TOUCH DOWN IN KUALA LUMPUR
Recently I have had the opportunity to visit Kuala Lumpur for a few days. Air Asia has been offering some rather cheap airfares, and because they’re based in Malaysia, it made sense to check out the city and break up the journey.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the recently opened KLIA2 terminal. Unlike the old budget carrier terminal, where it was required to walk along the tarmac, KLIA2 has many sky ways and passengers can now walk directly into the terminal. Malaysia does not have arriving (or departing) cards or forms to be filled in; however they do take a scan of your fingerprints.
99 in the park with the Petronas Twin Towers in the background
Another benefit of the new terminal is there is a train station there that connects directly into the city proper. The airport is some way out from the main CBD, but at just 35 Ringgit the 28 minute fast train is the way to go. Once at KL Sentral station, it is possible to then catch a train onto your final destination. I needed to exit the express train system and then buy another ticket. The Express train even has free Wi-Fi, which is great news as I needed my internet hit after a long haul flight.
I printed out a copy of the rail system before I left home and it came in handy. All the signs are in English and it is easy to navigate throughout KL on the trains.
To get to my hotel I needed to catch a monorail. If it were the 80s I would have thought I was so futuristic, but being 2014 it was a bit ‘meh’ it only had 2 carriages and got very packed around peak time. It seems that the passengers are a little ‘reserved’ for want of a better word. On one occasion I came up onto the platform and there was a train sitting at the station, but no one was getting on. It was quite packed, but still plenty of room on it. I was not quite sure if I was allowed to get on or not and perhaps there was a station master guiding people, but hopped on anyway. Everyone seemed to congregate near the doorway, and after squeezing past some people there was plenty of room. After me, several other foreigners came aboard as well. The price is very economical for the trains and monorail. It was only two and a half Ringgit (85 cents) for the monorail.
The Monorail was only 2 and a half Ringgit
For the next few days the monorail was my link to the rest of KL. I walked a few places, but the monorail plugged me straight into where ever I wanted to go, or at least took me to the Sentral railway line to continue my journey.
If you were to ask me if I liked KL it would be hard to answer. I ‘sort of’ liked it, but it wasn’t too special. I was glad I only had three days there as I would have been struggling to find things to do. The city was fine, it was mostly clean and seemed to function well, but there wasn’t any spark. Malaysia is primarily a Muslim country and I just don’t think I had much in common with the population. Everyone was cordial and polite, but I did not feel that warm, welcoming feeling I have experienced in other areas of Asia and always felt like I was the outsider (which I was I guess)
I found the hotel I was at around 11:30AM. I had been awake since 2:30AM to catch my flight and was feeling a little tired but not too bad. I settled into to the hotel and had a shower and then ventured out to fill in the rest of my day. The agenda for the day was to check out the Petronas towers. The towers, which were the tallest in the world for a brief period, are hard to miss, and can be seen all around the city. I had planned my route on google maps and also downloaded a navigation app on the iPhone which allows me to use GPS without having to have a local SIM card in the phone. While I could see the towers, it was important to plan the route as there was a large canal between us that I would need to go around.
The Petronas Twin Towers could be seen from everywhere I went
The architectural marvel was getting bigger and bigger every block I passed. It was an interesting walk as I looked around and soaked in the culture of the city. I walked through a wet market that took up the entire street with a large tarp over the top. It was on the same street as my hotel in Chow Kit and was the largest in KL. It felt like I was walking into the abyss walking through there as it swallowed me up. I have been to many markets in Asia and what made this one different were the patterns they made out of the vegetables and fruit. Chillies were arranged on plates and other vegetables in patterns and were very artistic. It was almost as if the most artistic vendor got to sell more (and perhaps that was the case). They had the usual seafood, meat and poultry, but what also stood out were the animal heads. Just looking around I noticed the head of a cow, no refrigeration and flies buzzing about. Not something you see every day. I didn’t see many tourists in the markets and it is quite cramped and busy. I was on a mission to get to the towers, so walked through, more for the experience than to purchase anything.
GPS on mobile has got to be one of the best inventions for travellers. I navigated myself through the streets and could tell I was close as the Petronas Towers, well, towered above me. I took photos as I got closer and closer and then I turned a corner and was there. Bang. It was in your face and I needed to crane my neck up to see the top. There were about twenty or so tourists at different parts of the entrance way all taking some pictures. So I join them and take some shots from different vantage points.
99 at the base of the Petronas Twin Towers
The sky bridge between the two towers is 170 metres above street level and it is possible for visitors to go up and get a great view of the city. I attempted to find the entrance to the sky bridge look out, but failed. The bottom few levels of the tower is a mall and peoples directions were not that good, so I gave up. For $30 it was a bit steep, especially when there the KL tower is half the price and is actually higher than the sky bridge. I was not very worried, and really would have looked harder if I was keen but I was happy just to walk around. Through the mall I emerged on the other side of the towers which is a large park. It is well kept and has a kiddy pool for the young kids to play in as well as many trees and park benches to sit down and marvel at this great piece of engineering.
The park was quite nice and was approached by a gentleman, who I though was asking me to take his picture, but when I got closer he tried to sell me a Samsung phone. I chuckled and said ‘no’, but I was reassured it was ‘good price’ as I walked away. Sorry fella, I don’t think I am buying a phone from a guy in the park.
At the base of the towers, near the entrance to the towers is a few al fresco restaurant/bars and notice it was happy hour. I was dead on my feet by this stage and decided to stop off for a beer and reflect on the day gone by. A pint of Tiger beer was $6. It was an interesting introduction to the city and was good to see a part of the world I have never visited before. Off to Batu caves tomorrow.