Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC & Shark Diving... WOW!!

Trip Start Aug 22, 2011
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Trip End Feb 13, 2012


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Flag of Malaysia  , Wilayah Persekutuan,
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our train from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur (KL) on Tuesday evening was thankfully uneventful, set off on time (11PM), and arrived a mere 8.5 hours later (7:30AM). Other than getting lost in ‘KL Sentral Train Station’ (the place is ridiculous, more like an airport), we managed to locate a Starbucks on one of the many floors, and book ourselves into a hotel. Once locating our way out of the station (opposite the Hilton) we queued for a taxi… twice (didn’t realise we needed a ticket the first time), and were settled in our hotel by (9:30AM). We stayed for 4 days/3 nights in D’Oriental Inn, on Petaling Street, right in the heart of ‘China Town.’ Perfect location… and the street is covered with market stalls and millions of lanterns. So pretty.
 
After a couple of hours sleep on Wednesday we went out to explore (obviously finding the nearest Starbucks first, only 300m away!) After lunch we walked to ‘Chan See Shu Yuen,’ China Towns largest temple - ornately painted shrines and intricately carved battling mythical creatures/warriors. Pretty cool. As we walked back up our street we bumped into Kieran & Glen (fellow divers from Ko Tao) and arranged to meet for drinks later in their hostel (they were participating in some kind of murder mystery there). ‘Sri Maha Mariamman Temple’ was just round the corner so we thought we’d check it out - the oldest and richest Hindu Temple in KL, founded in 1873. Very colourfully bright and beautiful but identical (only bigger) to the one we saw in Penang. 
 
We continued our exploration, walking over the bridge where the ‘Klang’ and ‘Gombak’ Rivers merge, to one of the oldest mosques in KL - ‘Masjid Jamek’ (1907). The mosque consists of striking inspired Moghul architecture - red brick, marble, arched colonnades, and large domes. Further across the river stands the ‘Sultan Abdul Samad Building’ that was designed by the same architect and is evident in its styling. The building, located in front of ‘Merdeka (or Independence) Square,’ houses ministry, communications, and cultural information and offices. Built in the late 1800’s, it was formerly the superior courts of the country, and housed government departments for British administration.
 
Across the road we walked passed Tudor-style buildings, and the 100m high flagpole (tallest in the world) in 'Independence Square,' marking the spot where they Malay flag was hoisted in 1957 to signify their independence from British rule

With only a couple of hours before we had arranged to meet to ‘Dive Crew’ we jumped in a taxi to ‘Berjaya Times Square’ (near where they were staying). ‘Berjaya’ is more than just a shopping centre… it’s the largest in the country and has a Theme Park inside - ’Cosmo’s World!’ The place is incredible, confusing, humongous… and after a quick Starbucks we obviously had to experience the biggest indoor roller-coaster in the World. The ‘Super Sonic Odyssey,’ with a heartline roll, a loop, a corkscrew… total adrenaline kick. Fun fun fun!
  
Across the road we met the guys for a few drinks and giggles at their hostel where they were getting ready for a ‘Murder Mystery’ type-thing that a woman they’d been travelling with had been writing/organising for months (they are on an organised tour). Slightly tipsy and later than planned we got a taxi to the 'Central Market' for the last hour before it closed at 10PM and picked up some artwork and souvenirs!
 
Thursday morning was spent largely trying to arrange our travel for the next week, to Singapore and then onto Indonesia. Firstly, the overnight train to Singapore we planned on getting on Saturday evening was fully booked (apart from seating areas - no sleeper-berths)… so we contemplated bus, but quickly changed our mind when we found one had recently crashed and rolled into a ditch on the same route. So seating on the overnight train it was… good times!
  
After figuring out a place to then stay in Singapore and booking a room for 2 nights (they were all so expensive) we had to arrange our trip overseas to Indonesia. We had planned on getting the boat, and were going to meet up with the ‘Dive Crew’ again in Singapore and do it all together, as their travel rep said we could tag along and she’d buy our tickets with the rest of them, etc. Anyway, after working through the timing and costing of the boat to Jakarta (Indonesia)... firstly with an hour boat trip to ‘Batam Island,’ stay there a night, then another 30 hour boat trip to Jakarta. With all transfers, tickets, hotels, taxis and time factors to consider we looked at flying directly from Singapore to Jakarta, and low and behold - 30 a ticket! Deal, booked, done. 2 hour flight for 30 or 2 day boat trip for over 100. No contest.
  
After all our travel debacle we caught the LRT (Light Rail Transit system - elevated metro network) to the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre “a city within a city“) near the ‘Golden Triangle.’ The metro leads you into a huge flash shopping complex - 'Suria' (Gucci, Burberry, Tiffanys… but no rollercoaster), and for once I was eager to find the exit to see the views outside. The ‘Petronas Twin Towers.’ The towers, forming part of the KLCC complex, are over 490m high and were the tallest building until 2003. The landmark is truly out of this world, breathtaking, and did not look at all real… more like something off a movie set. After getting some good snapshots and marvelling at their size we walked around the towers, through the gardens, and into the ‘Convention Centre’ where there is an impressive ‘Aquaria KLCC.’
   
Masses of land-bound and aquatic creatures are housed here (over 5,000 different exhibits), from tarantulas and snakes, to sharks, otters, and electric eels - over a multi-level space. On the ground floor a 90m acrylic tunnel with moving walkway takes you through sharks, stingrays, turtles, and endless other sea creatures in their vast oceanarium. I also spotted that you could dive with sharks there, and obviously needed to book it a.s.a.p… but I will enlighten you on that later! Coming out of the Aquaria the sun had set and the Petronas Towers were all lit up amongst the other surrounding skyscrapers… possibly even more beautiful in the evening than in daylight. They looked almost supernatural.
 
On Friday we had a good walk around the city (not on purpose, we got a tad lost on route to our destination). Among a million other buildings we passed the 'Old KL Train Station,' the 'KTM Building,' and finally reached our desired destination - ‘Masjid Negara’ ('The National Mosque') in the late afternoon. The mosque was built in 1965 and is set across 13 acres of stunning gardens, with a central courtyard measuring 153sq ft, and a key feature 73m high minaret with over 245 steps. It accommodates 15,000 worshippers during prayers (we had to wait for them all to come out before we could enter), has a library, offices, and mausoleum for the nations heroes. Not only did we both had to robe-up before we could enter, but I had to also put on a headscarf (not the most attractive attire), but very much worth it for the visit. Peaceful and enlightening.
 
Behind the mosque we wandered down to the modern ‘Museum of Islamic Arts,’ opened in 1998 it houses a collection of the entire Islamic world - Iran, Malay, China, India, SE Asia, etc. Displays are set over two floors, and include textiles, metal, woodwork, ceramics, armour and weapons, jewellery, and most interestingly ancient Korans. The calligraphy section includes handwritten parts of the Koran dating back a thousand years…intricate and beautiful. On exiting the museum we were faced with a thunderstorm and so quickly got a taxi back to the ‘Kota Raya Complex’ (another shopping centre - conveniently located next to Starbucks AND the road we were staying on!) The Malay people sure do love to shop!
 
On Saturday morning I was up bright and early, partly due to a massive group of travellers in 3 rooms surrounding ours who sounded to be moving and/or building furniture, but mostly due to my excitement of my forthcoming Shark Dive!!  I had managed to book myself in after visiting the Aquaria on Thursday via email, and so we hopped on the LRT to the KLCC once again (so easy - like the London underground but much less confusing). After a quick Starbucks and meeting my ‘buddy/instructor’ to fill out some paperwork and get geared up I was ready! 
The Aquaria has a 2.5 million litre oceanarium (where the moving-walkway takes you through the tunnel underneath), and I got to dive in it for just under an hour, which was one of the most amazing experiences ever. Coming face to face with Sand Tiger sharks, Reef sharks, stingrays, marine turtles, Moray eels, and countless other marine life. 

Of course Dave was on hand to take a few photographs through the acrylic tunnel, and my buddy was really great - collecting shark teeth for me from the bottom of the tank, helping me to position myself so the sharks would swim round me… ultra highlight. Once changed and out of my wetsuit, I got a complimentary “Dive with Sharks… I survived” t-shirt, a certificate, and another dive in logged in my book! 
 
Pumped but starving we went back into the ‘Suria KLCC’ shopping centre and had lunch at Nando’s… yum! After a bit of shopping (so many shops and so little time/money/baggage space) we caught the LRT another 2 stops to the ‘Menara KL Tower.’ The tower is 60m shorter than the Petronas Towers but the viewing deck (at 276m) is higher and gives unbelievable views over the city. After wandering round the viewing deck and admiring the panoramic views of the city and trying to spot out hotel (unsuccessfully) we took the lift back down to the ground. Our “entrance package” also included one activity at the KL Tower complex - I chose a pony ride (never too old) and Dave the F1 simulator - both very fun! 
 
One taxi back to the hotel to pick up our luggage; another taxi to where we began (KL Sentral Train Station); a stock of food and drinks purchased; and 2 hours later we were Singapore bound… sitting, of course.
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