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Published: October 19th 2014
View from the park behind the towers, not far from my hotel.
Currently we are running a major project with our office in Kuala Lumpur, which means that I have been travelling back and forth between there and Singapore quite a bit during the months of September and October. When a workshop was scheduled for a Monday, I decided to spend the weekend before the Monday there to explore the city a bit. Until then, all I had seen of the city had been the airport, a few different offices, a few hotels, and the Central Train Station.
I arrived in KL on Saturday afternoon. My colleague Tishal from KL had recommended a hotel not far from the famous Petronas Towers and this proved to be a very good choice. I only had to cross a pedestrian bridge and then I was in the park surrounding the towers. They are 452 metres tall and the tallest twin towers in the world. Their silvery coating makes them shine in the sun during daytime and at night they are illuminated glossily. I had a quick lunch there and then went on a hop on hop off bus tour to learn a little bit more about the city.
The city is still quite young,
Menara KL Tower
Seventh largest TV tower in the world. BASE jumping event going on there while I was there, very cool!
it only dates from the 1850s. The city itself has 1.6 million inhabitants, the greater KL region more around 7 million. It is the seat of Malaysian Parliament and the seat of the king, however, executive and judiciary power is located in the city of Putrajaya. KL is located at the confluence of two rivers, Gombak and Klang, and the name means “muddy confluence”. It was founded by Raja Abdullah for tin prospectors and turned into a thriving tin mine in spite of the fact that quite a few of them were killed by diseases. The thriving mine attracted merchants and thus the rise of the city started. The city has grown without any central planning, which results in not well-developed public transport and traffic being a nightmare. My colleague Sharma told me that there would be no way for him to get to the office by public transport because there are not bus or train stations near his house. So you definitely need a car. This again is screamingly expensive because taxes amount to as much as 300 percent of the car’s value. It becomes even more expensive as all bigger roads are toll roads. The concept had originally
Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens II
Nice arrangements with flowers, with the lake and fountains in the background.
been that private companies build the roads and then charge for the use until the roads pay themselves off, but apparently they keep on charging the drivers even after that. To my knowledge government is rather corrupt and would not stop this. Even if you have enough money for all of this travelling on the roads is still a nightmare. I have not experience a single journey in which we were not stuck in a traffic jam. And this happens in spite of using an app that tells you where the jams are. It is actually quite a smart app because when many people use it, it will calculate where congestions are likely to emerge and will direct you to another route, also taking into consideration where everyone else is diverted to. In spite of that, traffic is just a nightmare in the city.
Anyway. My hop on hop off bus tour was the worst of its kind that I had ever done because there were no ear phones, so it was hard to understand what was being said (OF COURSE there were people around me who could not shut up even for a little while), the guide would
Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens II
Bridge and flowers, looks almost like a Baroque park!
sometimes simply interrupt in the middle of the talk to announce in a completely non-understandable way what the next stop would be and what one could do there, and last but not least the air con did not work so that it was very hot in the bus. But still, I learned a little bit about the city and got a first impression. The tour took me past the Menara Kuala Lumpur, the seventh highest TV tower in the world. Then we went past City Walk and Convention Centre to Bintang Walk, one of the flashed shopping miles of the city. In Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia I’ve got the feeling that all free time revolves around shopping. At times this tends to drive me a bit mad – those of you who know me also know that I am not a fond shopper. I rather learn something about culture and people. Well, I guess shopping is just part of the culture here. So there I was, riding past all the designer shops in KL on my bus tour. Next we went through Chinatown, past art nouveau style Central Market, Little India, and to KL Sentral. This is the central train
Kuala Lumpur Bird Park I
The largest walk-in aviary in the world.
station where the airport express to the two KL main airports departs – to KLIA (the older of the two) and KLIA 2 (the newer one). Our Malaysian partners hosted a client event in a hotel there in early September, where my colleague John and I were also invited to speak. So I had already been there. Next we went past the National Museum into the KL Green Belt, in which there is the National Palace, the National Monument, and Parliament Building. There are also a few parks and gardens, including Lake Gardens, Botanical Gardens, Bird Park, Butterfly Park, Orchid Garden, and Hibiscus Garden. Once we passed the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) we got back into the city, passed the Palace of Culture, National Visual Arts Gallery, and National Library. Originally my plan had been to get off the bus at Petronas Towers, but as it was raining heavily, I stayed on the bus and did not get off until we arrived back in Chinatown.
Chinatown KL is best known for the shopping area Petaling Street. You can get all kinds of fake products there, I am sure there is something from every designer brand. Also you can buy
Chinese herbs and all kinds of food. I am sure with a bit of bargaining you can get really good deals at the stalls that are packed close to each other and that offer almost everything you can think of. However, I did not spend too much time there. I usually like browsing a shop. Once I have someone at my heels trying to sell me something I get really uncomfortable. So I continued to Central Market. It opened in the late 19th century as an open wet market and later a permanent structure was built. Today you can buy art and handicraft products there. But as I said, I am not a great shopper, so I just took a look and then caught a train back to Petronas Towers, had dinner there and watched the coloured trick fountains that follow different choreographies with different kinds of music.
The next morning I went for a swim in the hotel pool with the view of the Petronas Towers. It was still early and I had it all to myself, very cool! Then I caught a train back to Central Market, from where I was intending to walk to the National
Mosque. This turned out to be a challenge. Often you can see the place that you want to go to, but there is no road that leads there or the road is impossible to cross. So accidentally I ended up in the historic railway station. It was built in 1910 to replace an older railway station from the late 19th century and was designed in “Neo-Moorish/Mughal/Indo-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic” (as Wikipedia puts it) by a British architect. It is still in use today, with some of the commuter trains and trains transporting good through it, but long distance trains and the airport express go to newer KL Sentral station, just a kilometre away.
I finally found my way to the National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara), built in 1965. Islam is the national religion in Malaysia, and accordingly the mosque is huge and can host up to 15,000 people. It consists of a central prayer room and several other rooms that can be used e.g. for teaching. Its roof is a 16-pointed star and resembles an open umbrella, its minaret is 73 metres tall, resembling a folded umbrella. Don’t forget, we are in the tropics! Accordingly, in the main hall there are
The National Mosque of Malaysia.
fountains and everything is big and open. As a visitor you have of course take your shoes off (as always in mosques), but also you are given a cloak with a hood. That way an interesting experience, I felt almost like a nun.
Afterwards I walked to Bird Park, which is the largest walk-in aviary in the world. There are many different kinds of birds and they just walk between the human visitors as if they were normal pedestrians. Very funny. However, although the entire aviary is a walk-in concept, there are still smaller aviaries within that one cannot walk into. Particularly for the birds of prey there are small ones and I have to say at the end of the day the birds are not so much different from the ones I have seen in other zoos or parks, and I always feel sorry for them if they are captive because birds are supposed to fly (at least the majority of them). But still, I also have to admit that the aviary is quite impressive, taking its sheer size into account.
Afterwards I walked into the beautiful Lake Gardens. As the name says, it is a park
Katha in Masjid Negara
... wearing the obligatory cloak with hood.
arranged around a central lake that has huge fountains in it. In most areas of the park I was almost by myself and enjoyed the lush greenery, arrangement of flowers and plants, and the quiet and peaceful atmosphere. But it was not surprise that there were not many other people out there in the heat of the early afternoon! Anyway, after walking around the lake I caught the hop on hop off bus (the ticket is valid for 24 hours, quite convenient) back to the KL Tower. Originally my plan had been to have a late lunch up there, but when I got there it turned out that there was some BASE jumping event going on. It was, as I found out, a four day fun event. One guy I talked to told me that he was trying to do 100 jumps within these four days. Wow!
I bought a ticket and caught the lift up to the outdoor viewing platform. One floor below the organisers had arranged a chute packing area for the BASE jumpers. On the outdoor observation deck itself they had set up a platform from which people could jump. This was one way of getting
Kuala Lumpur Railway Station
The old railway station from 1910, “Neo-Moorish/Mughal/Indo-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic” style.
off the tower, and the way most BASE jumpers did it. However, there was also a kind of crane above the observation deck with an outrigger to which two ropes were tied. Some of the BASE jumpers held on to the rope, swung outwards, and then let go. Crazy! I also found that the landing spot at the bottom of the tower was quite tiny. And some of the real dare devils did not even use this small grass field, but rather flew past a few palm trees and landed on the road just beneath the tower entrance. It was narrow, with a wall on the one and a fence on the other side, and short. Any miscalculation and they would inevitably end up in the car park or in a palm tree. But while I was watching everything went alright. It was great to see that amongst the jumpers there were also a few girls. The motto of it was “Eat, sleep, BASE jump, repeat”. There is an official video (from www.n2nstudio.tv):
Late in the afternoon I went back to my hotel to pick up my luggage and caught a taxi to my hotel in Subang,
Railway Admministration Building
... just on the other side of the street from KL Railway Station.
near our client’s offices, where my workshop would take place the next day. I had dinner there and then still needed some time for some final preparations for the workshop. I flew back to Singapore late on Monday night, after the workshop. Great weekend and nice to finally get to see more of the city than airport, hotels, and offices!
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