Getting High in Kuala Lumpur

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kuala Lumpur is a city that's nearly there but just not quite. Cosmetically the city offers everything you will need, however a city needs to be more than just skin deep.

KL has a metro, and a monorail and bus connections; but they just don’t seem to work together. The system is disjointed and needs careful planning to get round quickly – It lacks the thoroughness offered by Beijing and Hong Kong.

It has attractions all over the place. Their tourist guide is packed to the brim with bits and pieces; however it just seems to be working too hard at it. I will explain this further.

KL is great for yuppies and those with money, but it doesn’t offer the lower level budgeters with anything to sink their teeth into. The taxes on everything seem to mean you get stung at every corner – and not for anything special. Clubs and Bars are packed with older 'gentlemen’ with money and younger ‘women’ without. Not a city of class.

Kuala Lumpur is packed with a multi-cultural population which although not as smiley with tourists as the Thais, is happy within itself. The rest of the place hopefully I’ll get across within the remainder of the blog.

Walking down from Bukit Bintang we didn’t need much of a map to find our destination for most of the day. We were heading to the KLCC (both labeled as Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre depending on where you look) to string together a few attractions without having to rely on the light-rail to eat up our day.

We arrived at the KLCC Park and walked along the jogging route around the nicely landscaped gardens. Surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers, new and old, the park in October not busy but loud from all the ongoing construction. In the North-west corner of the park is the iconic structure of KL, the once tallest building(s) in the world; The Petronas Towers. Not able to go up to the skybridge half way up the building (made famous on the big screen by Entrapment starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones) because of maintenance, we would be taking to another observation tower later to enjoy the views. Under the Petronas Towers is the Suria Mall and where we would spend some of the day. First stop the Petronas Art Gallery (Free!).

And Closed.

Second planned stop, the Petrosains exhibition space. This place is described a bit like a science museum and it sounded like something we would enjoy. When we approached the doors on the 4th floor of the Mall the sight quickly made us backtrack and rethink. The amount of schoolchildren whooping and hollering could not allow us to enter. We turned back, grabbed a sandwich and headed towards one of our back-up plans – Aquaria.

Aquaria is a reasonably expensive attraction for backpackers (45 Ringgit – 9-10 pound each) but it is a good aquarium. We were lucky enough to lose a school group quickly after entrance and the place wasn’t too busy. I touched a Tiger Shark in a touch pool (it was only a little one) and Kate also got her hands wet on a crab, a starfish and some other fishy wonder. An enclosure provided plenty of amusement for 20 minutes as it held 8 squabbling water otters all fighting like children. One of the otters was completely distracted by the fun a stone can offer, while the others just seemed determined to bite each other’s feet for no other reason that they could.

This highlighted that the aquarium is not just an aquarium. A short walk opens up a corridor of spiders, reptiles and the bear type creature from South America that seemed amazingly out of place. It was as if they had an enclosure and nothing to put into it and so dragged this poor animal off the streets and popped it next to a shark. Very well presented either way. Bright colourful information. Easy to enjoy.

The typical glass tunnel for enjoying ‘the inside of a fishbowl’ feeling was 90m long, and had a nice slow travellator to propel you round (which didn’t stop some people from walking to right behind us and then just standing there millimeters away although the tunnel was as good as empty). Good to waste a bit of time, nicely positioned within a mall this is recommended to bring a break to the day. It kept Kate happy.

When the rain had cleared outside we stepped outside the front of the Petronas and walked down towards the Malaysia Tourist Centre (MATIC), which provides all sorts of touristy bits and pieces for organising your trip to this country. One of the things the centre offers is a cultural performance everyday at 3pm costing 5 ringgit each. We thought it worth the gamble of a pound each. While waiting for the show to start we had a look around the MATIC Art Gallery; filled with some KL abstract artist.
We were both thoroughly unimpressed with how abstract artists knock out 40-50 crap paintings in a short amount of time and then expect high values for each of their childish scribblings. Modern Art.

The Cultural Show. Bonus of an extreme kind. Excellent. Very well choreographed, the show started with a couple of short videos which were essentially adverts for Malaysia, "It’s Truly Asia", backed by a terribly repetitive catchy song from the Malaysia tourist board. Good tacky stuff though.

The show itself was narrated very well explaining each of the dances, flowed quickly from one dance to the next almost seamlessly, and involved about 15-20 dancers who appeared to be really enjoying themselves. All the dances were vibrant and lively and packed with fun. Thinking about it now, it was one of our best cultural performance shows in SE Asia we had seen, and one of the only ones we went out on our own and found (most are included in tours and what not).

After chilling back at the hostel for a bit we headed out to KL Tower at 7pm. KL Tower is a communications tower (4th tallest in the world) offering unobscured views over the City from 250+m up. The basic package ticket gives you access to the tower and ‘a cultural experience’ both included in the ticket price. They do not sell the observation tower on its own. The ticket costs 45 Ringgit and is expensive as far as attractions goes. If you ever go to KL, which most people probably will at some point – please, oh please, I beg you – DO NOT GO HERE. Do not fill this company’s already packed pockets with more undeserving money. If you are a backpacker, DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER CONSIDERING GOING HERE. You do not have enough money to waste it going here.

Why? Firstly, we were both in a bad mood from the outset which couldn’t help.

Kate was in a bit of a mood as she hadn’t been fed yet. She’s a little like a gremlin in that respect. Stick to the rules and everything’s ok, don’t feed after midnight etc. But on top of this, in trying to hand over our tickets to go up the lift, a man with a camera told me to wait. I asked why, and he replied that everyone had to have their picture taken (to enable them to sell us photos); I replied that I didn’t want a photo; he said every guest had to do it. I said No and we walked past him. Small victory. What idiot pays silly money for a photo against a green screen – it costs more than actually going up the tower!

My ears popped twice going up the lift. We were given our headsets on exit from the lift by a miserable woman who hated her job. Ironically one of the first things said on the headset is ‘”We hope you feel welcome by our wonderful smiling staff”. Yeah right, sod off.

You couldn’t see anything, the headsets were worthless. Not because it was dark (which it was), but because the observation tower is badly planned. They have placed money grabbing stalls all around the inner ring of the observation deck whose lights reflect horribly on the outer windows. The windows are also surrounded often by thick window frames (bad planning) which obscure the view further.

The only view worth seeing has a camera man permanently set up plying his trade, insisting you get out of the way whenever he has a customer. This is the view of the Petronas Towers. They look fantastic from up here – but my guess is they look better from the park at night, by the fountains in front of the towers. From here all I get is glare, and anger.

We decide to enjoy our ‘Cultural attraction’ and then go back to the towers. The cultural attraction is the biggest con of everything. They throw it onto the ticket ‘package’ to enable them to charge high prices. It’s a joke. The F1 experience package includes a 3 minute simulator which on the advert shows you sitting in a F1 car on a simulator. In reality, it’s a bank of consoles which you would expect to see in a bowling alley arcade with a simulator game that a Sega Mastersystem wouldn’t be proud of. 3 minutes into my drive, I overtake into first place, the attendant steps up and states “You are number 1” and then pulls the plug. Shocking. Disgraceful. For the record, this is the only attraction to date I have felt compelled to both write to the company and write a tripadvisor report about as I am so angry about it.

When we had cooled off we walked back to the Suria centre for a quick Mccy D’s before going outside to enjoy the fountains. Outside up close, the view is better, we were both less angry and we felt a lot better about KL. KL isn’t rip off attractions, it is better than that. But it’s not much more than that either.

The Petronas Towers sum up KL. They look great. They are brightly lit and they stand proud and iconic. They are under maintenance.
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