on September 26, 2009
Kuala Lumpur is a great city and one where visitors are spoilt for choice with so many and varied options for entertainment. Being a country girl, I find big cities drain the life out of me very quickly and I can easily get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle. When that happens, I’ll try to find somewhere clean, quiet and peaceful to feed my need to escape. If it’s beautiful and interesting as well, then that’s a big bonus. Such escape might seem like a tall order in a full-on high-octane shopping-frenzy city like KL so the purpose of this review is to share my top tip for regaining your sanity. The answer is the Orchid Garden in KL Lake Gardens. KL Lake Gardens (or Taman Tasik Perdana) lies up a hill over-looking the city. There is probably a bus service up there but the two times I've been I have taken taxis. Surprisingly, even that can be a problem. Getting up there is relatively easy – just grab a cab at any taxi stand in the city - but getting back can be a struggle. The gardens don’t seem to be on the standard KL taxi driver's prowling route so you can struggle to find a cab when you are ready to head back to town. You may have to loiter outside the entrance to the Orchid Gardens or one of the other attractions and wait for another visitor to arrive in a taxi. Then you should pounce and grab their driver for the return journey. Last time we asked the driver who took us to come back an hour later. If you aren’t sure how long you will be, take his driver’s mobile number and call him 20 mins before you need him - drivers in KL are very accommodating and most of the younger ones speak understandable English – I think they learned for the Commonwealth Games a few years ago. From memory, I think we paid around £5 for the ride each way - it won't break the bank. If this all sounds like a bit too much trouble take my word for it, it's not. The KL Orchid Gardens are worth the bother. They have more than 2000 different species of orchid - including more than 800 that are native to Malaysia. ~Getting in~Once your taxi driver works out where to drop you - not always the right place but don't worry it'll be in the right area more or less - you stroll up a sloping driveway to the gardens. I would imagine this would be a bit of a tough push for someone in a wheelchair or with restricted mobility so please bear that in mind. There's a little booth half way up to take your money but there was nobody there last time I went so we just strolled on in. In fact, I think they may have stopped charging entrance fees. The gardens are surprisingly low-key and understated. There’s not a lot of information around the place, so you won't feel guilty about not reading lots of labels and writing down lots of names. You can just wander around, through the open gardens and the pergolas, sit down, watch the birds and butterflies, take a few photos and forget that just minutes away the streets are filled with noisy car horns and aggression. It’s a really great place to unwind. Arrive at the right time and they may have the sprinklers on in the pergolas - soak it up! It's good enough for the orchids and you'll dry off very quickly. My most recent visit was in September 2005 on a very hot and sticky day at about 4 pm. At that time there were no more than 3 or 4 other people up there. It was paradise. The gardens close at 6 pm ~Need retail therapy? ~There is an orchid market where you can buy plants or - if you are planning on bringing them back to the UK - you can buy a conical flask full of seedlings that can be planted up when you get home. Allegedly these are UK customs compliant but I’m not so sure whether you’d want to try a flask sweaty little baby orchids in your hand luggage during the current hand-luggage restrictions. There’s no hard sell at the market - just people who love orchids and are happy to talk about them. I brought back some baby orchids from my parents who nurtured them for a couple of months and then went on holiday and forgot all about them. I think a couple may survive in spite of the neglect. ~What else can you do?~Also on the Lake Gardens site you will find the bird park and the butterfly park. The butterflies are spectacular so make sure you have your camera and any macro lenses with you - entrance is 4 ringitt. The bird park is also a raucous but fun place to visit. Allegedly it's the largest in South East Asia but whilst it's good, it's not as outstanding as the Singapore bird park so if you are doing a trip to Malaysia and Singapore, hold out for the Singapore bird park instead. I believe entrance is free for the bird park. Other attractions in the park include a small Hibiscus Garden, close to the orchids and a deer park which costs just 1 ringitt. Note - the deer park and butterfly park close at 5 pm - i.e. an hour earlier than the orchids so you may need to see these before the orchids if you are going to be pressed for time. Because they close earlier, you’ll also find even fewer taxis in the area after 5 pm.
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