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Published: June 28th 2008
It was quite surprising to us how a full-length recliner and little personal TV screen could cause 6 hours to fly by
. Somewhere between VCDs and sleep, we gazed out on lush, verdant Malaysia with a mixture of delight and anticipation. But all too soon, the ride was over and we found ourselves unceremoniously ejected on to the pavement outside Puduraya Bus station in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Without the foggiest idea of where to go or where we'd sleep, we asked the first 'touristy' couple we saw. "Well, that way is Chinatown and that way is Times Square", one replied. Our budget made the decision and we struck off in the direction of Chinatown. After a few false starts, we landed a clean and comfortable room at Grocer's Inn.
With its iconic Islamic structures, ultra-modern overhead light rails, all the hustle, bustle and noise of an Asian city, the pleasant confusion of multiple languages and dialects and vernaculars, - Kuala Lumpur sizzled
. Our part of the city was a constant hive of activity with knock-off merchants, roadside vendors and eateries, Chinese hawkers and vibrant night-markets. Although not big fans of big cities, we found ourselves falling for KL's
sticky days and cool nights, the energy and vibe. The ambiance was an uncommon fusion of the traditional and the modern - the kind of place where glass-and-steel high-rises dwarfed and shadowed Chinese temples and where rice-and-noodle shacks paled in comparison to malls so huge that they contained roller-coasters and other thrill rides. Of particular interest to us were two gleaming stainless steel phallic structures that loomed over the city. Formerly the world's tallest structures (and now, the world's tallest 'twin' towers), the 1483 ft (452 meters)-high Petronas Towers are architectural and technological marvels. Identical in every visible regard, the two towers were actually built by different contractors of different nationalities. Japanese built Tower 1 and South Koreans built Tower 2. A ‘skybridge’, at floors 41 & 42, connects the two towers and a free visit is allowed. The 1200 free daily tickets were all distributed by 8:00 am. Some 'lucky'
visitors had been in line since 5 am. We tried on day 2, showing up at 7 am, and, as fate would have it, we got entry chits. Now, suspended 170 meters (557 feet) above the city and overlooking the spectacular KLCC Park, we had to admit that it
was worth the wait. The only disappointing thing was that since we were in
the Petronas Towers, we couldn't see
the Petronas Towers.
Another impressive structure, but one created by nature, was the Batu Caves. Probably the most sacred places for Hindus in Malaysia, the limestone cavities, situated at the top of 270 steps, are 400 meters (1361 feet) long and 100 meters (328 feet) high in places. Monkeys, that may or may not let you pass undisturbed, guard the entrance. Once a year, the Thaipusam festival is celebrated at the caves. During the festival, devotees are known to pierce their skin, tongues and cheeks with metal hooks and skewers and drag unbelievably heavy items suspended only by folds of skin. An awesome 42.7m (130 feet high) gold statute of Lord Muruga, a Hindu god, overlooks the square at the foot of the stairs. A few more caves and statues complete the religious site.
Most of our few days in KL were spent strolling thru delightful alleys and markets, visiting nature parks and devouring Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. But, as much as we were totally enjoying eating, sightseeing and living KL's vibe, this section of the trip
was only a stopover. With about 45 minutes to spare, we arrived at the swanky KL airport only to find out that our airline was leaving from the 'Low-Cost Carrier' (cheap) terminal that just happened to be about 20 km away. A dodgy taxi driver over-charged us and drove like a man possessed depositing us safely (thank God) at check-in. The flight took to air on time. 2 AM. We'd wake up in Manila, Philippines.
😊 The good folks at Grocer's Inn
😊 Pheling for being such a nice friend
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