A cooking pot of culture

Trip Start Oct 19, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2011

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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

After a very short 40 minute flight we caught a bus to Kuala Lumpur Sentral. It took longer on the bus to get into the city than the flight!  It was a pleasant journey, passing uniformed rows and rows of palm trees and the occasional mosque.  Malaysia is renowned for its harmonised diverse religious beliefs where Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists live together and the architecture and food displays this mix beautifully.  Well before we entered KL we could see the imposing Petronas Towers towering over the city.  Lit up like two diamond encrusted needles shimmering in the night sky.

Our hotel was just a short walk from the bus terminal, again in a place known as 'Little India' – In KL the area is called Brickfields and is a wonderful array of Indian shops and chapatti houses with the odd Malaysian and Chinese restaurants thrown in for good measure.  There seems to be a large number of blind masseurs in the area and ‘super blind masseurs’ as well (not sure what the difference is or why being blind makes for a better massage, maybe it’s partially sighted and totally blind but still can’t work out how that is more effective than sighted massages).  The monorail station starts just in front of our hotel but doesn’t really cause any noise or problems for us and provides a good cheap transport system to all the main features of the city (it also provides a good shade from the searing sunshine when walking below in the streets).  What is not so good is the street stalls selling dorian fruit – this is a delicacy in Asia that Westerners find pungent and even the hotel has signs not permitting the fruit to be brought in!  It is kind of like a cross between a sweet fruit and smelly over ripe camembert cheese and overtakes all other smells in the street...

We were perfectly located, directly opposite our hotel is a Chapatti House which has become our favourite dining option.  You are given a couple of chapattis on a tray and you just serve yourself a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes to die for.  My favourites are the saag aloo, mutton curry and samosas all washed down with a mug of masala tea – I don’t like tea as a rule but this is a spiced milky tea we are both addicted to at the moment.  We have been here a week and have tried claypot biryani and banana leaf restaurants but we just keep coming back to this one.  We have been trying to eat in the traditional Indian manner using our right hand to break off a piece of chapatti and using it to scoop the food up which was challenging at first but we have got the hang of it now.

For the occasional change we have had some Malaysian Nasi Lamek (a mix of coconut rice, peanuts, anchovies, chicken and a spicy sauce) which is equally delicious and cheap and on Sunday, we even went to a restaurant that served a very British Sunday dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with all the trimmings followed by apple crumble and custard!  It was just like being in England until a big monkey came into the restaurant. Waffle had been looking forward to dining at the famous ‘The Coliseum Cafe & Hotel’ so we added that to our agenda as well.  This café was established in 1921 and has served delicious meals and drinks for 90 years. Nothing has changed in all that time – the decor is the same now as it has always been (shabby now but rich in history).  The hotel is still in use and generations of people have worked there all their lives with pride.  It’s a bit of old colonial Britain in the midst of a modern city and the sizzling steak in pepper sauce makes it a worthy visit.

(To our amusement, the seven-eleven shops sold a cold citrus drink called Kickapoo Joy Juice which we found to be quite refreshing – they even have a website www.kickapoojoy.com.my – great name for a drink we thought!)

So that’s the food, but what about the city?  We love it...there is still loads of shopping malls but the atmosphere is more relaxed than in Singapore and just feels like it is brimming with culture and history.  As we ambled through the streets we were transformed from India to China and then from Arab architecture to modern day city skyscrapers. There are large park areas as well which is a welcome change from the bustling streets.  KL also has the largest free-flying aviary in the world which covers over 20 acres and has over 5,000 birds – they like to do things big style here!

Which brings us to the largest twin towers in the world – The Petronas Towers (they used to be the largest buildings in the world until Taipei 101 was built in 2004). We had seen them right from the first day, popping up on the skyline every now and then but it isn’t until you are standing beneath them that you get a feel of the size and their beauty.  The exterior is constructed of glass and steel with 88 floors and by day the facade shimmers in the sun, by night it is beautifully lit up completely from tip to toe.  There is a shopping mall, theatre and an underwater aquarium at the bottom of the towers!  We popped into Malones at the base for drinks, Waffle had a couple of Newcastle Brown Ales, before heading off back to our hotel on the heaving monorail.  He had is feet stomped on a couple of times on there as the people just kept piling in so he wasn’t too overjoyed by the experience!

We are coming to the end of our Kuala Lumpur experience and have enjoyed it but after all the walking around the markets and streets we are setting off to Langkawi tomorrow, a set of 99 islands in the northern area of Kedah nicknamed ‘the rice bowl of Malaysia’ for a week in paradise to rest our aching legs...turquoise waters, white sands and tropical rainforests...
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