Malaysia Bound

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Friday, June 15, 2012

We had to make a quick stop in Singapore as it was about the only reasonably convenient location in Asia to arrange our travel visas to Mongolia- the laws of bizarro probability would seem to suggest that the more important the tourist dollar would be to the local economy, the more difficult the bureaucrats make it to actually get in. Preparing a visa might be a 5 minute exercise on a bad day but that doesn't stop government employees from turning it into a multi day paperwork extravaganza- 3 days in the case of Mongolia. Not a big deal because it meant a couple more days in one of our favourite Asian cities (time which also confirmed two things; one, it's a place we'd love to settle in, and two, it's a place we can't afford to settle in). With the sparkly new visas firmly stuck in our somewhat frayed passports, we decided to catch a bus to Kuala Lumpur (buses are always a gamble in Asia- hot, overcrowded, duct tape holding the wheels on, and all driven by Mad Max wannabes) because the train would take 3 extra hours and the station was located way out near the border (apparently lots of other folks want to make Singapore home so the station was moved away from the downtown area to prevent people from jumping off illegally). Imagine our surprise when our bus turned out to be a gleaming and comfortable new machine that was modeled on an airline concept (not sure I would ever use airlines to benchmark anything but they seemed to have picked all the good stuff) complete with tray tables for your "in-flight" meal and the video player in the headrest that offered up some English movies.

After 'landing' successfully in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to pay a night visit to the nearby Petronas Towers. Good decision- as we discovered in the following days, the Towers are mildly interesting during the day but at night with the spectacular lighting they are an awe-inspiring sight to behold. They were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 (surpassing the CN Tower) and remain the tallest twin buildings ever built. The other thing we noticed during the day is that KL is buried in smog- the claim from locals is that massive burns in Sumatra are responsible but it may also have something to do with the traffic congestion, huge vehicle population, no breeze, and a heavy humidity that seems to trap the pollutants. We didn't even bother with a trip to the top of the Towers because the visibility could be measured in inches. We did wander through the mall at the base of the Towers- malls in Asia are always heavily populated because they are usually an oasis of air conditioning but this one made the Toronto Eaton Centre at Xmas time seem like a vacant parking lot. And it was 6 floors of high end shops with names like Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Harrods, etc. The only people buying anything appeared to be Gulf State tourists and they were buying just about everything-  I just can't process the image of one Arab dude in his Nike baseball cap and latest sneakers, blue jeans, Rolex, and LA Lakers jersey, leading a group of women dressed head to toe in those heavy black burkas (in this heat and humidity??) with just the eyes showing!

We did wander through most of the more well known sights of Kuala Lumpur (including the highly overrated night market in Chinatown- can you still carry the Chinatown label if all the vendors are from India?), but crowded cities are rarely any countries highlight. The Royal Selangor pewter factory was interesting and the Bat Caves were certainly well worth the climb up 272 steps.  Worshipers arrive daily with offerings of coconuts, fruits, milk, and flowers. With that much free food there's a well fed population of macaque monkeys chasing tourists around the caves- most of the locals seem to enjoy feeding the monkeys underneath the 'Do Not Feed The Monkeys' signs and then act suitably shocked when the monkeys get very aggressive?? We had talked about trying to make it to the Caves during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam which is famous for the procession of devotees who drag various objects to the top of the stairs via various hooks in their skin and body piercings!!  

One last unrecognizable breakfast buffet at the hotel (apparently Captain Crunch cereal was never part of the Silk Road trading expeditions) and it was off to catch another bus for Melaka.
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Jen Nathan on

I remember how incredible these towers were at night - photos simply don't do them justice. I could have looked at them for hours.

My sister and I actually were in Penang during Thaipusam. Crazy stuff! Ouch!!!

Chris on

It's funny you mention an "Arab Dude" in jeans, Nikes, etc. with his burqua clad women. I happened to see that while in Dubai in January. It was a strange and funny sight to see. Love reading your blogs...

Meng on

Hi guys, finally u guys manage to make a quick stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By the way, if you guys need any assistance just contact me; I am always right here in KL!

That will be my pleasure ya! hope you guys have a good time here.....

JohnDoe on

These black burquas are known as hijabs, I think. They look like they are made from light material, like maybe silk.

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