Tuesday, 17 September 2013

3 days in Kuala Lumpur

On the Sky Bridge of the Petronas Towers

I put KL in as one of my top favourite cities as I really like the place. It’s got a really nice feel about it, a superb old colonial bit with wide open avenues and great architecture, Chinese and Indian quarters and a modern section full of statement buildings, including the twin Petronas Towers (still the tallest twin towers in the world) that are surrounded by a park with lake and swimming pools. Although there is a lot of building work going on, the city has a structure and a soul to it. The people are friendly and are proud to be Malaysian and the city has an air of confidence and wealth. The transport system is a network of overhead monorails, surface railways, partly underground and a free bus service around the city. All trains and busses are air conditioned, it’s all modern, clean, efficient and cheap.

Harley Davidson's outside the Sultan Abdul Samad building
Yesterday (Monday) was a bit of a special day as it was Malaysian National day, marking 50 years of the Federated states of Malaysia, on 16th September 1963 (this is different from Independence Day, which was 31st August 1957) and was the joining together of the Malaysian mainland, Singapore and Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo (Singapore was expelled two years later to form a separate country) to form 14 federated states, 13 after Singapore became independent. It was a National holiday, so there was plenty going on, including a Harley Davidson meeting and exhibition with hundreds of the motorbikes riding round the streets with good humoured police escort and a heavy rock concert and motorbike display in the park at the foot of the Petronas Towers. A stage had been erected on the far side of the lake with some pretty good rock music going on from several bands (we even heard a heavy rock version of California Dreaming if you can imagine that!).

Live music outside the Petronas Towers
The Royal Selangor Club and old cricket pitch
We used the day well, going on a free 2 ½ hour heritage guided walk round the Dataran Merdeka, which is the old British Colonial section, now known as Independence Square. It’s a very well kept area with the old cricket pitch in the centre and surrounded by beautiful buildings built by the British. Along one side is a mock Tudor building which is the exclusive Royal Selangor Club (1894) and, moving clockwise, 

St Marys Cathedral
St. Mary’s Cathedral an Anglican Church (1894), the City Theatre (1896 and still operating as a theatre), the former high court building (1909), the stunning and superb Sultan Abdul Samad building with its bell tower and clock known as ‘Little Ben’, the old General Post office building, the old Railway Building (1905, now the National Textile Museum), the old bank (1919, now the Restoran Warisan) and the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery (1898, the old printing works). It’s a fabulous area and gives a real feel of what it must have been like for the British colonialists in those days.

Inside St Marys
The superb Sultan Abdul Samad building (a bit dwarfed by skyscrapers these days!)
The old Railway Building (National Textile Museum)
Little Ben
As we were on a guided tour we got access to many of the buildings that are normally off limits, including a special visitor pass into the Royal Selangor Club, normally only open to members. It’s a beautiful building with a section at the back that opens out onto the old cricket pitch with a fabulous view of the Sultan Abdul Samad building filling the whole of the other side (which used to be the most photographed building in KL before the Petronas Towers were built). It’s a covered area with tables and chairs and has the Long Bar, which is the only bar in the club that is men only, so even though the bar wasn’t serving drinks I took the opportunity of going inside, leaving Jackie outside.

Jackie sitting in the Royal Selangor Club overlooking the old cricket pitch and SAS building
Men only!

So it has to be done!

One foot inside - I hope no-one was watching!

The significance of this photo is the junction of two rivers that marks the spot where the Chinese first established Kuala Lumpur (meaning muddy estuary) in 1857. It was as far as they could get their boats up the muddy river. They established their settlement on the right, mining tin. The British established their settlement on the left in the late 1800's with the permission of the Chinese and trading between them flourished 
The Petronas Towers
The other special thing we did on Monday was take a trip up to the top of the Petronas Towers. It included a visit to the connecting corridor (known as Sky Bridge) at floor 41 that joins the two towers, made famous in the film Entrapment when Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones supposedly climbed the supporting tubes underneath and into the Sky Bridge. We then went up to the 86th floor (there’s two more floors above but only used for storage) for fabulous views of the other tower and the city at night. Jackie took a bit of persuading to go up, so I asked the girl selling the tickets to convince her. What did the trick was when she said I could go for half price as a senior citizen as I am over 55. A senior citizen! Me! Not possible!

In the park beneath the towers
In the park

Jackie in the Sky Bridge
Looking down at the bridge supports0

Sunset on the Sky Bridge
Tower 2 from tower 1
The tower with the KL tower in the background

Looking down
Looking down to the pop concert in the park far below
A silhouette of Jackie in front of the towers
There were celebrations the night before in Chinatown where we went for a meal in a main street where two men dressed up as a Chinese dragon were jumping about on poles about 8 feet up in the air in a very acrobatic fashion to very loud drums and cymbals in a typical Chinese way. We had a front seat view at the open air restaurant in a street lined with market stalls and loads of people watching the action not 10 feet from us. Not the place for a romantic dinner, but the Hong Kong steamed seabass was excellent even if we couldn’t talk to each other!

There's two blokes in there balanced on top of that pole!
The fish was good despite the crowds

The steps to the cave
Today has also been action packed (well for us in our new found laid back way!), we caught the train out to some nearby caves called the Batu Caves. The main cave, which is huge, contains a Hindu shrine (makes a change from the reclining Buddhas in the caves in Thailand!), is accessed by climbing about 270 steps and is guarded by a giant statue to Lord Murunga. It’s also guarded by a large number of monkeys (one of which grabbed a visitors camera, ripped out the memory card and chewed it! It’s a better story than of me just dropping mine to break it!), who are so adept at climbing rock inside the cave. We both watched in awe as these little chaps tackled the hardest routes, including overhangs, with absolute ease and without fear. It was just unbelievable what they could do and how I wish I could do even 10% of what they were doing!

The cave entrance
Inside the cave

One of those highly agile monkeys
Another view of the entrance

The view from the top of the stairs
The view back to KL and the twin towers
After getting back into KL centre we had lunch and then went to a cultural dance display at an open air theatre, which was a 45 minute display by 10 male and 6 female dancers in local costumes, performing about 10 different dances from various parts of the country which was magnificent, and all for free!

With fabulous and quite cheap food on every street corner (but mostly not serving alcohol), very friendly folk and a great feel about the place, it’s a great city! The added advantage is that they all speak English, some better than we do and everything is written in English (although I do like the way they have simplified the language, Taxi is Teksi, Central is Sentral, Restaurant is Restoran, National is Nasional plus lots of others, it’s really quite refreshing!). You must come, it’s great!

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