Keeping Cool in KL

I’ve dreamed of visiting KL since I read about it while studying for my A Level Economics (many years ago).  At the time, Malaysia was the fastest growing economy in the world, with the Petronas towers under construction, set to be the tallest buildings in the world, and a symbol of growing wealth, ambition and progress for the nation.

We’re here at last, having arrived at the new, modern railway station by night train.  At 6.30am we heard the guard shouting ‘KL Sentral!’ which we assumed was the termination of the train, so were taking our time changing out of pyjama’s and gathering up our things, when he came back to hurrry us along as the train was about to leave again!  So we kind of fell off the train in a pile of laundry and rucksacks, matted hair and sleepy children.

No matter, our guest house were very welcoming, even at that hour.  It was a little early to check in, but we were given tea, coffee & hot chocolate, a big comfy sofa, and space to store our luggage.  It’s a lovely little place called Sabahat.  We’re taking 2 of the 8 rooms here, and have our own kitchenette in a lovely seating area, a great escape from the hustle and bustle outside.

We headed out again and saw the Bird Park.  Actually, we didn’t go in (it’s very pricey – about MYR 250 for all of us – £50) but we ate in the Hornbill cafe, which has an outside seating area in the birdpark, so you can see it for free!  We saw loads of hornbills, and even had some birds coming to eat our scraps.  The Lakeside Park is beautiful, we also saw the Orchid section, and of course, the playground, which is huge.

The next day was all about the Petronas Towers.  We’d bought tickets in advance so saved hours avoiding the enormous queue, and were wizzing up in the ultra fast lift before 9am.  The visit was in 2 parts:  a stop at the skybridge at about 180m, and a stop at the observation deck at 370m.  It really was memorable, being in such an iconic building looking down at the city below.  The highlight for the girls was spotting a huge playground with a paddling pool that we’d been told was nearby, so you can guess what we spent the rest of the day doing!

KL is very different to the other capital cities we’ve visited.  It’s much more modern, you can buy anything here:  we’ve seen H&M, M&S (we bought earl grey tea and rich tea biscuits), a Harrods tea room, Tiffany’s and many other famous western retailers.  It’s much calmer than Bangkok, much cleaner than Kathmandu, and much hotter than both of them put together.  The most popular way of keeping cool seems to be ducking into the city-sized shopping complexes that make the White Rose Centre in Leeds look like a small backwater from yesteryear.  It’s very dangerous on the pocket, Fergus seems to have accidentally spent £400 on camera accessories without meaning to.  And I bought a dress or 2.  Oops!

There’s also much more access to the outside world.  The internet speed is brilliant, and there are international newspapers, as well as BBC news on in many outlets.  Malaysia is big in the news at the moment, as the search continues for MH370 continues, and it’s the Grand Prix in KL this weekend, sponsored by Petronas, of course.

Fused with these modern conveniences though is the melee of sounds, smells and sights that signify South East Asia.  The cooking pots on the street are still here (although looking slightly more securely balanced than elsewhere); the inevitable Chinatown & Little India districts; the sudden change from ‘delicious noodle soup’ smell to ‘overheated blocked drain’ as you inhale; the honking of horns and the weaving motorbikes through the traffic; the touts trying to entice you, the tourist, to come buy their wares; and the tiny hovels inhabited by the city’s poor rub shoulders with the designer outlets.  What sets KL apart for me though is the parks, they rival London in the feeling of city centre getaway, and I think would make KL a very liveable in city for anyone, whatever their wealth.

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