Breaking the silence of the early morning light, the first of five daily adzan is heard; not sleep disturbing, but accessorizing the urban beat of a waking city. This was my introduction to Kuala Lumpur. Not often am I surprised about the places I visit, but the former tin colony was a delightful shock to the system.
THIS IS A BIT FAMILIAR
To begin with, there was something very familiar about my entrance into the city. As a Pittsburgh, PA native, I’m accustomed to landing at the airport and riding through the dull, sparsely populated suburbs before I reach the Fort Pitt tunnel. At the other end one is greeted by the quaint majesty that the city exudes. Kuala Lumpur produces that same effect on a larger scale.
Be aware that the ride from the airport to Kuala Lumpur proper is about 45 minutes without traffic, which felt like forever given the fact that we disembarked from a 7 hour flight from Japan and a 14 hour flight from New York before that, so the car ride felt even longer. However, when you emerge from that final tunnel into the city center, you realize the ride is worth the trouble. I was not prepared for the stunning views and the cosmopolitan feel of the city. I’d done some cursory research, but I was still very impressed. I’m a city kid; bright lights and an urban vibe make me feel at home.
I’M KINDA HUNGRY
After we arrived at our place of residence for the next few days; wired and hungry after eating nothing but airplane food for 20 + hours, we decided to explore a bit of downtown KL. We discovered that everything near us was closed, so we asked a few locals to let us know where we could go to get something to eat. They suggested that we go to a lively area of Bukit Bintang section of the city where we stumbled upon the Layalina Restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant that also had hookah, of which we partook.
We had chicken and lamb schwarma platters, which were delicious. So delicious we went back to Layalina the following evening (mainly for the hookah though).
WHERE WE DINED
Nirwana Maju Restaurant
Hong Kong Hotpot
Marini’s on 57
Kuala Lumpur is a bustling metropolis full of character and ethnic diversity. I was struck at the spectrum of its denizens. It also happens to be the economic center of Malaysia, which was apparent by the number of corporate entities and luxury accommodations. You can hear Muslim prayers five times a day, but there are a mix of religions, and the various populations that share the city seem to live harmoniously…mostly.
The currency exchange rate is also favorable. The dollar to Malaysian Ringgit conversion was about $1 to approx $4.
The Petronas Towers are the landmarks that are most synonymous with Kuala Lumpur. The skyline is is defined by them, and people visit the city just to take pictures in front of them. It’s actually a challenge to take a picture of the full towers without moving a good distance, and of course there are a variety of people waiting at the optimum location to provide picture taking services for a price. In this case, it was worth it to get the shot.
These limestone caverns on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur have both a practical and spiritual history. According to the all-mighty Wikipedia, the caves have had several uses over the centuries including for collecting bat guano for fertilizing crops by Chinese settlers. It has since served as both a major tourist spot and a religious site housing several Hindu shrines.
The massive Murugan statue at the foot of the caves welcomes you to the tourist-friendly landmark. There are a variety of souvenir shops, cafes and eateries near the entrance, which gives you a sense of how important of a revenue-generating area the caves are.
During my time there, a massive renovation/repair effort was happening, so there was scaffolding everywhere. It made it difficult to get some photos, but I did my best to get a few good shots.
The humidity was a main character that day as it was already hot and raining, but the caves seemed to up the intensity quite a bit.
If you have a chance to check out Kuala Lumpur you should. It’s easy to overlook the city with Thailand and Singapore so close and other cities like Jakarta, Manila, and Ho Chi Minh City also in the region. It’s a place that you might not hear about a lot, but it’s a city you should definitely put on your radar.