After a sky-train, taxi, airplane, bus, train and sky-train I made it to the Izumu Hotel, in Bukit Bintang. I have been to Kuala Lumpur twice before and, coming in on the train, it is so sparse compared to Bangkok. As soon as you leave the airport in Thailand you soon come across the tell-tale high rise buildings that make up the city. When you leave the airport in Kuala Lumpur there is nothing but forests of palm trees on either side for quite a long way of the journey. When I went there in 2009 there was almost nothing until you reach KL Sentral- but now there are new housing estates dotted along the landscape.
KL reminds me of Colombo a little bit- as you travel towards the city centre all of a sudden you see the tower-blocks emerge from the, otherwise flat, landscape.
My friend, Matin, met me and we went to a South Indian restaurant, Nasa Kasang Line Clear- a little like a school canteen with trays of meat, veg and rice-it was delicious and reasonably cheap. There is a large Muslim presence in KL and you will find that, certainly in restaurants such as this one, there is no alcohol served. However, you don’t have to go far to find it if you want to have a few drinks- there are several, western, bars and restaurants not far from Jalan Berangan.
The Izumu Hotel is on Jalan Berangan, right in the middle of Bukit Bintang- if you take a left onto Jalan Sultan Ismail you can easily walk to the Petronas Towers- I got lost a bit and had to double back on myself until I found Jalan P. Ramlee which leads you right up to the towers.
I stopped off to have lunch in a restaurant, called Ava Bistro, and sat and watched the world go by (something I do quite a lot). The restaurant does a range of Arabic, Iranian and western dishes and the staff are very friendly –giving me directions to Simfoni Lake.
The Petronas Twin Towers are as spectacular as ever, particularly at night when they are all lit up. I never get tired of seeing them. If you have never been to KL before a trip up to the sky-bridge (which connects the two towers) is well worth it, although you need to get a ticket as early as possible because they only allow a certain number of people up every day. Once up there you can enjoy 360 degree views of KL and the surrounding area.
The Petronas Towers were the tallest in the world from 1998 to 2004, when they were dropped down the ranking by Taipei 101, but they still remain the tallest twin towers in the world today. Together with the KL tower they reign over the skyline of Kuala Lumpur’s CBD.
Having been up to the sky-bridge before I decided to walk around the towers and head for a beautiful little park surrounding Simfoni Lake. I didn’t know that this place existed on my previous visits but it is there at the back of the towers. Right in the middle of KL it is so peaceful and the hustle and bustle of traffic and city life seem miles away. I wandered round the two small lakes, looking at the different species of trees and plants, where there were people chilling and taking a break from whatever they were doing in their day.
The following day I decided to go to Central Market, so having consulted my map I went out in search of breakfast. (the hotel has since started doing breakfasts, although it has a limited range). The first place I found was called Sahara Tent- an Arabian restaurant decorated with rugs and other ethnic adornments. I had hummus served with bread and a mug of Arabian coffee. The restaurant itself is lovely and, although I was the only one there and the staff were having some sort of disagreement, the food was delicious. I had never had Arabian coffee before and when it came out I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it (it wasn’t the normal black coffee I like) it smelt of cloves and was a muddy brown colour but it was surprisingly refreshing- it felt healthy to be drinking it (whether it is or not I am not sure).
So leaving the restaurant I walked to Jalan Raja Chulan, took a right and walked all the way to Jalan Tun Perak. It is quite a walk and as usual I didn’t have decent walking shoes on (this I must rectify, after all I have my walking boots with me but they are somewhere in the bottom of the wardrobe). You take a right onto Jalan Tun Perak, cross the road, walk across a lovely little square, with houses of different colours and you get to the outdoor stalls. At the end on the right is Central Market which has been open since 1888. It is located in a big blue and white building and has two or three floors full of stalls, selling souvenirs, batiks, clothes etc., and you can have lunch in there as well. It is a beautiful little place.
From Central Market if you follow the road, passed the National Mosque, on the right hand side is the entrance (through the National Museum) to Perdana Botanical Gardens. There is a lake surrounding beautiful landscaped gardens with oriental inspired bridges and small pavilions, an edible garden, and different species of trees- one of which was a huge Brazil nut tree with decking around the base of the trunk where you can see the whole gardens. It gives you a feeling of being in the middle of a tropical rainforest, even though you are not very far from the city.
I have heard KL described as soulless but I disagree- I came here first in 2005 and there has been so much change- it is much more developed than it was back then. There are Malays, Indians, Bangladeshis, Canadians- a whole host of nationalities- who have made KL their home. There are so many different bars and restaurants and yes, there are the worldwide KFC’s or MacDonald’s and if this is what you want you need to seek them out. But there are so many Indian, Arabian, Malaysian restaurants- so many tastes you can choose from- you might have to be a little adventurous and have hummus for breakfast or Mee Goring for lunch. I think that KL is a city that is on the move- onwards and upwards- and, whatever your opinion, it is definitely worth a few days to explore this exciting place.