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Published: November 12th 2008
KL is hot!
Today the sweat drips down my everything as I sit under two fans. Damn.
Kuala Lumpur is a confusing city. This isn't helped by poor directions to hostels, but that aside the real problem with the city itself is the lack of a codefied identity. First impressions bring to mind Spain, Turkey, and any number of places. There is no real sense of individuality as a city.
It is a cocktail of a place. The population is a mixture of Chinese, Indian and Malay. This is reflected in the foods and sounds of the city. A visit to the National Museum taught us how the three races have successfully cooperated together to rid themselves of several varieties of imperial rule. That's great, and I love multi culturalism, but it seems like KL's character doesn't show any sense of the nationalism that has been such a success story.
Having said that, it's a great place.
The streets are amazingly busy and ferociously loud 24/7. Crossing the road is a game of chicken. Just like in South America, taxi drivers slow down and beep at every tourist. Also like South America, the pollution is choking,
and ths smells from the open drains can be as oppressive as the heat.
But the people are the most social we have met. Wander around looking lost for five minutes and someone will come and ask you, in English, if you need help. Walk down the street and people will practice their English on you (in a nice way).
It's also cheap. A room for the night is about 10RN (about 1.80 sterling). A good meal can be had for less than 5RN and busses from KL to anywhere in the country work out at under 5RN an hour.
Artractions can be much more expensive though.
The beautiful Lake Gardens area to the South features several days worth of activities. The butterfly park (18RN) is full of fist sized flying leaves and bright colours, and the bird park (59RN) has the largest walk-through aviary in the world, and thousands of exotic birds. The National Museum (2RN) is also well worth a visit if only for the very welcome air conditioning.
Also within the gardens is a deer park, an orchid and an hibiscus garden, a planetarium which we spent all day walking to in
angry heat only to find it closed on Mondays, a museum of police, a mosque and a museum of Islamic art, and more. Monkeys swing about on the side of the road for tourists to photograph and feed.
The rest of the city is not without its sites either. The twin towers of Petronas, previously the tallest buildings in the world, stand in the 'Golden Triangle' area of tower blocks, shadowing shifty men trying to sell expensive watches. You can go up to the 42nd floor of the towers, for free, and stand on the suspended walkway there, but it is less interesting than it sounds.
KL communications tower is visible from our hostel window, and can be climbed for 20RN if you can justify the expense. Next year it will be home to the highest bungee-jump in the world.
The food in town is great. Many backpackers find themselves bedding down in Little India, just next to Chinatown, where all kinds of suspiciously fishy snacks and meals can be purchased for next to nothing. The Central Market, just around the corner, features a food hall with a variety of asian menus mostly for around 5RN a
For the more cultured diner, there's a Subway in town. There's also a Nando's, Marks and Spencer and about seventeen billion 7-11 stores. You can buy cups full of more sweetcorn than you have ever eaten at any one time, and ice-cream sticks featuring "black gluninous rice" grains. Strange, but ncie. A huge Mall by the KLCC subway station homes every designer label you can think of, at designer prices. A mall down the street features an actual rollercoaster (38RN) inside it. Now that is ridiculous.
Apparently there is an aquarium somewhere, but the 38RN price is a real turn-off. It's strange how expensive it is to do thing compared with the cost of living. Bear in minds that a worker in 7-11 gets 5RN an hour.
Water is also a hole for money. 1.5 litres costs 2-2.50RN, but you need three bottles a day. It's best to come prepared for the taste of Iodine and purify the tapwater lest you find yourself 900RN out of pocket at the end of your trip.
The next part of our journey is up for debate, but a few more days exploring the surroundings of KL is a
There's so much to do here that you may never want to leave, but bear in mind that extensive touring of the area may well have you flying back to KL several times as it is a great budget flight destination (a one-way ticket to Manila, The Philipines, is 70$US).
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