I woke up slowly in the dark and chilly dorm of the cosmopolitan “hostel” . It felt like I am being safely stored in a safe. All was quiet. I forget that I am surrounded by a huge city.
I drank some coffee and had some toast that was complimentary with the room. I met a French who has been in KL for a while. You can’t tell that this ordinary-looking guy has been travelling the world and South East Asia for over 3 years. He almost lost his attachment to his motherland. However, he must return to France because his passport has got no more blank pages to allow him to pursuit his adventures. I asked him if he had plans for the day. I really needed someone to motivate myself to go and explore the concrete jungle that surrounded us. This was the first time I visited a Muslim country and I must admit with shame that I’m afraid of explore it alone. All the bad press by Western media and all the stupid American movies have polluted my brain. I had to fight this prejudice once and for all and form my own opinion. A new vision based on my real life experiences. Let’s see what Kuala Lumpur and its people will respond to these images and prejudices that haunted me.
The French, who is called Valerian is familiar with the city for he had lived for over a month; he would be my motivator and my city guide. We started our journey under the blazing sun in the street labyrinth that was surrounded by buildings with many floors. The architecture is indescribable; it reflects the influences of the Middle East and Asia, but is not really easy to understand its global point of view without having many questions and doubts.
The busy streets of Kuala Lumpur are sometimes in poor condition; it seems that new infrastructure were built every now and then without proper maintenance and overall harmony of City Planning. Some brand new ultra modern buildings have creepy rusty apartment blocks for neighbours. It was very difficult to get a city-wide snapshot with a great composition. Each picture has an anachronism or a questionable mixture of style. Modernism, Buddhism, Taoism, its colonial past, the Muslim influence and rural unrest, fight, mix and fusion in a complete new cultural fresh explosion.
Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are similar on so many levels, but I would say that Bangkok is more uniform and standard in her modern style with Buddhists accents. Kuala Lumpur shines through its multiple influences that makes it unique, this city are can amaze us and shake us with dark images haunting multicultural cities of this size.
Kuala Lumpur or affectionately known as, KL, is the capital of Malaysia and is the largest city of the country. Its population is about 7 millions of citizens. It’s the metropolitan region and has the highest population and economic growth across the country. It’s the nerve centre of most of its business industry. The tourism sector also plays an important role in the economy of the city. Most major chains hotel are present in the city. Kuala Lumpur is the fifth most visited city in the world. K.L is considered one of the best shopping destinations in the world. With its wide variety of shopping centres that offer both local brands as well as the most prestigious brands.
On the road we crossed many store of all nature like sketchy Motorcycle garages as one would see regularly in Thailand, as well as plenty of western restaurants like Pizza Hut, small street stalls serving mostly Malay and Indian dishes and many textile shops selling the Middle Eastern product sand fabric. Folk in the street are a masala of all races and cultures, Sikhs, Caucasians, men in skirts, women wearing headscarves, turbans and brightly coloured suit as only Indians wear them. We visited several Malay traditional markets where people come with friends to purchase traditional clothing and everyday produce.
We stopped outside a mosque. I was afraid to enter initially. We were looking at the sign with interdiction pictograms when a big fat bearded guy wearing traditional religious outfit cordially invited us to enter the mosque. “Come take pictures, see what happens in the air! “, he announced. He is the priest from this temple and he speaks French as he apparently comes from Morocco in Northern Africa. I tried to take photos, but he told me to take everything else except him. It may be wanted for conspiracy in the country of origin. Nothing to help my paranoia of Islam. Lol. Surrounded by exotic trees, the mosque is an oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle.
We really cannot miss the “Little India“, the overwhelming Indian district gave us direct access to everything one could possibly find on the streets of Bombay. The similarity is so much that I’m all ready to collide with a person without shoes lying on the sidewalk. Nobody is offended by this individual who was tired and said that the sidewalk was his dorm.
We went to Chinatown; the place to get more quality goods. It is hard to know if the products are authentic or clever copies. Always negotiate, but you would never know if you have gotten a good deal … I was tempted by a pair of skate shoes DC Shoes for $ 75 Malaysian RM about $ 25 U.S. For me who is not a frequent shopper, it’s perfect, it’s up to you to make your discoveries …
Several traditional Chinese Taoist temples attracted my attention, we entered one with traditional golden dragons carved wooden doors. As we stepped in, we were stifled by the thick incense smoke. I found the source of the choking smoke; hundreds of spiral incense hung from the ceiling burning quietly. I always feel intense whenever I’m in one of these temples. We’re back at the hostel for a quick shower, had another chicken rice in the market nearby and crashed in front of the television before going to bed.
Today, I felt lazy. I felt like playing the part of the not- too- adventurous tourist. I looked at the options available to me. The “KL Hop-On Hop-Off”city tour seemed to respond well to my requirements. Air-conditioned buses with guides available from 8:30 m to 20:30 on a course with 22 points of interest and 40 tourist attractions around the city. We can come and go on board for 24 or 48 hours, so I paid around $ 13 or 38 RM for 24 hours of services including free WiFi access.
The air conditioned bus did not work very well. It’s like being in a barbecue. So I start to visit the shores of Lake Titiwangsa at the rear of the palace of culture. I walked the ground quietly, I was looking at the backyard when I saw a steady stream of people and buses that go to the park surrounding the lake. The lake is actually a reservoir with some fountains in the middle. On ordinary days you can rent boats and sail along the lake, but today was a day of celebration. Muslim families came to celebrate once again the “Hari Raya”. I see what looks like a wedding in the middle of the festival. I was the worst dressed and least colourful of the entire crowd. There was free food everywhere, everyone was smiling and happy.
Islam 1 prejudice 0.
There was a concert where the young and old were having fun and listening attentively. Then 2 women with their “tudung” (a traditional scarf she wears to cover her hair) welcomed me to take pictures of them.
My second stop is a must to “Petronas Twin Towers“. A symbol of Malaysia known worldwide for being the the tallest twin towers in the world before the construction of Taipei 101, completed in 2004. I would like to go on the bridge that connects the two towers, but it gives out only 1640 tickets per day. You should take ticket a day ahead early in the morning to be sure to have an access. I went around the “Megamall” over 6 floors offering the most luxurious products in the world such as Tag Heuer, Hugo Boss, Rolex, Mont Blanc… I walked the halls a bit, but shopping is not my forte, especially not in this price range. There are booths for the Malaysian motorcycle where the GP, bikes are impressive as their hostess.
My third stop is the “KL Tower” one of the highest communication tower in the world. There are plenty of activities organized within the tower.. Today people base jumping from the tower, breakdancers warming the crowd at the base, you can “fly” from tree to tree on a rope through Tyrolean traverse, eat a gourmet dinner while admiring the view. For a smaller budget, for 38 RM or 15 $ U.S. you can go to the roof and enjoy the panoramic view and listen to a pre-recorded sight tour on a digital music player. The view is magnificent and we can take pictures of the Twin Tower from there, sorry skybridger!
There several other possible stops, but my time and my budget are limited, so I plan to complete the tour on the rooftop of the bus. The Attraction are huge: several important shopping centres, Chinatown, Aquaria an aquarium of 60,000 square feet, an indoor amusement park it including several rides and attractions for the whole family, the impressive bird park, several by green space and amazing mosques.
There is also a trendy nightlife despite the predominance of Islamic culture of Kuala Lumpur. The Bukit Bintang district is a nice night playground … prepare your money for drink because it is expensive, you have to pay more than 25 RM just to enter in the club. The beer and cocktail are 10 $ to 20$ each. If budget is not a problem, Kuala Lumpur has a very colourful bar scene where one can visit.
The monorail stops operation at midnight and the taxis are hard to find at night. If you finally found one, it will probably try to rip you off. So if you do go clubbing around, go to a place close to your hotel or come back before midnight.
This post is also available in: French