Phuket to Kuala Lumpur - home of the Umpa Lumpurs

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 27, 2008

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On the 20th November, with shocking hangovers in tow, we finally left Thailand and the Marriott hotel.  This time there was no option to extend our stay there as a) we had the flights booked already and b) we could not afford it as 10 days in the Marriott had cost more than 6 months in Asia. 

KL was an exciting prospect for me (Pat) as I had always wanted to see the famous Petronas Towers, and they did not disappoint.  They are not the biggest buildings in the world (although they are now the tallest twin towers in the world), but they are a very impressive piece of engineering and architecture.  They dominate the whole KL skyline and everything seems to centre around the towers.  The building is actually the HQ of Petronas, the Malaysian oil company, and visitors are limited as to where they can and cannot go. Around the towers there is a huge shopping centre (what is it with Asia and shopping centres!?!), a concert hall, an aquarium, restaurants, bars, exhibition halls, cinema, park, playgrounds, galleries....everything.  The whole 'Petronas' complex is huge.  So, after spending the morning getting our bearings, we ventured out and basically spent two days in and around the towers.

KL was a pleasant surprise for both of us. Although the other S.E Asian countries we had visited were all unique there was also a feeling of 'same same' in a lot of the places.  All the people are indigenous of that region and religion is common through out, so therefore much of the architecture is quite similar.  However, you get to KL and immediately you feel like you have stepped out of S. E. Asia.  For starters there is a hotch pot of cultures - large Indian, Chinese, and Malay groups;  Islam is the predominant religion so you hear the morning calls to prayers that we had not heard since Turkey.  It definitely feels completely different to the rest of Asia - and that we both liked as it brought with it a sense of freshness.

On the third day there we visited the sky bridge that spans the towers.  Apparently the bridge is 170m above the ground and offers superb views of KL and a close up view of the towers.  Best bit is that the bridge is free to go up to; they limit the number of daily tickets and they are dished out on a first come first served basis. You go in a morning, collect your ticket with allocated time slot and that is it.  Nice and simple. 
Following the visit to the bridge we went to the nearby aquarium and spent the day marveling at all the various nasties that allegedly lived in all the places we had just visited and looked on in horror at all the nasties that exist in countries we were about to visit.

We happened to be in Malaysia during the 50th anniversary year of independence, so there were lots of unique things going on.  One of these was the 'Anniversary Wheel' that looked like it was modelled on the Millennium wheel in London, except they obviously ran out of metal at about 4 metres high.  Adverts for the wheel were all over KL with promises of 'spectacular' views - views of what we are not sure as the wheel was located in a park about half an hour out of  the city centre and the trees in the park were higher than the wheel.  But, by going there we saw signs for the Hong Kong Theatre production of Peter Pan The Musical!! How exciting?  Erm no, as it was the worst thing we have ever had the displeasure of seeing.  Imagine the story of Peter Pan to music that was clearly ripped straight from the Lion King soundtrack.  It was awful.  It hit an all time low when Captain Hook started rapping minutes after the pirates had just done a number that was clearly 'hakuna matata' with different words.  It was actually so bad it was funny. The bit that we didn't get was that the whole theatre erupted at the end and they got a standing ovation.  Oh well - one to laugh about and not tell the grandkids.

Having not learnt our lesson we decided to go for a bit of culture the following evening at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra that played in the Petronas Towers.  Neither of us are classical music fans but the chance to go and see something here was too good an opportunity to miss out on.  When we booked the tickets they did inform us that there was a dress code and that flip flops or sandals are not acceptable and a jacket must be worn.  I told them that I was a backpacker and that black dress shoes and jacket didn't make it into my list of essential items. However, they did tell me that they had a service where people could loan a jacket from them.  So, that evening, back at the hostel we got ready.  Nic looked stunning.  God knows how she does it but even with a rucksack full of casual clothes she still managed to look great.  Me?  That is a different story.  I put on my 'smartest' clothes which consisted of a pair of flip flops (knowing I could loan a pair of shoes at the towers), a pair of green trousers that I had made in Vietnam and should have thrown away a long time ago.  They are horrid.  They look like two pieces of hessian sacks stitched together. Anyway, they were the smartest thing I had, so with a plain cream shirt and these trousers I looked as smart as I was ever going to look.  So off to the towers we went and straight to the 'tramps who can't afford decent clothes' counter where I was issued with a jacket and a pair of shoes.  It was hilarious!!! The shoes were a nice pair of black slip-ons that wouldn't have looked out of place on Don Johnson in Miami Vice. These with my green trousers that are in fact too short looked a million Vietnamese Dong (which is approx 14 pence from what I can remember).  Then the jacket.  I had to tuck in my shirt which is never a good look, and then try on the jacket.  Due to my 'unique' shape, i.e broad shoulders and Mr Tickle length arms, the jacket looked amazing as you can imagine. Asian men are obviously a step further up from Neanderthal man than me so needless to say it did not fit. If anyone can create an image of how a Microsoft employee from Bangalore may look, then this was how I looked.  The best about it all was that as I walked into the foyer (Nic unsurprisingly was several steps behind me) there were several other men in the same predicament.  Anyways. it made for a very very entertaining night and one that we enjoyed thoroughly. (Oh, and the music was excellent).

On our last day we had the fortune to go and see the Malaysian A1 Grand Prix at the famous Sepang Circuit.  Several people told me it wasn't as good as F1 but even still it was fantastic.  I had never been to anything like this before so was very excited. As it was the A1 and not the F1, it was nowhere near as busy as you would expect, so this meant we could get pretty close up to all the action and move around the stands to catch the best action.  It wasn't long before it was underway, with team GB on the front line.  I have heard about the noise of these races, but I don't think anything prepares you for just how loud this is.  Unbelievable!!! What a feeling it must be to drive one of those cars.  I made a promise there and then that when I grow up I will be a racing car driver.  All in all, this was a top day out.  Team GB finished something like 20th and everyone was very disappointed as the local hero from Team Malaysia finished second to last.

So in total we spent 6 days in Kuala Lumpur and loved every minute.  The only downside was that after 10 days in luxury at the Marriott we found we couldn't adjust back to hostels and sleeping in dorms, so for the whole time we were there we didn't get a wink of sleep.  That's what happens when you lord it up. 
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