Kuala Lumpur – Part 1

We arrived in KL after dusk. From the South bound bus station we connected with a train for only two stations to visit a lovely CS that had offered to host us one night. He picked us up from a hawker next to the platform and took us to his home. He had ‘recycled’ his daughters stuffed animals and turned them into home decor, causing a cute and beautiful spectacle. Toys were not the only salvaged materials; his garden was an example on how to turn other people’s waste into useful and pretty house items, which we admired him for. Ally was also a great host, so I wish we could have gotten to know him better, but we had other priorities.

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Our good friend Wojtek was leaving the country the next morning, so we woke up before seven to catch the train into the centre of town where we would meet him. We found the hostel we were after quite easily, and our mate along with it. He looked completely exhausted, with big black rings under his eyes, and we soon learned he had spent the night awake having fun with some people he had met. The lack of sleep did nothing to change his usually sunny and warm personality, so we enjoyed a nice morning talking about everything until it was time to say goodbye. We accompained him to the bus station and after some hugs, saw him get into the bus. It was all I could do not to cry like a baby, but Tim held me and said some soothing words to me, but there is one thing I am certain of: We shall meet again. Since then we have been discussing the possibility of a joint adventure from Europe down the silk road, so you might be hearing a lot more about the three of us!

We returned to the hostel to refresh ourselves and back out into the streets to explore Chinatown. The alleys in the centre of KL morph as the day progresses. In the morning, a few stalls sell food, but most sell coffee, unless is Saturday, when an odd flee market spawns from nowhere and fills the alleys. They sell all sorts of crazy stuff in there, some from dubious precedence and quality, some unidentifiable, some useful.

During most of the week, an interesting change takes place after 10am, and the small carts with drinks are replaced with some selling clothes, sun glasses and other tourist orientated paraphernalia, like souvenirs and the like. It gets really beautiful and colorful and soon fills out with people, making it hard to walk but very attracting and fun as well. The sellers try to entice you to visit their places, but they are not particularly pushy and are always ready to haggle if a purchase is to be made.

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When the sun sets the last transformation takes place, and food carts start rolling out of nowhere and taking their spots on the pavement. They mostly sell Chinese food, which is unfortunately not very choice for vegetarians, but the mixed smells in the air dance together and draw people to them, making this last stage more appealing to the nose than it is to other senses.

Despite the tempting offer, we decided to walk to Little India to find dinner among the many restaurants there. We started walking following the path we had traced in our heads, but we were getting farther along and not finding what we were after. We asked a few people on the streets, who gave us conflicting and confusing information. Eventually we stopped a Pakistani man, who said he was going that way and encouraged us to follow him. It had started raining and we were getting wet, but the idea of getting closer to nice curries kept us charging ahead. We heard our companion’s story while we walked, and eventually reached our destination. Though this street was indeed filled with Indian restaurants on both sides, we soon realized it was not what was called ‘Little India’ but for our intends and purposes at that stage, it was what we were after. As per usual, the food was utterly flavorsome and delicious!

The next morning we tried to set out early to avoid the suffocating heat of midday. Who would have known that would be the last day we would see the sun for the next month… The destination in mind was the Botanical Gardens. On the way we went past some awesome colonial architecture and also a gigantic mosque. When we drew near, we started circling the bird sanctuary for the entrance, but quickly changed our plans once we found how much it costed to get in. Instead we turned around and went into the orquid gardens. Needless is to say the amount of different varieties included were astonishing in their richness and colors. They tried to collect specimens from all over Malaysia, although I knew from experience they were missing some of the bug eating species native to Sabah. The result was not less wonderful, and we spent a long time loosing ourselves between these crazy vibrant blooms.

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The next adjacent patch was dedicated to hibiscus flowers, so again we strolled around taking pictures and smelling the blossoms. After an hour or so we were getting a bit over the gardens and decided to make our way back slowly.

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After going through some back streets, we emerged in a really old part of town and stumbled upon Merdeka (Independence) Square. We took the token picture in front of the I<3KL sign and checked out the sculptures on the park. Some celebration was packing out, so there was a lot of movement and people around. Right in front of the square there is a huge construction that reminded me of the Cabildo of Buenos Aires, but it was closed to the public and we could not explore the inside.

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On the next corner we found a theatre built around 1900. We are both interested in such buildings, so we went in to see if we could spy the interior. We were greeted by an employee, who advised a musical was on that same night, and tickets were on discount. We looked at the brochure, to discover that Mud recounted the story of KL itself, so we decided it would be a good opportunity to appreciate the old structure and learn about the city at the same time. The show that night was amazing! The costumes, dancing, singing and vibes were just fabulous, and we were certainly glad we spent those 15$ to attend.

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On Sunday morning we were picked up by my old friend from the kiwi picking days, Leong. He had offered to drive us around and show us some of Kuala Lumpur. While we were in the car the talked a lot and asked him all the questions we had on our mind about the place and its people. He also took the time to point out all the landmarks we passed through.

Our first stop were the Batu Caves. At the bottom of the cliff, a mighty 40mt+ golden statue of Lord Murugan welcomes you. After climbing about 300 steps, you go inside the mountain to find some colorful shrines and temples. Hundreds of macaques have also taken residence alongside the priests and other religious figures, which creates a lot of commotion between the tourists as the inevitably try to steal any food or drinks when you least expect it. There is a big skylight at the back of the cave, that lets the sun in and makes the whole place a whole lot more interesting.

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The next place we visited came to a surprise to us as we had no idea of its assistance and it surprised us greatly. Some rich Chinese businessman bought a mountain (yep, you read correctly) in the outskirts of KL and built a bunch of hotels and casinos, where thousands of people (mostly Chinese) gamble every day and called it Genting Highlands. It is a place hard to describe. I have not been to soviet Russia, but that is the image that came to mind; Sitting on top of the clouds, surrounded by a permanent mist layer, the buildings where mostly awful grey square boxes poorly maintained, apart from one that was faded rainbow themed. There is a lot of constructions and renovations going on, but at that point in time the view of the theme park was rather pathetic. Situated so high up, the temperature drop was considerable, and it was a nice respite from the suffocating heat of the tropic lowlands. We went inside on of the gigantic shopping malls and walked around. The place was really cool, unlike any I had visited before. Not only did it have all the normal things you expect to find at a mega mall, but it had the craziest decor, for example: The statue of liberty riding a motorbike; superman coming out of the wall; and an indoors train to take you around. It was an unique experience that not many tourists get to check out and I am more than glad that Leong decided to take us there.

On the way back we did a quick stop by a beautiful nearby temple, but there were no parking spots left and we were getting late to meet our upcoming couchsurfing host, so we drove around it and then headed back into town. We arrived at Stef’s around 5pm but she was just out. Instead we got to meet two other CS members that were currently staying there: Ondre (Czech) and Henry (Brazilian/Japanese). Stef arrived later but had to leave again, so we had dinner with the guys. It was really nice to meet some new interesting people and we spent a lovely evening together.

We had planned to try and find a host in KL that we got along with and asked if we could stay for a few weeks to catch up on blogging, planning and recharge our batteries. We soon realized Stef would be the ideal choice, as she is a very chilled and easy going person. Besides that, she lives in a very comfortable apartment complex with its own pool and gym, which meant we could recover some of our lost fitness. TBC

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