Skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I’m tired. It pressed down on me like a wet cloak after walking in a rainstorm. Nearly too tired to be tired. Tired because I am not getting enough long stretches of sleep. Tired of dry eyes and a bad cough due to breathing stale air-conditioned air in decompressed cabins at 32,000 feet. Tired of too hot hotel rooms in Japan and icy cold (but nevertheless thankful) hotel rooms in Malaysia. But I am not too tired to be excited about the upcoming free evening and tomorrow’s exploration of Kuala Lumpur.
The Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque (The Blue Mosque) in Shah Alam, Malaysia
My taxi winds its way eastward along Persekutuan Higway from Shah Alam to Kuala Lumpur’s city center, through a jungle of highway-side billboards, high rise suburbia apartments, and industrial parks, intersperse with small tropical palm tree forests (Kuala Lumpur must be the only world city that still have stretches of “real jungle” within its city limits) here and there.
As my taxi descends more to the floor of Malaysia’s Klang valley and Kuala Lumpur’s skyscrapers are etched against a backdrop of the Titiwangsa Mountains I contemplate my itinerary for tonight and tomorrow. The taxi or teksi as it’s called in Malaysia turned onto the SMART highway and into the 6 mile long SMART tunnel (Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel) to emerge onto Jalan Tun Rezak and then left onto Jalan Ampang that runs in front of the Petronas Towers to my hotel just across from the towers. (Jalan is Malay for road.)
In Shah Alam at the Restoran Crocodile Farm Seafood Village. No, there are no crocodiles there. Only a seafood restaurant under palm trees with an excellent lake view.
It was late afternoon when I arrived at the Maya Hotel and after dropping my luggage in the room, savoring an apple and a small bottle of orange juice from the room’s fruit bar I head to the Petronas Towers to see if I can go up to the sky bridge to catch the late afternoon view of Kuala Lumpur from 40 odd stories up. But disappointment was my lot because it was closed until January 2012 for renovations. So instead I went underground to the huge Suria shopping mall underneath the towers complex to see if I can buy any souvenirs, but it was a dream world of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, Gucci and Tiffany's that compete with each other to see who can have the highest prices..
The Petronas Towers: In daytime and at night.
Suddenly Kuala Lumpur's skyscraper architecture looked far more interesting than a shopping mall to me. I’m not a big fan of shopping mall exploration in any case, but I nevertheless did for fun and travel experience-sake. I eventually emerged from my underground sojourn onto Jalan P Ramlee to take a casual walk, to snap some photographs and to just take in the city’s architecture, sounds, aromas and character. I walked along Jalan Sultan Ismail in the shadow of the KL Communications Tower and beneath the monorail tracks. Kuala Lumpur is a skyscraper surprise and jewel alike. Its excellent location in Asia makes it a haven for international banking. And banks worldwide love to build upwards, to build status symbols.
When dark clouds gathered and another tropical storm threatened, it’s monsoon season in Malaysia, I ducked into the Hard Rock Café for a beer and to escape the oppressive 95 degrees heat and humidity. My feet felt like cedar logs and my throat like the Karoo on a hot dusty day. It was happy hour, buy one and get one free. So I stay for two, talking up some British expats regulars that were hanging out and eating bar side dinners and listen to some good rock and roll that was blaring from the video screens. I eventually dragged myself, reluctantly, out from the coolness of the Hard Rock into the mugginess of the early evening, but was soon drenched as I walked in a deluge of rain on my way to the hotel.
Monsoon storms don’t last long. At the hotel I dried out some and cooled off while watching the BBC World News. More riots in Egypt. Nothing new! Night has fallen so off I went into the city again looking for a place to eat. The hotel has two restaurants, a Japanese one, but I had that all last week in Japan, the other a traditional Malayan, but no spicy food for me so close to a long flight home. I got to stick to my travel rules, have learned my lesson many times on trips to Mexico.
Kuala Lumpur at night.
I ended up at the Rum Jungle under a canopy of tall trees and flashy lights where the music was nostalgic (Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot, America's Ventura Highway, Lying in the arms of Mary from a seventies band whose name I can't remember anymore and China Groove from the Doobie Brothers among other), the food Western and average, and the service lazy and they didn't served any dessert. I didn't mind. I was heading back to the hotel. The initial spurge of energy from arriving in Kuala Lumpur and the visual entertainment of its magnificent skyscraper architecture was wearing off and my earlier tiredness has returned. I was looking forward to a long, hopefully undisturbed sleep.
Tomorrow was going to be long day of sightseeing, airport loitering and flying back to Tokyo.