A January 2004 trip
to Kuala Lumpur by Gwilym Owen
Quote: Kuala Lumpur, is an unlikely name for one of Asia's most vibrant and progressive cities. It is a fast paced and hectic blend of old and new, with a stunning ultra modern district mingling in with old colonial buildings, Chinese shop houses and Islamic minarets dotting the cityscape.
KL is a real melting pot of cultures with large populations of Malays, Chinese and Indians that seem to live together side by side in harmony. These eclectic cultures are one of the major draw cards of this fascinating and frenetic metropolis.
For me before visiting here, KL made me think of the Colonial past, pollution and the awe inspiring Petronas Towers - well I certainly got far more into the bargain than that and left wanting much more from my new found young friend! :-)
Our choice of hotel was decided by arriving at the chaotic Puduraya Bus Station and basically finding the first place outside towards Chinatown and ended up in a rather nice room at the Hotel Impiana as they were having a special offer...
The world famous Petronas Towers are a must see and they have a viewing bridge halfway up where you can get FREE tickets to see the rest of KL laid out below you...
Another more historic area to visit is the Merdeka (Freedom) Square, which was the centre of the British colonial power as evidenced by the imposing mock Tudor Royal Selangor Club.
Chinatown is another great place to visit and to stay, as it is a crowded and vibrant area packed with colourful shop fronts and is home to the hectic Jl Petaling Night Market and the enclosed Central Market.
KL also boasts a number of impressive mosques of which the most famous and accessible is Masjid Jamek at the site where KL's founders first landed.
Further afield are the Batu Caves which we were most fortunate to visit during the annual Hindu festival of Thaipusam...
The Putra Line is the best of the three LRT lines as it seems to link all the major attractions together quite well and integration is finally starting to happen now that the new KL Sentral station has opened as this now links the rest of the city to the national rail network quite well.
There is also a confusing bus system which as we were in central town we only used once as a special charter out to the Batu Caves for Thaipusam (it only had one destination so we had no fear of getting lost, and worked brilliantly!).
For all its craziness, KL traffic and transport was actually very efficient and fast moving - even when catching a bus 15km out of town into a seething throng of 1.2m people the journey only took 45mins!
Attraction | "The Petronas Twin Towers"
Erm, the record for the world's tallest two freestanding towers?
But it DOES look far swankier than those buildings, and I’m sure there was no coincidence that the hotel room we booked had a clear view of it.
That first night we hightailed out to KLCC for a look round and gazed in awe up at the sheer majesty of the beautiful structures above us!
The next morning we woke up early to make sure we got a couple of only 800 daily free tickets for the Sky Bridge on level 41 (closed on Mondays!), so you could miss out if you turn up late! Once you have your tickets you go into a sort of mini museum on the construction of the building, followed by a guided tour up on the Sky Bridge itself.
The tapering twin towers share an Islamic-influenced geometric octagonal plan with 88 floors (all these ‘8’s are on purpose as they signify the lucky Chinese number. If you fancy some background revision, check out the movie Entrapment, which features the Petronas Towers in some detail.
There is also a fantastic shopping centre here and we got to see the spectacular movie Hero on its opening day in Malaysia, a film that had yet to see general release in the West at the time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 3, 2006
Petronas Twin Towers
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Kuala Lumpur 50088
60 3 382 8000
Attraction | "Thaipusam Festival"
Thaipusam is a pilgrimage for devout Hindus who come to the colossal Batu Caves situated in a bluff of limestone karsts 15kms north of KL. Many set off from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Chinatown in the early hours of the morning on a route culminating with a long stairway of 272 steps leading into the enormous Temple Cave at the top.
Thaipusam has a number of meanings for Hindus, with the most spectacular and visible one being those that come to do penance for misdeeds or being unworthy of their gods. This penance takes the form of what look like incredibly masochistic feats of atonement such as seeing the endless procession of men who have attached limes, oranges or small silver urns to their backs and chests with hooks directly into their skin! Some add to this by attaching these hooks to rope which would be held by family members providing resistance and keeping these ropes taut against the devotee straining against it.
Others wear enormous 'kavadi's' (meaning "suffering at every step"), which are basically ornately decorated shrines assembled upon a steel frame that is supported around the bearers waist. Many of these kavidis weigh from 100-150 lbs and upwards and also have to be manhandled up the steps into the temple above.
Not all worship involves self inflicted pain, and many men and women make the walk to the Caves barefooted with a simple silver urn of fresh milk on their head in thanks for any children born that year.
This was without doubt one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had and I was so glad to be a part of it, being surrounded by so many people devoted to their religion in this manner. It was a very peaceful event and we met many people only too happy to explain the significance of this event to a pair of curious westerners...
Batu Caves Sri Subramaniam Temple
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 68100
+60 3 6089 6284