- Travel Topics
I had high expectation for Kuala Lumpur. Not that I thought it would be my favorite city in the world or anything but I expected it to have the same effect on me that Bangkok did. I was amazed and in awe by Bangkok. The super modern enormous Asian city filled with skyscrapers reaching into the heavens, an above city level sky train system and simply stunning historic temples and palaces flat out impressed me.
Sure, the nicely air conditioned and fast airport rail link train in Kuala Lumpur did in fact deliver but as soon as we got off at the central station and walked outside I was instantly in a sauna. Hot damn it was muggy, sticky and humid out. And mind you this was at 11pm. No need for saunas in Kuala Lumpur; I already felt like all my toxins and perhaps a few needed nutrients were seeping out of my pores with every second.
As I looked around all I saw was construction zones and highways. Could this really be the central train station?
Our hotel for the night was only a 10 minute walk away, in the Brickfields (Little India) area so with map in hand I was confident it would be a breeze to find our place. Unfortunately mine was not a topographical map and failed to highlight the various over and underpasses that we needed to navigate through. A few wrong turns and questions for directions had us headed down a highway ramp with a side walk the width of my foot. I was using all my energy not to tip over with my overloaded backpack (why does it seem to get heavier every time I put it on?)
When we finally walked through the hotel lobby I was nothing short of a hot mess. Frazzled and dripping sweat I instantly pictured the scene from Sex and the City where a disgusted Charlotte is signing her divorce papers and her attorney, Harry has a huge wad of sweat land right on the official documents. You know the scene right? I thought this might just happen to me as I signed off on our room.
First impressions aside I was ready to hit the city the following morning with a fresh start and an open mind. By then we had switched hotels to the Aloft Hotel (splurging with our handy SPG points) and as the receptionist pointed out the Bird Park was one of the few attractions within walking distance.
I was not aware that this would require a few more walks along major highways. In retrospect I can’t say risking my life was worth the pretty peacocks with their feather displays. The one excursion to the aviary through the heat and humidity of Kuala Lumpur thoroughly exhausted us for the rest of the day.
For the next day the first stop was the Petronas Towers – the iconic landmark I’ve associated with the city ever since seeing the movie Entrapment. You can go up to the viewing deck, and I had one of my standard internal debates, should we go up, should we just admire the towers from the outside, but in the end I decided seeing them from ground level would suffice.
Do they look awesome? For sure. How could they not? Real architectural wonders no doubt about it. And if you need a break from the heat there’s a mall right at the base where you can catch some cool air conditioned air (as we did).
We stopped for a bite of Indian food for lunch – to sample the famous nasi kandar and while Dave ordered drinks I waited in line at the buffet. I seemed to generate a bit of attention as I noticed people turning around in line to stare at me, and then the man behind me jumped in to start a conversation leading with, ‘you’re very hot huh?’ My glistening face and frantic fanning of my city map must have given me away. Luckily he pointed me towards the non spicy dishes to prevent me from melting into a complete puddle in public.
Having picked up a brochure for a hop on hop off bus tour I felt this would be a great way to see the rest of the city. Why not right? We never do hop on hop off bus tours, and it just looked so convincing.
Since they only run every 30 or so minutes as luck would have it we seemed to have just missed one bus. Already feeling the agitation and irritability start to grow within me I tried to take deep breaths as we waited.
Does anybody else start to get extremely cranky in high heat and humidity situations or is it just me?
I was looking forward to finally boarding the a/c bus though the old dilapidated looking vehicle that arrived seemed to be spewing out hot air instead.
I could tell Dave had just about reached his limit so I didn’t even bother asking him which stop he wanted to get off at. He was heading back to the hotel, no ifs ands or buts about it.
My fear of missing out wouldn’t let me surrender myself to the heat just yet so I hopped off a few stops later at the Bintang Walk stop. This is the main shopping area in Kuala Lumpur and the streets are stocked full of any kind of store and mall you could imagine. I did a quick loop around and then ducked into a small alley known for it’s street food scene. I was too early for the night market but watched the vendors slowly set up their stalls in preparation for the evening rush.
I was ready to continue the walking tour but saw the hop on hop off bus out of the corner of my eye and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to just jump on.
For our last day in Kuala Lumpur we set out to see the old city center (after another long wait for the hop on hop off bus that is) and hopped off at the national mosque first. We had just missed the opening hours so were only able to admire the building from the outside before heading to Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) which is where the union jack was lowered for the last time in 1957 and Malaysia gained its independence.
Surrounding the square are a series of historical structures and buildings and I can honestly say this was my favorite part of the city. The buildings here had that colonial charm with their pastel colors and sharp edges. This is what I was looking for in Kuala Lumpur, the historic area. The buildings looked like they are reasonable well maintained and are not in a state of disrepair. Of course in the distance you see plenty of construction sites as well and tall skyscrapers bringing you back into the modern day.
If only this charming historic center was a bit bigger. As you leave the square it’s back to that big city feel – cars whizzing past, construction sites everywhere you go, not the greatest walk.
We made our way through the Central Market which originally opened in 1888 as a wet market but has since been renovated and remodeled and is more aimed at tourists now than locals. Still a nice atmosphere to walk through and see the various artworks and trinkets being sold.
For our last stop we walked over to Chinatown, a bustling area with lots of stalls selling just about anything you could imagine.
With the mid day heat that’s about all we could manage and without having the patience to wait around for the hop on hop off bus we just took a cab back to the hotel.
Overall it’s not like there’s something wrong with Kuala Lumpur, it’s just not a city I’d like to return to. I didn’t feel a connection there. I feel like I saw the jist of it and just wasn’t that impressed. Between all the construction sites, the smog and the intense heat and humidity the city just isn’t that much of a pleasure to explore on foot.
I’m glad to have seen it, but it certainly is not on the top of my list.
Have you been to Kuala Lumpur? What did you think?