Last known location: London, England

High Towers and High Temperatures

We left the Perhentian Islands early on Thursday morning. The boat back to Kuala Besut was a bit smoother this time, although we did manage to get rather wet! We were running a bit late and our bus to Kuala Lumpur was due to leave at 9am so at the port we bade a hasty farewell to Imogen and Olivier before dashing to the bus station (which was actually more of a car park and taxi rank). We needn’t have worried, however, as we were left hanging around for nearly an hour. But when the bus did finally arrive we were thrilled; it had seats like armchairs and was by far the most comfortable bus we’d travelled on so far. Good thing, too, as the journey to KL took 9 hours!

Two films and a couple of snoozes later and we had arrived. It was grey and drizzly but despite this it was hard to miss how modern and successful this city is. We could see the Petronas Towers and hundreds of other towering skyscrapers before even stepping off the bus. Our hostel was near Bukit Bintang, a shopping and bar/restaurant district. Because we’d arrived quite late in the evening we headed straight for Jalan Alor, astreet nearby with lots of outdoor restaurants, mostly Chinese. We grabbed a table and perused the very varied menu, offering everything from frogs legs to venison. We stuck to rather predictable chicken and prawn dishes. Very tasty. Exhausted from the early start and long journey, we headed back to our hostel for an early night.

The next two days were spent exploring KL. My sister-in-law hails from the city and gave us some great insider tips. To get our bearings one of the first stops we made was to Menara Kuala Lumpur and its’ 276m high viewing platform. From there we could see for miles and picked out a few choice places to visit during our stay. We headed to the large Chinatown area afterwards, full of old Chinese shops and restaurants as well as a huge market. I was again tempted by the knock-off designer handbags but managed to resist! An afternoon rain shower seemed to be a regular event in KL and today was no different – as the heavens opened all the tourists ran for cover, but the locals didn’t look that concerned!

The capital is a real melting pot of different cultures; as well as Chinatown we visited Little India, and passed many mosques, temples and chapels on our way. Our last day was spent looking around Merdeka Square, where Malaysia’s independence was proclaimed in 1957. There’s some lovely colonial architecture around the area, particularly the magistrates court and the Ministry for Culture, which seem to have survived the modernisation of the city.

We also headed to Lake Gardens, a vast inner-city garden district which houses the National Monument, which commemorates victory over the Japanese and independence from Britain. Despite our best intentions to walk the length of the gardens we were defeated by the stifling heat. It honestly felt like we were in a sauna at times! So we made use of the public monorail and sought comforting cool in one of the many shopping centres. Times Square mall is famous for housing an indoor theme park, including a roller-coaster! We went on a Saturday, and didn’t want to queue for hours to have a go, but it was certainly an impressive sight. Beat that Westfield! It was also ‘Founders Day’ at the mall which seemed to involve lots of free giveaways, lots of live music (of varying quality!) and thousands and thousands of people!

On our last night in KL we went to the bustling Changkat Bukit Bintang, a street with lots of bars and restaurants from all corners of the world. After a couple of drinks we decided to head to an Irish pub, The Green Man, to watch the rugby. It was a particularly successful evening for me, with wins for both Wales and England. Happy days! On departing at 3am we were really surprised at how busy the streets still were. Music pumping from various clubs and bars and street hawkers still busy, it’s clear what a vibrant city Kuala Lumpur is. But, it was time for us to move on again, just 2 more days left in Malaysia….

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