Published: July 14th 2010July 13th 2010
You know you are in Asia when the airplane door opens and a rush of hot humid air envelopes you. It's like opening an oven door, just on a much larger scale. Also that weird "Asia" smell. Can't describe it really, you just know it when you smell it.
After the cold of Melbourne in winter the warmth was a welcome relief. Having always hated the heat, it amazes me how a year in Australia has left me feeling cold in less than 20 degree weather.
Anyway, I touched down in KL early in the morning. Having been here on stopovers four times already, I knew my way around the airport, and how to get into the city. 8 Ringgit for the 1 hour bus. The 30 min/16 RM (€4) high speed train was well out of my budget!
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. The country was a British colony until 1957. The Brits seem to have been benevolent rulers. Malaysians absolutely love them. While they were control the British did what they do best colonially speaking: build great looking buildings and world class railways. Since independence the country has been a stable democracy; and has
boomed economically since the late 1980s. All in all, it seems a very outward looking, stable, happy country.
I spent three days in KL overall. Plenty of time to settle in and see everything there is on offer. The city itself is nothing like other Asian metropolises that spring to mind: Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong. It is smaller (population is roughly 2 million), greener, and cleaner than its more famous rivals. It doesn't have the swarming traffic that characterises most Asian cities. While busy, it moves at a more polite pace.
I based myself in Chinatown which is walking distance of the Colonial District, Little India, and is only a monorail stop away from the Golden Triangle (home of the Petronas Towers) and the nightlife area of Bukit Bintang. I spent most of my time wandering around these different areas, and predictably spent a significant proportion of my days pigging out on the Indian/Malaysian/Chinese cuisine on offer (especially the Indian!). At less than €1 a meal, it's hard not to.
A highlight of KL was my visit to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of the city. The caves contain a Hindu temple and are "protected"
by a huge statue of a Hindu god outside. The monkeys on the few hundred steps to the top were hilarious; they spent their time throwing rubbish at tourists and worshippers. I decided to heed Lonely Planet's warnings that they known for trying to rip the face of anyone who went near them. (Though LP is known to be overcautious to say the least...)
Besides the Batu Caves, the Petronas Towers were the highlight of my KL visit. Briefly the tallest buildings in the world, they have been overtaken by the Burj hotel in Dubai. Still they were stunning to look at at night and a marvel of engineering.
As I've said in my profile, I'm trying to stick to a €30 a day budget. I was doing really well in KL until the last night when I decided to go to bar with some backpackers I'd met. A pint in the bar cost €5, and well, I had a few. Also we noticed pretty early on that the ratio was 80/20 women, which does not happen on a regular basis in most countries.
We soon realised that most of the female clientele were members of the
world's oldest profession. Clearly I give off a potent sex starved/perverted look that screams sex tourist as I was the focus of most their attention. Being someone who is always polite to strangers I stupidly answered their questions and couldn't get rid of them. After a while they started the hard sell which involved mild sexual assault. I felt violated and the group decided to move on.
At this stage we were merry to say the least. One of the guys wanted to try durian, a fruit that smells and tastes like vomit mixed with hospital smell and avocado. I, in "I'm travelling I'll try anything once" mode stupidly ate it too. Result - allergic reaction manifesting itself in hundreds of red spots on my chest and back the next day which took a serious amount of antihistamines to get rid of!
Oh and despite my protestations and willpower, the night ended like many a broken drunk young Western backpacker's does - leading a group into KFC.... credit card in one hand, and soon, if the PIN is entered correctly, bucket of chicken in the other...
So much for the budget
There are more photos below