Kuala Lumpur


I’m sitting in a Starbucks in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, listening to Christmas music and drinking coffee, which I’m trying I give up. In about an hour, we move on again, south to Melaka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ancient sea port on the west coast of Malaysia.

The first evening we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia Kris, our guide took us to the Petronas Twin Towers, which were the tallest skyscrapers in the world from 1998 to 2004. Then we walked a sweaty half an hour to the Menara Tower and took the lift to the top for a panoramic view of the city. The sun was just setting, so the light was glinting off the buildings and the horizon was hazy. It was beautiful.

Yesterday we had a full day to explore Kuala Lumpur and we managed to pack in a lot. Sarah, a girl from Germany, and I set out early to first find a post office so she could send a few things home and then to get lost in the maze of busy streets and tall skyscrapers. The majority of the group wanted to spend the day at a water/theme park, but I had no interest whatsoever in doing that. We found the post office and since it was starting to rain, we ducked into Central Market, a shopping complex filled with East Asian souvenirs and crafts. I’m not a big shopper, but there were some beautiful handmade crafts from around Malaysia, like clothes, jewelry, pewter mugs, carvings, and my favorite – a pottery shop that had beautiful tea sets, vases, cups, and jewelry. All too expensive, though, unfortunately. Sarah and I had a delicious Thai lunch in the food court, followed by my favorite dessert – mango sticky rice. I also bought a large bottle of coconut oil, which is good for pretty much everything – lotion, hair conditioner, massage, or taking a tablespoon a day for health, which is what I got it for.

The rain outside had turned to a sprinkle, so we set out again, this time towards Lake Gardens, a park on the outskirts of the city. I’m actually quite amazed at how good my sense of direction is. I’ve never been to this city, but I seemed to know exactly where to go with only a glimpse at a map. I guess once you figure out your way around one city, you can figure out them all. At the entrance to Lake Garden was the National Mosque (Malaysia is a Muslim country) and we were just in time for non-muslim (aka tourists) visiting hours. The catch was that we had to wear long purple robes with hoods over our (too revealing) clothes and no shoes. Inside was interesting. It actually didn’t feel “inside” because everything was open – no walls except in the huge prayer room where we weren’t allowed to go. On the way out I glanced at the visitors book and I was the only American listed that I could see.

Lake Gardens was a nice respite from the traffic and pollution of the city center, and Sarah and I spent a few hours wandering around the orchid and hibiscus gardens. It was still raining slightly, but I didn’t mind because the place was deserted. There was also a bird park nearby, but it was expensive, so instead we were entertained by a troop of monkeys playing and monkeying around on the roof of a snack shop. After lounging for a bit on benches beneath a hibiscus-covered trellis, we headed back down towards town. Once on the streets, it started raining again, so we ducked into the nearest building, which happened to be a textile museum. It was a beautiful old colonial building and the museum had some interesting old clothes and jewelry.

It was around six, but neither of us were hungry, so we decided to head to Little India to look around. We stopped to ask for directions and the man said he was headed that way, so we followed him. He even stopped and waited while we took pictures. Little India wasn’t very India-like – just a lot of crowded tents selling everything imaginable – so we retraced our steps and went to Chinatown, which wasn’t much better. Now hungry, we headed back towards our hotel and the Indian restaurant across the street where I’ve eaten at for almost every meal. You’d think I would be getting sick of Indian food… But I’m not.

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