I arrived in Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur at around midday the following day after jumping on the overnight train from Penang in Northern Malaysia. Although the train arrived 3 hours later than scheduled, the ride was actually quite a pleasant one with plenty of room in the cabins to stretch out for a half decent night’s sleep.
The original plan was to relax in the city for a couple of days before dashing off to Singapore to catch my pending flight to Australia; however, these immediately changed after touching down at the main train station. I’d arrived in the city for Malaysia’s Formula 1 weekend and as it was the cheapest way to catch a Grand Prix in the world (at a snap of £40), there was no chance of me missing out on buying a ticket for the main race day tomorrow, especially as I’d never been to a live race! This meant I had to try and cram in as much of the city as I could on the first day, which ended up being like a Cannonball Run.
After checking into my somewhat ill-equipped hostel downtown, I headed off towards the Golden Triangle in the Bukit Bintang area which encompasses the main shopping and entertainment district. As expected, the area was the hub of all the action in Kuala Lumpur, the atmosphere encapsulated by the intense humidity hanging in the air.
As I continued through the district towards the famous Petronas Towers, I passed through dense areas of towering skyscrapers that dwarfed the shops, kiosks, bars and restaurants beneath. The city’s tram network flew past on the tracks high up on concrete stilts. Expensive sports cars whizzed by through the long flowing roads that cut through the metropolis. The feeling of the city was however quite unperturbed in contrast to the day-to-day life of the locals.
As I wandered mostly fixated with the towers above, past the office towers of Jalan Raja Chulan, the Jalan Sultan Ismail hotel strip, the Jalan P. Ramlee party street and the KL Menara Tower, I eventually arrived at the Petronas Towers in the main Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).
These towers were the tallest in the world between 1996 and 2003 and still remain the biggest attraction to the city. The towers were magnificently positioned, it was hard to avoid it’s on looking gaze anywhere in the city. Surprisingly, security in the Petronas Towers area seemed quite unapparent, with streams of people walking in and out of the building as they pleased owing to the shopping centre that was inside. Not only was there a shopping centre, but the city’s aquarium sat in the basement.
As I sauntered through the city, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of attention I was getting from the locals. Although friendly and approachable, I was quite bemused at their inquisitive stares. For a capital city, I would have thought that they were used to westerners wandering around the city, especially with the Petronas Towers attracting masses of tourists. Inside the Petronas Towers, after a few waves and hellos from passers-by, I was then stopped by two excitable women whom turned out to be mother and daughter. They couldn’t help but touch me for the ensuing five minutes of chatting. The girl was a student who was apparently due to take up a course at Southampton University and so they were intrigued as to how life would be for her in the UK. Somewhat to my naivety at the time, I accepted an invitation to lunch back at their home which was a short five minute cab ride round the corner from the city centre. Although I was hesitant at first, I just had to keep my wits about me and record exactly how I got to their place.
Back at the house, the whole family was in. I met the girl’s uncle and his wife who were preparing the lunch, as well as a couple of neighbours. They welcomed me into the house like they’d known me for some time, treating me like a special guest and stuffing me up on some delicious fish dishes whilst sat round the table together, chatting about my travels and the daughter’s upcoming relocation to Southampton.
After finishing up, the friendly atmosphere then started to change without warning. The women round the table started clearing up, with the noise of chatting immediately becoming cold. The uncle then put his arm round me an invited me into the back room for a quick aperitif with his neighbour. The daughter suddenly appeared to vanish from site completely. In the back room, a table was set up with what appeared to be poker sets lined up. It looked like I was being hooked up for something I really didn’t know how to get out of. The uncle sat me down and sat opposite me with a more serious look on his face. The neighbour was stood by the side of us listening in. I started to panic as there was only one exit – the exit the neighbour stood by. The daughter then reappeared and sat eerily close to me with her hand on my shoulder. The uncle then started to talk about his job as a blackjack dealer at one of the main casinos on the outskirts of town. I started to get more flushed as he went on, visions of local mafia playing in my head. He started flashing wedges of cash to me, explaining how there was lots of money to be made off ignorant, wealthy foreign business people through bent gambling. He started showing me how he would con them into parting with hundreds if not thousands of dollars without batting an eyelid. He told me a wealthy foreign business woman was being lined up to play at his table tonight – he wanted to draft me in as a hoax foreign player to suck the money out of her. As I started to get more uncomfortable, the uncle’s phone rang. A small time player was on his way over now. He wanted me in on a scam that was to take place in an hour – a practice run so to speak. I politely declined and started to get up but the uncle’s friend ushered me to sit down again. The daughter started to put pressure on me. The uncle kept on trying to sell it to me. I started giving out some lame excuses for why I couldn’t do it, including how I was due to meet some other travelling friends later that evening to head to Singapore. How that would change any situation should they actually wish to do something to me, I had no clue. But, for some reason, through my panic and hesitation, the uncle simply gave up by storming out the room, muttering some words to the neighbour. The daughter got up and ushered me out the door. She said they’d take me back to town. I said I’d find my way alone, but they insisted on getting in the neighbours car. With the fear building up evermore, the scene ended five minutes later with a disappointed, “Get Out” back at the Towers. They even took a couple of dollars off me for the privilege of the lift.
Somewhat bewildered, I headed back into the Petronas Towers for a while to make sure I was safe. And half an hour later, an excitable man approached me asking me to lunch…
A while later, I continued my tour of KL, visiting parts of Chinatown, taking in the Masjid Jamek Mosque, the Merdeka Square and Central Market, and then an excursion out to the Lake Gardens area.
Kuala Lumpur, like Penang, had an interesting mix of cultures and religions, but outside of this, without delving too much into the nightlife, there was very little more to draw my attention. Dinner at the Jalan Petaling in the evening to try out some Swordfish for the first time was followed by watching the Chelsea vs. Manchester United game in amongst a big gathering of locals cheering on both sides with the lure of the glamorous English Premiership evident to see. Then I final round trip back to see the Petronas by night ended my night before the Formula 1 day tomorrow.
Malaysia Official Tourism Site
Golden Triangle – Kuala Lumpur
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters