06.02.2008 - 13.02.2008
If you like architecture, palm trees, diversity and good food, you'll love Kuala Lumpur. Every building has its own personality, beautifully designed to stand out. Every street has a different color, adorned with trees, houses or apartments complexes. You walk down the street and see people walking proudly in their traditional outfits, speaking different languages. within reach, there are a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, from middle eastern, to Asian, to western food: Indian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Thai, Bengal, Italian, Iranian, Iraqi, Mexican food stalls just to name a few. I'll be a fat girl by the time I leave Kuala Lumpur.
People of different races and ethnicities live and belong in KL. You see a young woman dressed in a one-inch long skirt and a top barely covering more than bras would, walking on the sidewalk right next to a woman covered head to toe in black burka. You see masques and temples thriving in harmony. It's colorful, it's alive. It's cosmopolitan and democratic. It was hard to believe when my Malaysian friends later told me that Malaysian citizens of Indian or Chinese decent cannot own a business without a Malay partner. And, that a temple or church in any neighborhood cannot be build if there is no masque in the area. In other words, Islam should be one of the options or no other religions can be preached.
But most tourists have little to do with these complicated, deeply rooted religion/race issues. Great food, great tourist sites, nice architecture, excellent transportation system and nice warm weather will make your trip to Malaysia a memorable one.
And for the first time since I left Canada for Korea, I feel completely - and happily- invisible. No one stares as if I'm an alien dumped down on earth. I'm just one in the crowd. When the taxi dropped me off at the hotel from the airport, I saw an Iranian restaurant called Kolbe-ye sharghi, the Eastern Hut, next to the hotel. I almost choked in excitement, it had been so long since I last had an authentic Iranian meal (the one in Seoul doesn't really count, the rice is sticky with no saffron). So after dropping my luggage in my room, I hurried into the restaurant with a big smile ear to ear, only to find out that they didn't share my enthusiasm to see another Iranian. At the restaurant, I saw piles of Persian weekly publications and Iranian yellow pages for businesses in Malaysia, even more than I had seen in Montreal. So I found out that there is a large Iranian population in Kuala Lumpur, and this was confirmed when I strolled around the city and heard Iranian families speaking in Farsi. So I sat at a window table by myself, ordered a traditional Iranian soup, Ashreshteh, and my favorite Kabaab Koobideh, with maast-o-moosir, feeling ignored while I ate. The food was authentic and Iranian all around. And I ate as though I hadn't eaten in years. Then I forced my stuffed and heavy self on my feet, and walked out of the restaurant, still as invisible and happy as I could possibly get.
Yesterday I woke up at 7 and to my surprise I felt up and functional. So I decided to start my day early and go to Petronas twin towers. I was told that in order to get admission to the SkyBridge, the bridge that connects the two towers together on the 41st and 42nd floors, I should be there before 9. The admission is free but there is limited number of tickets everyday and it's on a first-come, first-served basis. So I hopped into a cab and was at the twin towers before 9, only to realize that I wasn't the earliest bird in town. There were tens of people waiting in the line and I decided to wait too, although I had little hope of getting a ticket. 45 minutes later, I was handed a ticket for 12:15 pm. Happy and feeling lucky, I ventured out into the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur to kill 3 hours. I found a coffee shop/restaurant and ordered an exotic tea whose name I couldn't pronounce. I studied my tourist map, sipped on the tea and noticed that the aquarium called Aquaria is right around the corner from the twin towers. So after finishing my tea, I went to the aquarium. Having being scuba diving and swimming with the fishes in their natural habitat, I realized that I no longer appreciate aquariums with their fake plants, dead corals and the fish swimming in circles in small confined water. But then I reminded myself that the aquariums are for people who, for different reasons, cannot go scuba diving.
Then around 4 o'clock, after visiting the towers, the aquarium and investigating every inch of the 4-floor shopping mall, I decided I had done enough for a day and it's about time I do something to my hair. My hair has been in a mess since the dives in the Philippines. It's been so pulled and abused that the only cure is a magic perm and a cut. But after walking around for another hour looking for a hair salon, I learned that they were all closed for Lunar new year.
Today I got on the hop-in, hop-off bus which goes to 42 tourist sites around the city. You buy a pass for 24 hours and you get on and off as many times as you want. The audio guide on the bus introduces different parts of the town, suggests things to do, and talks about the architecture. I went to the National Museum, the butterfly garden, the National masque, the Sculpture Park and the National monument . Then for my last stop I got off at Petaling Street (China Town) and strolled along hundreds of stalls selling imitation watches, bags and clothes. Malaysia is just as nice as Singapore, yet much much less expensive. And the hop-on, hop-off bus was a great way to get to the tourist sites and see the city.
And, the buffet at the top of KL tower was pricey and food not so good, but the 360-degree revolving floor which gives you a nice bird-eye view of beautiful KL is priceless.