Buzzing to be in KL

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Step Inn Guest House

Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Friday, July 22, 2011

We left early to catch our bus from the Cameron Highlands to KL, dreading the long journey in yet another bouncy minibus. However we had heard that once you're out of the Cameron Highlands and onto the highway, the roads were quite straight so it's not as bad as some of the other journeys around Malaysia. Just a few minutes later than expected our bus arrived and it was a proper bus! Not a minibus, a massive proper bus with big comfy reclining seats and everything. It was so exciting, I know this isn't something that should be exciting but after the other journeys this was proper luxury... We could sleep and everything! KL was off to a good start and we hadn't even got there yet.

We were on the same bus as one of the Sarah's we had met in the Cameron highlands and this was her second visit to KL so she kindly offered to show us around and we stayed at the guest house she had previously stayed at... we've found it's definitely good to go on recommendation where possible. The guest house itself was nothing particularly amazing (free coffee aside) but the people running it are fantastic and really help you to make the most of your time in KL. By the time we had checked in were equipped with a map and a list of to-do's for our time in the city. 

 We followed Sarah and went to explore Chinatown and the many many shops in Central market where we were tempted to buy everything in sight. Everything is so cheap (similar to Thailand) and you just want to buy loads of fake designer stuff. It's probably a good thing our bags are so full already because it definitely curbed our spending. KL is busy and there are the usual market stall people chasing you down the street but somehow it's a bit more civilised than similar markets in Thailand.... I guess nothing will ever compare to Khao San road! One of the coolest things we did was to visit a really old Chinese tea shop which Sarah introduced us to and we trialled Malaysian coffee and jazzy Chinese tea's. 

In the evening we met up with the other Sarah we had met in the Cameron Highlands (We'll call her Scarborough Sarah) and we all went for dinner in Bukit Bintang. This is a very busy area with some posh hotels and loads of restaurants, unfortunately not really on the backpackers list as it was all a bit pricey so we found a local Indian restaurant called Cafe UK Asia (The name sounded a bit dodgy but everywhere else was so expensive and this looked pretty good). The restaurant served really nice cheap Indian food and served enormous portions so was a good find although it seems they sell the hottest Korma in the world. Scarborough Sarah had said she doesn't like spicy food so would order a chicken Korma, and I have never seen anyone suffer so much and have their mouth so on fire from eating a chicken Korma. Fortunately they had given her about 5 people's portions worth of rice to dilute some of the spice but still she went very red in the face. 

We all wanted to see the city's pin-up, the Petronas towers all lit up at night, so caught the monorail to Bukit Nanas (where I saw my first ever Malaysian man with ginger, grey and black hair all at the same time..... I do have photographic evidence by the way) and walked towards the twin towers past the Malaysian tourism centre. Along the way a car drove past me and someone threw a cigarette out the window. It came bouncing down the road towards the curb with sparks coming off it, but the sparks seemed endless and as it got closer instead of going out there seemed to be more sparks and then......... "BANG!" It turns out they hadn't thrown a cigarette, it was a firework which exploded right next to my foot. It was really freaky and everyone nearby screamed like there was a bomb but fortunately all of us were fine. My foot was stinging a bit from the firework exploding so close to it, and one of the Sarah's saw my foot..."Oh my god, it's all black and burned!"... I then had to admit that it was just black from dirt accumulated over the day in the city. Seeing the actual Petronas towers made it all worthwhile anyway as they were immense, so enormous, iconic and most importantly... so shiny! 

The next day Katy and I took our city map and set off on a mission to see as much of KL by foot as we could. We walked to the KL parks where there is the National Mosque of Malaysia and we were taught all about Islamic prayer routines by a lady who worked there. The mosque was really interesting, it has enough space for 3,000 people inside and another 10,000 outside but the building was quite understated and plain so that people won't be distracted and can concentrate on praying... completely the opposite of the Buddhist temples with their enormous statues and shrines. Whilst this is a big mosque it is nothing compared to the pictures she showed us of the mosque in Mecca where 3 million people can all go and pray at one time.  In order to be allowed to walk around the grounds we had to wear gowns and Katy also had to wear the headgear, it was really funny and she looked like she was dressed for the nativity scene whilst I just looked like a weirdo in drag. The problem is that you can't help laughing when you see each other dressed like that and it's got to be offensive to all the people around you ... oops! We found it really interesting though and it was somewhere we had never planned to go so all the better.

In the same area is the KL Bird Park which features the largest indoor free-flight bird aviary in the world. They had a really good bird show with birds that could count, go down slides, fix cars and talk, as well as the larger birds of prey. We then went round the park looking at all the species they have which was quite impressive, everything from Ostriches to extra fluffy Pigeons some of which are in Aviaries and others that roam about on the footpaths or poo all over the cafe. My sister hates birds so I'm sure she'd have hated it there as they all fly about and come right up to you as they're completely used to having people around them, plus it can't help that so many people feed the birds their sandwiches, ice-cream's etc. One of the places you could legitimately feed the birds was in the "Local Asian birds" aviary where you could pay 2 Ringgit for some milk and seeds. I had a cup of milk in one hand and the seeds in the other and before I knew it had about 6 birds climbing all over me, clinging to my arms and licking my face (It's like every man's wish except that they were the flappy kind of bird...). It made a good photo, and fortunately none of them did their business on my shoulder despite threatening to (In one of the photo's the bird properly looks like he's straining).

After the bird park it was on to Times Square which is an enormous 10 floor shopping centre. As soon as you walk in there, that's it you're, immediately lost and destined never to find your way out again. Aside from the millions of shops they have cinemas on every other floor and an indoor theme park on one side of the mall including an indoor roller-coaster. It's so cool and we spent ages wondering around, getting even more lost but not caring at all. We decided to go to the cinema to see Harry Potter and got our tickets from the 10th floor. The girl told us we would have to make our way to the 3rd floor as that was where our screen was so we headed off hoping that by some chance we would just end up in the right place as we weren't too sure where the downstairs cinema was and everywhere looks the same (apart from the theme park). Whilst I like going to the cinema in the UK, I resent having to pay 8 each for a ticket plus another 8 for a bit of popcorn which blatantly costs about 10p to make... so I therefore loved going to the cinema in KL because our 2 tickets, popcorn and 2 drinks was about 7.00. 

However in our excitement over the cheap tickets we hadn't really thought about the fact we weren't in a country with English as the first language. 
"It's got to be in English right? The poster outside was in English!"
 "Yeah, but everyone in this cinema is Malaysian and none of them are speaking English"
 "But the previews were in English?"
 "And the adverts were not!!!" 
 So we waited anxiously to see if we would have to embarrassingly get up and walk out of the cinema when Harry Potter speaks with a deep Malaysian voice.... but fortunately it was in English with subtitles in a couple of languages. Relief, our 7 hasn't been wasted! So this was a very full day with a lot of walking and when we got back I just fell asleep straight away. 

 The next morning neither of us could wake up so ended up setting off late morning to the Batu caves which contain Hindu shrines and in January/February becomes a pilgrimage site with around a million people going each year...fortunately it wasn't as busy when we went. From the Kuala Lumpur train station you can catch a train for just 1 Ringgit each which is about 22p (amazing!). The train was a normal, modern train except that a couple of the middle carriages were for ladies only, I thought Katy might have to go and sit in one but apparently not. When we arrived at the Batu caves it was the middle of the day and it was so so hot! I don't know the exact temperature but at 6pm it was 32C so it must have been a fair bit more than that. To get to the caves you have to climb 272 steps and the stairs are lined with monkeys trying to get food from the tourists who are walking up and down to the caves. Some of the tourists were taking it too far, a Chinese guy was trying his best to give a monkey a lit cigarette and then when he didn't take that he gave it chewing gum. We also saw a guy at the top who had been bitten by one when he was harassing it and no doubt it would be considered the monkeys fault if that guy ends up getting ill. Anyway, the caves were great and worth the climb in the blazing sun. 

 We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring KL by foot, we went to see the Petronas towers in the day, visited a couple of the other shopping malls and found the crystal fountain in Bukit Bintang. The only frustration was dealing with the traffic. There are pedestrian walkways and pedestrian crossings but that doesn't mean anything... 

 "Cross here, there's lines on the road, the green man will flash on but it's just as dangerous as crossing anywhere else!"

 Everyone ignores the red lights and drives through the pedestrian crossings, and on the pavements you have to dive out of the way of scooters who can't be bothered to deal with the busy traffic conditions on the road. By the end of a whole day wandering around we had become increasingly irritated by constantly being nearly run down... we crossed a really busy road in Bukit Bintang while the green man was lit and as we crossed a Mercedes with blacked out windows was edging forward over the lines straight for us. Katy stared through the windscreen and waved her arms "Stop driving, you bloody idiot... it's red, are you blind or something?" The guy in the car clearly had no idea what she was saying but saw the waving arms and instantly stopped and held up his hand apologetically. It was Brilliant!

That evening we went up the KL tower and got some quality views over the city as the sun was setting. We had expected it to be a fairly simple case of arriving, buying a ticket for the tower and going up the lift but actually they have setup a whole little tourist area up there with a cultural village, a small zoo and pony rides. (You could get a pony ride with your ticket but I thought I may look a little silly on a tiny pony so we opted for the zoo instead). Although, we didn't even need to go into the zoo because outside was a rather large lizard relaxing on a bench, we think he may have escaped from the zoo (hadn't gone far). It was very cool seeing the city all lit up at night, with the Petronas towers as the centre-piece. KL really hasn't disappointed, it's a modern, vibrant and exciting city to be in... we loved it! 

Tomorrow we fly to Borneo which is so exciting! Orangutans, caves, jungle and adventure awaits but.... Borneo is known for their tribes-people who would go head-hunting... literally! Lots of skulls outside indicates a strong tribe so if you don't hear from us we may have been beheaded in Borneo. 
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charlene on

I thought you looked very fetching in your purple dress my boy :-)

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