing. The three of us shared some coconut water afterwards, which I did not like all that much, then headed back and decided to go to the Botanic Gardens (Taman Botani) in Putrajaya, which is a little bit out of the central area of KL. It was again helpful that Weekian has a car (thanks Weekian!). More photos were taken, of course. Apparently Shirley particularly likes reflections and leaves. Unfortunately part of the gardens was closed, but we still had enough to see in the time that we had before they closed for the evening. We had dinner together again. It was really helpful having Weekian and Shirley to explain what the various dishes were. After dinner Weekian dropped me back to the guesthouse, and we said our goodbyes hurriedly as he could not find a proper place to park.

I stayed my last night at the guesthouse, then caught a bus up to Penang on the Monday. I was not all that impressed with the guesthouse where I stayed in KL. It cost twice as much as the one in Melaka (which was largely due to it being in a bigger city, but it was a bit more expensive than some in KL, so I had hoped that it would be better), did not include breakfast, and was not nearly so comfortable or welcoming. Oh, and they did not provide any top sheet for the bed. Anyway, the guesthouse in Penang was nicer. I will describe Penang soon in another post.

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