This past weekend a group of exchange students, including myself, went to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. I know this seems like quite the random spot to go for a weekend trip, and it was, but flights there proved to be cheaper than other options so we figured, why not?
We took an early flight out of Perth on Friday morning to make it to the city by midday. Kuala Lumpur has very few set prices, so immediately we had to put our bartering skills to a test in attempting to secure a taxi ride to our hotel. We ended up with a pleasant driver, probably the most pleasant we encountered on our time in Malaysia. When stopping to fill up on gas, the driver allowed some of us get out of the car and go to Dunkin’ Donuts. (Yes, Dunkin’ Donuts has made its way all the way to Malaysia.) The hotel we stayed in was quite nice as well, especially considering the deals we were able to get. The hotel included a rooftop infinity pool. Needless to say, one afternoon was dedicated to relaxation by the pool.
Our first day in Kuala Lumpur was spent going to the local Chinatown markets. We wandered around the markets for quite some time. Each booth basically sold similar items. All of which included fake name brand handbags, sunglasses, headphones, etc. A chorus of, “We have a special lady price for you,” followed us throughout the booths. I tried a new snack of sticky rice from one of the vendors on the streets. With the sanitation conditions of the country, I had to be careful about who I bought what food from. The sticky rice was kind of bland, a new taste altogether. At least I did not spot the lady who made the rice washing her dishes out on the road as I saw with many other restaurants we passed. That evening we ate at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Having been in Australia for so long I forgot how cheap items are in other countries. For a full course meal I paid $10. After our meal, we went to get massages, cheap, as most things there we purchased. The ladies at the place we went to were quite nice. I do have to note that they took us up into an attic area for the massages, which weirded me out a little bit at first.
After our relaxing day one, we decided to take on day two from a bigger tourist perspective. Our first stop of the day was the Petronas Towers, two large connected towers in the middle of the city that often serve as icons for Kuala Lumpur. The tower tour took us up to the sky bridge between the two towers along with a ride to the very top levels. From these views we could see all of Kuala Lumpur and even further into the distance. The city was bigger than I was expecting, and many large fountains marked areas of wealth. From the outside, the Petronas Towers look out of place against the city skyline, almost like something from outer space. In the evening we headed to the Sky Bar for dinner. The restaurant was on the top floor of a hotel and looked out to a perfect view of Kuala Lumpur at night.
The following day we visited the Batu Caves a little ways out of the city. The Batu Caves include a Hindu Temple area. Therefore, we were required to buy scarves to wrap around our legs out of respect for the religion. The hike up to the caves included a few hundred stairs. The catch, was ferocious monkeys along the route, trained to steal any food and bags that looked to be of value. Luckily, no monkeys messed with our group. At the base of the Batu Caves were Indian markets and restaurants. I decided to get a traditional henna tattoo on my foot. While wandering around the markets, I had a few people ask to take pictures with me. These people had not been exposed to many white people before. I felt like some celebrity, a bit out of place, but always agreed. Once the rain started to pour down, we headed into an Indian restaurant to grab some food, hoping the rain would subside. The traditional Indian food was served on a banana leaf without any cutlery. We were expected to use our hands. The rain continued to pour down, forcing us to enter the flooding streets to find a taxi back to the city. The taxi drivers must have known we were desperate due to the rain, because their prices continued to be far too high. By the time we were dripping wet, we found a taxi to take us. The taxi driver stopped in front of a hotel that was not ours. He had misheard where we were staying. For a few minutes I questioned if we would make it back.
Our final day in Kuala Lumpur was spent visiting the KLCC Petronas Towers Mall. The mall differed little from a typical mall back in the States, obviously targeted towards the tourists. We stayed in the mall longer than anticipated due to the uncooperative rainy weather. The final place we visited was a local butterfly garden. The garden was a large enclosure with native plants and butterflies everywhere. Unfortunately the butterflies would not land on us, but the walk through was peaceful and quite beautiful.
My overall review was that Kuala Lumpur is nothing spectacular. I enjoyed my first trip to Asia, but the city was quite similar to any other big city one would travel to, just a bit more uncleanly. Spending a weekend away from the constant activity of college was a good break. The more I travel, the more I come to the conclusion that humans are very similar, with only cultures and ideas making us unique.