China-lite

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
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27
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Trip End Jul 29, 2010


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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Arriving in Kuala Lumpur after our weeks in Indonesia and Borneo had seemed as though it would be a return to civilisation - and landing at the airport it looked as though that would hold true. First impressions don't last though, and when the taxi driver dropped us just outside Chinatown that evening and gave us directions to our hotel, it was more like returning to the chaos that is China than anything else. Every evening the main street in Chinatown, KL turns into a bustling street market - and Saturday is the big event - so trying to find a hotel with backpacks and 1000s of people wandering around, looking at hooky watches and pirate DVDs was quite an effort. After walking through one restaurant kitchen, past the deep-frying wok we did manage to track down our hotel though - and settle into our rather tiny home for the next three nights - and then we decided that we wouldn't share the room with the cockroaches, so after a quick move settled into a different room. Still didn't have any windows, but what do you expect?
KL Chinatown is famous for the food, and we started our culinary trip of the city with a variety of things on sticks - octopus, doufu, whole grilled fish, unidentified meat - far better than airline food. After that as a start, breakfast the next day was Liz's favourite - dim sum, served from a trolley by a grumpy babushka, giving us the chance to pick a variety of mystery dumplings for our delectation. Mmmmmh - mystery dumplings!
Aside from eating our way round KL, we had two complete days in the city to arrange our onward travel and see the sights - which started off quite well wandering around the old colonial area and then heading up to the planetarium for a guided tour of the universe with Tom Hanks giving us the narration, before trying to negotiate the roads to get back to the hotel. KL is quite compact, but the best way to get around is certainly not on foot - walking more than about half a mile means you encounter at least a dual carriageway, if not an elevated express way, and means you take your life in your hands just wandering around.
Day 2 was reserved for going up the Petronas Towers, one of the world's tallest buildings, so we set off early in the morning to make sure we could get ourselves two of the free allocation tickets - and then discovered that pretty much all of the tourist sites in town are closed on Mondays - the Towers included. That plan having been scuppered we headed for the KL equivalent of the BT tower, and went up there instead - from there you can see exactly how much smog is settled all across the city and how much use Photoshop has had in creating the panorama shots of the city. You can also see how green the whole city is (underneath the brown haze), with parks scattered all across the landscape as far as the horizon.
Overall KL struck us as halfway between Singapore and Hong Kong - far less chaotic than a Chinese city, but much more so than Singapore - China-lite really. The largest downside to the city is the complete lack of pedestrian facilities, but on a more personal note the Chinatown 2 hotel is quite pleasant as long as you own a pair of earplugs. Japanese dojo walls are thicker than the walls in that hotel, and you could hear every argument that our various neighbours had over the three days that we spent there.
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