This page may contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Yes, Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur are tainted by Marks hilarious insistance on calling it that. I want to leave KL as soon as possible for that reason alone!
Well, actually I am happy to be leaving KL after just a few days as have found it a bit of a struggle. Quite probably the culture shock from laid back Bali to a big old city was going to get us anyhow, but the mixture of it being very hot, humid and fumey from all the cars makes it not the most fun to walk around. Add to that the most immense down pours that occur most days and the fact that there’s not that much of interest to do and that’s us done really.
We’re staying in a hostel right next to what is definitely the most interesting part of town. We are practically in China Town and have the old central market building just up the road and up the hill is what seems to be the main restaurant district. Malaysia is known for being a happy hybrid of mainly 3 groups – Muslims, Hindu and Chinese. It is also known for it’s amazing food. This was what I was most looking forward to. But we struggled to find this amazing food that is so hailed. We found decent food, but not amazing. We ate at a street sellers one night and had satay and fish and it was good but wasn’t blown away.
In the end I got a bit fed up and turned to my usual city bible (everyone should use it) Time Out. We went to a restaurant called Palate Palette which was described as being quirky and arty with good food. The food was indeed very good and it was nice to go somewhere that wasn’t super fancy but kind of independent and nice. I had taken to calling the place Palate’s Palette, in a Timmy Mallet tribute, which amused Mark greatly. For those of you who didn’t watch UK children’s saturday morning TV in the early 90s – don’t worry about it. It cannot be explained.
The hostel is small, as you would expect in town, the lady who runs it, Joy, is delightful. The place is quite quirky and our room, although without windows has aircon, and thank god for that. Makes it very difficult to leave to head out into the heat. The toilet/shower situation in the hostel is rather interesting. The rest of the place is done out nicely but these cubicles in which the shower is in with the toilet are in basic concrete, floor and walls. I did know this to be the case having read it on a review and thought they were being a bit fussy, but the problem wasn’t that they looked shoddy but more that the plumbing was shoddy. The toilet permanently leaked (clean water at least) so the flush never worked properly. Yes – you imagine right. It was often not a pleasant place to visit. The sink also leaked so the floor was just permanently sodden – although it was at least clean but still – yuk!!!
As I say, the city itself is quite hard work but at the same time easy. Does that make any sense? Public transport is easy to work out, cheap and available not far off from most places. They also often join up one station, with another station where you might change lines, with a sheltered walk way so you don’t get drenched in the afternoon downpours. And they can be quite far away. I guess they also provide welcome shade when the sun is out also.
The central market, which is just up the road from us is a cute little art deco building which used to be the food market, back in the day. A wet market I believe it is called. Now it is full of ‘stuff’. It’s very civilised, not a hustle and bussle market at all, more of a sophisticated arcade. The food in there is pretty good and it’s air conditioned (happy days). But it’s fairly boring after the first wander around if you’re not much of a shopper. They had an odd mix of tat, really nice quality stuff and then some fascinating antique things from thousands of years ago!! There was some contraption involving bells that Mark was most fascinated by. Some olden day musical instrument of enormous scale.
China town was ok, but they do tend to be much of a muchness in most cities and I was rather gobsmacked that opposite us there was a Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant. I had never heard of such a thing. I love Kenny, but in Malaysia? Really? But I did discover that they love their chicken in KL, so maybe that explains it. It felt like the whole city was sponsored by KFC. Certainly, lots of the stations were. That creepy kernel was staring down at me from every corner. Sinister!
We did go to the famous Petronas towers and in our usual style, after finding out it wasn’t free to go up anymore and more importantly that you had to book a slot and then come back at the allotted time which was generally hours later – we couldn’t be bothered. We did, bizarrely for us, enjoy a good couple of hours in the mall beneath the towers. This is testament mainly to the stifling heat outside, god that air con was lovely, but also that it was actually very quiet there. Not the crowds you would expect. Very few people about and we felt a bit retail-y for a change. We both went crazy and bought t-shirts. You may think this is insignificant, but let me tell you we were excited. New clothes!! New CLEANER THAN CLEAN clothes. I’m even going to save it for a special occasion. Get me!
One of the places I really wanted to go was Little India. We’d come through there briefly on the way in on the bus (didn’t I mention the bus – bus from the airport for the 45 minute journey to the city – about 3 quid each – bargain or what?). It was beautifully air conditioned and had swagged gold curtains – glamourous!! Anyhow, we headed off to Little India and I got us off a station which required us walking through a slightly ropey neighbourhood and was more of a walk than anticipated. Let me also explain that we had ended our soberness and had a few drinks the first two days we were here so were feeling a bit worse for wear in the intense heat. When we eventually reached our destination, exhaustion and dehydration dampened our enthusiasm to say the least, but it was also a bit of an odd place. It was cool looking – they’d recently moved the official little india to this site and paid a fair bit to deck it out. I reckon it’s because they realise the tourist attractions are a little bit thin on the ground. As I say, it looks great. Very colourful but it was, as Mark pointed out, a bit theme-parky. There was bangra music blaring out, really, really loud and there were lights and big shops selling souvenirs. Not the kind of ‘this is where the indians actually come to shop and eat’ kind of place I was expecting. I was expecting many, many restaurants too but there weren’t that many and in our hungover state we really wanted something easy and air conditioned. We were to have neither and went into a Northern Indian place where I recognised very little (understandable considering most UK Indian food is known to be very un-Indian) but it was a buffet and everything looked a bit ropey. In the end it wasn’t half bad. I always choose well in such ventures – always best to be vegetarian, and I did add in a chicken drumstick for good measure – to help fill out the plate so it looked like i had loads when in fact i didn’t. I had piled on tons of coloured pilau when the women explaining the buffet to us had for some reason piled Marks plate up with some wet looking steamed rice. It was not a meal of note and I was a it disheartened as I’d been looking forward to having Indian food in Malaysia as we hadn’t had any since leaving home.
On our second night, having had way too much to drink the previous night in an irish bar (long story – involving pouring rain, being dropped off in the wrong place by a useless taxi driver and stopping in the place for a quick one), we ended the afternoon with a hair of the dog at a hostel around the corner with a reggae bar. I don’t know why it was a reggae bar but it was a massive place and we could hide happily in the corner. The brick walls all over the place had been written on by visitors, as is often the way in travellers bars and hostels.
I was sitting next to one scribbling which I found most peculiar/intriguing.
Down and dirty with club 18-30. Malia 4/1/12 – for those of you who don’t know, Malia is a town on Crete frequented by young folk ‘larging it’. Fond ‘shout outs’ to lads on tour type holidays in the greek islands or the costas is not unfamiliar to me. But this is someone in Kualar Lumpur – not usually a destination in it’s own right so was likely a stop of before or after a far off destination such as Thailand or Australia. So it seemed odd, in this far flung place, that this was all that young traveller could come up with. That was the only words that sprang to his mind? Um??!
We had an absolute treat one day on our way back from the central market area. There was a guy being filmed miming to what was clearly his song. He must have been at least a bit famous as people looked marginally excited. He looked older than he probably was because of his grown up clothes. He had someone holding up some polystyrene beneath his face for the reflection – clearly the budget wouldn’t run to the proper reflectors. It felt a bit mean – but it was hilarious. We weren’t impolite to laugh outright there of course, we are better brought up than that!
My strongest memory from KL, will be something that we saw that we just didn’t expect to see. We were staring down from our local train station at the graffiti style murals that were done on boards all along the river. After a couple of hours downpour, the day before, the water had been up a foot or so, up the murals and we had wondered how on earth they painted them. However, the next day the water was so much lower and showed it had actually been up and over the walk way the day before. As we were looking at this I spotted something and said something along the lines of ‘what the *?>!@* is that?’
A huge lizard thing walked out from under an area of scaffolding and had a bit of a potter around before going back under. This thing was big, really big. Not like an iguana, big, like a freakin dog big!! It was such a strange site to see in such an urban environment. I know we are in an exotic country but surely this thing didn’t live there. Maybe it had been swept in with all that water. Maybe it lived there all the time. The photo’s zoom was rubbish and you can’t really tell the scale but that is certainly a sight that will stay with me!!