Not Very Special KL
Trip Start Nov 08, 2003
74Trip End Oct 22, 2004
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Watches were synchronised.
Up at 8am.
Pack bags at 8.10am.
Search for passports at 8.15am.
Find passports at 8.17am.
Breakfast at 8.20am.
Taxi at 8.45am.
Airport at 9am.
Flight departs at 10am.
Flight lands at 11am.
We've got this travelling mullarky down to a T now.
We're a two-headed, well-oiled, sandal-wearing, smelly-armpitted, bead-wristed, beer-guzzling, ultra-efficient, travelling-machine.
Our next destination to be seen, smelt, tasted, swirled around the mouth and spat out was a 2004 vintage Kuala Lumpur. Would it be a good year to visit this capital city or would it be better off sprinkled on a plate of chips?
Our short flight south from Langkawi took off on time and before we could say "Oooh, I hope we don't crash into the Petronas Towers on approach", we had bounced three times onto the tarmac before the Malaysian Airlines trainee pilot finally recovered his composure and took control of the situation.
Inside the terminal we made a beeline for the train that would whisk us into the centre of KL, but as always we were rudely accosted by a pimp of a taxi-driver who offered to take us to the doorstep of our hotel for a tenner. The train would have cost the same and would have dropped us off at Central Station so it was an easy choice.
The airport was the ridiculous distance of 45 miles from the city which gave us a taste of what this transport-challenged city was all about, but 50 minutes later we were homing in on the unmistakable sight of the freshly buffed 88-story Petronas Twin Towers, at 452 metres one of the world's tallest buildings
Our taxi chopped and changed from one gridlocked road to another until we found ourselves in sight of the Capitol Hotel. Protruding from the middle of the shopping district like a sore thumb, the battleship grey 25 floor exterior looked in need of coat of Dulux Apple Green emulsion (trademark), but pulling up outside the entrance we realised it had undergone an interior makeover of the trendy minimalist kind. After checking in, we were led up to the sixteenth floor by the porter and shown into a bright modern room.
Beige and brown 'pleasing-to-the-eye' furnishings sat in front of a TV with all the important satellite channels. A minibar sat underneath tempting us with miniature bottles of cocktail cabinet favourites and a window the width of the room framed a picture postcard view of the Petronas Towers (third mention in five paragraphs, not bad going).
And all this for under £30. What with bargain-basement Langkawi, Malaysia is one big Christmas sale of a country at giveaway prices.
As always, we dumped our bags and went for a wander around the city's numerous shopping malls around the Bukit Bintang area and while some were spacious, clean and full of designer labels, others were claustrophobic, 1960s rabbit warrens selling fake DVDs and snow-washed denim.
We then ate a couple of burgers under the gaze of a waxwork 'Arnie' in Planet Hollywood and then jumped on a stumpy two carriage monorail heading north to Bukit Nanas, the nearest station for the Petronas Towers (fourth mention and counting).
On exiting the station and seeing the towers in the distance we wondered whether to jump in a taxi for the remainder of the trip, but severely lacking in exercise we power-walked our way along a main road under increasingly threatening dark skies. With the final straight in sight the clouds broke in the blink of an eye, chucking its contents onto us as we dived under cover of a bus-stop.
For fifteen minutes we sat under the shelter being entertained by a terrific thunderstorm and an equally terrific argument between a bus driver and a well-heeled lady in her 4x4 who had decided to stop in the bus-lane until the downpour had abated
We made a run for it as the rain turned to a drizzle and arrived at the towers to be greeted by a sign saying all the tickets to the 'SkyBridge', their 45th floor covered walkway between the two towers, were sold out.
We weren't planning on doing the Towers today so we headed into the giant shopping paradise that lay beneath, the Suria KLCC shopping mall, a four or five (or was it six?) storey shopaholic's Disneyworld of all the major global players from Marks & Sparks to Prada.
It was late afternoon and after a mornings worth of travelling we delayed our shop-fest til another day and caught a taxi outside back to the Capitol Hotel for a sunset siesta and a spot of channel surfing.
That evening we ate fourteen mini plates of raw fish next door in 'Sushi King' surrounded by half of KL's Japanese tourist population who sat amazed watching us trying to master chopsticks.
Suffering from a jetlag caused by an hour flight south (if that's possible?) we woke at 10 and jumped into a lift down to the mezzanine level of the hotel for a noteworthy buffet breakfast that catered for all the world's denominations, so we piled our plates high with eggs, hash browns, noodles and fried rice
Once again we headed north on a monorail to the towers (Petronas if you'd forgotten) with the intention of grabbing a couple of free tickets for the elevator skywards.
No such luck.
The tickets had sold out again. These tickets were proving as elusive as a Take That reunion concert, and on asking a member of staff at what time we'd need to get here to secure a couple, she told us 8.30am. We'd have to set the alarm early for tomorrow as it would be our last opportunity in KL.
After consulting our bumper, detailed guide to every worthwhile sight and sound in KL (about 4 pages long) we decided to shuffle around, what must be, the largest shopping mall in the world, if not Asia.
Suria is a veritable paradise of shops and restaurants under a single glitzy roof that could do serious damage to two square inches of flexible-friend, but being the (largely) penny-pinching nomads that we are, our budget would only stretch to a pocket guide to our fast approaching destination of Sydney and a pair of Jackie Onassis sunnies for the brunette with a lunch of chili-dogs, curly fries and root-beer at the popular A&W Hotdogs
Spent of energy, if not spent of wallet, we monorailed our way back to the Bintang shopping area for an expensive pint of Guinness at Delaney's fake Irish pub and three cheap DVDs including 'Lost in Translation', '21 Grams' and 'City of God'.
After an all too traditional small furry animal cooking Hong Kong feast at U-Village we retired back to our penthouse where the brunette dyed her hair a subtle shade of blood before watching the predictable 'Lost in Translation' on the laptop while I tuned into ESPN to watch the very unpredictable game between Chelsea and Wolves.
The alarm went at 6.15am. It was Petronas Towers day.
After a quick cat-lick we were first down for breakfast at 6.30am and out the front door by 7. Hopping onto a pre rush-hour monorail we arrived at the Towers (Petronas that is) at the ripe old time of 7.40am. On descending the escalator, a queue of seven had already formed and trying to appear not too eager we took a seat on some steps in view of the queue, gauging the situation. As each minute passed, more saddos, er people joined the back of the line until we couldn't contain ourselves much longer and sidled into formation.
At 8.30am the ticket office opened and with the queue now concertinaing back up the stairs, we secured a couple of free tickets for the 9am ascent and were shown to a large waiting room where a number of interactive, hands-on exhibits sat, that were designed for the inquisitive minds of 10 year olds, so obviously we immediately got hands-on and failed miserably at some lateral-thinking wooden-brick manipulating puzzles.
When our time came we were led to a large lift that champage-corked us up 45 floors in a tenth of a second. Our personal guide then let us free to wander along the SkyBridge, some 600 feet above the city.
The views were as expected. A gaggle of 60's apartment blocks and rashly designed offices lay spread over a grey carpet, but being the good tourists we are, we still snapped away a 64MB memory card's worth of views, whether they merited it or not.
I couldn't help thinking our photo-frenzy didn't merit it. The view towards the towers is a whole lot better than the view from them.
Cue Dambusters music . . .
If they transported the towers to London we'd have had a view of Buckie Palace, Big Ben, St Pauls and my favourite coffee shop on Fleet Street, to name but a few. But for standout views in KL other than towards the Petronas Towers and you're struggling.
. . . fade out Dambusters music.
The real thrill of the SkyBridge is the fact that after a foot of metal and a hundred or so bolts, there's a whole lot of nothingness directly underneath your feet.
So back at ground-level, and with a vertigo fix under our belts you'd think we'd head off to an attraction a little less pant-wetting, but after a quick consultation of the thinnest capital city guide in existence we found ourselves heading for another dose of views across KL, this time at the Menara Tower, the fourth tallest telecommunications tower in the world at 421 metres.
A twenty minute walk, £2 entry fee and 10 second ascent later, we were wandering around the observation deck at a height of 276 metres looking out onto a plethora of snooze-inducing sights that were being made ever-so slightly more interesting by our personal audio tour and an array of faded photographs dotted around the perimetre explaining what you were seeing. A disused sports stadium here, a colonial house there and a mosque on the horizon. The view de piece de resistance was, of course, a certain pair of towers, of which we had the best view in town (unless you were paying £250 a night at the Mandarin Oriental hotel next door to them).
Once we'd had our fill of views, we headed downtown for a bite to eat.
Day 1, and on the menu was hamburgers at Planet Hollywood and later on some Japanese raw delicacies. Day 2 and it was the pet-cooking skills of the Hong Kong(ians?) to tickle our taste-buds. Day 3 and it was time to taste some good old Malay homegrown fare, so where did we head?
Altogether now . . . Pizza Hut, Hut, Hut.
Sorry but we had to. Shooting up and down ear-popping and belly-dropping lifts all day called for an extra large Super Supreme with a bowlful of salad of impossibly balanced Petronas tower proportions.
Satisfyingly full, the brunette headed for a cut and blow-dry at Toni and Guy as her flowing mop was taking on Peter Stringfellow proportions, which left me to head back to base with a 4-pack and an urge to watch some overpaid, under-achieving, prima-donnas kick the life out of a leather inflated cow's scrotum.
At 3pm the brunette walked through the door complete with Sadie Frost hairdo and a fraction of a second later Armageddon arrived as a nice big low-pressure front hit KL giving the town a dousing complete with thunder and a few lightening forks striking the tops of the towers in the distance. Without a doubt, the best thunderstorm we'd ever seen and an attraction the city could do with more often.
A few hours later and the storm passed over leaving us to go out and sample some real Malay delights, I mean there must be a Malay restaurant somewhere? Maybe we'd find one tomorrow as we were finally drawn into The Dome on a tractor-beam for some French comfort food, intoxicated by the sight of cheap red wine and a plate of pommes frites.
Our last day in Malaysia's big smoke meant we had some serious sightseeing to do, but on flicking through the bumper 4-page KL guide we'd seen all there was to see so the morning was spent making the most of the view of the Petronas Towers (lost count now), and the view of our TV that was well-endowed with satellite channels.
All morning we lounged in front of the box watching interesting documentaries on the Discovery Channel until an irate maid who was waiting to go home suggested we go for a coffee somewhere so she could clean the room.
Looking at the state of the room we left it a couple of hours with the brunette finding the time to buy a pair of running shoes so she could try and fulfill her good intentions of doing some kind of exercise when we hit Oz.
We then headed back for another hour or so in front of the Discovery Channel with the story of a frizzy haired lass from Lancashire who gave up hairdressing for Egyptology and subsequently solved the mystery of Queen Nefertiti's Mummy. I've seen it all now.
Evening came and our tummies were rumbling.
Choices, choices . . .
American? Ged oudda 'ere ya schmuk.
Japanese? Aah-so? Aah-no.
Hong Kong? Been there, seen it, lost the colony.
Italian? Not like mama used to make.
French? Mais non mon petit croissant.
It was time for a nice little local bistro serving Malay dishes so we headed straight for 'Euro' restaurant for a Wiener Schnizel and a Shish Kebab.
On that note I'll finish off with a round-up of Kuala Lumpur.
If Bangkok was Tokyo's bright little brother who'd one day be as big and colourful as long as he continued to eat his greens, then KL must be Bangkok's scruffy little brother who'd need a course in tourism and a personal trainer to be anywhere near as beefy and interesting. The streets themselves were a lot more cosmopolitan than Bangkok, but KL is a mish-mash city of modern design disasters and Sixties eye-sores with a complete lack of worthwhile sights. It has just one thing going for it, the Petronas Towers (namecheck 15), and there is no greater sight in any city in the world to make your jaw drop, ancient or modern. KL just needs a few more of them.
Next stop . . . the clean streets of Singapore.
Jude & Sadie (we wish)