The Capital City
Day 187 Malacca to KL
We order a taxi to the bus station at reception and wait outside for it to arrive. When the driver sees all of our luggage, he puts the back seats down (a seven-seater car) to make room for it. He drives a different way to the bus station than we come taking us past the massive Chinese cemetery and on some of the back roads past small wooden housing.
It is a bit of a challenge finding where we collect tickets and go to wait for our bus to Kuala Lumpur. It makes us realise how difficult it must be to move to a new country where you don’t speak the language, at least we are able to find people who understand and speak some English – we are so lazy where learning languages is concerned.
Marcus and Mark buy McDonalds and I buy a croissant for our breakfast/lunch and eat whilst we wait for our coach to arrive. The bus is not full and we are able to sit on the front row for the journey. Behind are a young German couple who are back packing through Malaysia and Thailand. We chat for a while comparing notes on our travels and he expresses his concerns over Corona-19.
The Large bus and train terminal are quite a distance from the centre of the city so we jump in a taxi for the journey. It takes about 25 minutes to reach our apartment and £12 seems very reasonable for the three of us. He drops us at the block of apartments and we have another challenge finding where to check in. Eventually we find we have to wait for someone to exit the block so we can nip in and then make our way to the sixth floor to an office.
The apartment is on the 55th floor with stunning views of the Petronas Towers and surrounding skyscrapers. We are pleased to have so much space; 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room and kitchen for less than £30/night right in the centre of the city.
It’s been a long day and we all agree an early night is in order so we make our way out onto the nearby streets to find a restaurant. There is street food available but we want to sit at a table and be served. The choice of food is phenomenal; Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Indian, Turkish, European to mention just a few. We decide upon Arabic and are shown to a table on the terrace overlooking the street.
Although there are customers it looks like numbers have been affected by this virus. Ow, I keep getting bit by mosquitoes and the food hasn’t even arrived, so decide to run back to the apartment for bug spray. Marcus goes with me as he doesn’t think I should be wandering the streets on my own, he’s probably right. When we return the food has arrived and it is really good.
Walking back the city has lit up, it’s like Blackpool illuminations. The view from our windows is even more impressive and the twin towers are lit up from top to bottom, how beautiful.
Day 188 Hop-on, Hop-off
The hop-on hop-off bus seems to be the best option for finding our way around the city and its sights. We set off towards the Petronas Towers sure that there will be a bus stop near here. Not far from our apartment we pass a stop but a bus has just left so we carry on to the towers. These twin towers were the world’s highest skyscrapers when built at 451.9m and they are joined by a skybridge (170m up) which visitors are able to cross. None of this is of any interest to Mark of course and Marcus and I are not particularly bothered about going up.
We walk into the park opposite the towers to see them in all their glory. They are a fantastic structure of steel and glass based on an eight-pointed star. They remind me of a tiered wedding cake and it makes me dizzy looking up. Street sellers are selling gadgets which allow you to take wide angle photographs on your telephone.
We walk around the towers to the aquarium where the next stop for the bus is but as we near a bus just leaves. There is a shopping centre next door which is cool so we wander round and buy some brunch. We sit on the pavement at the bus stop to eat and wait for the next bus making the decision to buy the 48h ticket.
The bus is relatively empty, another tourist attraction affected negatively by this horrible virus. The route is the red city route from which we are able to see the sites of the city centre. There is a live commentary by a young girl but this is almost impossible to understand so we sit back to just enjoy the views.
Although there are numerous skyscrapers and modern shopping centres in amongst this are older low-rise buildings and areas where hawkers and street markets are in abundance. We pass through Chinatown and the central market which are vibrant and colourful but are surprised by the rubbish which we see everywhere. Some of the hotels and accommodation look woefully poor and I’m thankful for where we are staying.
The old main station is a beautiful fairy tale, white painted Moorish-style building across from the National Mosque. It was built in 1910 and was Kuala Lumper’s main station until2001 when KL Sentral took over and mixes both Eastern and Western styles.
Swapping to the green, garden route we are taken further out of the city passing little India which is very similar to the same area in Singapore. There are temples and colourful frescos and a fountain on a roundabout of elephants, large and small. The area is bustling and vibrant but yet again rubbish is everywhere.
We pass the river which flows through the city, the ‘River of Life’ it is known as. We are shocked to see the rubbish stacked up here and the little shanty town of people living here. They are washing clothes and themselves in this water which looks filthy. A city of two complete opposites; the high rise, modern wealthy and the abject poverty of many.
This route takes us past the new Sentral station which is a little out of the centre and is surrounded by modern apartment blocks, office blocks and shopping centres. What a contrast to what we have just seen. From here trains, metro and monorail can be caught to places in the city, all over Malaysia and to surrounding countries.
From the station we drive past the National Museum and onto the National Palace. Here there is a five-minute stop for photos and we all traipse off the bus. The striking white and gold building is high on the hill above rolling lawns and behind gates guarded by men on horses and armed police. Mark gets a bit too close and is told to move away – he quickly does as he is asked! As we return to the bus a cavalcade passes through the gates out onto the road. Outriders and cars are escorting someone which maybe explains the presence of the armed guards.
Continuing we drive through the botanical gardens and past the bird park making the decision to return here tomorrow. The Mosque is down the hill from here near Merdeka Square where there is a clutch of historic buildings. The next district is Kampung Baru where restaurants and street hawkers present authentic Malay dishes. We are to small the aromas even on the top deck of the bus.
Suddenly we realise we have just passed our apartment block, we could have disembarked there – hey ho! Two more stop and we are back at the transfer point for the two routes. The red route bus will be about 20 mins so we grab a drink in a bar from where we can see the stop.
The route takes us past the 421m high Menara KL Tower with its revolving restaurant. This towers’ viewing deck is 100m higher than the twin towers skybridge so arguably affords the best view of Kuala Lumpur. It is built atop Pineapple Hill Forest Reserve which has plants indigenous to Malaysia’s tropical climate.
Alighting the bus within sight of the Twin Towers we walk back to our apartment. We are hot and achy so Mark and I make our way down to the 6th floor to have a swim. The outdoor pool is lovely and cool, surrounded by tropical plants and trees. Whilst swimming we are able to view the skyline around us; towering skyscrapers.
Foe diner we have Indian at a restaurant we saw earlier today from the top of the bus. I have Thalia, Mark has Chicken Acchari and Marcus Chicken Madras. All the dishes are tasty but mine is particularly spicy. After eating we walk home through street lit up by windows in skyscrapers and passed by the monorail ahead which seems to run every few minutes.
Day 189 Culture and Bird Park
We are up early and waiting at the bus stop by 10am with a Starbucks coffee in hand. We are catching the green route bus as we have decided to visit the National Museum where we should find out about the history of this beautiful country. It is very hot today 35 degrees plus so it might be better to spend time in this airconditioned building.
The admission price is RM5, less than £1 each which is ridiculously inexpensive. The museum is erected on the site of the Selangor Museum, which was destroyed during the Second World War in March 1945. It was built in the early sixties in traditional style and has a sweeping Minangkabau-style roof. The main entrance is flanked by two large murals of Italian glass mosaic that portray the country’s major historical events.
Usually the museum provides free guided tours but these have been cancelled because of the virus and the lack of crowds. The only positive of this pandemic that we can see is that we are able to visit tourist spots with much smaller crowds. There are four galleries spread over two floors which give an introduction to Malaysia’s history, economy, geography, arts, crafts and culture.
We follow the suggested route through the gallery which takes us to Gallery A – Pre History, Gallery B – Malay History, Gallery C – Colonial Era and Gallery D – Malaysia Today. The displays include artefacts, photographs, video, audio and written information. I am in my element and Mark and Marcus also enjoy the time we spend here.
Once finished in the galleries Mark and Marcus have lunch from the buffet in the cafeteria. I’m afraid I have to be more careful with my choices when eating due to the problems with my stomach so I eat at a little café where food is refrigerated and packaged.
We spend some time wandering the art gallery and the outside gardens which include a Malay house on stilts, a prayer room, old transport and a traditional graveyard. The bus stop is under shade luckily as the sun is now blistering hot and we sit with ice creams to wait for the next bus.
The first stop on the bus is the National Palace again with the obligatory 5-minute photo stop. Luckily, we have just arrived for changing of the guards. The hoses are ridden up the hill by guards in uniform wearing face masks (this looks very incongruous). There are no armed guards today and the atmosphere is much more relaxed.
We alight the bus at the bird garden, advertised as the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary. The park is divided into 4 zones and has netting across its whole expanse which is very large. Most of the birds are able to fly around the zones and it is lovely walking amongst exotic birds including peacocks, flamingos, pelicans, ibis, egrets, wadding birds and ducks. We also see parrots and other brightly coloured birds flying freely around the gardens.
Mark thinks he sees two monkeys run across a path but he’s said that before and we never know when to believe him! The sky has become darker and suddenly we hear thunder and then the rain comes. We shelter under a parasol at a café table to wait out the storm as the rain is coming down in sheets. The noise is unbelievable as the birds react to the thunder and lightning.
The rain seems to ease off so we set off to the last zone where the lake and waterfall is. There is a boardwalk all round the lake and above the water. Mark was right here are two monkeys on the walkway. They must have got in through the net somewhere as they are not mentioned anywhere in the information.
Walking back towards the exit we stop to watch the parrots being fed. This proves to be a mistake as we just miss a bus and have a 30mins wait for the next one. Its raining again but we are able to shelter at the stop. Eventually the bus arrives and we are informed it will not go back to the start of the route but will stop before our stop as it will be 6 o’clock. Great!
We get off the bus at Merdeka Square and walk back to our hotel using the raised pedestrian street for as far as we can. This is a life line as the traffic is unbelievable and crossing roads impossible. The last couple of blocks we have to walk on the road and see a scooter rider knocked down. This doesn’t faze the drivers who just drive around him.
Eventually we arrive back at our apartment and we all jump in the shower as we are wet and cold. We don’t want to catch a cold as this may prevent us getting home. I try to get on the internet and realise we have no internet or TV. Mark goes down to reception and someone comes up to repair it, which is not possible. It then becomes apparent that all the apartments on this floor have no wifi.
We are offered a new apartment on the 36th floor and decide to move albeit a bit of a nuisance packing up and unpacking again. The view is now of the Menara KL tower, so two views for the price of one. We dump our luggage and make our way out to eat at Gravy Baby, just around the corner. A British owned chain I just fancy Macaroni cheese and Mark and Marcus have burgers.