Is Kuala Lumpur just another Asian city? No, it cannot be. How do you explain, then, that I felt fascinated by KL from first sight? Like a small kid in front of an attraction? I might be biased, of course, since I had just spent two months in Laos and Cambodia, mainly in rural areas, so the change was too big to go unnoticed.
I felt comfortable there, so much that I stayed 10 days and I enjoyed, for the first time in the trip, some kind of city life. I also walked a lot (a lot!) and reached some parts of the city empty of tourists (and empty of locals, who is so crazy to walk in that hot weather? only me). In truth, it is not a walkable city, moving from one point to another can be a challenge with all those rapid ways and bridges and walk paths, but it just added on the adventure.
KL is modern, organized, clean… and much more. These are 10 things from Kuala Lumpur that fascinate me.
The first thing I noticed (because I took it to go from the airport to the hostel) was the city public transport. “Good bye tuk tuks” and “hello” to a large network of buses and metro/trains. Finally… yes! I have always lived in cities with a reasonably good public transport system and, as a person who does not like driving, I really appreciate it. In KL I specially liked the sky trains (LRT and monorail): easy to move around as metro, with the external views of a bus.
Then I started looking at the architecture and the city itself. KL has large streets and avenues, big squares and several parks. It is clean, wide, and nice looking. And looks so modern!
The first day I went around to explore, I visited several temples and mosques in the morning and a shopping mall in the afternoon. Could you guess what impressed me the most that day? The shopping mall! I will never get tired of visiting temples, I love it, but well, I had seen a lot in the previous months. On the other hand, I had not seen such a shopping mall since I left Europe… so big and modern and full of international shops. This might be the reason why it impressed me so much: far away from home, I found something that felt familiar.
High higher highest
There seems to be a competition: who will build the highest building? I had never seen such a collection of skyscrapers! It does not matter where you look: there is a high building, and nearby, a higher one, and a bit farther an even higher one… I felt really small walking between giants.
But of course, there is one building that is the highest of the city. And it is not even one, there are two: the twin Petronas towers. I usually feel more impressed by nature (ever seen a huge waterfall? or the northern lights? breathtaking!!), but some constructions are an exception, and the Petronas are one of them. I felt fascinated by its height and its cold metallic color, which made a nice contract in front of the blue sky. Not to mention its lightning at night…
In Kuala Lumpur I did something for the first time in the trip: I went walking alone at night. Let me precise: I had walked alone at night before (needed to get some dinner!), but I usually tried to stay close to my accommodation and go back as soon as I finished eating. On the other hand, in KL, I went out to see the illuminated city by night. The best of it was, without doubt, the show of water, lights and music that takes place in front of the Petronas around 8:30 – 9:00pm.
Multi culture and religion
Malaysia is a very multicultural country, mainly composed by Malays, Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian. Most big cities, as KL, have a Chinatown and a Little India areas. Malays are muslims, while Chinese are mostly buddhists but there are also taoists and christians, and most Indians follow hinduism but there are also muslims, christians and sikhs.
This means that there are mosques, Chinese temples and Indian temples all around the city (Indian temples are not necessarily in Little India neither Chinese temples in Chinatown), a few churches and I even found a sikh temple in KL.
The multiculturality of Malaysia translates into food, and you can guess… this is great! Wonderful Malay, Chinese and Indian food can be found in the street stalls, food courts and local restaurants… for a local price (very cheap!). I really enjoyed the food in Kuala Lumpur (and as I would find out later, it was even better in Penang!).
Chinese New Year
Malaysia celebrates the Malay, Chinese and Indian festivities, and I was very lucky to reach Kuala Lumpur right before the Chinese New Year… it was all decorated in red! You know, I had always thought that Christmas decoration was just something commercial, but when I spent the last Christmas in northern Laos I kind of missed it. Like it was not Christmas (well, technically it was not, since Laos is a buddhist country). So I really enjoyed finding KL dressed for the celebration.
The best of KL was, tough, its people (I know I say this very often but it is true!). They are very friendly and helpful, and most of them can speak English. A lot of people asked me where I was coming from, and gave me suggestions of places to visit and wished me to enjoy my stay in KL/ Malaysia.
Three teenagers stopped me in the Central market and asked me if they could interview me “for a school assignment, we need to interview a foreigner”. “How did you know I am a foreigner?”, I asked smiling. They blushed and laughed, slightly embarrassed… I laughed as well and told them I was kidding, I knew it was obvious I was a foreigner. And so I got my first recorded interview.
In the same area I met an artist who believed in the power of smiles. “Smile and people will smile back, do good to others and good things will happen to you”. I liked this philosophy. I smiled.
Have you been in Kuala Lumpur? How did you like it?
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