After our somewhat interesting time in Penang and having to say goodbye to our beautiful hotel for Nick’s (belated) birthday celebrations we were on the bus bound for Kuala Lumpur.
Roughly 4 hours later we arrived just after dark and a short 20 minute walk we arrived at the Orange Pekoe Hostel. This was one of those places that looked great in pictures, and even looked ok once you were there, but if you looked too closely you realised it was not that great after-all! There was a colony of ants in the kitchen, and our room was one of the smallest we have been in so far - absolutely tiny with nowhere to put our bags and smelt really badly of damp - it wasn’t even that cheap!
We dumped our bags and decided to go looking for food as we had not eaten all day. The street the hotel was on was a little dodgy with lots of men hanging around for no obvious reason, but a 2 minute walk (admittedly past a few ladies of the night) brought us to Bukit Bintang, a seemingly never ending road of bars, restaurants and clubs all with seemingly never ending Happy Hours. We settled in for a couple of giant burgers, before heading back for an early night and slept surprisingly well.
Next morning and after enjoying our free breakfast (albeit cereal and toast - free is free!), we set off to explore. The sky was blue, contrary to weather reports we had seen, and Nick wanted to head straight to the Petronas Twin Towers to photograph them before it clouded over (“You can’t photograph a grey building against a grey sky - it’ll look s**t!” were his exact words to convince me!). Our hotel was very centrally located, only a 15 minute walk to the towers.
They are stunning and the obvious landmark of Kuala Lumpur, but did we really need to take almost 100 photographs of them?! It was really hot, although the sky had already started to cloud over as predicted, so we escaped the heat and humidity by getting lost in the Suria Shopping Mall (which sits underneath the towers) for the rest of the afternoon.
Nick was feeling a little ropey again (we seemed to be taking it in turns to have Travellers Tummy) so we went back to the hotel for afternoon naps - which turned into a VERY early night! With Nick feeling a little better the next morning we took the MRT (metro) to Mederka Square, one of the oldest parts of the city which used to be a huge British cricket ground. All that remains of the cricket pitch is a small patch of grass and the original pavilion, both of which are still used by wealthy cricketers who can afford the club fees. Now a huge road runs along side but a few old buildings remain, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, (which wasn’t a palace but a government building), Jamek Mosque and the Government Printing Office now the tourist information which also doubles as a city gallery.
We of course went into the TI but this time it was to see the history gallery and a large scale model of KL. The gallery was disappointing, it was only two rooms and it filled in no more history than our Lonely Planet had already given us. Now the large model, well that built up expectations we had to weave our way up stairs, then reached a curtained off room and told to wait till the next show. After a minute we were allowed into a large room which was pitch black and had a large model in the middle, then a video came on and told us nothing of interest and the model lit up once or twice then in two minutes it was finished. A real waste of time! After a quick look around the shop which had lots of Christmas items, very strange when it’s 30+ outside, we left. Upon leaving the TI we saw a sign for the “chocolate museum”! This obviously had to be done so we went down the steps into a... shop! This was basically a chocolate shop with 6 old chocolate making machines then a whole store of very expensive goodies. We sampled a few bits then made a swift exit before they could sell us anything.
From here we jumped back on the MTR across town to the National Museum (after walking down the middle of a freeway which believe it or not was the correct tourist-signposted walking route?!?!). The museum was really interesting (and free as we somehow managed to sneak in a back door without realising!) It told the story of Malaysia through it’s Portuguese, Dutch and then English rule, it’s importance on the Silk Route with trading ports like Georgetown and Melaka and the story of it’s independence in 1957.
We spent a good couple of hours in there soaking it all up before emerging into the afternoon monsoon rains. After sheltering for a couple of minutes we decided to brave it and huddled under our umbrella back along the freeway (getting splashed by cars!) to the MTR. We arrived at Chinatown with memories of Hong Kong and with the hope of exploring the night markets and maybe getting some decent food but were immediately disappointed! Not only was it tiny, all of the stalls sold nothing but cheap knock-offs of sunglasses, handbags, and football kits! I’m sure if you are into your designer labels this place would be heaven, but was neither Nick or my scene. Also annoyingly there only seemed to be fast food restaurants rather than decent eateries. Feeling annoyed and like we had wasted our time, we made our way back towards the hostel to eat.
A few hours later and we were settling down for food at an Irish Bar for pizza and salad (we know, but needs must!). There were a group of loud, drunk, middle-aged Aussie guys sat at a table near-by who were making a bit of a nuisance of themselves, but seemed harmless enough. Nick went to the toilet and while he was in there one of these guys happened to come in and asked “who the lady I was with was?” Nick replied “my wife” to which the guy responded “Ah, then that’s the end of our conversation - you’re a lucky man” Feeling rather perplexed, Nick returned and managed to whisper to me what had happened. Soon after two of the Aussie guys left leaving the drunkest and loudest on his own. Then he wandered over to our table and pulled up a stool and proceeded to tell us all about his life, how beautiful I was (and how amazing my teeth are?!), what a lucky man Nick was, how horrible Australian women are, and asked where he could find someone like me! We somehow managed to keep a straight face through all of this and even gave him tips on where in Nottingham he should go for a “good time”. As the conversation started to descend into rather adult territory with some rather personal questions we got the impression he was angling for more than just a conversation with the two of us, so we made a very quick exit!! Haha!
It was still early and we had no desire to go back to our hotel, so we walked the 20 minutes over to the Petronas Towers (again) to see them lit up by night and to watch their fountain and light show which was really cool. Another 100 or so photographs later, we decided to head back.
Our final full day in KL and the weather was beautiful - perfect for going up a tower. Lonely Planet had suggested the KL Tower offered better views that the Petronas, so our plan was to get the basic ticket up to the first viewing platform, than head over to the Petronas and get a ticket up the SkyBridge rather than all of the way to the top to save some money (again a LP suggestion). The KL Tower was really expensive RM59 (£XX), and was also quite disappointing. They have tried to make the whole experience more interesting by installing loads of shops, “cultural centres” and 3D cinemas at the base of the tower, but you essentially go up a lift, walk round and come back down - admittedly with some pretty impressive views along the way!
Again we felt a bit annoyed that something else had not lived up to our expectations so we walked over to the Petronas Towers (yes that is the third time!) to go up the Sky Bridge only to discover that yet again Lonely Planet had let us down! They no longer offer separate tickets for the bridge and the top, but one combined ticket for both costing RM80 (£15). This was too much for both of us to be able to go up due to our tight budget and we were kicking ourselves for wasting money on the KL Tower! Oh well! After um-ing and ah-ing we agreed that Nick should go up (he was desperate too and I had some work to do back at the hotel anyway), so we purchased our timed ticket for later that evening and set off to the Batu Caves on the MTR.
About an hour later and we arrived at a HUGE golden Hindu statue and an enormous flight of steps (282 to be precise) leading up. When the British had colonised in the 19th century they had discovered the vast Batu Caves and the Hindu Temple at the top. We climbed up (avoiding the angry monkeys playing with litter!) and as you can see from the photo were disappointed yet again! The caves themselves are very impressive, but as they are a “Hindu Temple” / Tourist Attraction they are filthy, covered in litter and graffiti and have tacky souvenir shops inside them! Nick had visited them 15 years previously and remembered them as being much better! Oh well…
We headed back to the city and went our separate ways for Nick to go up the Towers. Needless to say when we met back at the hotel later on he was suitably impressed! He described going up to the 42nd floor to the Sky Bridge which believe it or not is not connected to the towers! It floats on brackets between the two to allow for movement. He got 20 minutes on the bridge to take photos before getting back into the lift to go up to the 88th floor for some absolutely incredible views of KL just as the sun was starting to set. He raved about the tour and slammed LP for getting it so wrong as he was really upset that I could not share the experience with him, but he showed me the 134 photos he had managed to take in under an hour!!
We settled in for an early night for our bus to Melaka the next day...however at 04:00 Nick flinched when he thought he felt something touch his arm. Thinking nothing of it he settled to get back to sleep when all of a sudden he flinched so hard he woke me up saying he was convinced something ran across his face. I laughed at him while he went to the toilet, before squealing when I spotted the 2 inch long cockroach run across the bed!! Argh!! We spent the next 10 minutes being generally pathetic as it scurried around the room. We somehow managed to get it into the bin and tied the bag up quickly before dumping it out in the hallway for someone else to deal with. Needless to say we did not sleep well for the rest of the night!!
We checked out about 10:00 the next morning and complained about the cockroach, but they did not seem that bothered! Kuala Lumpur had been an interesting couple of days - parts were amazing, but parts had been really disappointing. It is a beautiful city with some incredible architecture, both modern and colonial, but we couldn’t help feeling a little underwhelmed as we left for our 2 hour journey to Melaka.