Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kuala Lumpur

I didn't really know what to expect from Kuala Lumpur - Sean Connery and Catherina Zeta-Jones taught us all about the supremely tall Petronas towers in Entrapment, and the couple from Latvia I spoke with back in Phuket described it as a 'big modern city...' That wasn't much to go on; Bangkok is certainly a big modern city, I arrived expecting something similar. As it turns out, Kuala Lumpur is really much more of New York, London, Sydney, Singapore type of big modern city. Missing are noisy tuk-tuks, the tiny congested streets, the 'special' scent you get in the air from the trash strewn about everywhere; instead you have lots of tall gleaming financial buildings, big expensive hotels, parks and green areas designed into the city plan, a well developed, easy to use, and contantly expanding public transport system (I have a four year old guide book for Malaysia - the subway/monorail system has to have doubled in size since the book had been published!). Appoaching the city, you start to notice large numers of failry standard, boxy residental apartment complexes. Not a big discovery in and of itself, but a bit of a departure from the last town in SE Asia I'd pulled into on a train: Jakarta, which greets you with extended views of temporary (you can only hope) shantytowns. On arrival, you are greeted by the lettice-work of glass, steel, and granite comprising the shiny, brand new train station... and a pair of identical high rises housing the Hilton and Le Meredien hotels. If you look a little deeper, you find a few beautiful mosques hidden behind the gleaming glass facades on the main streets. Of course, if you dig a little deeper still, you will still find some dirty and run-down parts of the city that the renovation sweeps haven't quite gotten to yet, but they don't seem any more obvious than what you can find in New York or LA.

What Kuala Lumpur does not, however, have is a lot of tourist attractions... There's the Petronas Towers, of course... And there's the 3rd tallest TV tower in the world: Menara Kuala Lumpur (only trailing Toronto's CN Tower, and Moscow's Ostankino):

a nice mosque, Masjid Jamek, right by my hostel:

And really that's about it. There's a National Mosque too, but all I really found there was a sign informing me that non-Muslim tourists were not allowed inside. I presume there were services going, but I chose to take a few pictures from the outside and move on instead of trying to wait it out:

There's a museum or two as well, but not having been to a single museum so far on the four month trip (I did want to go to the Asian CIvilizations Museum in Singapore - not sure if that earns me any credit), I decided I couldn't quite be bothered. Malaysia is also relatively expensive (compared to, say, Thailand), albeit much cheaper than Singapore, so the next day I started heading North towards Thailand. Stopping in Penang along the way, home of the Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia:

And I've uploaded a few more Malaysia and Singapore pictures to Facebook

No comments: