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Kuala Lumpur – The Towering Malaysian City

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.

Streets of Bukit Bintang - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Streets of Bukit Bintang – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Skyscrapers of Bukit Bintang - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Skyscrapers of Bukit Bintang – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.

Metro System of Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia

Metro System of Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia


Gran Turismo - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Gran Turismo – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Moped GP - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Moped GP – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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).

Jalan Raja Chulan - Bukit Bintang - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jalan Raja Chulan – Bukit Bintang – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Jalan Tong Shin - Bukit Bintang - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jalan Tong Shin – Bukit Bintang – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


KL Menara Tower - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KL Menara Tower – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.

Distant Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Distant Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Petronas Towers Horizon - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers Horizon – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Beneath the Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beneath the Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.

Chinatown - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Chinatown – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Old Building of Chinatown - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Old Building of Chinatown – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Masjid Jamek Mosque - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Masjid Jamek Mosque – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Lake Gardens - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Lake Gardens – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Monkey Raspberry - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monkey Raspberry – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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.

Jalan Petaling Stalls - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jalan Petaling Stalls – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Then I final round trip back to see the Petronas by night ended my night before the Formula 1 day tomorrow.

Petronas Towers by Night - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Towers by Night – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Further Reading

 
Malaysia Official Tourism Site
http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/uk

Petronas Towers
http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/

Golden Triangle – Kuala Lumpur
http://www.kuala-lumpur.ws/klareas/golden.htm

More Photography :

 
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Malaysia Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Penang – Malaysia

Following the fantastic motorcycle journey through the Vietnamese Highlands, I decided it was time for some relaxation and party time by heading to Koh Phangan – an island off the coast of Thailand – to enjoy the hedonism of the Full Moon Party. After 5 days spent snorkelling, sunbathing, drinking, eating and dancing on the beautiful beaches of Haad Rin, I packed up my bag again to head for the mainland and continue my journey south for my flight to Melbourne in Australia 6 days later.

Massively hung-over from the 5-day festival, I headed to the mainland with Matt (whom I’d met right at the start of my journey) and bid farewell to him as he headed north back to Bangkok for a flight back to Germany. The journey lasted a gruelling 15-hours, combining a choppy boat with 3 minibuses. The most challenging was the 6-hour stint down from Surat Thani to the Malaysian border in a tiny Nissan minibus, squished into the back seat above the back wheel arch. I felt every single bump on the way and the driver had no hesitation in keeping his foot flat to the ground at all times meaning I kept smashing the top of my head against the steel roof. Topped with that my butt had gone to sleep within the first hour and I had to wait patiently in agony until the first stop which ended up being about 3 hours later. Not only that, but the minibus was double capacity, so it was stifling cramped and horrendously hot and sweaty. I somehow hung on through the pain barrier.

After the usual border control routine at Bukat Kaya Hitam, we finally arrived in Penang at around 10pm, and took a short boat journey across to the island from Butterworth. The place was deserted, but I managed to check myself into a small hostel just off the centre of town on the fourth attempt of asking. It was a dank, dark hostel that had nothing more to the room than a well-used mattress on the floor underneath a mosquito net that wouldn’t catch a fish. A bite to eat in the bar downstairs and a shower then saw me off to bed.

Penang is the second smallest state in Malaysia, with its constituent island (also known as Georgetown) home to the government seat. The island itself is an eerily interesting little place that felt like a quick pit-stop before continuing my journey towards Kuala Lumpur in the South. It was deserted of tourists which was surprising and for the most part was like any abandoned sea side town in the UK. It also had a strange British feel to it in parts owing to the country’s occupation by the British back in the late 1700s. In fact, the island was loaned out to Captain Francis Light in 1786 by Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah – this was a simple trade deal which gave the British access to local resources and acted as a hurdle to Dutch and French expansion in the area, in return for military protection against the neighbouring Burmese and Siamese armies.

Streets of Penang - Malaysia

Streets of Penang – Malaysia


Streets of Georgetown - Penang, Malaysia

Streets of Georgetown – Penang, Malaysia


Downtown Georgetown - Penang, Malaysia

Downtown Georgetown – Penang, Malaysia


Penang Modern Architecture - Malaysia

Penang Modern Architecture – Malaysia


Georgetown Clocktower - Penang, Malaysia

Georgetown Clocktower – Penang, Malaysia

However, aside from the overall empty feel of the town, it also was a perfect introduction to the diversity of the Malaysian culture. I didn’t have any preconception of the stereotypical Malay and it was easy to see why. The town was split between Chinese, Indian and Malay people who seemed to intertwine seamlessly. Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim religions would border each other in what looked like peaceful sentiment. On one side you’d have a church, the other a mosque, followed by a temple and a pagoda further on. There didn’t really seem to be any division between them – they shared each other’s space freely. The advantage of this diversity was the amazing collection of food you would come across – typical dishes being offered out on street stalls and restaurants alike from Chinese noodles, to Malay Nasi Goreng through to the curries and tandoori of Indian cuisine.

Street Stall Vendor - Penang, Malaysia

Street Stall Vendor – Penang, Malaysia


Street Food - Penang, Malaysia

Street Food – Penang, Malaysia

After wandering around the empty streets for a while, I ended up down in the harbour area where I visited Fort Cornwallis – a fort built by the British upon the island’s occupation. This was a picture of the emptiness I’d just experienced in the streets with little to offer in terms of attraction inside. But a piece of history nonetheless.

Entrance to Fort Cornwallis - Georgetown, Malaysia

Entrance to Fort Cornwallis – Georgetown, Malaysia


Tourist Guard - Fort Cornwallis - Georgetown, Malaysia

Tourist Guard – Fort Cornwallis – Georgetown, Malaysia


Inside Fort Cornwallis - Georgetown, Malaysia

Inside Fort Cornwallis – Georgetown, Malaysia

From there, I then headed south through Georgetown, stopping by a breathtaking Chinese clan house called the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi. The clan house belonged to the Khoo Kongsi – one of the Five Big Clans of Penang, and dates back around 650 years. The house was sprawled with amazing statues, artefacts and scriptures and the colours that enclosed it were stunning. Inside, families would be sat in prayer – a picture I was prohibited to take as I closed in.

Side Alley to the Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Side Alley to the Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Entrance to the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Entrance to the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Architecture of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Architecture of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Porchway of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Porchway of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Main Room of Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Main Room of Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Decoration of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Decoration of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Architecture of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Architecture of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia


Art of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi - Penang, Malaysia

Art of the Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi – Penang, Malaysia

After a short walk further up the street, I then came across the Masjid Kapitan Keling mosque. Afternoon prayer had just finished, so I was sat amass the mobs of mix-raced Muslims that swamped past me.

The Dome of the Kapitan Keling Mosque - Penang, Malaysia

The Dome of the Kapitan Keling Mosque – Penang, Malaysia


Kapitan Keling Mosque - Penang, Malaysia

Kapitan Keling Mosque – Penang, Malaysia


Crowds of the Kapitan Keling Mosque - Penang, Malaysia

Crowds of the Kapitan Keling Mosque – Penang, Malaysia

A stone throw later, I then stumbled upon the impressive Kuan Yin Teng Temple. Luckily, it was the temple’s 210th birthday and there was teems of people in and around it, praying and offering messages to ancestors inside. Outside, there were huge incense sticks that people would put up as an offering to the temple. Next to it, a huge bell sat where people threw messages and gifts into the fire for their ancestors. Inside, hoards of people would sit or stand praying with offerings for Shiva and the various deities and Gods. It was a bustling atmosphere that kept me there for a good hour or so.

Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Offering to the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Offering to the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Incense Sticks - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Incense Sticks – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Bell Furnace - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Bell Furnace – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Inside the Kuan Ying Teng - Penang, Malaysia

Inside the Kuan Ying Teng – Penang, Malaysia


Prayer Offering - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Prayer Offering – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Prayer Inside the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Prayer Inside the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Thoughtful - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda, Malaysia

Thoughtful – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda, Malaysia


Peaceful Profile - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Peaceful Profile – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Monks of the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Monks of the Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia


Messages to Ancestors - Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda - Penang, Malaysia

Messages to Ancestors – Kuan Yin Teng Pagoda – Penang, Malaysia

Yet another two minutes up the road, the St George’s Church sat solemn in the sunlight, completely in contrast to the noise of the two Chinese temples and Mosque that I’d jumped from nearby.

St George's Church - Penang, Malaysia

St George’s Church – Penang, Malaysia

After some more snacks from street stalls, I then wandered past the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was unfortunately closed, but I could see the striking blue façade that has become known to be Cheong Fatt Tze’s most elaborate and lavish works – the detailing and artisan works are even more refined than even those in his native home in Tai’pu; and is reputedly one of only two such buildings of its size outside China.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion - Penang, Malaysia

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion – Penang, Malaysia

With most of the town covered off and at the height of the heat of the day, I then headed off to the hostel to grab my bags and head out for a bite to eat. A few hours went by watching the locals come and go amongst the bustling street stalls. As prominent with most of Asia, street food is central to its culture and the best place to catch local life. It’s as almost if the stalls acted as everybody’s kitchen – the streets could be virtually deserted before families fill it to the brim for dinner.

Lunch Gatherers - Penang, Malaysia

Lunch Gatherers – Penang, Malaysia


Locals of Penang - Malaysia

Locals of Penang – Malaysia


Local Pose - Penang, Malaysia

Local Pose – Penang, Malaysia


Local Advertisement - Penang, Malaysia

Local Advertisement – Penang, Malaysia

A few mixed juices later, it was then time to catch an 11pm overnight train to Kuala Lumpur.

Further Reading on Malaysia

 
Georgetown Penang Blog
http://www.georgetownpenang.com/

Leong Sang Tong Khoo Kongsi
http://www.khookongsi.com.my/

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
http://www.cheongfatttzemansion.com/

More Photography :

 
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

Posted in Malaysia Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |