We arrived in Kuala Lumpur a little over a week ago filled with dread. Actually dread is a slight exaggeration, but regardless we were not overly excited about the idea. As always the rational and justifiable opinion was based on a two night stop over spent in KL over two years ago on the way home from a three week trip in Vietnam. We also knew we would be stuck in KL for a while because we had to apply for Vietnamese visas, a process which is slow enough when you are in the country that matches your passport.
However I can happily report that in my opinion Kuala Lumpur has been upgraded from a shudder when thought of, to just a city. There are a few things that definitely fall into the highlights category, but for the most part KL is just a city. It’s big, it’s busy, it has fast food and regular public transport as well as lots of English.
We spent a lot of time in the Bukit Bintang area which is the main shopping district. While it’s no Singapore, it has a mixture of new flashy expensive shopping centres and old rundown shopping centres that look more like markets that have been layered and encased in a building. We also discovered a six or seven story centre purely dedicated to technology items. Phones, computers, TVs, cameras, tablets, whatever you want, if it needs power or a battery, you’ll find it and you’ll find it cheap.
The food ranges from cheap to white prices and anywhere in between. You can even find yourself eating at a toilet themed restaurant. We did the obligatory sights such as the Petronas towers, Botanic Gardens and Batu Caves. While we didn’t do the towers bridge we did happen to be there during the 2012 Propaganda Festival, I mean the Music and Light Festival sponsored by the 2012 World Gas Conference and Petronas itself. Whoever was paying for it, it was fairly spectacular.
The Batu Caves are worth visiting. Be prepared though, the train trip back to the city is double the cost of the way there. We’re talking RM1 there and RM2 back, but it’s the principle of the thing. Anyway, the cave itself is huge, as is the flight of 272 stairs to get to it. There are two areas in the main cave and the biggest area is about half the size of a football field inside and 10 or so stories high. You’ll also find monkeys that are interested in and will steal any plastic bags you might be carrying even if it’s just a bag of tissues.
As Genevieve put it, Kuala Lumpur is a city that is simultaneously being built up and decaying. You’ll see extravagance and poverty often side by side. In the building designs there are remnants of the British occupation as well as blends of British and local influences.